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Friday
Jan182013

Ditching the Record Label Approach: Alternative Ways to Be Successful in the Music Industry 

Aspiring music artists have a plethora of opportunities to be “discovered” in today’s YouTube-driven industry. Previously, an artist had to be discovered and signed to a record label to gain access to the music market. Even after signing a record deal, artists were left at the mercy of the traditional media to become noticed, which was prohibitively expensive.

Record companies typically had to invest millions of dollars into each artist’s project they took on, forcing them to play it very safe in their selections. They had to narrow their search to artists who made music that sounded similar to other hits on the charts. This expense made for a music industry that was fairly homogenous and extremely risk-averse.

Fortunately, with the opportunities provided by the Internet, social media, and other digital marketing tools available today, an aspiring artist doesn’t need a record deal to promote and sell his music. There are countless outlets for marketing new music — the obvious being mainstream social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. There are also specialist music social media sites, like SoundCloud and ReverbNation, where artists can:

  • Build a fan base to gain exposure.
  • Promote their music to potential fans far outside their geographic region.
  • Expand the possibility of being approached by professional music managers, booking agents, record label executives, influential music blogs and websites, media professionals, etc. 

Another way to build a fan base is to create a database that allows an artist to keep in touch with his fans. With a fan database, artists can:

  • Keep in contact with fans via email and mobile phone broadcasts.
  • Earn revenue by selling merchandise online.
  • Update fans with upcoming performances and career progress.
  • Allow fans to requests songs via radio and/or television.
  • Vote for the artist in on- and offline talent competitions.
  • Obtain feedback on new song releases.
  • Invite fans to shows and performances.
  • Increase the possibility of being discovered by prominent music and entertainment industry figures and organizations.

There is an amazing set of tools available, which allow artists to connect with their fans and showcase their music without having to spend a dime on marketing. New artists can experiment with new music with no risk or cost involved. Specialist music promotion sites, like Umix and Remix, allow independent artists to find thousands of other aspiring artists to collaborate with, remix, and promote their songs among in order to gain exposure and connect with new fans.

Fans are also using sites and mobile phone apps to discover new artists who sound similar to their favorite mainstream artists. These music fans create playlists and, similar to Pandora, they start to see new artists pop up with “suggested” or “recommended” songs. This is similar to the way Amazon recommends books to its customers based on the books they’ve purchased before.

Other great music sites, like TAXI and Music Xray, are available to artists who can submit their songs and get connected to industry professionals, such as:

- Record label executives.

- Filmmakers looking for music to use in their films.

- Computer game developers looking for new game songs.

- Singers looking for new music for upcoming albums.

These services act as “matchmakers/middlemen” to link aspiring artists to industry professionals. It’s almost like online dating for the music industry — providing alternative ways to become successful, no matter which side you’re on.

It’s a win-win situation for record labels and artists alike. Recording companies no longer have to take such huge risks in investing millions of dollars on an unproven artist. Incidentally, the music industry is better off because there is more experimentation, which creates variety for fans looking for unique styles and sounds. The possibilities for artists, new and old, are limitless with this technology. Experiment with technology, and you’ll find your way to a harmonious music career.

 

Ken Oboh is the co-founder of REMIX.com and UMIX.com, two revolutionary music sites that give users the power to be their own DJs. Ken is a serial entrepreneur in the entertainment industry.

Reader Comments (21)

Good points. I think its important to note competition though. There are more than a handful of bands who are proactive with social media and utilize the approach you have suggested. Then again I guess in the end, music is the determining factor. Sites like TAXI and music XRay sound promising. More artists should use them.

January 15 | Registered CommenterFawaz Azim

At the end of the day music industry and venues have made it impossible for genuine artists to break through, as they control the scene, be it TV, stages and that reflects online as well. Even online, what goes around is what sells well and what sells well is by default backed by mass media corporations, one way or another, and it suits the taste of ignorant masses worldwide.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterIrish Rover

Sounds like this guy is just promoting his sites and mixed it with some obvious mediocre advice. The internet is an empty black hole where tens of thousands of crappy bands push their bad music on sites that have no impact whatsoever.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterBill

ive been in the music bussiness 30 years
and have my own lable "tsri music" and this
is now the way to go because you have direct
access to find your demographic audience
the possiblities are endless! kudos to you toney lee

January 23 | Unregistered Commentertoney lee

I found Musicxray very disappointing after submitting several quality songs ....even to the A& R meeting, I received the same auto one line response ... great track bla bla ,so Ive removed my trax .
Google Evan Silva to check my quality yourself to confirm what Im saying.....

