Excerpts from the mighty baptist death ray are taken out of order to fit my whimsy.
Let me be clear: I'm not opposed to people distributing MP3s. I'm not opposed to the ideas behind "free music." I
am, however, incredulous with the overly simplistic ideas that people come up with to explain how an artist will be able
to make a living. "I guess you'll need to keep your day job" is at least the most honest answer I've heard, but the sad
truth is it's not practical. At some point, for a band to succeed, you need to quit your day job and devote your full time
to it. Full time means at least 12 hours a day, no overtime, no benefits.
My question is: why should attempting to make a successfull band be qualitatively different than any other business venture? I have many friends with successful band projects. They work three to four hours a day, five or six days a week, take extended leave of absences from their jobs, go touring, and bring in enough cash and enjoy the work enough to make it worth their while.
Mr. Malatesta, my problem isn't that the world is filled with unpleasantries. I have a day job that I work in order to do
what I want to do. I know the routine. My problem is that such a model runs against every single promising thing that
the internet holds for the independent musician.
The music business is not different than any other business. Returns are comparable to the amount of blood, sweat and tears put into it. What the internet brings to the mix, is not the reduction of labor, but the removal of large obstacles. A modest amount of money brings access to a target audience almost uncomprehensably larger than was available prior to the i-net boom. Back in the day, you had to be wealthy or signed by a major label to even hope to reach that number of people. Now, you only have to be skilled at guerilla marketing.
Apparently in the new model of the music economy, artists won't be able to take days off, get married, go on dates, or
play with their pets -- they'll be too busy working their day job, playing music at night, and creating their tshirts when
they should be sleeping...
Like I said, welcome to the real world. You only get as much out of a project as you put in. It all depends on the drive, the skill (in music, marketing, and business sense), and the effort of the people trying to make a go out of the band. Starting a band (assumming one wants it to go somewhere) is no different than starting any other businesses.
I started a coffeehouse once (and failed miserably). I went to some free counseling for starting a small business. The first question my counselor asked me was: how do you feel about working for free? That's what it takes to turn a hobby into a business.
The promise of the internet is that the artist should be able to bypass all that corporate sponsorship crap. Being signed to a label is essentially corporate sponsorship today -- and they're part of the problem! The point of the
internet is that it allows independent artists, underground artists to reach more potential fans, scattered though they
may be, so that they don't have to depend on whether or not some kind of corporation feels they're worthy enough to
get a few crumbs.
So why, if that's supposed to be the promise, should we be happy about being told that no, the promise of the
internet is that ultimately we get to go through the same old shit?
Its not the SOS. It can be. A band can certainly choose to sell out. And I see nothing wrong with that (depending on the goals of the people in the band).
What the internet brings to the mix of an economy of scale previously available ONLY to bands with big money corporate backing.
"If a band can't make money from gigs and merchandising, that band is never going to make money."
because labels a) inflate the cost of an album and b) take a ridiculous share of the proceeds. I have a CD on
MP3.com that sells for $8... MP3.com gets half of the proceeds, I get half of the proceeds. If 15,000 people bought
that CD I'd make more in a year from that than I would my day job as a tech writer. 15,000 is such a ridiculously small
number in the world of "units sold" in terms of the music business. For the price of 15,000 CDs the playing field would
be leveled, and would be leveled fast. Of course, that requires that you convince people that you're worth buying,
which is a different story alltogether.
This is an excellent example of how the internet helps to level the playing field. The chances of selling 15,000 disks is far greater when the independant band can sell worldwide over the internet than when the only venues are the merchandise table in back of the pub and mail order from fliers passed out at shows.
"With the advent of cheap cd-burners, high quality printers, inexpensive DTP software, (relatively-speaking) cheap
high quality production gear, artists can self-produce virtually any product from disks to shirts by themselves at a
fraction of the cost of what it used to before the infotech revolution."
I think we have differing viewpoints on what constitutes "cheap" :)... yes a CD-Burner can be purchased for $300, but if
you're trying to mass produce CDs in order to sell them as music you don't want one of those. No, those things cost
thousands of dollars when they're cheap. A friend of mine just bought one in order to start a business. It's not the
kind of thing you can just put on your list along with guitar strings, picks, and a new gig bag.
You are correct, but its much easier (and cheaper) for a garage band to buy an el cheapo cd burner, and burn a few hundreds of disks to sell to help amass the capital to have a few thousand disks made in a factory, than it is for most bands to drum tens of thousands of dollars to invest in the making of a disk to start out with.
I didn't mean to imply that a band could 'make it big' on a dinky, one at a time cd-burner, but it lowers the point of entry, and as such, helps level the playing field. Not all that long ago, a band had to pay thousands of dollars to see their work on a few hundred cd's. Now a few hundred disks can be made with almost pocket change.
But you're right -- it's a lot easier for an artist to market him or herself... But it still takes a fair amount of capital,
and, again, time.
Just as any business. But at least now, the average joe or jill rocker can afford to try and make or break his or her self in a realistic fashion, which was possible in the old days, but virtually impossible. Now, its merely improbable and that improbability comes more from most folks having no clue about how to run a business, then from lack of opportunity.
I honestly wish you the best. Don't get disillusioned because its a lot of work. It IS a lot of work, which is why most local bands just stay local.
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