I have seen a lot over the last 40 years being involved in the music business. I remember the days of one genre of rock in which you could hear Jimi Hendrix played on the same radio station as James Taylor. If it was good music they played it. These were the days of vinyl records. Then came 8-track tapes, then cassette tapes, and then CDs. Along with all of these changes came the creation of so many genres and subgenres that today’s artists are often confused about where they fit. Then came the radio monster conglomerates which will only play major artists and want to be paid for that.
I remember the day when artists created music they felt compelled to create and didn’t care if it fit a genre or not. Then the day came when artists began to change their music to make it more palatable to major labels. I also remember the day of the first digital release, ridiculed by labels as a fad. Well the joke is on the labels. It is not a fad and has taken over the music industry. It was a world where the Indie artist was on an even playing field with the major labels. The majors realized this and came up with free streaming to level the playing field. But will anyone know it’s there or buy it? Or will they just listen for free.
The major label machine did accomplish one thing for artists — if an artist was lucky enough to sign with a major label they could make him a household name. Those days are all but over . Major labels are taking huge financial losses and some like EMI are even falling to bankruptcy.
So where does this leave the aspiring indie artist? With a dream and a desire.
Recently my promotions company,Musik Radio Promotions, pitched an artist for a major label deal. What came back from the label was “we will put in 400K if the artist puts in 400K. Oh, we also need them to have 500,000 YouTube hits, 500,000 fanbase on their social media for us to consider a deal with them.”
The sooner that indie artists realize that they are on their own in this world of 360 deals and pay-to-play radio, the better off they will be. There will be no major label knocking on your door offering riches and fame just because you’re good. If you are good you better be very smart and be savvy in business and the art of promotion if you want to succeed in the new world of being an independent artist. The music business is changing so fast not even the majors have a clue how to rein in success without financial failure.
The days of making superstars are over. Before the 20th century if you were a musician you had to be an entertainer. At best you accepted that this was your lot and trade in life. You traveled the world seeking your next performance. If you were good you made a decent living and were happy because you did what was in your heart and soul for a living.
Today the indie artist better wake up and realize that there will be no talent scout riding into one of their gigs on a white horse to discover and rescue them from the maze of talent out there. The only one who will discover them is themselves. Once the indie artist realizes they are on their own, they can formulate a plan of success. Besides making high quality music, that plan has to include hard work on a good website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, and as much networking as possible. When I say work I mean daily hard work to obtain a larger fan base. Then the artist needs to find a really good promotion and distribution company. The artist hopefully can find a strong indie label with all the above and hopefully the indie label will have world radio contacts and be able help with an effective campaign.
Yes there are a lot of radio promotion companies out there that will charge a minimum of $2500 for a 350-station college radio campaign. But that will add up fast when you have to pay for college genre station promotions. What the indie needs is a record label that has their own radio promotion arm that is willing to split the costs of promotion with them. Yes, during these times the artist will at the very LEAST have to split promotion costs or die a slow death of their dream. There are labels springing up out there that do fit this bill. The artist needs to be savvy enough to realize what an opportunity this is for the artist rather than complain that they must pay for their own promotion. If you find a label that is willing to split the cost of promotion you better jump on that deal because Mr. Major Label’s white horse died of thirst in the desert and won’t be riding into your gig anytime soon.