Thursday, July 2, 2009

Question of the Day - MONEY & MUSIC - July 2, 2009


diemerm asks:

I have been noticing how much money really matters in the music industry. A select few artists are now being looked at as revolutionaries for bringing something new to the scene when really they were just the first with enough money and industry support to be successful. I don't like that people get credit for creative new things, initiated by others, just because they were the first to be "marketable."What are the thoughts and opinions of yourself and others on this?

Hartmann responds:

A pure artist walks naked in the woods and sings his songs with the birds. This practice represents the epitome of artistic integrity. Only the troubadour and the birds can measure the experience. The music created is spontaneous, ethereal and evaporates instantly. There is no permanent record of the event and no reproducible proof that the song lived at all. Quality is irrelevant as the artist's only obligation is to please himself. The birds offer their own tunes, just as freely, and may even preserve memories of the collaboration. This is the highest art form. The natural progression of such artistry is for the performer to seek a wider audience.

There is something truly wondrous about music itself that cannot be fully explained. The emotional stimulus it provides is accompanied by a physical component. We feel music. It can make us dance, laugh, cry, hope and dream. It can inspire greatness and lead entire generations to their destiny. The creative action of making music is an intrinsically mysterious alchemy.

Musicians themselves establish the criterion that set the bar and prove the standards of greatness. Critics and pundits comment on the performances, but if they can't do it, how do they know? The answer is mathematics. Music is the math of the masses. The mental and physical stimuli guide our musical choices. The same thrill a mathematician gets, when the puzzle is solved, is accomplished through a completed musical experience. Even if you can't count the notes, your brain grasps the numerology of a great song and subconsciously yearns to hear it again. This instinctive pursuit of entertainment provides the monetary component for the music business.

The expansion of an artist's following is conducted in the process of building a fan base. This is the core activity of any business, create a community of consumers. Monetizing of the system must be an integral part of the game plan. The artist leaves the woods and takes his tunes to town. This now takes the purity of art and mixes it with the muddy waters and slippery slopes of commerce.

It is always a challenge for the new artist who, starting at rock bottom, is lost in the fog of showbiz. Musicians have traditionally convinced themselves that they don't "do" business, they do music. This mis-perception often excuses them from assuming responsibilities normally covered by personal managers. In the digital age, competition is incredibly large. Millions of artists are presenting their, music and stuff on the Internet. Talent is not necessarily part of the equation.

Historically, the "best" ten percent of artists will survive in the professional realm. The other ninety percent won't get past the Internet, or will quit along the way. It is imperative that singers, songwriters, musicians and bands understand their business goals, structures and mechanics in order to avoid being sucked down the black hole of broken dreams. More importantly, each partner must be actively integrated into the diurnal activity of running the business. This helps keep costs down and enables artists to reach the first level of success, survival, sooner.

Talent is revered from the top down. Eric Clapton can appreciate and value the passion, skill and artistry of Jimi Hendrix far better than a fan with a guitar, in a garage experimenting with the blues. Clapton knows how tough it is to get it right. As a student and master of the blues, as an art form, he and his peers decide who is the best bluesman through the value they place on each other. This concept applies to all the extant genres of music. The best choose the best of the best.

Every professional musician trying to survive in The Music Renaissance aspires to be part of the ten percent of music enterprises that will turn a profit. There is no template for how to establish your enterprise because the old paradigm has shifted. Turning art into money is an ancient enterprise that has established core principals that never change. The rules are crumbling.

Economic balance is the doorway to the survival of any band. When you can make your "living" from music, without a day job, you are surviving. Every service you can do yourself is one for which you don't have to pay. Each commission you are not obligated to pay goes into your bank account. All royalties not owed to record producers don't require complicated book keeping.

Making money from music today is a process that leans heavily on the ancient principals. In the simplest context there are only two things going on in the game. Recording and performing are the yin and yang of the force that generates the marriage of music and commerce. The symbiotic relationship between box-office receipts and the sale of branded recordings and products is the engine that drives each artist's enterprise. Controlling the income streams is vital to survival.

Ticket sales precipitate merchandising receipts, which inspire the sale of more tickets creating increased possibilities. Bands working the local, national and international "night club" and "concert" business are candidates for the ten percent. The ninety percent will get sucked down the black hole of broken dreams and go back to their day jobs knowing that at least they tried.

The artists and managers who build the most efficient systems to use this mechanism have the best chance of enduring in a rapidly changing industry. To compete, an artist must have a repertoire that can be recorded and performed. They must provide all integral services or build a team to conduct the diurnal business of the eight core professions of entertainment.

Showbiz is a team sport conducted by the four primary professions of artists, managers, agents and producers. This fraternity creates the activities of four ancillary professions. Publicists, accountants, lawyers and crews provide services vital to the process. The combined effort establishes the systems and mechanics for evolving a competitive night club and concert scene.

New artists must insert themselves into the prevailing system. They need a great repertoire that is polished in the performance process and recordable when appropriate. A baby band needs to have song writing, producing and performing talent. Artists and managers should obligate each other to learn how to play the game. If they play perfectly well, and their peer group decides they are the "best," and if the fans ultimately agree, a career can be perpetuated and survival secured.

The ten percent of survivors compete with each other to reach the ranks of the one percent of artists who will make ninety percent of the money. This dynamic imposes a very high plateau for success in a business where anybody clan play and every artist thinks he has what it takes to win.

The shear volume of artists dilutes the process and forces the contenders for super stardom to work more aggressively than their competition to gain notice, grow a fan base and achieve success. The record companies no longer fund this stage of development. Its a do-it-yourself game. Without a solid live act you will never reach the ten percent. Only greatness will get one percent of you to The Big Top where fame and fortune meet. Who wins is up to you.

A little luck helps a lot.

1 comment:

mark said...

that was a good, insightful read!