I compose music and have now created over 1,000 works. The majority of this music features percussion instruments and sounds that percussionists are often asked to produce (that is any sound that cannot be extracted from other instruments). The music is not mainstream although there is a worldwide audience. I know this from experience as I have promoted the music via a website from the mid 1990s and the music has been sent to North and South America, Europe, Scandinavia and the Middle East as well as the UK.
Some of the works are participatory and are communicated in a written form and others are considered only for recording. This music could be performed ‘live’ but the number of performers required would be financially prohibitive. The accessibility of the music for both the performers and the audience is often a consideration when I am composing and I hope that both parties can appreciate (and enjoy) the results.
The Long Tail (popularised by Chris Anderson and Clay Shirky http://www.longtail.com/about.html) of music is trailing to Pluto and growing by thousands each day with the prospect of any significant income to sustain the creators disappearing into the Kuiper belt. Promoting the music in a cost effective space where you have control of the offer can be far more beneficial for the independent artist.
“Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More” (another book by Chris Anderson) is based on making products more bespoke or personal for the consumer although the offer is still the same product with a few added elements to make a special edition. For many years music was marketed as a product by the record businesses and they invested in the preparation, imagination, development and action (the creative cycle) of composers/musicians to produce the recordings which they could sell as their product.
The change to digital from analogue was seen by businesses as a way to increase sales with new hardware as well as the re-release of material in the new format. The development of more space efficient software and the shopping habits of customers looking for a bargain, or sharing it for free, soon burst that business bubble. This has left many businesses in trouble and many creative musicians having some difficult choices to make.
Do I try to get the record contract that was the golden ticket of the recent past or is that now extinct? Do I speculate on a royalty only return when there are so many other partners wanting a share as well? What can I do now and where might the industry go in the future? Do I go it alone?
I cannot afford to produce disposable, buy for next to nothing, throw away music. I have tried to measure the time spent creating music and for me it roughly equates to one hour of composing equals one minute of music. Even at a conservative estimate of hourly skilled labour rates that would equate to £200 ($310 or €278 at today’s rates) for five minutes of music and that is not including anything for the inspiration or putting it in the right format (recorded or written).
Some websites like Bandcamp or Sellfy could be the way to earn a realistic amount from the music. They take a small commission from a price that you determine rather than having a rigid pricing structure or monthly fee dictating the cost of production. My recordings are on Bandcamp and some of the sheet music can be downloaded from http://Sellfy.com/prbpnews, the printed material is available from the website www.prbpnews.info.
Nor everything gives an income as I promote the music by making some of it freely available on Soundcloud and YouTube. Of course there is a need to market, promote, publicise, network, create an audience base, gig… and any other ways of meeting with and connecting to people that might like, enjoy and use the music. There are also commissions to pitch for, competitions to enter and leads to follow and with all this sometimes time for rest and inspiration.
Thank you to my fellow LinkedIn users for the comments and likes on the 36th anniversary of the publishing company. Back then I wrote, printed and bound the sheet music before setting off to gigs and popping in to the local shops to try and get them to stock the music before I got to the soundcheck or rehearsal. I have a few good contacts left from that time but most of the shops I used to visit have now gone. Not all as a result of the changes in customer habits, in some cases the owners have retired and their businesses are merged with others, although the music shop is becoming an endangered entity.
I would welcome any comments or experiences regarding the state of the composer business or the music business in general and would you stream?
© P.R.Birkby 2015