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Re: What to do as an unknown artist (by Trent Reznor)

Basically I agree with him when it comes to building web presence,
doing what you can to put music in front of as many people as
possible, and yes, acknowledging that the days of making a long-term
living based on cd sales are probably over (unless you sign with a
major label AND are wildly successful).

I feel differently about the "give it away" strategy. Having a decent
amount of your music freely and widely available (such as online)
means you won't have "unavailability" as a roadblock to your success.
That's different than saying it will bring you success:

A) There are so many musicians in the world climbing over each other
for fame, that giving away your music doesn't mean that potential
"fans" will find it. For example, when I log into emusic, *looking for
music*, there are thousands of cds from which I can hear free samples,
but I steer towards ones that look like they'd be something I'd like.
In other words, the suggestion that 'giving away your music for free
is the path to more listeners' doesn't account for taste, or the
searching habits of the listening audience.

B) Handing your cd to people who haven't expressed an interest in your
music won't win you many more listeners, unless your music is
universally mind-blowingly awesome for everybody. I receive a lot CDs
from artists in this way, and many of them are still in the
shrinkwrap. There's an odd phenomenon in the SF bay area where
aspiring rappers will try to give their demo cds to random passersby
at the subway stations. Desperation doesn't generate interest in an
artist. To me there's a big difference between an artist who has a
stack of cds to give away (good) and an artist who tries to make sure
everyone leaves with a copy (not as good).

C) One key to success is "Be a talented artist who uniquely does
things that people want to listen to." That's a far way away from me
saying, "Make pop music". Every genre of music, no matter how
non-mainstream, has figures who've gained that coveted notoriety. In
each case, there's some sort of talent involved (good decision-making,
performing skill, a sensitive ear, songwriting, etc), it's something
that people want to listen to, and there's a unique quality that keep
bringing listeners back to that particular artist. The tough part for
us unknowns is that if we're doing something that we already know
people want to listen to, there's a good chance we're not being very
unique. We have to come up with something that's completely our own
and hope people like it. In other words, luck.

D) Another key to success is, "Get important people to talk about your
music." There has to be folks who are not you, not your
friend/wife/relative, and not coerced by you, who think that your
music is so good that they can't stop talking about it. These folks
needs to be in a position where people are paying attention, such as a
radio dj, well-read music blogger, etc. Otherwise, the only people who
will find out about your awesome music will be the people you directly

Of course, as a non-successful artist, I have about as much business
discussing this as Trent Reznor, except from the other end of the

Matt Davignon
Tour! www.ribosomemusic.com
Rigs! www.youtube.com/user/ribosomematt

On Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 1:46 PM, Mark Sottilaro<zerocrossing@gmail.com> 
> http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106347439
> On Fri, Jul 10, 2009 at 1:02 AM, Michael Peters<mp@mpeters.de> wrote:
>> very good !!
>>> Mr. Reznor seems like an odd source of advice for "unknown" musicians, 
>> I think most of what he says is pretty sound:
>> ewunknown-artist/