Delic Sessions 008: Independent or Interdependence?
Time & Location
About the Event
Quote from Mel Brooks about independence: “What is the toughest thing about making film? Putting in the little holes. The sprocket holes are the worst. Everything else is easy, but all night you have to sit with that little puncher and make the holes on the side of the film. You could faint from that work. The rest is easy. The script is easy, the acting is easy, the directing is a breeze... but the sprockets will tear your heart out.”
‘Now more than ever, questions about who owns music, who funds its creation and who is profiting from its commodification are being raised. Whether it’s Kanye West fighting to reclaim his masters, or electronic producers eschewing established release schedules to drop music directly to fans each Bandcamp Friday, the traditional makeup of the music industry and the power structures within it are shifting. The traditional model, which sees major labels offering small profit splits while artists tour tirelessly to recoup costs, no longer makes sense in the new normal, where tours are postponed indefinitely and the bulk of a label’s promotional work can be done from your own laptop. Commonly, this shift is framed as a move towards increased artist independence. If an artist can now keep the rights to their own music, market it themselves via social media, and sell or stream it directly to fans online, what role do labels, distributors and outside institutions have left to play? According to Mat Dryhurst, though, the independent model misses something, and is not one that we should be embracing so wholeheartedly. Not only are the tools most commonly used to implement it – Spotify, Facebook, Instagram – designed to take advantage of its users, but the life of a wholly independent artist is an isolated and lonely one. Instead, we should look to pioneering models that favour interdependence: where networks of worker-owned co-operatives – labels, publications, studios, venues – band together to take control and collective ownership of the scenes they are so vital in creating’
‘Artists are no longer just creators
The author Nancy Baym (now a principle researcher at Microsoft)
recently said: “it’s amazing to me to see how so many careers, in music
and beyond, have shifted such that it’s no longer enough to do the work.
Now you have to do the work of making sure everyone is seeing that
you’ve done the work.”
Baym’s point is that the ‘create and they will come’ principle of simply
making great art, no longer gets that art to its deserved audience. A field
of dreams the music industry is not, but the barriers to entry have been
removed at the ground level. With a reported 40,000 songs uploaded
onto Spotify every day (as mentioned by Daniel Ek in April 2019) there
has never been a more vibrant time to get music out there, nor a more
competitive time. In album equivalents (admittedly less relevant to
streaming, but still many artists’ primary unit of output) that is roughly
23,000 albums per week. This is adding to the 50+ million songs already
available on Spotify.
It comes as no surprise that in the current music environment, the up-
and-coming artist is rapidly learning the skills of the marketer/promoter
(and often manager) as well as creator. MIDiA’s latest independent artist
survey finds that half of all artists do their own marketing. That is DIY
marketing, since the vast majority of direct artists cannot allocate any
of the precious income as ‘marketing budget’. Indeed, two in five artists
spend no money on marketing at all.