Monday, July 14, 2008

Hypebot slaps indie, calls for end to denial

Bruce Houghton on Hypebot has published a list of five lies indie musicians tell themselves. They're solid claims, but miss some of the sry:

1. "The internet leveled the playing field for indie music." - Big checkbooks and the marketing campaigns they buy still have the edge. The internet just opened the door for everyone. It's what you do now that you're in the now overcrowded room that matters.

The point about a level playing field - and the metaphor is has spawned, if not the cliche it has become - is the economic principle of ceteris paribus: all other things being equal. Having a level playing field doesn't mean that Brighton and Hove Albion will be the same in power as Manchester United; it just means that the extraneous factors which might work against them as well have been removed. United would probably still win the match, because they have better players and more cash to spend.

This is quite important when it comes to the shift from physical sales to online stores. The old rules of distribution and access to shelf space in multiple retailers meant that indie records struggled to get in front of an audience. The web has levelled the playing field - indies still don't have the marketing spend and promo budgets of the majors, but they are no longer kicking uphill to actually get records into the shops.
2. "I'm going D.I.Y." - Sorry, but you can't Do It all Yourself. You need a team; preferably an experienced one. Just for starters: manager, agent, web guru, marketing and PR.

Well, yes - but if you restore your own house, it doesn't mean you didn't do it yourself just because you got in a proper electrician and a plumber who knew what they were doing. There's an important difference between selecting your own team and having them answer to you, and having a team imposed on you from within your record label. Maybe Doing It For Yourself, then.
3. "The quality of the music matters more now." - It has always started with a great song...or at least a catchy one. That hasn't changed and neither has the fact that after that it's still about hard work, who your champions are and luck.

Mostly spot-on - although there are more than enough examples of songs which are dreadful which have achieved great success, perhaps because of the effects of sunshine and holiday drink (Agadoo, anybody?) or the habitual purchasing habits of the prematurely middle-aged (Oasis albums #3 onwards).
4. "Now that the FCC ended payola, my music has a chance at radio." - Dream on. There are still gatekeepers and they still don't care about you.

This is correct - although the spread of digital radio and the sale of Clear Channel licences will increase the number of gatekeepers to try your luck with.
5. "My sales suck, but so do everyone else's." Sure the numbers have changed, but if you can't get people to pay something for your music then you've got a problem...with your music.

This just isn't the case at all - since Houghton has just listed four reasons why it's not always easy to turn a talent into a financial success, isn't it possible that you might not make money from your music because your music is bad. It could just be that your marketing sucks. Or maybe you're more interested in making music than building online stores.


Anonymous said...

It's a rather clinical assessment of indie music, isn't it? Then again going through that Hypebot site I'm seeing very little about any actual music. So much for a little thing called art, eh?

Unknown said...

I think Hypebot has some valid points.....but I don't feel its all doom and gloom for the future of online music promotion.

Simon, my name is Rachael and I'm involved with a new music start up, Muzu TV - located at

The site has just come out of beta (well almost) and we're looking to connect with music blogger s to gain opinion and feedback.

If this sounds interesting to you, please drop me a line at
rachael AT hyperlaunch DOT com

Anonymous said...

Come on you super seagulls.


PS: Get that bloody board out of the way.

lehman kartojo said...

Thank you, your article is very good

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