Musician Guide to Music Technology & Media Today

Media technology has enabled industrialized nations and nations that have made significant recent technological advances to develop new and innovative ways of expressing music. Musicians use everything from video games to the internet to apps to interactive multimedia works to bring music and the arts to a higher level of interactive experience and artistry.

Rock Band and Reverbnation
For example, the popular video game Rock Band allows indie bands to submit music for the online video game store through a music distributor called Reverbnation. An independent musician can have their music played on the video game console along with Metallica, the Beatles, and Green Day! Video games are changing music in many other ways, hiring professional film composers to write the music and using real orchestras to record the tracks at a time when many professional musicians find themselves out of work.

Other musicians create their own iPhone apps, interactive websites, and mind-blowing electronics-driven live performances. An app like “AppTudes” helps you find one new indie band a year. Artists like Madonna and the Ruckers have sleek music websites with plenty of multimedia and ways to sign up for upcoming music concerts. Companies like CD Baby and Reverbnation take advantage of social networking through Twitter, Facebook, and Blogger by giving members free html code to set up music merchandising stores and album stores.

The overflow and saturation of music and media prevalent in the industrialized world today makes standing out from the crowd extremely difficult. Often the composers and musicians who make it to the top are the edgiest, weirdest, most controversial, best looking, or most connected musicians. While this is not always the case, in the mainstream media, looks and controversy are sometimes more important than talent. In fact, many media stars like Lindsey Lohan might create controversy just to remain in the media spotlight. And who can forget the outrageous meat dress Lady Gaga sported?

Lady Gaga or Mozart, who will last?
Looking at earlier classical composers, I could easily see a Mozart or a Liszt bathing in the paparazzi spotlight, while composers like Beethoven or Richard Strauss or Clara Schumann attempting to hide from the camera’s eye. If the mass media had been as prevalent then as it is today, we might have never heard about Beethoven, unless we read the headline of “Deaf Composer Goes Blind By Moonlight! News at 11!”

I often wonder which musicians will stand the test of time fifty years from now, 200 years from now, or even 1000 years from now. The pop icons that we have today will not survive. How many one-hit wonders and musical weirdos have disappeared within our lifetimes alone? Consistently, the musicians that have had careers that have for decades are musicians that learned their craft well and kept performing after the paparazzi decided to find the next big thing. That might be why even today’s generations can appreciation a Muddy Waters, a Franz Liszt, Aretha Franklin, and the Beatles. Talent withstands generations, even centuries, and does not disappear when the spotlights fade.

Throughout the history of western music, the successful musicians have been the ones that have had financial backing and the means to reach a wide audience. What has changed today is that marketing follows us everywhere. Try to notice how often you hear the same song in a TV show, commercial, grocery store, and radio all in the same day. Clear Channel, a company started by used car salesmen which now owns a significant percentage of the airwaves, most likely owns five or six different radio stations in your area and plays only the songs given to them by their business partners. In the Classical Era, a composer could gain financial backing to fund an opera. Today, a pop artist can get financial backing to go on concert, sell t-shirts, get a bit part on a tv show, and be played on the radio over and over and over and over again. Saturation works and sells.

Musician Technology Tips
What can a an indie musician do to survive the ever changing world of music technology? I suggest the following:

1) Make Music: All the saturation and marketing in the world won’t matter if you do not have a professional sounding product. Notice that I did not say a high quality music product. A mediocre song that is mixed and mastered by a professional will go leaps and bounds over a well written song with a crappy demo recording. That’s the truth, so deal with it and get a professional sounding product.

2) Get Technological: Set up websites, Twitter, FB, MySpace, and any place that doesn’t charge you to sell albums, merchandise, and concert tickets. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of sites where you can set up your music. Does that mean that you will rake in profits? No, but this will help create a buzz for your music, and gives your fans easy access to your music. I also recommend CD Baby. You cannot beat the low price you get for what you get. Spend about $15 to set up a single on iTunes, Amazon, and dozens of other sites, plus your own webpage and FB app.

3) Market yourself: Now you got to get out there. Whether that means concerts, meeting fans, or even just networking at music conferences, you need to get out there and meet people. If you have a day job, you can enjoy the thousands of opportunities online to talk about your music, share your music, collaborate, and meet other musicians. Find where your talents lie, and use them online to make a name for yourself.

Finally, you need to be patient. It will take about a year of heavy marketing on your part to start to reap rewards. Although you probably won’t pick up that million dollar contract, you will gain thousands of fans, sell albums and merch, get a few gigs, and find that you might be able to quit that day job and become a musician full time, all thanks to good music and great technology.



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