You are on page 1of 16

Warren 1

Austin Warren Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1103 April 10th, 2012 Reviewed by Jordan Honbarger Given Modern Advancements in Technology, Should Independent Artists Seek To Sign Record Deals? Devin Tails, also known by her stage name Dev, is a new singer you may have heard on the radio recently. During her freshman year of college, she and her then boyfriend went through a lousy break up which caused her to create a cover of an Amy Winehouse song. Her friend posted the cover to MySpace, which captured the attention of The Cataracs, a California based production team, who contacted her and brought her to Los Angeles, CA where she subsequently signed with Indie-Pop, an independent record label and management team (Sauro). Three years later after lots of songs created here and there with The Cataracs, she teamed up with a group called Far East Movement on a song called Like A G6, which reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 Chart and went on to sell over three million downloads in the U.S. (Like a G6 - Far East Movement). Devin is only one example of a whole demographic of musicians that impact the music industry; she is an independent artist. In the digital era, we see many of these rags to riches tales occurring for lots of artists because of the growing amount of technological resources available for public use, such as social networking and music software programs. Sites such as MySpace have given many now signed artists such as Jeffree Star, a cross-dressing artist who got his start making tracks on MySpace and eventually gained recognition from R&B artist Akon who signed Star to

Warren 2

his own Kon Live Distribution label (Bark; Jeffree Star). YouTube is also another pioneer in starting artists careers, giving artists such as Justin Bieber, whose videos were discovered by Scooter Braun, who would later become his manager, and then set Bieber up to meet with R&B artist Usher, who got him a recording contract at Island Records (Konjicanin; Mitchell). In the case of Justin Bieber, social-networking and video-sharing websites prove that as long as you have talent and exemplify a unique artistry, your location, age or connections in the music industry do not necessarily matter anymore. For former independent artist Jeffree Star, whose music and persona often transgresses gender norms, online social-networking proves that artists whose sexual orientations or gender identities may be frowned upon by major record labels can still gain success and followings as a musician. There has been a shift in the ideology of who can become the singer or rock star they see on television or in magazines. Because of the accessibility to these new music technologies, everyone can essentially make their own music and become their own brand. Technology has given us all the tools we need to sing and record our songs, engineer and mix our computer generated sounds that produce our music, and distribute our creations internationally for little costs. We have been given the ability to become music moguls, entrepreneurs, and even our own self-sufficient record labels. As musician Amanda Palmer says, As an artist, you kind of are obligated to empower yourself, which is kind of a pain in the ass....it was clearly easier when you could just get in a limo and be told what to do, but that's now over (Shea). As an independent artist, you are redefining the music industry because you are changing the very definition of what it means to be an artist, as well as the requirements you have to meet to be considered a credible artist by doing things such as creating music without a major record deal. When speaking about the trend of rejecting major labels, Bruce Flohr, an executive at Red Light Management, says, This is

Warren 3

the new frontier. This is the beginning of a new era for music business (Is This The Day Music Died?). The modern independent artists goal is to empower themselves by taking control of their music and promoting the philosophy that the music industry should serve the artists, not the other way around. The digital revolution is a revival movement that has redefined the ideologies of what music is and who has control over it. Tools Available To You Every artist in the digital era has been given a musical tool belt in which they can exercise their artistry, despite whether or not you have a recording contract. Artists now have the ability to produce studio-quality material within the own comfort of their homes without having to pay expensive fees for studio time, music producers, audio engineers, mix and mastering, etc. You can produce your music at home using software programs such as FL Studio, Pro Tools, and Garage Band, then digitally record your vocals to the programs using an audio interface, which is a piece of hardware that connects your microphone to your computer and maximizes sonic capability (What Is an Audio Interface?). Programs such as FL Studio run from around $50 to $1,000, depending on which product package you buy, whereas professional recording studios can run anywhere from $50 to $500 an hour, depending on what all you require for your musical projects (Shop). Not only can using these software programs save you lots of money, but buying a program for your home usage allows you to pay a one-time fee for unlimited usage. If you are an independent artist, you are likely on a tight budget so you need to get the most for your money. Having this unlimited amount of time to play around with these programs promotes artistic creativity by giving you more chances to discover new sounds or beats. Some free software programs also help with mix and mastering CD's to get them to high quality, such as iZotope Ozone 5, which is a plug-in system that allows you to heighten the sound of your music to studio

Warren 4

quality. The plug-in system is available at Sweetwater.com for $99, which combined with software such as FL Studio is still going to save you more money than visiting an actual studio (iZotope Ozone 5).

