Common misconceptions of the music business

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Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Radiophonic »

Hi there,

in this thread I am interested in opening the discussion on the following subjects:

What ideas are often widely propagated about the music business, that are misleading?

What perspectives do (some) outsiders (or even insiders) have that are not reflected in the reality of the music business?

What are the causes/deeper reasons of those confusions?

Whether you are involved in, have studied the subject of or have a gut feeling about this topic, please share your thoughts.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by blinddrew »

I think the biggest misconception is encapsulated in the old truism, "The business of the music business is business not music."
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Radiophonic »

blinddrew wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:48 pm I think the biggest misconception is encapsulated in the old truism, "The business of the music business is business not music."

I have heard criticism/commentary on the music buisness that putting money into marketing as well as nepotism plays a crucial role in the success of many commercially released albums/songs. If that is true, I would argue that music becomes under these conditions a peripherial concern. If anyone agrees on that point I would be interested in possible explainations as well.

I don't know how true that is, I do, however, feel that the commericial music (and media) landscape offered a more appealing spectrum of pop cultural artefacts in terms of asthetical quality.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by MOF »

It’s a mixed bag and depends on the individuals running their part of the music business.
From what I’ve read, Larry Parnes had a stable of young pop stars with truly dreadful contracts whereas Brian Epstein wasn’t out to exploit his groups and solo artists, he really believed in them, particularly The Beatles.
Once the independent labels came along, largely on the back of the Punk scene, they were often run by individuals who really believed in their signings and were passionate about the music.
Even the big labels in the 1960s were generally supportive, for at least three albums, before they got rid of acts from their rosters.
I would say it was the 1990s when record companies became very corporate and stopped running A&R departments (where you could send in demo tapes) and they relied on deals with independents.
Now the way to get signed, if you think that’s the best route for you, is to do a fair bit of work in self promotion yourself, whether that’s gigging, creating your own YouTube channel, setting up your own label etc to show that it’s worth their while to pick up where you left off to concentrate on writing and performing.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Radiophonic »

MOF wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:01 pm Even the big labels in the 1960s were generally supportive, for at least three albums, before they got rid of acts from their rosters.

I have the impression that they took things much more seriously back then. I am truely puzzled by the way they are running things. Ive seen alot of people going for popular culture from japan in the last decades. I can understand that there is a certain appeal in the japanese way of doing things, but attribute a big portion of that trend on poor quality domestic productions.

MOF wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:01 pmI would say it was the 1990s when record companies became very corporate and stopped running A&R departments (where you could send in demo tapes) and they relied on deals with independents.

Interesting. What I often hear is that the early 00s were the last time western popular culture had a distinct profile and alot of whats out there today is repetition. The movement you are describing might be the explaination?

MOF wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:01 pmNow the way to get signed, if you think that’s the best route for you, is to do a fair bit of work in self promotion yourself, whether that’s gigging, creating your own YouTube channel, setting up your own label etc to show that it’s worth their while to pick up where you left off to concentrate on writing and performing.

At that point it might be better not to get signed at all, right?
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by MOF »

At that point it might be better not to get signed at all, right?

It depends on how good you are at administration, marketing etc and how much time that involves that would be more profitably spent on the creative part.
Getting to that point might also have been a chore and you’d rather let someone else concentrate on those aspects of your business for a reduced percentage than what they would have demanded if they’d signed you at the very beginning of your music career.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Radiophonic »

MOF wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 5:50 pm Getting to that point might also have been a chore and you’d rather let someone else concentrate on those aspects of your business for a reduced percentage than what they would have demanded if they’d signed you at the very beginning of your music career.

I see. Division of labour also allows for more focus on the music.

I remember hearing years ago, that some big pop artists these days have many producers behind them. They record songs with session singers and market test the product before they work on the offical release. Is that true?
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Arpangel »

blinddrew wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 12:48 pm I think the biggest misconception is encapsulated in the old truism, "The business of the music business is business not music."

What else can you say, Drew just said it.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by BigRedX »

Radiophonic wrote: Sat Jan 15, 2022 3:56 pmAt that point it might be better not to get signed at all, right?

As you implied in your earlier post, these days it really does in the end come down to how effective your marketing/promotion is.

From the PoV of writing, performing and recording your music (lack of) money is nowhere near the kind of barrier it was back in the 50s to 80s. Nowadays anyone with sufficient talent can produce fantastic sounding music, so the only thing stopping them from attracting enough listeners to make a living out of it, is having a decent promotional budget to ensure that people actually know that you exist.

