"A Brave New 'Music' World"
Very often, operating as a musician or recording artist in this brave new 'music' world is akin to the risk of walking a dilapidated rope bridge over a 30-feet waterfall in pitch dark.
By Dr. Kenneth Love
Having been on hiatus for several years from writing music industry articles, I briefly struggled with the topic of which to re-introduce myself to the music community. A first consideration was a brand new article that provided a general consensus on my perspective of the current state of the music industry as it relates to the daily experience of musicians and recording artists.
A second consideration was to address one of several subjects that I have previously covered, but which I feel still bears great consideration for musical artists. Ultimately however, I decided that the former was best fitting for a re-introduction. And, here we are...
A little over a year ago, I retired after twenty years of service (1990-2010) to the music industry and, more poignantly, representing musicians and recording artists as an international radio promoter, video promoter and media publicist in order to return to the artistry of my own music career. I had gone into these areas to assist other artists with success of their releases while also staying in tune (pardon the pun) with the music industry from behind the scene, so to speak.
And, to maintain my musical "chops," I would occasionally venture back into the studio for a production through the years, although I only released a couple of songs during the first decade of the 21st century.
But serving as an artist once again, I was witness to quite a few more resources that spoke both to the positive and negative elements that now exist within the industry. Although more opportunities seem to, indeed, exist for artists today, with a "capped" budget it is very difficult to decide on which opportunities will result favorably while it is extremely easy to make wrong choices and decisions that can significantly impede an artist's music career.
Hence, and if I may, I would like to offer a bit of timeless financial advice that may best serve your efforts and interests, regardless of how the industry continues to evolve, for better or for worse.
1. Be Choicy - When either approaching services or being approached by services, i.e., promoters, publicists, managers, agents, etc., exercise due diligence through researching such services through the service's past clients, its longevity in the industry, rates, commissions, and more. It is not enough to simply take the service's own "word" of its status in the industry. As an example, when releasing my "cAsE sEnSiTiVe" Jazz CD last year, and not wanting to self-represent, I contracted outside promoters and publicists for representation. One particular publicist became at odds upon learning that I had requested confirmations from several of its clients, presenting the idea to me that it was beyond questioning. As might be expected, I opted to not utilize this particular publicist.
2. Create a "Reasonable" Budget - While you don't want to financially shortchange your ability to gain qualitative and quantifiable exposure for your project, you also don't want to experience the financial burden of a "bottomless money pit" in effect, whereby, you are spending money with no budget "cap" or limit. Therefore, prior to starting your "cost" process, of which an external recording studio may be the first on your expense list if you don't have your own home-based studio, your budget consideration should begin at this point, followed by amounts you appropriately and reasonably allocate to your post production phases that include, but are not limited to; manufacturing, marketing, promotion, publicity, and advertising.
3. Barter As Much As Possible (And Often) - If your finances are limited, consider contacting musicians in your area to barter, swap, or trade your musical talents with their own possible recording projects. An example is, if you don't currently have production software or equipment, but are a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, etc., you could offer an exchange to a musician who does not have these particular talents but who may have the software and equipment that you do not. This barter exchange could serve to save you a good deal of money from costs that you would, otherwise, incur in commercial studio production. Also, don't limit your fellow musician contacts to your own genre or style of music, because you may find that a Country artist can use your bass playing, even if you consider yourself a Rock bassist. A great place to seek like minded musicians in your area is Craig's List, local music instrument repair shops, or local music or arts and entertainment weekly newspapers.
In retrospect, upon my return as an artist to the music industry, I must admit to finding that very often, operating as a musician or recording artist in this brave new 'music' world can be akin to the risk of walking a dilapidated rope bridge over a 30-feet waterfall in pitch dark. In many instances, you simply are not absolutely sure where to place your next step (decision) until you have done just that...placed your next step (decided) on a solid plank (correct decision) and survived that step (succeeded). And, going across that same bridge (past project) at a previous time (different era) is no assurance that the same solid planks (past resources) will still be in their places (exist) to break a possible fall (possible failure).
Editor's Note: Dr. Kenneth Love is a retired international radio promoter, video promoter, and media publicist who now manages 1 Way Public Relations (http://www.1waypr.com), which sends affordable press releases to media for musicians and recording artists. Additionally, he is a Jazz recording artist, with his music website at http://www.kennylovejazz.com.
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