Bands... I know the bars and venues are open until 4am... and there are bands playing too... but I was shocked at how much space was available at the conference. You complain you can't get people to return your calls or reply to your email (<-- singular), meanwhile, a number of the of people you're trying to get in contact with (or you should be talking to) are speaking on panels. You know who they are and where they'll be.
This is "lead a horse to water" at its best in the music industry.
FACTOR/Grant organization reps.
... and most importantly... full-time artists with experience and knowledge to share.
Advice isn't to tell you what to do, it's to help inform your decision making.
IndieWeek wasn't as big as CMW but it still would've been worth taking a couple days off work to attend (conference really should've been Fri/Sat/Sun). I always question how serious someone is about their music career if they can't get time off work... usually from a job they don't like anyway... that subsidizes their goal of a music career.
... again... very surprised most panels were 40% full.
I heard about several really excellent connections made by people I knew... and these are friends on the actual panels!
(Dirty secret, it was worth their time to show up to meet the other panelists just as much as it was to actually speak!)
So I took some notes on my iPhone. I tried to grab some "quote-esque" quotes and notes that might help spark some ideas or pass along some advice... or deliver a dose of reality.
Here's what I got from the 3 days:
"Consider FACTOR a rebate program... don't let it determine what you can and can not afford to do."
MusicOntario - Sometimes list of grants in newsletter
"Do you need a grant writer? No."
(But you should be getting at least a functional marketing plan from working with your grant writer.)
FACTOR reps will help you with the process.
Develop a relationship with them.
Starmaker vs Pledge Music - If you have the numbers, try for Starmaker
"Look 6-12 months in advance and plan accordingly if you want to apply for grants."
Coffee houses were the alternative to bars if you were underage.
Many things were financed by drug sales.
"Facebook is the water cooler now."
"... is this where the Hair-Club For Men meeting is?"
Producers Panel... :-)
"Co-production usually means they want you to put up all the recording time and expertise at a massive discount."
"Create snippets of songs, we don't need full songs to hear a great song."
"It can be the best song in the world but if there's no structure to support it [marketing/release plan] and get it heard, it doesn't matter."
"Demos, almost the rougher the better if you're shopping for a producer and looking for feedback."
"If you have to remove the shrink wrap from your demo, it's too late for real feedback."
"Don't get in the way of the performance, criticize it after it's over."
"Sometimes these contests offer great connections. It doesn't matter if you win."
"Cast stones and create ripples, be efficient with each new ripple you create and build your relationships."
"Country music needs a Nirvana moment."
"There are 100,000's of singers out there, what makes them want to say 'I want to see them!'"
"We all look the same... we're all blonde good looking girls."
"Programmers don't hold as much power as you think."
"A lot of people will sell you shit. They know they can't do anything for you but will sell you the dream, especially in the radio game."
"In my early 20's I hated the idea of co-writing because I was selfish. I hate myself for being against it all those years."
"Co-writing brings relationships."
"The old model of record company and artist is gone. They're aware of where money is coming in. It's all about business in a 360 deal."
"[Recorded] Music is a loss leader if you compare it to touring."
"It's alright to be yourself and say no."
"Things change so fast and it takes so long to set things up that what's hot today might not be hot tomorrow... and that's where the fear [of development] comes from."
"Learning how it was done doesn't mean that's how we're getting it done today."
"We work 7 days a week in this business. Don't tell me you don't have time. We see how you spend your time on your socials."
"The artist has to be excited to work with you [us/industry]."
"When I don't get results, I try harder to get results."
"You've got to work on your craft every day... regardless if you're 10 days or 10 years in."
"Get places on time. Taylor Swift is never late and she's busy as fuck."
"If you're a band, pick the person who's the best at talking to do the talking."
"When I started, we had no social media. I can't tell an artist what to do if a 12 year old kid can figure it out on their own."
"As soon as artists do all the work we [publicists] tell them to, we're out of a job."
"One bad deal won't ruin your career but doing one shady deal can ruin your rep."
"There's worse things to do in life than have to take your own drums down."
"In the beginning, if there was 50 people there, we'd talk to 50 people, if there was 100, we'd talk to 100, and did that until it was just too much to deal with."
"Every band is going to split up at some point... maybe it's not a bad idea to finish on a high point."
"If it's not in writing, it doesn't mean a fuck really."
"It's sometimes better to fill a smaller venue than have empty seats in a bigger place."
"Document all songwriting shares and performance shares on all recordings as you go or before you release."
"A drink and a handshake can count as intent to do business... but it's not a contract."
"This is a great time to be an artist because there's no rules and that creates huge opportunity for an entrepreneur."
"I've done all the bad stuff [touring/visas] and the internet doesn't let you do that anymore. They Google you, and you're screwed."
"You get to a certain level [in your career] where insurance needs to be in your budget."
"You hire us. We work for you. If you're not happy with the supplier, punt them. Find someone else because there's lots of great people in this business."
Everything You Need To Know About The Music Business - Canadian Edition
"If you walk into a bar or restaurant and they're playing cd's or iTunes, they are screwed [if not signed up to pay royalties]."
