|Hand drawn CD cover from Jane Taylor|
I received a CD in the post a while ago and it’s spurred me on to write this blog. The CD was from Jane Taylor and to say the packaging was basic was an understatement as you can see. It’s hand draw by Jane and comes with an individual message from Jane and for me this makes the CD even more special. (The music is beautiful by the way) This led me to the thought that the music industry isn’t dead it’s just different and here is why I think that.
Now I suspect that someone can quote figures to me about how the music industry is dying and people aren’t buying music anymore, and that might be right of traditional avenues, HMV the final High Street retailer in the UK is dying on the vine and some of their stores barely sell CDs anymore. (In my opinion they are struggling because they have limited choice and in most cases it’s over priced) Supermarkets sell less CDs giving space over to DVDs and games, and the music industry argues that we are all signing up to dodgy Russian sites and downloading all our music for free and that may be true for some but not me and not most of my friends.
I my opinion the internet has increased my access to music and therefore I have bought more music because of this, I just buy it in different formats. Bands that are smart are realising that the traditional route of demo / A&R-/record deal / etc is very hard to come by and not necessarily the most advantageous route to fame and fortune anymore (if it ever was)
|Web and gig release CD's|
I paid £10 for the Jane Taylor CD, I paid up front at one of her gigs on the promise she would send it to me (I’m very trusting) the materials, packaging and postage must have cost no more £2 meaning that the artist clears £8, much more than the traditional return from the sale of CD. Now I know this is only small numbers but some artists are getting smart with regard to this and this is where money can be made. I have more ‘tour only release’ CDs (6) by Tom McRae than I do official releases and trust me I have all his formally released CD’s (5). CD’s specifically made to take on tour can certainly increase tour revenue, Tom has a real cottage industry selling, tea towels, baby t-shirts, umbrellas (or Tombrellas as they are branded) Scaling this up again there are a number of bands that give access to all their concert recordings, Gov't Mules website (Mule Tracks) has every concert they have played available, for around about $10. They have sold over 1 million CD’s but they have also sold over 1 million downloads and I know which one will be making them the most money!
I saw Matchbox Twenty a couple of years ago and as part of my ticket package bought a recording of the concert. Once the gig had finished I passed over my confirmation of purchase and was given the wristband/USB in the picture. This was within 10 minutes of the gig finishing and was done on a huge scale, 1000’s rather than 100’s. The recording had the concert on warts and all, but I had a digital copy of the gig I had just attended, how good is that! It astounds me that artists haven’t cottoned onto this, maybe it’s because they are artists and not business men, but as I sit here my wall are covered in framed limited edition tour posters, which I have paid somewhere between £15-£25 for (Dave Matthews Band, Gaslight Anthem, Pearl Jam, Wilco, and Duke and The King all take a bow). I have tour only CD’s by Danny and The Champions of The World, Dave Matthews, Govt Mule, Tom McRae and many more sitting in my collection and yet at some gigs I attended they don’t have any merchandise at all for sale.
|A DMB gig poster 1 made for each gig|
We have always copied music let’s not pretend about that, cassettes where invented for that very reason, and since then every format that has been introduced has advanced the quality of the copy we could obtain. Mini Discs, DAT, Compact Discs have all come with a recordable function and the general public use it. I have been given DVDs with multiple albums on and have trawled them for artist I was interested in but didn’t know enough about to purchase their music. By default this has lead me to purchase more music by the artist and in some cases I would have never have been exposed to the band through normal channels.
I’m not saying piracy is a good thing, what I’m saying it has always existed, and people will hunt it out. I used to own 100s of bootleg gig tapes sold at Record Fares with crappy photocopied covers. I have just bought a 6 CD David Sylvian bootleg on eBay and this is on top of the 15-20 or so albums I buy a month through traditional channels. What I’m saying is that that the internet gives musicians much more flexibility and opportunity to get their music out there and they need to be more commercially focused as to how they make money rather than the traditional avenues of single and album sales and instead of bemoaning the fact that they can’t make money they need to look at now they can make money.
|Some of the DMB web only releases I have|
Love him or hate him Dave Matthews is a great example of how to make the music industry work for you rather than the other way round. In the early days he allowed gig goers to tape concerts, letting them plug direct into the mixing desk if they wanted, and often has areas at gigs for people to set up recording equipment to this day. This meant that when the record company came knocking at his door he could demand a better deal as his fan base was far greater than anticipated for a band without a record deal as fans had been swapping tapes for years. He still releases live recordings direct through his website along with tour posters, (top quality screen prints) limited tour releases and all sorts of merchandise. Some might say this is selling out, but Dave Matthews controls what is being sold and if you look at what he achieves through his charitable foundation you can see what really can be done by optimising your music with additional commercial products.
Musicians can sit about and say that the internet is killing the music industry or they can embrace the change and make it work for them. As the Redskins once sang The Power is Yours, use it!