To Indie Artists and Dreams

by: Ken Dardis

SFHH (LOGO)In the increasingly difficult world of getting your music heard, indie artists are being supplied with unparalleled tools in the form of social media, web sites specializing in “helping” musicians with marketing, and audio platforms which promise unlimited access to the public.

To a degree there are positives within all of these offerings; but each needs to be viewed as a tool within a larger box. From some of my readings, that seems to be the missing perspective.

Take “Music Think Tank,” one of my favorite sites for artists, producers, managers, and those of us who frame ourselves as trying to help online. A recent exchange had one writer asking, “Is Reverbnation a good citizen in the music industry?” They went on to lay out reasons that the “why” should be a “not.”

As anyone running such an organization – myself included – Jed Carlson, President of ReverbNation, responded. His words are opinion, but carry a degree of truth – if only the indie artist would begin to see that the whole of the music industry is a business, and that the “artist” is only one piece (and, sadly, more of a commodity today than ever).

I’ve been in this game since internet radio was born, and been involved with the indie artist side of it for nearly as long. From my perch (please, keep in mind these are my opinions only), there is a tremendous disconnect between the artist, who believes that every note they produce has value, and those who are attempting to help artist market those notes.

Here is one unshakeable truism: It’s not being online that matters, it’s being found online. Here is another from my world: No matter how good you believe your music is the only opinions on this subject that matter come from a) the station owner who determines whether your song gets on their playlist; b) the audience members who request or pass over your tune(s).

There is no number to represent how many artists contact me with these words, “This song will knock you over.” Thanks, but that  opinion is only as valuable as it relates to other submitted songs – and as mentioned above, music has become such a commodity that songs are worth less than a dime-a-dozen today.

Due to the glut of music, it’s extremely difficult for an artist to get the attention of a radio station operator or consumer. Emphasis is on “extremely difficult.”

Every one of us has a dream. Some relish becoming a star. Others just want to play what makes them happy, and that comes from both sides of this fence (the artist and radio operator). One thing we all share is a desire to have an impact on someone, anyone.

Relative to an artist, while I may not agree with ReverbNation’s approach or rates for services, marketing music is worth something. If you find its rates too high, there are hundreds of other services to choose from – all with positives and negatives.

Relative to radio stations exposing new music, I’ve read where many artists believe they should be paid for any and all use of their music. What I’ve not seen discussed within music circles is artists giving credence to a station operator’s outlay of cash to gather their existing audience that the artist wants to be exposed to. It’s as if music is all that builds a station’s base, and that each and every song has equal value in that construction.

My theory is that if your name is Beyonce, Maroon 5, or any other group that’s received major airplay, there is value in your music being a draw. Let’s just keep in mind it was the exposure which made the public aware of all of these names.

But if you are releasing your 1st, 2nd, 3rd song and do not have a substantial following, and your main objective is gaining exposure, then the station that plays your song is taking a chance on you being a tune-out to its audience. Given these concepts, why should the fees paid to the established artists be equal to that paid to the newcoming indie acts?

Given that “exposure” is the main objective of any up-and-coming group, why should there not be, in the initial stage of exposure, an exchange of “airplay for exposure,” where no money changes hands?

The internet has made it possible for any indie artist to put their music out there to be found, which brings us back to the first mentioned problem: To be found, you not only need artistic talent but a degree of acumen in how to use multiple software programs and music platforms, at the expert level – and the majority of artists do not.

ReverbNation offers a total package. My offers an introduction to online radio programmers, along with packaging of the best submitting songs into programs that radio stations subscribe to. Again, there are hundreds of other services which you can explore. Finding that which is best for you is limited only by knowledge and time.

You’ve made the music. Your next decision is to evaluate the company or companies that will do an efficient job of getting your  music to the people who matter (programmers and consumers) at a price you believe is reasonable.

There is no “good citizen in the music industry,” only your opinion on which company can do the most for your dollars. All have a vested interest in an indie artist’s success because, with each, every artist that “makes the big time” is one more feather in the cap for the marketing company – and one more artist which can be used as proof that the company’s system works.

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