Hello friends with sore eyes
My name is Jason. I have spent the majority of my life playing music and the last 6 years with it as my profession. I am currently the VP of Digital Marketing and Strategy for the Eleven Seven Music group. The fine folks who run this excellent online retailer are not only friends but also respected colleges and supporters of my current musical endeavor IKILLYA. They’ve asked me to write a few pieces based on my experience and I’m happy to do so. So without further adieu, here’s my first.
If I tell you that the music industry has changed significantly over the past decade I’m sure you’d say you’re tired of hearing that from everyone, everywhere. I don’t believe that anyone who has even a passing interest in music is not painfully aware of this fact. What surprises me is how many musicians either do not understand the implication of these changes or choose to act as if they don’t apply to them. In simple math, the music industry earns a mere percentage of what it did 10 years ago and like anything or anyone else, when you have less money coming in, you have less money to send out. This means that the industry is less interested in taking risks on new acts or investing in the development of a band. Artists in this age simply have to do the work themselves. All the work. No longer can you start a band, play 11 shows and sign a multi-million dollar record deal.
The good side of this is that in laying all of the ground work it takes to develop a band, you will build a fan base that you own and have direct connection to. A fan base that if you continue to nurture will stay with you no matter what happens. That means, if done right, you can have a career in music with or without a record label. You’ve all heard the stories of Pearl Jam and Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead giving away their music or self-releasing and I’m sure you’ve heard those who say it’s the future of the music industry. It’s important to note that their fan bases were built by the promotion of huge record labels, but their actions now can be a great guide for building your own base.
All of those bands have a very strong, direct relationship with their fans. They deliver constant contact and perks to those who invest in the band. Their band business is their life. Look closely and you’ll see that creating and releasing an album have become almost footnotes to the other work they do. They create custom content and immersive experiences for those willing to support the band. This is a full time job – exactly the same way building a new band is. Every person who raises their hand and says “I like this band” needs to be super-served. And since there is no advertising being done by a label, it’s all up to you. I am shocked by how few artists even take the time to hand out fliers after other shows or do more than just have a facebook page. If this is your dream, live it.
Of course, I understand the investment that takes and I understand the time commitment, but there are many tools to help you. Sites like ReverbNation.com provide a tool box that helps you effectively and efficiently market, advertise and simply communicate with your supporters. Sites like Pledgemusic.com help you fund-raise for your project while offering real value for the supporter in return. Regardless of what platform you use, this is a dedication to a lifestyle. You must be a business and a musician. This is a second job, and like any job, the amount you work directly effects the return you receive.
If this doesn’t sound appealing to you and you just want to make music, there is no crime in that. Just be realistic about the likelihood of your music alone becoming a profession. See ya on the sidewalks and in the clubs.