Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Should musicians have to market their own music?

John Mellencamp has an interesting article up on Huffington Post about what he thinks of today's music industry. Brief summary: not much.

On My Mind: The State of the Music Business

As no one has welcomed Cinder Bridge to the machine just yet, It's hard for me to know how much Mellencamp's perceptions of a golden bygone era are fueled by nostalgia. However, I do have some thoughts about his take on the musician as marketer:
These days, some people suggest that it is up to the artist to create avenues to sell the music of his own creation. In today's environment, is it realistic to expect someone to be a songwriter, recording artist, record company and the P.T. Barnum, so to speak, of his own career? Of course not ... The artist is here to give the listener the opportunity to dream, a very profound and special gift even if he's minimally successful. If the artist only entertains you for three and a half minutes, it's something for which thanks should be given.
Hmmm. Okay. Marketing the band isn't one of my favorite activities, and I'm not all that good at it. I like the idea that this is because I'm a sensitive important artist who's above such things. And yeah, it would be great if Ron and I had a team of people who did it all for us.

But here's the thing. Even if Cinder Bridge built a time machine and launched itself into the early 1980s (or the '70s, or the '60s -- pick any era you want), is it likely we would get that lucky break? That someone would discover us and raise us up to John Mellencamp's level of fame? No. What the Internet and cheaper recording technology and social media and all that offer people like us is a middle way. A path for people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and find their own audience. Yeah, it's annoying and it's hard and we'd rather just concentrate on making music, but guess what? The world doesn't owe us a living.

On a highly tangential note, Mellencamp's article left me feeling nostalgic for my college days. I went to Indiana University. During my four years there, I don't think a week went by that I didn't hear "I Need a Lover Who Won't Drive Me Crazy" at least once or twice. Sing it, John.


Anonymous said...

"The old rules and constraints that had governed what was once considered a legitimate artist are no longer valid."

This one sentence from his article really says it all. As a listener and former consumer, I walked away from the 'mainstream' music business once all they came out with was the latest identical (c)rap album, the latest plastic idiot out of American Idol, or prefab Disney teens who think they have the wisdom and life experience to have _anything_ meaningful to sing to anyone. It's not illegal file sharing that's done you in for many of us -- it's the wretched, pointless drivel that you have almost exclusively spewed out for over a decade now. Feh.

cinderkeys said...

You can find good stuff on commercial radio, but there's not much of it. I find it ironic that in an era where digital files give us almost unlimited shelf space, the playlists have grown laughably small.

Even so, I find Mellencamp's perspective kind of amusing. He reached his peak of fame in the 1980s, a vast musical wasteland if ever there was one. I'm nostalgic for the days when MTV played videos, but they virtually guaranteed that someone like me would never break in. Today I don't have to look like a pre-shaven Brittney Spears to get our stuff out there.

Snaggle Tooth said...

Great subject! These days it IS the way to go-
Most musicians are aware that the best originals stuff these days is all done "In House."
Because we can... the tunes sell them selves. If folks want it, they ask- You just have to put part of them out there (Utube)

cinderkeys said...

Definitely. Well, except for the songs selling themselves. They don't do that if no one finds you. But if they don't sell themselves, YOU can sell them.

Jeff Shattuck said...

Susan, I'm with you, life wasn't exactly great back in the 70s for artists. Or in the 80s. Or the the 90s. Or now, although I would that no is the best it's been. i say this as someone who once waltzed into a producer's office in Hollywood and saw firsthand the barriers between music creation and distribution. They were high!

One more note: just as everyone thinks "commercial" radio sucks today, so too did everyone back in the 70s.