I’m not that into music. I mean, I listen to it like most people, and it’s a key part of my writing process most of the time, but I have mostly a passing interest in it. I don’t play anything, and I don’t own a lot of music myself, instead relying on Spotify and Pandora for my musical enjoyment.
However, on a whim, I clicked a link in my timeline today to a site about the music industry. Imagine my surprise when I saw parallels to publishing.
The prevailing thought among rising musicians is that you cannot be successful without the assistance of a record label or some local promoter. I’m not here to bash labels who represent major artists. At a certain point, it becomes an absolute necessity because of the size of your operation. Twenty One Pilots definitely needs a label.
But does a band with fifteen thousand Facebook fans need to sign a record deal and give up most or all of their revenue to someone who is just posting (5… 4…. 3…. 2…. 1…) countdown cards on your Facebook page in the days before you release your album?
It frustrates me because I feel strongly that bands would have a much better chance if they held out for a record label until they felt like it was an absolute need. These days, most bands have a record deal. Why? Other musicians give abhorrent amounts of money to promoters who turn around and purchase Facebook ad campaigns that YOU should be buying yourself.
I often wonder what many bands would accomplish if they spent time chasing good music, good visuals, and good strategy instead of giving all of your trust to a label that is taking your money and spending it with little to no explanation or proof. Are they giving you spreadsheets instead of actual stats from iTunes and Spotify? They’re probably ripping you off, bro.
You don’t need a label to find success early on. There are far too many resources available that allow you to do it on your own, but many feel they won’t look “legit” unless they sign with some label.
Sounds like publishing to me.
The article also talks about how advances in technology have reduced the price of many things that once made signing with a label a necessity. Again, publishing has dealt with some of that too. While we’re not buying soundboards and video cameras, we are able to find resources like cover design and editing far easier, which also helps reduce the cost for these services. Additionally, technological advances have helped Print On Demand become a thing.
The reality is that in many cases, creative types just don’t need the validation that they may believe comes with signing a deal with a legacy company, be it a record label or a publishing company.
Because, really, that’s all that’s being offered.
I can’t speak to music, but you know what I see from a lot of writers? I see them having to advertise their own books, organize their own signings, reaching out to conventions to get tables for whatever and to get on panels, and this is despite them having a publishing contract where a large portion of the sales go to these companies.
Since it sounds like music is the same way, we’re kind of in the same boat, aren’t we?
The internet has radically changed how artists can market their work. We don’t actually need these companies in order to make a living. Oh, there are still a couple of advantages to those companies, such as distribution, but for how long? How much longer will that model be sustainable?
Music and Books, two very different types of creative endeavors, share a common bond in how we’re enjoying technology radically modifying how we approach the industry.
Maybe the day will come when the only reason to sign with a publisher is that you’re now too big to simply manage on your own. Maybe indie writers will get to the point they’ll hire publicists who specialize in such work. Maybe new entities will rise and completely remake these industries again.
What I do know is that there’s no reason to buy into the idea that the same old, same old is the only way to make it.