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« Redefining Success In Music | Main | Preparing For The Studio »
Wednesday
Jun222011

What are the odds of succeeding without a record deal?

I found an interesting Blog post the other day that seemed to cause major disagreement between musicians on the subject of record deals, specifically whether musicians needed a record deal at all nowadays. The original Blog was entitled, Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians? It makes the point (in a round-a-bout way) that social networks create so much opportunity for musicians that overcrowding, by and large, negates the benefits for the masses.

The underlying assertion of the Blog was that the power of social networks for band ‘self promotion’ was generally over rated and could not be compared with the benefits of a record deal, (especially where earning a sustainable income was concerned).

The author went on to showcase three websites that he felt helped reduce overcrowding and thus create more tangible opportunities for musicians. You can view the Blog on the Music-Think-Tank website here: Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians?

For me, the Blog caused confusion because it didn’t present the underlying question succinctly enough. I have to confess, I was tempted to leave a comment to stock up debate further by asking a wishy washy question like, “what is success?”, but I decided instead to exercise the logical and analytical side of my brain by putting together some kind of statistical analysis on the record label vs DIY musician debate.

You may have noticed that the Blog I mention above has prompted a follow up Blog called “Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians? Revisited”. This follow up failed to deliver in some areas of the debate in my mind. I explain at the bottom of this Blog why I wrote this article.

Let’s begin! The question I want to answer is clear and concise; “What are the odds of succeeding without a record deal?”

Before we look at figures, we need to start by reducing any ambiguity surrounding certain facets of the question. I will make the following assumptions;

The word ‘Success’:

To succeed means many different things to different people, including notoriety, personal development, the number of ‘Likes’ on a facebook page etc, but for the purpose of this exercise I am using the word ‘Success’ to describe a level of financial freedom.

My reasoning for this is because most musicians (eventually) give up their art, not due to a lack of notoriety, but due to long periods with little or no income.

Type of musician:

When I speak of ‘musician’ or ‘band’, I am referring exclusively to those who are seeking a professional music career. I understand that there are thousands of musicians who happily play in a band every other weekend without ever thinking of fame or fortune, but this research paper refers to those musicians who aspire to reach a level of fame performing their own original music.

Record deal:

A “Record Deal” means either a major or independent label that has a reasonable marketing budget (and knowledge) to create a national buzz.

Territory:

This research paper is written with the UK musician in mind. However, it’s findings may loosely translate to USA musicians and other territories.

So, with that all cleared up we have to start with the question, is it possible to quantify the need for a record label at all? Probably not, but it’s fun to assert some basic statistical data into the argument posed on the Music-Think-Tank Blog here.

Unfortunately there is very little ‘official’ data online relating to some aspects of this research paper so please bare with me as I fill the data gaps with ‘most likely’, and ‘probable’ substitutes.

What is a successful band?

Our definition of success refers to a level of financial income, all other notions of success will be too subjective to work in this research paper. So what is a successful amount of money?

I will start by placing the average UK income (for a person between the age of 18 and 30) at £18,200 (based on several recognised national statistics)*. The reason I chose this age range is because it’s the most common range for success in the music industry.

So, for the purpose of this exercise £18,200 will be used as the definition of ‘financial success’.

This amount of money is of course conservative because one would expect ‘success’ to be way above ‘average’, but we will stick with it for now. The definition of success ‘should’ only apply to those bands that can sustain the average income value for more than 5 years. But for simplicity we will accept even a one-off yearly income of £18,200 as a marker of success.

Quick answer to question: £18,200 is our marker of success.

How many musicians and bands in the UK are aiming for success?

This is much harder to quantify. The Musicians Union have approximately 30,000 members. Since they pay a subscription fee we will assume they are serious and aiming for a degree of success. It is my estimation from talking to countless ‘serious’ bands over the years that perhaps only 1 in 20 musicians join the MU. This would immediately raise the number of musicians aiming for success in the UK to 600,000.

Quick answer to question: 600,000

Income from gigs

Since we are describing ‘Success’ as achieving a gross annual income of £18,200/year (per band member), live gigs must surely play a key role in this. We will not include covers bands, wedding or corporate events bands. For the purpose of this research paper we will use the term ‘band/musician’ for those who want recognition for their own original music.

The average capacity for a venue that houses mainly unsigned bands is 250 in the UK.* The majority of venues will increase ticket sales by hosting 3-6 bands (on average). Assuming that a venue is 80% full and has 4 bands performing, each band would therefore have bought 50 people.

After speaking with approximately 30 diverse bands from London, I have estimated that the average band brings in much less than 50 paying fans on average. I will be setting the average paying fan count (per gig) to just 15.

Bare in mind that this would be the average number of paying fans that turn up to every gig, whether in the bands local town or 500 miles away. Many bands will bring 40 fans to local gigs but find fan counts drop dramatically the further afield they play.

There are several ways that bands can be paid by venue promoters. The average payment however seems to work out at about £6 per fan.

There is no data on the average band size, but I am setting a generic band size of 4 people so that we can work the statistics.

With these assumptions we can see that the average band will be paid £90 per gig (£22.50 for each band member). Based on two (2) gigs per week, the gross yearly income for each member would be £2,340, far lower than the UK average wage. This also pays no mention of travel costs or gear hire etc.

Gigs generally provide more income for signed bands than the sale of records. In fact, the number of people going to gigs has increased over the last 10 years, whilst record sales have decreased. Ticket sales can generate huge incomes for large music acts.

Let’s look at a Robbie Williams gig in August 2003. He performed at Knebworth with 3 other acts and 125,000 tickets were sold. I am not sure on the ticket price but I will set the average tickets sale price at £45. That means on one night they generated a colossal £5,625,000. This doesn’t even factor in the sale of programs, merchandise, food etc.

Quick answer to question: £2,340 per year (per band member)

Money from downloads

The UK average monthly income is £1,517. How many downloads would a band need to sell in order to reach this figure? Assuming, once again, that there are four (4) band members, they would need to make a total of £6,068 per month to match the UK average income amount.

If selling exclusively on iTunes (which pays roughly 60p per single download), a band would need to achieve 10,113 downloads each month. This would equate to 2528 per week.

I am guessing the ‘average’ amount that an unsigned band makes from downloads is £10/month (per band member). If we add £120 from downloads to the £2,340 from gigs, we can guess that the average band member makes £2,460/year.

Quick answer to question:: £120 per year (per band member)

How many unsigned bands make the Top 40?

So how can we tell how many unsigned bands do reach the golden figure of £18,200/year (per band member)? I think the issue here is overall band ‘reach’, ie. how many fans a band can sell tickets, downloads and merchandise to.

Reaching the UK Top 40, for example, shows a clear indication that a band would have a substantial fan base.

So, it begs the question, how many bands have reached the top 40 without a record deal in last 5 years?

In the last 5 years (2006-11) I estimate that there have been no more than 20 bands reach the top 40 without record label backing. This figure is a guess, but is backed up by Ditto music, who are one of the few companies that have successfully broken unsigned acts in the UK.

Ditto go on to suggest that, “without record label backing, you would need substantial financial backing to have a serious shot in the industry”.

So why such a low figure? Mark Robinson, vice-president of Warner Music said that “on average, it costs £621,000 to promote and launch a new band”. This marketing budget would be out of reach for almost all bands.

