So, you think the music industry is healthy

This was posted on Facebook by Guitarist Janet Robin.

One of my all time favs- Rickie Lee Jones- a pioneer in women singer-songwriters, a cross-genre bending force of nature, musical genius, is in “dire financial need”… like many of us musicians, we can’t tour, we can release new music, but that doesn’t pay us much anymore. And if we can’t tour it’s tough to promote the new music. We can do streaming shows- but again, we can’t perform in a multi-city tour across the country or overseas. I am grateful for teaching guitar, doing sessions, playing streaming shows and doing whatever I can to keep paying bills and move forward. We are all doing the best we can under these crazy circumstances.

What gets me is that this is Rickie…multi-platinum 2 time Grammy winner Rickie Lee Jones. Maybe she made some bad financial and personal decisions in the past? Maybe she didn’t save her money? Maybe she got screwed by management and record labels (probably that), but seriously, where is our music industry??? WHERE ARE YOU??? You’ve taken all our royalties away, you’ve taken all of our merch away, (can’t sell cd’s anymore because no one can play them), and now you pay us 1 cent or 1/2 cent on every stream.

I guess I’m not shocked that someone like Rickie Lee Jones is asking for donations and tips on Venmo and Paypal. All of us musicians are doing the same, but I guess I thought, well, given her past accolades, accomplishments, and wealth of work, she would be ok in a situation like this. Indeed, I was wrong.

I know we are all hurting and we are all trying to get through this. Please WEAR A DAMN MASK so we can beat this Pandenmic and ALL go back to work. And, so us musicians can get back out on the road and bring music to you live, and in person.

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Sad news. I love Rickie’s music.

But the deeper point is worse. Is this industry actually run by the Blue Meanies ?

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This is one reason I have crowd funded Layla Zoe’s latest album and also ordered a physical copy which includes a digital download but alas do not have the funds to help more artists. Do not know how much an artist gets paid for each physical media or digital album sold and perhaps someone could enlighten me?. Perhaps the answer is instead of having loads of favourite albums in their particular streaming service is to buy the album instead. This is a tricky one as most people that subscribe to a streaming service do not have a bottomless wallet or perhaps pay more for their subs so the artists gets paid more. At the end of the day there needs to be more transparency as to where the revenue goes and to whom. Sadly since the early 60’s artists have been screwed by their management company and or the label company but that’s another story!.

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Sad news indeed Chris & clearly if an artist of the stature of Rickie is on hard times (for reasons unknown), I can well understand the tough times felt by far artists/bands of far lessor stature.

I have from a far ‘looked’ at some of the wonderful things musicians have been doing to try and remain in the public’s eye, most notably the use YouTube & other similar platforms.

I am of a dying breed who still buys my music, which now equates to roughly 10 000 albums (vinyl, CD, digital).

I honestly could write a lengthy essay on this topic, but will only mention what I feel is mostly lacking from a consumers point of view. So, no talk of major labels, mega star bands, contracts etc

I think in 2020 & moving forward artists need to endear themselves more to fans. By this I mean humanise the process much more. We all know streaming provides little funds to the artists, especially the smaller ones who do not get crazy amounts of listens to make it all worthwhile.

I have noted the wonderful YouTube efforts by artists/bands big and small interacting with their fans, including paid live concerts on various ‘new’ platforms. I feel the problems are often associated with old business models (release albums, tour - to make money), but really the fans seem distanced by this tired old process.

Take Nick Cave…he has toured (pre Covid of course) just as himself (no music) with question/answer type shows that were sold out across the globe. He has his own online magazine these days where fans from the world over write in questions on all topics and he candidly responds. The fans no doubt really feel they get to know the guy and are important to him. It’s a two way street. Yes, he has a big profile to make those things happen, nonetheless it demonstrates his attention to fans and recognition without them there is no Nick Cave.

So, there are those out there doing all manner of different things to give back to loyal fans; which I think is key!

Why don’t bands ever have talk sessions pre gigs? Like meet and greet perhaps for an extra fee with their fans? Sure those that can often hang out afterwards, especially smaller bands, but many just walk off never to be seen again until their next show in town.

Bandcamp has been excellent for musicians, but of course the bigger it grows, the more likely new artist find it difficult to become known and sell some music.

There is no doubt the general public is feeling for those in the music industry and those in The Arts generally speaking.

All the best to you Chris.

Cheers.

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Nostro I think you have hit the nail on the head. Artists need to build a grass roots following in these time and they do this (Pre Covid) one gig at a time by playing a great show and then taking time to engage with the people in a genuine way.
With my involvement in Live Music I have seen this done well and not so well. So you not only need to be a great musician/songwriter/band you have to have the ‘Common Touch’ and the personality to engage well.
A little like gardening, you plant the seeds and sell the merch. In the online world you have to water your seeds with continual engagement and this is a lot of work and commitment, it’s all or nothing here.
Great example, Elles Bailey: she has done it right with all the talent to back it up. We recorded the first show she played for us, she offered and put a lot into the release of her Live at Little Rabbit Barn EP for us to sell and she sold on tour with partial free downloads and pay what you want for full EP, all in support of i dependant live venues. She works hard on Facebook etc stying in touch with her fans and she loves every minute of the process. She does meet and greet at larger gigs, I even had free tickets to the Ramblin Man festival as a thank you, I took fan pics with fans phones after the gig to help out and speed her on the her Planet Rock Radio interview. Elles has created a buzz around her and won Two UK blues awards this year to her credit.

