A new study that shows only 1% of all artists earn 77% from total music sales is a damn disgrace while the video below is interesting purely because this novelty recording from Japan by BabyMetal about the joys of eating chocolate is currently the best selling track on iTunes, something which should make every musician who records anything- yes, for the love of music and also to receive some form of financial reward- wonder what it takes to have a hit.
Is there a formula involved in having this elusive hit, or has it to do with just throwing a bunch of different styles of music out there into that iTunes clutter and seeing if anything sticks?
Or does it mean doing what you love and hoping someone likes what you’ve recorded- once they’ve discovered it amongst everything else out there- and, on the other hand, being extremely commercial, taking a page from Crazy Frog and creating something that becomes a pop hit that leads to a multi-faceted money-making business- or even re-inventing yourself?
If taking a Crazy Frog route is way too demeaning for a “serious musician”, well, surely it depends whether being a “serious musician” is paying the bills on a regular basis and if producing novelty tracks or reinventing one’s self and having a gimmick is really “demeaning”?
It depends on whether appearing on American Idol or X Factor and The Voice is thought to be “demeaning” as, surely, these showcases, supposedly for “new” talent when MANY on these shows like Adam Lambert was an unsuccessful lounge singer in LA long before being “reborn” as The Glambert are signed up long before the theatrics of auditions etc are gimmicks or simple survival.
It’s “novelty television” given the more “respectable” tag of “reality television” when it’s always been faked-out television with an end business game plan involving ratings which bring in sponsorship and this sponsorship money paying for the production, the huge salaries of the celebrity judges, the airtime plus touring and merchandising.
As with Facebook, YouTube, twitter, Reddit etc, television talent shows need content and every contestant on any of these provides this content- and, as usual, for free.
More and more, the lines are becoming far more divided between those that make the music and give it away for free and those who have a business plan in place and need this music- for free- to make these plans work.
Yes, it’s nothing personal, it’s business, and surely, it’s time everyone out there making music- and going broke doing so- think whether they need a new career or start getting real and understand that this is a business- the music business and not the hobby it was when a teenager.
Today, if in one’s in their Thirties and still a struggling musician, welcome, not to the Age of Aquarius, but the world of Ageism ‘cos the thinking of those doing the hiring or those doing the signing is that if an artist hasn’t made it by this time, they’re “not good enough and never ever will be.”
Think about it: No matter how good they are, a band comprising “old guys” in their thirties and forties are just not taken seriously- except if the Stones or any former Rock gods milking their past catalogue as part of their retirement plan.
So, I come back to creating, producing and owning all Rights which can lead to far more financially solvent and long-term business opportunities.
Evolution, re-inventing one’s self, gimmicks- call them what you will- have been part of music from the start of time with creative marketing being part of the entire package.
Hendrix dressed like Captain Jack Sparrow and playing guitar with his teeth was not a gimmick?
After years of going nowhere under different names in the US, he became Jimi Hendrix in the UK and kissed the sky.
Bowie’s various ch-ch-ch-changes were all part of the evolution of the artist and creating and owning his own schtick whether Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke.
The same can be said about the rough leather-clad Silver Beatles from Hamburg who manager Brian Epstein put into collarless jackets and suits and made the Mop Tops shake their heads like four white Little Richard’s and go “Woooh”.
There were those Would You Allow Your Daughter To Marry A Rolling Stone planted headlines, photos of the Stones in drag, Elvis The Pelvis, Michael Jackson’s one white glove, Pete Townshend trashing his guitar, Malcolm McClaren’s gimmick that were the Sex Pistols and today’s hastily put-together boy band One Direction.
Without Simon Cowell putting these blokes together and “offering” one for every different young girl’s own wet dream, they’d be just another faceless, nameless entity.
Say what one will about Cowell, but he is an extremely sharp marketing and businessman with an acute sense of timing and filling voids. And there was a void for a new boy band like Take That.
At least in the UK, a concert tour featuring Take That- including its former pudgy short member- and One Direction would be massive and with huge commercial value.
Today, it’s how one approaches the business of music.
Sure, one can take a DIY stance and buy fake views and followers, but loke fake sex, it does nothing to fill the coffers or offer anything of relevance.
If anything, it’s a domino effect that is doomed from the start as, suddenly, more and more consumers are questioning “views” etc as “social media” has created a fake world of popularity.
It’s why YouTube is finally creating new revenue streams for content providers with millions of real subscribers to their YouTube channels.
Meanwhile, a so-called “music platform” like Spotify operates under a one-way traffic strategy and actually pits the artist against the music fan though outwardly painting a false impression of holistic artistic support.
I was speaking to friend last week who has relied on gigs in five-star hotel lounges for financial security while still doing what she wants to do as side projects when the time and opportunity arises.
How long will this be her business plan?
Most likely forever as there’s no real evolution as it’s simply more of the same that’s come before. There is no new Darwin’s Theory of Music.
Is there a void, anywhere? Frankly, the five-star hotel lounge singer offers some huge opportunities other than doing covers no matter how uniquely these are done. It’s still background music and stuck between the first and ground floors of an elevator.
If, however, those responsible for booking acts- and I don’t mean those deadly dull parasitic Mr and Mrs 20 percent agents with zero creativity- within the hotels can be sold on what I call the Nouveau Lounge Act- an audio-visual show of total originality that is always musically interesting and not dressed to tease and please some outta-towners who wouldn’t know their arse from their elbow and would accept anything offered to them, this drab hotel scene can change.
To do so, however, the hotelier, knowing their venue and customers, needs to understand that booking another attractive Filipina who sings the usual list of covers- like all those excellent cover bands in Wanchai and Tsimshatsui signed to iron-clad contracts and work visas- has lost its appeal as what worked thirty years ago has run its course.
By the same token, these so-called “lounge singers” should think of ways of re-inventing themselves whereas the cover bands playing on remote at clubs where the only objectives are to get drunk and get laid should realize that recording ONE novelty track even about adobo and sung by “Vanilla Manila” can buy themselves all the freedom they need with some FRESH thinking.
Once you’ve “sold out”, there’s absolutely no harm in “selling out” again- but under your terms with you owning all the Rights and calling all the shots.