Certainly, there have been many bands who have succeeded with far lower budgets than this, but breaking an act is undeniably costly. PR plays a role in this cost. A band cannot make it to the higher levels without having media contacts. The whole process is much more time consuming and involved than many musicians think. Unless you employ someone with media contacts and experience many marketing avenues will simply not be available to the average band.

Recording, touring, promotion and PR costs add up. Most DIY musicians struggle to turn enough profit to fund growth and fail to gain enough exposure to generate real momentum.

Quick answer to question: 20 bands

How many unsigned bands make £18,200/year?

We have made a guess that (20) unsigned bands managed to reach the UK top 40 in the last (5) years. Let’s assume that just (5) of those bands earned £18,200/year (per band member) in the year that they charted.

Let’s also assume that ten (10) more bands in the UK have generated £18,200/year (per band member), this would give us a total of just (15) unsigned bands that earned £18,200/year (per band member).

Sounds dismally low right? I’ll admit that there is precious little data to go on, but do you know any bands making this kind of money who are unsigned? Remember, an original four piece band would therefore need to generate £72,800 per year to qualify, I am guessing that is extremely rare.

With the information outlined above we can begin to answer the question, “What are the odds of succeeding without a record deal?”

The chances of an unsigned band earning £18,200/year (per band member) without a record deal is 0.00025%. (Assuming there are 600,000 unsigned bands in the UK and only fifteen (15) earn £18,200 per year (per band member).

Quick answer to question: 15

Increasing the odds of being successful in music

I feel that this article may give a disproportionate indication of how hard it is to succeed in the music businesses because we are looking at averages. Whilst music is subjective, a good song is (usually) recognised as such by multiple people. This means there is an element is “objectivity” at play. In other words, a band with great music will have much better odds than an ‘average’ band (assuming all other factors such as determination, consistency etc are equal).

So, what action can a band take to increase their chances of success in an overcrowded market? I will revert back to the Music-Think-Tank Blog once more and agree with the author that moving against the crowd can in some cases be very advantageous.

Creating music that is of high quality, yet different in some respects will instantly give you a unique selling point (USP), which is very important in standing out in a saturated market.

What are the odds of getting signed?

The problem with statistics (where unique talent is concerned) is that they can often be way off.

For example, let’s look at the likelihood of securing a record deal in the UK. We will assume the following;

  • There are roughly 700 independent record labels in the UK large enough to ‘break an act’

  • Each signs 1 acts per year

  • There are 600,000 bands vying for their attention

  • 1 in every 4 acts signed make £18,200/year (per band member)

Assuming you are average, you would therefore have a 1 in 3428 chance of being signed (0.029%). However, lets make some further assumptions on the quality of the song submissions;

  • 34% of song submissions are not right for the label (wrong genre etc)

  • 39% of song submissions are of low quality

  • 10% of song submissions are not considered for other reasons

  • 17% of song submissions are considered for signing

This would mean that talented bands would have a more attractive 1 in 582 chance of getting signed. Of course, the record label would be looking for much more than a good song, ability to perform live, being nice people and reliability etc would all go into the decision making process.

Another huge factor in getting signed is getting noticed. Many A&R will not be able to listen to all demo submissions. This would provide a strong argument for submitting multiple demos to a wide range of record labels.

Quick answer to question: 1 in 3428 (for an average band)

Chances of getting signed through a Pitching website

The Music-Think-Tank Blog mentioned 3 websites that the author felt could increase the chances of getting spotted by the music industry. Those websites were, Audio Rokit, Band Camp and Sound Cloud.

Audio Rokit is a ‘Song Pitching’ website.* A basic profile page is free, a full subscription starts at £6.99 per month which gives members access to the listed opportunities. There is no charge for each song submission a member makes.

Bandcamp gives bands the means to sell music online. The basic service is free, there are no signup costs, and no subscription fees. Bandcamp make money via a 15% revenue share on sales. In May 2011 Bandcamp artists made $624,572 USD.

SoundCloud is an online audio platform for music professionals that makes it easy to share and comment on audio files. As well as a free membership tier, SoundCloud has several different annual premium paid subscriptions which offer additional functionality.

*Effectively a song pitching site will show it’s members current opportunities that exist within the music industry and make it easier for them to submit (or pitch) music to those opportunities.

With relation to this article I decided to take a closer look at these websites to see if any data could be gathered.

It makes sense that using a song pitching website would increase the odds of getting spotted by the industry.

We discussed earlier that ordinarily many A&R will not be able to listen to all demo submissions, especially those that are unsolicited. Pitching websites however, have (in theory) secured legitimate listings from record labels (and a variety of other music companies) that are actively in search of new talent. This would therefore put weight behind the argument that pitching websites dramatically increase the chances of a band being listened to and spotted.

I managed to glean (after many telephone conversations with pitching sites) that the average percentage of members that get their music listened to by A&R is about 85% (very loose estimate) and the average percentage of members that end up signing a deal using a pitching service is about 1% (even looser estimate).

The main problem that pitching sites have in providing useful data is that they are not always aware when one of their members has success. I took the total number of successful feedbacks and added 20% to get the figures above. I can not give a success rate for individual websites because my figures may not be 100% accurate and thus would be unfair.

If it is true that 1% of artists sign a deal (record, management or publishing) using a song pitching website, that would suggest that the pitching website would increase the odds of success by 34 times, or 3400% (compared to an equivalent band submitting unsolicited music via email or post).

I find it hard to believe that 1 in 100 bands get signed using pitching websites, but even if I were to slash the success rate by half, that would still make song pitching sites a pretty indispensable tool for musicians.

Quick answer to question: 1 in 200 (for an average band)

Chances of success through Bandcamp/SoundCloud

I would love to be able to give you some data here but it is simply impossible. On Bandcamp there are musicians making no money at all and others who are making thousands a month. I tried to find out if the people making over £18,200/year (per band member) on Bandcamp were already signed by a record label. Bandcamp replied to my email saying that there would be no way to find that information out.

Same issue with Soundcloud, they said that they couldn’t even guess to what percentage of users go on to sign any kind of deal. To be honest I wasn’t expecting an answer at all, I can fully appreciate we are roaming into the hypothetical here.

The social network debate could not even be answered by taking a sample of users and using that as a base count. For example, if I asked 1000 social network users if any of them had manage to earn £18,200/year as a result of using a social network, I bet none would have.

However, it would be wrong for me to conclude that social networks have helped no one. 1000 social network users is a lot, but proportionately it is too small a number compared with their user base. It would be like asking 1000 people if they have won the lottery and concluding that no one ever wins the lottery because they all replied no!

Final thoughts

The assumption that social networks are great for building followers, but don’t deliver much of real substance for a band wanting to make money may indeed be true, but social networks should be used in ways that they were designed for. Facebook and Soundcloud certainly play a large role in becoming part of the ‘eco-system’, but they should be used alongside other tools.

We know that gigging is vital to the success of a band, but with such low income available to the average musician, it would make sense to build a local following before going too far afield. The benefits of ‘breaking’ new ground is usually overestimated and costly. Build a loyal local fan base and extend your gig radius slowly but surely. Keep fans updated and offer interesting give-aways (behind the scenes video footage) to build loyalty and interest).

