Finding Places to Play…

Seems to me that in order to become successful as a musician, you need to be heard, right?  You need to be able to go out and play publicly so that someone, somewhere out there will hear you and love you and want–no, demand!–to hear you again.

But in some cities it’s getting increasingly difficult to find places to play. Some venues have stopped hosting open mics due to laws that require them to pay a fee should copyrighted cover songs be performed. Of course, there’s also the issue of loud music causing complaints from peeps in the neighborhood, finding space for musicians and their equipment to perform within the venue, etc. While large venues that host famous pop bands continue to thrive, smaller venues that give the aspiring artist a chance are disappearing–nonexistent in some areas.

But something even more sinister than government regulation is preventing many musicians from being heard. I’m referring to addiction to corporate music. (Just for entertainment, I’ll dub this CCM-Addiction, Corporate-Controlled Music addiction.) Yep, most Americans only want to hear the songs they’ve heard before, over and over again, on their corporate-controlled radio station. They want to hear celebrity music, not new, original music from an unknown artist. I’m not attacking these artists or their listeners. In fact, I’m one of them. I certainly have my favorite pop artists. (I’ve even liked a Britney Spears song. Sh-h-h… Let’s keep that our little secret, eh?)

But as an independent music who is not rich and famous, I struggle with finding a way to make my music heard by the masses so that I too can find my place in the sun. If you’re an undiscovered musician, I’m sure you fell the same way. Venues are disappearing for many of us indie-original musicians.

So what’s an indie artist to do?

I suppose the answer lies within the deep, dark recesses of the Internet. The Internet is still relatively democratic. Most anyone can post a video on Youtube, DailyMotion, etc., or post their songs on SoundCloud, ReverbNation, etc.

But if you want to be heard, popular cover songs must be included in the repertoire. (Learned this the hard way, folks.) It’s difficult with today’s restrictive copyright laws, but I’ve seen lots of musicians post videos online of their cover song performances. As long as you give credit to the original artist and don’t attempt to make money off of it, I believe this is okay.

But just posting your own original music online… Well, I’m afraid it’s not to easy to get listeners for that.

We also need more locally-run, independent radio stations. I know of a few across the US (KFAI in Minneapolis, for example.) But not all cities have one. Ideally, a radio station that plays both popular songs and songs performed by undiscovered artists will enable indie artists to be heard.

There are also cable access (a.k.a. public access) TV stations across the US. Some have been shut down but a few still remain. One can make videos of one’s band and submit it as a TV show or, better yet, find a cable access TV show that highlights undiscovered bands and submit a video of your band to that show.

But let’s face it, most people aren’t going to listen to local, undiscovered, unsigned indie artists. They want to hear their favorite celebrities on the air. I’m not saying this is how things should be. I’m just saying this is how things be. Sometimes we artist types have trouble acknowledging the harsh realities. I’m not ready to “sell out” as they say. But I know that I’m not going to go far just marketing my original songs. I’m going to have to play other people’s songs and in that way reel listeners in, hoping they’ll check out my own original work too.

Just my twenty-two cents, of course. (Adjusted for inflation. Two cents is way, way out of date, mon ami.)



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