Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hit the Road Jack

One of the most common suggestions I hear as a way for musicians to combat declining sales and increasing piracy is, “You need to play live more!”. To be honest, I’m never sure what this will accomplish. If someone has no problem with getting music illegally then attending one of your concerts will not suddenly make them see the error of their ways and start throwing cash at your CD table. At best they’ll say, “Great band, I’ll download their stuff when I get home.” If they’re not buying music already, they’re just not buying music.

The truth is that, for a long time now, recording artists have already been touring as a way to make money, since they tend not to make any from royalties.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Who Are They Fooling?

So, after years of waiting, Spotify is here in the U.S. What does this mean for artists? Already the contradictions have started. Sean Parker, who is on Spotify’s board, is giddy over the fact that the service will enable “music to be shared freely across the world -- all the while empowering artists to reap the economic benefits of selling their music". 1 Am I the only one that sees the contradiction in this statement? There is no income from shared music.

As we all know, when the milk is free, you don’t buy the cow. The idea that a Spotify user, especially one that is paying $9.99 to be on the top of Spoitfy’s three tiered system, will go out and buy music they already have access to is absurd on its face.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Omnia Vanitas: The New Gate Keepers

About a month ago I attended a music festival where several friends of mine were performing. The festival was one of hundreds that focuses on one type of instrument, for example: didgeridoo, shakuhachi, drum, flute, banjo, dulcimer, harmonica, kazoo, harp, piano and guitar. Piano and guitar festivals are very popular, held in cities throughout the country like Dallas, L.A., Seattle, Portland Washington, D.C., Long Island, Boston, Tennessee and more all over the world. These festivals usually consist of performances by name acts, competitions, workshops, private lessons and booths set up by vendors.

Another thing that I see a lot of at these festivals is DIY CDs made by people that want to break into the music business. At the latest festival I attended there were dozens of CDs for sale by people who had recorded one trying to get some exposure, or just for family and friends. So called vanity albums. With the rise of inexpensive home recording equipment it has become pretty easy to make one's own CD. And with the growing influence of the Internet, especially Facebook and Twitter, an artist can attempt to promote their recording directly to their audience.

In part due to the rise of these social sites it is now considered possible to market your own recordings. The traditional Gate Keepers for the music industry: labels, managers and promoters are, supposedly, no longer needed. Once upon a time these gate keepers held the keys to a career in popular music. They had people that listened to acts, went to shows and gauged the strength of an artist's or a band’s appeal. This weeded out those artists that supposedly were not making good music and groomed the ones that were for success. Was this a perfect system? No. Would I be a working recording artist if I had to go through the filter of a record label? I’m thinking, “not so much”.

So who are the new Gate Keepers? And what, if any, stake do they have in your music career? And does this mean that every person that can make an album should?