#074: Roundtable – Bundle Up!

An interesting study on audio listening habits reveals surprising results.  EMI launches Abbey Road Live a live music recording service that makes concert recordings available immediately after the show.  Weezer bundles up with Snuggie to offer their fans a unique package.  The Podcasters also revisit last weeks interview with Josh Rosenthal to discuss  how targeting the right market can be just the thing to move your music career forward. Plus all of your feedback which includes a mysterious stranger’s rebuke of Bolton’s on-air  name change.


  • So Weezer goes KISS.. Crass no matter how you color it. Just another act to add to my list of do not buy…

    The LP thing, well, it could be useful for indies someday but not now. No-one cares.

    Indies as much as we and I say that with some reservation, would like to think otherwise, we don’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

    When one of us, becomes a household name, then and only then, do we matter. Until then, we’re all just also rans. Wanna-be’s that none will care about tomorrow or the next day.

    Get over yourselves, ourselves. We mean nothing to the “fans” at large. We, are a distraction from the dross that is the current music business.

    Sell 1,000,000 cds then talk to me about being relevant. Sell out a 1,000 plus seat venue.

    You play churches and think you’re moving forward? In what reality?

    I may come off as negative but, in all honesty, I’m also a realist. I see the stupidity of so many thousands of indies sitting back thinking they’re going to somehow break through. DREAM ON!

    Music either touches the audience, or doesn’t. If it does, you become mainstream. No ands, ifs, or buts about it. Fact!

    As to C.B.s query, no, I’m not in L.A. used to be, was in fact when my band at the time was signed to a label and touring but today, I’m in California’s central valley. Between Fresno and Bakersfield, the wasteland where 30+ percent unemployment, is now the norm.

    Music is still our savior. Our way out of the desert but, music in and of itself isn’t enough. We all must garner the one thing no indie has yet done, that is, belief or put another way, faith. Fans must feel your act is the second coming of the Beatles for example. Failing that, well, welcome to reality.

  • JP

    Great episode guys.

    Couple of comments.

    There was a point raised about show length and I agree it would be great to play longer shows (most of ours here in London are 25 mins) but at the same time I think 6-7 songs is enough unless people realy know/love your music already. If you’re playing to alot of new people (as you often are when unsigned)and you’ve not got your “musical point” across by then you’re doing something wrong! Some of the best gigs we ever did were 3 song showcases as we had to deliver the goods in 10-15 minutes!

    Regarding use of drum machines etc I’m all for it. I’d love to play with a greatlive drummer more than with a machine but the hassle level seems to go up hugely whenever I’ve been in a band with a drummer. At least with a drum machine you only have to punch the rhythm in once…..(boom boom 😉

  • Robert, no! Just no. I’m afraid I disagree with you 100% here. Just because you aren’t Number One across the board and selling millions of albums with sell-out shows across the world, it doesn’t mean you don’t matter.

    I feel your comments are an insult to the people who watched my band last weekend, signed the mailing list, bought the CD’s etc. (although I know it’s not meant as an insult). To them, that night in that bar, we mattered. We played and they enjoyed it. They probably woke up on Sunday morning and remembered a great night; I know I did.

    Your definition of success is what’s at fault here. Success isn’t becoming wolrd famous, success in these difficult times is keeping your head above water. If I can make a living playing original music (and it’s not happened yet!) I would be over the moon. As it is, I’m happy enough that people book my band to play their venue. Some even pay us! 😀

    To me, music is an end to itself. The reason I sell my music on CD Baby is not to make money, it’s to fund the next CD, and the next one, and the next one… The only reason I promote my band in other towns and regions is so I get more of a chance to play my music in the setting it works best, not so I can sell even more records and make even more money.

    Love music for what it is Robert – it might even love you back.

  • Darren,

    I think you miss the point of this podcast then.

    The ideas and tips expressed each episode are to help indies increase sales and exposure which by it’s very nature, ultimately, increases sales. Or, at the very least, warm bodies at your shows.

    What you said is a basic contradiction. You produce one CD to sell, in order to make another to sell, in order to make another to sell but, not to make money. Instead you do it so you can continue to play live which is fun.

    Huh? Yes, playing live is fun, it’s also draining and expensive both financially and relationship wise. If it isn’t, you’re not putting 110% into your live set.

    I have a friend who is known globally as something of a blues guitar god. And yet, he has never written a single song. He’s played with luminaries all over the USA and done session work with very big name artists. But, except for a credit on a liner or magazine write-up, no-one will ever know who he was once he passes. And he does make his living playing music. Covers 3 and 4 nights a week.

    There are two reason to create art and only two.
    #1, You have something to say
    #2, To be remembered

    Okay maybe a 3rd, to give praise to your deity of choice.

    Anyone who believes otherwise is deluding themselves. Some profit yes. Most don’t. Some are remembered and become household names. Most don’t.

    My own music on first blush seems to say nothing but those who dig deeper generally catch the underlying meaning of each line. The message if you will, the art.

