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« MusicThinkTank.com Weekly Recap: Going Nowhere & More | Main | Going Nowhere – The Pitfalls of the “Facebook Band" »
Wednesday
Apr102013

Indie Artists in the New Music World

 

By now you realize the ways of music distribution have changed. We have the internet, social media, consolidation in the radio industry which prevents getting airplay on local broadcast stations, and an exponential rise in the number of musicians seeking exposure (because they can more easily).

The confluence of the above is creating a systematic way for artists who create new songs to: a) feel more empowered than ever, and b) feel more screwed than ever. What follows helps explain this paradox.

Audio Graphics runs a system designed to allow indie artists exposure to internet radio programmers. It’s based on a simple principle that at the beginning of an act’s attempt at fame, the artist needs exposure more than anything. At the same time we have thousands of internet radio stations looking to avoid devastatingly high copyright royalty fees. (The imposition of these fees goes back more than a decade, in my opinion is unfair, and merits another article in itself.)

To aid artists and internet radio stations, a decade ago I created RRadioMusic. There, artists sign waivers giving stations permission to play their songs in exchange for exposure. No money changes hands. I feel it’s a straight-up attempt at matching two groups that need each other.

Some artists disagree. An example is in response to a distribution page I put out by artist Willie D. Davis IV. He contacted me through Linkedin with the following: “so we pay you to get our music played to which we get no royalties? I’m sorry but doesn’t that make the artist out the money to which they’re trying to make?” No, it doesn’t. But it does give exposure, allowing the artist to build a fan base and find alternative forms of revenue. (The “so we pay you” reference is to a $9.95 fee I put in place to keep hundreds of wannabe musicians from submitting each month. This service was free for its first 4 years, until I was pummeled with bad music.)

Here’s a simple theory I’ve carried for a long time: I believe that artists should be paid for airplay, but only if they have attained a level where their music is a drawing card. If not, then they are putting the station in a position of risking tune-out by the very audience the artist wants to be exposed to.

We all know that qualified artists (those who have mastered their instrument and vocals) produce quality music. What is not accepted is this judgment call being made by the radio programmer, or fan, rather than the artist. At an artist’s initial stage of exposure, it is the station taking the risk. At this stage, nobody knows if people will like the music. 

An independent artist’s music is usually interpreted by them as being a knock-your-socks-off song. At the same time, until established, nobody knows if others feel the same way. The radio station owner who has placed substantial money into creating an audience is literally betting that the song will keep people tuned to the station. Those bets often go awry.

There’s a new world of music distribution taking hold and indie artists may choose to chase individual stations down, seeking to have their music played. In these cases those stations usually pay the required BMI, ASCAP, SESAC, and performance royalty fees distribution to the song’s writer, publisher, and artists.

On the other side of this new world of music distribution is the fact that reaching out to stations or placing your songs on SoundCloud, Facebook, Reverbnation or any of the hundreds of other services takes enormous amounts of time and money.

We can cheer on how the internet is leveling the playing field, but it’s really not. It’s only making it possible for indie artists to reach out in the same way major labels have done in the past; the caveat is still in how much time and (especially) money it costs for “do it yourself” (DIY) music distribution.

It is a new world order for musicians. There’s also a high degree of change in the world of radio. Expectations, though, shouldn’t be changing all that much due to the complexities of rising to the top in a still very difficult system.

Artists can DIY their music distribution, or choose to use a service to help. Just keep expectations for how much you should be paid in the beginning in line with the true worth of your product - the song.

The internet has unleashed a torrent of music, and placed it within easy reach of everyone with one principle remaining unchanged since all of this started - the economics of supply and demand.

Unfortunately for artists, the internet now fragments demand across an exponentially growing supply. And a new song isn’t worth quite what it used to be.

Welcome to our new music world

 

**********************

 

Ken Dardis is President: Audio Graphics, Inc.

He’s a former musician who worked at WLAY Radio in Muscle Shoals, AL when that town was the “Hit Recording Capital of the World,” and had access to most of its recording studios. (It’s where Ken learned the art of making records.)

