Yep, so I mentioned in my last blog post that in being musicians for a living, we have had to come to terms with and accept the ‘business side’ of music (and did so very reluctantly, I might add!).
Well, the music BUSINESS it really is. So far our experience has taught us to be really, really, really, really, really careful not to get ‘bitten’. And there are people trying to ‘bite’ us on a daily basis, which has inspired us to pass on a little real life story, so please, especially if you’re a musician too, read on...
When the Internet came along, it changed the music business beyond all recognition. Major Labels were no longer the be all and end all, they no longer were the major gatekeepers holding all the cards. Their Marketing Execs, big studio budgets and access to large audiences were no longer the only way to get your music to the ears of the general public. Their power to get your album on the shelves was also undermined by downloads, and consequently not many of the majors exist anymore. All because they didn’t diversify and move with the times...they buried their heads hoping that times weren’t a changin’.
GREAT! How cool is it that it?! The music industry was blown wide open. These days anyone can record a song at home on their computer, or make a video, post it on YouTube, Facebook, whack it up on Amazon/iTunes and Bob’s your Uncle... they’re a Musician with a song on iTunes virtual shelves. (We did it. Even Uncle Bob can do it!).
Yep! (and why not?) As a result we have a massive tsunami of ‘independent’ music out there, ranging from really awesome to really not so good, to be polite. Those serious about a career in music can easily make a great start, and those who aren’t can have a lot of fun and indulge a hobby in the way they want. It’s all swings and roundabouts though, great as it is for there to be no real barriers to achieving that mentioned above, it creates problems too. Like how on earth do you shine through that wall of noise? But that’s another story.
Possibly the most worrying problem, though, is the rise and resurfacing of the ‘Shark’. Music, as we all know, is something many dream of doing. I did, and Carley did too. And with so many people putting their music out there, either in hope of making it a career, or just to play rock star to their friends, inevitably there are those who simply want to make money from those dreams. Sharks. (Derr Dum...Derr Dum). And there are seemingly millions of them out there, ready to tell you whatever you want to hear in order to relieve you of your hard earned cash.
They can come in all shapes and sizes. Some in the guise of Indie ‘labels’, who kiss your ears (not literally) and tell you how promising your music is, but ultimately before they sign you, you need to pay them £0,000’s upfront for some ‘service’. Recording or PR for example. We were so close to falling for this ourselves that it isn’t even funny!
I’d like to be careful here to take the time to not to discredit the genuine Indie labels who are in it for the right reasons and really help break and nurture great artists. We have an affiliation with a US Indie Label ourselves, Indie On Air, based in Indiana, who are such good folks and genuinely passionate about music.
Those of you who have been supporting us for a while will know that we ‘dodged a bullet’ last summer in this exact way. Rather than hide it away, we’ve decided to tell the story in hope that it might help others avoid such a fate!
Here’s how it went down: Keen and full of motivation, we submitted our songs to a ‘label’ who expressed interest and wanted to meet us. We spent a lot of time researching these guys, checking out their past successes and their current roster. Looked pretty impressive and checked out. After chatting via email and a couple of SKYPE calls later, they invited us to their bona fide office and studio in London. Off we went, they said they wanted to “work with us” and we left feeling like we had a future with them, all that was left was to agree a date for the studio to kick things off.
Then came an email, along with a contract to sign, casually mentioning the cost of recording to “kick things off”. £3,000 for 3 days in their studio. Woah. Bit of a shock, right? But on the other hand, do we believe in our music? Yes we do. We’re happy to invest blood, sweat, tears and so also our hard earned cash to make this work. After careful consideration we said “Looks great, can we see a copy of the record deal you promised us, signing us to your label and what you will do for our career if we spend thousands of pounds with your studio?”
Needless to say, we never set eyes on this so called ‘contract’....and alarm bells were ringing louder than the day we had a BBQ in the Fire Station!
So, we called their bluff. We said “if you really believed in us and the music we make, then there would be no money upfront and a contract on the table” They told us if we wanted a record deal then we had to invest this money in their studio...interesting, then that without our £3000 there was no deal to be had....coincidence? We think not. We ran away, flapping faster than a naked Parachutist.
Since then, on a daily basis we come across these Sharks in ‘Pay to Play’ gig venues, ‘Play for Airplay’ Radio Stations, ‘Producers’ who promise the world for an upfront fee. A great place to meet them all is internet based ‘auditioning’ platforms who claim to ‘get your music out there’. On these websites you even have to pay to subscribe or pay ‘per submission’ to the Sharks. Crazeeeee! Imagine having to pay to submit your CV for a job interview?! (Although I might actually, if the job was Chief Taster at the Guinness Brewery...).
Don’t get us wrong, everyone wants to get paid....and rightly so if they have something genuine to bring to the table. But these guys don’t. What they have to offer won’t change your World. Generally, if someone asks for money upfront, walk away people. And so it seems that the musician is fast becoming the biggest customer in the music industry...
Happily, we’re now avoiding these guys, and getting a little success because WE work hard at it. And it’s a good job we love music so much too...we couldn’t live without it, or do it without you guys being with us for the journey...So hold on tight, it might be a bumpy ride!
Thankfully, all this was back last Summer. The moral of the story being that there is no sure fire way to overnight success, short of the whole X-Factor thing...and even then, your success tends to be over, overnight! So is that success or just 15 minutes of fame?!