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterEvan Silva

It is true there are great ''tools'' out there for a musician to use. A modern musician needs to be a savvy marketeer these days. Fortunately or unfortunately, the future will show if this is for the better or for the worst. We are alone and have to realize that no one will come to help us make it. The only thing that I would add to the post is that promoting does cost. A band still needs a press agent, a radio plugger and many other things for a successful 'push'. I've learned so many things since I first started my project (I was a session drummer before I decided to focus on my song-writing) and it has been a great journey and still have many things to learn! :-)

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterE-MUTE

The great majority of people who submit to pay-to-play venues like Taxi, Music X-Ray, Sonicbids, Radio-Airplay will not get a return on their investment. Ditto for John Lennon Songwriting Contest, International Song Writers Contest, etc. ALL of these venues get 95+ cents on the dollar taking submission fees from hopeful indies.

You are better off spending time, rather than money, promoting your music unless you have deep pockets.

I says this from 10 years of personal experience. GOOD LUCK! Don't stop trying, music is medicine.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterArthur Davenport

#1 - needing the "right look" is more important than having the right "goods" !!!
#2 - the music biz, more than ever, is a travesty of corruption: who you know's. nepotism, etc.
#3 - everybody is full of shite and don't you forget it !!!
#4 - people who "made it" have absoulutely no desire to help those who are struggling !!!
#5 - musical ability is a curse, not a gift from above !!!
#6 - if the entertainment business were to collapse and we had to resort to going back to vaudeville,
then and only then would everybody be on an equal footing !!!
#7 - I will not go on an American Idol show because I have absolutely no respect for the people,
their talents, their morals - who will be judging me !!!

January 23 | Unregistered Commenterspikemelon

How do I let others know about my service, doing soulprint songs, orignal songs unique to each one's soul to empower others' potential to improve wealth, health, and love?
I am doing something original combining my music talents with my psychic abilities to serve others,
but getting started is challenging, since no one has done this before.
I want to offer some soulprint songs for free to get video testimonials, but how do I find my audience?

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia Saenz

Have you actually tried, from an artist's perspective, using these tools you mentioned. Facebook can let all your fans know when you have an event, but events clog up if your fans are extremely social and they begin to ignore them. You have to actually get people to listen to your music and Facebook takes too much clicking to apps or links to get that quick punch of your music. I'm not a big Twitter user, but you have to convince people that you're an awesome artist before they care about what new vintage guitar or synth you have. For 50 dollars you can get your songs on iTunes, Spotify, and a bunch of popular music download stores and streaming services. Still you have to get enough fans, not just a casual listener, hardcore fans that would actually download a few songs. Most the time you sell or give away your music to fans that are your friends. And Spotify gives you FRACTIONS of a cent every time someone streams your song. How are you going to get back your 50 dollars when everyone you know has heard your music and maybe a few do part with their pennies and dollars, but guess what, your competing with the big names. Big money pushing the stars everywhere you look. So why would a young fanbase part with their money when they get all their music for free. Yes, all the big names that are boom in your face and they illegally download all their music anyway. Now how do you rise above the pack enough for people to hear of you and make enough money while losing to free sharing? The big labels put you out there and they have a name or brand that people are exposed to way more than your website, facebook, twitter, reverbnation page, myspace, etc. Reverbnation is NOT free. They claim that if you want real opportunities you have to buy their digital press kit for over a hundred dollars. Music X ray charges submission fees, like 8 bucks per song, for opportunities for your music like for video games or famous big label singers for their new songs. So how many starving artists have cash for 8 bucks a song submission? It should be obvious that you are a needle in a haystack and big money will put you out there to "make it". All these services like music websites, where you have to pay for people to listen your music, and books about success in music online are all leeches. They prey on every kid with a dream. Make your music and be careful with these sharks.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterElvis

@Bill - And those tens of thousands of crappy bands will eventually disappear.
All the new on line promotional tools, sites and info out there can give a band fantastic exposure.
But when it boils down to it, you still gotta work hard, truly beleive and be blessed with the talent of playing well and being able to pen a decent tune.
Most importantly though, make sure you do it cos you love it! Anything else is a bonus!

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterDan

This is old hat. We all know this. What's more, groundbreaking ideas like "selling merchandise" are too facile to even warrant a comment. Entering competitions belittles the art in my mind. This is not a competition and anyone who thinks it is stands to be superficial and lightweight. The comments reveal more. Understand this: digital media means less revenue stream. Get you hands around this idea and do your thing for the right reasons and you'll be OK.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Pearson

IT really comes down to money in most situations. Those that have the money and quality product can survive an make it through. There is always exceptions but for the general masses it s a long haul and tough road.

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterRichy

I agree with Evan Silva, except that I wouldn't use the word 'disappointing' to describe Music Xray. I would use the word rip-off, no make that two words; total rip-off. Everything is done on auto pilot with no direct email or phone numbers to contact anyone at Music Xray. The catch phrase most often used to reply to submissions is the very vague, 'not quite what we're looking for.'

