“Music is a business.”
That’s a common adage perhaps but something that never came to mind during that honeymoon period of first discovery. Chances are most of us were teenagers when we, the PoP Faithful, were infected with an obsession that still keeps our attention decades later.
It could have been a song heard on the radio, in a record store or a music video, live performance seen on TV or a movie that provided a spark to a lifelong occupation with music.
All you cared about was how the music made you feel. You might have swayed, jumped around, pumped a fist, maybe even shed a tear or two – whatever it was, it was an unforgettable moment.
Not once did it ever cross your mind to wonder how your favourite band made a living from the hard-earned money you had spent – gladly, willingly – to savour the fruits of their labour. All you really cared about was getting your grubby little hands on that vinyl, cassette or CD, that would be your gateway to musical bliss.
Would it surprise you to learn that most of the time, the bands you loved never quite got their due from the music they made? That despite being the main reason behind why millions would part company with money to obtain said music, the band was usually the last in line, when it came to benefitting from the music.
The lion’s share of the moolah was going to record labels and their executives – a gravy train that lasted for decades until rudely interrupted by Napster, online file-sharing and the advent of digital music.
This seismic event signaled 15 years of negative growth wherein the global music industry lost 40% in revenues. In that time, many of the biggest major record labels went belly up – including EMI and BMG – and the total destruction of the major record labels seemed inevitable.
BUT in the last couple of years, this downward trend has been arrested with the public’s growing acceptance of music streaming platforms as an alternative to illegal music downloads. Cue the fireworks and congratulatory pats on backs as the major labels began singing to the tune of “Happy days are here again!”
But what about the bands? Has anything changed for them?
The short answer is no. The recording contracts have not become fairer for new bands, in fact, cost deductions for breakages and packaging continue to apply even for digital music!
What those 15 years of negative growth has done for bands is to make the mainstream even a more hostile environment for bands. Without the excessive funds of the golden years, the major labels could no longer take risks with breaking new bands and instead resorted to other means like singing competitions, Youtube sensations and the 360° celebrity-artistes in an attempt to limit the chances of new music failing.
Therefore, bands need to forget about the mainstream and the major labels because like it or not, they have forgotten about you. Instead, bands need to leverage on the advantages that the internet brings them – a direct connection with music consumers.
Forget about making any income from recorded music – that was never on the table anyway – strive to build a fan base both home and abroad on the back of global digital distribution so that you can recover at least the cost of your investment via ticket and merch sales. If you are in a band for the money, then you are in the wrong place! It’s all about the music first and foremost, the rest is a bonus.
Cuz the only people who are going to make big money from the music business are the major labels. But for the labels, it was never about the music or the musicians. It always has and always will be about the money only.
For a band that wants to make artistic and creative music in 2017, there’s only one option – going underground.
… still there’s more …