Enough of the empty cheerleading. Web-only networking can have a dark side, too — and the music community can do better. Playing devil’s advocate this week to one-dimensional Web 2.0 optimism, we welcome Dave Dri, musician, producer, and founder of Segue. -PK

I write a column for a weekly street press magazine in Australia. The vast majority of the universe won’t have picked up that magazine, of course. But my topic this week has been bouncing around Interwebs, cafes, and clubs like an alarm clock, waking the electronic music community from a happy slumber. The cause for alarm: the dire state of expectations amongst electronic music producers, digital labels and online stores.

Thanks For The Add!!!

For the host of fresh-faced producers who know only digital labels and online stores, the process of making and releasing music is relatively seamless, and entirely virtual. Countless producers have access to affordable computing power, an endless choice of software, and the ease of uploading to sites like Myspace and Purevolume. For much of this generation, the idea of marketing begins and ends with “thanks for the add!!”. Even veteran producers and performers can be lulled into the steady hypnosis of the Web and its links, emails and forum posts.

The process of song writing often finds a global audience almost as soon as one can come up with a catchy, if eventually regrettable, artist name and an upload of the latest renders. Imagine their surprise when a weekend of link farming across MySpace yields a reply from a digital record label showing interest in one or more tracks. Some emails bounce back and forth, the artist agrees to a 50% share of the profits and, soon enough, the label has uploaded a new release to Beatport. What’s not to love about this system? The producer feels validated as a “real life producer guy”, the label has another release on its books and the wheels of the music industry keep rolling.

MySpace URL graffiti — well, at least it’s in the real world. Photo (CC) Satish Krishnamurthy.

The Back In My Day Bit

What’s wrong with this process is, basically, everything. As a contrast, let’s look at the previous generation of producers and live acts. This generation existed on the cusp of technology change and would have its feet grounded in the almost unthinkable days prior to cry of “thanks for the add!!!” These artists swapped tracks on CD-R’s with other producers in their local area and shopped and networked with local records stores by virtue of their primary access to local music alone. They stressed over refining and releasing actual EPs. They met, partied, and bought and sold music with other DJ’s, producers, promoters and music press. They refined their DJ skills or live performances and pushed music as a part of a growing local scene. They knew the local street press writers and sent out promos, hung up posters and generally interacted with the real world. IRL – in real life.

One might suggest that while the younger producers are adding each other to friend lists, the veteran live acts and producers are still out working the venues, pushing discs into the hands of promoters, and doing such wild things as asking for interviews and promotions in street press. As I asked a Web forum recently, guess what the proportion is between digital labels and producers sending MySpace and Facebook messages, versus those actually sending well-written press releases and calling to ask for interviews and promotional assistance? The answer is pretty dire, and quite telling.

Take The Red Pill

If anything positive can be taken from the state of the current industry, then it should be a revisiting of the basic ideas of the music industry. Artists should be backing up their passion for music by investing more efforts into creating better music, and pursuing the best deals from the best labels by building their profile through real-world networking and performances. Labels should be sourcing the best artists, artists whoare actually working to push their own music in the real world, and developing them with the aid of a strong network of industry captains, DJs, credible promoters and all the existing and fringe music media. That means actually writing press releases, actually getting out and meeting people, and following up important emails with phone calls. Most importantly, it’s asking for coverage across the full spectrum of media and constantly developing reasons why the act deserves it.

Really, one might say it just boils down to effort. Why an artist wants to give music to a label that spends little effort promoting a release is as hard to fathom as a label wanting to sign an artist who spends little effort creating their art and profile. Maybe your local community and musical genre mirrors these examples; maybe not. But electronic music has little to lose and everything to gain from more effort and more real-world local community.

Oh — and, before I forget, thanks for the add!

As it happens, these are also digital, and have the advantage of being something you can hand to someone while they’re drinking a beer.

Ed.: Now, of course, I’m not going to slam online communities, seeing as I, erm, run one. But I kept thinking while reading Dave’s article how much online tools can help power real-world connections. We’ve had extraordinary opportunities getting together for events like Handmade Music. I still swap CDs. (Bet your laptop still has a CD burner, huh? It runs at, what, 60x now?) I hate press releases, even when they’re well-written. But I love real-world connections.

For more food for thought – and remember, most of the networking occurred online, whereas the demo swapping and face-to-face connection happened in person:
Meatspace Networking for Musicians: Chicago Demo Swap Party Wrap-up
How To Create a Successful Demo Disc: Tips and Resources, Chicago Event

That’s, of course, just the beginning. So to reframe Dave’s challenge, how can we use online tools to make meatspace connections easier and more powerful, for indie artists and labels alike? How can we start raising expectations again? -PK

  • contakt

    What a great article!

    As a former indie label exec, I really enjoy this conversation. I agree with Dave, and think that he is right in some many ways. Ultimately, a combination of an online presence plus real-world connecting will yield the best results.

