You’re in a band. That may be presumptive, but I’m playing a hunch here. If you’re reading this you’re either in a band or between bands or thinking about starting a band. Why? Because these days, everyone’s in a band…or fashions themselves some sort of a musician or DJ or mashup-artist. Right?
It’s not your fault. You’re a victim of the industry—now that everyone can create music regardless of their ability or talent, they’re doing it. Which means if you’re serious, if you’re really, really serious about it, you’re going to have to work twice as hard to “make it” than you would have a few decades ago—talent notwithstanding. As John Scofield put it when I interviewed him last month, “there’s just so much noise out there.”
I never thought I’d say this, but I miss record labels.
It used to be their job to help us know what was good. There was a time when you shopped a label—not even necessarily an artist. Labels like Sun Studios, Blue Note, Motown, Stax—they built credible libraries of music by developing artists who fit their visions. If you were a fan of a style or genre or sound, you gravitated toward that label because they’d introduce you to new artists who embodied what you were seeking.
Then, they got fat. And lazy. And greedy.
And now, they’re all but gone, swallowed or conquered by the big conglomerates and mired in a struggle over the leftover scraps of a dying industry—copyrights. They have all but completely ceased to be relevant.
So what are we left with? More. More bands, more music, more noise. There are a bazillion websites offering access to music in some form or another. Vast musical wastelands like Myspace provide a pulpit for the chest beating of the newest wannabe MC, a microphone for the lamest singer/writer and a stage for the worst emo bands you can think of, for instance. In fact, it’s gotten to the point where there are now online meta-distributors—websites where you upload your tune and then they pass it on to a whole bunch of other sites for you, like Tunecore.com.
Last month, Mymusicsite.com launched, blending aspects of the above with social networking and paid-for-placement promotions and marketing, bringing a unique dimension to it all. They offer bargain-basement promotional opportunities for musicians. From their press release:
Silver Plan ($5.99)—25 customizable business cards and a featured space on the “Top 5” category in your genre.
Gold Plan ($29.99)—50 business cards with free reorders, a featured space on the MyMusicSite.com home page for a month, and an artist spotlight feature in our newsletter.
Platinum Plan ($79.99)—100 customizable business cards with free reorders, a featured spot on the home page for a month, and a spotlight feature in the newsletter. This plan also offers a monthly e-mail blast campaign with your music sent to numerous contacts.
While a plan like this might appeal to me if I’m in a band (and have no other promotional support available), it loses all credibility to me as a critic. It’s a wide-open cattle call for musicians to choose their level of promotion, but at no point am I given the sense that the people—or in this case, the machine—promoting the acts do the one thing I’d want…there’s no one to believe in them.
That’s what the labels did, back when they mattered. They believed in the acts they were pushing. And ultimately, that’s why the industry collapsed.
They stopped believing.