The organic lifestyle movement has highlighted both an inconsistency and and opportunity for independent musicians.
As independent musicians we are creators of a local organic product – yet the marketplace still treats us as inferior to the mass produced corporate rock. If we can figure out a way to make music in a more sustainable way by staying local and relying on internet marketing and webcasting we can accomplish three main goals: (1) We can make our lives more balanced and sustainable in the long term; (2) By living more balanced lives, we can better grow and develop as people, which will make our music better because our songs will emanate from a more varied perspective; and (3) We can reduce our carbon footprint and be more engaged with our local community in our music-making.
Some musicians and types of music were born to thrive on the road, but ultimately the road sucks the life out of many musicians and therefore often degrades the quality of their music. In hard economic times like now and with gas prices being what they are (or will be again at some point) it makes sense to look at alternative ways to market ourselves.
How does a musician grow a national fan base without touring? That is the question of the day. You must of course fully tap into the local fans of live music, so you can have a steady fan-base to support your music and spread the word. But you also must connect with fans further afield – those that live beyond an hours drive to the show, or those that might not be able to see music on a Thursday night at 11pm. This is obviously where the internet comes in, with sites like MySpace, Tribe, Facebook furthering the movement of connecting musicians to fans who can’t see you live. But I sense that this isn’t enough, so my gut feeling is that we are just around the corner of finding better solutions here. Perhaps more pervasive high speed internet and full connecitivity on the go (iPhone apps, etc) will help move this process along to where it needs to be.
The challenge is creating a career that is local and sustainable, and one day soon we will not all need to live out of a bus to “make it” in the music business.
As for music fans, please consider this the next time you spend $40 or even $90 for ticket to see a nationally known act, and compare your experience and enjoyment of that show with seeing a favorite local show. If you find that the local show proves to be just as enjoyable, then express your support by purchasing the band’s CD, T-Shirt or other paraphernalia. Buying a CD and passing it on to a non-local friend would be even better (or gifting them a digital version, the best option). You’ll not only get to increase awareness of great local music, but you’ll be supporting a sustainable lifestyle in the process.