So the old paradigm is dead. The music business is over. Labels are dinosaurs and it's all about the internet and live shows right?
Probably, but is it better?
From what I've seen over the past few years there is no clear cut path through the woods, no system in place to excel, and pretty much everybody has a different theory of how one should attempt to make a living from music. The only thing that has any direct effect is playing live. That's it.
Radio, whether it be terrestrial or internet is interesting and useful but honestly there are so many sites, stations and more importantly artists on each of them how do you cut through? The quick answer is you can't. Unless perhaps you have tens of thousands, or perhaps hundreds of thousands to spend on advertising. Commercial radio is just that; commercial, they're there to make a living. Music is really just there to fill the space between the ads. Internet radio is interesting and I've found quite a few that are enjoyable, but really, sales from these sites or, more importantly, royalties are few and far between. Unless you make a splash in the real world.
After three years of trying to improve the presence of our Boutique Empire artists it's only the group Sex With Strangers that is making inroads. Why? Simply because they are consistently playing live and doing a great job of it. Sell out shows, and now a video played on national television (New City Anthem debuts on Much Music's The Wedge this past Friday night) and press is starting to pile up. Combine the Victorious has landed several tv licensing deals but these don't seem to add up to sales or even increased audiences as live shows.
The one consistent thing I've seen about the new music "industry" is that everyone is preying on the musicians. Sites such as Sonicbids ask for money each month to maintain an EPK kit online. They offer events or gigs or placement opportunities but each cost money. Usually between 10 and 40 bucks, some are much higher. Of course there are shady folks out there that are capitalizing on eager young muso's dreams and making up dodgy concerts or compilations or whatever and taking your 10 or 15 bucks and then uniformly rejecting your application. Be wary. Internet radio sites like Last.fm, Jango, Grooveshark all offer music promotion. You pay a certain amount for a predetermined amount of spins of your track (anywhere from $20/100 plays to $1000/ 25000 plays - dependent on the site). They then offer analytics for you to study, which are interesting and sometimes useful. But once again they are taking money from the musos and I'd be curious to know how many folks are reaping any financial rewards from this system. It's the classic "pay to play" scenario. I enjoy and take advantage of these sites but the royalty rates they offer are extremely low: usually around 2000 plays to offer you a dollar. Some don't have any royalty system in place at all. So where is the artist to get his/her revenue?
I think the selling of music might be over, forever. Only collectors and die hard fans would buy what is generally offered for free. There isn't a question in my head that the entire free downloading thing hasn't been too great for the typical musician, but the MP3 exists and cannot be taken back. There are countless bit torrent sites around the world that a massive proportion of our population feels no qualms about using. And who's making a living from that? No-one. I wonder how even the people who put up these sites profit from it?
It's 2010 and it's very challenging to make a living exclusively from music. My only request is if you love a band, and I don't care which band, please support them. Go to their show and please buy a record, cd, download card. If no-one is willing to part with some of their money to help artists to survive where will the new music come from? And the argument that the "Major Labels" are keeping all the cash is a bit wrong-headed as well. Though the deals have all changed and the industry's prior practices have been revealed to by less than equitable I'd bet a vast proportion of musicians out there today would gladly take one of the old "big advance" type of deals than the meager offerings anyone's seeing these days. It's not all bad, as an indie artist we now see over 63 cents on the dollar from every song sold on iTunes etc. That is better than any deal that ever existed under the old system. But the problem is simple: how do you get anyone to pay for that download? The major's once offered money for advertising, promotion, tour support, video payments, song placements etc. Yes you only made 10 cents on the dollar but they put up all the cash up front. Now, your return is higher but how do you get anyone to pay you?
Get's right back to one thing. Playing live.
And speaking of playing live please check out Sex With Strangers on January 28th here in Vancouver at the Lamplighter with Fake Shark Real Zombie and January 29th in Seattle at The Comet. Combine the Victorious will be playing the same night as the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter games, February 12th at The Purple Crab. Guilty About Girls is currently writing their third release, scheduled for Spring 2010. Thanks for reading, please support your favorite artists, they need it! Cheers.