WHAT IS INDIE? (Part 1 of 2)

I had the pleasure of attending the recent launch of a new documentary "What is Indie?" by Dave Cool. The film seeks to answer the question "What is indie?" by talking to independent musicians and music entrepreneurs like the owner of Sonic Bids, CD Baby, and Indie-Music.com. The documentary made me think about how I would answer the question myself, but rather than bore you with my opinion I decided to dig into the mind of Mr. Dave Cool himself. Question then becomes, what does indie mean to Bandzooglers? Please let me know. In the meantime check out what Dave Cool has to say about the subject. What made you want to make this film? It really happened kind of naturally. I'm a music guy and had never thought of making a film before, but when someone asked me what being 'indie' meant, I realized that it was a good question, so I figured I'd ask some musician friends on camera what they thought. It was only supposed to be a short 10-minute thing, but it then ended up growing into a full-fledge documentary film as more and more people wanted to get involved, and I realized that we had touched on something that had never really been done before. What are you thoughts on what "Indie" is after having finished making the movie? My perception of being 'indie' really changed after having made this film. It was specifically after interviewing Derek Sivers, the Founder of CD Baby, that I realized that my impression of what an indie artist is was very narrow. I went into the project feeling that being indie meant that you ran your own record company, DIY all the way, but Derek gave a great example about an artist named Gary Jules, who even though is signed to a major label, he considered him to be an indie artist. And with the argument he gave, I had to agree. Throughout the beginning of the movie I sensed that most independent musician's were a little bitter towards major labels stating that getting signed to a major meant losing creative control. What is creative control to you? Creative control to me means having the final say on how your music is presented and marketed to the world. Otherwise, you're at the mercy of people who might just be looking out for the bottom line and might not care if the way they're marketing you and your music goes contrary to your personal beliefs and who you are as a person. And owning your master recordings doesn't hurt either! Do you think creative control can exist while signed to a major label? Without a doubt, it's starting to happen more and more these days, which is the most amazing thing to me. Obviously there is the example of Gary Jules in the film, who had been selling tens of thousands of records on his own when Universal approached him. He signed a contract on his terms because he had built up a large fan base already, and had some bargaining power, which is what it's all about. Being proactive in your career so that if/when a major label does come knocking at your door, you can dictate the terms to them, and not the other way around. Do you think any of the artists interviewed in the movie would sign to a major label if presented a contract? There are a few that definitely wouldn't, especially someone like Ember Swift, who has sold roughly 50,000 records and plays close to 200 shows a year touring Canada, the US and Australia. She's very happy with her career and I don't think she would ever sign to a major label. But there are definitely some artists in the film that would, and that's fine, it doesn't mean you're 'selling out' or anything ridiculous like that, especially if you're signing on your own terms and can maintain creative control. It all comes down to personal choice, and each person has their own set of beliefs and desires, and if a major label can provide a path to achieving your goals, then go for it. Was there any particular reason why no major label artists were asked what their opinion was on "what is indie"? Going into the film, I felt that being indie meant that you ran your own record company; that yes, you were technically 'unsigned', but you were being proactive and running your own label and getting your music out there, not just sitting around and waiting for a contract to magically appear on your lap. So I didn't feel that major label artists or executives had any place defining what an indie artist was. Of course, my impression by the end of the film changed, and I hope to make a follow-up film that explores these new indie-hybrid artists like Gary Jules. What advice would you give musician's who have asked the question "do I go indie or do I try to get signed?" Again, after making the film, I realized that being 'indie' has nothing to do with being signed or not. An artist can be 'unsigned' but all they want to do is get signed, and will sign the first contract that comes their way, even if it means giving up all control over their careers. On the flipside, an artist like Gary Jules who is signed to major label, I would consider to be indie because he has that indie philosophy and attitude more than many artists out there. So I would just say that in today's music industry, you now have more power and control over your career than ever before, and there are more opportunities for artists to forge their own careers than ever before, so take advantage! Even if you do want to sign to a major label, the best thing you can do for your career is to be proactive and build up a fan base so that you do have some kind of bargaining power with a record label and don't have to sign the first contract that comes your way. A message from Dave Cool: For all of the members reading this, you can visit the following link to get a 20% discount ($16 instead of $20) on the price of the "What is INDIE?" 2-disc package just for using such an awesome service like Bandzoogle: http://www.whatisindiemovie.com/discountstore.cfm. If anyone has any questions, they can always reach me through the film's website at whatisindiemovie.com (hosted by Bandzoogle of course!) Part 2 will appear in next weeks blog.
Posted by Keif on 06/29/2006 | 13 comments

Shopping cart in music store

We've gotten a number of requests to improve the music store feature to allow multiple tracks to be purchased at the same time. It only makes sense, really. If someone wanted to buy 10 tracks from you, you don't want to pay the PayPal transaction fee for each one of them and your customer doesn't want to go through the purchase process 10 times. So, as promised, we just released "version 2" of the music store with this feature in mind. From now on, if you have more than one song for sale in your music store, the tracks will appear with an "Add to cart" button next to them. Once your customer has selected all of the tracks that they want, they click "Buy now" to purchase all of the tracks in a single transaction. Try it out and let us know what you think!
Posted on 06/16/2006 | 19 comments

Refer a friend and get a free month

We keep getting comments from our members saying things like, "we recommend your site to all of our friends." In fact, word-of-mouth referrals is one of the top ways that people find our site. Although we're very grateful for our members' kindness, we've never been able to reward them--until now. From now on you will be rewarded with a free month of Bandzoogle service for every new member that you refer to us! Here's how to get started: - Log into your Bandzoogle controlpanel, and click "Refer a friend" at the bottom left of your screen. - Approve the "Terms and Conditions" - Copy and paste the banners and text links on your site, your MySpace profile, or in emails and instant messages. We can only provide credits for referral using the system from now on (though we really appreciate you spreading the word in the past.) Thanks again for your support!
Posted by Chris on 06/12/2006 | 9 comments

Record sales: Where does the money go?