  • http://theycontrol.us eisnein

    thank you Dave and Peter for this!!!

    such a breath of fresh air, it truly made my day!

    there are so many benefits to the digital realm in terms of reaching larger numbers of niche aritsts, touring, connecting, remixing etc…we hear so often about the bulk of them but, alas, there are also drawbacks (corporate censorship to name one)…so thank you for diving into this.

    physical communities (or meatspace!) which Dave discusses here really do have positive effects- meeting other people in person!

    seeing people's reactions on their actual faces when you play! real time!!! even if people blow smoke up yer ass- it still adds a level of confidence to the craft of music you made. it can all be taken more seriously when its in person. If you upload a drunken demo you made last saturday night and someone hates it,..well you were just messing around…if someone loves it- well you were just messing around! IMHO- the personal reactions make a huge difference!

    In this world where album sales are dwindling- performance has become an increasingly necessary tool to live solely as an artist- but even this is on shaky ground with the possible Ticketmaster/LiveNation merger- will only "large" acts be able to play venues that pay well?

  • mr. tunes

    great piece.

    i must say though, anyone who has gone the total digital route will inevitably get annoyed at the lack of results from avoiding the traditional avenues of promotion.

  • http://theycontrol.us eisnein

    didnt mean to end on a negative

    its amazing the amount of 3-dimensional "scenes" showing up lately- Handmade, Warper Party, Electronic SubSouth, DataAge, deep beatZ, just to name a few things all round the country on a regular basis!

  • http://www.myspace.com/kixly moih

    in a nutshell:

    first: local community.

    second: global community.

  • bliss

    OT: PK, have you vacated The Big Apple for The Windy City?

  • bobagamemnon

    One of the greatest freedoms the Internet has provided is the freedom from pretty much everything described in this post.

    For some of us the creation of great music is a talent and skill wholly unrelated to the knack for "actually writing press releases, actually getting out and meeting people, and following up important emails with phone calls [and. . .] asking for coverage across the full spectrum of media and constantly developing reasons why the act deserves it."

    Some of us are anti-social weirdoes who just want to hide in the studio making the best possible music. It's a tremendous boon to be able to send that music out into the world without having to become a salesperson. If this results in a lower income and a lower profile, so be it.

    Some of us would still be sitting on a pile of dusty cassette tapes were it not for this virtual outlet.

  • River

    I agree to some extent, I ran a night in a club for a year and a bit, flyered and postered more than was healthy. I was living in a small student city that could sustain a small clubs worth of electro-heads week in week out.

    Now I live in a small town with 1 club, the DJ (single, one and only) plays 80's cheese and current pop. The area cannot sustain a scene in the type of music I make/play.

    In this second case, my choices are to up my g/fs and my job and move to somewhere else for the scene or pack it all in.

    Thanks to the net I can play/make/talk/promote the music and stay connected.

    Of course you could say we should pack it all in and go live the dream, throw everything behind the music, live and breath it and all that. Sadly its not realistic.

  • http://wowcool.com/engine Marc Arsenault

    I really dug the piece. Especially on the lazy marketing angle. But, I know of very few people in any of the relevant roles who actually like getting follow up phone calls.

    I'd like to see more meatspace activity that is original and not just using the venues and mediums and whatnot that are already in place (as noted by a few in comments). Putting together your own happening and nights, playing odd venues… On a specific related note, I'd really like to see people get out and support Record Store Day on April 18th and do it up in a big way. http://www.recordstoreday.com It could be a really great thing.

  • L5

    I find it funny that web2 developers promote their technology as the be all of the "new web". No one wants it; we're all happy with the web as it is, but yet they keep on with their propaganda. Making an income from music is the same as it always has been since classical days – there is a small group of people with most of the money and the rest of us without any work together to attempt to extract some of it to survive on. Now the 3 major labels have dominated the scene and attempt to control the music that is released; only allowing non-free thought type music and videos to be released, it is much harder to "break into the industry". Fortunately for the world that gives way to the next outcome which is a major boost in grassroots networks and a shift in the money away from the majors. I think it's obvious a mixture of in-person and online networking is mandatory for any real success. Even those living in tiny towns need to make a phone call after the online work has succeeded. The idea that the web2 people push that we can plug ourselves into the matrix and ignore everything else is condescending and sad. They'd love us to give them 100% of ourselves to them…too late I say…we have all seen 1984, The Island and The Matrix. We aren't that dumb! It would be nice if the adults of the world led by a good example for the children instead of this abhorrent vice driven example they set incessantly everyday.

  • Gogmagog

    I tend to agree with bobagamemnon. As far as the point the article made about "lack of effort in marketing/networking reflecting lack of enthusiasm/commitment" (obvious paraphrasing), the proof is in the pudding, as it should be. Listen to the music the artist made, not the marketing hype. The effort will be apparent.

  • atari5200

    In terms of Bobagamemnon's comments, in my opinion, this is precisely why well run indie labels are still a necessary and welcome part of the music scene- these are the folks who should be acting as the middleman between the brilliant, anti-social musician weirdo and the record buying public. That's their job. How many times have you faltered when someone asks you to describe your music? If you're like me, it's probably every time someone asks you that questions. However I'll bet if that same someone asked a friend to describe your music they would be capable of doing so. I'm not saying a middleman is always needed, but there is a time and a place for it, namely when you are unwilling (or even incapable) of doing certain things very well. I also agree with Dri's assertion that this quasi-utopian view of web2 technology and the associated decline in actively engaging the "meatspace" (awesome term, BTW) is harmful in the long run. The web has rendered certain elements of traditional promotion irrelevant, but if that realm is ignored completely I think we'll continue to see a decline in artist's long term careers, which I think isn't a great thing overall. And besides, I'm stepping into shark-infested waters by saying this, but taste isn't democratic, and having lots of online friends doesn't mean that the artist in question is producing anything of quality. In relation to Gogmagog's comments, like Peter, I hate press releases too, I'm happy to just listen to the music, but what is needed is a reform in the way music is presented to the pubic, just putting it up on myspace isn't a substitute for the old model just yet. I'm not saying the old model is great, but we seem to be moving in a direction fraught with very different, yet equally detrimental, peril…

  • http://microsong.blogspot.com Dan Gillespie

    @bliss,

    I don't know the genesis of your question or the answer. But I would like to point out that today the Big Apple has been the Windy City.