"Do your paperwork, get paid."
(re: SOCAN, neighbouring rights)
"The reach of radio is massive, but listening time is short, maybe 9 minutes at a time, that's why we play the hits so often."
"Most radio programmers are old and believe the best music was in the 70's and 80's, and everything new is crap."
"Until they [radio programmers] retire or die off, we're kinda stuck in a rut."
(re: new music on the radio)
"There use to be 100's of people making 1,000,000's of dollars, now there's 1,000,000's of people making 100's of dollars."
"Don't aim for the big markets when starting out pitching to radio. Smaller markets/unrated radio stations are a better place to grind early on."
(but you won't chart because they don't report)
"Play. Play, play, play, play... play 150+ shows a year and you'll build a fanbase from the ground up."
"Radio guys will tell you what you need to hear to get you off the phone. But they'll tell me [radio tracker] your song is crap."
(digital music delivery service)
"Don't spend all your money on recording if you don't have any to promote it."
"Don't be afraid of the hometown play."
"There's not a lot of local feel to a nationally syndicated radio station."
"We all love food. Bring some food and it's easier to make time to talk."
"Often you don't know what your record needs to sound like to get played on the radio."
"We don't exactly get the giraffe money we used to with sync and royalties... you know... enough money we could be buy a giraffe because hey! We have that kinda money now!"
"A lot of the bands we work with come in through people we trust."
Emerging Artist Program
"Play show, after show, after show... bands will talk, people will talk."
"Be in the mix, be out there."
"Cold calling doesn't work because we're busy talking to people we know and don't pick up the phone from people we don't know."
"Send it with a link... I won't take 10 minutes to Google your band."
"Blast emails suck. And we can tell when we get one."
"50-60 shows on the road will change a band."
"Your branding needs to be professional. We need to be able to sell you to an audience."
"We don't have that power anymore... we can't make stars anymore."
"You'll get to quality [live show] through quantity. After you have quality, then you can start turning down shows."
"You have a day job?? Sorry I thought you have a publishing deal and want to have a career as a songwriter."
"Don't go to friends and family for feedback."
"I usually open and close with something positive, but I put what I think in the middle."
"You usually get one shot... the first impression always factors into future consideration."
"Do not make it personal, do not get mad at us for our opinions. You came to us for help and advice. We don't owe you anything."
"Let the radio stations know where you are, try and arrange to stop by. It'll be a treat especially in the smaller markets."
"What's in it for me? What's in it for me and my company? Have something to show me that's good for me and my company! Prove it!"
"An agent wants to hear on the recording what they're going to hear live."
"I listen to everyone through my laptop speakers. That's the first test."
#DearBands - If you want a career in music, do what you can to cross paths with people who do music for a living.
- Mike :-)
... picture taken from the Demo Listening panel I was on. Good times.
... such a good show.
I've been a fan of Mew for around 10 years and had a chance to see them 6-7 years ago at the Mod Club here in Toronto. I don't always assume I'll get a chance to see bands from Europe here (Mew is from Denmark), so when they add a date, I do my best to grab a ticket!
... bought back in June... first day they went on sale.
So Mew is doing well over in Europe and it's always a roll of the dice how bands that are used to playing larger venues can handle a smaller club again. When they played the Mod Club, they had an elaborate lighting/video show that went along with the set... not the case last night. No space! But it's a great environment to test a band... small venue... where you can be close enough to see facial expressions even if you're at the back of the room.
I wouldn't say Toronto is a "rock" city, and I wouldn't say Mew is a "rock" band, but they put on a great rock show last night. They took the stage, waved to the crowd, cracked a few jokes, thanked the audience throughout the set, and played the shit out of that stage for 90 minutes. A good mix of older tunes and the new album (which I haven't given a good listen to yet).
One song in particular, Snow Brigade, is what got me hooked years ago. They didn't play it at the Mod Club show, and I was a little disappointed. We always want to hear our favourite songs live... see how well it stacks up to the recordings we love.
They nailed it.
Right off the opening/intro riff, I scanned around to a few friends in attendance and we all looked at each other... this is happening!!!
The set felt a little long (90 mins) but nobody was complaining... the fans got their monies worth for sure. I overheard a few people discussing the show on the subway ride home... thumbs up all around.
The Dodo's put on a decent 45 min set to open the show. 2-Piece (guitar/singer, drums) from San Francisco, very angular guitar driven (duh) rock songs but the drummer made it interesting. The reviews were mixed on his choice of drum parts... he was literally just playing the drums (floor toms) most of the time... it was different, but it worked. They played the tune I wanted to hear early in the set (Competition), so I got my fill early on... I thought they were a good fit for the bill though.
... good ol' guitar bands.
- Mike :-)
P.S. Mew was scheduled to go on at 10:15pm and they went on at 10:15pm. It's always nice when Toronto shows don't run on Toronto time!
The last week articles like this were showing up on my Facebook feed. While it's great we can look at some numbers and see vinyl sales (revenue) are apparently doing better than streaming sales (revenue), what are we really looking at here?
Revenue... not actual consumption.
... what's more important if you're an artist?
... here's a few things I take into consideration when looking at articles like this.
