After the promo barrage of my last album, Yellow House, my web presence increased, and I found myself getting contacted out of the blue. This should be a good thing, right?
If you’re a devoted songwriter/recording artist, doing your sacred work somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd tiers of the Music Industry, here are a couple of guidelines:
1) If you gotta pay for an opportunity, it ain’t an opportunity.
2) The Biz is densely populated with working talent; no one “gets discovered” any more.
This second one is vague, so I’ll elaborate: Scouting agents are not scouring the vast regions of MySpace, Sonic Bids, and ReverbNation just to find you. Anything good that might happen for you, such as a recording contract, radio airplay, song placement, or a publishing deal, is happening for artists who are already within geographical or virtual proximity of the Biz entities that make those things happen. They do it better than you, and literally closer to the industry than you.
So when I get contacted by someone I’ve never heard of, telling me how excited they are about me, I recall what Groucho Marx said: “Never belong to a club that would accept you as a member.”
Oh, that sounds discouraging. But it only means what it means for everybody else in every other line of work. You have to show up and apply for the job. And you have to show up over and over and over again. It takes time, persistence, and patience.
If somebody e-mails you from Hollywood with a movie project that needs background music exactly like your latest masterpiece, and for a one time registration fee, they will add you to their select roster of song-placement clients, remind yourself of the two axioms above.
I do not want to risk committing legal libel on my blog site, so I will not deign to call my latest Music Biz suitor an outright scam. They are called SongPlacement.com. And they are from Hollywood. They contact unsigned artists via mySpace to tell them of a fresh movie production. They even provide an outline of the plot.
I replied that I was interested. ‘Cause it doesn’t hurt just to take a look. (Maybe your pride, a little bit, if you happen to get excited for a moment or two.) I then got a phone call, from a friendly fellow named Jesse, who said I obviously have a lot of artistic integrity, and that I have a great chance of getting placed in a number of productions. He also said that they would submit to “cool college” radio stations all over the country.
All this for a mere $200 registration fee.
That’s when I new something was wrong. I’ve done this music biz thing for a long time. And I know the math. In fact, I just submitted to “cool college radio stations around the country.” You know what’s funny? Two-hundred bucks doesn’t even pay for the envelopes!
A lot has changed in Music, because of the internet mostly. It’s easier for artists to promote themselves on a budget. It’s easier to reach a modest audience without depending on Big Bad Record Corporations. But some things haven’t changed. 1) It’s still a flesh and blood endeavor. 2) There are still people who try to make their money off the hopes and dreams of artists, rather than the consumers of music.
By the way, if you’re an Americana, Folk, or Country artist, and you wanna get your stuff submitted around the world, don’t wait for some web-based electronic trolling music-biz ghost with an exotic new business model to contact you. Find someone like my colleague Rachel Harrington from Emerging Artist Resources.
She puts hundreds of your CD’s in envelopes, addresses them, and puts them in the mail. Reviewers open them and listen, because they see her name on the package. It costs a pretty penny, but that’s what it takes. And every artist you hear on the radio, or in the background of a really cool movie, has made that kind of commitment.