    @everyone else

    Some of my favorite records this year have been free internet only releases. I don't know what that says about the market for music, but it certainly doesn't make it less art or less good. When I've had the occaision I've gone and supported these artists, but honestly I'm happy to have people listen to my music. I'm making it anyway, I don't need to get paid for it.

    I guess I'm saying it's great when people can be supported by their art, but I wouldn't assume that it's everyone goal.

  • http://7oi.org 7oi

    You kind of have to have a mix of the ways of both internet and meatspace to get anywhere these days. Of course, the industry also relies on the internet a lot and the myspace bubbles get blown out of proportion and devoured by majors when the hype becomes sufficient (which sometimes ruins it for the artists, pushing them into making releases they're not ready to make, as in the case of "Black Kids"). The world today has become so dependent on the web that the real world tends to get forgotten. Even labels have started asking artists to send myspace profiles rather than demos, as I saw f.ex. at Domino Records The web is an invaluable tool, of course, but the real world is way more effective. I've just released an album last month and I've been working hard at finding the right people to contact. I've gathered email addresses (of course, this part of the internet is quite necessary, even for meatspace purposes), phone numbers, addresses, and have been sending them relentlessly albums for review-, promotional-, and just simple friendmakingpurposes. I don't step over the line and become aggressive and annoying, though, but I think that establishing a friendly, real life connection with people that can help with your music career beats the hell out of myspace promotion. You can have hundreds of thousands of myspace friends (usually aquired via the ways of automatic friend adding services) and only a handful of people will actually care about the artist in question. Usually those people have a real life relationship with the artist.

    Even so, when those things are combined, you could get some good results. I, for one, have never before done any promotional work whatsoever, and have not stepped further than getting a few, small record shops to sell my cd's. Now, when it comes to my 4th album (or 5th or 6th, if you count some ghosts), it's selling mostly to japan, but noone's really heard of me here in Iceland. That's something I'm trying to improve now. Local should come first, not japan!

    Interesting subject, though. I'm gathering information for an express essay on album making/releasing/promoting, and this could come of some use, along with some earlier posts I've read here, if that's ok, of course…

  • L5

    In reply to Gogmagog – "Listen to the music the artist made, not the marketing hype. The effort will be apparent." This is an interesting concept. I myself believed that this would be the case. How can the labels ignore good music? Well they can and they do. They only want people in "their" industry that are vouched for or already have "sold their soul". Again this leaves the artist to grassroots only exposure. I know of many tracks that far surpass what is being played both on the decks and on the radio but will never provide an income for the artist because of the issues above; the labels filter out those of us who just rock up on their doorstep and show them cutting edge tracks. Perhaps it's jealousy, perhaps it's greed. I think it's a combination of both and other vices. The meatspace can assist here greatly as it is one of the biggest grassroots systems alive today. I agree with Dave Dri, "it boils down to effort". These stumbling blocks the industry puts in front of non-released/successful artists serve as fuel to do more and push for a successful outcome using whatever methods are available.

  • Vaughn Hof

    Fascinating piece. I find this particularly relevant as an artist just having been offered a series of digital releases via a music group that publishes both physical & digital releases on a number of both reputed, and unknown imprints. To my chagrin I have discovered that my work is to fall under the latter, and that there is virtually no real promotional mechanism backing it. I am tempted to reject this offer. However, I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere that provides me with neither the outlet, nor the geographical advantage necessary to perform, network, and promote my music in a concrete “real-life” manner. If I accept the offer, I might be pigeonholed into the nether regions of digital releases. If I decline, who is to say I will have the advantage of ever living in a place where I can properly shake peoples hands, hand them my demo, and put out a proper record. Thus, I am caught in the conundrum of digitalism. I agree with Mr. Dri’s assessment of an industry bogged down by the culture of “thanks for the ad!” and the music behind it. But the idea that the old-hands somehow put more care into their productions, business etc, is simply well…. romanticism of a bygone era. I have spent every minute of my time and every dollar of my meager income on my music—as I recognize it is the quality of this that counts most—and minimal time on the internet networking and thanking people for adding me (which seems rather desperate) and generally hyping myself in all the glory of web 2.0. Yes, I do have a myspace page and I send demos via soundcloud, but I also send music via the mail too—and even then only because I cannot do it in person. Does any of this make my music worth pressing on vinyl? No, nor does it warrant writing my music off. The fact is: not everyone can make music (or run a label) in a commercially viable, let alone meaningful way—in the long term. Yet with the explosion of music & web tech still being so recent we live under the illusion (or push back hard against it) that it can be so. In the end, it is all in the balance of old and new, and while the present market may allow me to thank you for the add and subsequently shower you with substandard music, it may also enable me to gain recognition in circumstances which may not otherwise permit it.

