Hey, new bands: Stop putting out albums

radiohead-ep-monday.jpg
Take it from these non-failed musicians: Don't put out that album.
Ask a Failed Musician is a new column from our sister music blog at Dallas Observer, in which Daniel Hopkins helps struggling musicians make sense of their careers and offers advice. Whether or not it will work, who knows? It obviously didn't work for him. But then again, he was on Kimmel once, so there's that.

To kick this thing off, rather than answering a troubled musician's query, I'll simply give advice to all new bands who are embarking on a musical venture that will result in probable good times and almost certain commercial failure.

Don't put out an album. Seriously. Stop it. Established bands backed by massive marketing machines like U2 or Radiohead can afford to do it. You cannot. Here's the scenario:

You and your bandmates work for a long time to make an album. Some bands can do it in six months, others take longer than a year. It will be expensive, too. You release the album and maybe someone in the local media reviews it.

Then, after a few months, it sinks in: Nobody cares anymore. You have no new music to put out because you just threw every song you had on some expensive record, and you've dropped below the radar.

Sure, you can trick things up by playing the occasional high-profile gig, but how do you keep the public interested long enough to put out another album?

You don't. But here's another solution:

Put out singles, or at the very most, EPs. Putting out a new set of two or three songs every three months is more likely to keep people interested. Put the music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud so people can stream it. Don't worry about giving away your music. If you're a new band, you're not going to make much money on it anyway.You need to build your audience, and the best way to do that is to stay in their periphery. 

That's how I almost didn't fail. My band would give away free CD-Rs at every show. It didn't necessarily work for us, but it might work for you.

If you want to make money, contact an independent licensing company like Blue Water Music and see if you can get a track in a commercial or TV show. "That's selling out," you might say. Well, once you've failed at music long enough, you realize there's no such thing as selling out.

Of course, if your music is bad, my words won't be of any help. After all, I was only on Kimmel once.

Write in to Ask a Failed Musician here. Ask anything you like. I will do my best to help you not fail also.



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24 comments
DKinMN
DKinMN

@nallo I want to talk to that person and anyone who agrees with him. Unless my hasty reading missed the satire.

DKinMN
DKinMN

@nallo That is bulllllssshhhiiittt.

jonschober
jonschober

@nallo I erased my previous comment. It's easier to just facepalm.

jonschober
jonschober

@nallo Oh God, this makes me ashamed of the Dallas Observer and being from North Texas. This is why local music there gets limited support.

put_some_ranch_on_it
put_some_ranch_on_it

Today's moral: It's all a waste of time if you don't get your music remarked upon by the media.

reynolds022
reynolds022

@ismybandcool @rockthecause @gimme_noise It's tough to sum up my thoughts in just 140 characters! haha

reynolds022
reynolds022

@ismybandcool @rockthecause @gimme_noise I don't think it costs too much to record a quality LP anymore. If you're good, you'll get noticed.

lazyguy
lazyguy

This is crap. Release whatever you think is going to make the best body of art. If like noted, that no one will give a shit about it, AND it will be expensive either way, then you may as well put out something you're proud of and that makes sense as a cohesive piece of work. The idea that you should release a few songs here and a few songs there solely to keep public interest, discounts the point of the whole damn thing. If you want to make a record, make a fucking record.  

ejmarti
ejmarti

@citypages but don't stop making music, start charging if they want to download.

ejmarti
ejmarti

@gimme_noise I would take this Ito account also. http://t.co/ZVn5PFwt each piece of advice should be taken with more than a grain of salt.

Mark Jensen
Mark Jensen

Thank gawd for the quality of a home studio and sites like bandcamp to keep the dream refreshed!

havesomesense
havesomesense

Bands also put out way too much material. Spend your time on singles and videos. Once upon a time, one local band put out four albums in a year. Ridiculous. It's a fine PR stunt, but you're diluting your talent.

nallo
nallo

@DKinMN If only there was satire contained therein... My reaction was guttural.

nallo
nallo

@jonschober Hahah

ismybandcool
ismybandcool

@reynolds022 @rockthecause @gimme_noise Ha! I know, yeah, I could comment on most parts of that piece - in agreement or disagreement.

ismybandcool
ismybandcool

@reynolds022 @rockthecause @gimme_noise Yeah, I don't think the album is financially out of reach for most artists.

AJasken
AJasken

@ejmarti Exactly! Get out and play! People will always relate free to being either cheap or that their going to get screwed some other way.

DKinMN
DKinMN

@nallo Perhaps we should write a rebuttal.

nallo
nallo

@DKinMN a band's full skillset/style/etc.

nallo
nallo

@DKinMN new albums coming out, to listen to, support, etc. Singles, while they are lower-commitment, don't give a very clear picture of

nallo
nallo

@DKinMN Not a bad idea—feel too busy to do a great job, but I'd mainly focus on what it means as a local music fan, and musician, to have

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