Musicians, what are we going to do?

When I decided to upgrade the website, I started with a blank page and wrote down what I thought is important. The idea of a blog came right away, but then I had to decide: what am I going to write about? About recording? About mixing? Well, that is interesting (and I wrote an ebook which is available for free download about these processes and how to prepare for them); however, the first thing was to step back and try to look at the overall music business industry from the point of view of the musician. The next step is a logical one, and I hope it will be of major interest to you, the musician: what can a musician do to stay afloat in this crazy musical waters? I still play (not as often as I did it years ago), so I’m quite interested too in some answers, and I hope I will get some from you, the reader.

So yes, I am inviting you to a debate, as I am sure that we all have to gain from it.

First, let’s think for a while about this music industry. Many years ago, music used to be a major form of entertainment; the access was easy and ticket prices were way cheaper than today. Today the major act tickets are very expensive, and, except the local clubs/bars and some traditional festivals (where usually musicians are not paid enough), there is not too much in between. There is a higher need for music today, however music became part of a larger package, package that creates an image to sell a product.

“Things have changed” said Dylan in his song, and he was right. Today we live in the corporate world, which usually tries to place everything in a database model so it can control everything at any given time. By nature, music is against any constrictions and is meant to break the rules. However, at no time in history the society was controlled the way it is today. 

Just think of the pace of life. I remember I used to spend hours and days between the speakers of my turntable listening to Zeppelin, Floyd, Fleetwood Mac, Yes and so many others; today I would not have this time. That was the thing, the essence of them all: to listen, to enjoy, to dream, to admire, to take the message of the music and do something with it. Today, most of the people listen in cars between news, on mobile devices, on headphones, while they’re doing something else. Overall, they listen for the same or larger amount of time, however, their main focus is not anymore so much on music, as music complements our everyday life and became something normal. Of course, we develop preferences – probably a more accurate statement is we’re guided to develop preferences.

Today musicians have to make a living paying attention to the business side; the yesterday structures that made the music business changed a lot. Music became like a regular business, where most of the folks are running a small business, few make millions, and some live on minimum wage. Meanwhile, the big guys are riding on these small businesses, as they can pick and invest in the most original and successful.  They make money because they can invest major funds, have all the structures in place and are able to shape the crowd preferences, creating both the needs and the solutions.

Big businesses make money from all these artists no matter what- did you ever thought that you pay the internet provider for your web hosting, you either pay or put a lot of time (and time IS MONEY!) into making your website, going into forums and get involved in discussions so you get more hits and more noticed, you post videos and youtube advertises over it and eventually pays you just a few cents- and by the way, youtube doesn’t even spend a cent for video/music production). All of these things are keeping you away from making music, and here is the new reality: being a musician usually is not enough, you have to be business oriented and dedicate some time to this side. And we can look at it either like a curse or a blessing, it is our choice of what we want to make out of it.

I invite you to go through many different aspects of this business over the weeks and months to come. I had many discussions with musicians and I have some ideas I want to share, some most likely controversial. Leave comments and observations and I would definitely publish the interesting ones. I am a firm believer in the analytical and logical thinking, in constructive conversations that foster and analyze new ideas, and we can help each other further our music, as we all love it more than anything else, and ultimately make a decent living out of it…because it is definitely within our reach!

Stay tuned, 

Flo Fandango.

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