published in Indie Music World, August 2000/Vol. 2. No. 6.
© 2000, Diane Rapaport. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.
buy music because they hear it. At a performance. At a friend's
house. On the radio. At a music store. On the World Wide Web.
the Internet, the major holdback to the success of many wonderful
independent label recordings was that the public couldn't hear them
through traditional media outlets. Major AM and FM radio and television
stations virtually "locked out" playing music and featuring performers
from nonmajor label record companies. After all, the same six conglomerates
that own the major label record companies own the major print, radio
and television resources. They can virtually ensure a record's success
by getting virtually simultaneous airplay at stations they own all
over the country, get coverage to support a band's live concerts
in the major print media, and estimate, with remarkable accuracy,
what sales will be generated. The major labels can also afford the
extremely high prices to 'air' selections from new releases at listening
booths stationed in major music super stores, and the indies, for
the most part, cannot. What music the public hears has been traditionally
controlled by the very wide marketing arms of the record labels.
Paying for Play: A New Twist
stores provide listening posts, private listening booths or
headphones near record displays, where potential buyers can
hear selections from featured titles. These selections are
usually not chosen by the retailer, but by the record company
or distributor that pays the store for the privilege. The
fees can range from $500 for three months to many thousands
of dollars. Some stores have sound systems that play music
continuously throughout the day. With few exceptions, the
selections are the same as those available at listening booths,
and are paid for by recording labels. Retailers often charge
for space to stack recordings on the floor or in some prominent
location near the entrance and for all space to display posters.
(From How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording). (For more
information on this and other music business books, go to
the use of artist and recording label web sites, MP3 sites such
as Napster, Internet record storefronts such as Indiespace, CD Now
and Amazon, and the mushrooming of Internet radio sites (over 10,000
at last count) has skyrocketed. For the first time, the consumer
can listen to, download and buy music of their choice. The number
of visitors to these sites exceeds tens of millions, making it abundantly
clear that they want to exercise that choice. It is as though the
Berlin Wall that divided the major from the independent label industry
has come down and the public is rushing across.
get derailed into a dialogue about whether these activities will
lead to one giant step for free music and that the composer and
performers will not get sales and performance royalties is to miss
the point. These web sites provide bands with exposure to their
music. And, most importantly, they provide the public with a means
to hear a tremendous variety of music they have been effectively
prevented from hearing on major media radio and television. They
provide the means for independent labels to effectively compete
with major labels. On these sites, the major labels can no longer
control with the public hears and ultimately buys.
advice to indies. Use the web to your advantage. Take one or two
of your best songs and post them on every web store front that sells
music (CD NOW, Amazon, Indiespace.com, IUMA.com) and every Internet
radio station that will take them. (For a list of over 9000 Internet
stations go to (http://wmbr.mit.edu/stations/list.html
and click on "radio stations on the internet"). Make sure that sites
playing your music contain a link to your web site. That's what
promotion and sales are all about. Exposure. Repetition. Contacting
people on your mailing list, web site list. Etc.
of every web site that can offer some of your songs as a traditional
radio station that is playing the music. Or think of it as a giant
word-of-mouth connection. Being afraid that someone is going to
download your music for free is like not jumping at the chance to
have some major AM or FM station choose to play your record many
times a day to millions of listeners because you don't want people
to tape the broadcast. Use web exposure the way you would have used
radio airplay: to drive people to your web site or to record stores
where consumers can buy your music. Or hire you for gigs. Or get
will open up the market for all indie artists, not shut it down.
Six to seven years ago when video tape was easily available, the
movie industry went bonkers. Fear that film studios would go broke
because the public could copy movies easily and freely was rampant.
Today, film attendance is at a record high, and, because films are
convenient and cheap to rent, so is the video rental business. The
same will happen to music. More music will be sold. Not less.
the long run, a new business model will be found to "monetize" MP3
downloads and make them legal. The sites will likely be traditionally
licensed by the performance rights societies A major indie site,
just completed a licensing deal with BMI)). And, because there will
be a way to know exactly what downloads were requested, to more
equitably share performance monies with composers. (Today, the majority
of the money disbursed to composers by these societies goes to top
100 charted artists, not indie artists, because the majority of
performance exposure is controlled by the major record labels.)
Further downstream it is also likely that the public will be charged
some nominal amount for downloads, and the money gathered will be
also shared with composers and/or their record companies.
now, indies should do what they can to ensure that they use this
tremendous opportunity afforded by the Internet to gain exposure
for their music and drive people to their web sites. People have
to be able to listen to the music before they buy and providing
people with easy listening access has, and always will be, the key