Until recent times indie musicians, unless they have a truckload of cash behind them, have had very limited control over the release of their material. Keen to have their music made available to the widest possible audience they 'climb aboard' the major distributors without giving much thought to alternative options.
I'm guilty of this myself. As soon as I had the money, I released three albums on iTunes in the space of seven months. The initial sight of seeing your name and your album in the iTunes store is rather exciting. With that comes the iTunes logo and "...buy it on iTunes..." alongside a song that you have on iLike. This, to my mind, is where things start going pear-shaped.
As things currently stand and have stood for quite some time, material that artists wish to have on iLike need to be uploaded via Garageband. I don't know why this is & have no interest in finding out. Once material is available on iLike, listeners can play these tracks. Great publicity, you may think and to a point it is. When a listener plays a song on iLike, below the track appears the "...buy it on iTunes..." option. There is nothing more frustrating for the listener than proceeding with the intent of downloading only to find that the song isn't there. This is because the artist has not paid and made it available there. To my way of thinking is out and out deception and only serves to hinder the endeavors of indie artists.
iLike also 'recommends' to artists to have at least one free download as an incentive for listeners to return. As I have mentioned elsewhere this seems to be a fruitless exercise for the artist.
ReverbNation also employs the same strategy. Not every song by artists on Reverbnation are available on iTunes as the listener may be led to believe. Again, artists are encouraged to make free downloads available as 'fan' incentives. Additionally ReverbNation has a 'band equity' ranking system. This is based on daily song plays, returning visitors, new fans and 'fan interaction.' I find that 'fan interaction' tends to be somewhat overdone by some artists. By sending letters to fans who have joined an artists mailing list the artists ranking seems to be given a substantial boost. This leads to artists sending messages to their mailing list that aren't particularly pertinent, hence people are more inclined to 'opt-out.'
After overlooking the most obvious means of making ones' music visible to as wide an audience as possible I have recently released the album "Bullet" via Nimbit. This allows the artist the freedom to release material on the exact day that they wish to and have the ability to set what they think is a fair price.
Nimbit charges 20% for this freedom. They have a free account, which I am using, and two paid accounts which offer CD replication, merchandise, e-tickets and so forth.
Despite the almost unbelievable access to the globe at the click of a button there are obvious ‘hazards’ to be taken into account prior to ones’ first gig at Madison Square Gardens a week after discovering how to switch the computer on. Firstly if you are able to do this, with your limited background in computing skills, then so can a rather large amount of others.
Many artists seem almost overwhelmed to the point of gluttony when presented with these new avenues of reaching a global audience often to the point of completely losing their musical focus only to find themselves several years later with rather a lot of internet aquaintances, an awful lot of internet music site addresses and three songs that are “in pre-production.” …….whatever that is!
In my case I was guilty on the first two counts. Any music site that was free, I signed up to. Any ‘friend request,’ I accepted. Towards the middle of 2008 I decided & announced that I was going to ‘centralise’ my music to ReverbNation.
There are several reasons that I choose ReverbNation. It offers very specific and in-depth statistics; who’s listening to what & from where, percentage of song-plays, who’s reading your messages and so forth. It also offers outstanding internet promotional tools. In addition the site is transparent in that it can’t be ‘rigged’ by the artist (why one would want to, is beyond me).
Without a great deal of effort on my part I soon rose to the dizzying heights of #63 in the rock charts there in a field of close to 30,000. Very soon I inadvertently discovered the ‘knack’ to it. It is heavily dependent on communication with supporters and their participation. This discovery came when I didn’t visit the site for a few weeks and discovered on returning that I had dropped to position # 500-plus in the rock charts.
I was & am well-satisfied with my previous #63 ranking there I decided that, as they do say on the site, ones’ rankings are no guarantee of success.
Since then I also started up the adventurously named “Bob Findlay Music Page” on Facebook. Although primarily a ‘social’ site, after some investigating I discovered that it offered some handy functions as far as promotion, feedback and recruitment.
From the “Bob Findlay Music Page” on Facebook I am able to link directly to my previously neglected iLike account. From here I could post my songs directly onto my ‘personal’ page on Facebook and send songs to friends and supporters. My updates on iLike were also automatically transferred to the “Bob Findlay Music Page.”
I have found this to be a much easier and, more importantly, less intrusive means of communicating with those who choose to listen as opposed to sending out updates partly in order to maintain ones’ rankings. (Fess-up, we’ve ALL done it at some point). There are no rankings involved. It also allows a much easier, more direct and more personal avenue for supporters (and critics) to leave a comment.