Learning the Software While programs that allow you to create your own music exists, it is understandable that many artists may not be as computer savvy as they would like to admit, or perhaps the programs are just too difficult to understand how to use them. If you wish to pursue another route to your start as an independent artist, there are many academic options available to you. The Berklee College of Music is a highly respected university within the music community, boasting programs in their Music Production and Engineering Departments that have staff with industry experience who can teach you how to become your own music producer through course curriculum. The chair of the department is Rob Jackzo, who is an independent record producer and recording engineer who has worked with artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Sheryl Crow (Music Production and Engineering). Jackzo's success as an independent music professional proves that you can achieve success as an artist and attending a university with industry professionals like him may be the best route for you. There is also a great chance that as an independent artist, you probably cannot afford to attend such a highly prestigious school like Berkley, which also has a challenging audition process that requires you to already have some musical experience under your belt. If you are like me, you are probably looking for a low cost way to start from the ground up with your musical career, and there are several other options you can follow. If you still want to go the college route, some instate colleges also offer music industry and technologies programs, such as Western Carolina

Warren 5

University in North Carolina. The university offers a Bachelor of Music (B.M.) degree with a concentration in Commercial and Electronic Music. According to the department, [the program] combines traditional studies in music with courses in music technology, jazz and other popular musical styles, recording arts, music for film and video and MIDI/synthesis (Western Carolina)If you are interested in getting a well-rounded musical background, programs offered at in-state institutions like these may be the route you want to go. If you go to college in-state, you can pursue your musical dreams and get a college degree at the same time for a much lower cost than if you went out of state or to a private institution, and if you are more/also interested in the business side of the music industry, Western Carolina University also offers a music industry route for their undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree. The third option available to you is to seek an audio institute, such as the Recording Connection, which is a recording school that allows you to learn music skills such as music production and audio engineering for a much lowered price than learning from a university. The institute allows those enrolled to choose from multiple payment plans, such as two year payment plans with interest or student loans (The Real Cost of Recording Connection). The biggest catch about these schools is that you don't actually earn a degree for completing the programs, but the institutes claim you do gain invaluable insight, skills and connections with your field of study that you will not get from a degree in a music industry based program. The route you choose to craft your artistry is up to you and ultimately depends on the amount of money you want to spend, the time you want to dedicate, and the career goals you have for yourself as a musician. The Distribution Process After you have created your music, one way or another, the next step as an artist is to start releasing your compositions. Once your music is ready to be distributed, you can turn to sites such

Warren 6

as CDBaby, which is one of several types of digital marketing websites that offer non-exclusive contracts, which means artists can distribute their music but also keep the rights to their music (CD Baby's Terms of Service). This means that artist can sell their music online, but because the contracts are not exclusive, artists can also sell their CD's at other media outlets such as local record stores, therefore expanding the promotion and marketing for your musical projects while still keeping you exclusively in charge of your material. Selling your music digitally can also lead to a larger fan base by exposing you to new outlets and marketplaces such as the Zune marketplace for Microsoft consumers, the Amazon marketplace for its Kindle tablets, as well as the iTunes marketplace for Apple Inc., which has hold over 10 billion songs alone (Elmer-DeWitt). Digital distribution enhances your sales as an artist because your music can be released faster and more frequently, which allows you to satisfy your fans easier, expand your discography quicker, and be able to produce more music than ever before. Using Social Networking Arguably the most important tool accessible to you is online social networking sites. YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Tumblr etc., are all sites you can use to help expand yourself as an artist in order to keep your music alive in the digital era. According to David Goldman of CNNmoney.com, Despite the great decline in sales, the Internet has exposed consumers to more music than ever before. Goldman reports that digital licensing, such as the licensing of music on programs and sites such as Spotify or music videos on YouTube and VEVO, has become one of the music industry's fastest growing sources of revenue, raising $84 million in 2009 (Goldman). Creating profiles, blogs and websites where you can share your music with fans may be the only thing that will help your career to survive in an ever changing digital world. Your ability to social network also serves as platform to connect to your fans on a more personal level.