Think about using song pitching websites (AudioRokit, MyHitOnline, TAXI) to focus your song submissions.

I want to make my own opinions clear that I genuinely believe that musicians are better off (on the whole) signed to a record label. Sure, they will take a big cut, but they will almost certainly generate more income for you than they take.

Let’s say a label takes 50% of your income. Going on the statistics in this research paper, that would mean that so long as they increased your annual income by £1,230, they would have paid for themselves (since you were only earning £2,460/year to begin with).

Yes, you might have gone on to sell millions of copies of your album on our own (and therefore lose 50% of potential profits), but the odds are against this happening – and even if it did happen, the record label would simply capitalise on your new found success and increase your success further, possibly making up for the percentage they take.

There is a clue in how successful unsigned bands seem to end up signing a record deal, there is great advantages with joining forces with a label, I don’t think anyone would disagree. Fundamentally a record label is like a music manager an accountant or even a hairdresser. You pay to have a professional do the jobs that you don’t have time to do, are not trained to do, or simply do not have the natural inclination to do.

I would argue that a band that is supported by a record label will have more scope for success than a band that shuns all notion of signing a deal.

My Background

I am studying music law in London, UK. I have a passion for data and was able to exploit the information I have gathered for this Blog and use parts in a larger paper I am working on. Ordinarily I may not have gone into so much detail!

I played guitar for many years and it wasn’t until I moved away from playing an instrument that I really saw where I had been going wrong with my music. I had always followed the crowd and moved in common circles, instead of trying to position myself as unique in some way. I felt like I had wasted many years which is why this Music-Think-Tank Blog really struck a chord in me (pun intended).

The first follow up Blog Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians? Revisited seemed a little self promotional to me - although I see nothing wrong with that provided the content addresses the correct issues. I didn’t see much connection between the original Blog and the revisited Blog. The revisited seemed more of a ‘How-to’ rather than revisiting the social network debate.

Odds of success - Bands DATA table image

Feel free to post this image on your website!

 

 

References for this post

Venue capacity - To come up with this figure I looked at almost 100 UK venues and averaged out the capacity for a standing audience.

Average earning statistics:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1293121/Average-annual-salary-drops-2-600-just-months.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_in_the_United_Kingdom

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=334

Reader Comments (59)

Wow, awesome blog post. Took me about half an hour to read but overall very enlightening!
I didn't know that so few bands had reached the top 40 without record label backing.
Thank you poster.

June 17 | Registered CommenterMarcus Beeze

enjoyed it. i have used tip sheets for industry contacts and would not recomment bandit newsletter as there were too many out of date. i might try bandcamp as not used it

Bryden, although I agree with your basic point (that for an artist to have financial success they are better off signing to a label) you should be aware that, apart from the huge amount of assumptions and guesses here, you haven't included strands of payment, most significantly PRS/PPL, which can contribute large amounts to a musician's wage packet.

There is also licensing (for ad's & TV/movies/games), sponsorship and writing for other artists.

Some people on this site would also have you take into account culinary skills...

June 17 | Registered CommenterTim London

In the words of Tobias Funke, "There are dozens of us! Dozens!!!!!"

This is one of the best posts on this site all year. I'm glad to see that MTT is starting to move away from the "1,000 true fans" style of baloney that was all the rage in years past.

Hopefully we can start waking up en masse to the reality that fan engagement is mostly a waste of time when compared with fan creation. And fan creation is entirely dependent on PR connections and media plugs (i.e. the one aspect of the "old" music industry that was not really changed at all by the internet).

A Music Think-Tank that doesn't focus primarily on the complications and challenges of getting noticed by medium-to-large scale music publications and broadcasters isn't thinking. Lets have more, realistic discussion like this.

(BTW, this article is clearly written for a site other than MTT, as it mentions MTT as "this music blog"... where is the original posted?)

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

With all due respect, this is hardly a "research paper." The figures you base the entirety of your analysis on are guesses, and you throw out highly relevant data, such as corporate/wedding/cover bands (who would be the majority of the people in the Musician's Union anyway).

More than that, you assume that a record label will magically make things profitable. Why don't you include a comparison with bands ON record labels? They don't fare much better, after paying back the loans the labels give them.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterMatt Parsons

Matt, the author explained why he left out data, such as corporate/wedding/cover bands.

"For the purpose of this research paper we will use the term ‘band/musician’ for those who want recognition for their own original music.".

After all, how many bands do you know who play original music at wedding?!

"More than that, you assume that a record label will magically make things profitable. Why don't you include a comparison with bands ON record labels? They don't fare much better, after paying back the loans the labels give them."

I agree that it would be nice to see how many signed bands make more than £18k year. FYI, you don't pay back the load if, for example, the label drops you. A friend of mine signed to SONY about 5 years ago and bought a flat. He was dropped 18 months later with no debt. They changed the law years ago because bands were finding themselves in lifetime debt.

So, I would imagine most signed bands have more chance of making a living than unsigned (which I think was said in the Blog).

I agree with Justin, this post is very refreshing and will probably do musicians a favour to see the figures presented like this. 5 Stars Bryden!

June 21 | Registered CommenterMarcus Beeze

I like this article a lot and don't want to negate the research - even though the writer himself notes that there are some massive assumptions.

But, I think it makes a crucial choice in its angle, which makes it misleading.

If a record deal is the aim of an unsigned artist (and it is for many as the reality of what mass market promotion can achieve is set out above), then informed and creative use of social networking and online marketing (allied with old school fanbase building by gigging) is a key skill.

It can make the difference in getting that deal.

Evidence - The Weeknd.

Now being chased by every label under the sun for the deal that will break him into the mainstream. Already amassed an underground fanbase on the web that is growing very fast.

Had he not used social networks the way he did, it would have been much harder to get noticed. If he got noticed at all. And, the rabid online excitement means that the labels come to him, clamouring to do a deal.

The savvy artist chasing success today is using online marketing and social networking to the maximum and getting noticed.

The thing that makes the difference at that point (and the only thing that prevents each individual artist getting lost in all the noise) is the music.

The problem arises when every artist does the same online promotion and social networking and clogs up the webwaves. When they don't succeed they think it's the fault of their promotional efforts.

It's not, it's because their music is crap.

If a talented artist has great material then the opportunities to promote to the public and the music industry which are available today should ENSURE success.

In the past it as only gatekeepers, journalists, radio DJ’s etc who could get you ANY exposure. Now, you can get it by your own efforts.

If you follow best practice and fail to get noticed / succeed / get a deal - go back to square one - the music - improve it and come round again.

Lastly, both the article and my comment ignore the reality that in every musical niche there are now examples of self-funded successful artists - who make more than the proscribed amount on a DIY basis - Corey Smith, Pretty Lights, Little People.

Generally these artists have a small overhead (recording at home and no large touring party), talent, dedication, application and experience.

It can be done as s niche artists and a good living is there to be had, but, again, the music needs to be good enough!

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Seems to me that success should be defined as making a career out of music. Can I spend a lifetime building my brand and bank account so when I'm 65 I will be able to take care of myself and my family and maybe leave a few bucks to my wife and kids when I die ... Or will I have spent my youth in some 'just getting by' band and wake up at 35 realizing I have nothing and have blown the years I needed to establish myself in some other profession farting around in a 'job' that has left me with no marketable skills...

