The New Reality: 'So We're Just Supposed To Give Our Art Away?'

"Take on meeeeeeeeeeeee!"
In talking with numerous musician pals, the current process of being in a band in the year 2016 appears to revolve around spending an inordinate amount of time and money on recording a professional-sounding batch of tunes (once referred to as an "al;bum")  that will then be distributed by CD Baby or made available via the artist's Bandcamp page.

What happens from that point is anybody's guess, but usually winds up being "zilch" because, sure, you may get a few obligatory streams from your friends on social media after you hype your new music, but then what?

One friend says that his band's singer is confident that all it will take is a tastemaker in charge of a popular "station" on Spotify or Soundcloud will pluck one of their songs from screaming obscurity and start the Benjamins flowin'. It's just a matter of time.

Yet another is trying to navigate the murky waters of online distribution through CD Baby, where the indie distributor submits your music to iTunes and other pay sites, but also to free streaming sites like Spotify, Pandora, and YouTube.

"What message am I sending to fans of my music when I expect them to purchase something that I am also making available for free elsewhere?"

This question comes from a lifelong musician pal whose living one came from CD and merch sales, but could come from anyone who got into music thinking their might be some money in it.. After all, by giving an indie distributor like CD Baby the right to submit your material to pay sites like iTunes and Amazon, you more than likely also grant them the right to submit your music to streaming sites like Spotify and YouTube.

"Don't turn around, uh-oh, Der Kommisar's in town, uh-oh!'
Thing is, if you don't make your music available on such sites, how are new fans supposed to find you? And, once they do, what makes you think you can turn them into PAYING customers when you've just set the precedent of giving your art away for free?

This isn't meth where the first free taste soon leads to drooling zombies with wads of money pounding on your door at all times of day and night, the artist needs the consumer much more than the consumer needs the artist.

So what can an artist do in the year 2016 to differentiate themselves from the pack?

It's easy to say that everything cool has already been done and to not even try, but have you ever put yourself in the place of someone who writes for Pitchfork or Brooklyn Vegan?  Think about the number of email pitches and links to yet another Bandcamp page that these poor verb wranglers have to wade through every morning.

And, sure, they probably still get tons of CD's, too.

Cassettes are currently very popular, but, unless you can give yours some sort of new spin that the recipient might find noteworthy (and potentially newsworthy), it's been done.

"Jitter bug!"
Best bet, go vinyl. Most pressing plants offer a "random colored vinyl" option equal to black vinyl so, as long as you don't wind up with shit brown records with what appear to be undigested corn kernels, prospective hipster journalists will note the "extra effort". Your music still has to be good, though.

Keep in mind that going the vinyl route requires some advance planning, as most vinyl pressing plants have a backlog of 6-8 weeks MINIMUM.

It is worth mentioning that making a profit from vinyl is tricky at best so jam that slab of wax with as much goodness as possible (21 minutes per side, baby) so that the perceived value to the consumer warrants a higher price tag. A realistic baby band would call it a promotional expense, much like business cards for a door-to-door urinal cake salesman.

Thing is, unless you've got songs that actually live up to the eye-catching presentation, it will all be for naught. So, as much as one needs a great schtick to wedge their foot into the door and get heard by new fans, at the end of the day, it comes down to having great songs that would stand out in any situation.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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