Friday, December 01, 2006

Art Vs. Greed

Sorry to post another long one, but I think it's an important topic. If you haven't seen the movie Before The Music Dies, point your browser there and either find a screening near you or buy the DVD. I felt like it was a very timely movie, given the state of the business right now. This is not a review of the film, but I want to discuss several points they made.

One of the interview subjects in the movie makes a distinction between the "record business" and the "music business." Another gentleman points out that most of the “people who buy Brittney Spears records are not music fans, they are popular culture fans.” Mention is also made that the upper management at the major record labels know more about the stock market than they do about music.

There were other similar comments, including those of Questlove and Erykah Badu. Near the end of the film, Dave Matthews points out that you might as well go on “Fear Factor” if you are interested in fame and wealth. Otherwise, you should just find a way to do what you love, even if you have to work a day job to pay the bills.

Still, people continue to doggedly cling to the old, greed-based music industry model, despite all indications that it is falling apart all around us. Unfortunately, some of those true believers have settled into academia, and they are filling young minds with visions of large profits even as we speak. I certainly hope that this current crop of “music business” students don’t emerge from four years of college only to find that it no longer exists. I could be wrong, but this latest surge of insane litigation that some of the majors and the RIAA have undertaken looks like a desperate last-ditch money grab before they go down the tubes!

On the other hand, if you are a musician, especially of the “artistic” bent, the world is your oyster! I have firmly believed this for several years, and after seeing the film, I am even more convinced. We no longer need the major labels – they have become irrelevant, and may even die soon!

Here’s my advice for aspiring artists: find an indie label or, better yet, start your own label! Take some music business courses, and even some business courses, so that you can understand the business side yourself. Invest your time and money into getting your live act together, and booking a regional tour. Book a college tour through NACA if you think that would be a good avenue for your music. At each show, get people to sign up for your mailing list so you can let them know when you’re in the area again or releasing new material.

Buy your own recording gear, and record your CD’s yourself. Get a professional to mix and/or master them for you if that is not your forte. Get your myspace page going, duplicate your CD through Disc Makers or a similar service, and send it to CDBaby so you can get it on iTunes. Submit your songs to podcasts and internet radio stations devoted to new music. Join ASCAP or BMI, and make sure you submit your recording to soundscan.

I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the picture. Of course, you don’t have to go it alone, either. I’m sure you have some good friends who are or were music business majors, and you can set up a partnership with them for a cut of the action!

That brings me to my last point. Whether you are in college or just involved in a local music scene, get to know people and cultivate those relationships. In my 6+ years at Greenville College, I have witnessed the strong community of Greenville graduates in Nashville, who are involved in all aspects of the industry. Many of them, for example, have landed gigs on the basis of a referral from a former classmate. It makes sense to build friendships and avoid burning bridges, because that relationship might help you out one day!
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