Every time you crack open a new book, read an indutstry blog or attend a music business seminar, you hope that something will be said to make your life as a musician better. Unfortunately, nothing ever seems to work and artists are left looking for answers.
Wait. What’s the question?
As I sat through the sessions at last week’s CMJ Music Maraton Film & Film Festival, I couldn’t help but to ask myself,
“How can any one of these panelists provide a definitive answer, if the question itself is constantly changing?”
Technologies are advancing, music institutions are crumbling and artists are once again being left out in the cold.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the panelists were very knowledgeable, highly respected and quite well spoken. They played the game at a time when the music industry actually worked. Now that there is a correction happening in the market, atleast two schools of thought remain.
Old School vs New School. Traditional Media vs New Media.
Each side had its merits, yet none of the professionals gave their attendees a clear enough picture of how to manage themselves without the use of a major label. I’d bet that a large percentage of these desperate, yet aspiring artists left with more questions at the end of the week than they had when they arrived.
The older industry experts insisted that nothing much had changed. They encouraged artists to network with other bands to find gigs, sell CD’s out of thier trunks or, “do what ever it takes to generate a buzz”. You can’t get more vague than that.
The progressives represented new media applications, widgets and digital services that promised to help artists develop direct to fan relationships. They somehow forgot to mention that you would be required to pay for their service or use their branded widgets in order to create, market, promote, and distribute YOUR music to the world.
In this day and age, we are all brands.
The more time you spend updating your social networks, the less time you spend practicing, creating great music and playing mind blowing shows. Connecting with fans does not ONLY mean keeping your profiles visable and easy to read. It also means taping into the raw emotions that face society as a whole. In the good old days, when there weren’t any computers programs, some of the greatest artists succeeded by telling their story in a unique way.
After hearing both sides, I still felt unsatisfied.
As the ceremony came to a close, I folded over my notebook, powered down my laptop and put the lens on my digital camera. I opened my eyes and ears to listen to one last story of a Sudaness soilder turned rapper. He told the audience how he’d survived war, desease, famine, mass murders and canabalisim to stand on stage at NYU in front of us that day. He’s since released a documentary, three albums, and a book about his life. Emmanual Jal learned the hard way what we as musicians take for granted. He learned how to survive and adapt in the toughest conditions.
I’ve spent the majority of my life studying the process of success in the music business. Early in my career I took bits a pieces of what worked to create my own survival strategy. Now that I’m exploring new ways to make a living in music, I am simply adapting. Through Emmanuel’s story, I’ve realized that survival divided by adaptation equals success.
If you set out to gain fame and fourtune without learning basic survival skills, failure is sure to follow. All of the CD’s, downloads, T-Shirts, widgets and direct to fan relationships will not work unless you adapt them to your situation.
SURVIVAL / ADAPTATION = SUCCESS