Indie Music, $$, and Too Much Monkey Business

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Chuck Berry sang, “Too much monkey business for me, ” and I got to say I agree.  For a DYI industry, Indie Music still boils down to open hands and pockets deep with the artists money, and while some of the social networking sites are actually free, almost every “free” bit of virtual action costs an artist in actual dollars.  Too much monkey business!

So, what are we DYI’ers to do about marketing their brand?  I utilize the options presented to me, but I put a limit on how much I am willing to be hosed.  I have a friend who says, “I don’t mind being screwed, but I’d like a little romance while it’s happening.”  In a way, I have made this my motto, but with limits.  I’d like the romance, but if I can get something in return, I’ll take the screwing.  There is a certain amount I will not go over to get my material heard.

The companies who charge to hear our music are legion, but here I will only mention the ones with which I am an affiliate:  MusicXray, ReverbNation, and Sonic Bids.  These companies all have a sliding scale for their charges, which they claim is based on the importance of the opportunity and the level of screening needed to filter out artists who are not serious artists, so only the really serious will apply and the offered opportunities will not be swamped with applicants.

Sometimes a service is worth paying for.  ReverbNation’s EPK offering is a case in point.  For around $50.00 a year I can research venues and send out a highly professional looking EPK to the ones where I’d like to be considered to play.  That is a fee that in my mind is well worthwhile.  ReverbNation also has opportunities for which an artist can apply.  These can get pricey, and and I am not sure all are worth the money.  MusicXray has opportunities as well, that can get pricey as well–from free to hundreds of dollars.  Both ReverbNation and MusicXray have free opportunities that seem really good and I apply for as many as come up.

The harsh reality for me, and for other Indie writers, lies in the fact that what is a finished production in the Indie Market, many times seems to be an unfinished production to a majority of who I term the Slickies. A Slicky, is one of a group of producers who seem to need everything to be as slick as possible before they can actually hear the song.  They will take Americana songs and add harps, violins (not fiddles), horns, shrill backup singers, and who knows what the hell else to the recording, ruin it, and then call it a finished piece.  Puke!

Anyway, an Indie musician needs to be careful about who they choose to critique their songs.  Not just that but they need to understand that where they send their material is important as well.  I send my work out to anyone and everyone.  I am thick-skinned about the critiques that come back,  and I understand that most, if not all, critiques do not come out of a hearers clinical disinterest, but out of their own personal sensibilities, fears, anger, lostness, woundedness, unadmitted failure, or worse, a limited understanding of the industry which they then attempt to universalize and prove to you that their sense of taste, complete with all its baggage, is just how everyone else in the whole industry sees your song.  Blaugh!  Too much monkey business!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still send out my material to these producers and music industry professionals, because it does give me a sense of what is going on out there, but I only understand what I get back as one person’s opinion, not as a universal statement of my song–be the critique good of harsh!

So, don’t spend lots of money on evaluations, but spend judiciously.  Don’t take to heart either harsh or favorable critiques.  It is my firm belief that the true critiques are our royalty checks, audience response, or record sales.


2 thoughts on “Indie Music, $$, and Too Much Monkey Business

  1. Thank you for sharing this. My experiences have been simular. But try it with virtually no money.
    As for critiquing, I find that much can be gained from small critique groups of serious writers. You can quickly learn which ones know something and which don’t but listen to everybody. Sometimes someone will make a suggestion and you just know they are right. But you are always the final judge.

    Try co-writing with successful writers. You can learn a lot and you can benefit from their connections. They can open doors for you.

  2. Thank you Jack, indeed you are correct. A few years ago I did this with Steve Seskin and a group of writers. It was fruitful–both in a learning and a teaching sense–it seemed we all had teaching moments and learning moments.

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