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« What Does an Indie Get Paid? #1: iTunes | Main | 5 Things You Need to Know About Unofficial SXSW Showcases »
Thursday
Feb142013

To Indie Artists and Dreams


In the increasingly difficult world of getting your music heard, indie artists are being supplied with unparalleled tools in the form of social media, web sites specializing in “helping” musicians with marketing, and audio platforms which promise unlimited access to the public.

To a degree there are positives within all of these offerings; but each needs to be viewed as a tool within a larger box. From some of my readings, that seems to be the missing perspective.

Take “Music Think Tank,” one of my favorite sites for artists, producers, managers, and those of us who frame ourselves as trying to help online. A recent exchange had one writer asking, “Is Reverbnation a good citizen in the music industry?” They went on to lay out reasons that the “why” should be a “not.”

As anyone running such an organization - myself included - Jed Carlson, President of ReverbNation, responded. His words are opinion, but carry a degree of truth - if only the indie artist would begin to see that the whole of the music industry is a business, and that the “artist” is only one piece (and, sadly, more of a commodity today than ever).

Please read both exchanges (http://www.musicthinktank.com/mtt-open/reverb-rip-off-and-the-endless-music-circle.html). And please take into consideration these few points which I offer, as someone who is trying to help not only the artist but online radio station operators too.

I’ve been in this game since internet radio was born, and been involved with the indie artist side of it for nearly as long. From my perch (please, keep in mind these are my opinions only), there is a tremendous disconnect between the artist, who believes that every note they produce has value, and those who are attempting to help artist market those notes.

Here is one unshakeable truism: It’s not being online that matters, it’s being found online. Here is another from my world: No matter how good you believe your music is the only opinions on this subject that matter come from a) the station owner who determines whether your song gets on their playlist; b) the audience members who request or pass over your tune(s).

There is no number to represent how many artists contact me with these words, “This song will knock you over.” Thanks, but that  opinion is only as valuable as it relates to other submitted songs - and as mentioned above, music has become such a commodity that songs are worth less than a dime-a-dozen today.

Due to the glut of music, it’s extremely difficult for an artist to get the attention of a radio station operator or consumer. Emphasis is on “extremely difficult.”

Every one of us has a dream. Some relish becoming a star. Others just want to play what makes them happy, and that comes from both sides of this fence (the artist and radio operator). One thing we all share is a desire to have an impact on someone, anyone.

Relative to an artist, while I may not agree with ReverbNation’s approach or rates for services, marketing music is worth something. If you find its rates too high, there are hundreds of other services to choose from - all with positives and negatives.

Relative to radio stations exposing new music, I’ve read where many artists believe they should be paid for any and all use of their music. What I’ve not seen discussed within music circles is artists giving credence to a station operator’s outlay of cash to gather their existing audience that the artist wants to be exposed to. It’s as if music is all that builds a station’s base, and that each and every song has equal value in that construction.

My theory is that if your name is Beyonce, Maroon 5, or any other group that’s received major airplay, there is value in your music being a draw. Let’s just keep in mind it was the exposure which made the public aware of all of these names.

But if you are releasing your 1st, 2nd, 3rd song and do not have a substantial following, and your main objective is gaining exposure, then the station that plays your song is taking a chance on you being a tune-out to its audience. Given these concepts, why should the fees paid to the established artists be equal to that paid to the newcoming indie acts?

Given that “exposure” is the main objective of any up-and-coming group, why should there not be, in the initial stage of exposure, an exchange of “airplay for exposure,” where no money changes hands?

The internet has made it possible for any indie artist to put their music out there to be found, which brings us back to the first mentioned problem: To be found, you not only need artistic talent but a degree of acumen in how to use multiple software programs and music platforms, at the expert level - and the majority of artists do not.

ReverbNation offers a total package. My RRadioMusic.com offers an introduction to online radio programmers, along with packaging of the best submitting songs into programs that radio stations subscribe to. Again, there are hundreds of other services which you can explore. Finding that which is best for you is limited only by knowledge and time.

You’ve made the music. Your next decision is to evaluate the company or companies that will do an efficient job of getting your  music to the people who matter (programmers and consumers) at a price you believe is reasonable.

There is no “good citizen in the music industry,” only your opinion on which company can do the most for your dollars. All have a vested interest in an indie artist’s success because, with each, every artist that “makes the big time” is one more feather in the cap for the marketing company - and one more artist which can be used as proof that the company’s system works.

 

 

Author’s Background: 

I’m 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 I learned the art of making records.) I have been writing software code since before that.

In 1997 I developed AudioGraphics.com - to help the radio industry understand the internet’s impact. In 1999 I 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.

Reader Comments (11)

Great article. Just a couple points, qualified by the fact I'm the co-founder & CEO at Music Xray, a site dedicated to helping artists get deals & fans:

"Due to the glut of music, it’s extremely difficult for an artist to get the attention of a radio station operator or consumer. Emphasis is on “extremely difficult.”"

