There have been a lot of exciting debate about the music business latelyThere have been a lot of exciting debate about the music business lately. Especially two things, Spotify and Touring, have caught my attention. Both topics I often discuss with people. Firstly about Spotify, I think Taylor Swift should just shut up; her and her camp don’t think about the ‘value of art’ like she claims, they think about money and thats the bottom-line, no matter which good publicist they have helping her with tweets and statements.
My song November Skies just hit 1 million plays on Spotify, which not a lot compared to Swift, but still a decent amount of plays. And there is nothing in me that are offended that I might end up earning only a little fee, because I know that this means that a lot of people have been adding it to their ‘party’ ‘road-trip’ ‘wedding’ or whatever playlist’s, and I if i’m lucky it’s gonna stay on those lists, and i’ll keep getting played in peoples homes and smartphones for many years…and their friends might discover me through the playlists. Thats the core of streaming, not how ‘few’ million dollars Taylor Swift is getting from Spotify this year.
Remember if an album is sold itunes or in a store it’s a onetime fee, but if a song keeps and being played on a streaming service, it will keep earning money for the artist, but maybe thats a hard concept to understand for an artist like Swift.
I’m not saying that Spotify shouldn’t pay a decent cut, I’m just saying that we should give them and people a chance to revolutionise the business.
Second on touring: Pomplamoose wrote a nice, well-written and honest article about their 28-day US tour which ended up costing them more than 10.000 usd. And I get it, they are a studio duo that wanted to make a great show for as many fans as possible.
I’m fortunate to be part of a band that have around same crowd size as Pomplamoose, but the difference is, that we in Whomadewho have been making a profit from our first show and have supported 4 (including our manager) full-time salaries for many years now. Firstly, we have always traveled light (mostly just a guitar, a bass and some drumsticks) lately we have added a soundengineer and a bit more equipment, but we still fly around without paying overweight. Second, the last years we have been good at analyzing our career, which kept us from doing many of the things that everybody said was the ‘thing a band in our position should do’. When a label told us to make Franz Ferdinand-like hits, we made a dark partly instrumental album, and when we where told that we could only get a certain amount for gigs, we said ok, but we only play for the double now, and somehow we started getting those fees. What I’m saying is not that everybody should do that, but the musicscene in this era is not something fixed, you don’t have to tour in a mini-van, you don’t have to have tour-manager, you don’t need to play all cities in whole world, some don’t even have to tour, but for most it’s an amazing way to meet the fans and get more.
For Pomplamoose I’m sure they could cut down 50% of the 28 gigs, but still have gotten 80-90% of the income and pr-value (if we take the spin-off from their article out), and be making a profit.
I don’t know their specifics, but I have tried this on my own body so I know the drill…a band like Pomplamoose even though playing 900-1200 capacity in some cities might have been playing 50-100 people at other gigs, and those people are important yes, but sometimes after a gig like that I have been doing the calculation, and in some cases, It would have been cheaper for us to pay all fans at the venue 30 USD each than actually showing up and playing, almost no matter in what perspective you see this, it’s not clever business.
But I actually don’t care that much about losing money on gigs, if those gigs do a difference, it’s more what money-losing-small-gigs takes away from you:
- Having money worries usually isn’t to good for creativity, it makes people think short term,
- even though mostly being fun, touring is also hard work, so you waste a lot of creative energy waiting for a rental car or in backstage drinking warm beer, instead of making what matters so much: amazing music.
- and besides that, all bands except few hard ones, deliver a better show when they play a big sold out venue, than a half empty bar-like venue, and I’ll argue that a crowd seeing a band playing a big happy crowd is more likely to become loyal fans that brings their frinds next time, than then ones that witnessed a slightly humiliated band in a bar. And yes some fan gets the opportunity to say ‘I heard them play for only 30 people in Manchester’, but again thats only relevant if the band actually made it afterwords, not if the band is still playing for 30 people…and if the band made it, I’m quite sure it wasn’t the gig in Manchester that was the turning point.
So what I’m saying with all this is: if you are a band, nobody is gonna tell to cut down on gigs, because thats still the easiest and cheapest way to ‘make’ a band for the label, but don’t be naive about it because it’s also the easiest way to break a band, and you might wake up in few years, having done everything by the book and with decent success, but still the band breakes up, because If it doesn’t really support a ‘normal’ life, at some point, either you or your bands mates want out.
I still make stupid choices, and still occasionally somehow end up in a venue with 50 people or less, but I just wanted to share some of my thoughts that led me to living well of music in many years.