By Mike Sales
One evening, early in 2008, I was headed to a local bar to host karaoke for the last time, because the venue was discontinuing that promotion.
As I drove, I pondered what could be done to create a little job security and came up with “branding”. With at least a dozen local karaoke hosts, all with the same song list, standing out would require identifying and creating unique aspects of the experience I provided and advertising them through networking and whatever conventional advertising I could afford.
The very next thought that came to mind was the realization that I didn’t really like the idea of hosting karaoke indefinitely. It was decent money, but if I was going to build a business around something, I should do what I’d always wanted to do…so I decided right then to become an independent recording artist.
I figured the best way to go about it was to find out what the Billboard chart-topping artists were doing and emulate it to the extent my resources would allow. So, I spent the next few months searching the web with any combination of keywords that would answer one question…
Who is “WE”?
Have you ever noticed that most solo artists receiving a televised music industry award deliver speeches celebrating how happy “We” are? They are of course, referring to their team. I figured that if I were going to try to do what they do, I’d need to find out their team members’ job titles and, more importantly, what each member did.
It took literally months of making a hobby out of researching, until I finally got the answer off an ask-the-expert website from a genuine high-level industry professional. A record producer who came up the ranks as an A & R man, sent me a 600 word reply with the subject line, “I’ve answered your question completely”.
I’ll never forget it. Per the website’s protocol, I had to pay $25 to view the information, which proved the subject line so accurate that I’m still getting dividends from that investment, because it shaped my whole business plan.
I’m sure you often hear and read the woes of those in the music industry lamenting how dramatically the music business has changed, but I’d like to share my take on why I don’t find it so bad at all.
First of all, the answer to my initial question is now readily available. I searched the “We” question on Google today and hit on a myriad of different websites, none of which were around in 2008, whose sole purpose is to guide, support, instruct and promote musicians developing their own careers.
The advances aren’t just taking place on websites either. The digital sound and recording equipment available today is absolutely incredible.
…but lets not leave out YouTube…free on-demand music from anyone…anywhere. Today’s independent artist literally has global access from a desktop. It takes me just 2 hours to record, mix, edit, upload and post a video that can be viewed worldwide.
Of course, with all this readily available content, it gets crowded, to say the least and that’s what the major labels and a lot of their established artists seem to find irritating, but I’m not crying for them. They still have the resources to hire the most polished talent, produce the best quality recordings, shoot cinema caliber videos, place music in major motion pictures, television and commercials, get major airplay on radio and satellite, dominate social media and fund giant tours.
Having begun this at what seems to have been the bottom of the economic crash and the beginning of this new era of total access for every musician, the only regret I have is not believing everyone who told me Facebook and Twitter were going to be significant…understatement.
Anything else I’d change now is just chocked up to the learning curve, but the most beautiful thing about the music business is what hasn’t changed…The connection.
The value of every artist and the music they create, is now and has always been subjective, down to the individual level and success is largely dependent only upon how true we can remain to our passions and the level we commit to our music and performances. So long as we continue to create that inspires us for people who enjoy hearing it, there will be a place to play.
So, what I’m really saying is that what hasn’t changed about the music business is you…and judging from the couple dozen interviews I’ve had the privilege of conducting, we are all grateful to you for coming to the venues, listening to the music and showing your appreciation when we connect.
By the way, even though nearly all of us have music you can download, we especially appreciate cd sales at the venue because it’s an instant reward. It has double value too, because it not only reimburses us for the work on the album you’re buying, but also funds the next project.
I appreciate you reading this column. It’s fascinating to observe how everyone playing the same music business game has his or her own way of doing it and making it work. I hope you’ll check upcoming articles featuring a different local Siesta Key musician each month.
In closing, please indulge me a request…
Peruse the music schedule below, pick out a name that peaks your curiosity and find them on YouTube. Watch a few videos, pick a favorite or two, go out and see them live and possibly even buy a cd. Who knows, maybe you’ll even keep tabs on them from wherever you call home and catch their latest videos.
I hope you all enjoy the island…you’re in paradise. And Paradise has a Soundtrack!
Photo Credit: Chi Photograpy