In the past, bands were in business with labels. If you think about it, that’s how it was. The record label was omnipotent and omnipresent. With it you had a shot. Without you had not.
The link from band to label was a manager or a lawyer. They had connections. With connections you had a shot. Without them… yes, you get it.
Now, in a social media driven world of super connectivity we in the arts can be in business directly with the end consumer. It’s great. Very liberating.
I confess that I don’t know all the ins and outs of how One Direction conquered America, but the story is that they focussed on social media over anything else, and for quite a long time, too, before setting foot on American soil. If they can do it, why can’t a cool artist?
More to the point, why are so many emerging artists still approaching us with the same problem: we’re not getting anywhere. No one’s listening.
We’re all agreed, I guess, that there’s a lotta stuff out there. It’s hard to get noticed. It’s equally true, in many cases, that what is being sold isn’t that great. The problem is that with little investment going into new music, new artists try to sell unfinished work. Part of it is obviously a money thing and partly it’s because there still exists that myth about unsigned bands’ demos being discovered like in the old days. Either way, it’s a lethal combination that prevents an artist from truly connecting with potential fans, from making progress.
If the purpose of a demo used to be to demonstrate the potential of a band to a record label a&r, how should one approach the concept of a recording nowadays, when we’re all selling direct to fan? I believe it places ever more importance on the quality of what a band does. I’m not so sure that fans are into buying potential. As a consumer I certainly want the real, finished deal.
Say anything you like about One Direction – poking fun at pop stars of their ilk is like shooting fish in a barrel – but they do something that people like. Sure, they have Sony behind them, but if, IF, it’s true that they rode the social media train to the top of the charts, then you in a band reading this have to shut up about people not getting what you do because…. because…. well… you haven’t got the connections and… contacts and… you know? The net is pretty democratic in that you are what you is and people react to it by tuning in or… navigating elsewhere.
If the required reality check is brutal in tone, the good news is that there’s hope. Again, it comes in the form of new technology.
Last week an artist we work with successfully reached their funding target on a fan funding site to help them make their debut album. It’s a stellar achievement. Fills me with incredible hope about the future of music. We’re all agreed, are we not, that its future doesn’t rest anywhere near a major label. Sure, they’re still huge and powerful and, it has to be said, still release some fine music, but as far as investment in new music is concerned, crowd funding and being proactive in its pursuit is surely the way to go.
You don’t need to sell a zillion records to get a career. All you need is a theatre full or two of people who like your music enough to want to pay for it. Doing the maths reveals that having 5000 fans who are all willing to pay £30 a year for the privilege of enjoying your art (buying music, attending gigs, buying merch) will generate £150,000 in receipts. Some of it, let’s for argument’s sake say a third, will go towards expenditure. That leaves you a whopping £100,000 to share between you and your manager.
If you’re in a four piece, that means £20k each. You may make more working in an office, but being in a band is more fun. Fact.
You may not be anywhere near those kind of fan numbers. Maybe you’re nearer to a percentage of it. That’s cool. The idea is to build things. Instead of seeking exposure to the masses, why not focus on the niche? Narrow your search. Find fans one at a time.
Do it over time with laser like focus and determination and you will, if your offering is good enough, get a career.
Don’t tell me it doesn’t make perfect sense. Don’t tell me it doesn’t fill you with excitement and a sense of purpose! Don’t tell me it doesn’t make you feel like everything is possible.
It doesn’t? Then you’re on the wrong website, the wrong meeting, the wrong business.
Because it sure as hell has me fired up.