I don’t know how I only just now discovered Derek Sivers’ blog, but I’m glad I did. In fact, this will be a short post. Musicians, songwriters, bands, artists – you know who you are… Get on over to his site and start reading. There is a WEALTH of great information for you if you are interested in making a career of this thing.
To say anymore, would only keep you here longer. Bye.
The music industry is in a phase right now that’s similar to when you have been spinning around in circles for 2 minutes and you finally stop. Technically, you aren’t “spinning” anymore, but it can sure feel like it. Some players are still dizzy, some have acclimated and are heading out to seek the “hiding” fans, and some were never playing in the first place.
However, it’s also a fantastic time to come up with some new models of revenue and exposure, while many are still spinning. One of the most popular economic models emerging now (and certainly not just in the music industry) is the idea of “free”. I’m not going to review and repeat the thoughts of some of the more popular thinkers, but here’s a quick list of resources on the subject:
(marketing guru) has written about it extensively, and from here you can follow the “free” line back to
has continued to be successful in building his NIN fan base and is MASSIVELY successful at satisfying his existing one. He openly shares his thoughts and strategies for independent and upcoming artists
• Even the web site
has their take on the economics of free and how it applies to the music industry.
Clearly, this is a format that is getting a lot of traction with everyone from consumers to entrepreneurs, and clearly there is more to it than simply giving products away for free. Value, Attention, and Access are BIG leverage holders in these equations, so do your research as an artist before you dole out torrents of your latest EP.
Now, let me be clear that as a music producer, I am a fan of this model. In fact, I am a fan of whatever strategy gets my artists the most exposure. More exposure for them means more people hear their music, which means more people hear my work, which means more artists potentially want to work with me, etc. But, I also need to make a living. So how does the “free” music tactic include me?
Artists give away their album/EP/single for free, because they know they will get paid through concert tickets, VIP packages, private parties, merchandise, songwriting royalties, TV/Film placements, and ATTENTION. They are forgoing their interest in the recording royalties- royalties, which traditionally have been the sole source of payment to record producers (except for advances, which are technically related to royalties).
Now that the artist has found a way to create revenue, what about the producer?
Certainly a producer can get paid off songwriting/publishing (if they are included in the songwriting) and potentially they will get a percentage of any licensing placements (if they are able to structure a deal that way), but what if they didn’t write any of the songs and the band’s not exactly TV/Film-like? A producer traditionally isn’t going to be paid a % of ticket sales, merch, VIP meet ups, private parties, etc. So…
How is a music producer involved in the revenue stream of “Free” Economics?
I’m not sure yet (none of my artists haven given a record away for free), and my guess if that most mid-level producers haven’t figured it out yet either. And guess what? NO ONE is going to figure it out for us, because NO ONE cares. If the band has figured out a way to make money giving their music away for free and a fan has figured out a way to get access and music from their favorite band for next to nothing – They won’t care that WE aren’t being paid. And we can cry in our fancy sounding, high bit rate beer all we want.
So what are our revenue options as producers?
1. Songwriting – If you’re a songwriter, and it’s appropriate, get involved. Not to mention your relationship to the songs will be stronger.
2. Licensing – Get involved as an “agent”. Get it placed and work out a % for that.
3. Produce records as a work for hire – This is becoming a popular and easy way for some to deal with the whole uncertainty of which revenue stream the band will pursue. Personally, I’m not a fan of this method, because when I make a record I always believe that it has a TON of potential to be successful, and I want to be rewarded accordingly if the CD is paramount in garnering attention (and revenue) for the band. I guarantee Mike Clink is ecstatic that he didn’t work for a flat fee when a made a little record called Appetite for Destruction with some no name rockers straight off the strip.
4. Become an Nth member, or equity holder in the band – This is both the simplest and the trickiest. If you are working with an established act, the success of the record you produced may or may not be a result of how awesome it sounds. It may very well be a combination of the 2 years they spent in a bus AND how awesome it sounds.
5. Become an equity holder in the band for the duration of the record – If the band agrees to this, during the time frame they are touring and supporting the record (that they are giving away for free), you are an equity partner all income (except songwriting you didn’t participate in). When the next record comes out, they give that one away for free, but begin SELLING the previous one and you are back to standard royalty payments. It begins to get complex when singles independent of albums are released, but it’s a possibility.