Music is now digital and disposable ... thinking in terms of how the business used to be is a waist of time ... Where 1 million sales used to be the benchmark for success, 1 billion whatevers might present you with opportunities to exploit yourself into long term financial.success ...

Record labels still offer the best possibility to attain branding that will last you a lifetime... but, opportunities are fewer and farther between and the chance of success via a label deal is just as slim as it always has been ....

The music business has always been a crap shoot ... Artists need a strong business plans that tells them when to get out if it isn't working while simultaneously preparing them for what to do next should they fail .

Pissing your youth away on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is OK to a point but it's what you do from when your age makes you irrelevant to the then current audiences until the day you die that really matters ...

If you want a life in music, you had better have created strong brand recognition along the way so your fans that are aging with you will still have an interest in seeing - and paying for - what you are up to....

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterTonsoTunez

Wonderful post. I was getting really sick of "New great idea! Wish your fans a happy birthday on facebook!" New great idea! Give away a keychain with your band's logo on it!" "New great idea! Hold a poll to find out which of your songs should be the next single!"

It's telling that labels dont rely on this stuff. They rely on taking songs to radio, using publicists, getting press, and making sure the artist is COMPELLING.

Yes this stuff costs money, but it's also more effective than wishing your 66 facebook fans a happy birthday when the time rolls around.

As I see it, bands can do two things. Get singed to a label, or shell out the $$ to achieve the things a label would be doing for them. Since a label sinks a bunch of cash in the hopes that a band will one day turn a profit, you'd have to take that mentality if you are to do it on your own. Either way, bit of a long shot to become an artist making real money.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

Poor, poor article. The number of assumptions and conclusions based on "loose," "looser" and "gleaned" figures (the author's own words!) don't instill confidence. The author actually states at one point "this figure is a guess" -- and then goes on to include it in the chart as fact.

The lack of any real case studies is telling. Looking at the Audio Rokit website, not ONE of their listed "success stories" is actually an artist getting a record deal.

Let me ask a simple question: if the odds of getting a "deal" through a pitching website are really 1 in 200, how come there aren't more success stories of artists getting such deals? Because, you know, those are some remarkably low odds.

The main problem that pitching sites have in providing useful data is that they are not always aware when one of their members has success.

Well, gosh, I'm SO surprised to read that.

You know, I'll admit right now that the number of artists who've "made it" without record deals, using social media and 1000 Fans approaches, are indeed few. Yes, I'm sure you're all really tired of hearing about Matthew Ebel and Amanda Palmer and whoever. But at least they're real case studies that can be pointed to and studied, unlike this article which does not even mention ONE artist that received a "deal" though a pitching website.

It's a lovely chart though. Nice colors.

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

Reading these blog posts did force me to admit that perhaps I'd been downplaying the importance of signing to a label, and while I appreciate the effort taken to write this article I must agree with 'scottandrew' above.

I only got about halfway through reading this article before I decided there was too many figured pulled completely out of nowhere. And with no comparison to 'how likely you are to make money equivalent to the minimum wage when signed to a label' - particularly in the last few years.

Marcus Breeze's friend may've been paid enough to buy a flat 5 years ago, but how many artists these days:
a) get signed to Sony, and
b) get that large an advance?

I think the argument isn't about "whether or not you're better on a label", but what I've taken away from reading these blogs today is that it's not enough to simply have a presence on Facebook and Twitter. Just as you've gotta do something different with your music [and your live show] you've gotta do something with Social Media if you want to get noticed - to build a fan base, not just maintain and engage with one. And, if you're not capable of doing so, perhaps it's worth your while to work out a budget and pay someone who is.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterPenmonicus

i think that was a splendid article. i agree that the average artist working out of their home or van does not have the 6-7figures needed to achieve national/international recognition. The abundance of new outlets for self-promoting artists are becoming like the artists ourselves, to numerous to consider. i say so because people gravitate toward that with-which they feel even only vaguely familiar. if i have heard of Band-x im more likely to seek them out than Band-idkY whom i have never heard of. Personally i prefer to listen to artists whom i allready know i like. i do not have the ability to listen to more than one artist at once, or the time to listen to everyone competing for my attention. If i were interested in listening to new artists, there are factors to take into consideration, before listening. Does the artist appeal to me aestheticlly? Do they associate engaging graphics or video with their music? Does the artist appeal to me sexually? If the artist is unattractive, do they at least employ models in their promotional images and music videos? i do not have an unlimted amount of time to listen to music. And if i can derive some sexual-satisfaction from listening to an artist or watching their video, it decreases the amount of time i'd spend seeking out images which are primarily erotic in nature, proving that the artist appreciates my time as valuable. Does utilizing sex-appeal compromise the integrity of the artist and their music? Potentially, but not in all cases. For example Mariah Carey cannot help but to be extremely attractive to me. She does not try to be less attractive to revert attention back to her music. The warm feelings evoked by her image make me want to listen to her music, join her mailing list and offer to carry things for her if i could. Would her talent and sex-appeal guarantee her to be successfull if her career was not in the hands of people who promote and develop her career? No, because someone had to open the magic door into all of our homes (airwaves) for her.

Just thought I´d share some data... Music Xray (http://musicxray.com) is an A&R platform - what this article would refer to as a pitching site. Close to 100% of songs pitched through it are listened to by the professionals taking submissions because we have a money-back guarantee if they are not listened to. Closer to 10% of our users secure deals and over 2200 songs/acts have been selected for opportunities just since February.

June 23 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

"Close to 100% of songs pitched through it are listened to by the professionals"

That's because close to 100% of your listings require the artists to pay A&R to leave feedback.

"Closer to 10% of our users secure deals"

Hold up. I would expect most of your A&R to get at least 40 submissions. So you're saying they all, on average, sign 4 people. Do you expect us to believe that?

Shameless plug and (in usual musicxray style) misleading and vague figures.

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterHarriett

@ Harriett - That's not a shameless plug. It's completely relevant to the topic. Also the figures are neither vague nor misleading. They are accurate. Pretty bold of you to just call me a liar. ;)

Regarding the fees on Music Xray, I would posit that you already pay to have your music listened to and I would also posit that you pay more for it than you would on Music Xray. The time, energy and money you spend finding opportunities, networking, sending your music, following up... all has a high cost. Wouldn't your time be better spent creating great music and let us find those opportunities for you and ultimately cost you less with a guarantee your music is heard and that you receive feedback on every submission whether selected or not?

In my biased but well-founded opinion, Music Xray is a better solution than any other out there. The business has changed dramatically in the last decade and the way A&R is conducted (to become more efficient and less risky) has also had to change. Those who are unwilling to adapt will simply be out-competed by those who are.

June 23 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

Mike, I grant you that it is on topic, but it was a plug all the same!

Paying an A&R to give feedback is bizarre. If they want to sign music they should not need paying. How much money does your top performing A&R rep make sending 'feedback' to your members? I feel that the feedback acquired from this process is not worth the money.

Also, my mention of "misleading and vague figures" refers mainly to you saying;

"close to 100% receive feedback or your money back".

Mike, that is because your members have paid for guaranteed feedback. I would hope you did refund those who didn't get feedback!

