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We all have discussed the demise of labels and physical CD sales. Now this NY Times article brings to light the growing concern over shrinking digital based revenues which are falling close to 8-10% a year.

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/24/technology/24music.html?_r=3&...

 

Our field is always full of new comers trying to make it as songwriters, session players, artists, engineers, producers, etc., but if all the revenue streams for recorded music dry up, just how will everyone make a living?

 

Do you think the fall off in digital sales are only a  snapshot of the already failing major label who have simply failed to embrace new technology or refused to shift paradigms, or do these figures reflect sales of independents as well? Is the media and big music business chicken little? Is the sky falling?

 

I'm not sure, but I do know that if people stop buying a product, there is no reason to hope they will somehow turn around and start buying again, no matter how great the music.

 

So, how do you plan to survive now?

 

 

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Selling picks and shovels.

 

The new paridym for any business is developing a one on one relationship with the consumer. If you want to see interactive new business model within the industry via artists, look at someone like Jill Soluble, who sold shares in her upcoming project, actually had donors spend time with her in New york and actually sing on her project. There are others who are developing their own approach to their fans.

Taylor Swift, who is for all intents and purposes, an independent artist, has mastered the art of making the communication age of Facebook, Twitter, My Space, work for her and sell records when the rest of the industry has lost money.

 

From the industry, publishers, pluggers, studios, muisicians are going to have to be more interactive with the consumer. You have to show them up close and personal that they mean something to you and you are willing to go the extra distance to present that. Studios that do more than just the recording aspect, even going so far as to provide lodging as part of the overall project.

Publishers that are into artist development. Venues that are open to different types of entertainment. Finding ways to help people stretch their budget.

For myself, using the "teach a man to fish" where I help people through the steps of songwriting, into the studio and assist them in the overall process even as far as helping them devise a strategy for their own home areas, seem to play out well. Still get songs written, demos done,. artists developed and in the case of people like Frankie Ballard and Steel Magnolia, manifesting itself to major record deals.

 

The key is now doing more for yourself until someone else picks up the ball and carries it to the next step. We are all going to have to be songwriters, song pluggers, agents, managers, all purpose entities instead of being one thing at one time. We are all going to have to learn to be "Wallmart", offering a well rounded service at reasonable rates.

It's what happens when everyone gets into the game. The customer can be far more demanding. If they don't find what they like from one service, there is no limit to the other services they can get.

 

MAB

Yes. Yes. Yes. We need a "Like" button. I've been telling people for two years the industry MUST implode to resemble something like the local and regional scene that existed prior to companies like Clear Channel dictating what was played nation wide. It would start locally for bands that could communicate with music fans, make friends with them, entertain them with multiple shows in the same area. True, our local community can now be world wide while we're sitting at our desk, but the concept is the same, we've done it before, we can do it again, we just have to remember how.

MArc-Alan Barnette said:

Selling picks and shovels.

 

The new paridym for any business is developing a one on one relationship with the consumer. If you want to see interactive new business model within the industry via artists, look at someone like Jill Soluble, who sold shares in her upcoming project, actually had donors spend time with her in New york and actually sing on her project. There are others who are developing their own approach to their fans.

Taylor Swift, who is for all intents and purposes, an independent artist, has mastered the art of making the communication age of Facebook, Twitter, My Space, work for her and sell records when the rest of the industry has lost money.

 

From the industry, publishers, pluggers, studios, muisicians are going to have to be more interactive with the consumer. You have to show them up close and personal that they mean something to you and you are willing to go the extra distance to present that. Studios that do more than just the recording aspect, even going so far as to provide lodging as part of the overall project.

Publishers that are into artist development. Venues that are open to different types of entertainment. Finding ways to help people stretch their budget.

For myself, using the "teach a man to fish" where I help people through the steps of songwriting, into the studio and assist them in the overall process even as far as helping them devise a strategy for their own home areas, seem to play out well. Still get songs written, demos done,. artists developed and in the case of people like Frankie Ballard and Steel Magnolia, manifesting itself to major record deals.