Over the last 15 years the bands I have been in have made and released good sounding records for only a bit more than I was spending recording demos in the 80s. And we've been able to make professional looking videos to go with them for a fraction of what it used to cost. A while all these bands are reasonably well know within their genres/niches, none are ever likely to have the budget required to break out of these without 3rd part investment - be that a traditional style record deal or something else.

Yes you can do your own marketing and publicity, but it's a lot more effective if you have someone/a department who already have the contacts and reputation doing it for you. As an example in Dick Venom & The Terrortones we were able to build up a decent reputation within our chosen genres but was down to our singer and myself spending pretty much every waking hour that wasn't involved with writing, rehearsing, preforming or recording our music, working on the promotion (and my case on my "day job") - hassling promotors/agents/better-known bands for gigs, interacting with fans on social media and generally making sure that we got our name out there. Of course it helped that we had records and a live show to back up our claims, but without all the hard work of promoting ourselves it would have been all for nothing. And, even after all that effort we were still only a medium-sized fish in a pretty small pond.

Having either another person or organisation to do all that for us, would have mean more time to work on the musical aspects of the band (which should be why you are making music in the first place) which would mean even better songs and a tighter stage show, which in turn should mean better paying gigs and therefore more money to spend on rehearsing and recording.

When you do your own promotion it's all to easy to let the business side takeover from the music side.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by Radiophonic »

BigRedX wrote: Sun Jan 16, 2022 12:31 pm From the PoV of writing, performing and recording your music (lack of) money is nowhere near the kind of barrier it was back in the 50s to 80s. Nowadays anyone with sufficient talent can produce fantastic sounding music, so the only thing stopping them from attracting enough listeners to make a living out of it, is having a decent promotional budget to ensure that people actually know that you exist.

That is nice to hear. I guess this developement was possible by the internet and the computer as a viable recording option?

Image
https://youtu.be/hd3DHTwbkJA
BigRedX wrote: Sun Jan 16, 2022 12:31 pmYes you can do your own marketing and publicity, but it's a lot more effective if you have someone/a department who already have the contacts and reputation doing it for you. As an example in Dick Venom & The Terrortones we were able to build up a decent reputation within our chosen genres but was down to our singer and myself spending pretty much every waking hour that wasn't involved with writing, rehearsing, preforming or recording our music, working on the promotion (and my case on my "day job") - hassling promotors/agents/better-known bands for gigs, interacting with fans on social media and generally making sure that we got our name out there. Of course it helped that we had records and a live show to back up our claims, but without all the hard work of promoting ourselves it would have been all for nothing. And, even after all that effort we were still only a medium-sized fish in a pretty small pond

This might be worth a dedicated thread. What are the most effectives strategies you have used or seen others using when promoting a genre band, that targets a small pond to begin with if you dont mind sharing your experience.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by BigRedX »

A lot of the time you just have to do everything you can think of to promote the band and hope that something sticks. We were lucky in that somehow for our 5th ever gig we got a mid-afternoon slot at a Psychobilly all-dayer with The Meteors headlining (most likely to Mr Venom managing to do the business when it came to selling the band). After that we were gigging pretty much every weekend.

However, for us by far the most effective bit of promotion we ever did was persuading a local venue to let us have a monthly Friday night slot under the banner of "Dick Venom Presents…" We then organised the whole evening with a reasonably well-known band as headliners, The Terrortones as support and Mr Venom DJ'ing the rest of the night. IIRC Mr Venom and myself fronted the money for the for the headliner's fees for the first couple of gigs, and by then the evening was popular enough for us to be making a decent profit which funded other band activities. Bear in mind that at the time it was possible to get bands like Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons to play for less than £150.

After a year of this the evening had built up to the point where more than half of the audience would come specifically to see us play (and there were some embarrassing moments for headlining acts when it turned out they couldn't cut it live, and by the end of their set the venue was half empty, only for it to fill up again once Mr Venom hit the decks). It gave us the opportunity to try out new songs in front of a largely appreciative crowd, and when it came to telling promotors and agents who we had played with we had a very impressive "CV".

In the end, the evening ended up being a victim of it's own success. We'd outgrown our original venue (some of the gigs were so densely packed it looked seriously unsafe in the audience). In order to maintain the momentum we needed to step up to a bigger venue and bigger bands, but that meant a much bigger increase in venue and PA hire cost not to mention the fact that the bands we now wanted to put on were asking for £500-£1000 rather than £100-£200. In the end it was a step too far.
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Re: Common misconceptions of the music business

Post by RichardT »

I think a big misconception is that fame is a good thing. So many top artists suffer with the enormous demands and stress of it. It really is a killer.
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