Indie Artists: Buying Success
Having written these columns since January 1997, having worked as SVP for the company deeply credited with establishing the online radio software platform used by thousands of radio stations, and currently developing web sites to promote indie artists (RRadio Music) and independent online radio stations (RadioRow), I get the following question thrown my way a lot: "How do I reach my online goals and get attention?"
It's humbling to have people think I carry so much power that I would have an answer for this. In a few words, let me set the record straight - There's not much I can do except to be one spoke of many in a wheel that's moving too fast for most everyone to keep up with.
"We're far past a point when musicians can be singled out as 'talented,' picked up by a record label, and promoted to a series of broadcast radio stations that help them get established in one market after another. That was an extremely easy way to go about building a fan base, back when."
In the mid-1990s, there were only a few folks like myself who thought this internet thing was important enough to bet their future on it. Lots of people in the radio industry laughed at me (and others). They thought "radio will always be top-of-mind." Few artists thought there was value in learning how to use the internet back then, too.
The broadcast radio industry is still in denial. That is, it hasn't moved from its executives seeking an easy, cheap route to everything internet related. Most still question the efficacy of the internet for music delivery and advertising - in part because they have not taken the time to learn. Radio courses on how to use the internet are near laughable, and reading its experts' views on how to use social media or websites is akin to running down a wish list. There's no mention of the difficulties in getting from point "A" to point "B."
Things are much different on the indie artist side. Most artists know the internet leads directly to fans, that it's a passage to multitudes of online radio stations, and that it offers hundreds - actually, thousands - of services designed to help a lowly independent get around a broken mainstream music distribution system.
Artists are a more thoughtful lot than those in radio. Artists spend time dreaming of what can be. Broadcasters spend time defending what was.
That's the reason why I moved most of my efforts into helping indie artists find independent online radio stations. Staying focused on the broadcast radio industry was like staying with buggy whips as the automobile was introduced.
Indie acts need help. They have the talent but find marketing music difficult. Being a musician, with the internet now being a major highway to the masses, means spending lots of time trying to understand what is required to get your name out.
Social media isn't fun after the first few weeks of seeing few results. Contacting online radio stations isn't efficient when you have to do it one-by-one, and wait for the person who owns each to return your call or email. And consumers have really degenerated to people who want most everything for free - what fun is that?
So, I'm not sure the question needing an answer is "How do I reach my online goals?" That's a very broad view if you are looking to expand your career.
Perhaps the better questions are "How do I use the internet to help me break out of the competitive clutter?" and "How do I break free of the clutter on the internet?"
We're far past a point when musicians can be singled out as "talented," picked up by a record label, and promoted to a series of broadcast radio stations that help them get established in one market after another. That was an extremely easy way to go about building a fan base, back when.
The audience is fragmented today, and it's extremely hard to get its attention. Internet radio stations are so numerous and so many of them carry only a few people in their audience that getting your song played on them may not be worth the effort - if you do it on a one-by-one basis. (That's why I created the "Intro to Indie Artists
" program series.)
The most damaging thing faced by the indie artist today has nothing to do with either of the above, though. As a talented indie, your biggest hurdle is in how the internet has given free reign to hundreds-of-thousands of other indie artists in exactly the same ease of availability as it's been given to you.
Your hardest problem is how the internet is there offering hundreds of services, along with hundreds of applications and social media platforms. All need time to fully understand exactly what it is you have to do to make them effective.
I've been actively working on the internet since 1997, warning the radio industry that it needed to ramp up its efforts because the internet would soon be stealing most of its thunder. Radio executives didn't listen, and we all see where that industry is today.
Now it's time for indie artists to take note. Become fluid in how the internet can help you reach goals, or align yourself with someone you trust. Fail in these areas and you'll become less relevant with each passing year.
Unlike the screaming fans who demand music for free, you'll not find many similar avenues for yourself. Be forewarned: "Free" in any business is hard to come by. So spend wisely. Learn quickly. Don't worry about what other indie artists are doing because the only one who matters is you.
I'm only one spoke in this internet wheel. I'm trying to help, but the rest depends on your vision of the future and how big that dream is which you carry in your head.
Online, it's a fight for attention like you've never seen before. Be ready for it. Don't make the same mistake as the radio industry. Things will not stay the same. You will not stay top-of-mind without effort. Buying success is not an option.
Today's indie artist introduction is to...
We listen for songs that evoke emotion; fast, slow, female, male, group, it doesn't matter. When an artist has the power to please, they should be given a chance to be heard.
Give PreyjeŠn's Traffic's "X-Files Cover Up" a listen
Add it to your playlist, free!
Such is the new world of music distribution.
It's time internet radio programmers reach into a huge pile of untapped talent.
It is here where new hit songs will increasingly be found.