Times they are a’ changin: Episode 2.2

So it is time for another installment of the blog. Let’s see if I can remember where I left off. I believe that I was saying the day of making a living off your cd sales was over. My position is being confirmed daily as evidenced by this recent article on music downloading. According to this article 95% of music downloads are illegal. And while I question the high percentage there is little doubt that this trend is not going to be easily changed. At the same time there are numerous articles coming out now about music streaming and how this is the new trend. Check out this article just to get a sample. The claims are that steaming is a whole lot better than downloads whether legal or illegal.

The labels are freaking out and have no idea how to stop it. The artist is wondering how they are going to make a living all the while hoping they can sign the big record deal that is going to be their big break; ignoring the fact that the record company has no clue how to survive in this new market. The labels want to file lawsuits to try and force people to go back to the old days so they can make money again. And the reality is those days are gone.

So how is the artist going to survive now and make a living? Well I believe the future for the artist can ironically found in the past. We are going to make our living by playing live. That is the key to survival for us as musicians. Back in the days before multiplatinum albums bands made their living by playing concerts. Fans bought the albums but what we really wanted was the opportunity to see the band live. And for the bands this was great because you didn’t have the record label trying to recoup all the album recording cost from the live shows or trying to give an artist 5% or so of the ticket sales as just compensation. No, the live show could generate a lot of revenue for the band and there were a lot of them making a good living on tour.

So bands need to get out there and start playing shows. And I’m not talking about a show once a month or even once a week. We need to get out there playing a lot. Taking the time to work on the live performance to learn how to make it an event. The more you play the more you are going to learn how to make this happen.

If you want to get some real insight into this idea read the new Malcom Gladwell book ‘Outliers’. He has some great insight into the success of the Beatles. He talked about the huge number of shows the Beatles played before they finally broke. As any Beatle freak knows in the early 60’s they had a 2 ½ year period where they went to Hamburg, Germany on a number of occasions. While in Hamburg the Beatles played a ton of shows. They had gigs where they would have to play for 8 hours. The SMB whines if we have to do 3 hours, I can’t imagine having to play for 8 hours. and while I am not suggesting that we play 8 hour gigs, I did learn a couple of things.

One was that according to Gladwell a person did some figuring and determined that the Beatles played around 1200 shows before they broke. 1200 hundred shows! That is incredible. Most bands don’t play that in their entire lifetime and the Beatles did this before they had any big success. But what was most illuminating about this was a quote from a guy who was familiar with the Beatles at this time. I don’t recall who it was and am too lazy to get the book and look it up, but he said that before Hamburg the Beatles were just not that good live but after all the playing in Hamburg they improved dramatically. And remember at this time the only thing you could do was play live because you could not make an album on your home computer. The only was to make an album was by signing a record deal so until then all you had was the live show.

So maybe we should take a lesson from this. If I am right that our future lies in live shows then we need to get out there and start playing. We need to learn how to play shows that make people want to come back and bring their friends. Or at the least tell others about this great new band they saw. The more you play the better you are going to become. Sure you can practice a lot but ask any sports coach and they will tell you that you have got to play real games to see if you are any good. And if you play 50 times over the next year and nobody wants to hear you… well then you need to think seriously about what you are doing wrong. If people don’t want to come see you live then you are going to have a very hard time making a living in this new world.
So that is what I think about all this. If you’ve got some better ideas I would love to hear them because I am definitely open to suggestions. But in the meantime I guess I better get my butt out there and start playing because the times are a’ changing. (CV)

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2 responses to “Times they are a’ changin: Episode 2.2

  1. So not having the rec. co. to get the gigs and book the shows leaves the musician with those responsibilities. I wonder if instead of concentrating on venue owners (bars) to facilitate these shows, what about outdoor shows with sponsors like the old days, not coorporate sponsors, small business owners and or social justice groups to promote their causes. What about the parks, Ty Ty or Tom Brown? I wonder about the legality of just playing in the on the street? Also I’m thinking if I ever get a well recorded volume of work together to send it to the festivals sites and try and plan a touring thing for a coupla years. I myself am single so that is easier for one less encumbered.
    Seems like for y’all being so successful here in T-town you could maybe do the University music/arts venues? Like our Down Under.
    Too bad we can’t be kept by the Queen on the royal grounds and only be responsible for creating and sharing those creations and little else.

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