A friend of mine just Facebooked, “Thinking there has to be some way to unite indies rockers.” To which I replied, “If the ants ever get together, the grasshoppers are in trouble!”
There’s a dirty 4-letter word that every musician must heave to succeed: “WORK.” And the work needs to be done, as my friend Tom Jackson says, by “majoring in the majors, not majoring in the minors.”
Right now I’m working with an artist, Steve Bell, who has an amazing fan base. He’s toured consistently for the last twenty years, and recently began working in a new area, launching symphony tours and performing sell out concerts. He’s never been signed to a record label.
It takes focus and determination. No one will do it for you. In my experience, those who might get that “lottery ticket” opportunity are ill-prepared for it when it comes along. Numerous times I would see bands get the chance to perform for a potential shot at success, and their sets, show, and songs weren’t ready. Guitar players’ pickups would feedback through the PA – even their gear wasn’t ready!
It takes hard work; but at the end of the day, every overnight success is a story capped with 12 years or more in the making. Those who work on things that matter can have a successful career. For them, there is no downturn in the music industry.
So stop whining, and start working! Here’s a great article to help you out: The Top 5 Reasons You Will Fail in Music – read more…
Clay Shirky recently wrote a great article on Cato Unbound. What he describes in the news industry is a mirror of what has happened in music. However, my take is that the “established,” which has consolidated over the last 30 years and bloated upon itself, is now decentralizing again.
30 years ago there were thousands of newspapers, individually owned in each community, just like radio. The internet also gives us a glimpse of what people have done all along – word of mouth. No doubt the tools are great, but fundamental behavior has not changed. It has simply adapted to the new channel.
There is another interesting emergence. All businesses carry a certain amount of “overhead” that is not part of the profit center. Unfortunately, businesses now evaluate all activity only through the profit lens. I believe we are going to see a return to this and the “green” movement as one beginning of realization.
Interestingly, over the years artists, writers, journalists, musicians, etc. have acquiesced to the systems and allowed them to be co-opted, consolidated into larger corporations. These were run by management that believed the channel or the pipeline “was the thing” instead of the creative (content) that it delivered.
During this period they relied on a false sense of truth that anything they delivered would be consumed. They continued to cut and squeeze out the creators to increase profits creating slowly diminishing environment. The collapse we are experiencing is the bloated entities unable to maintain their girth and the rebellion of the masses to look elsewhere.
This article, Not an Upgrade – an Upheaval, is correct that “programming” is going to be the central element in the new media space, and that current institutions are failing to adapt to the models required to make or allow that to happen. Read more…
I got an email recently from Burnside Distribution. Here’s what they said:
“Physical sales of CDs continue to decline; I doubt anyone will dispute this. Large chains and big box stores are reducing the amount of titles they carry and in the process have set up huge returns, both directly to Burnside and through our one-stop partners, seriously affecting our cash flow. This obviously has a negative effect throughout the entire industry.
While CD sales continue to be the majority of our business, we recognize that the trend is towards digital.
While our sales deteriorate with some of these accounts, independent stores seem to be holding their own and in some cases are gaining sales because of unique marketing strategies such as Record Store Day and Vinyl Saturdays. Indeed vinyl is back and we are shipping more LPs, EPs and 45s than have been shipped in the last two decades. A combination of savvy retailers, internet retailers such as Amazon, and a mix of product configurations will allow distributors such as Burnside to survive in a suffering industry and weak economy.”
I found it ironic. First they report that CD sales continue to decline, and that digital sales are increasing. Then they go on to report the resurgence of vinyl – that medium is growing!
In my opinion, the biggest problem in the record industry right now is that it has refused to reorganize and restructure to fit the new model. They have sued customers for sharing music; they have consolidated mom and pop shops to big box stores. And now those big box stores are eliminating titles, cutting their floor plans and inventory!
The same thing is happening in the radio industry, where they have collapsed down to 13 currents in regular rotation. This flies in the face of “the long tail” mentality and reaching audiences. Where top 40 radio plays fewer and shorter songs, classic rock is playing more and longer run times. And classic rock is growing in popularity, even experiencing an emergence in younger audiences.
The general market distributor says this: old fashioned step tiered music distribution with fixed margins in place, dependent on floor plans shrinking. The model is broken.