Warren 7

From my experience as an active consumer and fan of music, fans like me appreciate artists who can connect to them on a personal level. Social networking helps you to share not only your music, but also all of your feelings and emotions as a person. Music fans and artists both use music to express themselves, even if only one is the producer and the other the consumer, because a lot of fans live vicariously through artists. For example, Lady Gaga is generally known in pop-culture to be an open advocate for LGBTQ rights. Her song Born This Way is about empowering the gay community and women, and although Gaga is the artists and it was her message, her LGTBQ and female fans are able to identify with the message, therefore she has created a personal bond between her and her fans that allows them to express themselves through each other (Werde). The more fans like you, the more they will also want to share you and your music with others, which will strengthen your presence in pop-culture and increase your music sales. Social networking is crucial because not only is it the platform by which you share your music, it is also how your fans will share your music with others. Social networking websites make it easy to share music, pictures, tweets, blogs and other creations as quickly and as vastly as possible. Sharing your music online also helps people to critique your music and provide you with feedback that can improve it, such as online sites that allow users to access features such as the ability to rate songs or videos. Other programs such as iTunes offer features that allow users to preview your songs or pick and choose which songs they want to buy, which will promote your album or track sales. Even if someone only wants to buy two or three songs from your album, that is more than they would have bought if they only had the option to buy the entire album or nothing. An additional benefit of social networking is that it allows you to network with other independent artists that may serve as future collaborators for your music. Collaborating with other artists could also combine your fan base with that of the other artist. Networking skills are ultimately the key to making or

Warren 8

breaking independent artists, and in a cut-throat industry where everyone's trying to make it to the top, you need to make sure you are doing everything in your power to better yourself and your music. Independent Labels vs. Major Labels The decision whether to remain completely independent, seek independent label deals, or seek major record label deals is an important decision artists must make based on their own individual goals and what they want to accomplish with their careers as musicians. If you're all about the music and want complete creative control over your work, you are probably best suited to an independent label. Independent labels tend to be more about the artists and their music versus commercializing someone as an artist and focused on making money off of them. As Heather McDonald, former independent label employee at ShoeShine Records and current owner of an indie music consultancy company Mount Florida Music, says, When you get signed to an indie label, in almost every instance it is because the label is a big fan of your music. That means that they'll be working extra hard for you because they believe in what you're doing (McDonald). Independent labels are also not nearly as wealthy or large, versus a major record label with dozens of sub-labels and hundreds of artists under them. Because of this smaller size, independent artists on the label usually develop more personal relationships with the label staff. If you're an artist who's more focused on lager promotions, bigger budgets and more connections for your musical projects, a major record label is more for you. An independent label is generally the choice of people who are interested in being a musician strictly because they enjoy making music. If you're an artist who enjoys making music but also wants take yourself further as a musician than just making songs, then a major record label may be a better choice for you. Major labels can provide funding for concert tours, high budget music videos, popular music producers,

Warren 9

expert marketing and promotion agents, talent agents, and many more resources. A recent survey by ReverbNation.com and Digital Music News found that 75% of almost 2,000 aspiring musicians do indeed want record deals (Shea).According to Neil Jacobson, Senior Vice President of A&R and management at Interscope, If you want a great brand ideally you're relevant to the masses, and getting to the masses now is harder than it's ever been...eyeballs are all over the place...being able to coordinate those is something only a label can provide (Shea). The truth is that many artists who do start out independent and become successful do sign record deals because they can provide them with resources that independent artists simply cannot get. Creative Freedom Issues Despite the perks you can get from major record labels, there are a lot of restrictions such as the limitation of creative control over some of your music. Artists with major record deals can be best explained in terms of business because an artist is an investment. New artists have the least creative control because the label wants to make sure the artist is marketable, profitable, liked by consumers, and able to establish themselves musically. In an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj, who has gained quick commercial success in the U.S. Music market, says, My first album I was very guarded. I felt like I was making music to please everyone else. I had to be politically correct (Murry). Minaj was known to concentrate on mostly hip-hop and rap genres for her music, but with her debut album Pink Friday selling almost two million copies, her record label gave her more creative control for her new album because they now know she is worth the investment and is musically established (Gold & Platinum). Some independent artists strongly argue that as a musician you can be both commercially successful and still always maintain complete creative freedom. Research supporting this claim can be seen with a group called The Offspring, whose album Smash sold 12 million copies, which

