“It's the same mixing console that The Beatles recorded Abbey Road on.” Our far-too-artsy-to-be-living-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-New-Mexico mixing engineer, Mike, says in the middle of mixing my band's very first EP when we were 16 years old. Bright-eyed versions of our younger selves looked upon the old dusty board with a tinge of quiet admiration (and I admit – with some disbelief about how a piece of the iconic studio ended up in east-of-nowhere, New Mexico).
That will be us some day - we would assuredly say to ourselves, and would let our minds wander about, dreaming of the day when our band would land a major record deal and would play to sold out stadiums...
Of course, that dream never came to fruition for my old rock band. But who could blame us in 1998? In the surplus economic climate of the 90's, it seemed the only way that a band would ever really be successful was to get millions of dollars of funding and become an overnight success. We certainly had no lack of appreciation for our fans, but our eyes were always fixed on landing that deal that would change our lives forever.
Strangely, what I do remember about being 16 years old was that money was scarce. Sure – I had a part time job working at TCBY (you just remembered White Chocolate Mousse, didn't you?), but as far as the money it cost 4 high schoolers in a band to buy studio time and to manufacture CD's, we were way out of our league. How were we going to get that money?
Jeff (the guitarist in the band), had come to school the next day and told us about an idea he had – that we would ask people to financially support the recording and the manufacture of our CD, and they would get a personal thank you from us inside the credits of the album jacket. I was a little hesitant about the idea at the time, but it actually worked really well for us in a high school of 2000 people – we were probably one of only 5 bands even at the school, but hey, it still worked, and we got our first record! We were immensely proud of our work, and our supporters were excited to hear the record and see their names listed as people who had actually made it possible.
Does this scenario sound at all familiar? If you've been following my campaign on Indiegogo.com over the last couple of weeks, it should have striking similarities. The idea is essentially the same – you support what you want to hear. I never would have dreamed that we would be back to a concept that is so simple, that 4 high schoolers thought to do it 15 years ago, but what better way for fans and artists to connect, and see something great develop out of it?
As I write this – my campaign has 16 days left to reach the goal, and I couldn't be more thankful for the people who have already contributed. You've given me your faith and your trust that I can create something great given the resources, and I thank you dearly! This record will be a far cry from what I was writing with my rock band 15 years ago, but it is 4 years of songwriting, recording, life, love, and loss all put down into one record called History...and I have you all to thank for it.
If you haven't yet, please click the link below to go to my indiegogo campaign page and see how you can help, and go get some frozen yogurt from somewhere to celebrate since the TCBY made you think of it earlier.
Love and appreciate you guys,
You have customized playlists in iTunes or Spotify, you have a “music genome” service that suggests music that you will like based on other music that you already like on Pandora, and you can vote for your favorite (or least favorite) American Idol (or Voice, or Talent, or X-Factor, etc.) and determine whether or not they will put out a record to try to appease the masses. One thing is very clear to me in all of those examples...music fans have more power now than I can ever remember.
I think this is a great thing – there is more of an opportunity for people to determine what they actually like instead of what they are being told to like. One of the most progressive ideas that I've seen in the development of this new listener power are services like Pledgemusic, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. All three of these websites allow artists to pitch their music, views, political stance, charity they support – and they all allow fans to support them directly. Directly meaning; fans actually contribute money directly towards the making of an album or a tour, rather than paying for the cost of a fully manufactured and produced product.
Why distinguish between supporting the process rather than the finished product? If you support an artist directly through one of these services, there are few (and in most cases, no) political hoops to jump through for a label to determine what is “marketable” or “trendy.” The most ideal outcome is a record/tour/cause that is purely one that is conceived by the artists, and the fans will receive it in the truest form possible because the funding came with no strings attached...well, the only string attached to fan funding that I can see is - “We all want you to make the best record you can, and we'll even put our own money behind it to see it happen.”
There are so many examples of this type of campaign's successes, I don't think any artist can ignore it. You can see them on the larger scale (like Ben Folds Five raising the entire amount for their new studio record within 1 day), or even on the smaller scale (I saw a girl named Blake raise money to buy a MacBook Pro so she can record her first record on it).
Though I haven't yet taken advantage of one of these services myself (yet), it's something that is an amazing opportunity for artists and fans alike. I'd love your thoughts on this one, feel free to post them in the comments section.