This band continues to define who they are and where they are going!
In working with Indie Artists and with Live Music Producer Tom Jackson, I am constantly reminded about the power of the show and why we need to create moments for the audience.
This is true whether you are an artist selling music or a company selling a product. If you have not read it, check out the Experience Economy by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore listed in my recommended reads.
U2 opens its 360 world tour on a huge stage designed by Hoberman Partners. Here are the first pictures and video. Read more…Images of U2’s Insane 360 World Tour Stage
The year was 1959. No one knew what was about to happen in the field of music. But jazz music was ready to take some giant steps.
Six of the most popular and/or groundbreaking albums in jazz history were recorded and released for the general market that year. Among them was Dave Brubeck’s multimillion-selling Time Out album, which included the first million-selling jazz instrumental single, a 45-rpm record of Take Five with Blue Rondo à la Turk on the flip side.
Columbia Records didn’t want Brubeck to record the album: it was to be all original material (no standards), with nothing danceable on it – releasing it to the general public was unthinkable. But it blew up! Time Out became one of the best selling jazz albums in history.
It’s all about going with what you’re inspired to do and making it happen. Jazz reached a creative apex in 1959; and today the same opportunities still exist. In fact, the internet opens up even more possibilities.
Get inspired to do what Dave Brubeck did 50 years ago. Read more about 1959 – seeing jazz take giant steps in popular culture…
Pixar has done it again! With great story tellers and consistent delivery, they have continued their movie success with Up.
No doubt, one of the reasons Pixar scores so high with their movies is that they are dedicated to creating great stories. Poignant characters and a solid plot are regular Pixar qualities. The casting of just the right actors to supply characters’ voices add to the movies, as well as the creativity applied to character details. And, of course, the quality of the animation and soundtrack is always top-notch.
Then there’s the marketing side of the films. On this latest film, Northwest Airlines teamed up with Disney and Pixar to create the “Up Adventure of a Lifetime” sweepstakes. To enter, users had to be registered on MySpace, list the Up MySpace profile page as one of their top friends, and add a comment to the Up profile.
Up’s MySpace page let visitors view trailers of the film and watch short episodes, download wallpapers, posters and buddy icons. And its dedicated movie page on Yahoo had videos, stills and a countdown widget. Up also premiered 40 unfinished minutes of its story at numerous events around the country earlier this year.
Hollywood has lost trust with most people, but Pixar continues to own it with their audience. Go see Up!
Rotten Tomatoes gives it an astonishing 97% – Read more, see trailer…
The record labels tell us that the Music Business is failing and in decline. What they mean is the Record Label business is headed on a downward slope.
As my good friend Tom Jackson claims, there is a “huge” difference! Indie artists and Live Music seem to be thriving, and it is only a matter of time before we see the birth of some wonderful new trends.
In reality, music has always been a multi-faceted trade. In addition to the highly visible recording industry, there is the live music industry and the publishing industry. Each of them are separate areas of the music business. And if the sagging economy is effecting the recording and publishing industries, it doesn’t seem to be hindering Live Music in the same way.
If you don’t believe me, then check out USA Today – Bands warm up for busy summer on the road…
The music business is an interesting animal. I have worked in some facet of the entertainment world since the beginning of my career. The first major event I ever did featured Christopher Cross. While running our independent record label, I felt I was in the Groundhog Day movie watching the same car wreck over and over, only to wake up and do it again no matter how loud I screamed, waved my hands or made suggestions.
The record business was a “push” business and I had spent my entire career re-engineering businesses into “pull” models to grow audience and serve customers. As the Indie music scene continues to emerge, Rome burns on. But some are starting to realize that maybe it really is about the audience after all. If the ants ever figure it out, the grasshoppers are in big trouble. Check out this article in USAToday – Music and Fans…
Comments on the article are interesting as well, like this one:
eldude1277 wrote: 13m ago “Shocking concept. Music is about the fans? Really? Anyone who isnt filling stadiums and is playing locally or mini tours can tell you that. Live music is the only real way to make any money. Why pay for what you can get free? Maybe if the value is on the live music it’ll force REAL musicians to do what they do live and not dress up in the studio. You gotta go there to come back.”