my grandma blogs better than you

Free Advice for Today’s Musicians

Posted in internet, music by tipo on February 23, 2011

Unlike most, I go around town telling people that it’s a great time for musicians. Just look at NIN, Radiohead, Justin Bieber, OK Go, Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips and up-and-comers Childish Bambino and Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All… all of these musicians see the Internet as an integral part of their creative process.

If I’m spending the majority of my waking hours on the web, you better deliver me a digital lifestyle to buy into. If you do that, I will hype all your songs on Twitter; I will retumblr your posts; I will join your online fan clubs for pre-sales; I will stay up all night and watch your YouTube remixes; I will buy tickets to your live shows and watch movies you score.

But I will not buy your music. I will find it for free online with one Google search. It’s too easy. I am your modern day fan. The model can be changed, but the labels are not going to help you, your fans will.

Free advice for musicians:

  1. Have a perspective and start a blog, Tumblr, Twitter, etc. You don’t have to do it all. Just do one really freaking well.
  2. Release a few songs every year under Creative Commons. Outreach remixers.
  3. Befriend bloggers. Pick up some PR skills or find a really ambitious fan to help you out.
  4. Make some digital deals. Find a production company, website, mobile platform or brand that needs some high quality content. This is where they money is at.
  5. Play live shows. Lots of them. Charge for them but sometimes do it free for the fans.
  6. Keep making good music. If it sucks, forgetaboutit.

New School Examples:

Flaming Lips iPhone Symphony
Childish Bambino Tumblr
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Tumblr & Fan Remixed Tumblr

Old School Examples:

NIN’s Creative Commons album
Radiohead says pay what you want
Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube
OK Go gets State Farm to sponsor their music video since EMI wouldn’t allow embeds
Arcade Fire’s Chrome Experiment


2 Responses

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  1. Matt said, on February 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Totally agree–I’ve discovered and become fans of several artists that have followed much of the advice that you’ve outlined (mostly via mash-ups/remixes).

    One thing popping in my mind is how this changes if we’re talking a musician looking to grow or an incumbent rock-star. Certainly live-shows, sample-tapes, and sick content have vaulted the career of many artists. It’s the pre-existing pop-icons with the difficult task of milking their popularity for money, beyond the horrible economics of live shows.

  2. Matthew Carlin said, on February 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Spot on. While it’s a bummer for older artists who probably couldn’t thrive in this brave new digital world, it’s hard to feel bad for an industry that has been so overwhelmingly awful and rapacious for so long. Hopefully newer artists will still be able to develop their musical stylings while managing their Twitter/tumblr/etc. footprint. Or maybe a new model will emerge that’s a little more even-handed than the make-it-or-break-it one of the past.

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