Well, the old industry appears to be in its final death throws. Rather than holding our breath and waiting for it to officially bottom out, we’re ready to move on. The alternate industry is booming and the trails blazed here are becoming paths for others to follow. What am I talking about? Quantifiable success and the return of indicators. Good news for those who rely on indicators to know what’s good and what isn’t, but the best news here is for artists.

The opportunities available in this alternate industry are plentiful. Through social networking, online advertising and promotion, and digital distribution, artists can not only build their fanbase, but make enough money to quit their day jobs at Starbucks to tour full time. Artist services ranging from merch design to bio writing to online booking to budget mixing and mastering to organizational programs specifically designed for bands have cropped up via the internet and given artists affordable opportunities and the ability to control the direction of their careers. Every aspect of major label inner workings have not only been duplicated, but improved upon, and available for at least 20 times less than what labels pay for it.

However, despite all of the access and bargain services available, that doesn’t mean bands will have it easy. If anything, navigating the alternate industry can be significantly harder and more time consuming than turning over the reigns to a label. Between approving comments, responding to fans and keeping them active, managing a MySpace profile is a full time job by itself. Add in maintaining the numerous other profiles artists have, booking shows, performing shows, writing new material, practicing, seeking out new opportunities, promoting and advertising, networking locally with press and radio, etc etc, and its a wonder that such a large number of kids actually want to be musicians. It’s grueling and it’s time consuming, and you can’t skip any of it. So much work can be overwhelming to artists, which is why many of them are quick to jump into bad deals or align themselves with anyone promising to alleviate some of the work load.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, despite being on a major label, are seen by many as the flagship internet artist. In interviews, RJA credit sites like MySpace and KOAR as being integral to their career. They worked the hell out of the MySpace profile, building up a large national fanbase long before they ever left their hometown. They interacted with new fans and maintained those relationships so when the record did come out and when they did come to town, they were selling out shows and charting the record immediately. More recently, artists like One Less Reason and My Favorite Highway are making between 5 and 10 thousand dollars per month just on downloads. Independent artists who play their cards right actually stand to make more money on their own than their major label counterparts. No big advances to pay back, no staff of thousands of people you’ve never met to support, no splitting profits among people who don’t help you, no expensive office building in an expensive city relying on you to keep the lights on, and most importantly- no one trying to change your vision to make it more profitable for them.

If it weren’t for the internet, would anyone know who The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus is? Honestly, yes. Sure, they worked the hell out of their MySpace profile and KOAR gave them the industry exposure that led to their signing, but working MySpace and being on KOAR does not guarantee a record deal. In the end, its always about the music, and the band writes hits. More importantly, the band put the work in. What they did off-line was just as important as what they did online. For the couple years leading up to their signing, this is a band that was giving it away. Hanging around malls and other young people hot spots, handing out cds, flirting with girls, and being rockstars. They literally gave their music away because they knew that no one was going to buy something they have never heard before. But, if they give it to people for free, perhaps they will invest in the band in other ways…the ways that pay off in the long run. They were right. It worked. One Less Reason is working hard for radio exposure. It’s a similar idea to RJA– making the music available and letting people decide for themselves whether or not they like it. One Less Reason puts the work in. They know how to schmooze radio, they know which songs to work, and for as ridiculously arrogant as their frontman is, he clearly has star power.

The internet isn’t a vacuum. It takes the combined efforts of working online, working in person, and working on stage to get people to notice. No matter how kick ass your MySpace is, if your music sucks, nothing will happen. Having a million friends on MySpace is irrelevant unless they’re true believers in your music and actively supporting you. The internet is cheap, but it isn’t free. If you’re an artist, you need to be making money, because you’re going to have to spend some. Recoup your own expenses and turn your own profit by making smart investments and spending wisely. No, you don’t need to buy a tour bus unless you’re actually on the road significantly more often than not. No, you don’t need 35 different t-shirt designs readily available at all times. No, you don’t need to spend $10k buying onto a tour with a band that doesn’t draw a big crowd. I know musicians aren’t businessmen, and articles like this probably bore the piss out of them, but it is imperative that artists do these things on their own. Their job is to rock…hard, but artists shouldn’t pick up management with the hopes that there will someday be something to manage, and they shouldn’t pick up management simply because they don’t want to put the work in.

The alternate industry exists. It’s a real thing and it’s beginning to produce results. At this point, I am not sure why any artist would want a major label deal. I have said before that for the right artist, the old industry still works, and I believe that to be true. But I don’t think most artists are ‘that kind of artist.’ The majority of what we post on KOAR would sound ridiculous on Top 40 radio sandwiched between Beyonce and Daughtry, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good. It just isn’t Top 40. Most bands aren’t. The alternate industry has given the artists willing to work for it, no matter the genre, a place to be heard and be successful, without compromise. Don’t get it confused though, ‘the alternate industry’ is not synonymous with ‘the internet.’ Its merely a new way of doing things. Taking back the power. Putting the control back into the hands of the artists. The internet, of course, was integral in demolishing the old system, but the change in mentality across the board is what has allowed the alternate industry to evolve so quickly.


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