    Personally, I’d rather be remembered for being that guy or member of that band that wrote that one song.

    Not the member of the cover or originals band they saw last weekend and might, if the cover charge isn’t too high, go see again some time.

    Thousands of musicians all over the world spend most weekends doing exactly that for most of their lives.

    As Lipps from Anvil said in The Story of Anvil:
    “Your belly gets fat, your hair falls out, you run out of time.”

    I do love music but, I also see it for what it truly is. Painful, cathartic, depressing and uplifting. Fun and terribly hard work.

    My point above regarding selling out 1,000 seats was a jibe at the previous episode.

    Selling out a church is one thing, rent the VFW hall or a theater and sell out that many seats, then you’re doing something.

    Why? Because the show at the church is considered safe. The parents might even attend once.

    But getting the same audience at the theater or local hall is quite another thing.

    It hasn’t the seal of perceived safety so the audience naturally is smaller, much smaller.

    My point?
    Simple, if you’re a hobbiest, money is meaningless. If you’re serious about your particular brand of art, money is a means to an end.

    That being, reaching as many lives as possible and touching their lives in a demonstrable way.

    Money, like it or not, is the only real measurement we have of that.

  • Regarding the use of drum machines, I agree that depending on the genre of music you’re playing, it’s easier to put on a convincing performance than others. Regarding rawk, I think there is a lot of sonic & performance landscape to explore. I would love to see a rock band perform to the rhythm track laid down by someone using Abelton Live and making a performance out of it.

    I did a few open mics with my band where I was the drummer and the fed the output of a drum machine to the PA and I tapped out all of my beats for a few songs. It was pretty rad because nobody had ever seen or heard someone playing “drums” in that format. No kit to set up, no heavy equipment to lug around, and best of all, people could see my shiny face 😉

  • Yeah, I don’t get this bah-humbug attitude towards artists who manage to find a bit of success.

    I also don’t get this idea that “indie” is some badge of honor, and that if you accept any sort of outside help then you’re not “indie” anymore and that’s somehow “bad.” Geez, who cares?

    IMO a better definition of “indie” would be that you have the ability to make choices. Fan-funded or self-funded? Singles or album? Big studio or basement rig? Song-a-week or album-every-two-years? Wide appeal or niche genre? Big promo blitz or a modest local mailout? Tour or stay home?

    The fact that you have the freedom to make these choices at all is what makes you “independent,” not the choices themselves.

  • scottandrew,

    Independant means: not being subject to the control of, or relying on the support of others.
    Seperate, self reliant and guided by only your own vision/decisions. Of an age to not be reliant on parents or guardians, etc.

    Put plainly, it means standing on your own two feet and paying your own way.

    The moment you take that money from a sponsor or a label or your fans to pay for the production of that CD, you are no longer Independant. You owe them. That’s a fact, like it or not, it’s the plain unvarnished truth. Not bah-humbug as you call it.

    Paying for that production on your own however, leaves you owing no-one. The production can be whatever you want/envision it to be. This is the DIY ethic and it has nothing whatever to do with choice.

    Choice is a straw man. Even signed acts have choice. They can choose to do as they’re told or choose not to. Just like any other job.

    No-one, is truly independant. Every living creature depends on another in some way for survival.

    It’s in how you as an artist choose to leverage your position in that relationship, that marks you as independant or not.

    Let me be clear on one thing here. I’m not refering to pre-release situations.

    If you can sell your fans a copy or three of your CD before it’s released that’s an entirely different thing from asking fans to pay for the production of the CD.

    Pre-release sales, you owe them nothing but the CD(s) they paid for. If they like the end product great, if not, you may or may not lose that fan.

    When they pay toward production, you owe them what they expect to hear. Dissapoint them and you lose not only their fan status but the possability that they would even consider helping in future. Not a good place to put yourself by any measure.

  • Anonymous

    I had seen the Weezer snuggie ad on television, and I have to say, I found it thoroughly entertaining. While I still believe that snuggies are hideous and embarrassing, with or without a Weezer logo on them, the interesting and unexpected bundle did make me pay more attention to the release than I ordinarily would have. I found myself discussing it with other people, some of whom then went out and bought the record out of sheer curiosity.

    It makes me wonder why I don’t see more variety in the merchandise of indie artists. It’s pretty limited, as far as I’ve seen, to shirts, buttons, and stickers, and things like that. I would find my attention drawn to a band who, at their shows, gave out or sold something less traditional (at least something untraditional for musicians). I’d find myself wanting to buy a band’s official coffee mug, rather than a tee shirt. I’d be more drawn in by a band giving out pens than buttons. There are loads of items like that that are already easily available to, say, small businesses. I feel like it’d be effective for bands too.

    I did want to say, I couldn’t agree more with scottandrew about the concepts of “indie”.

  • “When one of us, becomes a household name, then and only then, do we matter. Until then, we’re all just also rans. Wanna-be’s that none will care about tomorrow or the next day.”