  • http://www.onyxashanti.bandcamp.com onyxashanti

    I have to admit….I love and loath the internet way of doing things. i love it conceptually, but there are just not enough hours in the day to post to every freaking new place that is the hip new thing. i overloaded my brain a few months ago in berlin and havent updated anything in a couple of month.

    i've just been thinking that it's more fun for me right now to concentrate on playing sick parties and finding the love again. i will post up about it if i get around to it, but i'm more of a face to face cat.

    i have found the online world to be not quite as engaged with you as an artist unless you have the "meatspace" connection as well. i know i'm probably shooting myself in the foot with my attitude, but the internet is increasingly losing its appeal as a primary conduit, although it will be increasingly integral to my career.

  • http://www.waveplantstudios.com waveplant

    i totally agree.

    and while there are great things about it, i've always thought of internet marketing / social networking as subordinate to a real-world presence – as an indicator, rather than a generator of success/fan-base. imogen heap is a good example: she doesn't have fans because she twitters – she twitters because she has fans.

    in my experience, ALL of my solid relationships have been formed in person, and then when applicable, supported virtually. and VERY rarely the other way around.

    i think the way the film community works on the west coast speaks to this. many of the most successful film composers have no (official) web presence whatsoever, and neither do their agents.

  • http://www.onyxashanti.bandcamp.com onyxashanti

    I honestly just want a high level agreggation service that can translate my various artistic regurgitation into ALL the various systems; ie short posts (twitter), long posts, music, video, photos, shows…i really really dont care enough to keep up with 2 dozen systems and services anymore. it is doing nothing except distracting me from making better music.

    i wouldnt mind, say, twittering regualrly, if, for instance, twitter could update my status on facebook and myspace and reverbnation, et al. or if uploading music to my bandcamp site also updated my "presence" everywhere on the internet. then its cool and i enjoy it, but the overwhelming redundancy of it all has completely fried my brain.

    hell, i dont even post my shows anymore. i just practice all day and go to my gigs. to be honest (sadly) no one on ANY of my various social networks ever shows up for any of my shows. i know, i know…the internet is great and i'm doing something wrong…but i finally got back to loving playing only recently (probably because i escaped the US and am back in London)…i email a few peeps that i know, send another few sms's and call it a day. but if someone konws of anything like the aforementioned agreggator, i am more than willing to try it out.

  • poopoo

    DJ’s, producers, promoters and music press have spent years cultivating a perception of electronic music as an exclusive and impenetrable mystery. The DJ with his exclusive white label 12" that the general public will never get their hands on. The producers operating under anonymity with 10 different aliases. The promoter booking the DJ at the hippest club that most people don't even know about, let through the door.

    Give me internet distribution anyday.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    I still live in New York. I went to high school outside Chicago and my parents and sister live in the burbs, so I go back often.

    And for the record, the official CDM editorial board position (I guess that'll be me) is NOT that the Internet is bad. (but I don't think that's Dri's point, either.)

    ;)

    I agree, though, with both sides of what's being said here — I think that if we do raise the standard for artists and labels, it's all about them doing a better job in both places, continuing to make meatspace connections and also doing a better job of their presence online.

  • L5

    @ poopoo – "Give me internet distribution anyday." if only it would produce material outcomes! it doesn't! it takes many hours of keyboard and screen use, and returns only more need for typing! I agree with above that it's a support system and nothing beats face-to-face contacts and relationships.

    waveplant hit the nail on the head here – "i think the way the film community works on the west coast speaks to this. many of the most successful film composers have no (official) web presence whatsoever, and neither do their agents." this is the same in film and music globally. "breaking into" their hidden networks which happen to have all the money, isn't really mysterious; but it is a closed club that they closed once they realized what they were sitting on. so while they may enjoy their bourbons on 1st class seats on their way back home after working somewhere overseas, they are in turn ruining it for everyone else. those of us who work using the internet and face-to-face networking, are just trying to get maybe 1/100th of the big artist's wealth but they aren't willing to share and neither are their agents or labels.

  • http://www.onyxashanti.bandcamp.com onyxashanti

    I love hearing about those that are supposedly getting rich from the internet. i wish i were one of them. all i know is that on myspace, i've got 700 people who never come to shows or listen to my music. same with all the other networks. my new POV is that i say screw all those systems, concentrate on being a bad ass onstage, update my own website and let everyone else blog about the show.

    i'll still post music for download and update the profiles, but i feel fake at the moment; i really really dont care if people have access to every detail of my artistic life. I just want to rip it up on stage, period. they dont need to know what i had for breakfast to be into my music. others can blog and record and video to their hearts content, but i think that this year, i'm going to focus more on letting my internet activities "reflect" what i do in the real world rahter than "dictate" the direction of my career, as i had been doing for the last few years.

    although i may be wrong again, i think we are making our fans lazy. there is no mystery anymore. every detail of our day is plotted online. studio rehearsal tapes, podcasts, videos from shows, family photos, dental records, genetic profiles…ok, maybe not the last two (yet), but there is no mystery anymore. like being into someone and them being so easy, that you start wondering why they are so easy. they may just be into you, but there is no chase. that's getting lost in all the cacophony.

