Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner



« Recording: Getting it Right at the Source | Main | An Introduction to the Self-Released Album »

Thank you Elliott Smith

I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about the music industry, and particularly the new independent music industry.

This is partly because I am an independent musician, and partly because I write a blog on music biz stuff. I’ve also got a natural interest in patterns and systems (and the music industry is one). I like watching things emerge, and I like the ideas that people are forced to come out with to try to make a little money in the current climate.

But aside from being interested in all that stuff, first and foremost, I am an artist. From that perspective, I don’t think about the business side of things AT ALL.

If you are a musician trying to make it in music right now, just pause for a moment and try to remember why you got into this in the first place.

For most of us, we got into it because music moves us. There’s something about great music that hits you more directly than pretty much any other artform (and I love most artforms – I am not trying to be a snob here, it’s just how I experience it). You don’t need a degree in music history, you don’t even need to understand the words. When music hits you, it hits you, and that’s magic.

This post was inspired by conversations I’ve had with a couple of people in the music industry recently, who have been around long enough for the internet to feel like a pretty new thing. And also by listening to Elliott Smith the other day for the first time in ages.

The downside of the internet, and of the amazing possibilities these days to record release and distribute your album for sod all quid (trans: practically zero bucks) is that we kind of get caught up in the churn of it all. This constant barrage of tepid new stuff that holds our attention for about 5 seconds. If it holds our attention for more than that, we consider it good, and share it with our facebook and twitter friends.

But great music is worth far more than that, and EVERYONE used to know this. It’s worth hunting out, and cherishing. It’s worth playing again and again and again. For years. And if you make music, it’s worth trying to make it THAT GOOD. Just because you can release it, doesn’t mean you should. Maybe it’s not ready yet. (And maybe it is – don’t listen to me, what do I know? I’ve never even heard your music!)

I’m tired of all the mediocre blah. I want to be moved. What’s great out there? Tell me, please! What music genuinely moves you these days?

In today’s scene (and in fact, always in the past too) if you want a ‘career’ out of music, you have to pay attention to the business stuff. But it’s vital that we keep art as our focus. So that we can produce something worthy of a career.

Being an artist in a market economy is an odd position to be in, in that it’s the one ‘product’ or ’service’ that you need to make without trying to please the customer. Take all market research with a pinch of salt! Do not be swayed by reviews! Do your thing, and maybe you will move us. And if you don’t, maybe you will move the next generation.

Personally I would rather sell no records that are amazing than a million records that are, yawn, fine.

Reader Comments (7)

Final nail in the coffin of my stupid economical thoughts.
When I'm moved, my stuff really touches people.
Let's get moved, everyone.

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterVospi

"Just because you can release it, doesn’t mean you should." You've hit it on the head there. It's all too easy to release just anything these days, and we need to exercise restraint. There's a place for great demos to be released as free 'tasters' of your music, but it's important for them to be distinguished from 'proper' releases.

Hmmm ... as I was struggling for words there, it just came to me that maybe that is indeed the problem ... how to readily distinguish between these releases in the digital realm. Given that, once the file is 'out there' it will usually be played without any textual reference ....

How do you make great music without money?

You don't. Its that simple. You need great instruments, great musicians, LOTS OF TIME, a great studio and a great engeneer/producer.

But you won't have money and time because you have to keep your day job, and be on Twitter 24/7 to get "fans" that will "maybe" buy some music.

May 10 | Unregistered CommenterBob

Bob, you ain't bright are ya son?

I helped ink a deal for my client with a young blues musician by the name of Robert Johnson back in 1936. All we had was three days, a hotel room, a mic, a tape recorder, a beat up guitar and one amazing singer/songwriter. He even had to record facing the corner just to boost the sound up a bit.

That's some of the most lasting and need I say influential music ever recorded.

- LA

These days, I am rarely moved by new artists/music. I stumbled upon this performance and was truly moved.

May 11 | Unregistered CommenterBB

Is something good enough to release just cause you can?? well I heard recently that Rory Gallagher recorded some songs and was not happy with the producer so he scrapped it..obviously not wanting it out there..and now many many years later it is going to be released... no musical respect there..just business... on the other hand sometimes the songs artists themeselves thing are bad end up being their who knows... I think if a recording artist is in it for the music and not the fame...regardless of the quality of the track.. the feel can be there and this can be enough.. of course if the music world had less people just playing for fame I think it might be a little better place.. but of course I could change my mind about all this PEACE

May 18 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

This girl's voice is incredibly moving...saw her live in Austin a few weeks ago...probably the most evocative music I've heard in a really long time.

May 21 | Registered CommenterDaveG

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>