    If that’s your yardstick for success, then of course you will come off as negative. IMHO, if you have something to say, say it, and really appreciate each individual that gives you their attention long enough to ‘get it’, whether there are enough of them to pay your bills or not. That’s what I consider realism.

  • Anonymous,

    While I agree Weezer’s promotion is different you have to remember also that Weezer is NOT an indie band. They are signed to Geffen Records so, they have a budget for that kind of merchandising.

    As a news item, it’s interresting. As an idea for indies it’s pretty useless. Those kinds of deals costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Still, you’re right, it would be cool to see indies change things up a bit and offer more than just the stickers etc. The key is to have the fanbase that actually wants that stuff first.

    Diehard fans will buy almost anything but, not the average fan.

  • RE: Weezer. That snuggie is the best thing they’ve released in years…

  • Neil,

    Ok, what measure should be used then?

    1 out of 6.79 billion isn’t exactly making a mark.

  • I think the issue here is the definition of success. To me, although being a musical superstar is obviously success, there are levels of success. I personally aspire to achieve a lesser level.

    To me, the real musical success stories are the bands who can afford to play original music up and down the country and have it as their job. Part of that job would be selling their CD’s at gigs, in shops and online etc.

    I’m sure there are already many bands in the UK that can do this without ever getting famous. Maybe well known in their chosen genre ie. folk, country but never famous, just popular and successful.

    Then again, I do have rather low levels of ambition. Even waking up in the morning makes me punch the air in relief… 😀

  • Darren,

    I’d wager those you assume are successful in the UK actually don’t live anywhere near as well as you currently do.

    It’s the same here in the USA. Lot’s of musicians make their living playing constantly. Sadly, they have nothing to show for it but some good times.

    For every artist, there comes a time when fun simply isn’t enough. When life has to have some kind of meaning, something to show for them being here in the first place.

    For me, it was at 29, when after more than 14 years trying, I’d finally had enough of having nothing and busting my hump to line up the next show, the next band, etc.

    At 41, and divorced, I started seeking that dream again. That was nearly 10 years ago.

    Today, I own the gear I could only dream about at 29 and, have the life experience to write with real knowledge of the world. Something I also didn’t have at 29.

    Music is a hard mistress. That’s reality:)

  • Chris Bolton

    Fame and profit is not the only measure of success.

    Not all great artists become famous. There is a lot of art that, while considered great, is not digestible by the masses. These are the musicians’ musicians and the writers’ writers. And my guess is that these artists aim more for ‘perfect art’ then fame.

    The term ‘indie’ has been loosing its meaning as more and more artists identify with it. Eventually all artists will be ‘indie’ in some fashion because there wont be goliath record companies anymore.

    Our own measuring sticks are the most important to our own sense of success and happiness.

  • Love the podcast. Have actually gone back and listened to them all.

    Robert Lee King’s post is thought-provoking. I guess this will be “reason #2” for him, leaving something behind, as in “who was that guy who dumped on everyone’s hard won success on the podcast comments page.”

    Chris Bolton’s comment sums it up. Everyone’s definition of success is different. I currently support my family with 3 college teaching gigs, a wedding band, and, when I can, my own gigs, sales and placement of recordings and sideman/production/recording gigs. At this point in my life, I define success as the point where I can do the “when I can” stuff (gigs + CDs, and sideman stuff) exclusively and live where I want, not worry about going out to dinner, buying a DVD or book.

    I don’t know why RLK has a fascination with being “relevant.” I have lots of counter-thoughts to this. One thing is that by banding together thru CDbaby, thousands of indies have acquired a voice and a say in the music business world and “relevance.” Let’s see… the worth of any endeavor is often calculated by the amount of work one puts in to accomplish it. Also, art is about process. If you don’t enjoy the process, you’re not going to enjoy this business, because it’s 90% process, writing, practicing, recording, self-discovery. Somebody said that art is our way of telling people what it feels like for us to be alive.

    Anyway… I have no problem with Weezer and the snuggies. They have managed to juggle humor and content in a way that makes this bundling a “natural fit” (no pun intended). It wouldn’t work for other artists (Ryan Adams for instance).

  • Samuel

    I agree with Chris. Since 99.9% of musicians will never “make it” by the old-school music industry standards, we have to redefine success according to our own terms. Fortunately, independent musicians like David Nevue, Jonathan Coulton, John Taglieri and others have already demonstrated that a more modest level of success, such as at a middle-class level, is definitely feasible. However, even that takes talent, hard work and a lot of patience.

  • I’m of a mood to be generous but at the same time, I must remain true
    to who I am. Redefining what it means to be a success, is rather like redefining what it means to be poor. Success, the markers of which, has never changed. What you accept as success, well, that might change.

    Either choose REAL success or, choose the current definition. To me, it’s all the same. Either you’re a success or you’re not.

    Today, my second grand child was born. Musically, I’m a failure. In Life. I’m a success.

  • ML

    RLK, failure or success aside, you come off as a dick.

  • ML,

    Thanks, very adult…