  • atari5200

    I think onyxashanti hit the nail on the head when he said "i’m going to focus more on letting my internet activities “reflect” what i do in the real world rahter than “dictate” the direction of my career, as i had been doing for the last few years." Ummm, yeah, more of this, I mean, a lot more of this. Less time making myspace friends and more time making killer tracks. You make killer tracks, the mypspace or meatspace friends should come, and if the don't, well maybe your tracks aren't quite good enough yet…?

  • http://myspace.com/fallsastar Foosnark

    One of the greatest freedoms the Internet has provided is the freedom from pretty much everything described in this post.

    Agreed very much. I don't even like updating my MySpace page… stupid site is so awkward.

  • bliss

    One thing that I've observed is that in the pre-Internet and pre-MTV days music came first to listeners. Of course music was delivered through traditional marketing avenues, but still the introduction of the artist was second to the music. Many artists were not particularly attractive in those days — but who cared because the music they made was great!

    When Electronica as a genre started to grow, I had to stay informed through magazines and sales reps because, how else would I find out about new music along those lines? It wasn't played on the radio or in Boston nightclubs — at least until the close of the 90s and early 2000s. So Oval, Autechre, Aphex Twin, etc. got my attention from single paragraph mentions in alternative music publications. From there I started following label release schedules and just dived in not knowing what I was going to get. I'm still amazed at how labels like Schematic, Warp, Ninja Tune, Rephlex, Thrill Jockey, Mille Plateaux, and Astralwerks were able to build a presence given the fact that they and their artists had next to zero exposure. You know, they really needed fans more than huge marketing budgets to survive. For the longest time I didn't know what any of the artists looked like, nor did I care.

    What I would say is that the obscurity of copies of CDs in the distribution channels for Electronica in the early days drove the demand. I worked for a huge record store and we'd get like, one copy of each artist's material for each label. The general public never stood a chance because I'd know exactly the day and time that copies of sought after artists' material would arrive. I was always first in line. Buying the music before the public had a chance to get it actually helped future sales and popularity of the same material. Customers would hear that we'd just sold out of the new material, that it was available in limited quantity, and their appetites would grow.

    Fast forward to today and it's just so much available everywhere on the Web. I guess my point is that it wasn't so much the mystery of artists that helped to sell music in the past but rather the mystery of the music. The process of creating Jazz and Classical music is still as mysterious as it ever was, and both genres continue to have devoted followers. The creation of Pop and Electronica on the other hand have been demystified to the extent that listeners are not really sure if they are hearing anything worthwhile anymore; and much of the music is used for mood purposes only, and not for intellectual and emotional investigation — never mind simple appreciation.

    Basically, I get the impression that Electronica is throw-away music these days. It seems to be the exact opposite of what it intends to be.

    I think that an artist like Imogen Heap is a good example of music first, artist second. That's how it should be. By and large on social networks it's profile first, artist second, "friends" third, and music dead last droning in the background to all of the other whiz bang and then click I'm gone.

    The Web is important, sure. Face to face contact is more important. But the MTV method of presenting the image of an artist first and then supporting it with music and hype — well, that's what social networking sites try to mimic. However, the problem remains for artists of distinguishing themselves from the background noise. And for the many computer musicians who create background noise on purpose, it's an especially daunting challenge. How is demand created for a certain kind of music that is available in abundance?

    I would say the answer to that question lies in real world associations, not Internet based ones. Does one stand a chance getting to perform alongside Ryuichi Sakamoto because of a nifty social network page with loads of cool "friends"? Probably not. One should know that music comes first with someone like Sakamoto. It used to be that way with listeners. It needs to get back to that because long term survival of an artist's career and the music that she or he makes depend on listeners first seeking out the music — and not the frilly stuff that sometimes comes along with it.

  • Downpressor

    I get the impression that Electronica is throw-away music these days. It seems to be the exact opposite of what it intends to be.

    BINGO. Reading this I asked myself how do I treat stuff I hear on the net? The answer unfortunately is as a way to kill a little time. Less than one in one hundred leads me to go to a show or buy something. How do I find new stuff I'd buy or go see? Same as for the last 25 years, hanging out in record shops.

    My own work is in dub/reggae (the biological father of the bastard child that is Electronica). Its a limited market so I try and supplement the income/cover some costs by DJing. I've use a local Japanese SNS to promote my releases and DJing and also email blasts and a blog. So far in my experience its been a big waste of time. For my last gig I went back to the old ways of printing up flyers and not bothering with the net. We had double the people at the club than usual.

    I'm gonna second those of you who say it just aint worth the time to fool around with all the internet stuff but I do think some of it is worthwhile, just not sure of the balance yet.

  • Gogmagog

    There's a bit of a revelation for me here, thanks to all these well-thought replies. The music labels of old offered two valuable commodities to artists that signed with them: distribution and exposure. The misconception many people have now (including myself) is, now that the internet is here, we don't need the labels. One can get distribution and exposure through the internet. Distribution, yes. Exposure, yes, but completely useless exposure. Everyone and their old grandmother are exposed on the internet (yuck).

    I see general advertising in the same boat. It's so pervasive in our lives we have to filter all of it out to stop our brains from melting out our ears.

