Through you Editor,
Allow me to educate budding musicians. Anyone with a few bucks can go into a recording studio and come out with enough material to release a CD on an unsuspecting world. And that is precisely the point. You’ve recorded a record...so what? Everybody and their sister can rent studio time. Isn’t there a bigger question? What do you intend to do with it?
Making music and making a living from your music are not the same thing. When it comes to getting your music into the marketplace, you have entered the domain of Music Business and the first lesson is:
You have to make people aware of your music, and YOU have to create the demand for it, by getting the attention of the media who control the access areas for exposing new music (the record labels, distributors, stores, and live venues, as well as radio, TV, and the print media). No one is sitting at home waiting for you to release your music.
By saying all this, I presume that the intention behind recording your music was the intention to get your music in the hands of the record-buying public. Well, do you have the contacts and funds to properly distribute, promote, publicise, and perform that music? So many artists and bands go through the expense of recording and manufacturing their music only to find out they didn’t save any money for the marketing end of things.
There are two music worlds. There is the world of pure music, which involves the creative side of things, songwriting, rehearsing, and performing, and there is another world which must come into play IF you truly want people to hear your music...the Music Business.
Even the utterance of these words turns many people off. There is something potentially offensive about music becoming a commodity. It smacks of ‘sellout’, or a betrayal of sorts. But I feel strongly that there is a way to merge these two worlds, to not sell out, and to honour the way the business of music is conducted. For starters, keep control of your music for as long as possible. Put out your own CD and dive into selling and promoting of it.
The point is that so many bands/artists these days talk about “getting signed”, by some label. Musicians that are concerned about money before they even know anything about the business of music are doomed to eternal unhappiness and frustration.
Music should always come first, followed close behind by simply asking oneself some simple music business questions, such as:
• What is a copyright?
• What do publishers do?
• What happens when you do sign with a record label?
• Why do labels pay the royalties that they do pay?
• What is royalty, anyway?
My hopes are that by making you aware of some basic issues you will take the initiative to learn as much as you can about the music business.
If my attitude seems to be one that is at odds with you, why even bother trying to make a living from your music, you are getting the wrong idea. Through years of teaching musicians the business of music, my only concern is to be honest about the odds. Once we know what it really takes to compete in the music industry, we can at least look at the realities we must face, and decide if we want to fight the good fight, or simply go back to having our music be an enjoyable hobby. To help you get a feel for what must be done, let’s keep asking a few more questions.
• How should the artwork for the CD be designed?
•What information should be on the product?
•Should I sell my music at live shows?
•Should I consign my CD to local stores?
•What do Distributors want from me in order to carry my music?
•What price do I sell my CD for?
•Will radio play my record?
•How does radio choose what it plays?
•What newspapers,magazines, music trades might review my music?
•What clubs and other live venues might I play in?
I could go on, but I think you get the point. After 9+ years of supporting independent music and musicians, my closets are full of ‘wanna-be’ demos, CDs. I know that much of the music is good music, but that’s just the point...GOOD has very little to do with anything when it comes to the music marketplace. GOOD is taken for granted. Why else would anyone go into a studio to record, if they didn’t believe their music was worthwhile?
Think about the questions I brought up. You cared enough about your music to record it, so don’t stop there. Protect it and prepare it for the marketplace in a way that is comfortable to you.
Fidel Nambundunga is an independent music business consultant based in Khomasdal, Windhoek. He is available for private
consultations on management, agreements, promotion and marketing music independently and can be reached at +264-61-260 938/ 081 270 3821 or by email at