Sunday, October 30, 2011

The hyper-promoting band next door? Probably not.

my take on how -or how *not*- musical artists are using the much-discussed new resources for promoting music.

me taking a break from promotion
  From decades of dealing with bands and artists as a producer, one thing that has struck me is that there seems to be *less* aggressive promotion going on these days - and certainly less than all the commentary about new-media tools for artists would have one believe.
Could this be an illusion ?
I've been playing a lot more live shows and touring with my own band than I was in the 80's, so that might give me a different view
Well here are some possible reasons, some of them contradictory:

There is simply now, more clear evidence of an artist's lax promotion, than in the old days - ie: an official website that hasn't been updated in a year
so nothing has really changed, and:

The proportion of artists that actually hustle, is, and has always been a minority

Record labels, small and large, used to do a lot of the promotion - providing a division of labor
hence, even artists without a personality inclined to promotion, or the social skills, would be promoted

There's a generational difference in attitudes between artists from my early era (the 80's), and now
hustling/promoting was viewed as "being serious" and with the underdog status of independent music, had more social value. But once there was a possible payoff with independent music, there was a taboo, and suspicion of aggressive promotion

All the new-media and networking tools don't work as effectively as commentators suggest

All the new-media and networking tools are more difficult to use, and use skillfully, and with more quality than it would seem
this is nothing new under the sun. Regardless of the tools, promotion requires skill and instinct. We simply don't all have that - see my previous point about division of labor - but yet we all have to DIY it ..DO-IT-YOURSELF

Certain networking tools, like Facebook, work remarkably well
So either the artist thinks a little promotion is doing as much as can be hoped for, or they're easily getting the desired results. And either way they slack on the rest

Not all artists LIKE the auxiliary expression at the core of new-media promotion - ie: photos, graphics, blogging, designing on-line flyers, maintaining a presence through frivolous postings
So they quickly start slacking. And this is the stuff only the artist can do.
Even if someone else is helping promote, they can't bring a horse to water

There is LESS of a sense that music could be a life-long career
therefore, less carrot-on-a-stick incentive

It's easier now to have a marginally functional band partly because of the new tools, so there are more musicians in the stew who wouldn’t have pursued a career before anyway
they're happy just to play, and aren't going to get too entangled with the endless job of promotion

this is endless !


Unknown said...

I know this blog is 3 years old but I have to say - I seriously hate using social media to promote myself sometimes. I hate taking stupid selfies to show people what I'm up to and I hate blabbering on Twitter but it seems necessary and people ask me to do it so I do it. Boring selfie after boring selfie after boring selfie
Honestly though it's probably my fault for not self-motivating enough to post things that I find more compelling.

Anonymous said...

It takes a toll physically and mentally if you're really going for it, which isn't mentioned in your article but is a contributing factor to being less aggressive on the internet promotion circuit. So the balance between real life pounding pavement promotion and digital promotion is more fragile/mysterious than has been determined thus far (more or less since after the "myspace band" phenomenon bubble has formed and subsequently popped after the early 2000's) Many bands don't want to admit/face the reality of what it really takes to be out there promoting your group heavily and instead they "fake it" and who can really tell the difference nowadays? It will probably take some time to figure out.

Basically, I saw other bands easily do what I was so desperately trying to get for myself (sold out shows, record deals, funded tours, tons of plays online, critical acclaim) And...They were rich kids who had their entire sh*t funded from Day 1. No one admits this in the clear of day, though, because it's not a good look at all (esp. if you're in indie/underground scene).

Needless to say, without cash you can still get where-ever you want to go, in my opinion. If my group would've had money at our disposal we would've "gotten further" without a doubt, though. I know this via tangible interactions with a record producer who was willing to produce an LP for us, though we weren't able to pay this person (couldn't afford it). All money went towards fixing broken equipment, travel, generic costs of playing shows (alcohol, snacks). Even without money... you can still play a sold out show, if you have someone with more clout promote for you, generally. It's all about right place, right time. Through hard work you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. However, you don't know this until you experience it first-hand, which is why you see a lot of people struggling to understand how it all works with band promotion.

In another 10-20 years I do wonder if the kids then will have as much of an idea as to what it means to pursue music as a life goal, because they may not even know about what music consumption/lifestyle was like prior to the social media representation of it. Then again, it does come down to what you're really trying to get out of it, to measure your own success against that. It's sort of interesting that this whole approach is slowly dying out though I feel there have to be kids which will carry this torch on. It comes down to being music nerds and having the mind which can encapsulate and compute all the information and then being down on your luck (or nuts) enough to actually really pursue your dream with it all... Then you really find out the worth of promotion as a tool.

At present, everyone seems to want to be an "armchair participant" in indie/underground music scenes, so if your band plays to this idea as a strength in it's promotional approach, you'll probably find more success than trying to translate/map an old-school approach to the new digital mediums. For instance, as an "armchair participant", reading your bands name on a tweet or seeing it on a page, doesn't really do anything for me. But video/image does. Audio... might but with a video, it's much more powerful. Audio recordings are becoming less important to bands and live performance is the main attraction which completely goes against the history of the art side of rock'n'roll wherein recording artifacts are valuable art entities. Now it's moreso about digital media to the point where, kids would rather watch your band on YouTube than actually go out and see you play in real life.

Video w/Audio (i.e. Music video or live video) is the #1 best tool for promotion.

Just some of my thoughts...