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Thread August 5, 2017 editorial: comments

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1 August 5, 2017 editorial: comments

In Praise of DIY

It's a given that digital technology has wrought massive changes to the music industry. And there's no doubt that overall, the business doesn't generate nearly as much revenue as it once did. What's more, some of the careers that were once lucrative for musicians, such as being a session player or advertising-music composer, are no longer viable thanks to the de-centralization of the studio business due to digital recording, and the reduction in the need for live musicians that virtual instrument technology has brought about.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. If you’re a recording artist, you now have some significant advantages over your pre-digital predecessors, for many of whom the "good old days," weren't actually so good.

Back then, the only hope musicians had for "making it big," was to get a record deal from a major label. The major labels were the gatekeepers, and having talent often wasn't enough. In many cases, unless you got discovered serendipitously or had enough industry connections to get a label to come check you out, you were invisible to the record company A&R departments, and had nowhere to go beyond your local gig scene.

If you somehow did manage to get signed, the odds were still stacked against you. Unless the powers that be at the label decided to put a real effort into promoting you, the odds were great that your album would flop, and the label would cut you loose before you could record a follow up. I once read a statistic that something like 99 percent of all signed artists got dropped after their first album.

In today's world, though, you don’t need the blessing of a label to get your career launched. As an DIY artist, it’s possible to establish yourself beyond your local scene. If you have great songs, a solid live act, willingness to tour constantly, and savvy when it comes to marketing yourself—especially on social media—you can get noticed by fans and the music press, without a deal.

You won’t get rich, and you may have to sleep on a lot of floors along the way, but a band without a label is not stuck the way it once was. Except for vinyl, distribution is all digital, and available to any artist for a pittance. You can generate revenue touring and selling merch (including vinyl copies or your music), although it's likely to take a while to build it beyond subsistence levels.

For the aspiring artist, the industry has become a bit more democratic, and more of a meritocracy.  Not only can record and distribute your own music with a minimum of financial investment, but there are plenty of online music media outlets where you can get reviewed and recognized—if you have a good product.

If you're willing to devote some years to gaining a foothold, it’s possible to get attention of both indie and major labels, which offer the chance of moving up to the next level.

Is it easy? Of course not, it's the music business. Is the money like it was in the old days? No. But you do have more control over your destiny, and that’s worth a lot.

Back at you September 2nd. (Wow, I can’t believe it’s almost September!)

2
What's your hourly rate ? This is the only question you have to ask yourself about the DIY option. How much time do you need to get the result you expect in a particular domain ?
Build your own intruments ? No, it's more efficicient to buy a ready made one until you're the only man on Earth that can build one to your specific needs.
The conclusion is almost the same for each sector of the music production. DIY is certainly not the fastest nor the cheapest way to run your career.

Pair of Focal SM9 for Sale

Laurent Sevestre
MaximalSound.com
Online Algorithmique Mastering

Technical Stuff

[ Post last edited on 08/05/2017 at 23:09:38 ]

3
Someone in your position could do us fans, and us musicians, a great favor by introducing us to some of these really great (unsigned/undiscovered/unknown) artists.

Otherwise, it might only be by chance these songs would get heard.
4
So true that self motivation is the key to original music being exposed nowadays.
This is an evolving part of being a musician - with self-management and seeking
venues and festivals to perform at...get in early with your submissions and demos
for festivals if you are a musician seeking to play - especially overseas - like
here in Australia, where places are limited and the major festival circuit is
around Easter time.
Thanks for your article Mike Levine. You always prompt us to think and improve.
5
Quote:
What's your hourly rate ? This is the only question you have to ask yourself about the DIY option. How much time do you need to get the result you expect in a particular domain ?

Laurent, thanks for your insights. I'm not sure I agree, however. We're talking about aspiring musical artists who are trying to advance their art. I don't think they're going to judge their career on how much they're making per hour. Certainly not in the formative stage of their careers.
6
Quote:
Someone in your position could do us fans, and us musicians, a great favor by introducing us to some of these really great (unsigned/undiscovered/unknown) artists.

Sure. Here are a few examples of acts that established themselves originally as DIY artists: Alex G, Mitski, Julien Baker, Pinegrove, and Frankie Cosmos.

[ Post last edited on 08/06/2017 at 06:25:10 ]

7
Quote:
Thanks for your article Mike Levine. You always prompt us to think and improve.

Thanks, John. Much appreciated!