- This is not true and has not been true for some time. There are over 1500 industry professionals, decision makers, programmers, supervisors etc whose attention is guaranteed at Music Xray. Fan attention too. A real money back guarantee. The site is responsible for thousands of deals, all verifiable.

"...there are hundreds of other services which you can explore. Finding that which is best for you is limited only by knowledge and time."

With extensive knowledge of the space, I only know of a handful that I believe are reputable.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterMike McCready

I really liked what you had to say and agree with almost all of it. Unfortunately, I checked you're website out (RRadioMusic.com) and was pretty shocked at the level of quality it looked (and not in a good way). Taking one look made me embarrassed. I can't believe anyone actually pays you for any kind of service. You might have the right kind of attitude about indie (let's be serious, DIY) artists and marketing themselves on the Internet, but you're going to have to do a lot better than you're current website to be taken seriously.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

Anyone reading this, stay away from Music Xray. I've looked at their site extensively, used it some, and have talked to others who have used them. They're a scam. Why would you pay you're hard earned money to submit yourself for something that really has no guarantees and you don't even know what's going on behind the scenes?

If you have money to spare, invest it in things you CAN control! Put more money into your recordings or practicing. Invest in advertising yourself on the net where people go that you think will like your music! Don't pay people who you've never met to critique your music who may or may not have the credentials to do so which you think will build your self confidence. If you're not confident in yourself or your music then you need to work on that until you are. Don't spend money to submit to contests, either. There are too many scammers out there taking advantageous of your vulnerability and dreams!

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

In answer to Mike McCready:

Re: "There are over 1500 industry professionals, decision makers, programmers, supervisors etc whose attention is guaranteed at Music Xray."

While your claim appears excessive to me, I cannot disavow that there could be 1,500 persons within your organization as you describe. Though, I would request a verification that all of these individuals are giving "attention," and respectfully dispute your claim of it being "guaranteed." How do you guarantee "attention," and to whose definition of "attention" is it guaranteed?

You say this is "verifiable." I ask "how," and to what degree? Getting 1,500 people to respond to anything in unison is extremely difficult.

Based on 28 years of broadcast and 16 years of internet radio experience, my opinion is that these claims seem improbable.

Re: "With extensive knowledge of the space, I only know of a handful that I believe are reputable."

What is your definition of "reputable"? I have what is considered "extensive knowledge" of this space - with years spent as SVP of Spacial Audio, a company that built the backbone software platforms for many major broadcasters and thousands of online stations. (I also worked with the Google team in developing its online audio ad insertion software platform for internet radio.) I know of many "reputable" companies. Unfortunately there are some not-so-reputable, too. That's one point in my article; artists need to research the services they are considering.

"Chancius" appears to have an opinion of MusicXRay that is opposite of your claim. Did he/she do research, have direct experience, or are they just voicing an opinion?

As stated: "Finding that which is best for you [the artist] is limited only by knowledge and time."

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterKen Dardis

Chancius, I hear your perspective and I can understand musicians are jaded by some fly-by-night companies, but Music Xray is not one of them.

Music Xray is a transparent company - I'd even put it in the running as the most transparent in the music industry. Anyone who says otherwise is not very informed and a charge about a lack of transparency is especially ironic.

Artists face a lot of challenges in today's music business and one of the greatest ones is not understanding today's music space. Artists who "get it" are outcompeting artists who don't.

For ANY doubt or question you have about Music Xray and for a no nonsense understanding of the space, see this short video about the costs of reaching your goals in today's music space: http://blog.musicxray.com/songwriters-musicians-pay-music-xray/

And please feel free to browse the Music Xray blog for any in-depth answers to questions you may have. Or ask any question to our team at support@musicxray.com. We're happy to answer any questions.

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterMike McCready

In Answer to Chancius

Sorry. Didn't see your comment about RRadio Music until now. Thought you deserve a response.

Re: "I checked you're website out (RRadioMusic.com) and was pretty shocked at the level of quality it looked (and not in a good way)." My answer: I am one person trying to help in the best way I can. Web site design is difficult to keep up with when you work alone. So, please, be shocked and do promote yourself.

Re: "I can't believe anyone actually pays you for any kind of service." Answer: If you think $9.95 is "paying me," please consider what you spend at McD's. As I stated: You are limited only by your knowledge and time to find another service.

Thousands of artists and stations have used RRadio Music. Not all have found airplay. Not all deserve it. That's why I let the programmers choose which songs to download, and pick only the best songs for programs which stations subscribe to.

Perhaps you have the talent to judge. Then again, maybe not. But you are due your opinion. It would be nice if it was done with guts, though, and not hiding through anonymity.

