We Are The Music!
Life After the Pandemic
There is light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to the pandemic. The vaccines are being rolled out and just maybe by the end of this year we can start looking at getting back out on the road and into the studio to create some new music. The big question is what is this all going to look like once we emerge from the lock down. How many venues we use to know are still going to be there to book. How are we going to find those new venues and performance opportunities and what are they going to look like. More importantly how are we going to regain some sort of economic viability as independent touring artists!
Who are we?
If you take a real good look at the independent music industry, which exits outside the main stream music industry, you will notice some interesting facts. In 2019 recorded indie music accounts for almost $2Billion in revenue and you can almost double that number when it comes to revenue from indie artists touring prior to the pandemic!
The recording and touring of the indie artists community supports a complete economic micro system that consists of Music Equipment Manufactures and retailers, Recording studios, Software developers, booking agents, Radio and PR agents, photographers, Sound engineers, Lighting engineers, Graphic artists, Music Aggregators, Gas Stations, Restaurants, Mechanics, Venues, To name a few. Not only that, we represent the bulk of all content that is presented on streaming services and social media, which then supports the advertisers and corporations that run those services.
Go to Nashville, Austin, New Orleans, Memphis, or any other city that touts their music scene as part of their tourism plan, it is the indie artists that supplies the content that fuels that plan.
We as indie artists are an important part of the music economic engine. Every Instrument we purchase, software we download, Waffle house we visit at 2am and every recording project we dream will be the next big thing, helps drive that economic engine.
The point is as individuals we all feel like there is little we can do to affect change within the “indie music Industry”, but when you really look at it, together we have enormous power to control many of the aspects of the economic system that depends on our content. In other words “We Are the Music”!
We are all aware of the consumers shift in perception of recorded music from product they purchased to service that is available 24/7 on their phones. We are not going to change this, the consumer has embraced this new technology and to coin the pun, “Pandora’s Box has been Opened”. This does not change the fact that it is still an expense to create a recorded project and promote it. And streaming cannot and will not bring in enough to give you a return on your investment. Just as we were grappling with this new reality and shifting our revenue stream to touring the rug was taken from out from under us again with the shutdown of the gig economy due to Covid-19.
Not that the touring system was in healthy shape to begin with. We had at best a crumbling system of venues that in themselves were hanging on by a thread. We all faced those nights where there was an almost empty venue and those that were there were less than attentive. Venues need butts in the seats, they need people that are buying the food and drinks to survive and for them to justify paying you to perform. With the exception of those cities who have made music part of the tourism marketing plan, there was a dwindling fanbase for live music in small intimate venues which started a cascade of venues that either closed or stopped presenting live music. The onset of the Covid19 shutdown, just hastened that process exponentially.
Life After the Pandemic
There is no question we have some big issues to tackle after the pandemic in the indie music industry.
- We need to rebuild our venue system. We not only have to find and support new and existing venues, but we need to help those venues become profitable businesses. Create a campaign to promote and support LIVE original music. This will help build a market for those who create original music and those who create a space to for them to present it. One idea may be, We could make any venue under 250 seats that presents original music exempt from all PRO (Performing Rights Organization) Fees as an incubator venue for new artists.
- We need to help artists build their touring business, with direct grants to help pay for gas, lodging, food, etc that help them
- We need to create economic incentives and grants for artists to record and release new original music. The mainstream music industry depends on the indie music for their own viability as we are the well spring where their next money maker comes from. Just look at Billie Eilish who created her 5 time Grammy release in her brothers bedroom.
- Build an education program for Indie artists to teach them how to manage their business and marketing plans.
As I pondered what could be done I came across the “Factor (Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recording)” which is a foundation of both government and corporate funding of grants for indie Canadian artists to assist them with Recording, marketing and touring! There is no reason why we cannot establish this kind of resource here in the United States.
FACTOR’s programs provide financial support to Canadian recording artists, labels, songwriters, publishers, event producers and distributors. Whether an artist is looking to record a demo or a full-length sound recording, market an existing album, or go on tour at home or internationally, there is funding available.
FACTOR is committed to reflecting the diversity of the Canadian population in its programs and operations. We are committed to ensuring universal access to all funds and services, including all musical expressions and talent. We will also in our work encourage these values of diversity and inclusiveness within the broader Canadian music sector.
The “Save our Stages” act showed there is willingness to address the issues of the indie music industry, but it unfortunately did nothing to help the musicians that create the music in those venues that were eligible for that assistance. We need to go farther and bring this issue of the content creators to the attention of Congress and help them understand the economic advantage of supporting the creators of a healthy vibrant Live “Original” Music Scene.
Time for Action
I have always been someone who believes in action, putting my money where my mouth is. There is no reason why we cannot create a viable lobbying effort to create something much like our northern neighbors have with “Factor” .
The political will may be there with the new administration in place and their need to move towards rebuilding our economy. With the right people in place, the right plan in place and the right amount of dedication towards the task at hand there is a good chance that we can affect a positive change.
So, Let’s DO IT!
I would like to establish a group of people in the industry to explore the possibility of coming up with a plan in line with something like “Factor” and establish an organizational structure that can effectively lobby for legislation and implement that plan. Let’s plan a virtual meeting and see if we can make change happen!
If you are interested in getting involved you can email directly to WAM@wearethemusicgroup.com
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