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Dear Musician - Unlimited Opportunities! Say What?!?

The music industry as we knew it is gone - but that gives us the opportunity to rebuild it the way we want

 

by Dendy Jarrett

 

 

Let’s face it—times have changed. Life isn’t like it was when many of us were growing up, and certainly, the music business isn’t either. Instant gratification, no patience, gotta-have-it-now, and "don’t-need-a-big-label or distribution to release my music" is the name of the game these days.  Yet this isn't necessarily bad: the "gotta-have-it-now" mentality has led to the rise of streaming and making more music available than ever before. And it does look like streaming is starting to develop into a model that will provide a decent income for those musicians who can create music to which large numbers of people can relate. (And in that respect, the "good old days" were the same way - it was a label's top 10% acts that kept it afloat, and compensated for the other 90% going nowhere.)

 

So we're not fighting distribution any more; we have the means to distribute. Nor do we have to pay millions of dollars for studio time when we can have a world-class studio in our bedroom - and we don't have to store 1,000 records in the garage to take to gigs. We can just give out a link and collect via PayPal. So what exactly are the "pain points" these days?

 

Oversaturation. – Music is available from so many sources today it’s simply staggering. This is amazingly great for consumers, but, for musicians, music is so common it isn't as special as it once was when the only way to hear music was to hope your radio station would play it or to buy an album. As a result, it's more important than ever to create unique music that stands out from the crowd - when/if it does get played, you want people to stop what they're doing because they're compelled to listen.

 

Overstimulation. Hearing the same song over and over at will leads to “song fatigue,” and because of this overstimulation, listeners and fans move on except in the case of exceptional talent. The solution is to keep up a steady stream of your own music so that there's always something new for your fans - that way they'll move on to your next project instead of someone else's.

 

Overprocessed. If you depend on gigging for part of your income, don't fall into the trap of using so much processing that you don't sound even remotely like your recordings. When you can't deliver live, fans can go away disappointed - even angry. Be true to your sound, for better or worse, and let the chips fall where they may.

 

Overload of options. Entertainment options are so omnipresent that the idea of sitting down and listening to music without distraction is foreign to most people, so a lot of music is heard as background music. If you can create music that is able to serve not just as a great listening experience but as the soundtrack to peoples' lives...bingo.

 

Overflux. Everything is in flux. Although streaming does pay out something, the stories of artists who’ve had millions of streams yet received only a few hundred dollars are legion.  Major labels are multinational conglomerates, not the mom-and-pop labels like Chess records that did only one thing but did it well. Island Records had an identity; Spotify does not. And we don't even know which streaming outlets will survive and which won't. 

 

Sure, you can see "gloom and doom" - or you can get creative. There are fewer live venues to play, but now we have the option for Skype and other online concerts (Armin Van Buuren was a pioneer in this, when he monetized his "State of Trance" DJ sets by streaming them online to subscribers) - and you can put videos of showcase performances on your own YouTube channel and reach a lot more than 50 people in a club on a Thursday night. While you might not get money from YouTube, those videos are the new business card. A lot of bands are making money with corporate gigs for company parties and events - and they pay better than clubs.

 

You can see kids being raised with devices that provide such instant gratification that they're not disciplined enough to take the time to “learn” an instrument. But that's always been the case. It takes discipline to become a great musician. Period. There were guitars and keyboards gathering dust in closets long before people could load loops into a computer. The difference today is that with more kids being exposed to music, and getting gratification from it, we're more likely to see many of those people get hooked on music and become "lifers." Musicians will always be a minority of dedicated people - that's why we're special, so embrace it.

 

You can also bemoan the lack of music education in schools. But,  while cutting back the arts is never a particularly good idea, if you want to learn an instrument and have an internet connection, you'll find all the lessons you could ever want. Granted, some of your teachers will be...uh...not that great. But that was the case in school, too.

 

So we can sit around and see gloom and doom, or we can become aware that new opportunities are there for the taking - but only if we take them and grow them. There's a famous quote by George Carlin: “Some people see the glass half full. Others see it half empty. I see a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be."

 

Preach it, brother. We take  our glass from a few decades ago and say it's only half full...or we can look around for a glass that's the right size for today's scene. Sure, it's difficult to accommodate change. But was it ever easy?

 

_________________________________________________________________

 

 

Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.

 

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