 

The key is now doing more for yourself until someone else picks up the ball and carries it to the next step. We are all going to have to be songwriters, song pluggers, agents, managers, all purpose entities instead of being one thing at one time. We are all going to have to learn to be "Wallmart", offering a well rounded service at reasonable rates.

It's what happens when everyone gets into the game. The customer can be far more demanding. If they don't find what they like from one service, there is no limit to the other services they can get.

 

MAB

We are one of the studios offering lodging. We really want the artists to have an environment where they can do their best work. When we built it we wanted them to be comfortable, so we put our best effort into making the rooms nice, and we made room for them to bring their families if they want. We wanted them to eat good food, so we put a huge kitchen in. We wanted them inspired, so here we are, on 240 acres of beautiful Idaho wilderness. It turns out that the attention to the "extras" has paid off in a surprising way.

The second half of last winter was scary slow, so we put the lodging portion of the building up on a vacation rental site. It completely saved us. We quickly filled up over the summer, and we're booked solid for next summer, (and we are having regular weekend retreats during this winter). I just took a call for next Christmas. No one haggles, and they've all put 1/2 down already. We do not cook for them. Sometimes we don't even meet them. All we need for staff is our family, and since the only thing we do is clean between groups, our cost is way down. But here's the thing I cannot figure out: How is it I can successfully book the place by locking the studio doors and providing less? It's crazy. The fact is, I never got the card rate anyway, so the price is actually comparable. Essentially we took away the (really good!) studio, all the instruments, the gear, 3 staff members, all the food and drinks, and the rides to and from the airport. And we got busier! Weird! A relief. But weird, and a little disappointing.

Believe me, I am so very grateful for the income! I am! I guess I'm sad for the musicians. I feel like the experience of recording in a real studio is good for the musician's heart the way performing for a real audience is. And anyway music made in a big studio is like a stew cooked in a pressure cooker. (I don't really know if cooking stew in a pressure cooker makes it better, but I'm gonna use the analogy anyway.:D) The flavors of all the people involved--artist, engineer, producer, studio musicians--mingle together under just enough pressure to get the creative juices really flowing. It's a good process. I hope more musicians get to do it again. But until then, we are going to hang in there by hosting family reunions. And sometimes sending gear to Pepper Denny to sell. ;)

Corrie Phillips, Cider Mountain Recorders

Corrie,

You are probably experincing what you are for a couple of reasons. Due to the Interenet putting more amature musicians and writers "into the game" many people are first timers, and have never experienced all the bells and whistles of studios in the past, so the lack of gear, the less frills approach works for them because they have nothing to compare it to. They couldn't care less if you were using a $10,000 Nueman mic or a Sure SM57. As long as it sounds good, is affordable and in a great location. And that one is key. As in all business, location is everything. Having visited Idaho several times doing workshops and mentoring musicians out there, great studio locations don't  exactly grow on every street corner like they do in Nashville.

 

So you have offered a great experience, some great feels and a very reasonable price. You are getting the response. Tell me when you want to do a songwriter's  workshop and you wouldn't believe the amount of songwriters you will attract.

 

Songwriting, performing, recording, has become like golf in this country. Everybody does it or has someone they know who does it. Home recording, intreractive web sites, etc. have put so many people into the game that are not exactly professional songwriters but do want to be involved because they have passion about a hobby.

 

In Nashville there were a glut of studios that all expanded, updated gear, and built huge rooms,just as the era of Pro tools and home recording came into voque. Most of those studios are now wharehouses and the owners in recievership.

 

We are all in a business that in ways are expanding but the old days of high costs and big fees, salaries, etc. are gone. Even ht writers are making less money on their music since so much has gone to free. Lady Ga Ga sold one million downloads on Spotify and recieved a check for a whopping $168. 

So everyone is going to have to look at costs, market forces, and building relationships in a different way than they ever have before. If they don't, they become a wharehouse.