  • http://www.onyxashanti.bandcamp.mu Onyx Ashanti

    I have been inspired in the last 24 hours. I have decided to send messages to everyone on all my networks that basically asks them to let me know if they actually dig me and my music. if i get no reply, they get delelted. i plan to whittle my "freinds" down to about 10-20 over the next 48 hours.

    I want people who are really really into me as an artist to feel that i feel they are special, because they are and i do. i simply cant do this whole "cater to the lowest common denominator" thing anymore. some people just dont give a shit about you and your music and that is their right. but you dont have to have that person in your house either. time to clean house.

    this may not work and it may backfire, but it does feel good to engage people that are linked to me and ask them why; i am tired of being broke and going to so much effort to do stuff for people who really could not care less. damnit, people are going to have to tell me something…engage me, before i allow them to be in my space anymore.

    we, as artists, can not…CAN NOT, keep allowing what we do to be marginalized. i dont want to be a star, but i do want to make a living and create art that somebody gets, and some people simply will not get it and i am not going to waste anymore time on them.

    my stuff will still be creative commons and i will still post and all that, but unless someone can give me a good reason why i should interact with them online, i'm not going to. if they want to interact, they can come to the show, (and buy a cd).

  • L5

    @ bliss – "were able to build a presence given the fact that they and their artists had next to zero exposure."

    the exposure those artists had was all they needed – they were already broken into the industry – that is the big DJs with their labels knew them beforehand and supported them. this is how many big artists can release and play crap imo.

    "Basically, I get the impression that Electronica is throw-away music these days"

    - That is a misconception…same as saying Jean Michelle Jarre is throw away imo…one of the pioneers of eletroncia. High quality electronica will never be throw away music any more than the mamas and papas california dreaming is :)

    "However, the problem remains for artists of distinguishing themselves from the background noise."

    - I do believe that is the job of the A&R staff at the label? However being corrupt to the core they act as a filtration and sometimes as thieves as they pass on "the good stuff" to their signed artists to rip. It's sad to see many people accepting their roles being abused and relegating the responsibility of their role back onto the artist.

    "How is demand created for a certain kind of music that is available in abundance?"

    - This is narrow minded imo sorry bliss – but the degree of high quality music is not in abundance and hence the magic golden white label DJ scene!

    @ downpressor – I disagree that dub is a limited market. The truth being that dub has been suppressed by the major labels as they cannot find enough slave muso's to create it. Most dub muso's are independent and know what they are talking about and won't bend to the label's desires (i.e. won't sell their souls as say sasha and digweed have) and as a result have been pushed into the background.

    @ Onyx Ashanti – nice one :)

  • http://mattleaf.com MATT LEAF

    Oh, I don't know.

    I think there's an existential crisis right here when you start declaring what's the real world and what's not. The internet is the real world. This still is life. We are still communicating and working things out. Isn't this what we wanted? Now everyone can make music. Now everyone can share. Who's in it for love and who's in it for fame & success? This generation allowed anyone & everyone to become a composer. Can you imagine if everyone followed this model now? The physical world would not cope with the sheer volume of material. There is no market for it. This is the whole point of free information and open-source and creative commons. Information wants to be free. IMO this article is a ripe example of future shock, a lament and a longing for the past from someone who has yet to integrate the actual state of the present and the direction it will go in which is under no-ones control. It's people who freak out about deleting Facebook & Myspace, and do so repeatedly – like people who get rid of their mobie phones every once in a while in order to 'unplug'. The short and tail of it, is that these technologies are here. They are the present moment and they won't be here for ever. I'd rather imagine a new future and welcome the sea of e-musicians and a total musical world with open arms in all its ugly cheap noobness than go back to a world thats been tried and dried. There is plenty, PLENTY of local community connection through online communities. I wouldn't trade now for a dime.

  • http://www.onyxashanti.bandcamp.mu Onyx Ashanti

    i agree, but the value in art has to be instilled. we must make ourselves worthy of the limited attention focused our way, then we must reward that attention, but we must also demand respect for our art, primarily by being as fully realized, conceptually and technically, as possible. if we continue to create promiscuous, irrelevant connections then we end up with nothing because it was never injected with the care and quality that we would put into the "real" world.

    I think that we make it too easy for everything. not everybody is going to "get it" so it is important to refine ones artistic message and preach to the ones that do get it. maybe some artists want to be teachers of sorts, but i personally find it tedious to try teaching someone who wont meet me half way.

    if a person doesnt "come closer" to allow themselves to understand what i do, then they will only ever have a limited grasp of it. so, IMO, it is important to bring them closer, and to engage them in a dialogue rather than a sermon. but even after that, some people wont or dont want to get it. they just want to spam you with crap and never want to reciprocate. that is what makes up 70% of my myspace "friends". another 25% dig it but are not engaged and probably wont be, and the last 5% dig it, listen to the tracks, read the blogs, come to shows, etc. those people are gold. those are what you treat like royalty because those are the ones that will be taking their kids to your shows in 20-30 years (yes i plan to be doing this that long) and want to take this ride of life with you. all the rest of em? let em have pop music. maybe you can pull em towards you over time…maybe not, but i personally no longer want to deal with the "masses".

  • http://dylab.bandcamp.mu dyLAB

    as a producer that doesnt have the time to play out , dj or take an very active role in the scene, I enjoy the fact I can get my music signed, released and distributed to the world at large, play the occasional local gig and spend my my free time doing what I enjoy which is making music.

