The “Working” Side Man… R.I.P.

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It’s going to be really hard to not come across as negative in this blog.  I’m really not setting out to do that, but I have to be honest; the subject matter isn’t entirely “sunny” in nature.  But just as the old saying goes – there’s always a silver lining in everything!

The music industry is in a huge state of flux right now.  Record companies are floundering.  Most say “good riddens!” and “who cares?”  Although I’ll touch on some of the potential ‘positives’ of this in a minute, I’ll say that for most of us (musicians and artists), this isn’t necessarily a great thing.  When the recording industry is powerful, work begins to roll downhill.  Sessions are alive and well and touring acts are out constantly.  When I first moved to Nashville, the industry was bustling.  There was all kinds of opportunity abounding.  Some guys were doing nothing but recording…some of them were just doing demo recordings and making a living. Nowadays, record sales are pitiful.  Many people around the world act as if music should be free…almost as if they are entitled to enjoy the fruits of musicians’ labors as if they are ‘entitled’ to it.   With music sharing unable to be controlled and websites copying and pasting information, it’s getting harder and harder to sell your music and or products online.

As a result of all of this, I really think that within the next 10 to 15 years, unless something is really done about it, the idea of a “working” side man musician will be like folklore.   This is just my opinion but I don’t see people surviving.  It’s hard enough as it is when things are great.  As a side man, you are at the whim of the artist you are working for, along with their management, record company, etc.  If the artist decides to take some personal time…you’re out of a gig until they decide to come back.  There’s story after story of record companies and management replacing bands because they don’t have the particular “look” for the demographic that they’re pushing for.  Now add financial instability into this mix, as well as a weak economy, and you have a recipe for disaster.

However, here comes the silver lining to all of this.  I look at this in a few different ways and scenarios.  Number one, in a way, perhaps this is a good thing in the sense that it may “purge” the industry a bit.  Another great old saying is apropos for this:  “the cream always rises to the top.”  In other words, you have to be pretty passionate about what you’re doing to stick around and stay in this business.  Hopefully this will in some way make the industry a bit better and allow some of the talent to rise to the top.  I may be stretching a bit in my idealism on this one, but hey – I’m trying to be positive, right???

In addition, this flux is opening a huge window for the independent artist.  HUGE window. Yes, this absolutely pertains to me.  In fact perhaps this blog is more of a mantra for what I’m trying to follow.  Let’s consider this a work in progress for me and you can follow along. I can’t sit here and tell you that working the social media sites and selling music through iTunes is raking it in for me…yet, but I can tell you that this is my goal.  I should clarify: not “raking it in” as far as I expect to make a fortune, rather bringing in revenue, along with recognition and exposure.  I’ve mentioned in previous blogs of what an amazing frontier we all have staring us right in the face.  At no time throughout history has any person had the means that we do now to get music, books, videos, whatever in front of millions of people in such a quick amount of time, if the product is desirable.  So for the independent artist that thinks Twitter is overrated, or facebook is just for telling people what you had for breakfast; I have bad news for you.  Either jump on the train or start putting in applications for that 9 to 5 job.  Simply putting out a CD and marketing like you did in 1999 just isnt’ going to cut it.

Finally, even though records aren’t selling, we are seeing, as a whole, an increase in touring money.  That means that people still want to go out and see/hear good music.  I think and hope that this will always be the case.  I heard some staggering numbers on the radio a few weeks ago of some of the top grossing tours out there right now.  So put out your music and get that booking agent or get on the phone yourself.  There’s opportunity – it’s up to you.  Don’t depend on the success of others – put yourself out there and reap the rewards!

That’s really what I think it’s all about; relying on your talent and dedication to your art.  I realize that we can’t all put out music and be independent artists.  I know some guys that still remain very successful as side men – they probably always will be.  There’s always exceptions to the rule, and the time and place/circumstances for your individual situation may be completely different than most people.  For me, this is where I’m at right now. I’m excited about exploring this new frontier that’s before all of us.  What are some creative ways that you are using the internet to market yourself and your music?


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