 

MAB

I've never put all my eggs in one basket. Over the years, I've made money as a session player, session leader, background singer, producer, production assistant, studio owner, engineer, band member, band leader, road manager, arranger, transcriptionist, contractor, solo artist, songwriter, journalist, educator (from graduate school to faculty chairman of an adult education music school to substitute teacher for most of the music programs in the Davidson County school system to vocal coaching...to teaching guitar at a music store in Greenbriar), This has helped me weather several downturns. Bluegrass diminished, disco took over the single act, karaoke cut into live music, and then there's downloading.

Downloading and digital piracy. I played bass on a cd for a songwriter who had written some very good songs about a college football team. He sent them out to the radio stations in the college area and they got a lot of airplay, so he booked a venue and asked me to put together a band. After a few weeks, the songwriter called me and said he had to cancel the venue. All of that radio play translated into nearly zero cd sales for him. It was the beginning of digital piracy. Those cds that had made the music biz far more accessible to an indie artist (much easier and less expensive than pressing vinyl discs), those same cds now made it easier for people to burn copies at home. So I moved into doing more demos and seeking out live radio and bandleading for live shows.

Now, we're in a "perfect storm." We are nearing the apex of digital piracy. NARAS has jumped the shark in trying to curb digial piracy. Every one who owns a computer is a studio owner. Music has more competition than ever from video games and sports to talk radio. So, what happens then? The economy tanks. Well, that's not a coincidence, what's been happening in music with the digital revolution has happened across the board...I won't even go into that, though. But here we are with a buying public that doesn't pay for product, and a live music scene dilluted with dj's, programmed backgrounds and karaoke.

Then, what am I doing to survive? For one thing, I'm offering internet recording. Just a few weeks ago I was paid to add a bass part for a fellow who cut his basic tracks in Gungal, Australia. The guitar player was in Philadelphia. The singer was in Paris, France. I've been doing one-man-band tracks, mixing acoustic, electric and virtual instruments for songwriters and artists. Additionally, I've gotten back into bluegrass. Bluegrass is not likely to be wiped out by technology. Its core audience is a bit older, but so am I...when they die out, I will too LOL. Also, I've been working with some producers as a combination session leader/bassist/contractor/vocal coach. They hire me because I do the pre-production work and coaching with their artists which saves them money when they get to the main studio. And, I've been working with a publisher on the East Coast who is shopping my original songs for tv, film and internet licenings deals. She's gotten some major stuff for folks I know and is very interested in what I've been sending her.

Music, in general, is a necessity to humans. It flourishes in both good times and bad...it is just the business and marketing of music that tends to ebb and flow with technology. Being a necessity, people will always figure out how to make money from it. I predict that there will be a boom in the "on demand" digital streaming audio services. There are a few of these "online jukeboxes" already. Soon you'll go to your iphone and, by subscribing to two or three services, have access to virtually all the major label music ever recorded...and most of the indie stuff. Couple this with new legislation for payment to the artist as well as the songwriter and things will loosen up a bit.

 

But there's been another strategy that has actually been the best one. This fall and winter, so far, I've done better, moneywise, than any previous time I can remember in my over forty years in music. How did I pull this off? I increased my donations at church. And that, my friends, is how I plan to survive.

Marc,

I want to do songwriting workshops!! :) That sounds perfect! 

(Btw, those Spotify numbers were scary... sheesh)

MArc-Alan Barnette said:

Corrie,

You are probably experincing what you are for a couple of reasons. Due to the Interenet putting more amature musicians and writers "into the game" many people are first timers, and have never experienced all the bells and whistles of studios in the past, so the lack of gear, the less frills approach works for them because they have nothing to compare it to. They couldn't care less if you were using a $10,000 Nueman mic or a Sure SM57. As long as it sounds good, is affordable and in a great location. And that one is key. As in all business, location is everything. Having visited Idaho several times doing workshops and mentoring musicians out there, great studio locations don't  exactly grow on every street corner like they do in Nashville.

