Monday, 19 April 2010

A Published Response

Wrote this for a friend studying music business at Uni a while ago. I don't ENTIRELY agree with everything I've written here right now, but whatevs.


1) What problems do you think independent bands currently face, that are different to say 3 years ago?

I think we’ve witnessed an entirely new breed of musician/artist/band evolve over the last 5 years as artists like Lily Allen, Radiohead etc have blown the music industry wide open – spilling out the 'secrets' of what actually happens from the moment an artist gets signed, to releasing their 3rd album, complete with it’s downfalls. Record labels are no longer seen as godlike figures that make or break your musical career. A greater understanding of the music industry, courtesy of some of it’s biggest and best have given independent bands and artists the knowledge to take their career into their own hands, which is great.

But at the end of the day, in 95% of all cases, if you haven’t got the money or the right backing behind you to be able to pay for press to get your music infront of readers, radio pluggers to get your music heard on radio, had the juice to be able to tour and develop your fanbase online and offline and above all else, have music THAT good that people will go out of their way to write a feature, be the first to play your song and start that snowball effect (and keep it going) – you’re screwed. It comes down to having a either good enough music for people to want to take notice of by their own accord, or the power of a record label with it’s billions at disposal to be able to employ a team and use their own clout and put your music in the right media hands.

One of the biggest problems for independent bands is that people in media, specifically those in press and radio have a sort of superiority where they will only take notice of ‘official’ sources and not make themselves approachable by Jim from the band that in their own right could be the next Arctic Monkeys, alas – their music is not heard to an extent of which they can launch a career. The media have a relentless power, and at the end of the day, dictate PRECISELY what the general public will hear and no doubt will drill this music into your ears until you’re singing every single lyric and on 50th listen have already convinced yourself that you love it! It’s THOSE people who will take the word of that label executive or president rather than Jim.

2) Do labels still have something to offer bands when they can do everything themselves now?

Labels have a few merits, firstly; The money - which they can, if they decide to, use hundreds of thousands of pounds to develop an artist until they are at their very best, get the most talented and critically acclaimed music producers, video directors, press agents, radio pluggers, stylists, and in-house marketing teams covering every possible corner of your campaign, all the way down to distribution and sales. They also put the money behind a tour to enable a band to have the team of guitar, drum, lighting techs to make your live show the best it can be and print up an entire range of merchandise.

The Clout – In most cases, this comes as a result of their previous conquests, for example, Island Records could boast being the genius behind the careers of U2 to Amy Winehouse, to Mika to Akon, all multi-platinum selling artists – and the people who take this into consideration are the media, as well as the general public. So as part of the package of signing to a major label, you can be seen in the same light as your talented and famous label familiars.

The People – label presidents, heads of department, A&Rs are all chosen for a reason, and that’s being good at their jobs, and part of being good at their job is networking, label employees will have the connections and in most cases the power to put you on that Kasabian tour, get you the radar feature, bring along that radio producer to your show, get that journalist to write about you and probably follow and back your career going forward. It’s a group effort, and for a sustainable career in music, you need people on your side singing your praises.

3) Does much of your work come from truly 'independent' bands?

None of my paid work comes from truly independent 'bands'. However, DJs who work almost entirely independently makes up for around 20% of my work, their income comes almost entirely from live appearances, they don’t depend on music sales to make a career out of it, which is in a way, how I feel bands should approach their careers. The music is purely an audio advert for the live show.

4) How have you seen labels change over the last few years? And how has this affected their bands?

Once upon a time labels would sign bands on a whim, and no matter what press coverage they’d had so far and in most cases completely absent of any public knowledge of them, let alone fanbase – and they would go on to release the album and put their all into a campaign, costing them hundreds of thousands of pounds, for a hit or miss. Labels no longer put any time, money or effort into this process of development. The internet has changed the way music is accessed, so without the necessary hype and general awareness online and positive reactions from press and radio, most major labels will in most cases, even having spent £200K+ on signing them, a further £100K+ making the album, drop the band and not bother releasing the record and will most likely drop the band, leaving them in a mountain of debt. The same goes for artists already signed, if they don’t get the necessary reactions, the record and artist is most likely to be dropped.

Labels have only started to introduce 360 deals in the last couple of years, so for existing bands on major labels who don’t want to opt into these deals and give up profit from live and so on, can then consider going it alone having already got the fanbase and record sales to back them up, but in most of these cases, bands will see a dramatic decrease in sales and awareness (McFly for example left Island Records after releasing a greatest hits album, following album was, well...not quite as successful).

You’re even less likely to get signed in the first place without taking the necessary steps of building your fanbase, writing some truly great songs and having an image on lock.

No comments:

Post a Comment