Warren 10

makes it the highest selling independent album of all time (Stagno). Another example of a successful independent artist is Bon Iver whose self-entitled second album recently won Best Alternative Music Album at the recent 54th Grammy Awards (Nominees). These artists prove you don't have to have a major record deal to sell albums or receive critical acclaim for your work, and some independent artists such as Paul Brandt, a former Warner/Reprise Records artist, likes that viewpoint very much. Brandt's debut album under the label sold one million copies; however another album of his called Small Towns and Big Dreams, which was released on his own independent label, sold only 40,000 copies yet made him more money than his first album. As Brandt says, You don't necessarily have to do what a major label is telling you to do. I get to make more money, I get to say what I want, I don't have people telling me what to do and I actually get to spend time with my wife; It's perfect (Dedekker). Many independent artists feel the same way Paul do and it's exactly why they remain independent. For some, it's strictly about the music and some people don't want the pop-culture iconography that can come with successful music, the constant invasion of privacy, or the demanding schedules artists abide by to keep their labels, brand, and fans simultaneously happy. It has also been seen in recent years that many artists who once were signed to major record labels are now following the independent trend in music. Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead and Madonna are all examples of artists who have left contracts with their longtime labels such as Madonna's choice to leave Warner Music Group to pursue a contract with Live Nation for three albums. Live Nation is an American entertainment company and is not a record label. As Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails front man, says, I have been under recording contracts for 18 years...it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate (Is this the). While these major acts have successfully left their labels,

Warren 11

executives from major record labels attribute it to the fact that these artists are popular enough to have such a large amount of dedicated fans that will help their careers to survive. Executives do advise that new acts such should seek to sign to major record labels because of all marketing, connections, and money that it takes to establish someone as a successful musician or musical act on top of the amount of people pursuing the dream of musical fame and success. (Is this the). The Decision Is Yours Ultimately, the decision to sign a recording contract is up to the individual artist and their personal goals. The technology is present to make yourself into a self-sufficient musician, there are labels out there that will support and respect your musical choices, and there are thousands of people constantly searching for new and exciting music to consume. As Jake Gosling, music producer for Asylum/Atlantic Records under Warner Music Group, says, It's...simplistic to say majors are evil while indies are good. What is important is to be on a label that 'gets you' (Lindvall). A major problem is that independent artists face stigmatized judgments such as lack of credibility or the assumption that they are not talented enough to land a record deal. Most of the artists we consider icons, such as Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Aretha Franklin, would not have impacted pop-culture or music history if they were independent artists who refused major record deals because we simply wouldn't have heard about them. In fact, some of the greatest artists of all time may have gone their whole lives musically independent and the public simply missed out on musical legends that never mainstreamed; we will never know. As an artist, your goal at heart should simply be to express your art and to not focus so heavily on others opinions or perceptions of it. As Wolfgang Mozart says, I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings (Wolfgang). Mozart did not need a Grammy Award or Rolling Stone's approval to be a successful artist because successful artists follow their heart. Only seek out

Warren 12

a recording contract if it is going to benefit you musically and understand that it does not define you as an artist. The only thing that defines a musician is his music, not a legal piece of paper.

Works Cited Bark, Theo. "Akon Signs 'Male Version of Gaga' -- Say What!" The Boombox. AOL Inc., 1 Nov. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://www.theboombox.com/2010/11/01/akon-signs-maleversion-of-gaga-say-what/>.

Warren 13

"CD Baby's Terms of Service." CD Baby. 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <http://www.cdbaby.com/terms>. Dedekker, Jeff. "Brandt Confident Going It On His Own." Www.leaderpost.com. Postmedia Network Inc., 15 Oct. 2008. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.leaderpost.com/entertainment/whats-on/Brandt confident going/882770/story.html>. Elmer-DeWitt, Phillip. "Apple ITunes: 10 Billion Songs Later." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 24 Feb. 2010. Web. 04 Apr. 2012. <http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2010/02/24/apple-itunes-10-billion-songs-later/>. "Gold & Platinum." Http://www.riaa.com. RIAA, 17 Dec. 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://riaa.com/goldandplatinumdata.php?content_selector=gold-platinum-searchabledatabase>. Goldman, David. "Music's Lost Decade: Sales Cut in Half." CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 02 Feb. 2010. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/02/news/companies/napster_music_industry/>. "Is This the Day Music Died?" Msnbc.com. Msnbc.com, 12 Oct. 2007. Web. 4 Apr. 2012. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21269633/#.T3udJet6MUs>.

