How to be an Outlaw and INDIE in a MAJOR way.
Being indie in a major way is a concept that caused a lot of grief for me over the years. However, as the machine – or business of music – begins to go through an extreme metamorphosis this concept is taking on new meaning and drawing the attention of more people as time goes by. I often hear music professionals and industry kats say, “What does it mean to be major in an indie way.” First, get it right: INDIE in a MAJOR way.
Quite simply, indie in a major way means to be an Outlaw and go against the grain without any recourse for what others think, but there's more to the formula. To illustrate, the indie scene is gaining momentum and making people recognize it is something to understand or consider when framing one’s business strategy or professional career. I stress that being an Outlaw is great and the rewards are amazing, especially if one is professional and producing commercially consumable product.
To sign, or not to sign….. that seems to be the not so million dollar question these days. I say, “If you win and no one loses, SIGN IT, SIGN IT, SIGN IT, or run the risk of living the 360 disease [as I term it] if you have the skills and politics in your corner.” The 360 disease is better known as a 360 deal wherein the label fronts revenue to the band or artist to be recouped over the course of the agreement or lifetime of the record, and then keeps 360 degrees of all revenue during the lifespan of the product. It can be argued, this type of 360 deal makes you a slave to the grind but for some it is a viable option.
In the land of independence, I had the opportunity to meet and work with the Red Dirt Rangers, whose sound is indescribable and diverse yet oh so entertaining, and they are the embodiment of INDIE in a MAJOR way; these guys pioneered the road for folks like me and the Outlaw Gang. As Brad Piccolo said to me before a press conference in March to announce the Backwoods Bash, “To heck with being told what to do and high falutin’ ways; keep your independence.” John Cooper went on to tell independent musicians, “Value your craft and live YOUR dream; it’s tough but the rest takes care of itself.”
If you dare to be an Outlaw this means it’s time to “Do It Yourself” (DIY) if you want to be successful and follow the footprint that has been left by the likes of the Red Dirt Rangers and many other independent pioneers who do not bow down to the corporate antics and politics of building a revenue stream to monetize your music. John Cooper graciously elates, "Music is for everyone." It cannot be controlled by corporations.... Napster and Limewire are proving that theory in the digital age.
And, more importantly, if you decide to go down the path of independence, you damn sure better “Do It Yourself” and do it RIGHT (DIY_R).
When people find out I have worked in NYC and LA to produce albums on iTunes and other digital distribution networks, as well as placed music in terra based stores, they want to be my friend and get my unadulterated help. As a professional who has forged my own way and helped many bands and producers, there is nothing more despicable than some shcmo giving me a home CD labeled with a Sharpie marker that is illegible and then asked, “Can we do business?” For the love of God people…. have some class.
In regard to album covers, I want so often to ask, “Has your mother seen this?”
And I often times wonder if their mother did see the artwork, did she put it on the fridge with a magnet? Or, is it the other extreme of the spectrum where the musician is so potentially embarrassed of what mom might think that she never sees the album cover design – thus a different kind of failure in design and import. At any rate, the bottom line is album sales and the only way to accomplish success is to FOCUS ON YOUR IMAGE.
Let me stress, image is everything. So, if you are going to use Photoshop or a Windows based image editor to design your own album cover….. please do it right.
I have always advocated and believed that fans, customers, clients or whatever you want to call them need to feel the need to interact with the music and/or product. On some level they need to feel a desire or impulse to “click here” or move their experience through what I call the “Wal-Mart scratch and sniff” test. If the music or album cover doesn’t look or feel like everything else you see in the store, there will most likely not be an interaction or a sale.
One more note on success: relationships. Real-lationships. Do not burn bridges, go out of your way to make amends or remedy the situation. Walk away and ignore those who have done you wrong but never, never burn a bridge. You never know when you will need to cross paths with that person. However, if you do encounter that one individual that is just plain despicable, simply turn the other cheek and remember what the rabbit Thumper said in the movie Bambi said, “If you can’t say somethin' nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
Lastly, yes, my friends, even relationships have to be built and managed by yourself in the world of independent music and they have to be done right (DIY_R). Trevor
During the research and preparation of this article, I came across several interesting articles that may or may not have any direct bearing on the creation of this piece of work. The only piece of advice with the articles below is keep it real and if you’re going to be an Outlaw go out with guns o’ blazing…. The right way!
What if Hip Hop Was Governed: http://www.101distribution.com/article/rap-files-18
Clear Channel Killed the Indie Artist: Caught Red Handed? http://www.futureofmusic.org/blog/2007/07/09/clear-channel-threatens-indie-artists
Indie Success Video?