Thought so: It’s simply impossible to manage the effort of self promoting music on a major scale – not before we managed “(quantum) non locality on the macro scale” (i.e. being in one or more places simultaneously). Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails tried and gave up. Other independent artists promote themselves very consistently and successfully, but it seems you can’t reach the bulk of fans this way.
Here’s an interesting discussion on a live G+ Hangout among independent artists and formerly signed ones about the way where the business is headed and what the opportunities are for independent artists – if you’re willing to wear different hats and put in a major effort, that is.
How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?. Wow. If you’re an artist and want to keep the faith – don’t read. If you’re a fan and believe in “exposure” – read. If you’re neither nor – <sarcasm> find a pirate bay and don’t bother.</sarcasm>.
I am stoked!!!! Recently, Wes Gillespie of Smooth Jazz Radio Station JazzNet 247 selected my tracks I Count on U and Naiad Theme for his fine programming. This in itsself would be an incredible treat alone, but it gets even better: I recently checked his playlist and was almost falling from my chair from detecting myself among all the BIG names of the genre! Upon tuning in to his radio show, I hear a radio jingle with announcements of the songs to air during the second hour of his show and – shock again! – he placed an announcement of my track between Brian Culbertson and – Herbie Hancock!! I mean – come on!!! This is getting better than whatever dreams I may have had in my late teens and early twens! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!
Some of my Facebook family and friends might be tempted to think, I was presenting myself extra-humble in order to “solicit” more attention or support, but no! Take my word on this: I am really, really almost in disbelief over all the incredible things that have started to happen for me!! And excited and thrilled at the same time, of course!
Again, my heartfelt gratitude to all of you, who have and are supporting me in ways I could not have imagined! This is major, major, major and means EVERYTHING to me! And know that I keep working on my chops and material. After all – what could be better than knowing there is an appreciating audience waiting for more to come?
Thank you all! At this point, I’d like to mention Brian O’Neal, who got the ball rolling for me about one and a half years ago, by inviting me to collaborate on his track and then video Dreams in Color and by getting the word out. Please consider supporting his charity organization DO Foundation that came from this musical collaboration. Also, a big shoutout to April Sims and Christopher Fields on WAGTi Radio, for inviting me to be among the first interview guests when the station launched under that name in March 2009. After that, I soon found myself invited on a couple more stations getting interested in airing my music and finding out about my work. Cres O’Neal, Gary Fuston, Mary Ann of U S Smooth Jazz Network, Marissa Caliguire to name a few more – thank you dearly! Please find the complete list of stations and radio presenters here.
This is incredibly exciting, people! Thank you!
wesbound, October 2010
I’m pleased and honored to say that a number of radio stations and social media platforms have added my music to their rotation as well as done interviews with me re: my musical journey. I’m honored all the more, as these are stations playing the finest artists in Contemporary Jazz and Smooth Jazz. Please find a list of stations and networks, I’m currently airing on or have aired on in the past:
- WAGTi Radio, presented by April Sims and The Poetry Man with I Count on U
- Groove FM, presented by Peter Hoeld with Naiad Theme
- Jazz ‘em Up, presented by Crescentia O’Neal with Naiad Theme
- US Smooth Jazz Network, presented by Mary Ann Wexler
- GHP Radio, presented by Gary Fuston
- Phoenix98 FM, presented by Graeme Holiday and Andy Hubbard
- The Coast Radio, presented by MJ
- Smooth Grooves Phoenix, presented by Colleen Spencer
- Funky Jazz TV, presented by Donna Whittington and Bobby D
- Smooth Jazz Expressions, presented by Kerri Donovan
- eurosmoothjazz, presented by Eberhard Fruck
- WJCT Electro Lounge, presented by David Luckin
- JazzNet 247, presented by Wes Gillespie
- Smooth Jazz.com just notified me, I’ll get added to their playlist(s) on smoothjazz.com and smoothlounge.com – thanks Donna and Sandy!!! This is really exciting! (they are said to be the second largest, if not THE largest Smooth Jazz (web) radio station and network). Very cool!
My heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the presenters of those fine programs!
OK, so now there’s 36 bars of a guitar track for my next track in the making. This equals about half a day’s work. Why that much? And why was I being slow? Can’t I play at all? Let me explain:
I left it the way it is now at about the 30th take into it. When I say “take”, I mean to say one ENTIRE track of recorded guitar, from bar 12 through 38. Don’t get me wrong: I had a decent take on the first attempt, yes. But then: It was only decent. I don’t by any means claim that the current track is perfect or anointed or anything. But it’s the least quality I’m satisfied with. So now why does it take so long?