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterHarriett

At the risk of taking these comments on a left turn, there's a hilarious discourse here about Music Xray: http://dasspunk.com/2010/music-xray-scam-and-spam/

June 23 | Registered CommenterTim London

Closer to 10% of our users secure deals

Please provide several examples of artists who have secured record deals that provide at least £18,200 yearly income through Music X-Ray.

June 23 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

This just a comment to Ian who mentioned The Weeknd and how he used social media. I would like to see the Evidence in that. The producers of The Weeknd are well connected in Canada and have a relationship with Drake. The only reason the The Weeknd blew up like he or they did is because Drake posted their stuff on his twitter feed. So it doesn't speak they much for the use of social media as it does for the use of connections in the industry.

June 23 | Unregistered Commentersowait

Sowait - I take your point and when I wrote about this on my site I did point out that Drake tweeted about him.

BUT, that doesn't negate the truth that being on and being savvy about social networks gives an artist the platform to be noticed..

Sure, the old school connection amplified that, but because his music was good that attention spread like wildfire.

That couldn't have happened in the days before the internet. It would've all been behind closed doors.

Of course, the other thing that happens in a case like the Weeknd is that the chasing labels see the evidence of real fans building at a pace right before their eyes - hence removing a lot of the risk for them.

Whichever way you cut it the social networks helps great artists get noticed and signed if they want to.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterIan

Fact: Major record companies have a 95% failure rate.

Meaning 95% of all acts that sign a record deal will not make any money at all and get dropped and will have wasted years and energy and be worse off (if still together) than they were had they not signed. Today, bands take bigger risks signing than not signing. If you're smart in the industry you can become "successful" as an independent artist. You need to put in the effort and get smart. Don't rely on other people to do things for you - like labels.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

@ Scottandrew - Music Xray does not get involved in the details of the deals (nor does Music Xray take a cut of any deal revenue) so I do not know how much money any of the deals generate. I know there have been major and indie label signings, major motion picture soundtrack inclusions, major network and cable song placements, advertising placements etc. There's a list of some of the deals we learn details of here: http://www.musicxray.com/success-stories

@ Harriett - I still don't understand why you say that my statement is misleading and vague. It is true that nearly 100% of Music Xray's users' music gets listened to by those they submit music to. It's true that nearly 10% of our users have music selected for opportunities - which according to this blog post would be about 10 times more effective than any other solution out there. Those kinds of results have value. Most people are willing to pay a fair price for value.

You can go the free route and spend all your time and money finding opportunities, networking, pestering jaded industry professionals who are being pursued by literally millions of musicians to listen to what on most occasions turns out to be music in which they have no interest. You can enjoy the results you get by doing it that way. Or, you can spend what is likely less money and certainly less time making a submission through Music Xray and know with 100% certainty that your song will be listened to or you will receive a refund. You will not have to follow up, pester anyone, spend your time finding the deal yourself, getting an introduction to them or wondering if your music ever even arrived.

The music business has changed in the past decade on nearly every front. Why does anyone think the A&R process should remain the way it's always been? Inefficient, risky, closed-to-most-independent-musicians... There have been 2200 deals done via Music Xray since February. Now, I'm not saying each one of those deals will make each of those musicians rich and famous but maybe some of them will. However, that's 2200 fewer deals that are available outside Music Xray. As more A&R professionals realize the value of the A&R tools provided on Music Xray, an increasing number of them will adopt its usage (in the past 2 days alone, over a dozen labels have joined the site). Musicians who do not adapt to the changes in the industry will simply be out-competed by those who do.

I have spent a decade of my life working obsessively on A&R solutions. Due to that, Music Xray has been able to open up companies that previously did not accept unsolicited material such as Columbia Records, Geffen, Epic, Capitol, Mercury and many, many more. We've enabled hundreds of companies to be able to effectively attend to more submissions than ever before. We've aggregated thousands of opportunities in one place. You can call this a plug for Music Xray. Or, you can call it just me adding my two cents to a discussion I know a lot about. Either way, my goal is to create a better way and to solve real challenges faced by musicians.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterMike McCready

@ Scottandrew - Music Xray does not get involved in the details of the deals (nor does Music Xray take a cut of any deal revenue) so I do not know how much money any of the deals generate. I know there have been major and indie label signings, major motion picture soundtrack inclusions, major network and cable song placements, advertising placements etc. There's a list of some of the deals we learn details of here: http://www.musicxray.com/success-stories

@ Harriett - I still don't understand why you say that my statement is misleading and vague. It is true that nearly 100% of Music Xray's users' music gets listened to by those they submit music to. It's true that nearly 10% of our users have music selected for opportunities - which according to this blog post would be about 10 times more effective than any other solution out there. Those kinds of results have value. Most people are willing to pay a fair price for value.

You can go the free route and spend all your time and money finding opportunities, networking, pestering jaded industry professionals who are being pursued by literally millions of musicians to listen to what on most occasions turns out to be music in which they have no interest. You can enjoy the results you get by doing it that way. Or, you can spend what is likely less money and certainly less time making a submission through Music Xray and know with 100% certainty that your song will be listened to or you will receive a refund. You will not have to follow up, pester anyone, spend your time finding the deal yourself, getting an introduction to them or wondering if your music ever even arrived.

The music business has changed in the past decade on nearly every front. Why does anyone think the A&R process should remain the way it's always been? Inefficient, risky, closed-to-most-independent-musicians... There have been 2200 deals done via Music Xray since February. Now, I'm not saying each one of those deals will make each of those musicians rich and famous but maybe some of them will. However, that's 2200 fewer deals that are available outside Music Xray. As more A&R professionals realize the value of the A&R tools provided on Music Xray, an increasing number of them will adopt its usage (in the past 2 days alone, over a dozen labels have joined the site). Musicians who do not adapt to the changes in the industry will simply be out-competed by those who do.

I have spent a decade of my life working obsessively on A&R solutions. Due to that, Music Xray has been able to open up companies that previously did not accept unsolicited material such as Columbia Records, Geffen, Epic, Capitol, Mercury and many, many more. We've enabled hundreds of companies to be able to effectively attend to more submissions than ever before. We've aggregated thousands of opportunities in one place. You can call this a plug for Music Xray. Or, you can call it just me adding my two cents to a discussion I know a lot about. Either way, my goal is to create a better way and to solve real challenges faced by musicians.

June 24 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

@ William - What you say is true, but the failure percentage is almost infinitely worse for musicians trying to make it on their own. I believe the label business model must evolve to become more about being an artist's business team - more like a joint venture than a contractual relationship and I think it will increasingly move in that direction. That will increase success rates. Regardless of whether you call it a label or thing-a-ma-jig, the artists that succeed all require a team of hard-working professionals around them.

June 24 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

@ Mike

I don't doubt it's true that nearly 100% of A&R give feedback on Music Xray, but what is misleading about that statement is that you leave out one crucial bit of information, ie. that these A&R *have to* give feedback in order to collect their money.

I know you are going to tell me that these guys are so busy that they have to charge for feedback, but please don't. I have been in the music industry for 20 years and even worked as A&R for a while, I know it's too easy to take money from musicians by giving "feedback". If I genuinely want to hear new music I wouldn't charge musicians to send me material - would you?

Don't feel disheartened, I do agree with one thing you say about the failure rate being infinitely worse for musicians trying to make it on their own. This Blog is superb in my mind and the industry has certainly changed (as you say).