Power to the fans,
Music sales last year were up 6.9% according to The Stranger (a weekly publication in Seattle). I think it would certainly be too early to herald a “second coming” of the music industry empire (at least in the way that many of us knew it in the last 20 years), but that statistic is definitely worth investigating…
The 6.9% increase was according to releases that were from major record labels or their subsidiaries – so, the encouraging part of that is that many DIY or indie musicians who released music in digital formats and physical records weren’t even included…I’m incredibly optimistic about that fact because that means there is an even larger portion of the music “industry” that is not represented in those sales figures. We are beginning an era of music where though I don’t believe we’ll see the 10 million+ record sales by one artist, but you will see many more full-time musicians able to support themselves because they are able to make a living through a number of different revenue streams.
Speaking of revenue streams – Discmakers released a blog that outlines revenue streams for 5,000 musicians that they surveyed. (You can read it here: http://blog.discmakers.com/2012/04/how-musicians-and-composers-make-money/ ) There are 42 different types of revenue streams that they found between those musicians – that’s awesome. The traditional model of record sales and live performances being the only two methods of income for musicians is definitely dying out…and we’re seeing the resourcefulness and creativity of musicians define the next generation of “working class” musicians who do it for the artform and to provide for themselves, rather than to try to “make it big.”
It’s always great to have some data that backs up what you’ve been thinking for some time, I’m thankful Discmakers and The Stranger have put in the legwork for this study. Here’s to a brighter and better future in music…
I love getting things for free – I remember the opening day of Chipotle in Fort Worth, TX back in the fall of 2000, they gave away burritos to all of us “starving” TCU students. I got the barbacoa burrito because it sounded delicious, and sure enough, I remember enjoying every bite of it…until the next day when I either by coincidence had a stomach bug, or else got food poisoning from the burrito. Either way, I do remember the period before the aftermath; I had enjoyed getting the burrito for free. Now being a number of years removed from the situation…I still will enjoy Chipotle from time to time.
Nevertheless, why did Chipotle decide to give burritos away to students for free? Of course, there is always the notion that people won’t know if they like your product until they try it, but does it cheapen the value of your product if you give it away for free? This question has plagued marketers for years, and arguments from both camps have great foundations to stand on. So, when it comes to music, where does the cost or reward of “free” stand?
2012 is a far cry from the music world that I grew up in the 1990’s. My only access to music was the radio, The Box (that cheap network television version of MTV…remember that?), the local record store, and occasionally the copy of Rolling Stone that my friends would give me to after they were through reading it. Looking back, I really only had knowledge of a handful of musical acts at a time – I never really felt like I was overwhelmed with choice when it came to music. And while I never paid the $18 price tag on CD’s that I would see at Sam Goodie at the mall, I would typically pay about $12 for a new release of whatever band I had been exposed to from the one of the few channels I mentioned. The music that I purchased definitely had an assigned value to it.
In 2012, because there are so many channels to hear about new music, it almost becomes a case of paralysis by choice. I’ve addressed that before in multiple posts on my site, but the problem left over is, how do artists get their music to their fans? It seems like we live in the technological era where that should be relatively easy, but because there are so many channels, artists are tasked with really trying to understand who their fans are and what their listening habits are in order to try to connect with them in the appropriate mediums. That is a great thing because fans and artists will hopefully become better connected as that trend continues. The question still arises, beyond word of mouth, how can artists reach new fans? This is where I believe “free” comes in…
My good friend and cohort, Landon Smith, and I rewrote the music to an old Christmas hymn in the fall of 2010, and released it for free on Amazon.com as a music download. We figured, it was the first time we had written and recorded a project together, and because we just classified it in the “fun” category, we decided we’d make it available for free as a little reward for all of our faithful fans’ years of support. 14 months later, the song has had 64,000 downloads from the Amazon website. Needless to say, that song’s success (it is called “Christmas Anthem” if you’re interested in hearing it by the way) far exceeded anything we could have ever imagined.
When we consider the fact that a record will reach top 20 status on the billboard charts if they break the 50,000 unit mark, that was an incredible statistic for Landon and I as independent artists. There isn’t another avenue out there than I can imagine that 64,000 people would not only have access to an artist’s music, but also have it to access later either on their computer, ipod, phone, or whatever other storage device they have. I’m excited about that, because with services like Spotify and I-Match (offered by Itunes), I think music is heading in the direction of subscription services anyway, so our experiment with Amazon just drove that theory home a little more for me…
So, if an artist has the capacity to reach over 50,000 people with their latest project, and all they have to do is make it available for free on a major website? (I realize it’s a little more complicated than just that, but for purposes of this post, we’ll go with it) If that’s the case, my next record might be available at a 100% discount...stay tuned.
Keep on rockin’ in the “free” world,