Mark Knight the founder of Right Chord Music explores the perils of taking time out to make a new album for unsigned bands.
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Entries in album (9)
There are many examples of the benefits of working in harmony with nature. When first venturing out beyond home a child is taught to walk with traffic. A carpenter achieves a cleaner result by going with the grain rather than against it. In sports a team succeeds by taking advantage of what the defense gives them, and there are countless other examples that express why it is better to work with the flow rather than push against it. For the past ten years the recorded music industry has ignored this strategy, and stubbornly clung to a business model that is no longer in harmony with they way people consume music by predominantly releasing albums in a single song economy.
According to Nielsen Soundscan, in 2011 there were 1.374 billion digital transactions last year. Of those only 103 million or 7.5 % were for albums. This means that approximately 1 out of 14 times a consumer went to buy music online last year they were purchased an album. First with Napster and MP3s, then iTunes and the iPod, and now with streaming services like Spotify and Turntable.fm—the music consumer has repeatedly demonstrated that they prefer single songs to albums. Despite this fact, nearly 77,000 albums were released last year.
So much of what I write comes from my life experiences; either having worked with bands or from my being a fan and consumer. Life is full of many great lessons. Here is a lesson that hit me over the weekend.
This article is part 1 of a 4-part series by guitarist Cameron Mizell. For more information about self-releasing your album, visit the series home page: The Self-Released AlbumIn what seems like a past life, the only way to release an album was through a record label. The label had the money to pay for your recording, the ability to distribute it around the world, and the marketing resources to make sure people knew your album was hitting the stores. Today, any resourceful individual with a little bit of money and a lot of creativity can make an album commercially available to the same number of people as a major label. I have been involved with coordinating the release of about 200 albums, ranging from my own self-released album to Herbie Hancock’s Grammy winning River: The Joni Letters (2008’s Album of The Year). My previous job at a record label taught me a great deal about this process, and it’s definitely helped me when I released my own albums.
This is a matter that I’ve struggled with, going back and forth. Should I release full length albums in this new music era or should I be releasing singles once per month? I was leaning towards releasing a single each month for one reason: consistent fan engagement. It’s good to always have something new to talk about with your fans!
But then, I ran into a problem - a few weeks isn’t enough time to promote a song in any kind of impactful/effective way, especially when you are an independent artist. You’ve barely promoted that song before you’ve moved onto the next one. And from the fan engagement standpoint, I found many of them didn’t know I had certain songs out. For whatever reason, all of the fans don’t pay attention all of the time. So if there’s no sustained attention/focus on the promotion of a particular release, it’s hard for people to know it exists.
You just left the studio and recorded the final notes for your album. There’s the mixing and mastering process for your producer to take care of and the artwork for your album and any merchandise to do—but the real deal is when all of this comes together and you officially release your album at a CD release party. A lot goes into making a CD release party a successful one and it rests entirely on how well you prepare.
There are many key areas that make it successful that I will discuss below, but to keep it short and sweet I would say the most important things are: be in tip-top shape and form musically when you perform, give lots of lead time to get it ready, have your album ready in CD and digital form on the day of your show, and ask for help when you need it.
I think it’s safe to say that we’re at the end of the “album age,” and although the format will hold on for a while, it’s clearly waning in popularity. I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come up with what I think are the reasons, but be aware, they’re not all exactly what the popular wisdom assumes. So let’s begin with the 6 reasons why the album format has, for all intents and purposes, died.
1) It was a visual experience. The album format in the vinyl record age had the advantage of that wonderful piece of cardboard known as the album jacket. The album jacket contained the cover art (still found on CDs), and most importantly, the liner notes on the back, which we’ll get to in a second. But one thing that everyone either forgets or has never experienced is the fact that millions of albums were purchased completely on impulse because of the album artwork alone!
Andrew Dubber, a music industry commentator and founder of Music Think Tank, has ventured to Delhi. He is working with a group called Music Basti; it is a youth-run charity. It organizes music workshops in homes for street children. Professional musicians, many of whom are successful recording artists, run the music workshops.
In partnership with Music Basti, Dubber intends to record an album of songs featuring the street children and release it online. He wants to do this to simply try and raise money for the charity. All proceeds from the album sales will go to the group to support their work. He hopes that it brings their cause to a wider audience too. The album once recorded and mixed down, will be released through Bandcamp. It will be available for free and as a pay-what-you-think-it’s worth.
Dubber intends to use various forms of online media to build a story, create meaning, and connect the cause and music to people on a deeper level.
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(Updated Sept 29, 2014)