A short time after this I went back on my word of a few months earlier and parted with a small amount of cash in order to release my first digital album ‘Blind Horse’ in late December, 2008, on iTunes and Amazon.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of music on the internet is access to it. Immediately I was consumed by the amount, diversity, & speed of availability. I was literally like a posessed “kid in a candy-store.”
It was at this point where my over-entusiasm combined with naivety led to quite a degree of time being wasted later down the track. So excited was I at being able to instantly access the likes of The Rolling Stones “Hand Of Fate” live from their 1975 tour that I’d soon forget where it had been ’saved’ as I whizzed on to look & listen to Warren Zevon live at ‘The Roxy‘ belting out “Lawyers, Guns & Money.”
As the initial weeks & months progressed I was amassing a phenomonal amount of material that I didn’t even know existed, particularly the material of Bob Dylan. Such is Dylans’ literary prowess as far as output is involved, his “Never Ending Tour” has seen countless hours of audio & video material available to the point where it is so difficult for him to legally control that, musically, he is ‘transparent.’ Watching one of his live bootleg videos of “Shelter From The Storm” gives an almost unnerving insight into the man. This is something of a paradox when one considers how difficult it is to ‘capture’ or ‘categorise’ Dylan outside of his profession.
This is in direct parallel to the first ‘supergroup‘, “Cream.” Due to the less self-serving attitude of their manager, Robert Stigwood, who had any material produced by the band so tightly guarded legally that the only available versions of the likes of “Tales Of Brave Ullyses” can only be sought in their rather brief discography, albeit fo $1 at a car-boot sale. Such limited availability flies in the face of Dylans obsessive outlook in regard to illicit profit being made from anything relating to him. This was evident even before he was ‘known.’ His early near-neurotic viewpoint on this seems to be totally out of his reach today & no doubt his line of interest. I guess one could say he “….used to care, but things have changed.”
There is also the issue of ‘value for money‘ for the consumer. One doesn’t have to go out & actually purchase an album &, typically, discover that two….or three at best….tracks are the only ones that they really enjoy or indeed want. One can ’stream’ a vast array of material free on iLike purely for the pleasure of it without paying a cent. Free! You can then go to iTunes, Amazon or Rhapsody & the likes & only download the ones that take your fancy. Risk-free.
Baring in mind my limited time on the internet combined with my somewhat tunnel-visioned tastes in music it is wise, from the outset, to take some time preparing ‘categories’ and easily-accessible areas for your music. Imagine being given the task of ‘organising’ the largest music library that you can; because that’s what you have at your fingertips. What a gig! It certainly would have saved me a lot of time and stress. Then again it’s only rock & roll…..but I like it.
Flying in the face of the widespread notion amongst a large majority of musicians I am not doing the world a favour by making my music available at ReverbNation and elsewhere to listen to. I am making it available to listen to as, firstly, I enjoy creating it immensely. Secondly I would like to think that someone out there somewhere might get a kick out of it and it may brighten their day, take their mind off unpleasantries or give someone some food for thought or discussion. Thirdly, there is nothing more that I can do with it.
Having put my music here, there and everywhere for the above reasons, at the end of the day the choice is yours as to whether you decide to listen to it or not. It doesn’t take hours of listening to figure out whether you dig someones’ music or not.
The next choice that is yours is if you decide that you like a particular artists work enough to follow their progress then it is easy enough to follow them. If you decide that you like their music the options to 'follow' them should be made 'user-friendly.'
Hopefully you are not swayed by glossy posters expensive advertising campaigns and the likes. Keith Richards oft-quoted view on music is, "Pass it on." I like to take his perspective on music one step further, particularly with regard to my own personal musical road and add, "Nothing is weird." I choose to record the genre of music that I do, that’s all.
It’s you who make the choice as to whether you dig it or not.
After reading countless blogs only to be left none the wiser as to what the title suggested I felt compelled to do a blog of my own that avoided all of the glitzy images, offers and promises, leaving the participant bewildered and most likely annoyed.
For some reasons musicians and promoters seem to think that folks have the time to hop from this website to the other, read lengthy spiels about a song or songs when the truth is we don’t. Added to this there is usually the underlying aim of coercing people to buy their material. Thus making them ‘successful.’
Conventional success is generally covered in ‘fluff’ with flashy pictures and so forth but, as promised, I will quickly show you how easy it is to give someone the option to listen to a song.