My observation of you: Obviously you consider yourself an above average talent, filled with wisdom, so do something with it. What have you produced or done to help indie artists, besides complain?

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterKen Dardis

I used Music X-ray last year to find opportunities for music that I had created. I carefully researched the different opportunities and many of them that were listed didn't seem to be a good match for what I was looking for. Except for one.. they do have MAJOR publishers with dropboxes on their site. Yes it cost money... but less than a FedEx package costs to mail and with at least a guarenteed response on the submitted track from that publisher. If you have cutting edge quality material. This is not a waste of time or money.

It took 2 hours from my submission time to have a contract offer from the publisher for the submitted song with a note "That is one sick and busy tune". After reviewing the contract I placed 10 others songs that I had completed at that time. Since then I've just been sending the material as I produce it with minimal interaction and I have 63 registered titles that have shown up in ASCAP ACE so far and I'm able to google the names of my songs and find them on sites like AudioSparx.com and some even on CD compilations. I haven't bothered to market or submit additional tracks to music x-ray as my publisher seems to be doing his job. So in my experience.. music x-ray did exactly what they said they would.. they connected me to a publisher... first try. So I cannot fault their service in any way.

I consider myself more of a composer than a performer. With computer technology I'm able to create "demos" of the works with a never before achievable level of quality. Due to the varied genres and styles I'm able to produce that are described as very "sync-able" and with my controlling 100% interests in the composition and sound recording areas it makes them very licensable. These are 2 key areas that a publisher looks for. They're a parter in your music at that point so it doesn't benefit them to accept 2nd rate or mediocre works, but rather cutting edge.

For fun I submitted to many other opportunities for feedback and such and found those to be somewhat more "questionable" ... in that many of those opportunities were studios looking for new clients more than anything. I had completed published tracks that are being well accepted by the industry so it seemed odd I was getting feedback that would suggest I "use them" .. to "tweek" the tracks. So I agree one must navigate the maze of opportunities carefully. Their system allows you to put feedback. I frequently used this and it works well.. if you have a bad experience.. you should leave feedback so others aren't pulled into the same situation.

Not all opportunities are right for every individual. So what may have been a poor match for me as a submission would perhaps be a perfect match for someone else.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterLarry Hardee

Hi Ken, very well done article with some solid points cutting through the mire. Artists need to think like businesses, and ones with no demand at that when they're starting out. If they demand funds for any use of their music, well, they can keep it all to themselves then! Chances are the strategy won't be too lucrative, so being open to the spreading of the music without compensation should be part of the plan to some degree.

And no, there are no magic bullets for musicians - I agree on that too. They need an amazing product, and only then should they test various services and review the success rate from there.

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterJames Moore

Larry: Thanks for relaying a positive experience.


Re: James... Thank you, too, for taking time to comment. It's true, "there are no magic bullets"; if anyone tries to sell you one, run. For a mathematical look at song distribution to stations, check out this article: "The Math of Music & Radio" at http://www.audiographics.com/agd/022013-1.htm


To all readers - It's comments that give worth to the article, not the words put there by the author. Please, also give your view.

February 20 | Registered CommenterKen Dardis

Yes it ends up as a business,yet for the artist it still has to be a passion.You have to reach in there deep an come up with your best.And present your best,the great tune and it's performance is the heart of everything else that may come.If nothing came out of this article other than "No magic Bullets"that itself would be save enough.Artists that made it paid heavy dues for it.And none of them did it quite the same way.Before you release you ought to have your copyrights or licenses in order.Now you are ready to let people know you are doing something.Getting/hiring outside help is a good thing if you are working with good people. who charge reasonable fees to give you some thrust when you lift off.Yet the real gist of it can't be artificial.That bird has to fly on it's own.A lot of folks have to dig your tune and they need to be able to find it.Good luck everybody,may your dreams be on the way!

February 25 | Unregistered CommenterRene Labre

Re: "Yes it ends up as a business, yet for the artist it still has to be a passion."

Rene:

I believe that your observation is not limited to music, but holds true in any endeavor; writing, accounting, advertising, being an automotive mechanic, etc. If you don't hold a burning desire to be the best you will sit and watch those who do pass you by.

Where musicians are particularly vulnerable is in the belief that all that they need is a catchy tune, or one that they - themself - consider "quality. The Catch-22 in this is that, while using your own judgement matters, in music, your opinion is secondary to those who judge and a) put you on a playlist; b) buy your music.

As in art, in music "good" is subjective and the musician is always biased towards their own creation.

I'm trying to help musicians know that there is nothing wrong with submitting something and being told "go back and try again." That's where the burning desire to be the best pushes a musician to write another song.

Oh, if I could only have a dollar for each time when what I produced wasn't good enough. :-)

Thank you for adding to the conversation.
Ken Dardis

February 26 | Unregistered CommenterKen Darddis

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