The days of battling against the odds to get a record deal are over. It's never been easier to create your own music, build your fan-base, and make music your life's ambition. Exactly how much have things changed? Let's find out.
Anyone familiar with the inner workings of the mainstream music industry knows what scoring a record deal means. It's a potential pathway to enormous success, riches and fame, but it comes with a cost. No longer is the musician free to do whatever he/she pleases. Music is written as a committee to target a particular demographic, and as such, artists are frequently forced to collaborate with a room full of writers who are all answering to someone higher up the food chain. This has been a point of contention for many looking to get into the music business. Those who started writing music that goes against the mainstream grain may suddenly find themselves forced to switch gears while grinning and bearing it. What follows is the tedium of countless hours chasing second singles, battling big label inner politics and hoping that you'll emerge with some semblance of your soul intact, when the dust has settled.
It's far from all bad, however. Without mainstream music labels, we wouldn't have over 60 years of memorable, incredible music to listen to, draw upon and learn from as musicians. For that, we owe them a great debt, but as with everything in life, times change, and with that change comes a new way of doing things. Today we live in the Age of the Musician. Some have pondered when it was coming, but the truth is, we're already here. The establishment of the online model has finally given everyone the chance to carve out their own musical destiny. If you're dreaming of creating music and dishing it out to a world of hungry listeners hoping for something new and exciting, read on.
"It's never going to be like it was, and that's a good thing..."
In 2005, Bruce Springsteen netted a $128,000,000 deal with Columbia Records. Not bad for an old time rocker that should (in theory) be by the wayside while "fresh" new talent moves in to claim the cake. Springsteen is also an icon of rock, and combined with his everyman's approach to songwriting, struck a chord with millions of listeners around the world who identified with good old fashioned blue collar workman's honesty. It's a recipe for success that doesn't come along very often, and undoubtedly capitalized on by big record labels. This is a prime example of a win/win situation, where listeners are given great music written by a talented songwriter, while simultaneously making the record label a fortune in the process. The question is...can this success be reproduced by a talented new musician with no experience and no willingness to deal with the mainstream music machine?
Consider this. Chance the Rapper put out his Acid Rap mixtape in 2013 to great acclaim. By all accounts, his next move should have been to partner with any of the major rap labels and enjoy the benefits of their vast resources. Instead, he moved to L.A. and decided to do things his way. His thirst for creative control over his material pushed him to tour constantly while putting his music up on streaming platforms. On Spotify, Chance is a homegrown success story with music played over 100 million times. With $33 million in earnings to his name, he may not be in the same league as Springsteen's big label deal, but he's far from the starving indie musician stereotype. The lesson? It's never going to be like it was, and that's a good thing. These days, if you have the talent, the ambition, the cleverness, and the ability to tap into an audience that is hungering for something new and original, you can make a go of it and succeed outright. There's nothing wrong with leveraging big label tactics (such as merchandising) while retaining full creative control of your music. This is the world we live in, now. Opportunity is everywhere, if you're willing to fight harder than you would with a big label.
"Most indie music is going to suck, and that's Okay."
In 1987, I was obsessed with Def Leppard's "Hysteria" album. It changed my life, and set me down a musical path that I haven't strayed from once in all my 39 years. As a young schoolboy with dreams of rock stardom, I began penning lyrics to the songs that were playing out with crystalline clarity in my head, and planning to become the world's biggest star. Of course, that didn't happen, but the dream has never gone out. During my teen years, I started my first band consisting of a ska bass player, a rock rhythm guitarist, a lead guitarist/songwriter straight out of the Pink Floyd school of rock, and myself, a speed metal drummer. The music we were cranking out had the potential to go places......with a lot of work! The truth is, we weren't going to score a record deal in our current state without a lot of polish. I remember trying my hand at writing songs for the band; songs which I can't stomach to listen to right now because they're so bloody awful. None of us were particularly smashing, but we had the potential to be. Today's indie scene is much the same. When you open the floodgates and allow everyone to make music, it comes at the cost of removing a barrier to entry that (depending who you speak to) should be there. Naturally, musical tastes are subjective, but there's more to it than what floats your boat. Today's musicians might have the chops and talent to write some really amazing songs, but they'll no doubt be lackluster when it comes to the Mastering and mixing processes, or vice versa. All it takes is to put out some really bad music to establish yourself negatively in the eyes of your fan-base, which will make it that much harder to win them back, later on. Most indie music is going to suck, and that's Okay. Technology allows us to determine really quickly who is up to snuff, and who isn't cut out for big success. Social media plays a big role, here. Unfortunately, constructive criticism might often take a backseat to cruel feedback from people lacking basic diplomacy skills, but that in itself could be the fuel to light a musician's fire to do better. In life, we're taught that failing constantly is the best way to be successful. The same lesson applies here. The important thing is that you're actually making music in the first place! Even if you start off badly, you can only get better.