"IZotope Ozone 5." Sweetwater. Sweetwater Sound Inc. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Ozone5up/>. "Jeffree Star." Last.fm. CBS Interactive Music Group. Web. 5 Apr. 2012. <http://www.last.fm/music/Jeffree+Star>.

Warren 14

Konjicanin, Anja. "Justin Bieber Makes Them Proud. But Why?" The Vancouver Observer. Observer Media Group, 24 Dec. 2010. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.vancouverobserver.com/politics/news/2010/12/24/justin-bieber-makes-themproud-why>. "Like a G6 - Far East Movement." Billboard. Rovi Corporation, 30 Oct. 2010. Web. 04 Apr. 2012. <http://www.billboard.com/>. Lindvall, Helienne. "Behind the Music: What Do Record Labels Actually Do? You'd Be Surprised." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 10 Aug. 0002. Web. 04 Apr. 2012. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/musicblog/2012/feb/02/behind-music-record-labels>. McDonald, Heather. "Indie Label Record Deals: Pros And Cons." About.com Music Careers. The New York Times Company. Web. 04 Apr. 2012. <http://musicians.about.com/od/beingamusician/a/indielabelpandc.htm>. Mitchell, Gail. "Usher Introduces Teen Singer Justin Bieber." Billboard. Rovi Corporation, 28 Apr. 2009. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.billboard.com/#/news/usher-introduces-teensinger-justin-bieber-1003966989.story>. Murry, Michael. "WORLD PREMIERE: Listen To Nicki Minaj's New Single Starships [AUDIO]." WORLD PREMIERE: Listen To Nicki Minaj's New Single Starships [AUDIO]. RyanSeacrest.com, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://ryanseacrest.com/2012/02/14/world-premiere-listen-to-nicki-minajs-new-singlestarships-audio/>. "Music Production and Engineering." BERKLEE Music Production and Engineering Department. Berklee College of Music. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.berklee.edu/departments/mpe.html>.

Warren 15

"Nominees and Winners." The Grammys. The Recording Academy, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.grammy.com/nominees>. "The Real Cost Of Recording Connection." How Our Tuition Compares to Other Recording Schools. Recording Radio Film Connection Inc. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.recordingconnection.com/compare-us/tuition-costs-compared>. Sauro, Tony. "Manteca Native Inspired on Tour by Cataracs." Recordnet.com Home Page. Recordnet, 23 July 2010. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100723/A_LIFE/7230302/1/a_life>. Shea, Andrea. "Once Again, Just What IS The Future Of Music?" NPR. NPR, 28 Apr. 2011. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/therecord/2011/04/28/135808429/once-againjust-what-is-the-future-of-music>. "Shop." Image-Line Shop. Image-Line. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <https://support.imageline.com/jshop/shop.php>. Stagno, Mike. "The Offspring - Smash." Sputnick Music. Sputnickmusic.com, 28 Apr. 2007. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. <http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/11903/The-Offspring-Smash/>. Werde, Bill. "Lady Gaga 'Born This Way' Cover Story." Billboard. Rovi Corporation, 18 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.billboard.com/news/lady-gaga-born-this-waycover-story-1005041172.story>. "Western Carolina University - Music, B.M." Western Carolina University. Western Carolina University. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://wcu.edu/6541.asp>. "What Is an Audio Interface" Welcome to Sweetwater.com. Sweetwater Sound Inc. Web. 03 Apr. 2012. <http://www.sweetwater.com/feature/daw/audio_interface.php>.

Warren 16

"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Quotes." ThinkExist.com. ThinkExist. Web. 3 Apr. 2012. <http://thinkexist.com/quotes/wolfgang_amadeus_mozart/>.

Austin, I think your paper is very well written. I made note of some minor changes regarding MLA formatting and the phrasing of your introduction. Other than that I think the paper is organized and flows very well. Due to time constraints and due to the length of your paper, which is not a bad thing, I had to skim over some sections. I think it is a very interesting topic and I think you have presented it in a great manner. Jordan