Not so long ago, if you were a band or an artist, to get heard you needed to do one of the following:
- Play your music at public venues
- Beg Radio stations to play your tunes
- Beg a Record company to sign you up so you could make records and sell your music
The first two still are time proven ways to get your music heard and build up a following. But the last item (i.e. Begging a Record company) is optional.
- Artists and Bands are like drops of water in an ocean. The explosion of music technology has created a plethora of tools making recording available to just about everybody.
- Self publishing: Create a Facebook, MySpace, and any other social media pages, post your tunes, add as many friends as your stamina can endure and be heard!
- Upload your album to one of the many service providers that will burn CDs on demand for you (e.g. CD Baby) or let consumers buy downloadable albums.
Can you make as much through self-publishing?
The math of profit returns when signing up with a big label requires a degree in both accounting and law. The overhead and contract complications when you sign up with a big label mean that you will either need to get very well informed, trust someone's advice that is very well informed, or get your profits and possibly your rights trampled on by professionals. And that is only if you manage to get your foot in the door for the privilege!!
Indeed, even if you send your music to A&R departments worldwide, there are good chances you will get your envelope mailed right back to you (or have it sit in a landfill). Again, think: "..like drops of water in the Ocean." There are just too many applicants and A&R people and Radio Programmers can't get through everything sent to them. So, that means, you will need to promote yourself up to a point where your material can get heard. And that also means you will need to do some research, build up contacts, and keep both of these fresh!
So, even if you have done the math and the research and you still decide you want to go for a big label contract? Though you have made the decision, it's quite a road before they will make the same decision and so in the meantime it's up to you to promote yourself.
Google your favorite bands, and look into who is helping them get heard. Follow up and do extra research on these people, who they are helping and who is helping them. Where are they talking? Any chance you could somehow get in the loop?
While you are navigating through the countless pages on the web that will give you a clearer picture about the industry you want to be a part of, go on and make your own friends - do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not likely to get any help if you don't ask.. and.. you may actually get surprised by who may pop-up with an offer of help.
And some words I once heard that led me to publishing my first album and they are "don't let your music follow you to the grave, unheard and unsung!"
If you believe in your music and put enough energy it making it sound reasonably good, self-publish and communicate it to as many people as you can using social-media tools on the web - your music will get heard. You may even get web-radio programmers to help you out and widen your reach.
The music industry has certainly had to pay a big price for not finding a way to harness the opportunities provided by the web age and has had its revenue stream upside down. But those misfortunes aren't necessarily a curse for the emerging artist. This downside may be your upside.
Who knows? Perhaps by the time you actually do connect with a big label, you may be satisfied with the deal you have built for yourself and may not want to give away the keys to your store to some total strangers...
Article (c) 2010 Ron Charron
Photo © 2004 by Tomasz Sienicki