Why DIY indie music doesn’t work (for most musicians) – Part 2

Last weekend, I have published the first part of this article, in order to raise a discussion about today’s DIY indie music trend.

Apparently, out of all people who read this, with the vast majority of readers being independent DIY artists/musicians, no one seemed to have an opinion about the situation. There might be two reasons for this – either the situation today is perfect, and most musicians are happy with what’s going on with music today – or people just don’t bother to say what they think, because they don’t want to expose their (yet) unsuccessful career, or they think this is how it is and it will never change. Anyway, I believe that the truth very easily comes up every time I raise this subject in person with other musicians I know.

About a month ago, I met Mr. Roger H. Brown, president of Berklee college of music in Boston,while he was visiting Rimon school of Jazz and contemporary music in Israel, Where I acquired my formal music education. We discussed about the state of independent music today, as he showed true interest in the vision I offered to share with other independent musicians.

So first of all, I decided to share my opinion and tell you how I see things in today’s DIY indie reality:

I see a huge number of artists and bands emerging to the world every day. Way too much for anyone to keep track or care about. On the same day, there are a huge number of bands breaking up or artists giving up because things are much tougher than they thought in the first place. Out of those that do not give up, only a small percentage keep working hard and improving, learning from their experiences as they go along. The majority of them keeps doing the same old things, trying to market the same music to the same audience for years.

I see huge buildings with all spaces rented as rehearsal spaces for “serious, hard working” bands and artists. Those who don’t rent a space on a monthly basis do it on an hourly basis in one of the rehearsal room complexes, where you can hear random “unique” noise emerging from the rooms while walking through the long corridors.

I see artists that spend all their life savings, or worse, still returning their loans they borrowed just to pay for the production of their album. Needless to say, more often than not, this album will only be heard by their family and friends, who constantly feel a need to give “constructive criticism”, only a day after the album has been pressed a few hundred copies… This is the closest they will ever get to an artist in their life, so why not take advantage of it… At best, these artists take this as a learning experience. At worse, they blame the crowds for not realizing how amazing their music is.

I see live music clubs hosting not less than 7 shows a night, most of them drawing an audience in a number that can be count on two hands (including the bartender). In order for the club and the artists to capitalize on their art, the shows that once were played in front of the bar’s usual audience for free, are now played in a separate room, not to disturb the alcohol drinkers with music they don’t want to hear or pay for anyway.

I see a thriving market that feeds off of the needs of the indie artists. Musical instruments, recording and live sound equipment, PR, management, marketing, consulting and so on. Every day a new website is up on the web, calling all indie musicians “learn how to market your music”, “how to be a successful indie artist”, “how to build a fan base”, “how to bring traffic to your website” etc. These are, for the most part, well oiled marketing machines, exploiting DIY indie musicians’ desperate need to get their music out there. The raving “testimonials” are mostly written by artists whom you never heard of until you encountered the product’s website, and at best, are leading to an artist website that hasn’t been updated for two years. “For only $87.99 I’ll tell you how YOU can be the most successful indie artist on the planet” (a summarization of their selling speech), they say with excitement. When this doesn’t work, they put on a new website with a different selling method, a different “secret”, a different “formula”. How do I know that? Funny enough, there is a website that for $87.99 will tell you the “secret” of how to put out a website like this and make tons of money off of innocent indie artists. It starts with the headline “How I became rich by putting on a website that sells nothing for money – and you can do it too”.

When marketing “secrets” are sold for money, soon enough everybody will use these “secrets”, making them even more ineffective.

I see that the audience still prefers to listen to new music if it comes from the radio, backed by major label marketing force. The early vision about reducing the distance from the artists to listeners just doesn’t work as people thought it would… No ordinary listener would ever want to waste time on over hundreds of unknown artists just to get to one he really connects to. Turns out that the model of screening music by the listener is time consuming and not as cool as the “new music industry” pioneers thought it would be. Why? We’ll get to that later.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you think.

Are you amazing at what you do? I would love to hear from you! Please send me music to theshtikfactory@gmail.com


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