For a long time the only way to make a good life in the music business was to get good enough to get signed by a major label. That is how it was as far back as I go. (Or can remember.)
Even original Punk Rock. Not the “Let’s be retro and call ourselves a Punk band” Punk Rock. Or the music that came out in the mid 80’s which was amazing but not Punk…I mean The Ramones, The New York Dolls, 1975 at CBGB’s in the Bowery when it wasn’t a tourist trap. (I was way to young to be there in 1975 but I wish I had been there)
While the rest of the world was listening to disco or 70's rock. These bands were making history and setting the stage for the next generation. Of course they didn’t know it. But as far out of the lines as they were, as alternative as they sounded, THEY GOT SIGNED TO REAL LABELS. The Ramones were signed by Sire records. They made a movie which is now a cult/college classic.
They didn’t ever make the top 40 but they had a home. A company. A label.
Now, there aren’t that many major record labels. And the few that are left are afraid to put all the money behind something that isn’t a sure-fire hit. I mean when you look at it from there point of view, they aren’t in business to lose money?! And everyone is scared of losing their jobs too. (Just saying they aren't all horrible flesh-eating sharks)
So now, We have an endless supply of supremely talented bands, songwriters, and solo artists that desperately want their chance to make history and set the stage for the next generation but they can’t get signed. What do they do? They go the indie route. This is where you have to pay for all your recording time, your P.R., your music videos, your photography, your merchandise, and so so much more. Each one of these things cost so much money. To lay it all out yourself is overwhelming.
But, if this is the only thing that you can see making you happy in life, why not go for it? Even if you don’t become rich or famous but, you make enough money to survive with dignity and have fans that absolutely adore your music? Isn’t that just as good or way better than making the same amount of money doing something you like far less and feeling as though you settled? And who says you have to raise all that capital in one day.?
I’m just asking. I’m not telling anyone to throw away their college fund or not have a backup plan…I’m just asking. I’m also noticing that so many of you are starting to get involved in this at a much younger age and with much more support from your families. This gives you a much better chance of success in everything. The more people you have on your team, the better. In this case, I don't mean your fans. I mean the people that see you as nothing less than amazing no matter what. To go after a life in an industry where there are no guarantees is probably a tad crazy. So, you really want people around you that love you crazy and all.
Anyway, I have been talking about this on this blog for well over a year now. But I have to admit that I had no idea the power and indie band or an indie label could have until the other night. I was having another night of insomnia mixed with you tube. Not such a good combination. So, I know the band Fun because, well, I don’t live under a rock. I saw them on the Grammy awards and I’ve taught the acoustic version of ‘Some Nights’ to many students on the piano.
But last night, I started watching their videos and looking at the number of hits…25 million, 75 million, 102 million…and those are just from one post of each video… I was like wow these guys really are huge. I googled them and found out that they are an indie band. They are not signed by any major label. They started it alone. Now they have a label. It’s called “Fueled By Ramen”. The kid (and I can call him a kid because he started the company when he was still in high school) felt he and his co-workers would eat ramon noodles and put any money they made back into the company. Doesn’t sound like much huh? Well, they weren’t but then they took chances on bands like Franklin, Tennessee’s very own Paramore and others and …well…Fun and now they are a subsidiary of Warner Music and distributed by Atlantic Records. Okay, I can’t get into all of this and I’m still learning but subsidiary??? Distribution ??? This is way better than being signed by Warner or Atlantic… (Basically the same) This band and this label are in the best possible position anyone in the industry could possibly want to be in.
So, for those of you who haven't heard or seen...I posted 'Carry On' on facebook...because it's like an Anthem. But here I'll put "Some Nights" It's a great video.
So, I do stick by what I’ve been saying all along…Don’t worry about money and fame just do what you love and hope you can make a living. But if you have a huge message and you want to get it out to 102 million people…Go for it. I can’t imagine it being easy. But, the ones that want something that much, are the ones that don’t ever seem to mind how long it takes, how hard it is or how many people slam the door on their foot just as they’re about to get it in the door.
But what about the indie artists that don't win 2 Grammy awards? That might not be everyday household names?
Well this is Vance Brescia, a singer/songwriter from my hometown in Long Island. He was talking about his old band The Mosquitoes from back in the early 80’s in this quote...
"We were very close to a record deal several times with my material and the one criticism back then was that it was too many different styles. I even said to the powers that be, why don’t you pick one style off the reel that you like (back then it was a reel) and I’ll write ten songs of that if that’s what you think it takes.
It was a very telling thing, considering back in 1966 that you could have three or four different styles on one record, and now they wanted just one.
It seemed very strange and when I saw that I realized that I probably was no longer relevant in the traditional record deal sense of the word - and then I just said it’s just time to move on, which is why I made my money as a live entertainer.”
So even 30 years ago, the writing on the wall was coming into focus. Sometimes if you want it done..... you have to do it yourself.
And he did. Vance was very successful. In 1985 “The Monkees” made a reunion album (Who remembers them?) called “That was then, this is now” Vance wrote the title track. It was a hit!!! He also had several songs in movies, TV and is still going strong…(His bio is actually quite impressive)
But let’s take a quick trip back 30 years. 1983. New York City. When The Mosquitos made a video with a small company “Park Avenue Video” trying to break into the new, exciting world of music videos…If you were around in that time it will bring back memories. If not, you will think we were all crazy.
That was then This is now
Now, I need a clever wrap up???… I know I don’t mean this ‘Do it your own way message’ just for people in the music industry. I think it goes for anyone…In sports, in business in any possible position or field or situation in life. Okay, I got it. This is much better than anything I'll ever come up with. I’ll use the words of someone else. Because SOMETIMES when you want to say something perfectly...you DON'T do it yourself..
"Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.
Maybe they have to be crazy.
While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."
-- Steve Jobs