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterTony

what a typically standard article with no detail because what this article is about is gearing bands to be successful just enough so the label has less work to do before picking them up!. And for an article that has the words ditch the label in it's title their seems to be plenty mention of labels, meeting label people or a win win situation for label and artist. Come on stop trying to make a few quid by writing cleche articles about how the artist is much more in control and has more chance than ever of financial success on an independant level. It's a crock, yes they can gain fans, gigs and exposure via the internet and even publishing, but how often this convertd into cash that can make a band a long term living is still dependant on the music industry that actually has cash to throw at a project, invest in high quality recording and marketing. Honestly this kind of article is just vague patter/ industry propaganda, anyone could write a something like this these days you hardly need to be an expert or a music journalist of any type to tell folk about a bunch of websites that almost any band member ALREADY KNOWS ABOUT! and does not make big bucks from alone. come on!

January 24 | Unregistered Commenterryan

I find music industry sites like these are not what they seem. Bands are desperate to be noticed, but are we really aware of what our audience likes and doesn't like? We are guessing and experimenting on three or four platforms; X-ray, reverb, FB, etc, don't know if they will bring money or fans in any real way... Songs can suddenly find wings when magic and technology collide, though, so don't despair! It's real life and real people's choices we must ultimately answer to, wherever we plant the seeds, the fruit is in other hands.

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterCousin john

All the above mentioned tools are good, however the most important thing to promote your music is to send it to the Radio. For example, my agency is serving as a vehicle to send the promotional singles of the artists directly to the Program Directors of more than 1,700 radio stations in 21 countries (Spain, Latin America and the Latin Radio stations in USA and Canada). Besides, we send the song to dozens of Record Pools, Discos and other music services like Muzak, DMX. Music Choice, Dish CD and more than 1,300 VIP of our Music Industry, like Record Label executives, Promoters of Events, Booking Agents, Artists, Managers, Publishers, Composers etc. We send the song along with its video-clip (if available) including all the credits (songwriter, publisher, PRO..), the single/album cover (or another picture of the artist) plus his/her/their booking info (phone, e-mail, webpage, facebook, twitter...). In the past, something like this was impossible for Non-Signed Artists. Now we welcome them at ajmusicpub@aol.com even if they just have a single (not a complete album) recorded, to give them the oportunity to expose their music internationally.
Jorge Luis
ajmusicpub@aol.com

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Luis

The recording artist does not give away his product for free. Over time it does get shared but not ititially. He relies on radio to play it (for free) just as the unsigned artist allows his music to be streamed. So the music is available to be heard without giving it away. There are so many people doing this now that do not need or want to make a living at it that I believe are responsible for starting the "giving away" of their music. Now it's become an established way of marketing (with dubious results I think) so it appears the genie is out of the bottle and there's no way to get it back in. Throughout history the musician has always generally gotten screwed but in this era he's now screwing himself. The only saving grace is how well he can market his music MIGHT make himself a living. So now we do everything a record company, marketing firm, public relations firm, booking agency and CPA does...as if making good music wasn't hard enough. It's the multi-tasker that wins now days. To the victor go the spoils.

January 24 | Registered CommenterDean Taylor

what a typically standard article with no detail because what this article is about is gearing bands to be successful just enough so the label has less work to do before picking them up!. And for an article that has the words ditch the label in it's title their seems to be plenty mention of labels, meeting label people or a win win situation for label and artist. Come on stop trying to make a few quid by writing cleche articles about how the artist is much more in control and has more chance than ever of financial success on an independant level. It's a crock, yes they can gain fans, gigs and exposure via the internet and even publishing, but how often this convertd into cash that can make a band a long term living is still dependant on the music industry that actually has cash to throw at a project, invest in high quality recording and marketing. Honestly this kind of article is just vague patter/ industry propaganda, anyone could write a something like this these days you hardly need to be an expert or a music journalist of any type to tell folk about a bunch of websites that almost any band member ALREADY KNOWS ABOUT! and does not make big bucks from alone. come on!

January 24 | Unregistered Commenterryan

One resource that has helped me get followers and valid real comments on my tracks is CloudKillers.
www.cloudkillers.com/register.php?aff=22273

The free account is truly free and to get comments you have to give them, so time is the cost not money. Sure there are payments you can make to them to speed things up, but I have not paid a dime to them and I went from 9 followers on soundcloud to 200 in 6 months. Admittedly I have had to put a lot of time and effort to get those results, but to a musician that does not have much money it is a route to get some results.

Anyway my two cents worth, all other sites have not done me much good. Music Xray was a joke for my free one submission was worthless did not even get a full review and the site really didn't care. LastFM never really worked for me either.

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Barnard

CD sales are really a thing of the past. Really in today's market it is all about performance..

February 20 | Unregistered CommenterJoesf Glaude

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