  • http://www.keyofgrey.com Sean

    Great article. I'm not a fan of press releases, but nothing beats IRL networking. You still have to do the footwork if you want to get your music out there. If you're not comfortable with that kind of marketing, then just be prepared to play the lottery with "making it big". If you just want to have fun making music, then more power to you. If you want to make a good living, you'd be crazy not to pursue all possible marketing avenues.

  • Downpressor

    @Onyx Ashanti

    we, as artists, can not…CAN NOT, keep allowing what we do to be marginalized.

    And thats why we need semi trustworthy managers and label reps who get the word out in the real world, on the net and get us gigs. Who has time to do all that and still make music unless they already have an income stream from a pre-existing music career?

    @L5

    I disagree that dub is a limited market. The truth being that dub has been suppressed by the major labels as they cannot find enough slave muso’s to create it. Most dub muso’s are independent and know what they are talking about and won’t bend to the label’s desires (i.e. won’t sell their souls as say sasha and digweed have) and as a result have been pushed into the background.

    Perhaps were not talking about the same "dub" since the names sasha and digweed mean nothing to me. Simple fact is that when Dougie Concious, Jah Warrior and to an extent Zion Train (less sure on this one) no longer press even 1,000 copies of a new release, the market is limited. Also honestly its not that the labels ever suppressed us, its that there just hasnt been a measurable market since the 70s/80s for dub reggae. You cant suppress what you dont even see.

    @MATT LEAF

    The internet is the real world.

    Nope. Sorry, disagree to the fullest. Where are you right now reading this? Most likely sitting on your behind in front of a screen, maybe killing some time on a mobile device. Its passive. Meeting people, going to a show, handing out flyers, doing interviews, playing gigs, all active. Not that it has no value or I wouldnt have been here for the last 20 years, but it dont beat the real world by a long shot.

    P.S. In case you werent aware, that whole "Information wants to be free" stuff is discredited, passe and frankly in this particular conversation nothin but a troll.

  • http://www.renegadeproducer.com/ Marius van Dyk

    Most electronic musicians I work with won't survive on local income alone. They tour Japan, Brazil, Europe, Australia to make income from shows. The web plays a massive part for them.

    I think the line should rather be drawn between targeted and non-targeted connections.

    You can have all the friends you want on MySpace and Facebook though this does not mean they will all really be interested in your music.

    Business will always be about the real relationships you form, offline and online.

    The web is simply an extension of us and great relationships can be built online.

    An added friend on a social network is not a relationship. It's an opportunity to start a relationship.

    You decide how to handle the contacts you make online. Will you build real relationships or are you all about how many "friends" you can add?

    It's not the size of your network or friends list which counts, it's how well you use it. ;-)

  • bliss

    @ L5

    What traditional Electronica labels did for their artists was very much the opposite for what netlabels do for their artists. Warp and the rest established themselves as being a part of the music industry as it existed at the time. Crucial point: By establishing the labels on the strength of the artists' material, the artists then broke into the industry. Distribution to early supporters was relatively simple. Once sales increased, the labels then inked distribution deals with independent distributors, who in turn inked distribution deals with the major distributors, with some labels dealing directly with the majors. The result was that the music went from being local to global. Before that there was no entry; save for having DJs playing dubplates in obscure local clubs and bars. Some of those artists were DJs themselves and spun their own material. While they were in the music business they were not a part of the industry at large which is what I referred to. (There are many musicians who gig every day of the week, but being a part of the music industry they are not.) It was a marriage of artists with labels that shared the same ambition that made it work out for both.

    A&Rs had nothing to do with that. Many of the early Electronica artists were their own talent managers where they had complete control over their creative development and their work . They booked their own gigs and earned press on their own. However it was their relationships with their labels that enabled them to break into the industry at large. Crucial point: The labels established credibility with the industry for both the labels and the artists to benefit.

    Without the labels doing the really hard stuff, many artists would have remained local curiosities, and without the artists the labels would have never existed in the first place. (So it seems. Who knows, maybe the majors labels would have caught on and signed the artists directly and the boutique labels wouldn't have been necessary. I happen to think that the boutique labels were necessary.)

    Contrast that to netlabels that do what any of their artists can do for themselves: ZIP releases and post them for download. Of course, netlabels make it easy for listeners to download music from more than one artist in one place, usually for free, but what else have netlabels done? Some netlabels have helped artists gain visibility with established brick and mortar industry labels. Which is not a bad thing. However, when one considers that there are tens of netlabels to each brick and mortar industry label… If an artist wants to get signed and sell recordings, why would an artist even bother with one netlabel out of hundreds in order to gain attention from an industry label? If an artist wanted to give away recordings for free, there are plenty of online social networking sites that will host music downloads for free, plenty of one-click download services that host files for free (usually with a time limitation that extends with a single download every 30 days or so). The point here is that artists who ally with netlabels are usually people who have already built a Web presence on their own. Aligning with a single netlabel out of hundreds only makes an obscure artist's work even more obscure. Not only would the artist be competing for attention on social networks and the Web in general, the artist would also be competing for attention on a netlabel's site as well, in addition to the netlabel competing against other netlabels for exposure. Some of those netlabel operations have 20 or more artists for listeners to choose from!

