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Why the music industry doesn’t want to listen to your MP3

You’ve made contact with a music industry professional. Great! But he doesn’t want to visit your website or listen to your MP3 sent by email. Why?

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Here’s a comment recently received on the Audio Masterclass website regarding MP3 demos (edited for brevity and clarity)...

“It's so simple why they don't accept them online. Despite iTunes, a record company sells CDs. The fact that it takes effort to send in a CD to a record company has already filtered out sooooo many people. If it were online any idiot with a VST would be submitting. They are after serious musicians. That guy with a VST may make some pretty god damn fantastic music, but he may not be willing to put in the hours and devote his life to his music and to treat this like a real job, like a business.”

There are several truths in this message. Whether they are truths that are useful and palatable to musicians and the public is irrelevant. We have to work with the industry that exists (while making your lifetime plan to change it into what you want it to be).

True – a record company sells CDs. They don’t like online sales. This may be short-sighted, it may be stupid, but the fact is that they wish the Internet had never been invented. Music industry people relate to CDs; they don’t relate to downloads. Try and get someone to listen to a download and you have already created a barrier.

True – It takes an effort to submit a CD. It takes a bigger effort to submit a factory-made, shrink-wrapped CD with a barcode. So by all means make a CD on your computer. But make it look absolutely as professional as possible. Or get your CD manufactured. Every barrier you remove will help your progress.

True – “Any idiot with a VST would be submitting”. Well, I wouldn’t have put it like this myself. But yes, if you start listening to demos online you soon realize that there are a lot of people who haven’t really made it to a marketable standard yet. Of course “any idiot” could make a CD too. Funny thing is that they don’t. People tend to have got to the marketable stage before the thought of making a CD occurs to them.

True – “Treat this like a real job, like a business”. Very true. Making music is only one component of being successful in the music industry. Like any business you need a product to sell, which is the music. But you need market research, marketing, distribution, sales, customer care (buying the A&R guy a beer perhaps), etc etc. I wonder if there is anyone out there who came to be successful without devoting their entire energy to their musical career?

So, from personal experience I have learned not to bother listening to tracks that are e-mailed to me (unless requested of course), or fruitlessly searching band websites or MySpace pages.

Yes there might be gems out there. But it isn’t a productive use of my time.

However, listening to CDs is another matter. When an artist or band has taken the trouble to raise their career to that level, it is rare for the music to be anything less than an enjoyable experience.

By David Mellor Thursday November 30, 2006
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