M: There is an incredible book entitled “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson that deals with the internet-age phenomenon of the shrinking “hits” and growing number of indie successes. If you’re interested in this topic, that book is a must-read.
Although there is a ton of competition in the music world (signed or unsigned), there are a many successful unsigned and indie artists, far too many to name here. Some go it alone, some sign unique deals with existing labels, and some start their own label. For example:
You may not know Joe Purdy, but this guy has reportedly sold 650,000 singles on iTunes, and he’s unsigned. According to topspin.com, Mr. Purdy bought himself a home and makes a great living, and hasn’t signed with a major. Since he’s independent, he retains the rights to the music and doesn’t have to share in the ways “signed” artists do, so he makes a LOT more per sale.
One Day As A Lion, Lyrics Born, and Tim Fite are some of the many artists signed to ANTI Records…I’ve heard their record contracts don’t look much like the typical record contract. With a free-thinking indie, the contractual timeline may be as short as one album (as opposed to, let’s say, seven). A short-term deal is a very appealing offer for the artist: if everything is working well, you CHOOSE to stay with the label. If it doesn’t work, you leave.
Ani Difranco has made a legendary career on her own for almost 20 years. By putting out her own records through her record label, Righteous Babe Records, she has been able to speak on topics that a major might be afraid to get behind, release records on her own schedule, and experiment with a variety of media and ideas that arguably work best outside the major label system.
Remember, the major labels may want you to think they’re the best (or the only) option, but the playing field is leveling out more every day. So, with all due respect, there is an untrue statement above: “it’s just not possible yet to make a good living being indie.” I’m happy to tell you: it absolutely is, and it’s getting even better.
Posted by MURRY (“Breaking Your Band”) – This guy, Nate, was talking about something funny that happened to his band…They had been selling their album through one of those websites…He said he Googled his band and found their album for sale on some random website for fifteen dollars, which is way more than it usually goes for…How do you protect against that sort of thing without the support of a label and its many lawyers?
M: Unfortunately, the only way I know of stopping that is to have an attorney send a “Cease And Desist” warning. It basically looks like this. http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/contract/cease.htm You can try to send the letter to them yourself, but generally a letter from an attorney will scare people more. And you should want to scare them as much as you can; what they’re doing is illegal.
If you think about it, if you’re planning on selling music, you’re probably going to run into these issues, so it might be a good idea to hire a music attorney (don’t hire a regular attorney, the music biz will be out of their realm of knowledge). I sent your post to our (Linkin Park’s) attorney, who responded with the following:
“Most bands come to us through other bands, agents, managers or business managers. A few find us on their own by looking at liner notes and stuff. Attending music conferences is also a good way to network. The AFM, ASCAP/BMI, etc. are also sources of information.”