Category: Radiohead

Movies and Music, Still Possible Money Makers

From indie to major (bucks)

From indie to major (bucks)

How depressing is the economy?  For musicians and industry professionals who make a living off of musicians, times are as sad as a Cure ballad.  Not a day goes by without a record label, distribution company, or music marketing company shutting its doors.  Up front advances are a thing of the past.  Traditional record deals are dead (which is not a bad thing) and it is getting harder and harder to find corporate sponsors to shell out five to six figure licensing fees.

What is a rocker to do?  Go see a movie (naturally).  Two industries tend to be recession proof in the US:  Movies and Booze.  People like to escape and what better way to do that then going to a movie or a bar and forgetting about the bonus that is not on its way or the third job you just took on to afford gas money for the band’s van.  If you can find a brew n’ view in your town, no doubt it is packed with soused movie goers on a nightly basis.

Unless you have a distillery in your basement, the likely alternative may be to invest in movies.  Granted the majority of my audience may not be at the stage in his/her life where they are even thinking of making an investment.  However, for those lucky few readers out there, this is the time to invest in movies.  State and federal tax incentives limit the potential risk by up to 70% in some cases.

Think I’m nutso?  Think movies are riskier then investing in a hedge fund run by some dude named Ernie Nadoff?  If so, then read this:  SCENE STEALER:  SUDDENLY, HOLLYWOOD SEEMS A CONSERVATIVE INVESTMENT.  See, the New York Times agrees with me too.

Movies that cost between 1 and 7 million are constantly making money.  Think of the different revenue streams:  box office, product-tie-in/placement, dvd sales, merchandise sales, on-demand sales, on-line (itunes/amazon/netflix) sales, etc.  So even those low-budget craptastic voyages about a third rate dance squad can turn a profit.

What about the musicians?  Think licensing!   While the low budget movies that are made today do not have huge budgets for music, they still need music.  Enter the independent artist looking to get his band’s music out to a wider population.  Most indi flix will give little to no money up front but will give a back end participation to the artist, meaning that the band will earn money based on the sale of the soundtrack.  An added bonus is the distribution that the movie’s soundtrack gives to a musician without any distribution rights.  Think of Juno or Garden State; staples of most hipster kids’ ipods.  Several of the artists on those soundtracks did not have distribution but were able to rake in money when the movie and the soundtrack took off (via physical and digital sales).



Turn Your Music Into a Virus

I am hard pressed to think of a virus that I would actually want to have. However, independent musicians should strive to turn their music and their fan base into a big nasty inexorably duplicating virus. The type of virus which has no cure and consistently evolves into a more sophisticated strand of the original.

Here’s how a music virus works: A band which may have a following of say 5,000 friends on myspace and can sometimes fill a local club with about 200 fans is the original host for the disease. The band has a new EP coming out and there is a single that they feel could be a real radio hit. The band makes the song available on their website, their myspace page and emails it to their fan base. The fans, who all have their own social networking site, listen to the song, totally dig it, pass it along to their friends, and post it on their own page. Now all of the fan’s friends who may or may not have been fans of the band get exposed to the song, love it, pass it along to their friends and so on and so forth.

This is how a music virus works. There are a lot of contests (radio based, club based and Internet based) where bands compete with other bands for cash or promotional prizes. Usually the way to win is to have the most people vote for your band, whether it is by casting an online vote or cheering the loudest. In order to win, a band not only has to ask all of its fans to vote for it but ask those fans to do some of the grunt work and have the fans friends and family vote. The band has to ask its network to spread the virus.
Imagine her spit and snot to be your music!

This is basically how websites like and work. You create your own online material and want to share it with everyone you know. You, like your music, are unique and you want to show off that uniqueness to not only your friends but the world. So, you invite everyone you know to be your contact or your friend and then search your friend’s friends to see who else you can recruit. Some call it poaching, but it is really viral marketing/networking in full effect.

Music, like websites can grow this way. Your fan base can spread simply by word of mouth and the strategic Internet or email plug. Bands should consistently remember to get contact info at their shows, on their myspace or on their websites. Ask your fans to leave their email address so they can be included on the next concert invite list or have access to the newest single. It’s an easy and creative way to keep track of your audience and to build the foundation for your virus to grow.

With the death of the major labels came the end of the many huge bands. Of course some huge bands (U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Rolling Stones) are still succeeding, but they are doing it differently. Huge bands are licensing their music to Apple, McDonalds, Mazda, AT&T and other corporate giants rather than putting a cd out and waiting for the royalties to pour directly into their pockets. Stadium Bands are putting out their music for free, marketing their music in movies, and touring like crazy to maintain their fat pockets.

Instead of ginormous bands dominating the industry there are hundreds of big bands; bands that can headline larger clubs and festivals: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, MGMT, Weezer. These bands are more self sufficient, more “indi” like. They rely on their own network of fans, their own website and promotion and their own independent virus to spread their music. There is no such thing as the easy label deal anymore. Musicians have to get creative or get a 9-5 job. And who wants that?

Now time for a gratuitous plug: Go to and download Howl. Its great and it will spread the Empires’ virus.