Music dizziness… urh… business… A rant of sorts.

November 3, 2011

songwriters in the round, Vancouver


Well, lately I’ve been working on “upping” my presence online, finding opportunities and trying to develop my music career.  With an upcoming album, the need to find bookings and make contacts so to evolve my career is acute.

What I am noticing is that the music business is getting pretty expensive.

Everyone from Sonicbids, to the “free” Supernova contest, to the conferences, contact rooms, to the bloggers, the venues, the agents, everyone wants money from the artists.  Every single one of them.


The ‘free’ contests ask of you to furnish fans, who in return,  must furnish personal information, online sign ups and the like.  Where does that information go?  Who knows?  Venues will ask you to pay anywhere from $5 to $30 to apply for a possible shot for a spot in an event.  A lot of maybes for your hard earned money.

For example Sonicbids is a website claiming it booked 80 thousand gigs last year connecting bands and venues.  For its service Sonicbids requires a monthly or yearly membership  so the artists can access online listings.   Each listing in turn will ask $3 to $30 per submission so you have a chance to apply and cross your fingers.    In the last month I have spent a few hundred dollars on such things.   So far nothing close to a gig or some sort of return has appeared.  It’s early I know.   With Sonicbids, if the venue or opportunity responds to your submission it is considered “booked”.  Some of those listings are obvious money grabs.  Think of it : offer the “possibility” of an album review.  Ask the artists to pay $5, (a low enough amount to justify giving it away to chance, like a lottery ticket)  multiply this money times thousands of artists hoping for some press, review one album or two and the promoter can pocket the rest.  Convenient.

Of course one has the choice to be discriminate and not participate in such things.  But what gets me is that this is common practice.  The outrageous “pay to play” that we used to hear about from shady LA club promoters 15 years ago has become the norm, common acceptable practice.

To add to this, many if not most of those gigs warn you that there is no pay available for the artist. It’s the door or the hat which means YOU have to fill the venue if you want to be paid.
The internet was to be the great equalizer for artists.  I think of it more as the great bulldozer.  It is now considered somewhat “immoral” for artists to actually want to sell their music for money or to simply put a value on their work because of the download phenomenon.  Most would never consider not paying for a pack of gum simply because the gum company has sold a lot of them already…  Heck, most people are willing to pay very high prices for T-shirts made in China for 4 cents as long as they are found at the Gap or some other outlet with a name.  They would never consider not paying their mechanic or dentist.  And they would still pay a tip to a bad waitress just because…

Being an artist these days seems more and more like a popularity contest that has little relation with the work or substance being offered.   Popularity bolstered by the amount of “likes” number of “views” and “listens” garnered online.  We are statistics freaks, there is nothing like the satisfaction of seeing a graph line go up no matter what it’s about or what the implications of the up trend actually are.  I think we have become slaves to marketing.

Maybe what I am seeing online is only the veil masking or distorting a deeper truth or real, actual  possibilities.  I am hoping there is some substance below all this mass marketing tactics coming from the graduates of the music business schools of this world.
In a conversation with a long time friend earlier this week, we talked about the artist.  How being an artist, a creator is more a fact you live with than an actual job description.   It’s a way of life.  It’s a quest.  I’m not sure how to (or if I should)  merge this deep personal artistic quest with the number of  “likes” on my Facebook page.
Interesting thoughts.  In the mean time, I got a hankering for grabbing my guitar.

Rock on.


10 Responses to “Music dizziness… urh… business… A rant of sorts.”

  1. Bruce Maynard Says:

    Geeze, Danielle, seems there must a better road to take…is there some way I can help ?

  2. The ‘net gives us ALL a false sense of reality and it seems to enable more huckster-ish opportunists. Shame really – but musicians seem to have many generations of being squeezed by such people.


    … Facebook is like a thermometer. It is NOT the weather, NOT the climate… it is simply a number. YOU can bring us the weather (and the climate)

    OK – no more allegory – too much caffeine, too little sleep. You have folks who WILL SEE YOU moving ahead with this all…

  3. Christopher Says:

    Well said Danielle. I think you should become a writer for some big music publication say like Rolling Stone. Get on it. Say it like it is. Love ya, C

  4. Christopher Says:

    Well said Danielle. I think you should be a writer for Rolling Stone mag. They would appreciate your honesty. I do.

