I apologize, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I’ve been doing a lot of learning this year and needed some time to process information.
This year has been a fabulous one, and I’ve met a lot of talented and creative people, both musicians and music industry folks alike. The music industry has changed a lot in the past decade or so, and it continues to change as technology grows. And there are many good and bad things about this.
I will try not to bore you with the details, but in a nut shell, music has become more accessible to the general public, which means there is less money in the industry, which means there are less opportunities for musicians. Labels no longer grow artists while under their label. They won’t take the time (or money) to sign someone until they’ve done all the hard work on their own. Until they have a following, sell out venues, are touring regularly, etc. Same thing with management, publishing companies and booking agencies.
The good thing is that this has set in motion the need for musicians to be more self sufficient. I’m currently not signed to a booking agency, and, thus, I’m fully aware of how difficult it is to book shows and go on tour. So when I eventually do sign with an agency, I will 100% understand the blood, sweat and tears that goes into their job.
The other side of this lack of opportunities for lower level musicians has created a window of opportunity for new, lower level industry positions. These are the people who have some knowledge of the industry and offer to help artists for a “small” fee. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot to know about the music business and it’s nice to know that there are people willing to work with us “little people”. However, as I’m sure you can expect, it also opens the door for lots of people giving musicians false hope. They see hungry, starving artists who just want to be heard, and they go in for the kill. Now of course this isn’t a new concept. There were plenty of corrupt label executives back in the day as well. But it got me thinking…
DIY musicians have the mind-frame that they are pinning to be noticed. If they could just play for the right person, or get more streams on Spotify, or play to a bigger audience they’d finally break through. We’ll almost do anything – and pay anything – just to be heard. There are so many musicians out there working for the same spot on the radio, that we’ll bend over backwards for the smallest opportunity. The funny thing is, there would be no industry without us. There would be no radio without new music; no audience without musicians. No labels. No ticket sales. No booking agencies. Nothing. Why are we musicians trying so hard to please the industry, when there wouldn’t be an industry in the first place without us?
Now there are a lot of us musicians. That may be one reason. And there are many of us who still have a lot to learn before we’re ready to sell out a theater. Many of us still need to work on our songwriting, stage presence, our brand or our marketing skills. Many of us haven’t quite “cooked” long enough yet, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But once we master the art of booking. Once we write a song that fits our brand. Once we figure out how to keep an audience engaged for a full set. Once we figure out how to release an album without going into debt. Once we’ve figured out all that, shouldn’t the industry be trying to prove themselves to us? Not the other way around? After all, they wouldn’t have a job without us? Just saying…
The mind-frame of wanting to go on American Idol and become the next big thing immediately has gotten DIY musicians so hungry, that we’re willing to pay thousands of dollars to just about anyone, for the smallest opportunity. But the reality is that, with the exception of a small few, there is no quick fix. It’s about sleepless nights and perseverance. It’s about getting so good at marketing, that when an agency finally makes an offer to you, you won’t feel like you need them anymore. They need you.
So ask yourself – and be really honest – do you know how to book a tour? Can you write a hit song? Have you played shows where strangers are singing along with your songs? Do you know how to market your brand? Have you built relationships with radio stations and blogs? If no, then keep working because you’ll get there. If yes, then keep up the badass work. Because there would be no music industry without musicians. And to every DIY musician out there, know your value and don’t ever forget it. Good things come to those who work for it.