Month: November 2013

No Gods, No Monsters: From Below

I recently had the pleasure of co-mixing and mastering this nasty little bit of rock:

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Stockholm Syndrome

The Idea Channel strikes again.  There are one or two directly related to music and/or art, but every last one of them is worth watching.

As artists, I think our biggest hurdle is saturation.  We work to write good songs, we work on the mix, we work on the artwork, we work on the marketing, and still have trouble getting attention.  Even the small amounts of exposure we manage don’t seem to make much of a dent.  You gave your great black metal album to a friend who loves black metal . . . and it just seemed to bounce off.  What happened?

Listeners are, simply, used to a certain amount of saturation when it comes to the music they choose.  That’s not an insult or attack, just something I’ve found to be true, even for myself.  As immune to this kind of influence as I imagine myself to be, who are my favorite artists and how did I hear about them?  An honest account reveals several artists who’ve received a lot of airplay on the radio, on television, and in movies.  I’d like to think that this was simply a case of exposure to something that I would have liked anyway.  But would 14-year-old me be really have been ready to commit to Nine Inch Nails if they’d not had a music video in regular rotation on MTV?  Or played somewhat regularly on my local rock music station?  Or used in a popular videogame or two?

Even as an ‘alternative band’  they enjoyed an enormous amount of support.  Not as popular as the music other people my age were listening to, but still a very safe choice.  All those areas of saturation told me, consciously or subconsciously, that someone had my back.  That there was no way I could be completely alone in my choices.  That somewhere, someone agreed with me.  Sure, outlets now include blogs and Spotify and Pandora and MTV isn’t really a thing anymore, but the principle is the same.

How can we, the self-releaser, the small-timer, help our potential fans become actual fans without the kind of saturation discussed in the video?  Is there any path from starting band to self-sustaining act that does not include this process?

What have your experiences been as an artist or auxiliary personnel (mixer, masterer, engineer)?  Comments would be most welcome!

PS: I hope I’m not coming across as a cynic here.  But I think that it’s very important to take a hard look at the real hurdles independent musicians face.  Far better to acknowledge these obstacles than to attribute everything to an oversimplified ‘not good enough’ and quit.