Friday, 6 March 2009

On 'success'.

Read a piece in the paper today about the music industry and how it's changing. It suggested that the big turning point was in 2006 when TOTP was taken off the air, that showed how the singles chart just didn't matter anymore. It also focused on people's perceptions of 'success' and how it's outdated. Using examples of Leona Lewis and the relatively unknown Ingrid Michelson. People would assume that financially speaking Lewis was far more successful - she's all over the radio/tv and top of the charts. Michelson doesn't have a record label. But she's managed to get some of her tracks on tv shows e.g. grey's anatomy, and has built a following from that synchronisation, as it's known. Not having a record label means about 60% of the profits from her sales on itunes go straight to her. What percentage do you think Leona Lewis makes? It'll be a single digit, and probably a low one. That's not even to mention the fact that alone you maintain 100% of the creative control of your project.

The article also made reference to Conor Oberst as one of the first artists to use the internet as a substitute for reliance on a major label. He had his own following, and with the internet could keep things organised and keep in touch with the audience and that was enough for him not only to sell enough of his music to become 'successful', but he started a record label called Saddle Creek, to which he signed friends' bands and oh my God, that guy is my hero. I want his life but with fewer overdoses.

Ten years ago you pretty much either 'made it' or didn't in the music industry. There was very little middle ground - people who made music and sold it but weren't famous or ridiculously wealthy. But the middle ground is growing, and fast. I think it's an exciting time. If there are fewer superstars but more people able to just make a living from music, 1) the people you are left with will be the ones who love music and not the idea of being famous and 2) there will be more artists around and we will get that great feeling of discovering great bands rather than being told what to listen to by conventional media.

Well actually, I take back the fewer superstars part, there will always be people who want to be the next pop idol, and there will always be record companies happy to make money from them. So that element will remain, but personally I find it easy to ignore. I don't listen to the radio much, I tend to find people either on the internet or through friends/local venues.

But the growth of the middle ground leads to exciting times! I just hope to be a part of it. I can't imagine where I'll be in ten years. Let's hope for selling lots of records through my own record company that has a lot of my friends on it and doesn't involve me being too famous.


p.s. I found the article online if anyone would like to read it.


wikdot said...

one of the negatives that i see in a lot of the internet artists is that they don't have a lot of original work (because it's hard to write music), but just do a lot of covers - which i dont have a problem with. the downside to this is that the fan ultimately has to give credit and praise to the original song writer or band, thus making the indie artist more inferior. for instance, a lot your music that i downloaded i have only heard as sung by you, and know them as "Blue Skies" songs. the reality is that they belong to someone else, and that thought is always in the back of my mind as i listen to them. i want to be able to listen to music free of that thought.

anyways, great blog!


Paul Carpenter said...

Financial success still has a fairly solid definition - you are financially successful if you have lots of money.

In terms of recognition, there's two ways you can say that you've had a successful recognition:
1. a few very well respected magazines have decided that they like you.
2. thousands of individuals have found out about you by themselves or by word of mouth, and love your music.

And, if you want your music to achieve something specific (like political artists) then you can measure success in terms of that.

So there's plenty different kinds of success, it's up to you which one your aiming for.

(my brother-in-law co-owns a recording studio so he can measure success by he co-owns a fucking recording studio)

Tengku Atique said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alan Lastufka said...

That is the way of the future in my opinion, smaller labels who really have the artists' interest at heart, or at *least* hold the artists interest even with their own. The internet makes that possible for the meantime. We'll see how long/well it holds up. Nice post.

Rob aka rlglufc aka storms_destiny said...

Conor Oberst is really good. He has like a gazillion bands and I think most or all of them have been quite successful. Bright Eyes being the most successful. :)

Tinkynette said...

"Internet artists" is probably the real future of music now. The only problem is, the labels are now organizing themselves to find the new music idols on the internet. I have two examples in mind : Artic Monkeys and Amy MacDonald.
It'll never change. There will be more freedom for musicians, but the major music companies will always find a way to keep a lot of artists who want to be famous under their control.

Of course, if you don't want to be too famous or under a label control, keep on rocking the way you do ^^

bridget said...

Conor Oberst is one of the most influential people here in Omaha (since he's from here)
Saddle Creek isn't actually that far from my house as well.

Klimbsac said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Moonlight Horses said...

Really interesting entry! I remember the 90's when average bands released CD's and they would become millionaire over night without much effort, with no tour. 2USD per CD sold for the band, and 10USD for the label. One pre-sale of 1,000,000 and they quit their day job for good. Nowadays, that's over. I remember when Elton John said something like: 'They should "switch off" the Internet for five years'.

The positive of the CD era was that there were less info about bands and less releases and I bought 'OK Computer'CD and I would listen to it hundreds of times for several months. I cannot keep up now since CD's are 'news' for a couple of weeks, i.e.: Chinese Democracy and I loved GN'R as a teen.

But I must admit that the Web 2.0 has helped LOTS of bands who would have passed unnoticed without it. Everyone can have a MySpace page. Now my question is; isn't it like myspace profiles have totally replaced the old-school OFFICIAL WEBPAGE of bands?

And as regards indie bands, the Internet is so useful since some of my tunes have been aired in some alternative radio shows and played in a bar in JAPAN. I cannot believe it.

Long live indie bands!


Nicholas said...

For me it's a mixture... I buy my "conventional" music on iTunes... like for example coldplay. But I also order quite some CDs directly from the artists on YouTube like Julia Nunes, DanielleAteTheSandwich or Meghan Tonjes.
I don't listen to the radio or watch music television, but I imagine there will be 2 lanes in the future, both in their own right. "Big" stars like Leone Lewis and the more personal one. But I think even nowadays, even the big ones have to make their money mainly through conerts and less and lass through CD sales.

Fluxing Romantic said...

Awesome blog! I'm glad for the increasing broadening out of the music industry to include smaller artists and allow them to get success - however you define it. I've got pretty much no musical talent (I can just about sing...) but I want to go into the music industry and work with bands to help them make it. My uber dream would be to make a record company that does everything for a band and gives them a fair share of the profits so they can keep making music and I can make some money! :P(not as much as those massive record companies because they are so unfair to their artists)

amy said...

This is exactly why the internet is so exciting!!
I love it.