But, human nature (unfortunately) has not changed. If people can earn money by giving feedback on our site, you have an obvious achilles heel. If I sign up as 'Industry' next week and claim I am looking for talent, can I make some money? Pitching sites should not pay A&R. Period. Maybe I am idealistic or too old but it seems musicians have to pay for too much as it is.

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterHarriett

@ Harriett - I hear where you're coming from but that's not exactly how it works on Music Xray. We do not encourage any professional on the site to use the submission fees as a revenue stream. In fact, we make about 10 charities available on the site where industry professionals can channel their fees and many of them do. These include Musicares, Save The Children, Red Cross, Songs of Love etc... We encourage that.

Music Xray charges a $4 flat fee for each submission. This fee is mostly about creating a barrier to avoid having some musicians submit every song they've ever written to every opportunity on the site, which I'm sure you understand, would happen. The few can ruin it for the many. If industry professionals are still getting too many submissions to keep up, they can put an additional fee on top of our four dollars. They can raise or lower the fee at will. If they aren't getting enough submissions, they can lower the fee.

The motivator for giving feedback on Music Xray is the ability for the industry professional to keep their account. We require that they do it in order to continue using our A&R tools. If they do not keep up with their submissions and songs languish in their inbox for too many days, we shut down their account. Almost every time we've had to alert a professional that their account is about to be suspended, they catch up quickly. And yes, we have had to suspend a few accounts and every one of the submitters had their money refunded.

Regarding your other point about musicians having too much to pay for already... As a former struggling musician myself, I know the term starving artist didn't coin itself. However, these are new times and given the changes the music industry has already undergone, musicians must think of themselves as businesses. When businesses spend money to develop new products and services they spend even more marketing and selling them. They make sure their customers get a taste. They spend money on advertising, they give away free samples, they spend money on trade shows, business trips, negotiations… In short, they spare no expense when it comes to getting the deals that generate the revenue and eventual profit.

I think most musicians "get" that and they actually do those things. They just do them in the ways they've always been done - ways that seem free but actually have huge costs in time and effort which also translate to money.

Music Xray provides a place where musicians can get that done and I believe that it costs less in terms of both time and money to do it on Music Xray. Music Xray is a money and time SAVER for musicians, not an additional cost. It should decrease the amount of money they already spend trying to get deals and significantly increase the effectiveness of their efforts.

June 25 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

'musicians must think of themselves as businesses'

How many times do we have to read this? No, Mike, YOU think of yourself as a business. Musicians need to think of themselves as artists, agents of the stratosphere, lightning rods of inspiration.

If you want good product, allow it to be made in optimum conditions. Don't charge the chicken to lay the egg.

June 25 | Registered CommenterTim London

@ Tim - Well, I hear you. Many musicians are artists and clearly the art comes first. However, if they are to make any money from their art, someone near the artist (or the artists themselves) must think of the business aspect. My point stands although I agree with your nuance. So, it may be hard to hear for some but I think it stands up to reason that artists won't make much money if this concept of tending to the business isn't fully embraced.

No one should charge the chicken to lay the egg but that egg will just sit there if someone doesn't tend to selling it and with so many available eggs out there the onus is on the chicken to convince the egg merchants that her egg is worthy of the world's attention.... to stay with your metaphor.

June 25 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

Brilliant post! I especially liked the numerical breakdown of earnings component of your post. As a business school student, I am supposed to pay attention to information like this!

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterPranav

The odds of succeeding without a "record deal" are actually better today than having a record deal. The biggest thing left out of this article is that a "record deal" is basically indentured servitude, where musicians/bands end up owing record labels big sums of money because so few bands actually make enough money from record sales to pay back advances, producer's fees, promo fees, etc. Then the label also owns your music rights and recordings-sounds like a bad deal to me.

For every Sting, who sells millions of recordings, and makes millions of dollars, there are thousands of bands that the labels sign as a gamble that they will somehow become the next Sting (or close to it). Even then, there are plenty of tales of "successful" musicians/bands getting ripped off by their labels/managers and hardly seeing any money, even though record sales have been good over the years (just read about successful musicians signed to major labels like Robert Fripp (King Crimson) or Bill Nelson (Be-Bop Deluxe), and their struggles to actually get paid by their former labels, who have banks of lawyers to keep artists at bay).

The internet levels the playing filed for all. THERE"S NO NEED TO SIGN A RECORD DEAL IN 2011. Create your music, find your niche, work those fans, and build a following. There's no magic bullet, it just comes down to hard work, like starting any new business, whether it's a pizza parlor, Yoga studio, or a band. I know a lot of musicians who consistently make $50-100K (or more) a year and are NOT signed to a label, but have built up a following and own/control all of their work.

The deal is to get out there and get a following, then, if a label does come calling, negotiate a distribution deal, where you own the recordings and pay all recording/production fees yourself, and the label just has the rights to promote (hopefully they will) and sell your works. This way, if the relationship goes sour, you still own your works and can sell them on your own, or find another distributor.

June 26 | Unregistered Commenterictus75

As a small label owner,I believe it's diffcult ,but not impossible. People today aren't "label centric" like they used to be when i was in high school. No one looks to see what Motown or Maverick or Geffen is releasing anymore. They don't really care what label an artist is on. Having said that,if you have the finances to make your recording,and create a professional video you now have a shot thanks to Youtube and Itunes. here in the States though,it is exceedingly difficult to get radio play unless you have $100-150,000 to pay off everyone to get your record played. If you have the financial wherewithal,you can compete. and therein lies the problem. Most bands (or artists) can barely afford the equipment they need to perform,let alone produce a commercial recording and a video to try to compete. That's the ONLY advantage the majors have over independent artists. So my answer is if you have no money,a major is your only hope. if you do have the finances,you can compete with the big boys now. I personally would only accept a P&D deal from a major,none of that "360" B.S. so prevalent today (unless my advance was in the millions,and I don't think that's going to happen) . Whether you like his music or not (I'm not into rap) you should check out Tech9's business model for independents. He's competing with majors on his own.

The illusion of math strikes again. It's got numbers, right?

That said, I emphatically hope that my competition reads this and wastes their time following your advice.

June 26 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

@Mike You seem to turn everything into a sales pitch! I need to clarify my point because we're getting lost.

– My issue with MusicXray

Musicians join your site and PAY industry professionals to give feedback on their music. Those “industry professionals” might list an opportunity because they want to find new music, or they *might* list an opportunity because they want to make money from the submissions. This would be bad and would be a con.

– Your defence:

“We do not encourage any professional on the site to use the submission fees as a revenue stream”

Of course you don't encourage it, but it might happen. Industry professionals may use the submission fees as a revenue stream.

You then went on to say that the ONLY reason you allow industry professionals to collect money for giving feedback is to weed out people who would take advantage of a free system. (Making musicians pay to submit each track makes it harder for them to submit 100s of times and spam industry professionals). That makes sense. I have no problem with that.

– What doesn't add up for me:

If, as you claim, the payments to industry professionals are ONLY to create a barrier to avoid spam, why not continue to charge $4 for every submission and simply give it all to charity?

You have a link for industry professionals to donate some of their submission income to charity already, you could force the donation of all the submission money. Industry professionals looking for new music do not need paying.