Being involved with internet radio since its beginning, his background includes SVP at Spacial Audio, a leading developer of audio software used by multiple major radio groups. He also had the opportunity to work with the Google team creating its online audio ad delivery platform.

In 1999 Ken Dardis created RadioRow as a way to help the better internet radio stations, and in 2003 designed RRadio Music as a destination for radio programmers to find the better indie artists.

Indie Artists in the New Music World

Reader Comments (4)

I find the title of this article to be very misleading. I also find this article to be alot about nothing.

April 10 | Unregistered CommenterxXxKoPxXx

My question is: how well does this place artists' music? It sounds to me as if you're acting like a music publisher, albeit without collecting royalties, and indeed are eliminating some potential future royalties. Clearly, just because their music is royalty-free doesn't mean that every radio station in the world is going to start playing their music. So, if artists are giving you the ability to place their music on radio stations for free, then it's important that they are at least being exposed to the right audiences. What does RRadioMusic do to ensure that they get the right kind of exposure?

April 10 | Unregistered CommenterRiley Lynch

Nice post Ken, I agree a small fee to weed out the less than radio ready artists makes sense. But you may want to know after going to the RRadioMusic site I have to say, respectfully, I'm not sure I'd pay for a service to a site that looks so out of date. Not only do your artists need to be up to snuff your site should be too no?

April 10 | Unregistered CommenterCirce Link

From the Author: I want to comment on the comments, with an apology that it's taken a week to get back.

To xXxKoPxXx:
Please expand on your "alot about nothing," and give me something to say. The crux above is "I believe that artists should be paid for airplay, but only if they have attained a level where their music is a drawing card. If not, then they are putting the station in a position of risking tune-out by the very audience the artist wants to be exposed to."

At the start, artists need internet radio station exposure as much as internet radio needs songs; with the caveat that there is far more music to choose from than stations WILLING to play a song. RRadio Music artists receive an email each time a station requests their song; this contains the station and programmer's name, station URL, and email address.

You may either self-promote yourself to these stations, or spend $9.95 to have it done for you. I acknowledge that RRadio Music is not for every artist.


To Riley Lynch:

Re: "It sounds to me as if you're acting like a music publisher, albeit without collecting royalties, and indeed are eliminating some potential future royalties."

I am definitely not a publisher. Having been involved with internet radio since its inception, I have contact with thousands of stations (owning RadioRow.com helps), and maintain a mailing list where items like the following, and more, are sent:
http://audiographics.com/update/current_stations-new_music.htm
http://audiographics.com/update/new_song_clip-pop.htm
http://audiographics.com/update/rock_pop_intro_programs.htm

I also produce "Intro to Indie Artists" programs in six music genres. These are subscription based programs which guarantee artists who are selected airplay on scores of stations - http://www.audiographics.com/gallery/intro_station_lineup.htm

As for "eliminating some potential future royalties": Any artist that wants out at any time just needs to write me an email and request it. That has happened only once since 2003.


To Circe Link:

Great point! I do everything - code work, copy writing, music selection, producing programs, mailing lists, data base management, etc... Wish I had the time (and talent) to produce a really up-to-date looking site but, if I did at what point would I need to charge substantially more?

It takes about an hour to listen and write the code for placing an artist at RRadio Music, and that's not considering the additional time I spend compiling data and creating mailings. Raising the rate would only get an adverse reaction from artists, and not serve anyone better.

RRadio Music is functional, and used by stations. It would help to have a thoroughly modern look, but I don't have the talent to be all things - graphics artist extraordinaire, advanced PHP developer, and email expert. I do my best, and have hundreds of artists and stations that have used the system.

Thank you for hearing me out.
Ken Dardis

--

440-564-7437

Audio Graphics, Inc.

http://www.RRadioMusic.com
http://www.RadioRow.com
http://www.AudioGraphics.com

April 16 | Unregistered CommenterKen Dardis

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