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Ignore the Machine

Posted 26 August 2005, 7.46 am by Alexander

Ignore the machine. By which I mean, the “music business” – a phrase that should reflect the business of making music but instead just means the process of selling it. If you’ve been a musician for more than about a week you’ll have come to realize you’ve more chance of winning the lottery, or actually using a Dixon’s extended warranty, than getting that elusive record deal you always dreamt of.

So what’s wrong with chasing the dream? Nothing at all, but it’s my experience that in the process of chasing this dream you lose sight of why you started making music in the first place – what was once a fun thing to do now becomes a desperate quest to fit into whatever you perceive the record companies want.

You must understand that record companies do not respond to demand – they create it. They “discover” or just plain create the bands they want to sell (hello The Bravery), mould them to fit a demographic, throw a huge marketing budget at them and sit back to watch the general public lap it up. This is one of the reasons why we have so many “music as fashion accessory” bands (The Libertines for example) where the actual songs they’re singing are irrelevant – the record companies tell the magazines who’s hot, they tell you and you buy it. Rinse and repeat.

So what’s the solution? The solution is to IGNORE THE MACHINE. If you’re in a band, before you post that demo CD to Sony ask yourself – what can a record company offer you? Remember the only reason a record company will put you on tour, in magazines, on TV or in videos is to sell more records, for themselves. They’re not in the slightest bit interested in your ego, your art, what your songs mean to you or how hard it was to get there. Instead, why not burn CD-Rs for pence, have the sleeves printed yourselves, put them up for sale on your website, some of the countless online stores or independent record shops (Track Records in York is a good example) and take every penny of profit for yourselves. Organise gig swaps with bands from other towns – promote yourselves, be professional, leave your ego on the stage and you’ve got a lot more chance of not only being a success, but enjoying yourself in the process and retaining some dignity.

I’m convinced that if more bands did what they wanted, rather than what they think record companies want, the world would be a lot better off. If you’re a musician, if you write music that you believe in, you owe it to yourself and to your audience to be honest. If you’re trying to sound like the latest trend you’re already about a year too late, because the industry is way ahead of you. Enjoy the freedom of not having to answer to anyone – take risks, do what you fucking well like and if you fail, if you don’t sell a single CD, at least you did it your way.

on 26 August 2005, 1.31 pm
Being an extreme metal fan/musician my care for the music business is about nil. You can't get a headlining gig anywhere because if someone is going to put a death metal band on they want someone with name value. If its just going to be a normal metal gig you're not going to get any higher than 3rd on the bill because 95% of the audience think you're nothing but noise.

I've long wanted to the music industry to collapse, its a joke of an industry. The technology exists for bands to do nearly everything themselves, all you really need is decent studio access which sadly is a huge problem.

For such a successful business it hardly has a good grass roots system. I think there's one decent practice venue within about 15 miles round here and that'l always fully booked. So you have to resort to playing in the spare room of a pub where you've got to be quiet.

It's all a joke.

on 27 August 2005, 3.49 am
That's very good advice, Al. I wish I had known there was someone else out there who felt as I did before I chopped off my fingers and power-drilled a hole into what passes for the creative area of my brain in a vain attempt to remove any remaining vestige of hope for achieving my dreams of becoming a rock star.

Or was that Pi...? Dammit, when you dream in black and white, it's very easy to get your culturally disaffected life confused with culturally disaffected movies.

on 31 August 2005, 5.34 pm
The big problem - at least for me when I was doing the banding thing regularly - is the cost of recording. Not an issue for adults with full-time jobs, but it is for a bunch of students. We ended up using whatever time we could find here and there and dragging along our battle-scarred-muso manager to engineer, but the results were always a bit iffy.

Whatever happened to the indie labels run by music-loving philanthropists who never cared about turning a profit? Do we still have any of those?

on 3 September 2005, 7.36 pm
I think they're definitely on the upswing again - Look at Leeds' Dance to the Radio label, making good inroads in national radio and media all off they're own back.

The good thing nowadays is that what with technology being what it is, it's now very affordable to put together a great quality home studio.

on 9 September 2005, 2.32 am
Well, yes and no. If you want radio-quality results you'll still either need to spend a fortune on your home kit, or do your mastering elsewhere.

on 9 September 2005, 7.57 am
Not really. Speaking as someone who has recorded stuff that's had airplay, it's eminently possible. I haven't spent a fortune and I'm no genius either. Once it's been compressed and broadcast the difference gets even slimmer.

on 9 September 2005, 1.09 pm
This isn't meant as a slight against your band by any means, but I think the importance of quality depends to an extent on what sort of music you're making. A friend of mine recorded an album in his spare bedroom a couple of years back, did everything there, drum takes, the lot. Spent years on it. Still sounded a bit iffy. He did get national radio airplay though, and decent reviews in rags like Straight No Chaser, so I don't know... Maybe it's just me being fickle.

Biggest problem I ever had was keeping my fucking gear quiet - especially the computer. And always having shit mics.

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