Musings on POD Publishers & Music Business – Part 1

About fifteen or more years ago, I set up a music band management and promotions business with a work colleague. It just struck me recently about the similarities between publishing now and what we did then. With the advent of digital Print-on-demand publishing, it seems to be that in the past 8 years, so many more authors are following the trend followed by many musical artists years ago.
Let us be clear, POD and subsidy/vanity publishing, whatever you wish to call it, and there is considerable debate about what actually differentiates the terms, effectively means, the author, (read musical artist), contributes in a financial capacity, as well as a marketing capacity, to the production and promotion of their book (read artistic work). While the traditional and Independent publishing world argue the toss over the credibility and acceptability of the artistic output (read product) in the consumer world, time and technology march effortlessly on.
So where exactly are we? Why is it acceptable that a recording artist can go into a studio, without a recording contract, invest in a producer/sound engineer, produce a digital format of an album of songs and go to a professional press-production label, without the promise of a “contract” and, yet, be accepted as a legitimate musical artist. While the argument might be that the band/artist is effectively “self-publishing” by printing their own musical performance posters, submitting themselves to radio stations/tv stations, without formal representation, they are still taken seriously by the high street retailer.
I have worked in the music promotions business, and I can only speak of Ireland and the uk, where a band/artist can present a finished studio product to a distributor (read book wholesaler) and they will gladly fulfill the product to stores without little question. I can vouch for both retailers and logistical distribution, as I have also worked for many years as a manager in both environments and that this is a natural and practical understanding of the product flow of musical artistic endeavours.
My company took bands from a launching point and did everything from booking studio time, looking after the production and presentation of a demo for radio/tv stations, or record labels, gig bookings, as well as general consultation for artists. Our brief and task was to take a band or artist to a stage where they were presented professionally.
When I compare the publishing world and the music world, it seems there is at least a 10 to 15 year development gap between the two. In POD publishing, its the small unknown writer who is challenging and doing things differently, looking for independence, and prepared to financially invest at risk of failure. This is the way it was musically 15 years ago. So if we can look at music and see a direct thread as to where the future is going, it looks pretty interesting.
Forget about the small guy in music, Radiohead, and other so-called stadium rock bands are now releasing download only albums. The biggest selling single last year 2006-7 was Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, originally released as a download only single. More and more musical artist are being only signed up by big record labels, sometimes long after they have come to widespread prominence by their own promotional endeavours. The reality is that most musical artists have a huge personal prominence long before the ever sign to a major musical label. There’s little work for the label to do other than expand across continents and make the letters bigger on the billboards.
What future then for the writer, tune in for part two!
(this post was previously published on this blog and elsewhere)

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