Unfair playing field?

Whats the biggest change you’ve seen in your career? I get asked that a lot, because I’ve been around for a while. For me its really easy to answer, but also not as straight forward answer.

Until not so long ago being a very talent musician or DJ gave you a very successful career, the viral noise caused by such talent created demand in people wanting to see them perform or buy their music. Today however, if your main craft/skillset/career today is design, or marketing, you’re more likely to forge a successful career in the music industry.

That’s because these people have the skills to create a glossy ‘shop front’ they also know all the tricks with social media to get that shop front seen amongst all the noise and create clicks, they are trained and have knowledge upon how to do this.

From my experience, musicians are lost in a world of oscillators, waveforms and usually buried deep in Youtube music geekery channels wanting to be the best musical engineers possible, the world of social media is a foreign language to them.

Its easy to point the finger at social media, but its evolution that everyone must embrace if you want be successful. That’s easier said than done, as sharing your life with the world isn’t for everyone, and many of the geeky musicians I know are very uncomfortable doing this, quite rightly there shouldn’t be a rule that we all have to do it, but looking at the current playing field out there, if you don’t, you won’t succeed. This situation really sucks.

Back in the day of physical releases and good income, the marketing pressure was taken away from the artist, the A&R manager from the record label signed your music and then organised everything else for you, including reviews, press, advertising etc. The artist could just lock themselves in the comfort zone of their studio and continue making music.

But people still don’t seem to grasp the damage and impact that the loss of physical sales has had on these musicians. Digital sales are very poor, and the income from streaming to the specialist world is tiny, meaning the music industry has lost a massive piece of the business infrastructure connecting those shy artists with the media.

Labels can no longer afford to employ the A&R staff, can’t invest in advertising etc, they are only just surviving themselves. The results, the artists now do this marketing themselves, and the good ones succeed, but in reality most don’t have a clue about the alien social media world, we see this ourselves visiting a musical hero social page that only has 1000 likes and can’t figure out why in disbelief?

There’s currently a big artist out there that got a new cat, its become a huge viral story gaining thousands of clicks and became headline news on many big music media magazine sites, yet on the other side there’s an amazing producer with a new single that the same media haven’t reviewed nor written about and probably don’t even know about. A cat get more clicks for them on a music website? Yes because this person has been smart and tapped into what content the next generation want to see alongside their music, he’s fully in sync with the current social generation. Very smart, but also very frustrating for musicians that don’t want to open their lives like this.

Many of the big artists out there pay annual five figure sums to specialist social media companies to run their social pages for them, how can regular artists compete against this? When we, the regular users, click in the back end of Facebook/Instagram to try and promote something, we’re faced with a complex minefield of features, analytics and tagging a world/digital language impossible for a general public to understand, you need to have studied this at university to get an idea of what to do, and how to promote. The constant changes to Facebook for example means only a fraction of your fans see your actual posts.

A home producer simply wants to promote their new track, they spend $10 to promote their post that in reality is wasted money and won’t get seen as they don’t what they are doing. Is it fair that a specialist social media company does this on behalf of an artist and makes a track heard? They can afford it, we can’t? Has the new music business model become a place for just the rich?

So here we are today, the unfair playing field. That’s the biggest change I’ve seen in my career. But it’s reality that we must embrace, and something I’ve uncomfortably had to do myself, not easy for a shy person like me.

Like it or loathe it, embrace the same tool that you’re reading this and other article from. The strongest weapon you can have is great music, add that along side your social media presence and you’ll start to level that playing field.

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