I remember when new CDs used to cost at least $19.95. Since the whole MP3 and file sharing phenomenon, the prices of CDs has dropped significantly in order to make buyers go out to record stores and buy CDs instead of downloading them for free. After all isn’t that what the consumer wanted? Did they not ever say “If the prices of CDs went down, then I’d buy my music instead of getting it for free and having to deal with the hassle of finding the songs online”? So why did some of the biggest bands in the industry get all riled up over file sharing? Well, to many, the thought was they were pissed off because they would not make as much money as they could. But the truth is many major label artists don’t make a lot of money from record sales. Sure, if you sell 11 million records in the end you’ll have a full wallet, but for many who sell only 500,000 copies (a big achievement in its own right) the money they make isn’t even enough to buy a Honda Civic. This is what many music lovers fail to see. And who can blame them? Unless you know about the music business (which 95% of bands in the world don’t) you won’t realize how little money an artist actually gets even if they are the songwriters of the material found on the record. Let’s break it down for you. In the making of a CD here are the key players and the percentage of sales that they get, Artist (6.6%) Producer (2.2%) Songwriters (4.5%) Distributor (22%) Manufacturing (5%) Retailer (30%) Record label (30%) While these figures are an approximation, they come pretty damn close to the real thing. Now let’s put this to work. Again these are all approximated numbers, but you’ll get the idea. Let’s say your CD is for sale for in stores at $16.00 and that you are a band of 4 that also writes their own material. Your deal is to receive a royalty rate of 11%, but your producer takes 3% of that. So in the end you make 8% net royalty. $16.00 – $8.32 (30% for retailers, 22% for distributors) = $7.68 Let’s round this off to $8.00 (a very optimistic round up by the way) $8.00 - $2.00 (25% for packaging deducted by the label) = $6.00 X 8% = $0.48 So you make $0.50 per CD sold. Now let’s say you sell 500,000 copies. So that means you have $250,000 coming to you, right? Nope. Let’s see what else is taken off. In many cases the record label will take another 15% is deducted for promotional and review copies for radio and magazines. $250,000 – $37,500 (15% for promo copies) = $212,500 In addition to that the record label has to take their royalties. That’s another 30% of $212,500. $212,500- $63,750 (30% for record label royalties) = $148,750 Not as common anymore, but still in practice is the deduction of freebies and returns. What usually happens is that a retail store will X amount of copies, but what happens when they don’t sell? They get returned. And who ends up paying for this? Yup, you guessed it, the artist. $148,750- $14,875 (10% for returns) = $133,875 Then there are recording studio costs that include the engineer, equipment rentals, and studio costs. With the advancements in the digital recording world studio costs have decreased, but let’s just say you spent $75,000. $133,875- $75,000 = $58,875 And who got you the deal? If a manager was involved you can guarantee he will take 20% commission. If you are a multi platinum selling artist then maybe the rate drops to 15%. $58,875- $11,775 (20% to manager) = $47,100 And now let’s say you split the band’s earning evenly. Since there are four members in the band, you’ll split the amount earned 4 ways. $47,100 / 4 = $11,775 So if you ever asked yourself “what’s the big deal with getting music for free instead of buying?”, let the example above shed some light on the answer. The above calculations are for a CD sold today. Keep in mind that back in the day before MP3s, bands could sell their CD for almost $20 giving the band approximately $1.00 for every CD sold instead of $0.50. Pretty dramatic difference if you ask me. Of course record deals and artist royalties differ from contract to contract. The hotter you are prior to signing the better your deal and royalty rate. Also note that retailers benefit less nowadays as the price to make a CD has not changed all that much, yet album prices in stores are getting lower. Do not take the calculations above at face value. They are merely there to give you an idea of how little artists used to make and much less they do today.
Posted by Keif on 06/09/2006 | 19 comments

Free domain renewals

If you've been with Bandzoogle for at least 11 months, you've probably noticed that nagging message in your control panel reminding you to pay $14.95 to renew the domain name that we gave you for free when you signed up. We've decided that sucks. Why should we ask our best members to pay us more money each year? Really, we should be giving you an anniversary gift! So Happy Anniversary! We've decided to foot the bill for your primary domain renewals for as long as you keep your account at Bandzoogle. This will happen every year, automatically--no nagging messages, no big red warnings. There are a few "gotchas", however:
  • We will only renew your primary domain for free--you'll still have to pay to renew any additional domains you have purchased with us.
  • We can only renew domains that were registered through our site. If you're using a domain that you registered elsewhere, I'm afraid you'll still have to renew it yourself.
  • This deal is effective as of today (June 1st, 2006). For those of you who just renewed your domain yesterday, I feel your pain, but you'll have to wait until next year to enjoy the goodness of a free lunch.
  • We are offering you this free renewal with the understanding that you will use that $14.95 to buy Pay-Per-Download tracks from other Bandzoogle members' sites... either that or buy your mom some flowers--she deserves it.
Posted on 06/01/2006 | 34 comments