The most striking thing about the rethink music conference I attended this past week in Boston – put together by Berklee School of Music, Harvard Law and Midem – was just how wide and deep the chasm between the major labels and new DIY advocates actually is. I have been an evangelist for the direct to fan model for artists for so long now that I forget – as many early adopters of an idea can be – that there are still people who don’t get it.
And it’s really infuriating.
Listening to the major labels execs who spoke at the conference was like being held captive in room full of bloated Wall Street fat cats. When the moderator asked for questions from the audience at the end of the interview with Warners CEO, Lyor Cohen (yep insert all puns and jokes about the irony of this criminal having the name “Liar” here), I nearly bit my tongue off to refrain from screaming out, “How the fuck far from the real world do you live?”
Another panel that included U2 manager, Paul McGuinness and REM’s Mike Mills proclaimed the 80’s as “the Golden Age” of the record business. With totally straight faces. Yes, that might have been the golden age for the labels and the corporate geeks but I think most of us – the artists and the music LOVERS – would beg to differ and point to the 60’s & early 70’s as the true Golden Age of Rock Music and artistic achievement.
To these people, artistic achievement is only measured in units sold on a grand scale. Even Mike Mills came off as an out-of-touch fat cat bemoaning the shift in the industry power technology is creating. I bet he’d be singing a very different tune if he were trying to get a record deal at a major right now. Are you kidding me? No label would touch REM today.
There’s no real sense in bitching. Serious waste of time, energy and breath. It’s like complaining about the NBA or NFL. It is what it is, these are the rules of the game – you either accept them so you can play the game – which is their game or go find another game to play.
And if you love to ball – you will. Maybe it’s playing in Canada or Europe and the money isn’t the same and the exposure/fame is nowhere near as great…but you get to do what you love.
Artists now have an alternative that really has not existed until now. If you want to be a pop star, then by all means go play the major label game because it’s the only one in town. But if you want to create a career that can provide you with a decent, maybe even more than comfortable living and possible pave the way to a label, the tools are at your fingertips.
The internet now allows artists of all forms the opportunity to make their work available to the world via the internet. Making a living won’t be easy but it’s possible and you’ll be doing all the work the majors are asking you to do before they even glance in your direction….so why fight it or wait a minute longer?
The world is waiting for you and your art. Let them have it and begin to reap the rewards of your passion. Build your website, acquire and grow your fanbase, engage them in not just the conversation but your creative process and you may find they not only will become your marketing communications team but may fund your projects.
Stranger things happen.