    In my experience most netlabels are severely lacking in focus. One goes to a site for ambient music and one gets loads of ambient artists that aren't distinctive from what one could find on another netlabel. Frankly, I find music blogs to be better at promoting the music of obscure artists than netlabels. Take Disquiet as a prime example of passion and focus.

    So — I do get the impression that Electronica is throwaway music. It's neither a misconception or misperception, it's my perception. I don't think that Electronica is throwaway music, I just get the impression that it is. Again, I ask the question, how can demand be created for a certain kind of music that is available in abundance? If it is available in many accessible places for free, streaming and downloadable here and there, why would there be an urge to pay for it and own it? Why would its creators matter when nearly everything sounds the same?

    As for your DJ-white-label theory, it is no more effective than radio. DJs who have access to white label material do not play live every white label that they get. First and foremost such a DJ is a commercial entity. Therefore, DJs are going to play what supports their commercial viability. No doubt DJs receive music that they like but cannot play because it doesn't fit their format. Hence, the birth and evolution of the remix, but even then a DJ playing it live is not guaranteed. DJs are very much like radio programmers (no surprise there), and being taste makers means that they have to make a living at it, so all is not perfect on that avenue.

    Also, because of the nature of a DJs work, the introduction of new titles to a DJ's set is infrequent. Top DJs are spinning tracks that are 10, 15, 20, and 30 years old regularly. Crowd favorites. So unless you're talking about Top 40 DJs, new tracks aren't spun live at nowhere near the rate that new tracks are released. And only established artists have access to top DJs to give them white labels in the first place. Another thing is that many dance producers release material under multiple aliases, so unless one is a hardcore fan, one might have the impression of listening to many different artists when they are in fact listening to only a few. (Like lawyers, judges, and legislators, the dance music scene is an exclusive insiders club.) Finally, not all Electronica is dance music.

    Ambient DJ's are not a dime a dozen nor are ambient audiences. But there's hundreds of ambient artists and hundreds of ambient netlabels to choose from. Most offering the music for free. Most of them largely unknown. Just hanging out on the Web with hardly any visibility and value at all. And that's just for ambient music and artists. There's plenty of other types of artists and music languishing in obscurity on the Web also — whether one has to pay for it or not.

    I don't see any difference between languishing in obscurity on the Web than in the real-life matrix. Folks may despise the old system, and I'm one of them, but newer systems have yet to prove that they are any better with regards to an artist's welfare or for the most part, the curation of their work. Though, I guess it can be argued that an artist's integrity remains more intact. Yet there's at least two sides to that coin also.

  • L5

    Thanks for the replies to my comments guys; I too am appreciating this article & blog. One thing I would like to mention is that Sasha and Digweed (for those who don't know) are the biggest earning Djs in the world and are often making over 200,000 for one gig. On New Years Eve they will chase the sun and earn over a million pounds as they fly around the night. This Dj scene in the Dance world is alive and well and has much money to share that is not. The A&R managers of the big labels (be it Sony or the long lost Hooj) have forced themselves into a filtration situation whereby only those who are vouched for are allowed in. This is my issue. Make great music but cannot get signed, released or distributed. I hope to change this but for now it has been David and Goliath with David losing every time.

  • gs up hoes down

    AMEN!

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  • http://DamianSol.com Damian Sol

    One important thing to consider when comparing meatspace efforts vs. online is, "What does my audience want?"

    In this case, the audience is people with the gigs, the labels, the record stores, the clubs, i.e. the people hiring artists.

    No matter who you are dealing with, it is best to learn what system works best for them and approach them that way. I have gotten gigs from random emails to certain promoters, while others won't get back to me via email no matter what.

    Bottom line — find out what your audience wants and bring it to them.

    If you are now grumbling about having to "play the game" or jump through hoops, well, that's how it works. Just like if you want a job at McDonald's, you have to play the McDonald's game by their rules.

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  • bliss

    @ Damien Sol

    Lol at the McDonald's comment. So true!

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  • Downpressor

    @L5

    This is my issue. Make great music but cannot get signed, released or distributed. I hope to change this but for now it has been David and Goliath with David losing every time.

    Recently I made a deal with a "known" singer to voice a track for me. The guy in question shook hands with me in front of others and then walked out just before we were supposed to record. I got stuck paying the cancelation fee for the studio. He is a good singer, but one thing is for sure, I've put the word out to every other producer I know that this singer doesnt honor deals. This kind of thing and the time I used to spend chasing clients to pay their bills for mixes I did, etc. make it real clear to me why I want someone to be vouched for before I'll do business with them.

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  • http://siliveradio.com Christopher

    I enjoyed this article allot, it gave me a good feeling. I can relate to what was being said about reaching out to those people who occupy the same surroundings, in addition to establishing an online presence.

    I'm not much of a blogger though, but it seems that these days that's the only way one might be taken seriously as a professional.

    I've been working in the industry behind the scenes for 15 years with people like Pras (fugees), Wu-Tang Clan and C&C Music Factory, but then again who among us hasn't been working with professionals?

    Right now I'm working on an online radio station and we're more than happy to play your music. The site is a Beta tester and we have an open source like community making improvements on a regular basis. Feel free to chime in or visit with a critical mind.

    Keep doing your thing I'll be doing mine. Peace Shallydo!!!