What opportunities are available to independent musicians today as opposed to, say, ten years ago? That was the question posed to Music Biz Academy founder David Nevue in this interview for Henry Hutton, Internet Media Director for Lulu.com.
How have you seen the landscape for musicians change in the last 10 years?
Ten years ago, the only way for an independent artist to gain exposure on a large scale was to endlessly pursue, and hope for, that one-in-a-million major label recording contract. For an unestablished artist, it was pretty near impossible to find new fans for your music beyond what you could bring in doing live shows. As for those artists/bands who *did* manage to 'get signed,' they were (and still are) at the mercy of their record companies. Most 'signed' acts never made any money, and while some found fame, that only lasted a moment before (in most cases) the artist disappeared into obscurity.
Fast forward ten years to today, and you'll see a much different landscape. The Internet has turned the recording industry upside down. Artists don't need a major label deal to find success. In fact, it's preferable *not* to have one. Many artists who *are* signed are looking for the first opportunity to get out of their contracts. Check out this article for a recent example. For artists more interested in doing their 'art' for a living than finding fame on television, the Internet has created an enormous opportunity.
What would you say are the greatest opportunities for bands?
Using the Internet, independent artists and bands can have literally *thousands* of people listening to their music all over the world every single day. As for distribution, opportunities abound. One up-and-coming example is FaveStreet (http://music.favestreet.com), which helps Indie artists sell their CDs in dozens of online record stores right alongside established (major label) artists. Very soon, independent artists who members of CDBaby.com will be able to distribute their music through Apple's iTunes store as well as Listen.com's Rhapsody service.
The cool thing is, virtually *any* artist with quality music to offer can get exposure for their music online. Every single person (or band) has an equal seat at the table. It really comes down to whether or not the artist in question has the tenacity and knowledge to make it happen.
An artist with the know-how can create quite a buzz for their music online, to the point that people will be coming to them, asking permission to use their music in films or other projects. I have two or three people a month coming to me requesting use of my music. Every one of those is one more opportunity to take my music *beyond* the Internet, and into the real world.
What are the greatest challenges?
I suppose the greatest challenge is that, in a manner of speaking, on the Internet competition is even stiffer than it is in the real world. An artist's web site is competing with not only with the web sites of other artists, but virtually every other web site out there. The thing is, even though there are thousands of other artist web sites to compete with, *most* artists don't have clue how to promote their music on the Internet. They just put up a web page and hope for the best. So in a very real sense, the independent artist who is armed with the 'knowledge' of how to promote online has an advantage over the others.
What are your thoughts regarding the decline in industry CD sales? There are many factors contributing to that, I believe. It's not just file-swapping and piracy bringing down CD sales - though that has had an obvious effect - it's a poor industry image, a lack of quality music, and an industry that is, generally speaking, not creating a product customers feel is worth spending money on.
We're also seeing a shift in how music-buying consumers expect to do business. The old model is simply outdated. For the longest time, it has felt like the recording industry has been trying to *force* the consumer to stay in the 20th century, in effect saying, "Do it this way or no way at all." But as we have seen, you can't stop a determined music-lover with easy-to-use technology at their disposal.
There's a lot of money to be made online for the company that creates a music service consumers feel is worth paying for. For the moment, it looks like that might be Apple with their iTunes music store. But even Apple is only scratching the surface of what will eventually evolve into the the new, digital music industry.
What about the latest attempt by the RIAA to go after a broader group of P2P file sharers? I can't blame the the RIAA for doing what they are doing. They are desperate to find some way to discourage piracy, and they've tried just about everything else. I don't think the lawsuits will have a serious long-term effect, though. People who want to steal will find a way to steal. For the rest, if you provide an alternative that is perceived as 'valuable,' I believe the average joe (or jane) will be willing to pay for it.
David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.