Doing the above would solve the following issues;

1. This would make sure ALL industry professionals on your site are legit and not simply listing for submission money.
2. It would keep the barrier you need to avoid 'spamming' on a free system

– Am I cynical?

I think the reason you allow industry professionals to profit from demo submissions is so that you can stop their payments if they don't give feedback, thus guaranteeing feedback and allowing you to have your proud slogan “we guarantee feedback”.

But maybe I am just cynical?!

June 27 | Unregistered CommenterHarriett

Well I recently submitted to Music Xray not too long ago(almost 2 months) and got 'selected,' by the industry professional, but that person hasn't tried to reach me or respond to my emails. I haven't submitted to too many opportunities, but I have gotten feedback semi positive(being selected) and not positive(being critiqued by an illiterate who says I quote, 'your lyrics is everywhere.') so not too bad. I will give it a go a few more months and see what happens.

June 28 | Unregistered Commenterapostate

@ Harriett - I don't mean to turn my responses into sales pitches. It's just that I've been working for a decade to solve the A&R problem so I feel pretty strongly that while not perfect, the system we've developed is pretty solid and the results are extremely positive.

To your point about us sending all our money to charity; we're running a business and as with any business, if we're providing a service that is valuable there's nothing wrong with getting paid for it. Our investors would take issue with us sending all our money to charity as would our employees.

I understand you take issue with the industry professionals getting paid but that seems to be on principle - you just don't like it and that's fair. However, if we provide a service and get a result that is valuable, cheaper than via any other method and also saves time, it shouldn't matter who gets paid as long as it's legitimate and no one is being ripped off.

Any time we've detected that an industry professional is not offering a real opportunity and the submission-fees-as-a-revenue-stream has come up, we've closed down the account and refunded the money. Our site is pretty transparent. Any musician can write a critique/review of their interaction with any specific industry professional right on the profile page of the industry professional for all to see. It keeps everyone on their best behavior. If I were an industry professional who values the use of the Music Xray tools to help me find what I'm seeking, I'm not going to mess that up by ripping of musicians and using the fees as my revenue driver. Nevertheless, there are legitimate uses the industry professional might have for the fees they collect, such as offsetting the cost of screening a lot of music. I imagine some companies might use it to offset the costs of their A&R staff, thereby enabling them to handle more submissions and not miss out on some great music they would not have been able to hear otherwise.

I don't think Music Xray is perfect. I also don't know of any other business out there that is generating the positive results we are for both musicians and the industry professionals. More music is getting placed than anywhere else, more industry professionals are joining up than anywhere else and more musicians are feeling they are developing valuable relationships and have access to more deals than ever before. No one is losing. I understand why someone would be cynical. There have been a lot of companies out there taking advantage of the aspirations of musicians. We do end up paying for the sins of others in that regard because the easiest thing to assume is we're another one of those. I've been in this business for 20 years and like I said, Music Xray could (and will) improve on many fronts but we're going to run a serious business that creates a better way or no business at all.

And while I don't mean to write a sales pitch, I do understand that not everyone will "get" what we're trying to do upon first glance so I appreciate the debate and the forum to make my case.

June 28 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

@Mike "More music is getting placed than anywhere else, more industry professionals are joining up than anywhere else"

Where is your evidence for this?

I ran a legit competition on sonicbids 5 years ago and charged $5 per submission. I made over $1000. With a gold mine like that it is no wonder industry 'professionals' are joining these sites. Terrible for musicians if they are doing it for the money only wouldn't you agree?

@apostate made a good point that his feedback was worthless.

Mike, I am not saying they all are worthless, I am simply highlighting that your system is not perfect and you agree with me on that. My concern is that the flaw in yours (and other) pitching sites is putting musicians money at risk.

@Mike We're running a business and as with any business, if we're providing a service that is valuable there's nothing wrong with getting paid for it.

Oh sorry I thought you charged for basic membership as well as each song pitch?

June 28 | Unregistered CommenterHarriett

I joined audiorokit recently and could not be happier. Their customer service is spot on and I got good feedback from the industry on there.

Sorry but hitquarters was awful as so many listings were out of date (although they are cheap). Not used MusicXray but I agree that paying for feedback has it's limitations.

June 28 | Registered CommenterJake

@Tonso Tunez - I enjoyed reading your post comment. You're keepin it real. You're right no need in thinking how music business use to be, what is it now and what will it look like as we go forward is whats important. Making sure that you are in the driver seat at all times and controlling your music / band business is key.

@Bryden Haynes - wow well that's a lot of info. Consider this, if you get signed and sell 150,000 units of your CD you will probably be dropped and you haven't repaid all that is due back to the label. If you sell 150,000 units of your CD on your own say at $10.00 and take away 50% for recording and production costs and say you split it in half again for other travel expenses that still eaves you with $375,000 divided by say 5 band members - that's more than your $25,000 per yr per member example. And actually if you drop those sales numbers to only selling 25,000 CD's you still end up with more per band member that your example of $25,000 US dollars. It is very possible.

@Mike @Tim @Tonso @Bryden - Please read my article in Music Think Tank regarding bands and business. If you want to make music as a lifelong career you'd be well served making your band a business. Read my article in Music Think Tank here: http://tinyurl.com/6dgu4bh for more on this topic. I'd be very interested in you joining the conversation. Thanks !

June 28 | Registered CommenterDon Austin

@ Harriett - Nope, no membership fees. Apostate submitted to an opportunity whose feedback was limited to a reason the song was not selected. If he wants a critique or some help with his song there are professionals offering that on the site. Meanwhile, he knows his song was received, heard and he got a reason for the rejection. Already much more than he would have gotten under the old system of mailing in his CD and it probably cost him less.

I guess I'm not going to convince you that while not perfect, Music Xray is better than anything else out there and constantly improving. It's probably not for you.

June 29 | Registered CommenterMike McCready

Well Mike I was also selected by an industry professional and have yet to be contacted. I've also not received any emails in response from this professional. I do think Music Xray is good in theory but I'm still not sure if it's the right fit for me. And Harriett brings up something pretty troubling in her sonic bids contest example I never thought about. Why wouldn't someone sign up as a pro and just take money from those who have dreams of succeeding in the music industry? I mean there are a lot of 'artists,' but there even more ways to scam artists as well.

June 30 | Unregistered Commenterapostate

I agree with Jake.

AudioRokit is a far better solution for musicians in my mind. They don't charge for each submission so you can pitch to more companies, which is vital seeing as it's a numbers game. I received feedback from several companies this week including BMG Chrysalis. AudioRokit is very good value for money as far as I can tell.

Regards to Harriett and apostate's point;

I would add that I saw a record label charging $50 per submission on Music Xray. If that label got 2000 submissions they've raked in £100k! I just can't believe there are musicians naive enough to give someone $50 to listen to their music!

@Apostate - when you are selected, the Music Xray system opens up a channel of communication for you to reply/contact the professional. At any rate, Music Xray has a 24x7 support staff that can usually help you in situations like those you describe. Nevertheless, as I've said above, if you believe a professional is not behaving "professionally" with you, you can leave feedback on their profile page.

