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


i agree with everything you said.

i question the "give everything away" strategy for an artist who is  
not pop/rock. i think the free strategy can work if your goal is to  
become a household name: i.e. a mainstream success. it seems as though  
the point of free is to get your music into everyone's hands. if it  
won't do you any good to have your music in everyone's hands (i.e.  
because you play instrumental cello music) its not worth anything.

my twitter experience is a good example of this. i have 700,000  
followers, just because i'm on the suggested list. it means 700,000  
people can potentially hear any music i send them...but i know that a  
very small percentage of them will be the "discerning listener" that  
will like my music. does it do me any good to have 700,000 followers?  
maybe, in terms of prestige. because of my number of followers, even  
though i'm always upfront about how i got those numbers, journalists  
now write stories about me and some people think i'm bigger than i  
really am. maybe someone i'm trying to reach will  read my email, or  
pick up at my press kit out of their pile, who knows. but really, i  
don't think it helps that much. i'd rather have 7,000 real fans than  
700,000 random listeners

i'll tell you one thing that has happened since i got "twamous".  
people are no longer writing with small-time licensing offers that i  
used to do about one a week....the $200 for a ballet, $500 for a film  
fest license, etc....a couple people have told me, after they made  
their films, that they wanted to use my music but assumed i would be  
too expensive....

so maybe i'd rather be more obscure. ;-)

i think if your music is "niche" (which must of ours is here) then  
mainstream success will never be an option and you should focus on  
selling to your audience. a good living to be made selling your music  
a discerning audience. you won't become filthy rich, but you will make  
a living.
the only way that can work, however, is if you DO NOT sign with a  
label because then there are less mouths too feed.

i keep meaning to write all this up...someday...



On Jul 10, 2009, at 5:17 PM, Matt Davignon wrote:

> 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
> tell.
> 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
> spectrum.
> 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> wrote:
>> 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, but
>>> I think most of what he says is pretty sound:
>>> ewunknown-artist/