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The EvO:R Street Journal
The EvO:R Street Journal
Dedicated to the culture, business and interests of the indie artist.
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Independent Music Isn't Dead - It's The Only Thing Left
By Nick Bognar
If you haven't been reading the trades for the last couple of years, you might be saddened to
know that the music industry-at least, the music industry as it has been molded over the last
40 years-is crumbling.
The cause of death is a pretty simple one: You and I and everyone we know have been stealing
records for almost ten years now, remorselessly and relentlessly. As much as we all hate to
listen to Lars Ulrich cry into Bob Rock's silk ascot, it's true. It's illegal, and we've been
doing it because we assume that we are justified because our jobs aren't as much fun as emptying
Hetfield's dishwasher and flipping mansions for profit. We rationalize our theft by telling
ourselves that it's ludicrous that someone should make millions (MILLIONS!) for creating art
while we have to roll up our sleeves and wake up for our jobs every day.
We're not exactly right about that, though. The reason Lars, Jack Johnson, John Mayer, Kelly Clarkson
and all of those goobers are justified in making millions off their art is the same reason why
LeBron James is worth millions for playing a game: If they weren't making millions off of it, their
promoters would be making many more millions off of it while the artists lived on Ramen.
In short, if Dave Grohl writes a song that a million people want to hear, that fact by itself
doesn't justify a million dollar paycheck. But SOMEONE is going to make a million dollars selling
that record. It might as well be Dave. If LeBron James averages 74 points a game for a whole
season, that's going to lead directly to someone selling a billion hideous Cavs jerseys. Shouldn't
LeBron get a piece of that? Shouldn't LeBron get a BIG piece of that?
But obviously, everyone's not satisfied with that explanation. If we were, we wouldn't be burning
the hell out of everything we even sort of liked and filesharing all day. The result is that millions
and millions of dollars are failing to make their way into the music industry.
It's only bad news for a few people. Your favorite millionaire activists will still be able to
sell records. Kanye and Tom Morello and Gwen S. aren't going anywhere. As long as there's an
Us Weekly, they will still sell records and fill the Staples Center, and that's pretty good
news for communists and fourth-graders everywhere. Fountains of Wayne are going to have to
start sleeping at Days Inn, but they'll still be OK.
Their bosses, though, the ones who had a different diamond-encrusted grill for each Wu-Tang
album release, who insisted on feting Frances Bean's eighth grade graduation on a hovercraft
in the Aegean (I'm making this up; I wasn't invited), who had millions and millions of
dollars at their disposal for promotion and production and street teams and advertising
and risk-taking, THOSE guys are dying off like the dodo.
What that's going to do is polarize music in a pretty serious way. On one side, there will
be a tiny nucleus of megabosses at the labels. Their stables -once full of hundreds of acts
that had good songs but no following or who had been working their way up for years- will be
cut down to only the very biggest sellers. That part of the industry will always be there.
On the other side will be everyone else. They call this "leveling the playing field."
So while you won't ever get that bazillion-dollar record deal that would set you up for life,
pretty much no one else will either. Which will mean that everyone will have a much better
chance of being appreciated for their work and merit rather than their valuable connections
and/or label support.
Now, I want you to take a deep breath and say this out loud: "I am not in this for the money."
If that statement made you cringe, if you gagged a little bit at the thought that you were never
going to live on the expensive side of Mullholland Drive, then I strongly urge you to go back
to school and get an MBA and possibly your Series 7. There are a lot of great ways to make money,
and music isn't one of them (it never really was anyway).
If it was easy for you to admit this, then the death of the music industry just made your life
a lot easier. Now that files are shareable and the internet is wide open, you will have an
easier time being heard than anyone who ever came before you.
Now that there is no way to protect data, the only way to real financial success in music
will be live shows, the experience of which can't be replicated in e-file. In order to get
those live shows happening, you've gotta get people listening to your stuff. In order to get
people to listen to your stuff...you're gonna have to give it away for free.
Save up your money. Make a demo. Recording software is cheaper than ever. Then, by god, burn
it onto CDs, post it free on the internet (Harvey Danger staged a relatively huge comeback
doing this very thing), and ask every person you know to listen to it and pass it on. If you
are worried about making $10 off your CD, then you're looking at things too narrowly (or you
should be the president of TVT). If you're working at having a legacy and possibly getting
booked at the big venues, then you need listeners.
These days, when you book a show, promoters rarely ask for your website anymore. Instead,
they want your MySpace address. The reason for this is simple: MySpace shows the number of
fans, listeners, and daily traffic you have. That's critical information for someone to
have when they feast or starve based on the number of people who come through the door. The
more people you can get to listen to your music-and again, it's never been easier-the better
shot you have at leaving a mark on the music world and maybe making enough of a buck to quit
The playing field has changed. In the next decade, the live venue will be the scoreboard that
determines success, and the major money maker for musicians everywhere. The major label deal
is trundling out like a Studebaker. Record sales are only for people whose fanbases can't
operate Limewire (my parents, for instance, just love Josh Groban, and he makes a killing
at Sam Goody). With less money for labels to cram music down people's throats, the internet
is wide open for you to shout your message to everyone. It's all up to you. Put your music
out for free. Get listeners. Get a buzz. Book the shows. Draw the followers. This is the
new success, and it is within your reach.
To spread his message to the nation, Bognar made his home base in Chicago. Being centrally
located in the country, Bognar continued touring, this time focusing on the Heartland. He
also made appearances in Los Angeles, New York, Richmond, and Georgetown. He put out his
first official CD in 2006, "I'm In Love and I Hate It." It was a big success. The CD review
from Jargon Chicago said, "Nick Bognar has a gift for melody that rivals, say, Dudeface
from Fountains of Wayne or Girlygirl from The Blissters."
As of 2008, Bognar is working on another album and continues to tour the United States.
Fans are anxiously awaiting Bognar's new songs and expectations are high. You can read
about Bognar online at
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