Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


June 05, 2006

Going Postal Over the Music Industry

Here's part of a letter I received from Ant Boogie of Collective Hallucination. Read it and then see my response below. It may surprise you ...

Dear Bob,

I just need to vent with someone who would probably understand where I'm coming from. I am sooooo tired of the music industry as it stands now. It sucks. Everywhere my band goes and performs, people flock to our shows. They love us and they all have the same feeling: "Ya'll should be on radio and TV," etc.

However, the powers that be continue to force feed that garbage that's out there to people and it frustrates me. I'm not just thinking of my band, but there are so many great bands and solo artists out there who should be in the forefront of the music industry.

I used to love the American music industry, but the years have worn on me and I realize that it's impossible to be a real band (like Mint Condition) in this country and have some form of success. I mean, even a band as hot as Family Stand got shifted in the bull and politricks of the industry.

What the hell am I supposed to do? I can't even get "industry" folks to return my phone calls. It's like, "Oh, they're good but ..." they aren't "small enough in size" or "they're too old" or "they don't sound like ..."

I'm about to go postal on the music industry!

I appreciate Ant Boogie sharing his thoughts and allowing me to reprint them here. His frustrations have been echoed by countless musicians I've encountered over the years, including readers of this blog.

If my proceeding comments seems harsh, they're not directed at the letter writer above. They're meant for the mass of music folk who are fed up with the industry and the sense of helplessness and unfairness they feel is heaped upon them.

Fame, Fortune and Frustration

Let's start with Mr. Boogie's first paragraph and the words "Everywhere my band goes and performs, people flock to our shows." Wow. That sounds to me like a great achievement. Most bands would kill for a decent crowd at every show.

Any band that has a loyal following and packed houses at its shows should be generating decent income from CD and merchandise sales, as well as a cut of tickets sales at the door. That spells out indie success in my book.

Fans say, "Ya'll should be on radio and TV," which is a belief that Ant Boogie obviously buys into himself. Because his band apparently isn't getting the media exposure he feels they deserve, he feels frustrated.

But here are some important questions to answer along these lines concerning your own music career:
  • What is your ultimate definition of success?

  • What has to happen for you to know you've reached your goal?

  • What does "arriving" look like?
For most musicians, their answers are some vague combination of fame and fortune. But I contend that you must get clear about the outcome you are working toward.

If success means having a large and dedicated following and enough money to support the musicians, it's quite likely that Ant Boogie's band is already there. But if radio and TV exposure are the measuring sticks, no amount of satisfied fans or revenue would make him happy.

In my opinion, mass media exposure is part of the old-school model of music promotion. Niche marketing is the surest path to success these days. But a lot of people will still tell you, "Hey, you should be all over the radio." And maybe you will some day. But don't let other people's visions of success drive your own definition.

What's Right and What's Wrong?

There are a lot of things that should be this way or that way in the world ... but they simply aren't. Instead of focusing on what's wrong, zero in on your strengths and what you have.

Industry people won't return your phone calls? Great. Screw 'em! Who needs them anyway? Not you. Especially if you have fans who are supporting you in droves. Why waste your time on "industry" people who aren't interested?

Those special fans of yours are doing more than returning your calls -- they're investing their precious time, money and energy in you and your music. Focus on them, and not on the dysfunctional music business.

-Bob

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