The problem is, the grass roots venues are in great danger now and record companies show little support for artists in the early years.

So, When Rivers Meet have their Rapids club.
Fred’s House have their House Mates Club
Lauren Housley is running her Tuesday Night Live shows (Congrats on her new baby boy, Noah)
Honey and The Bear have their Bear Cave with Knot the Squirrel

Building ones own community with the tools we have is the way forward.

Just thoughts on your great post Nostro. Thanks.

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Sorry for my slow reply, as per my msg to you, just a bit stretched for time in the last few days. And I wanted to respond in kind, rather than rushed!

I do think building a grass roots following is key as per your comments. However, I don’t think the general community are so concerned with an artists eloquence or charisma, just the engagement.

So, in some ways, it is all or nothing if artists choose not to engage with their fans. It really doesn’t take much to send out a few tweets, update FB fan pages etc. However, it needs to be more than something like…

New album due out next month pre order now
or Upcoming gig this weekend, buy your tickets here!

However, you are certainly right that it is more work than perhaps it used to be. And it’s even tougher as the culture of going to see you fav local band at the pub/club/smaller venue has really diminished. One of the reasons is that the venues themselves are much harder to source. Live music just isn’t what it once was sadly. Out here so many venues have long been taken over by ‘pokies’ - more money for the owners, with less hassle. Who misses out? It’s the artists and the broader community.

I am pleased to hear how Elles is doing well and embraced the ‘new world’. No doubt for every ‘success’ story, others aren’t making a go of it.

I suspect, but I don’t really know, that being involved with the ‘right’ record label is half the battle won. Smaller labels too are struggling, but still support their artists as best they can. Often this involves the messages to fans, social media updates and of course the distribution of the music; even if it’s only digital through bandcamp.

I think many fans want to help and we’ve seen some amazing efforts of fans spending on the recent days when bandcamp has given all sale funds directly to the artists.

Totally agree…and thinking more broadly in terms of general retail businesses, they too have had to adapt or fade from old business models of bricks and mortar only, with high mark-ups, to flexibility including online sales.

The Arts community isn’t a bubble immune to the changes in society.

I think the most important thing for artists to recognise is that largely their fans want to support their fav artists and be apart of their music. In some ways, they are public figures and carry that expectation with them.

Cheers

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I think there are bigger issues at work.
When most of ‘us’ grew up, there was music to buy, AM/FM radio, five TV stations and you went to Movies. The music industry was mostly healthy and many musicians made crazy money.
Now, there are hundreds of different video sources and their associated costs, cellphones, cellphone expenses, and cellphone apps. The Internet. College costs are breath-taking as are the loan payments they leave. Health care insurance is daunting. One could go on…
My point is there are many more diversions than back in the good old days. There are many different ways to get those diversions spoon fed to you. AND there are a whole range of costs people bear that compete for the remaining available resources.
None of these points bring in streaming or the ins-and-outs of the music business. But if you add those in it is pretty ominous financially.
If there is an upside its that it’s easier than before to get your work in front of people. But that isn’t much of an upside against all the other unassailable challenges. Those of us who can afford to support artists could make more of an effort to do so (and I put myself first in line for that challenge). It won’t make much of a difference overall, but it will make some difference.

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Love Rickie Lee. I accidentally saw her play in a Hartford, CT. meat rack bar, in the early ‘80s.

Just bought the new CD (and a keychain fetish) from the web.

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All very true Scott - no doubt about it.

I was thinking of ways where artists use the tools they have at hand - social media etc to put themselves before the public’s eye and endear themselves to their fans.

Back in the day, (as you spoke about), it was far tougher than today to get ‘known’ & build up some sort of following. There was essentially only one method and that was playing night after night in small venues. Further, the opportunity to record and release an album was essentially in the hands of high charging recording studios & associated major labels. Today, this has completely changed.

So, in that regard, it’s never been better to record (at home etc), release some music and (self) promote. By contrast, in days gone by, such opportunities were largely out of the equation, unless you were a bigger band!

As a music purchaser, I do find a large segment of the music industry way out of touch. Given we know that CD sales are well down and likely never to return to their prime, I don’t understand why many labels still sell CD’s only (or perhaps vinyl).

There are many albums I’d buy if those record labels/distributors would provide digital copies and when they do, provide at least .flac files. I haven’t downloaded an Mp3 file for roughly 10 years. Sure storage/bandwidth are an issue, but really in 2020 that’s simply not good enough.

I recently sent an email to an online record company asking was there a version of a new release available in flac or wav. I got an automated response saying they would get back to me during office hours, (it was a weekend); some 3 weeks later I’ve not heard back from them. That’s extremely disappointing when I am wanting to show my support & buy the music.

Cheers.

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