Hi everyone, back for another round of blogging. I have been doing a lot of thinking about how the music business has been affected by the internet, downloading and now of course the economy.
One friend recently said to me that a CD is like a business card. I agree but damn those are expensive business cards!
I have noticed over the last 7 years a definite change in the way people respond to the prospect of buying a CD. Way back in 2002, a band could expect to sell at least 10-20 CDs if they had a decent act and good songs to perform. I have watched that amount dwindle to much less at most shows and the familiar refrain “I’ll just get it off of Limewire.” The fact that music is free now is a tough thing to accept but as a modern musician, I have to come to grips with that fact.
Another producer friend of mine pointed out a story to me that he had read recently. EMI music is the 3rd largest label in the world. They have 14,000 acts on their roster. Guess how many made money last year? 200 out of 14,000. That ought to tell you something about the music biz. Better do it for the love, not the money.
Now the conundrum. If band X spends $10,000 on their 5 song EP, how do they recoup the money?
Take some guesses. If you said CDs you would be wrong, nobody really buys them anymore. If you said downloads, you would also be wrong. After Itunes takes their cut and then the distributor takes their cut, you are left with almost nothing. I have seen downloads where we literally got paid $0.01 per song. That is not the answer I’m afraid.
Playing live you say? Sure if you have a market you have managed to build up over a year or more but you can only go to that well so many times as an independent band. Eventually, once you start to tour you will bleed money if you don’t do it right.
What do you think gives a band the best chance of getting their money back out of the CD they spent it on? T-shirts. That’s right, t-shirts are the single fastest/best way to get money back for a band.
Being in an independent band once meant rebelling against authority, trying to be artistic and not changing your ideals for anyone or anything.
What are you if you are in a rock band now? T-shirt salesmen, simply for the fact that you cannot download a t-shirt. Pretty strange really, considering that just 7 years ago we (Fear Zero) were able to sell enough CDs and make enough money from royalties etc. without t-shirts that I was able to cover most of the cost of making the first CD ($20,000 or so).
We did a tour in 2007 sans t-shirts. Big mistake! We probably could have chipped a big chunk of debt off the credit with a decent couple of t-shirts.
Well, that is the way it is now and I have accepted it. If you are a musician, you need to as well. Sure, keep writing, performing, all that but remember, without a good t-shirt for sale you’re dead in the water.