Iglauer: Yes, for artists who have careers in this business and who want to concentrate on making their music and not becoming business people.
Having that kind of support that is available on a label is the only way to go. You could make a record on your own, that’s the easy part, but getting anybody to notice that that record exists, getting people to listen to it, getting them to say something about it publicly, and getting them to invest money in your career, that is tough.
Gordon: You wrote that “the aggressive, committed, independent labels have immediate connections and do-it-yourself artists just don’t.” But aren’t these media connections largely obsolete now that many magazines are failing and commercial radio just plays Top 40? Can’t any band submit their music to blogs and online magazines and distribute the music themselves?
Iglauer: Yes, they can submit and yes they can distribute to the extent that they can make the music available. There is a difference between making music available and promoting and marketing music. For the most part, the skills that are involved in promoting and marketing music are ones that you learn over a long period of time.
There are fewer publications, and the media has moved a little more to being online. But the reality is that the average do-it-yourselfer, for example, can’t reach the music editor of USA Today. That person is not going to take the do-it-yourselfer’s call. With regard to commercial radio, yes, playlists are not as good as they have been at certain times in the past. But commercial radio still is the number one way that people find out about music and this is shown in surveys and polls over and over again. Reaching commercial radio is very difficult for anybody including the majors. But again, the do-it-yourselfer may end up getting a track or two on a local interest kind of show or new release kind of show. But the do-it-yourselfer is not going to get into regular rotation on a radio station.
It’s still hard for labels to get anything in regular rotation on a commercial radio station. But people learning about music is mostly about their hearing the music over and over again, and for music to lock into our brains and get its little hooks in there. We can’t forget the words to ‘I Get Around’ by the Beach Boys no matter how much we want to. You’re going to hear it over and over again. That’s the function of radio. And non-terrestrial radio, which I listen to, for the most part doesn’t give that kind of rotation even if they’re committed to music.
SG: In his book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music, Greg Kot points out that although there is more recorded music being produced than ever before (over 100,000 albums were released last year in the U.S. alone), there is very little great music. But he argues that if you can do great music in the age of the Internet, you can’t help but be successful because your fans will find you. The Arctic Monkeys, for instance, had a huge following on the Web even before they were signed. What say you to Greg Kot?
BI: In the history of the arts in general and in the marketing of the arts in general, we can say with a good deal of sureness that quality doesn’t always rise to the top. And the good stuff doesn’t always get seen and doesn’t always get heard, and how many great authors and great playwrights and great poets and great painters died in obscurity?
Now you can say, ‘Yes, the internet makes their work available,’ but it doesn’t bring a mass of public attention to it by virtue of it being available. The difference between having your recording on CD Baby or The Orchard or even having it available through iTunes, and having a team market it and make the public aware of it is a huge difference. I absolutely don’t believe that quality rises to the top. Lack of quality has risen to the top many times and those of us who sit down and listen to the average hit or commercial radio station would probably argue that lack of quality rises to the top way more than quality does.