Archive for the ‘Views’ Category

In response to two bills on the table (Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act), I just emailed this letter to all of my supposed representatives. If these bills become law, our freedoms will be limited and indie artists will have another uneccessary obstacle in our way as the tool we rely on the most becomes restricted. In that light, I encourage everyone to send similar messages to their representatives in the House and Senate.

In the hopes that my supposed representatives in government will actually listen to reason and the voice of their constituents, I strongly discourage the support of SOPA and PIPA. Any bill proposing to restrict people’s internet access and/or content sharing is not only a violation of our freedom and first amendment rights, but also an obstacle to the evolution of our globally-linked culture. The bills are based on obsolete laws that cannot be properly applied to the internet age. I speak, not just as a concerned citizen, but as an owner of intellectual property myself.

I am a small business owner in New York State, working in the arts and entertainment industries. The internet has become my most reliable tool for nearly every aspect of my business. As such, the issues brought up by SOPA and PIPA affect me personally. If people are restricted in their internet access and not allowed to freely share content, then the future of my career and that of other businesses like my own is extremely bleak. In these rough economic times, it’s difficult enough to keep any small business up and running. When we can’t afford other means of marketing and promotion, us in the entertainment industries rely heavily on word-of-mouth exposure and social media sharing to attain new customers and streams of revenue. Don’t let the larger companies convince you otherwise; much like the bills in question, their policies and procedures are based on obsolete ideals from a time long since past.

I could write a book on the subject (one that I would want the world to share over the internet in the knowledge that a certain percentage of those people would indeed buy it), but I know you’re busy, and so I shall sum up my position. If you support SOPA and PIPA, you are encouraging legislation that could potentially make it much more difficult for me and thousands of NY business owners like me to feed ourselves and provide for our families. You will also be displaying a disregard for the freedom of the people you represent and helping to increase social inequality by supporting bills designed to cater to large corporations rather than small businesses. Once again, I urge you to not support these bills or any similar bills in the future. Thank you for your time, and in advance for doing the right thing.

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Canibus has been in the hip hop game for a long time. The fact that he still presses on, despite his disputes with labels and the industry in general, is a testament to the underground and indie spirit. As an artist that embraces the art over the bullshit, I agree with his recent sentiments:

“In my book, sales have never quantified the talent, skill, or the artistry it takes to move someone through lyrics intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. I say this because I recognize and appreciate all of the people that have reached out to me over the years to express their gratitude for the impact my music has had on them, musically and personally. This satisfies me and makes me proud because these side effects of writing, rhyming, recording and having my music spread so far and wide is no small achievement. It’s because of you that I haven’t quit making music.”

Canibus’ new album Lyrical Law drops in a few days. Support real indie music and pre-order it today, featuring production work from Vherbal (who also provided a couple beats on my latest release, Mostly Recycled).

You Get What You Pay For

Posted: May 3, 2011 in Views

As I’ve said in the past, I’ve embraced the idea of giving out a lot of my music for free, because I’d rather do that than have people not listening at all. But let’s be honest here: I’d rather people paid for my music, especially for the albums that I personally fund to record and distribute. Free downloads may have devalued music for many people, as fans often forget that making music is also a business. I’ve never recouped my costs on an album – it’s only the love of my art that keeps me going. So for me, making music is emotionally satisfying but financially damaging. I’m not complaining – it’s my choice to continue on this path – I’m just stating the facts. An indie artist such as myself wants to make every release better, to progress and become more competitive with the other established acts out there. And fans always want more, the die hards eagerly awaiting the next release. But if everybody expects to get music for free, where exactly is the funding supposed to come from for all of this?

This article on EveningTimes isn’t exactly clear on who said the following quote; I believe it’s Alex Kapranos from Franz Ferdinand. But this is sadly the truth right now for all musicians trying to get their music out to the world, indie or signed: “Most people don’t want to pay for their music, therefore don’t pay for new music to be made, which is fair enough. But they can’t expect to hear anything other than tunes recorded on a laptop in a bedroom.”

In the equation Success = making enough money through music to pay the bills, there are many reasons why indies often fall short. Top 3 reasons: lack of business knowledge, lack of perspective and their music sucks. Take a moment and read my full article on Helium.