Ok: I found out that I sound more organic when doing “entire tracks of takes” – in this case: About 36 bars at ONE GO! That again means, if I mess up anywhere in between … – you guessed it! – I stop the recording, go right back to the top of the track and start all over. Most often, I delete the current take right away unless I feel there were some parts I might be using later (which I rarely do, given the approach of taking the entire track in one go). To give you an example: Let’s say, a string accidentally snaps or “tingles” (in not a musical way) on the neckboard at bar 37… YES! I go RIGHT BACK TO THE VERY TOP and start all over!!! And I keep doing that as many times as it takes for me to be “OK” with the recording. When I say OK I don’t mean to be fishing for compliments, either. It’s really just that: When I’m ok with it, that’s when I leave it as is and move on. No sooner than that. If that requires for me to come back for an entire week until I got it right – I will! If it means, I have to drop some heavier parts and play something simpler, I will. If it means I’ll drop the take altogether… I will. The bottomline: Only – when I can lean back and listen without getting a knot in my stomach, only THEN will I warm up to the thought of actually “freezing” the take and move on to the next one.
For the songs I’ve put out so far, there’s typically between 20 and 30 individual tracks. Not all of them are single instruments. Sometimes, there’s a track with only fill-ins on drums. Other times, there are some ad libs (“random” additions) on the instrument. Sometimes, it’s a midi-track I’ve already recorded, which I copy and assign a new sound to (to “fatten” it, mostly for bass sounds, sometimes for bass drum or snares). This is just about the “raw” process of tracking instruments. The editing process… guess, that will be a different chapter.
OK, now I’m gonna take a break and do a lap of bike-riding or swimming, then back to the “sweatshop” later LOL.
Have a great day, everyone!
Recently, a friend and I discussed the public perception of the concept of “indie artist“. That friend expressed her growing discomfort over the term being used in the first place, as it seems to get burdened with a number of preconceived assumptions about its nature that aren’t exactly beneficial to the cause of seriously, hard and professionally working independent artists. So let’s look at what makes an artist “independent” in the first place and how that is to be distinguished from artists, who are signed to a major record label (such as Sony, Warner Music Group, Universal Group etc.):
At the very least, an artist is defined by what they do, e.g. music, poetry, literature, movies etc. The better they are at what they do, the bigger their chances of getting wider exposure, i.e. appeal to more people. For the sake of this post and for reasons of feeling better qualified to speak, let’s focus on music as an art form. So at a very basic, oversimplified level, there is no real difference between a signed and unsigned aka independent artist in nature. The better their music sounds, the more people will be attracted to it (we’ll look at quality further below). Very simple. Or not? Which brings us to the next aspect:
Let’s say, your music is so great, you are sure the world will be a better place for getting a chance to listen to it. How do you get the word out? Distributing free samples, e.g. handing out free CDs to friends, co-workers, family? Posting free music on all major digital outlets on the web? Buying ad space? Playing gigs and concerts every weekend in your local vicinity or touring the county, state, country? Good question. Let’s look at this:
An independent artist bears all financial risks out of their own pocket, at least in the beginning and for a long time to come. Unless you come from a generous, wealthy family with a benevolent, supporting member, who act as your “angel investor” (term used with kind permission from April Sims), a good supporting friend or otherwise supporting party, who are willing to invest into your talent – you’re on your own. Which usually translates into: Saving enough money to produce your music at first, and saving some more to get the word out (marketing). How do you do that? Unless you have that benevolent donor throwing money at you, you have to sustain yourself (and/or family) by holding one or more day jobs. Whatever spare time is left – and which is usually “spent” on socializing, being with family, working on overall health and fitness – often goes into practicing your instrument(s), writing music, booking studio time to get it recorded (unless you are lucky enough to have your own studio, which most only do after they’ve had substantial success), scheduling band rehearsals, booking live appearances, producing marketing materials of all kinds… there is a ton of activities involved. In a nutshell: An independant artist, who is serious about eventually making money with their music, is or has to become a full-fledged entrepreneur operating in a self-employed manner. If you have never been self-employed, allow me to digress for a minute and give you an analogy as an example:
Let’s say, you’re holding a white-collar type of job in a corporate office somewhere (easier for me to “showcase”, as I come from such a background). You show up anywhere between 7.30 and 8.30, pour yourself another cup of coffee at the machine in the hallway or kitchen, while the computer boots up, you come back, there’s a post-it on your phone “call head of department first thing” (uh-oh…), a co-worker waits in your cubicle upon your return, informing you of the meeting scheduled for 9.30, while you listen to a message on your answering machine to return that client’s call asap. In other words: There is a bunch of infrastructure in place for you to work with. All that infrastructure doesn’t exactly come for free. Someone paid or is paying for it – usually your employer. You ONLY get to use it in order to make them some money. If you don’t deliver – you might find yourself getting fired. In which case your only “liability” is the missing pay-check (and that can be devastating enough). I have not heard of a case yet, where a fired employee was charged for having used that infrastructure – unless they were excessively using it on behalf of personal matters. In the case of music artists – and that goes especially for signed ones! – you are prompted to return the expense the company has put out for you in getting you “made”. Read this again and let it sink in: If you fail to generate the anticipated sales from your record(s) when signed to a label, they will request a good deal of their initial expense (e.g. signing “bonus”) back – from YOU! Which means in our analogy: You just got fired and on top of it, you find yourself being faced with bills from your former employer for having used phone, fax, computer, coffee machine, locker rooms, the corporate parking lot, cleaning services… etc. etc. – get the idea? (It’s an analogy – for reasons of making a point, I may not be ALL accurate as far as details, but the major idea applies).
