Picture it, 1995. ER is the most popular show on television, everybody smells of CK One, ladies flock to their stylists requesting the “Rachel” cut, the president is a saxophone wielding democrat, and the average price of a CD is $16.98. Let that sink in for a moment.
To acquire Jagged Little Pill (like just about everybody in America did that year) you had to cough up almost seventeen dollars. It takes more than 3,000 plays on Spotify in 2017 to generate that many dollars and cents.
1995 was 22 years ago. Shawn Mendes (who has a top 10 hit on Spotify’s Global Top 50 right now) wasn’t even born until 1998. What does all this mean for you, an artist trying to make a living off of your music in today’s marketplace? It means that 1995 was better and we’re all screwed now, right? If you think I’m serious, this is probably your first time reading our blog.
You can’t worry about what CDs sold for in 1995 because that’s irrelevant to how you make your living today.
The music industry is in constant flux; you can’t afford to look backwards. Your eyes should be pointed towards what’s next, not what happened in the past. By the time you’re done saying “I don’t know if I ‘get’ Instagram Stories” people have already moved on from it and are now living somewhere else. You need to be where the fans are, interact with them wherever they are living their lives and in general, right now, that means finding them on a new social media platform. That requires an eye that is keenly trained on what’s coming next. Many years ago, when my brother and my cousin said “Put your band on Myspace; everybody is starting to use it” I thought “Isn’t this kind of just like Friendster? And why can’t I just keep grinding it out on the road and get fans the old fashioned way?” but I said “Sure. What the hell? It’ll only take a few minutes.” That decision, to put my music where people were moving online, changed the course of my life. We went from Myspace to Facebook and Twitter and Youtube and Snapchat and Instagram and countless other sites that were here and then forgotten. As the fans shift, so do we.
There were lots of things that were great for big artists in the 80’s and 90’s; if you got a major label deal, you could spend a million dollars making an album, MTV would spin your (insanely expensive) music video and young people were locked in waiting with bated breath to catch a glimpse of you, and of course, radio was the kingmaker (and for A listers, it still is, of course). We’re not here to talk about how the lives of the top 1% of 1% of recording artists have changed.
As we’ve said before, we’re part of the emerging middle class in the music industry.
The democratization of the recording and distribution process, as well as the advent of social media has helped to make it easier than ever for new artists to share their music with new fans the world over. Is it challenging to cut through the clutter, because everyone and their sister has a band with a Facebook page and an album on Apple Music? Of course it is, but if you’re willing to pay attention to where people are moving, you have a better chance than ever of directly accessing people who might like your music.
REASON TO IGNORE THIS ADVICE: I went into a coma in early 1995 and just thought it’s been 22 years, but it’s actually only been two weeks. That would be a pretty compelling reason to ignore me here, actually, because I would’ve made all of this up.