Got any others? What’s working for you? I love to hear ‘em! Just remember, managers and labels aren’t going to come up with ways to pay us producers. It’s up to us.
I’m getting ready for a few weeks in the studio with the Steve Carson Band and we’ve decided to document quite a bit of the debauchery. You can follow it all here: www.scbmusic.com
P.S. We’re tracking drums next week at Sound City. Here are some other records that were recorded there: http://www.soundcitystudios.com/ ….not bad
(photo by Austin Bauman)
I turned 35 a few days ago and was feeling both old and young at once. The younger me saw opportunity and the older flinched for a second at the fading memories.
While I drifted through the endless possibilities of what I could have done differently in the past to have MORE now and have achieved MORE, and on and on… I paused and instead decided to think of all the moments I am grateful for in my life. Experiences that possibly defined, but certainly remained permanently forged in my memory banks. I decided to wait until now to recall some of them so they would be freshly renewed.
In no particular order, I am grateful for and remember:
• My parents letting me build a half-pipe skateboard ramp with my friends in the backyard even though they were both attorneys. That’s cool.
• Going WAY too fast on my skateboard down that Georgia hill, getting the wobbles, sliding across the gravel and landing in a ditch of thorns. All while my entire family watched.
• Dropping in on my first wave at “Roca Loca” in Costa Rica. Missing the “Roca” and feeling the exhilaration of an 8’ Pacific swell and its power for the first time.
• Swimming with whales in Pacific many years later. Wow.
• Watching the reef pass under my surfboard in Puerto Rico.
• Not getting pulled over by that Puerto Rican Policeman after we left the bar.
• Swimming at midnight in the
• Sailing for weeks to the Bahamas, sleeping very little, drinking only Kalik, working throughout the day, diving and fishing for dinner, and feeling alive.
• Seeing my first eel underwater. WAY scarier looking underwater than a shark.
• Hearing “Take the money and Run” by the Steve Miller Band and deciding that I wanted to learn how to play it on the drums.
• Playing timbales on a Ringo Starr album.
• Paying a local fisherman in Costa Rica to take us to “Ollies Point” and “Witch’s Rock”. Two famous and hard to reach surf spots in Costa Rica.
• Asking Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew about the break at Rocky Point. Being VERY humbled by the power from the ocean on the North Shore of Oahu.
• Led by some Dominican teens, we snuck into the burned and abandoned mansion of former tyrannical ‘Dictator’ Trujillo. Although he died 30 years earlier, it was very spooky place.
• Walking a great distance in Paris to find the restaurant Chez Pierre. A hole in the wall that had the best lamb I’ve ever tasted.
• Seeing Patrick Stewart in London. Seriously, it could not have been a more fitting sighting for tng trekkie with only 5 hours in London.
• Playing in a Jazz quintet as a museum exhibit in the Boston. I don’t play Jazz.
• Playing on stage at a festival in Gainesville with my band. Hearing the sound of my snare ricochet off the back of the empty venue.
• Walking on stage barefoot at the Gainesville Center for Performing Arts and playing brazilian drums for a sold out show.
• Seeing my future wife for the first time. Awkwardly extending my hand instead of going for the hug. (Blind date jitters!)
• Laying on the smooth rock beach in Positano, Italy.
• Walking through the mazelike streets of Venice, Italy.
• Learning and playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on piano. Forgetting it.
• Going to a strip club with David Lee Roth.
• Nearly drowning in a Costa Rican river. Feeling very fortunate and grateful.
• Hiking the Grand Tetons with my father
• Watching Tiger Woods hit a golf shot up close.
• Listening to my mother play “Spinning Song” on the Piano
• Watching my beautiful wife walk down the aisle and hearing the bagpipes.
• Hearing my band on the radio for the first time.
• Having the opportunity to ask some artists in person about albums they made that I listened to endlessly.
• Surfing way out on the 3rd sandbar by myself during a storm and seeing a shark coming towards me. That was 15 years ago and I remember EXACTLY what that dorsal fin looked like.
• Spending 24 hours in solitude at the Great Sand Dunes.
• Ending that with time with amazing friends.
• Watching my father cry at my sister’s wedding.
• Watching my grandfather tune our piano.
and on and on and on…
Looking back on this list makes me feel incredibly fortunate and grateful to have had all these experiences and opportunities, grateful for the people I shared them with, and grateful for memories that I was left with. I’m ready for at least 35 years of new ones now.