Fine. As an entrepreneur the same principle applies. However – YOU have to figure a way of establishing that infrastructure FIRST and BEFORE there is even a chance of a return on investment (other than having faith in yourself and your art to make the limelight in some way). How? By saving money from your office-job. Or by applying for a loan with your local bank and a payment plan to return it. Probably some of both. Which brings us back to the top of this paragraph…. In case you fail – no money being generated as in: No records or concert tickets sold – guess what: You’re sitting on a pile of debt in addition to the mortgage, car payments, health insurance plan, your 401k plan, money sent to Mom’s and Dad’s …
You now have a bit of an idea as to what some of the “back office” processes are. Ok. Being quite the optimist you are and still feeling great about your music, you are sure to beat all that with major, major success. Because your music not only sounds great, it can live up to any of the big names’ music easily. And this again, because you made sure that the quality – technical as well as musical – is stellar. Well – as shocking as it might be: That is a prerequisite! In other words: We shouldn’t even have to mention it. Much like showing up for your day job: When you show up, your boss will expect you to perform at maximum level. They don’t want to hear of an onset of flu that’s currently roaming your children’s school and got half of the neighborhood infected in the process. They don’t need to know about Mom going to hospital for yet another operation with an uncertain outcome. They couldn’t possibly care less about you having partied on the weekend and feeling “under the weather” from it. Same goes here: Trouble getting stellar sound quality? Couldn’t convince your extra-talented drummer friend to play on your track? The studio’s engineer was on a different assignment? Or for live situations: Mixing board had some dysfunction? The club’s walls are made from brick instead of covered with wall paper, which had your band sound all different? Your favorite live mixing engineer couldn’t make it for traffic, so the soundcheck didn’t really happen? Nobody needs to know that. They paid a cover charge or concert ticket and came to hear you being at your very best. How you manage? None of their business. So, quality – simply has to be there, no matter what.
Fine – WHAT is an indie artist then?
OK, agreed: I gave a lot of analogies and examples to depict the situation and hopefully make it more apparent to people outside the music industry. Now, for the answer to above’s headline: An independent artist is an entrepreneur acting on behalf of their own. Major difference to a signed artist is the fact that they have to create, sustain and operate the entire associated infrastructure by themselves and at their own expense. So, an indie artist is anything or ALL of the following: Composer, musician – or many musicians, if multiinstrumentalist -, arranger, recording engineer, producer, marketer/public relations expert, sales person, booking agent, promoter, band’s music director, technical and personal facilitator, accountant, part-time lawyer, general manager of publishing company (in case they have their own label/music publishing company), in short: The mulitple hat-wearing, jack of all trades, 360 all purpose, one-face-to-the-customer, all-knowing, all-handling, omnipresent, omnipotent, supernatural… human power-plant, running on personal faith, drive, ambition, vision and – love for the cause.
Any questions? Hit me up.
wesbound, June 2010
P.S.: I’d like to suggest the term “autonomous artist” from now on.
via Jazzdrummerworld.com: Interesting article on a new file format that might eventually supersede the somewhat dated MP3 format. The idea in a nutshell: Attach additional information like lyrics, photos, live tweets, updates of all kinds to the song itsself. Sounds promising to say the least. Apple as well as traditional major labels are experimenting with this format as well as derivatives. Digital music lovers should keep an eye open on that.
I’m pleased to report that the Naiad Theme is now available on both iTunes and Amazon as well as some other outlets, which I’ll try to find out about.