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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Musicians - taking back their power from labels

Things are changing rapidly in the music biz, according to an article entitled Musicians Find New Backers as Labels Lose Power.

... [W]ith the structure of the music business shifting radically, some industry iconoclasts are sidestepping the music giants and inventing new ways for artists to make and market their music — without ever signing a traditional recording contract. ...

[A new] venture, called Polyphonic, which was announced this month, will look to invest a few hundred thousand dollars in new and rising artists who are not signed to record deals and then help them create their own direct links to audiences over the Internet. ...

The major labels — Sony Music, Warner Music, EMI and Universal Music — no longer have such a firm grip on creating and selling professional music and minting hits with prime placement on the radio.

Under the Polyphonic model, bands that receive investments from the firm will operate like start-up companies, recording their own music and choosing outside contractors to handle their publicity, merchandise and touring. ...

Instead of receiving an advance and then possibly reaping royalties later if they have a hit, musicians will share in all the profits from their music and touring. ...

Even the major labels themselves are demonstrating new flexibility for musicians ... In late November, for example, EMI took the unusual step of creating a music services division to provide an array of services — like touring and merchandise support — to musicians who were not signed to the label....

Full article here.

What an interesting development! Of course for artists, DIY self-promotion is a lot of extra work that isn't related to their art. So in that sense it may not be the greatest news.

However, I do believe there is something to be said about being "well-rounded." :-)

I recall seeing a documentary on Loreena McKennitt in which she said that she spends only about 25% of her time on her art, and the rest on her business. But she is an undisputed success, and that 25% is definitely "quality" time... for herself and her fans!

I would love to see Ukrainian Canadian artists following in her footsteps. Many that I feature on Nash Holos don't have websites of their own or even myspace pages. That is a tragedy IMO. Especially when the dollar cost can be as low as zero for a myspace page or a blog. Often the only way to get a CD from a specific artist is directly from them and people often go online first to shop, so it really is important for fans of their music.

I appreciate that music is a hobby for many of these artists, and it is amazing enough that they find the time to do gigs and record CDs that I can play on my program. :-) For that I am truly grateful!

But a selfish little part of me wishes that some of these awesome artists were more prominent in the music biz. I guess I see them as a reflection of myself to some extent. Granted, that's incredibly selfish ... but it's also very human.

That being said, I will continue to hope that the new developments in the music biz will encourage Ukrainian Canadian artists to focus more on the business side of things, and take full advantage of all the opportunities for indies in this Long Tail age.

In this economy, making money from music isn't a bad idea. And with 1.2 million Canadians who identify themselves as having Ukrainian roots, and just as many Americans, there is a pretty sizable target audience on this continent!

Now, how wonderful would it be if companies like Polyphonic were interested in investing in independent radio programs like mine. Hmmm ... maybe it's time to break from blogging a bit and take some of my own advice.

So much to do, so little time! And it's a beautiful summer out here in Lotusland...

But change is inevitably on the horizon at Nash Holos. Next year, 2010, will be a double milestone for me. It will be 20 years since Nash Holos first aired with myself and my two co-hosts, and 10 years I've been doing it solo on CHMB.

So I'd like to mark the occasion with a significant celebration, and maybe even a change in direction. Who knows? With all the new opportunities in this biz, the sky's the limit!

I have nothing specific in mind yet, and I'm totally open to suggestions at this point.

So if you have any, please leave a comment!


Vasyl Pawlowsky said...

This is an interesting development, and while it may be happening elsewhere, it definitely has been happening in Ukraine for many smaller unknown groups for a long time.

Self-promotion is a great deal of work, but musicians who understand this can make a great deal of headway. They have to be ready to live their product, be able to deal with media and also not be afraid of being close to their fans.

Pawlina said...

Yes, that's the trick... being accessible.

In a way, I think, we're going back to the future.

In the "old days" musicians lived among the people and were ordinary folk. They were well respected for their talent & skill of course, but they didn't have avaricious opportunists turning them into entertainment demigods.

Back in the day musicians essentially made their money busking.

In today's world, they have more sophisticated and efficient methods at their disposal to market their music and get close to their fan base ... and revenue source.

I think that's a good thing for everyone!

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