Bands don’t need to sell records….discuss

I was hanging out having a whiskey at the Bourbon Bar outside of the Columbia City Theater with my friends Adam and Emily on Saturday night, waiting to MAYBE get into the sold out Jens Leckman show (it didn’t happen for me, they already had tix) and we were talking about the impact of peer-to-peer sharing on the record industry.

Of course, we were talking about something that’s changed the industry years ago, but it’s still growing and forming every day.  The main question for us was, if you’re a small band starting out, would you make much money from a record or from touring, if you made any money at all?  Is it actually better to have the opportunity to share records w/ millions of people within days and get some word going without making any money?  Would you hope for the chance to make money later vs. putting distribution in the hands of a record company and maybe making some money?

This ignores a lot of factors, record companies who do good by the artists, making art not money (but, lets assume the band wants to quit their day job at some point), the cost of producing music, etc.  But I think the core question is interesting – record company or no?  Radiohead is releasing their own records, selling fewer of them, but making more money.  They are in another stratosphere from the bands we were thinking of and for about 90% of the music you hear on popular radio, the music industry is necessary (but still changing.)  But, for that band starting out, would you forego album sales altogether to start?  Is the chance of listeners more valuable than the chance of album sales?

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One thought on “Bands don’t need to sell records….discuss

  1. From my friend and musician Mike Jecklin via Facebook:
    In my experience…I turned down a record label because they wanted the rights to half of my hard work and were unwilling to give much of anything in return. I think in today’s market a label run by a person who is not the creator of the work is not a very worthwhile entity. On one hand, I think people who want to be celebrities as opposed to create art will continue to buy into the label idea and will get taken. On the other hand, the label idea does drive competition and in turn pushes artists to create better work in many cases. That’s my two cents on the subject. I respect the DIY mentality way more than I used to. It really brought a new sense of freedom to my work the minute I realized the idea of a label is not the thing that it’s often made out to be.

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