 

So you have offered a great experience, some great feels and a very reasonable price. You are getting the response. Tell me when you want to do a songwriter's  workshop and you wouldn't believe the amount of songwriters you will attract.

 

Songwriting, performing, recording, has become like golf in this country. Everybody does it or has someone they know who does it. Home recording, intreractive web sites, etc. have put so many people into the game that are not exactly professional songwriters but do want to be involved because they have passion about a hobby.

 

In Nashville there were a glut of studios that all expanded, updated gear, and built huge rooms,just as the era of Pro tools and home recording came into voque. Most of those studios are now wharehouses and the owners in recievership.

 

We are all in a business that in ways are expanding but the old days of high costs and big fees, salaries, etc. are gone. Even ht writers are making less money on their music since so much has gone to free. Lady Ga Ga sold one million downloads on Spotify and recieved a check for a whopping $168. 

So everyone is going to have to look at costs, market forces, and building relationships in a different way than they ever have before. If they don't, they become a wharehouse.

 

MAB

Chris,

Contact me on MBarne4908@aol.com and I'll talk you through it. I am about due for another trip out there. Visit my web site, www.marcalanbarnette.com for the skinny on me.

MAB

I am still afloat, working harder at working, taking more weeknight gigs that are smaller to fill in while I travel, and branching into doing film work, having two songs in films this pat year, small films, for sure, but some $$ came in. This coming year I'm taking on some stage productions as well, and some more film work (as in appearing...did some unpaid work last year, nice to be in the film but I get nothing for my presense...that won't happen again.

I also offer songwriting workshops for groups hosting a concert as an additional event. I've gotten judicious about anything that does not serve me well, and I don't play for free  or low priced, unless it's a fundraiser that I have chosen.

Mapquest and a road atlas are my friends, with them I can route efficiently.

Digital sales are fine, but I have no plans to give up CD sales in the near future, they still account for about 1/3 of my annual income.

 

 My good friend Joe Pasquale turned me onto a book called Freakonomics. The basic idea of the book is to look into the data to find the answers to questions that aren't normally asked.
 In this spirit, we look at the question..."How do you plan to survive now?"
I have seen several different approaches attempted to deal with the current state of the music industry.
You could try embracing the internet as Jaron and The Long Road To Love did with their hit song "I Pray For You"...a ridiculous song that was basically a hit because it was popular on Youtube. Fine if you want a quick one hit career, but no good for longevity as the lack of success with their follow-up single has shown.
 You could bitch and complain like Lars Ulrich....but the fact that Metallica hasn't had a hit since I was twelve suggest that doesn't do much good either.
 Then the answer became clear.
 
Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising Tour" grossed $221, 500, 000 in 2002.
The Rolling Stones "The Bigger Bang Tour" grossed $558, 255, 000 in 2005.
AC/DC "The Black Ice Tour" $441,600,000. in 2010
 
There are a million factors from piracy to global warming that artists, writers, producers, and everyone else in the music biz use to blame for their lack of success. But there is one category of artists
where none of these factors seem to matter much......THE BEST.
So to answer, not only YOUR question Bret, but the question on everyone's mind, "How Do I Survive Now."
Simple.
BE THE BEST.
To be honest, if that wasn't already your goal, then you had no business in this business in the first place.
Now the question..."How Do I Be The Best?"....well now, good luck finding the answer to that one..

Freakonomics is a great book. But you have to look further than the data of people who are already mega-stars and what their gross was. I would be more interested in their net. I would be interested to see if product sales of CDs and Downloads amounted to substantial amounts in relation to those tours as in days past. While Freakonomics asks us to look past the surface it also asks us to not assume things are as they appear.

As a great companion to Freakonomics, I would suggest reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell for a better look into what factors account for success, or how we perceive the "best" around us.


Randall Clay said:

 My good friend Joe Pasquale turned me onto a book called Freakonomics. 

Say, I here's a related article from NYConvergence.com & a link to a good article from the New York Times about the change they're seeing in NYC. Interesting stuff about the rise of boutique studios in the area.

 

James

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