We’ve all heard the stories of musicians being exploited by bad management contracts, record deals, and booking agents. A little discussed area where artists are also getting exploited is the internet in the form of corporate profiteering.
At some point the model for profitable digital revenue streams for musicians will sort itself out but right now, artists are getting the short straw. Streaming has surpassed downloads and the profits from streaming amount to fractions of a penny per stream. Yet piracy sites are making money off advertising by companies such as Alaska Airlines and 1-800 Flowers sponsoring their content.
There are over 200,000 piracy websites out there utilizing essentially “free inventory” to finance their ad sales. The so called utopia that the internet was supposed to create for musicians has been a fraud. If it was working so well, more musicians would be working professionally instead of relying on day jobs to pay their bills. Piracy sites and their advertising partners are making the money why the creators miss out on their fair share.
If you truly want to put a dent in illegal music downloading, cut off the piracy websites’ revenue streams.
Jonathan Coulton has a great metaphor about the current state of the music industry: “you can’t see inside the cow; you can only build one, feed it music, and wait for it to poop”. Not all of your revenue from a music release will happen in one fell swoop and not all from one source. Nowadays you really need to diversify sources of income from your music. We all have heard by now that Spotify doesn’t pay. Physical sales are dwindling to nearly almost non-existent. Digital distribution is currently the best route to go for music sales and iTunes is the king of sales numbers. In comparing my own record label’s digital sales with other independent artists, iTunes sales far exceeds that of other digital retailers. Zoe Keating has been gracious enough to provide a Google Doc which breaks down the statistics on her revenue.
While not mainstream by any sorts, Zoe made a respectable living off of music over the past year with a total income of $84,385.86 before taxes. While streaming is just a very small percentage of her income, Zoe believes that it doesn’t pose a threat to her sales income. Casual listeners were never going to buy the music anyway so streaming shouldn’t be viewed as a lost sale. More than ever streaming has supplanted radio as a means to expose listeners to new artists and the more exposure, the greater chance that you’ll gain a true fan that wants to purchase your music. However, radio royalties still pay better than streaming.
Your best option as an artist: cut out as many middle-men as possible between you and your fans, cross-promote your Bandcamp and iTunes albums as much as possible, use streaming as exposure, and of course keep writing new songs.
Recorded over 2011 this CD features a mix of brand new songs and reworked new interpretations of songs from the last album. Hard tunes like Dead Sled and Death Cycle tear things up while first ever recorded acoustic versions of Royal Dead songs show their diverse range. I handled the recording, mixing and production on this release.
It’s kills me to see how little most struggling musicians understand about the music business and the practices that transpire. Even all these years there is still this mystical veil that seems to shroud the inner workings of the industry machine. It’s not all rainbows and fairy tales kids.
There is no doubt that the music industry has seen dramatic changes over the past decade. However, commercial radio, you know..the big FM channels; they still pretty much operate the same way they have for the past fifty years. Commercial radio is still firmly in the grasp of the major record labels. To understand why the majors still control radio while having lost considerable size everywhere else you need to first understand how new music gets added to the playlists of commercial radio.
The majority of the time the music is chosen not based on the talent and merits of the artist but by money paid from those with established relationships with the radio stations. The labels get around payola laws by paying third party “indie promoters” to work a song. In reality they are merely a pass-through for pay-to-play. The indie promoters pay the radio stations whose Program Directors then add the “promoted” songs to their playlists.
So you may ask yourself, “Well I have one million dollars. Why can’t I just pay the indie promoters to get radio play?” Sure, if you indeed had the funds you could pay the indie promoters. And you may get a few plays during the off-hours at like 4AM when no one is listening. I’ve seen many bottom feeder companies prey upon the hopes and dreams of naive musicians and do this exact thing. You’ll get a few spins on some station up in Minnesota once or twice. For an additional payment they’ll promise to keep working your song. You’ll never see consistent and repeated radio play though. That’s because the indie promoter’s primary clients are the majors. They are the ones who will repeatedly come back and pay them weekly where as an independent label or artist may only pay once or twice. Why would they prioritize your tracks over those of their big clients? They wouldn’t. Sure, once in awhile a song will go viral or break out and get radio play. But this is an extremely rare case nowadays.
Will things get better with commercial radio? Not anytime soon. However, if you are an DIY artist or signed to an independent label don’t fret. You don’t need commercial radio to be successful and for most it’s a waste of time to pursue. Focus your efforts on avenues where you can thrive.
I am proud to present the debut track by my collaborative project, Doom Generation. I formed Doom Generation in 2010 with Eddie Suicide of Royal Dead and we have been working on material in the recording studio. Our song “Possessed” available now for a limited time as a free download as part of Side-Line Magazine’s “Face the Beat Volume 1″ compilation. Get it here now.
After all these years, Ministry’s “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste” is still one of my favorite all-time albums. It never seems to get old to listen to. When this first came out nothing sounded quite like it. It was danceable yet thick with foreboding menace. I would argue that this was Ministry at their creative peak. Nothing anyone has since has sounded quite like this although there were a plethora of imitators in during the 1990’s.
I knew I was in for a treat when I first saw the cover. You have to take into consideration the time period when this album came out. MTV was spinning some pretty wretched hair metal, hip-hop was churning out sanitized suburb friendly pap like Kid N’ Play. “Mind” was a kick in the gut and a death knell for anything clad in spandex.
Songs like “Thieves” and “Burning Inside” were the perfect combination of heavy guitars and pneumatic drums. The droning bass on “Cannibal Song” mixed with moody samples and shrieking vocals evoked an audio landscape of gloom and despair.
If you haven’t heard this album before it’s a definite recommend. If you have listened to it lately, pop it in for a spin.
Alec Empire and CX KiDTRONiK of Atari Teenage Riot walk through what gear they are using live on their current tour. It’s a good mix of old and new technology. Custom effect boxes, an Analogue Solutions Vostok, and an old school Atari ST sequencer that has taken a beating are among some of their gear. The Atari ST is running Notator. I’ve heard nothing but good about the reliability and tight midi timing of Notator running on the ST.
I’ve always wanted a Vostok since I first heard one several years ago.
For musicians that engage in sample-based live performance, Elektron has what you crave.
Presenting the Octatrack:
If you are currently using a laptop and Ableton Live for performances this could totally replace that setup. The file space is only limited by the CompactFlash card that you use with the Octatrack. This hardware unit is far more inspiring than mousing around in software as well. Step sequencer goodness…mmm.
Moog Music has released the keyboardless Slim Fatty. Slightly smaller in width than a standard rackmount unit you can get that Moog Phatty sound on a smaller budget. Retails $849, street price of around $800.