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So You Want To Be A Musician – Chapter 3

Chapter 3. Changes

There are so many things that are wrong with this screwed up industry these days it is hard to know where to begin. One particular bug bear of mine that has come to my attention over the past few weeks via posts on Facebook and other sources is this: bands giving their new EP or album away for free. You are idiots.

It’s a modern fact that one of the main problems within the music industry is the actual consumer him/herself. The internet – through streaming and file sharing – has led the modern consumer into believing that music is free, so when bands now give away their music for nothing they are helping to perpetuate that myth. Think about it! You have spent a couple of thousand pounds recording your EP, then having it mastered, mixed and put on to one of them shiny flat round things. Plus, there was all that cost in time spent writing, rehearsing and arranging the tracks. Honestly, what do you think it is going to do for you by giving it away for free?

Yes, it could increase your fanbase by roughly 5 – 10%…the people who are genuinely interested in hearing your music, so that’s a win. But I did say could! However, the remaining 90% are free loaders who will just get what they can for nothing and never bother you again (unless of course you release something else for nothing). It will make the band seem desperate for attention, which is not a image, especially when it comes back to booking gigs and festivals. You might even use this ploy to attract “likes” to your social media pages which is OK, but you will end up with the same scenario all over again; thousands of people liking your page but only two or three people commenting on a post or actually interacting with your band, so at the end of the day you have more or less shot yourselves in the foot.

So, what’s the answer?

Simple! Remember that phrase from the start of this book, ‘Your Band, Your Business’? Be proud of what you have achieved and what you have spent your hard-earned money creating. Give your music a value in monetary terms. Yes, if you want to give away something for free create a sampler that plays thirty seconds or so of each track, but do not give away full albums or EPs for nothing! That is just financial suicide and, as I said earlier, you will be helping perpetuate the myth that music is free. Think about it, what kind of message did it send out to the young record-buying public when U2, the so called ‘biggest band in the world’, gave away their last album for free? Exactly!
Look at what you have spent, weigh it up against the potential profit margin and what return on your investment you can expect to make. Investing in your business is the only way to keep you going. So many times I have heard bands say “we used a camera video because we could not afford to have a proper one done” or “our album is delayed because we could not afford the studio time”. Yeah, of course, if you are giving stuff away for free what the hell do you expect?

Then the desperation really sets in and you turn your attention to crowd-funding. Ninety-Eight percent of music related crowd-funding projects fail because the artist simply does not have the amount of die-hard fans who are willing to invest in their next project. This, in turn, leads to the artist or band feeling like a failure, completely dejected because they feel it is their fault. They may even ask themselves what the point of carrying on with music is, when no one seems to be supporting them. These can be cold facts and hard times for a creative musician to face. But suck it up and move on, Rock Star, no one said this was going to be easy!

You must invest money in yourselves to make a return. That is the same rule in any line of business, there is simply no cutting corners, and there’s no easy street. Yes, it is a very competitive market out there and it is tough to sell your physical products but there are solutions to these problems as well. One way is to develop an effective mailing list. For example, give away a free single BUT only to people who have to join your mailing list to receive one. You see, most people who want music for free will not give their email address to a sign up form, this then eliminates a lot of the time wasters and gives you a database of people who would genuinely love to hear from your band about your news, tours and special offers. You can also entice ‘proper’ fans by offering exclusive video premieres. This makes your fans feel special and valued. Yes, it is a fair amount of work to set up but believe me it will benefit you better in the long run than any run-of-the-mill social media post.