AustralAsian Music Business Conference and free downloads of talks.

The Immedia website has generously allowed some free audio files of the AustralAsian Music Business Conference from several different years and I’ve found some of the stuff very useful.

John Watson, whose company manages Silverchair and other big names in Australia, gave some great pointers for artists and bands in general. He outlined 8 factors needed to establish a viable music career for performers, 2 of which are beyond one’s control, 6 of which are controllable, i.e. you can do something about, and three and a half are to do with music itself.

I won’t give them all away, you can find the file here if the link still connects:

I will, however, discuss a few of the points in general terms. One point is that an artist or band should have a ‘story’ about them, a narrative. Interesting point, because I’ve heard this reinforced before as bands try to promote themselves online. A key to being spread across blogland is to have an interesting story that bloggers want to tell and viewers curious enough to read.

My observation is that, regardless of whether it’s online blogosphere or offline print media, writers and journalists are after one thing: good music. Err, wrong. A good story. You can’t hear the music when you read about the latest artists, and the journos aren’t really interested in hearing or selling or passing on the music, it’s the story they’re interested in (though reviews are more inline with recommending good music as a service).

Is this a cynical observation? Perhaps, but it just seems to be one of the rules of the industry. You’ll often hear about successful performers who are promoted in articles in the media because there‚Äôs an ‘angle’. There are many examples -someone takes up music as a therapy after a tragedy of some sort in their life, so inspires others and goes on to make a living from music. Like someone who is particularly young, or particularly old, or wins a competition, or plays an unusual instrument, or has an intriguing political or social message, or has risen up from dire poverty to be a star.

That’s not to say you can fake it. There’ll be enough scrutiny to know if you’re a fraud. You can’t launch a career on a counterfeit story. But being aware of a story, an ‘angle’, is essential in the music biz, because you’re going to rely on media outlets telling your story and giving you the publicity to allow more people the opportunity to hear your music. In a way, your ‘story’ is not really for the public, but the media, because that’s what they’re looking for.

(Incidentally, new show on Australia television called ‘Hungry Beast’ looks at the media’s thirst for a good story from a bogus think-tank: http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/)

But this was only one factor discussed by John Watson. The others do include the talent. There’s no point getting publicity if you can’t perform well. And he made further points of interest for bands: the vocals are more important than the guitar tone or how well the lead guitarist plays his scales. In guitar-orientated rock people still forget that it’s the singer that really connects on an emotional level.

However, in the new globalised web environment, you can always find a niche -a bunch of people who still like your obscure experimental music. I came across an arts magazine about a guy who plays a chard of glass for a musical instrumental. I checked it out on Youtube. It’s very experimental and very noisy -like a guitar that constantly lets our feedback wailing. I wouldn’t go see him, but he can find his niche now.

And following this point, John Watson discussed some factors beyond one’s control: timing and luck. But surely that’s more of the ‘old’ music industry where there’s only one path for artists via the major labels and their physical distribution. Back then it was all about fads from grunge to boy-bands, because the majors made money off the promotion of the top acts (you can hear about all this in Jeff Price’s talk from the same Immedia site). Being part of a scene, or discovered by A&R execs could catapult an artist.

But in a ‘DIY’ world, the artists, bands and performers can set up their own distribution and networks, reducing the factor of luck somewhat. And it’s less a factor of timing, because there’s an audience for any style of music to be found around the world.

I’ll leave you with a cartoon about how the rules of music appreciation are changing…

Yo peoples


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