Spotify Offer Nothing For Indie Artists
The other day I read an article by music historian Ted Gioia who draws attention to Spotify’s growing problem with fake artists. Many subscribers to streaming services will rotate playlists without ever noticing who they are listening to.
Production studios churn out lots of Muzak. Then publish it all under different artist names on the streaming services. In some cases the operation is run by major labels. Indie artists meanwhile, who pay between £20 and £40 to digital distributors to be on Spotify, are inevitably drowned out by the fakers.
This creativity damaging model also suggests that digital distributors are in reality exploiting indie artists, who never stand a chance of getting significant traction on streaming outside of their core fan base. Of course it’s not difficult to see where the likes of Spotify are heading. Podcasts, games, rivals to YouTube or TikTok. Music itself becomes a bit-part player.
Most People Are Not Telegenic Influencers
What can upcoming and future indie musicians do to counter this assault on their livelihoods? Creativity in music isn’t going away anytime soon, including live performance and recordings. Artists should focus on building their own businesses through subscription models and merchandising. Bandcamp is currently the main provider here.
Digital distribution should perhaps be viewed by indie artists as an administration cost, rather than a root to success. It’s a service to your fans who have no choice in the matter. The Bandcamp app is not as slickly designed as the Apple Music or Spotify apps. Though it should be and I hope that Epic Games invest something to improve Bandcamp’s apps.
Musicians are often encouraged to diversify into influencer-style content, such as tutorials, podcasts or just chatting to a camera. The reality is that most people are not comfortable being on camera every day. While we are happy to perform music at a venue or even make a music video, we are certainly not all skilled, telegenic presenters.
Varying Your Music Recording Experience
Recording artists need experience in a recording studio. Basic knowledge of mic placement, reverb, compressors and EQ. Digital workstations such as Logic or Pro Tools mimic traditional analog recording set-ups anyway. Studying sound design can help you improve your mixing skills too. Music software shouldn’t hamper a musicians ability to create music.
Musicians like to freely express their sense of timing, rhythm and musical structure without distractions. Industry standard software is generally easy to use out of the box. Inertia in digital recording can arise due to an overload of effects choices and competitor plugins. When all we want to do is focus on composition and playing our instruments.
Perhaps todays creative industries rely too heavily on people knowing the right tools. Rather than what you can actually produce or create with limited technology? Designers and musicians alike stress over what the latest industry standard software is. I often prefer to be ignorant of how a plugin works, which sometimes generates unique sounds.
Your Ears And Imagination Are Your Toolkit
You can also learn a great deal by studying your favourite artists recordings. I’ve been doing this since childhood. I am as fascinated by how music is recorded as how it is written or performed. It’s crucial that you strive to capture feel in a recording, it’s what listeners pick up on, stirs their emotions. This only comes from human intervention, with whatever technology you record with or whatever style of music you make.
Artificially intelligent music is already possible, where ambient soundscapes can take on a life of their own. However, writing programs to generate pop songs begins to leave me feeling cold and useless. AI music may soon fill most Spotify playlists.