Is DIY Suddenly DOA? Why Bands Really Need Friends

  • Save

Artists have always needed fans – lots of them –  but now more than ever, they really need friends.

Not groupies, but a group of smart individuals, or even – shockingly – a label.

But the operative word was ‘partner,’ not ‘label,’ during the New Music Seminar in Los Angeles on Tuesday.  “This is not about ‘oh I need a label,’ this is about, ‘oh, I need a partner,'” TopSpin CEO Ian Rogers relayed.  “The value chain is moving from what used to be artist-label-distributor-retailer-fan to artist-marketing partner-technology-fan.  There are a lot of people who are going to be in that technology box, and there are a lot of people who are going to be in that marketing box.”

Sounds perfectly logical, and other experts agreed.  But the subtext was striking – suddenly, all the Long Tail, do-it-yourself zeal of previous years was getting updated by something more realistic.

Even by some of DIY’s more ardent supporters.  “I’m tired, tired of hearing about ‘DIY, I don’t need a label’ crap.  Tired of it,” ReverbNation chief Michael Doernberg stated.  “Because the truth is that everybody needs advisors.  The question isn’t ‘do you need help?’ – the question is, ‘who?'”

And TuneCore?  In the days leading up to the Seminar, Tommy Boy Silverman found himself in a high-profile spat with TuneCore CEO Jeff Price.  The debate canvassed a few topics, including the extreme difficulties that artists face when trying to ‘break,’ whatever the definition of that is.  Is serious promotional firepower needed, or can a career get jump-started from scratch?

Price was not on hand, though the consensus seemed to fall somewhere in the middle.  Indeed, Doernberg offered ReverbNation as a well-oiled technology partner, not a superhighway to DIY superstardom.  In the end, ‘experts agreed’ that even the best DIY weapons need a supporting platoon, or at least a well-coordinated band of brothers.  Other questions related to marketing spending levels may take more time to answer.

But what will this next-generation team look like?  According to Rogers, different bands require different and customized support structures.  But the manager will be a critical part of the future structure.  “The manager is truly… the artist partner who quarterbacks and puts it together,” Rogers noted.

But getting the right manager?  That is a difficult challenge.  The legendary fist-thumping, bus-touring manager of old suddenly needs digital credentials, and oftentimes, a more sophisticated resume.  “Someone has to quarterback it all, and that takes strategy,” Tommy stated.  “There aren’t that many good managers.”

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff in Los Angeles.