  5. Forrest Says:

    My goodness… PLEASE keep that guitar-grabbing hankering alive! Danielle, as I’d mentioned to you the last time we’d spoken, this business has damn-near killed me! I never thought that something I’d been so sure of since I was 4 years would be something I would suddenly doubt. After finally seeing this “industry” (I now HATE that word!) for what it is and agonizing about it for 27 years now and counting, I still believe that despite all that heartbreak, those of us who love what we do will be the true artists and performers we were created to be REGARDLESS of the salespeople that run the music business. I guess I might as well take this opportunity to acknowledge that my level of disenchantment with this business was quelled substantially when you and I began performing together. Meeting somebody who has a legitimate passion for music is something I really needed. I have been blessed to know some true virtuosos in my life. But I can’t say that many of them actually LOVE music or being an artist. I am glad that you are one of those who does. The goal in this business is more about being a “Star” than anything else. So-called “Industry Professionals” care about 3 things: MONEY, POWER, and THEMSELVES. Those nauseating emails Reverbnation sends out are great examples of what this industry has become. “Pay this or that for a ‘maybe'”. That blows. KEEP ON KEEPING ON, DANIELLE. Your passion and artistry speaks for itself!


  6. Danielle Liard Says:

    Well D, it’s this way: there are artists who create, and then there are the guys who can’t do that so they try and latch onto some part of it, and set themselves up in ‘business’ as agents, record companies, etc, you get the picture. But without you and other creators, they have no reason to exist, so take heart, you’re feeding a lot of people. Now if these guys could only figure out that you have to be fed too….


  7. Bob McEachern Says:

    It’s so sad the state of the music business, a good friend of mine who was involved in a major way with music promotion now sells cell phones. The promotion that used to be looked after by the record companies is not being done in the traditional way simply due to the fact they cannot secure a return on their investment as done in the past. We are back to the early days before recording when artists worked only by live performance without any chance of royalty income. In so many ways the internet has changed the world in a negative way but I guess thats progress and hopefully it will get sorted out in the future.

  8. John Doheny Says:

    Interesting, but depressing. It sounds like the “rock” end of the business has gotten even crappier than the jazz end.

    I’ve never done one of those ‘pay to play’ things, either in a club or in a ‘contest.’ That’s a con, pure and simple, and I hate feeling like a mark. To me, the business of bookings and reviews and such functions much the way it always has, ie. it’s personal and face to face, and you’re much, much more likely to get the gig or the review or whatever if you have a personal relationship with the person. Nothing has changed in this regard in my lifetime except the technology; in the 70s, unsolicited submissions to record companies went straight into the trash. The only difference now is, it’s easier to delete mp3s and electronic press kits.

    I’m getting my face rubbed in this now that I can no longer count on Tulane for a salary, and I’m finding the old ways still work just fine when it comes to getting gigs. I make a point to spend at least three nights a week sitting in somewhere, and do as much hanging as I can manage at my advanced age. I’m doing a lot more gigs as a side player, which is good for me as a musician, because I’m constantly having to learn other people’s music on the fly (in New Orleans, there is no such thing as “rehearsing”). And my increased presence on the scene in other people’s bands makes it easier to book myself as a leader, because the clubowners see me in their joint all the time anyway.

    The big downside is, of course, the bread, which is even shittier than it was the last time I was a fulltime player, 20 years ago. Most clubs in NOLA do not pay a wage, it’s either the tip jar or 20% of the bar ring-out. That’s pretty standard. The few places that do pay don’t pay much. The Maison Bourbon, where I’ve been working with Jamil Sharif and getting a crash course in traditional jazz, pays $88.19 a night, plus tips. And it’s a long ass night…five 45 minute sets.

    Botton line, the only thing I see things like FB as being useful for is alerting people to where you’re playing. Everything else…well, the internet is just too big and filled with crap. Too easy to get lost and overlooked. My money stays on good old fashioned shoe leather and musicianship.

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