David Byrne’s Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists

First, a definition of terms. What is it we’re talking about here? What exactly is being bought and sold? In the past, music was something you heard and experienced – it was as much a social event as a purely musical one. Before recording technology existed, you could not separate music from its social context. Epic songs and ballads, troubadours, courtly entertainments, church music, shamanic chants, pub sing-alongs, ceremonial music, military music, dance music – it was pretty much all tied to specific social functions. It was communal and often utilitarian. You couldn’t take it home, copy it, sell it as a commodity (except as sheet music, but that’s not music), or even hear it again. Music was an experience, intimately married to your life. You could pay to hear music, but after you did, it was over, gone – a memory.

Technology changed all that in the 20th century. Music  – or its recorded artifact, at least – became a product, a thing that could be bought, sold, traded, and replayed endlessly in any context. This upended the economics of music, but our human instincts remained intact. I spend plenty of time with buds in my ears listening to recorded music, but I still get out to stand in a crowd with an audience. I sing to myself, and, yes, I play an instrument (not always well).

We’ll always want to use music as part of our social fabric: to congregate at concerts and in bars, even if the sound sucks; to pass music from hand to hand (or via the Internet) as a form of social currency; to build temples where only “our kind of people” can hear music (opera houses and symphony halls); to want to know more about our favorite bards – their love lives, their clothes, their political beliefs. This betrays an eternal urge to have a larger context beyond a piece of plastic. One might say this urge is part of our genetic makeup.

All this is what we talk about when we talk about music.

All of it.

That’s what I always say!

The Quietus | How The Music Industry Is Killing Music And Blaming The Fans

But the longer the industry continues to cling to old-fashioned values, the more people gravitate to illegal sources that are reliable, uncomplicated and modern. It’s an extraordinary situation: in a roundabout fashion, the wider industry is inadvertently preventing fans from legally accessing music in the manner they’d like to, and which technology has facilitated, while blaming them for stealing because they’re not so wild about the systems that have so far been approved.

Whether the industry likes it or not, music is now like water: it streams into homes, it pours forth in cafes, it trickles past in the street as it leaks from shops and restaurants. Unlike water, music isn’t a basic human right, but the public is now accustomed to its almost universal presence and accessibility. Yet the public is asked to pay for every track consumed, while the use of water tends to be charged at a fixed rate rather than drop by drop: exactly how much is consumed is less important than the fact that customers contribute to its provision. Telling people that profit margins are at stake doesn’t speak to the average music fan, but explaining how the quality of the music they enjoy is going to deteriorate, just as water would become muddy and undrinkable if no one invested in it, might encourage them to participate in the funding of its future. So since downloading music is now as easy as turning on a tap, charging for it in a similar fashion seems like a realistic, wide-reaching solution.

Interesting essay about all the extra labor musicians are expected to do and much much more.

Online Fandom ?? Fans or Friends?

Last weekend I gave a talk at the International Communication Association about the increasingly interpersonal nature of the relationships between musicians and friends. In it, I draw on the interviews I???ve done with musicians to identify some of the positive new rewards they get when they can interact directly with their fans, cover many of the tricky interpersonal issues they face in trying to negotiate how much those relationships can be like friendship, and briefly summarize the main strategies they use to manage boundaries in ways with which they are comfortable.

Here it is in PDF form for download:

Fans or Friends?

Any and all feedback (especially the constructive kind) is welcomed!

Rethink Music’s ‘Financing Creativity’ Panel Explores Concept of Fans as Patrons, Not Consumers | Billboard.biz

Bleu, a musician who’s been through the major label ringer, was Kickstarter’s artist of the year in 2010, utilizing that service — where the musician sets a monetary goal and a time limit, hoping fans will contribute money to fund the recording process — to collect some $40,000. Of course, not all artists who use Kickstarter, or a number of other sites like it, are quite so successful.”I think half of the projects still fail,” he said. “To me that’s great — it means it’s working for the people it should be working for.”

It’s a curious concept, the panel all agreed, that the microfunding model seems to be catching on, especially when you consider how difficult it has been to get consumers to spend 99 cents on a song. Why would they rather spend $10, or even $100?

“The thing that people want is to be involved directly and feel like they’re a part of it,” Bleu said.

In earlier days, the music industry was like playing the lottery, Gotcher said. “I’m a big believer in the emerging direct-to-fan business models. Artists need to think about creating a small business and building customers over time. I think there’s a real desire among fans to cut out middlemen of any type. There is a patronage motive.”

“Paying for music has become voluntary, Ron Nordin, a VC behind companies like Nimbit, said. “Essentially now, everyone becomes a patron rather than a consumer.”

That’s partly because they appreciate being able to pay the artist directly, but also because consumers are starting to realize if they don’t, the music might not ever be made.

Time Management for Bands: 12 Tips to Handle Social Media Overload – MTT – Music Think Tank

Currently, I’m trying to start a new band, filling in with another band, and I’m running a blog on how to run a band. And guess what? I’ve hit media overload. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogging–the social media list grows every day. I try to keep up, but it’s freakin hard! Not to mention I have a day job. Refreshing my Facebook page 30 times a day doesn’t help with job security. After backing off for a little bit, I’ve come up with a strategy to manage my time more efficiently. This post will concentrate on managing online activities since they can cut most significantly into a band’s time.

Chaos We Can Stand: Attitudes Toward Technology and Their Impact on the New Digital Ecology – hypebot

This shift has also changed what it means to be an artist.The traditional record industry has strongly reinforced a belief that artists should just be artists. As creators of cultural content, artists were told they should not have to worry themselves with how they are engaging with their audience; these activities were viewed as disturbances to their creative energy. But as we know, the age of the aloof artist, disconnected from his audience or not even knowing them at all, is long gone. It is not that there cannot be artists who center mainly on the process of creation, but for every artist that is not willing do get more deeply involved with their careers, there are many, many more who are willing to do the hard work.

Long essay by Kyle Bylin with many good points and references.

Social Media Tips from Musicians @ SXSW via CNN

While it would seem instinctive to offer up some netiquette wisdom from the tech set down in Austin (they packed the Texas capital for SXSW Interactive), we decided instead to pick some band kids’ brains from last weekend’s music fest. After all, musicians nowadays have to be much more plugged into the digital realm than their predecessors — even if they are just spending a goodly amount of time stream-of-consciousness tweeting (coughKanyecough). Without further ado, here are 10 tips from acts both up-and-coming and better-known, and an accompanying soundtrack to see you through the learning.