Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Going it alone (DIY or DI-die)

Am I going to look in the mirror in five years and see a musician or a sleazy marketer?

Start with the obvious: the music industry has changed and continues to do so.  Music bloggers and advice-givers often talk about the old model versus the new model.  In the old model, you write your songs, play where you can, and hope you get heard by the right person and eventually hand-picked for a record label.  It was kind of like winning the lottery.  As a band or singer-songwriter playing your own music you really had no shot to make a living without distribution, and record labels were the ticket-holders.

That model still holds, but only for a very small minority of artists, and sadly only a small minority of those artists end up benefiting from the relationship in any lasting economic way.  So it should come as good news to artists like us that we need not depend on major labels anymore to "make it," but can do it ourselves.  The new model consists of establishing a fan base through a combination of live performing and social media marketing, and then monetizing the relationship with your fans.  The big buzz-acronyms are DIY (do-it-yourself) and DTF (direct-to-fan).  The new way to make a living playing music.

The problem with all of this is that there's a reason they stuck with the old model for 80+ years:

Artists SUCK at marketing. They just want to play their tunes.

We're no exception.  If we haven't made it clear up to this point in writing this blog, making our music is our motivation for just about everything we do; we live and breathe for it.  So I'm sitting here TWEETING (never thought I'd be saying that), wondering, is this poisoning my creativity?  Am I "selling out"?  Don't get me wrong, nothing makes me feel warmer and fuzzier than hearing from and engaging with fans.  Whether on social media or in person, there's nothing I'd rather do than talk to someone who was moved by our music.  But it's all the politics, the "who you know," the branding, the website building, merch ordering, and yes, ass-kissing that, if left unchecked, can really wear on the spirit.  We have to keep after all this and keep our live act in shape and keep writing songs and work our day jobs, and dishes and laundry and groceries and exercise and vet visits and taxes and I'M JUST ONE PERSON!

Quit bitching.  Lots of people have it harder.  You get to play music.

Phew, that was close.

I found this article of Jack White quotes, which helps me power through, and I always have good old Louis C.K. to keep things in perspective when I turn into a winey, spoiled hipster.  Don't want to be that guy.

I think I'll play guitar now.


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