What Can Musicians Be Thankful For In 2011?
Perusing the local trade magazines or attending a music based conference can lead a musician (or someone who works with musicians) to believe that Armageddon is truly here. If we hear one more speech or read one more article about the end of the music industry as we know it, we will certainly collectively go nutso.
The truth is the entire economy is in the crapper. We don’t know one industry that hasn’t been touched (well, maybe crime, if that is an industry). Music has certainly not been immune. However, we here at L4M are here to say that Debbie Downer needs to turn her frown upside down. While the days of multi-multi platinum records and huge advances are certainly on death’s doorstep, the savvy musician can do more than just eek out a living. Here are some things we think musicians should be happy about:
1. The Internet. Long hailed as the assassin of the music industry, the world-wide web offers more opportunities than it does problems if you know how to ride the waves. Not only has the internet introduced the fan to new (and mostly legitimate) ways of finding new music, collaborative websites now allow musicians a means to create, promote and distribute their music. Sites like TopSpin, BeatPort, BandCentral, SoundCloud and Facebook have become essential and typically inexpensive methods for sharing talent, ideas and product. If utilized properly, the internet’s social media platforms can completely replace a label based pr system. Access, affordability and a global reach are definitely something that the Internet provides to the musician willing to navigate it.
2. Music Festivals. Music festivals breath new life and huge opportunities to major label talent as well as emerging bands. Bringing great music to enormous crowds coupled with innovative festival organizers oftentimes bring great results. Not only are festivals bringing tremendous revenues to musicians and the organizers, they offer great opportunities to buzz bands to play in front of huge crowds and important taste makers. On top of that, every festival brings with it industry parties, opening slots for after shows, and tons of press. Emerging bands who strategically plan ahead for a visiting festival can really cash in (maybe not as much as Perry Farrell, but still…).
3. Music Licensing. It used to be that in order to get your music licensed your label or publisher would have to cozy up to a music supervisor. With the amount of media content around the world growing at a record pace (think tv, radio, satellite radio, internet programming, commercials, film etc.) there is a matching need for quality music. Jingles are a thing of the past. Ad agencies with unlimited budgets for music is also rare at best. Quality music that may originate from lesser known musicians but do not carry with it the rigors of publisher and label demands has become imperative. Musicians who work to get their music to savvy music libraries can make money on both up front music licensing sync fees as well as the oftentimes lucrative performance royalties.
4. The Remix. Want to resurrect an old single? Want to make some money as a producer by resurrecting that old singer? Never before has the remix been more important. DJ’s like Skrillex and Guetta have become über rich by making a name for themselves as talented remixers as well as great djs. For popular musicians, remixes by producers or other bands can lead to revitalized sales of a falling single. The remix is a handy promotional tool as well (Lady Gaga will be ever-present again for a while as she announces the release of an entire remix album). Another means of collaboration, oftentimes between artists who would not otherwise work together is definitely a trend that we can all be thankful for in 2011.
5. Vinyl. The LP appears to be back for good. Collectors as well as a new generation of music purchasers appear to be favoring holding something cool in their hands and not just in an electronic file living in an Ipod. While still expensive to manufacture, vinyl sales in 2011 continue to defy the rest of the industry. A positive trend that began several years ago, there does not seem to be a slow down to the sale of the old school vinyl record.
What about you? What are you thankful for as a musician or a music fan in 2011? Please comment below. Let’s stay positive and bring in the joy during this holiday season. Having trouble doing so, slap on the collector’s edition of Justin Bieber’s Christmas album. We have no doubt that you will soon be smiling!
Lollapalooza and Lost Amongst the Giants
As Chicagoans, we are spoiled with great music and great music festivals. Whether it is a local street fest with unknown but talented local bands, one of the many venues (Metro, Bottom Lounge, Park West…), Pitchfork Festival or the grandaddy of all commercial festivals, Lollapalooza, the Second City has to rank as one of the best music cities in the world. As a music fan the choices are too numerous to count. Often we are left with a sense of regret if we choose to check out Schubas while there is a great show going on at Double Door or we pick the wrong stage at Grant Park and find out that MGMT actually tried during their live set this year.
As fans, these dilemmas are pretty minor. As a band, getting noticed or better yet, getting booked can be overwhelming, frustrating and just flat out depressing. There is a wicked catch 22 situation between labels and bands these days and booking gigs is just one part of it. Labels and investors look for many things when determining whether to sign a band. The label will look at the number of units sold (digital/physical), the number of fans (facebook/myspace), the amount of press garnered, and the number of shows booked (taking into account the quality of those shows).
So a band is then faced with proving itself by doing a lot of work itself. The band and management (if management is in place) must grind it out to show that it can sell or give away a sufficient number of albums, generate its own press and social media statistics and book its own shows. Booking agents are out there but agents will only take a band onto its roster if the band has already proven itself by booking a ton of shows on its own. The band is left with the nauseating decision of whether it is better to not play at all or to play their uncle’s picnic just so it can “book” a show. All of this has to be done while also factoring in that touring and playing live shows may be the only source of income for a band. (You sure you want to be a musician?)
The best advice that we can give to a band who is in this type of crappy situation is to forget labels and booking agents. Just pretend they don’t exist. Once that impossible task is completed, the band can focus on a plan of attack. Let’s assume that the band is talented, has a local following and can book a few decent size venues on a regular basis within its home town. No band is going to make a comfortable living doing this, but being able to take up a residency at a solid venue in a metropolitan area is a really good first step. The band then has to find other bands from the same city and from surrounding cities and states and get them to play at their venue with the hope of reciprocity. Assuming that goes well and the bands from other cities like your band, you now have an invitation to play in a new city or state. As momentum grows, small local tours can be arranged all without the almighty aid of a booking agent or a label. The band has to team up within its own community. Take solace in the fact that there are a million other bands in the same situation as yours. When you team up you are that much stronger.
Now that you have a plan of attack (which may take several months or more to put together), you can attract more fans, sell more merchandise and book more gigs. Wait a second; isn’t that what labels and booking agents are looking for? Ah-ha. Obviously, this takes a lot of hard work, committment and organization. If those attributes are not your strong suit, you better quit the business or get a team together who can help. As we consistently tell our clients, being in a band is a lot of hard work. We turn down clients who are looking for a quick fix or for someone else to get them to where they think they want to be. If you are not committed to making music a full time job, it most likely will not happen for you.
Hopefully this was more motivational than depressing. Either way, we are off to Lolla to make some bad decisions about who to check out and marvel at hipsters in skinny jeans.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION (SORT OF) OF THE WEEK:
THE BOTTOM LOUNGE – CHICAGO
L4m is psyched to partner with one of Chicago’s best live music venues, The Bottom Lounge. The place is large yet intimate, the beer list is large and amazing and the staff is not large but also awesome. We plan on working with them to showcase both our clients and other bands who will eventually be our clients (or not). If you haven’t gone to a show there yet, shame on you. If you have, then you are super smart. Stay tuned for updates on our collaboration.