What will we be laughing at five years from now?
The notion that somehow, direct-to-fan connectivity means that fans will care or connect. That somehow, just having a straight fan connection is more important than writing incredible music. Or, the idea that millions of other artists aren’t getting the same exact memo on direct-to-fan channels.
The idea that skipping a label and giving $50 to Tunecore is what makes a career. Not even Corey Smith believes that. Do you?
The numbers are telling a completely different story, over and over again. So which is better, a fairy tale or a realistic assessment of the terrain? “I feel like there are a lot of people in my position frankly – in the software space – who just said ‘yeah, you’re going to make it,’ and it’s definitely statistically untrue,” Ian Rogers recently told an artist audience in Santa Barbara.
How untrue? Rogers himself revealed a stat showing that less than 30,000 artists are actually making a living. Soon thereafter, the UK-based Musicians’ Union revealed that 87 percent of its members are making less than $25,000 a year. Earlier this year, Tom Silverman found that roughly a dozen DIY artists (if that) were selling north of 10,000 albums.
If you’re a hobbyist, then enjoy the considerable fruits that come from musical composition, performance, and direct distribution. Music is one of the greatest pleasures in life, whether performing, listening, mashing-up, or discussing. But pretending to pursue a professional career – while actually living the life of a hobbyist – is a tragedy.
So if your statistical chances of making it are close to zero, what’s the better approach? It’s not a romantic, DIY, Long Tail-inspired game plan. It’s slogging it out on the road for 200-plus dates a year, sleeping in the van, getting your stuff stolen, finding it again, getting ripped off by the club owner a day later, fighting with your bandmates.
It’s sitting in a room for hours writing incredible music. And recording, performing and perfecting that music every day. Even on Thanksgiving.
It’s saying goodbye to comfy nights on the couch with your girlfriend, a round of beers with your buddies, or two-week vacations. And the same thing goes for the team, which needs to be equally committed to sacrifice and total success.
Why not just get a real job? It’s also explaining to everyone – including your family – why you’re barely surviving, why your art takes precedence over everything else in your life. And this is not a modern-day reality: artists have struggled for centuries to make ends meet. The numbers have always been stacked against musicians, internet or not.
And then, when all of those sacrifices are made, when you cut out all the comforts you think you’re entitled to… then what? You get a lottery ticket, to possibly become self-sustaining and even wildly successful.
And if your number comes up, what happens then? If you actually get substantial traction, if you can fill 200 rooms a year, then you’re now ready to work some more – a lot more. To expand the base, structure partnerships with professionals, distribution partners, management agencies, and even labels. Because even total control needs to be sacrificed at some point.
Thoughts by Paul Resnikoff, Publisher. Written while listening to Mozart, Sepultura, Daft Punk, Icepick, and Hatebreed.