This year I read in an issue of Billboard Magazine that over 134,000 New Releases came out in 2009. Do you know how many of those releases failed to sell even 100 copies of their CD? (either online or as a CD?) ...over 50,000!
Why is this?
It drives me crazy when I think about the wasted money and time so many acts have flushed down the toilet by not doing enough with their music, you know... getting out there and playing tons of gigs, climbing all around the Internet and screaming "listen to my music, damn it!" You'd think that pride alone would be a strong enough incentive to motivate even the laziest of lazy.
I have a saying I occasionally recite to a class I am teaching or give out in an interview... it goes like this, "Just because you can record, doesn't mean you should."
Yeah, that's a big part of the problem of why so many indie artists and bands fail. They want to record their music, but they don't give a damn about trying to get it out there.
In the music business that activity is known as 'working your record'. They don't do it because of two main reasons. #1.They don't have any money saved up to promote and market the damned thing, and #2 They don't want to do anything remotely related to actual work!
It's truly amazing, scary, and most of all maddening. Bands will send their music out to a few college radio stations perhaps, or maybe even a couple of Internet stations, but then they sit back and just do nothing... waiting for someone to discover them, or what? I really don't know.
What I do know is that all the professionals who work in radio, or write for the press, or buy music for the online and offline stores, and the bookers who are approached for gigs are up to their friggin' ears in CDs. One local non-commercial radio station I know of (KEXP 90.3 FM in Seattle), told me they get over 900 CDs a week, and only around 1% of those new releases have someone involved with the project ever 'follow-up' to see if the station is playing their music.
But that's just the way it is, right? Well, think of it this way...With over 900 CDs coming out each week, that creates a lot of what I call 'clutter' out there in the world of independent music, and clutter means (to the people who have to go through all these CDs), a lot of unpleasant work.
Ask any of these folks and they will say things like, "Oh I will put on a CD to check it out, but I can tell in 10 seconds whether it's crap or not," or, " I just look at the cover of their CD, or sometimes go online to their website,or Facebook page, and one look at their crappy graphics tells me all I need to know about the artist." Having said that, these good people are flabergasted that, even though most music they get sent to them sucks, they are shocked that so few artists and bands contact them to see if the station is going to play their music.
I plan to bitch and moan about the crappy habits and attitudes of so many indie acts. But at the same time I am going to try and enlighten any of you who may come across this posting and want to learn a thing or two about a thing or two regarding the bad habits I have encountered over the decades when it comes to working with independent artists and bands.
That's right, I said decades. I can proudly say that I have been in this business since the mid '60s.and I have learned a lot about how the industry works, (or doesn't work for that matter) and how I think things can change for the better for Indie musicians.
Visit my website if you haven't already.
My website has been around since 1995 and has lots of cool articles to read for free, and maybe buy my book "Music Is Your Business, the 3rd Edition" while you're at it.
I mean really, don't you think as a group of Indie music lovers we can do better than selling only an average of 100 copies of our releases as Indie folks...stay tuned, I hope my criticisms and observations will help wake up some of you out there who think that anything regarding knowledge of the business you are in is a waste of time.
Believe me or not, I don't really care, I'm just going to keep on sharing with you what the facts of being in this business are... that's all I can do.
Remember, recording something is easy compared to the work that needs to be done to let fans know about it. There's a lot of competiton out there folks, so get to work!
Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.
Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.
He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".
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