This year, as many of you know, I decided to start up my own record label. Beating Drum was born nearly a year ago and now that we’re almost into 2014, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you about how things have been going the last few months.
Beating Drum has taken some small but significant steps forward, I released my 5th album ‘Between Dogs and Wolves’ as well as the book/CD ‘Songs I Love’. Starting up a label, shouldering the weight of responsibility both artistically and financially has been a big challenge but it’s one that I’ve really enjoyed and welcomed. I think that one of the main reasons I have taken well to this new activity is that I’ve realized that communication is a common theme in all that I do from trying to write good songs, making music and running the label.
And luckily I enjoy it.
In the music industry, the financial crisis, changing technology, coupled with the rise of social networks have altered the rules of the game. So many things have changed over the last few years and the times when physical music sales were almost taken for granted if an artist toured or was reviewed are well and truly over.
Today, most people simply don’t buy music anymore, they stream. With royalty collection from streaming sources ridiculously low, it’s safe to assume that for the most part today, artists can’t rely at all on earning anything through that particular source. So where do artists and musicians earn enough to keep working and pay for a roof over their heads? Most of us are surviving through a combination of touring, publishing and limited physical or digital sales.
One of the things that has changed in our 21st century is that we’ve seen the birth of a kind of responsible consumerism.
Today it matters where and how we choose to spend our limited resources. Buying a product today is no longer simply based on whether you like it or not but on many other criteria. In the case of food for example, it could be on how it was produced, whether it’s in season, locally grown with a low carbon footprint, unethical, harmful to the environment, etc, etc. The act of buying today carries with it a small but significant political choice, by becoming aware of how things are produced, we can choose to finance and support them or even boycott them, either decision will impact positively or negatively on the producer or manufacturer.
I receive many messages from people who tell me that although they stream for the majority of the music they listen to, because they like what I do and approve of how I go about things, they decide to buy directly from the shop on my website. They know they make a difference and it’s greatly appreciated.
Music is like food and songs are like fruit and veg. Although we don’t cook music and eat it, just like good food, it nourishes us nonetheless but everything comes at a price. When we go to the local market here in the Cevennes in southern France and buy the food for the family, we try to support local farmers because price-wise, we know they can’t compete with the large supermarkets. By buying directly from the farmers within our community, we get to eat good healthy food and in the process help them stay in business. It’s a partnership: the farmer needs us and we need him but if we all go to the big supermarkets, he’ll go out of business! There are many small farmers who make fantastic products raised and farmed locally or organically but they need patronage to keep doing what they do. More importantly, they need us to know that they’ll go out of business if enough of us don’t buy directly from them.
Communication is the key.
I can’t, alone, buy from every local goat’s cheese farmer to keep them all in business but I can choose to consciously place my limited budget for food in the hands of those whose practices and produce I want to support. And so it is with music, I can’t buy hundreds of albums a year but I can buy selectively from those whose music I want to support and where I know it’ll make a difference. That way the farmer gets to continue growing good food and the musicians we like get to carry on writing and producing their music.
Most people stream today to listen to music which is great because of the huge array of music they can discover in the process but for some when they come across an artist whose work they love, they buy. They buy because they know it makes a difference.
I’ve spoken to many other musicians and label owners and the consensus is that for bands and artists to develop and carry on making music today, no sale of an album can be taken for granted. Each individual sale, however small, is part of a collective sum that can make the difference between sinking or swimming. Because of the extreme direction the market has taken, every person who buys an album today is to mind a kind of patron. Their decision to buy in CD, vinyl or download or even to buy merch has a massively positive consequence on the music and output of the artists they buy.
I know this not only because this year I released my music through my own label Beating Drum but also because in 2014 we’ll be releasing a young and as yet unknown artist, the talented Swedish singer and songwriter Jenny Lysander. It’s a daunting prospect given all that I’ve written about above but because of the new music business models that are being created built on the relationships and partnerships between those that love listening to music and those that love making it, i’m excited about what we can do together!
So to those of you who have reached the end of this long post and to especially to those of you who have bought an album or a book from me this year, thank you! Your decision to join my newsletter, to buy from me and from my shop and my label is invaluable.