By: Tim King / SOiL
For those of you who are not familiar with me, I have been in the music business since I was 16 years old. I’ve played in bands, worked at labels, distributors, booking agents and dabbled in everything in between.
Most notably, people know me from being the bassist in the Rock group SOiL. I formed the band with the other guys in 1997 and we are celebrating 20 years coming up in January 2017. We were the first rock act signed to Clive Davis’s j Records in 2001 and are well recognized for our hit “Halo” from back in the day. From there we’ve had the basic ups and downs that any long term band faces, but we are still here today and enjoying what we do.
In 2012, I teamed up with my longtime friend and amazing business partner Mark Nawara to re-launch the record label Pavement Entertainment. As head of A&R I’ve brought in a bunch of established acts like Candlebox, (Hed)pe, Smile Empty Soul, Flaw, and my own band SOiL to name a few. We also have a great development program for new bands.
So this brings me to the main topic of my discussion here. I get asked constantly by new bands “Is there any hope for new artists in Rock Music”. My answer is “yes,” but you have to do it the smart way, not the “wanna be rock star, I know everything already” way.
What I mean by this statement is that the rules and playing field have changed. The business is smaller, much smaller. Gone are the days (for new bands mind you….Metallica and Aerosmith can do whatever they want!) of huge six figure record deals, high priced videos, super expensive recording studios and producers, and the label being a glorified Bank of America.
Why is that? It’s rather simple actually:
The CD (the highest income earner in music) is going the way of the dodo. It’s become a “collector’s item” these days. Vinyl (much like disco) IS NOT making a comeback. It’s an “underground” thing to have by a select group of people from which vinyl went from the brink of extinction, to a minor resurgence that all of a sudden peaks the meters as “vinyl sales are up 10000%”!!!
The MP3, although still very viable, doesn’t scratch or pollute the environment or take up space in your home, but still costs money to buy a single song or entire album and takes up “virtual space” on our phones and computers that could be used for our invaluable apps, 2 trillion photos we take every day of EVERYTHING, and all those text messages we have so we don’t have to exchange pleasantries via an actual phone conversation.
So what is everyone doing to listen to music? (I promise I have a point here….I promise) We are streaming. YouTube, Pandora, Soundcloud, and the evil Spotify! I understand the appeal. You have a worldwide jukebox at your fingertips for free with commercials or commercial free for a small monthly subscription fee. You’d be silly not to use it. Hell, I’m in a band and have a label and I even use it. It’s easy and convenient and you can find anything you are looking for in seconds..
I get it. But where does that leave the artist? It leaves them with less than 1/2 a cent per stream on Spotify which just crossed the 60 million subscriber mark. Yes, I said half a cent. That makes it hard for labels to make money, and in turn put large amounts of promotion into bands, thus making it hard to impossible to make money off the sale of music. So how do you make money? The answer: a little from the music and a lot more from merchandise, branding, touring, and licensing. It doesn’t hurt to have a skill or side gig to fall back on also. BUT, we still need the music and sale of music to make money with the other aspects. And good music at that.
As an established artist, we can rely on past building and success to continue to grab some sales from the die-hard fans, touring income and better tours/festivals from new album promotion and marketing, and publishing from radio play and licensing.
But what about the new kids on the block? Well those bastards have enough money so screw them! All kidding aside, it leaves the new bands with a lot of obstacles. The main one being “how do I get fans with tons of bands out there on tunecore and cdbaby and on social media all competing for the same thing”?
There are tons more bands these days than ever before. It’s easy to be in a band right? No, it isn’t. The solution is mostly, and always has been, hard work and self-promotion. The key ingredient is having a team of qualified people to help with some regional radio, publicity, marketing, advertising, proper distribution, and connections to help find opportunities like shows/tours, endorsements, and licensing to various platforms. Tons of bands today say “screw labels, we don’t need them, we can do it on our own”. That can be true in theory if you have all of the above tools and materials I mentioned, but how many bands actually have those things? Large, established bands sometimes don’t even have that and I’ve witnessed a few fall flat on their faces by trying to “do it themselves”.
You can’t single-handedly be a one person football team and win the championship. You need great fellow players and you need a strong infrastructure and team behind you. Plus you have to be hungry and ready to make sacrifices above and beyond the average musician. And anyone that knows me knows I know jack about sports, so that analogy is a bit out of my comfort zone, but you get the picture…and hopefully the big picture at that.
Work hard, surround yourself with a proper team, and write some good music dammit! I can’t stress it enough: you need good music!
SOil is on tour now. Check out SOiltheBand.com
Produced by Jeff Gorra — Artist Waves