@Marcus - interesting regarding audiorockit. But believe me, no one charging $50 is getting anywhere in the same universe as 2,000 submissions. As I've said, the fees are raised to slow down submissions so the professionals can manage them. If they aren't getting enough submissions they lower the fees. Those opportunities result in deals. If you think it's a lottery you are wrong. It's not just a numbers game. Songs and acts are chosen on merit. If you don't believe enough in your music to invest in the submission, you are actually performing part of the A&R screening process for the professional by taking your song out of consideration. In essence, you're saying you don't want to risk your $50 and not get selected. That's the purpose of the fee. The professional is saying that those submitting better be pretty confident in the material or he doesn't want to hear it. By having a higher fee the professional is discouraging musicians who are not confident enough in their material. Maybe he only gets 5 submissions but I bet they're pretty good!

Mike, oh pleeez! $50 for one 'professional' to listen to your music?

If the music is so fantastic then it would be incredibly unprofessional if your expert didn't already know about it. It's their job.

Anyone - absolutely anyone, who has to pay to be heard has already messed up. Artists, respect yourselves. What kind of reception do you think you get from someone who has to be paid to listen to your sounds?

Hey, how about we charge business people to present their plans and ideas? Say, twenty quid for a power-point or a fiver for five minutes on Skype?

From now on, Mike, every time you talk about Xray on MTT you have to pay $5 to a charity of our choice. How does that sound?

July 2 | Registered CommenterTim London

@Tim - You're the one who doesn't think musicians who want to make money from their music should have to think of themselves as a business. But evidence shows that those musicians who do are more successful. I don't think I should have to put any fuel in my car to make it go, but evidence shows that those who do have a better chance of getting where they want to go.

It's kind of the same with Music Xray. Every argument against paying to have your music considered for deals on this thread is based on the principle/belief that it shouldn't have to be that way. No one can say it doesn't work or that it doesn't get the desired result. This isn't theory. It is working in practice and Music Xray's results speak for themselves. I'm not here shilling for my business. I'm advocating and hoping to help by creating awareness about a model that is getting results more effectively, more cheaply and more consistently than anything else out there. Don't use it if you don't want to. That's fine. I believe you are more likely to be out-competed by other musicians in that case. Also, I have been engaged on this thread in what seems like a pretty productive and constructive conversation. There's nothing wrong with disagreeing and debating. That's what this is for and every time someone has raised a good point I've simply come back and addressed it - on a thread that is a very relevant topic.

You seem to assume I advocate for Music Xray because it's my business and I want my business to work regardless of whether it's a good model or a bad one. That is backwards. First, we came up with a model that we thought would get results and then we built a platform that implements that model. If Music Xray did not exist, this would all still be good theory we just would not know for sure if it would work in practice. Now however, we do.

I'll leave it here. Very nice chatting with you all. Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.

What evidence?

Look at a list of the most artistically influential, financially successful artists for the past 40 years and ask yourself whether they thought of themselves as primarily artists or businesses?

I think it's not too outrageous to maintain that you're exploiting an already unfair system that is weighted against the artist.

Although I understand the need for a filter, one that relies entirely on a fee is basically unsound and your arguments that, in paying the fee it shows, in some way, that an artist is more committed are disingenuous. All they show is that the artist has money to burn.

July 4 | Unregistered CommenterTim London

@Mike

You say; "If you don't believe enough in your music to invest in the submission, you are actually performing part of the A&R screening process"

What? Your statement only means you are screening those who can't afford to pay for every pitch, it does not screen talent. I thought the screening process was the A&R's job. I thought they welcome free music, obviously not on your website.

Your statement is a little patronising to musicians. They do believe in their music, but they're not all rich enough to pay to get feedback, especially at $50 a pop. A&R are doing themselves a disservice as they are effectively screening poor (yet possibly talented) acts.

You are quite right that bands would do well to think of themselves as a business, but paying so much to submit music would put any business in debt. Imagine a window cleaner who had to pay $10 every time he knocked on someone's doors scouting for work. Bad business sense.

If I even had to pay $4 a pitch, that would add up to $200 for 50 pitches a month on your system.If I even had to pay $4 a pitch, that would add up to $200 for 50 pitches a month on your system.

As I said, I am using AudioRokit at the moment to submit my music to industry. I am paying £6.99 a month and I don't have to worry about paying any more for pitching. I personally prefer this system and find it fairer.

I've been following this with interest. As a musician I can say this: I simply do not have the funds to submit my music to the places I would like. I don't mean that I don't have extra money to spare, I mean I have no funds. Being able to pay for food is a problem. I have good songs, I'm a member of Sonicbids (paid for a year in advance when I got some money last year!) but I have only been able to submit to the free listings for the past few months. The song competitions are far too steep at $30. plus per submission. So yes, whoever said that the submission fees are only screening out the people who don't have the money is correct.

Saying that musicians that don't submit to industry listing at a set price shows that they dint have the confidence or talent is completely wrong. It's ideas like this that further my distaste for MusicXray. Paying to submit your music to someone you've never met, not knowing the competition that you're up against, is a scam. I'm not saying that users never get something back from submitting, but it's easy to tell them what they want to hear or exactly what they think they should hear. There is just too much room for abuse and theft in this situation. I see scams ALL the time now where showcases are held with major label representatives attending and for a submission fee, musicians can be a part of it. These people are taking advantage that some people will do ANYTHING to achieve their dreams, even pay money. Musicians out of all artists are the most desperate because there are so little opportunities out there. Any musician would be better off saving the money they would use towards submissions and put that towards advertising themselves in magazines, web ads, posters, flyers, stickers, or whatever else because it gets your name and music out to the masses. No one can really get any promises or know fully if their money is going toward something that will actual help their carreer by paying to submit through a website, but they can promise themselves and fully know that spending money on marketing is something that will help their career.

Free album download at http://www.chancius.com

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterChancius

@Chancius I agree with you and actually found an audition on MusicXray that costs a mind boggling £500 to submit a song to: http://www.musicxray.com/interactions/1870/submissions/new

@Marcus Beeze Thank you for highlighting www.audiorokit.co.uk. I joined 3 days ago and it seems excellent (much cheaper and more professional than others).

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterEdwardo

I thought this was an interesting post. I do have to comment though that it is clear you are biased, and need to check your numbers a wee bit more. For instance: You say the chances of becoming successful is 0.00025%, which represents the 15 bands of 600,000 bands [sic] that 'made it'. Yet, you also say the average band has 4 members, that the estimated number of musicians is 600,000. That means, to me, that either you have 60 musicians out of 600,000 musicians who 'made it', or you have 15 bands of 150,000 bands who 'made it'. Either way, that's 0.001, or 0.1%.

Additionally, your numbers are entirely based on your own biased opinion and have little in the way of actual data to back it up. There appear to be several places where you could easily be off (in either direction) by an order of magnitude or two. For instance, you say that making the top 40 qualifies as 'making it' regardless of whether actually getting the fiscal numbers (a safe bet that allows us to save doing math), and that roughly 20 have 'made it' based on this metric. You also say that maybe 10 more can make the fiscal numbers without hitting the top 40. Don't hedge bets and cut numbers in half arbitrarily, especially when you're already dealing with averages.

Clearly from the gigs and downloads (£2,340 and £120) you're not getting enough income to make it, but what about CDs, T-shirts, etc? I don't know of a serious band that skips building alternate revenue streams. This is where bands typically get their profit at a gig, as well.

Anyhow, just food for thought.

July 8 | Unregistered CommenterJsty

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