I don’t normally show love for any major label artists for two reasons: 1. their music usually sucks, and 2. I’d rather support smaller artists that actually need the exposure and don’t have backing from a label. But Lupe Fiasco is a rare exception to both of these principles. Lupe is on Atlantic Records, but he works with them on his own terms, and his fans have his back. He enjoys mainstream success but still speaks from an indie artist’s point of view, even through much of his music. And even while admittedly going for a more commercial sound, he makes deep songs that speak to the listener on multiple levels. The dude is just awesome, a rare breed indeed, and I encourage everyone to go out and buy his new album Lasers. Read this exclusive interview with Music Connection for more insight on Lasers and Lupe’s take on the music business. Recommended for fans, but even more so for indie artists trying to get somehwere with their music without being enslaved to a major label.

Click the pic to preview/purchase the album

Are you a complete tool, driven by the dollar, devoid of your own personality, easily influenced by others, comfortable in slavery and willing to sell your soul to a corporation? Do you enjoy pretending to perform music that has been stripped of all its humanity and creative expression for the financial benefit of fat cats with even less talent than you? Then you just might have what it takes to get a major label record deal. For those of you still clinging onto some amount of dignity and sense of artistic value, here are a few tips to get you closer to the holy grail of shallowness.

1. Stop putting your heart into your music. Your introspective lyrics and meaningful songs are very appreciated by the college kids at the coffee house. But they aren’t the ones funding your album and your tour with an advance that you have to pay back before you receive any royalties. How are you ever going to be a sell out if you don’t have a heavily marketed and pre-packaged product to sell? Real art does not make for good ringtones. Stop being creative and original; embrace the fine art of being catchy and cliché.

2. Stop making music entirely. There is actually no need for you to work on music at all – the label will provide you with producers and songwriters, to decide for you what you will sound like. If you are really lucky, they’ll even perform all of the songs for you on your album. Instead of wasting time making music, concentrate instead on the things that will truly catch the attention of the labels: your image and apparent marketability. Remember, label execs are businessmen, not artists. What do they know about music anyway?

3. Start selling yourself on the corner. Practice makes perfect.

The music industry is currently more competitive than ever before. With single downloads often selling better than full albums, now more than ever labels are looking for short term hits that will generate lots of revenue before quickly burning out. It takes a special kind of person to be gimmicky, materialistic and small-minded enough to have the “it” factor that the Big Four are looking for. It is only through the persistence and dedication to your dreams of being a puppet and a piggy bank that you can get closer to achieving that goal you so deserve: a record deal!

* This is an article I wrote for Helium, published here. Sorry if you suck at sensing satire.

This was a comment I left on an article by Will Bryant on Knocks from the Underground. The article talks about the pros and cons of music piracy/file sharing. You can read the original article HERE. I’ll also add that I’m not saying the independent artist’s path is easy. I know from experience that it can be very rough road.  I just don’t like the industry blaming everyone but themselves for their own failures. Anyway, here’s my three cents on the topic.

As a recording artist myself, I fully recognize the awkward state that the music industry is in today. In the age of MP3s and downloading, artists and labels simply have to adapt or suffer the consequences. Piracy only hurts major labels and their artists, those stuck in the old ways. For indies, file sharing offers the potential of acquiring more fans and in turn more sales. Also note the rhetoric – industry desk-huggers who see songs as potential money makers for the corporation call it piracy, while fans and sites that spread the music for the love of the art call it file sharing. It all depends on perspective and, for artists, how you want to use the situation to further your career.

BTW, “losing money” is misleading corporate language that the industry likes to use. You don’t take money away from labels and artists by downloading music for free, you just don’t give them any. If a major label has invested in an artist/album, it’s generally a whole package including concerts, merchandise, etc. If, in the long run, total revenue doesn’t match projected profit, obviously you need to change your business model. Don’t try to blame the fans, your customers, for your incompetence – you’re the business people. Once again, perspective and adaptation.

Through downloading and social networking, artists today have a more direct connection with fans and more personal resources to spread their music globally. By cutting out middle men, artists stand to make a bigger profit per unit. This means that more artists can enjoy success independently on a moderate amount of sales, enough to pay the bills and continue their careers without compromising their art. And this, I believe, is what the unchanging music industry fears the most: that soon, they may not be needed at all.