As one who has spent much of his adult life partaking in some form of artist relations and development, it makes it all the more frustrating seeing that not only is there a complete lack of both of these things in the Music Business, but essentially a complete lack of a Music Business.
And everyone is looking for a scapegoat. (File sharing, piracy, blah blah.)
But the problems at hand are far more systematic than that. It is pretty indisputable that there is a complete oversaturation of “music” in the marketplace (and we won’t even get into if it’s good.) The idea of the “local” artist is a thing of the past, as now any band with a Facebook and a Myspace instantly becomes a “National” band, and instead of quietly honing their skills on a regional level, they instantly thrust themselves onto anyone within digital earshot.
The problem with that is, anybody with a computer, an “instrument”, a camera, and a few friends has a “national band”. And it’s nearly impossible for anyone to sort through the mess. Everyone’s looking for a shortcut. The problem is, when everyone knows the shortcut, it doesn’t get anyone anywhere.
What used to be a great system of checks and balances, is now a free-for-all. The lunatics are running the asylum. As ridiculous, bloated and silly as it was most of the time, the Music Business was self contained, and did a pretty damn good job of policing itself via quality control. It was a network of hundreds of inter-connected people around the country, promoters, A&R guys, one-stops, distributors, managers, Record Stores, etc., working together to elevate bands when they deserved to be elevated.
Bands saved up money to record with established Producers, made good demos, eventually made a record, and if you worked hard enough, and persevered long enough, you got noticed, signed, and got your shot at the big time. (And this went for people wanting to WORK in the business, too.) It was Darwinian, but it served its purpose. A band HAD to spend YEARS going through the established channels of the Music Industry to get a shot, and if they managed to stick it out, with a little good luck, usually they did. It wasn’t cheap, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t supposed to be. But i’ve not only seen it work for bands, i’ve MADE it work for bands. Once in a while one slipped by, but for the most part, if it got out, it deserved to. And vice versa.
Now, “bands” don’t even have to have MUSIC. But, if they do, (and thanks to Protools, they don’t even have to REALLY play it.) all they have to do is sign up with an “aggregator”, and within minutes their “record” is digitally clogging the aural sewers of the collective musical consciousness. See, once upon a time, you had to be GOOD to get into a record store. You had to bust your ass to make an overpriced record, and get distribution, and tour to support it, and get that store to believe your record was worth taking a risk on.
Itunes, however, is not equipped with this limitation. They are solely a point of sale. And for them, there is no incentive to limit the number of releases, there is no real estate, or returns. In fact, it’s the opposite. So where is the quality control? Where is the evolution and progress? Nowhere.
(And personally I am not sure why someone would rather buy a controlled, digital copy of something, when they can buy a hard copy and rip it to their computer, and have the exact same end result, and still OWN something.)
I will say this. I am not a fan of Itunes. I am not a fan of its structure. I am not a fan of what it has done to the Music Business. Sure it helped create an equal playing field. But you know what? It was never intended to be an equal playing field.
It was HARD to start a record label. It was HARD to make a record. It was HARD to distribute a record. It was HARD to book a tour. And there was a good reason for that.
What would happen tomorrow, if professional sports made away with all scouting practices, farm teams, the draft, etc., and instead turned into American Idol. Take away all the established structure. Anyone could walk in off the street and try out, or get voted in off a website, they could play Professional Sports.
It would completely devalue the entire industry, noone would have any incentive to REALLY work anymore, and well, they’d be right where we are. That’s why this will never happen. Yet somehow, we’ve allowed it to happen to the music industry. Music has become a faceless commodity, style over substance, or the extreme opposite, substance over style, which as we’ve seen, can be just as damaging.
The bottom line is, bands are no longer building sustainable fanbases, and the supply of music, far outweighs the demand. And just like any commodity, when you have way more supply than demand, the value decreases exponentially.
Face it, record labels took themselves out, Itunes took out record stores, and basically the entire distribution structure, so now it’s up to you to do things right on your own.
I think it’s a great new World we could be living in, as long as we respect the rules of the old. Myspace, Facebook, etc. are GREAT promotion tools. WHEN your band is READY to promoted. But since labels have no presence anymore, it’s up to you, as artists, to decide when that is.
So I call on bands to police themselves. Take down your Facebook Page. Take down your Myspace. Save up money and hire a producer. Make a real record. Save up money to buy a van and trailer. Spend 5 years touring, and busting your ass. Learn to write songs. Build an undeniable REAL following. Build real word of mouth based on the merits of your music, not artificial hype. Create something. Get off the bandwagon. Pay your fucking dues. THEN promote your band. If you want this business to continue to exist, someone is going to have to.[box title=”The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of tunelab.com or its staff” color=”#666″] This is a guest entry from Thom Hazaert. He was responsible for landing label deals for the likes of Chimaira, Switched, and Erase the Grey, founded the Loudside/Total Assault Street Teams, and launched Corporate Punishment Records. You can find the original entry here and you can follow Thom on twitter at @ThomHazaert.[/box]