Vinyl (stamp) collections are cool.
Growing up as a 90's kid, CD collections were cool. You bought CDs not just for the music but also for the social aspect of it, to grow your collection... then when people came to your house, they saw your cd collection and how great your taste in music was... and factor that into how cool you were.
(... plus you could offer to lend and trade albums.)
Now I'm not saying I was cool, but I was aware of how my music collection reflected my own "coolness" and my taste in music was either going to add or subtract from my cool factor... and I did my best to buy 2-4 pre-owned CDs a month.
(... mind you, this all went out the window once we could download music and burn CDs... then it was more about being good with computers... and having internet.)
Living downtown Toronto, this is super apparent and an great conversation piece, especially between collectors and fans of vinyl.
I'm blown though how much some people spend on records, and once they have whatever album they were excited about, they move onto to wanting the next... often announcing they're holding themselves back from buying more!
(... just wait until you move out of your 2nd floor apartment with all that vinyl! That's how I felt about my books last move... I've since got a library card.)
It's a collectors thing though. You name the medium, the enthusiasts share a common thread and tone when they talk about their collections. Most people have their "thing" and vinyl can most definitely one of them.
The gaming industry went through something similar a couple years ago. Xbox One (Microsoft) decided against physical copies, not only encouraging downloads but making it mandatory (which is great for the game developers and publishers getting paid!), but a chunk of the gaming community wasn't too happy about it. On this, Playstation 4 (Sony... ironically) announced they'd absolutely continue with physical copies, and sorta threw Microsoft into the fire over their decision.
... and then Microsoft caved.
The main arguments for physical copies: ability to share/trade game copies with friends, take their copy over to a friends to play, re-sell later, buy pre-owned copies for a lesser price.
The main arguments for digital downloads: instant access to new games on release date or whenever (no need to wait for stores to open), instant access to new or extra content (patches), all users are assumed to have access to the internet for online play, developers and publishers can track sales easier and get paid.
Think about that for a minute...
... 58, 59, 60!
Revenue doesn't always reflect how people are actually consuming (music).
There's a reason record players were traded in for cassette decks... and it wasn't sonic quality.
We want music on the go!
Think about how awesome it would've been to have a record player in your car???
(... or public transit!!?)
Wait... I'm sure people just continued listening to the radio because it just wasn't really sensical to have a record player in your car... but with the creation of the cassette tape, it was now possible to take your purchased music in the car! Then the walkman... then the CD player came along... but that would probably skip in the car... then anti-skip! Then we had 5+ CD changers in the car... then MP3 cds... then the iPod...
You see where I'm going with this?
Imagine you can play your own radio stations on demand. That's streaming.
Imagine your entire record collection on demand. That's streaming.
Imagine everything on demand... that's streaming.
Right now I'm listening to a playlist on Songza, an app/service I pay $0/month for, so there's no revenue coming from me but they still have (although low) payouts for the content (music)... and I safely listen to Songza about 3-4 hours a day.
(... also this is streaming on my iPhone via WiFi.)
These playlists are where I discover new bands and where I can also give "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" (analytics people!)... and some bands I'll check into on Facebook and some I just have to see when they come play Toronto.
Even amongst my vinyl loving friends, I can't think of any that listen to records 3+ hours a day... but I know they download, and I know they stream... and they don't listen to vinyl in the car... or on public transit... but they're typically always listening to something somewhere.
...this: The porn industry either grossed or netted (does it even matter once you see the number??) $10-$12 billion in the US last year... alone.
... billion... for those of you who are not great at math, there's 1,000 millions in 1 billion.
Where is that money even coming from... since nobody knows anybody who's actually paying for it...??!
Concert Revenue > Everything Else
... this: "Billboard conservatively estimates that the global touring industry is approaching $20 billion annually -- its highest level ever." - BillBoard.com
If you're in a band and you want to make money? Get good and get out there and play.
It's going to be a grind for a while but performing live is where you build your career and eventually where you get paid
The bottom has fallen out of making money off recorded music that's sold on plastic... remember, the value (revenue) wasn't from the music or content on the plastic, but from the price the record companies (or "we" in an independent market) could charge for whatever piece of plastic it was on... that's why The Beatles and William Hung get signed and you might not.
You're still going to need some great recordings (of your best songs), videos, and merch (possibly including vinyl!) to help satisfy your fanbase and advertise the music, but with the idea it all needs to put pressure on the garden hose of playing live that will hopefully fill the bucket. Everything else should eventually be drops in comparison.
If you read the article, they're saying One Direction and Justin Timberlake grossed (not net) almost $500 million in 2014... one year!
... and their fans will have to buy another ticket if they want to see the show next (this) year.
(Even if they took home half of that, that's a decent return.)
... unlike recorded music... where in the next 10 years (for sure), we'll all be paying $9.99/month or less to listen to anything we want... from Michael Jackson to your neighbours amazing Grindcore band. It'll all be available through streaming... and with innovations like blockchain technology, the plays/spins will be recorded and any and all revenue will be easily and directly distributed.
Those are the numbers I want (and can't wait) to see.
- Mike :-)
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!