"The world is yours. Now you have to convince it."
Yoko Ono once said that "Indie music is 'it' now. It's kind of a revolution to the music....because of the social climate that's very severe, the artists are compelled to start being real. It's really great that indie music is now." And she's right. There will always be room for mainstream and indie music scenes to co-exist, and they will always enjoy cross-platform appeal. The difference lies in the flexibility and uniqueness of the indie music scene, unbound by the constraints placed upon them by big labels who are far more concentrated on demographics. One perfect example of this is the burgeoning synthwave scene, a return to the VHS-inspired synthpop of the 1980s, complete with instruments layered with gated reverb, shimmering saxophone and wailing guitar solos. A crop of amazing new bedroom musicians have taken a long-dormant musical style and injected it with a modern take on a classic sound, to much fan adoration. They've tapped into the nostalgia of the 1980s time period and resurrected it while tacking on elements of modern EDM and rock. Previously, this kind of approach might have been dismissed as cheesy and irrelevant, but fans have spoken. There's room for every kind of musical style these days, and plenty of opportunity for bedroom and/or basement musicians to make a huge name for themselves. The world is yours. Now you have to convince it. So, how do you start?
"Music is a social construct, so you must also be social."
For all the negative backlash surrounding social media platforms these days, it's nevertheless undeniable how much good they bring us, as well. From a business standpoint, social media can make or break your career, and that's no less true in music. If you're a blossoming musician with amazing music that you can't wait to set free on an unsuspecting populace, you're going to need to market yourself. Start learning how social media programs work, and how they can benefit you. Leverage their features and put a few bucks into advertising to boost your views and get the word out. Always remember the old addage: You can have the best lemonade stand in town, but if you're set up off the beaten path, nobody is going to find you. Music is a social construct, so you must also be social. Yes, even you anti-social death metal guys! That's a joke, by the way!
"Klickjam was founded to give musicians a chance, regardless of who they are."
We'd be foolish not to mention ourselves in this blog article, for obvious reasons. We started Klickjam about 2 years ago, and have been steadily building and revising the functionality of our site for the express purpose of uniting the entire world of music and giving everyone the perfect launchpad for their musical endeavors. We work with existing social media platforms, not against them. By making Klickjam your primary musical social media platform, you can push outwards to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more, all through your profile. You can post your YouTube music videos, your Soundcloud and Mixcloud links, all from within the Timeline. While we acknowledge that Facebook and Twitter are currently larger platforms than our own, neither of these platforms is music-centralized like Klickjam is, and that's where we are working to change the game. Our dev team is currently hard at work revising a number of items on our site for the purpose of making things easy for you, the musician. We're excited to be cooking up some truly amazing features which will allow you to link your profile together with your bandmates to create a full-fledged band page, manage your concert dates in one calendar that can be shared with your fans, and dive even further into expanded module functionality for your profile. Klickjam was founded to give musicians a chance, regardless of who they are. As we grow, you're going to have the ability to share your music with millions of members around the globe who are here for one reason: MUSIC! If that excites you, then you can believe it excites us!
It's a bold, exciting new age for musicians. We must be equally bold and step into the fray, unafraid of the consequences. Many of us will fail, and some of us will succeed, but commitment to the authenticity and the heart, soul and spirit of music makes everyone a winner!
Don't forget to head over to klickjam.com and create a new profile today. It's free!