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Does indie music really mean shitty music? 

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I’ve heard it often: Indie music means bad sounding music, in other words, it’s shitty!

First, indie music is often confused with music recorded in a garage by inexperienced musicians with little or no knowledge of recording and mixing, and sometimes less than adequate equipment. 

It’s also confused with a genre that would be some kind of lo-fi punk alternative.
This is why, more often than not, I would use the term “unsigned” rather than “indie” to talk about independent music, recorded by talented musicians and producers all around the globe, in every possible genres you can imagine.

Now, while it’s true that some of it can sound bad, it’s detrimental to think that all of it does, and I would argue that more and more, with the prices and quality of recording gear and digital audio workstations (DAW for short) being so affordable nowadays, and tons of resources on how to record and mix, the end result is getting better and better and more and more unsigned artists are producing quality music.

Still, there are some things that contributes to the myth:

1/ the fact that people are listening on devices that are less than adequate to get a good sound (phones, tablets and laptops speakers are not meant to be hi-fi, and even most bluetooth smart speakers are too often synonym of lo-fi, no bass, mono sound)

2/ streaming platforms and internet radios are using low rates* mp3 quality to air the music, this is because bandwidth has a cost, in terms of speed, and also in terms of prices when it comes to the power of computers able to sustain hundreds or thousands of listeners in a continuous stream. This power cost also translates directly to services costs that radios are subject to.

* streaming rate is measured in kbps, short for kilo bits per second, this is the amount of data that is used to reproduce the sound - the higher the better, up to 320 kbps which is the upper limit and almost lossless.

Now there is a reason why most streaming platforms (like SoundCloud, Spreaker, or even Spotify in their free tier) and most internet radios are streaming at 128 kbps mp3 or more. They have recognized that this is the absolute minimal limit when it comes to listenable quality. Anything under that rate is creating so much artifacts and distortion to the sound that it’s barely recognizable anymore.

Check out this example of a snippet compressed at 128 kbps and the same snippet compressed at 64 kbps. You will hear the enormous difference between the two, check out how muffled the 64 kbps mp3 sounds, how much the cymbals are drowned in a kind of swirling phase artifact, and how horrible this truly is, it’s even worse that cassettes were back in the 80s…
No matter what device you are using I bet you will be able to hear the difference!

You can go back and forth between two snippets in the player below (opens in a new tab/window):

Compression comparison

To me the 64 kbps version is hardly listenable. I wouldn't want my music to sound this bad, I bet most indie artists will agree.

Anyway, when you’ll hear a shitty sound don’t just assume the source music itself has been poorly recorded and mixed, check that the streaming rates you are served are not below the minimum of 128 kbps, I and every unsigned artists striving to produce great sounding records will thank you!

License to steal 

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The indie world is full of wonders! No, really! Every day, if you are an unsigned artist, you will get at least a dozen of marvelous opportunities in your mailbox, or via social media private messages… It’s amazing how everyone wants you on their platforms or radio, amazing how many people want to promote your music, and bring you in front of millions of potential fans!

Turns out that all of these so called opportunities are click baits and you will soon learn that for the discounted price of $$$ (they accept Paypal!) you will be the new star of a social media no man’s land, guaranteed!

I must be getting old, because I will repeat what my mama used to say: when it sounds too good to be true, it usually is! That’s right, if you look closer, all of these wonderful opportunities turn out to not much… but hey, they are at a discounted price!

If you are new to this business, you will quickly learn to discard all these scams, they are not that hard to distinguish, really!

What might be a bit harder to wrap your head around are the countless platforms and radios who are not asking money upfront. You might think: “Great! These are not the scammers, finally! These are real genuine music lovers and they are going to help me reach an audience”.

Now is the right time to read the fine prints. 

They usually have that kind of things on a form you will need to sign or agree to when you submit, or as a “terms of use” on their website. Don’t skip that reading! There’s a lot of boring boiler plate stuff, but there’s usually a paragraph about Intellectual Property, or Ownership, or License, or License Grant, or something that defines who owns what, and what you agree to when submitting as pertaining to your content.

USER TERMS - LICENSE

Here’s one of these paragraph, taken randomly from a radio website (that shall remain unnamed - XXX below -, but believe me, there are countless of the same clauses in the “terms of use” everywhere on a big majority of these platforms and radios), so here is just one example:

“With respect to any Content posted by or in connection with the Products and Services, you hereby grant XXX a WORLD-WIDE, ROYALTY FREE, IRREVOCABLE, PERPETUAL license, alone or together or as part of other information, Content and/or material of any kind or nature, to use, copy, modify, publish, edit, translate, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, and otherwise EXPLOIT such Content (specifically including through streaming, podcasting, online/broadcast and satellite radio, suggested playlists and user playlists, but specifically excluding through phonograph records), to publish and promote such Content in connection with the particular Products and Services (including, without limitation, for advertising and promotional purposes), to publish and promote such Content elsewhere within XXX or any other XXX website through links to XXX, and to SUBLICENSE such rights through multiple tiers of sublicenses, all without any obligation to you, whether by way of compensation, attribution or otherwise. Such license shall apply with respect to any form, media, or technology now known or hereafter developed.

I have highlighted here the part that they especially DON’T want you to pay too close attention to. Read it again. Let it sink in!

What this basically says is that you are granting these people the perpetual, irrevocable right to do anything they want with your music, to use as they see fit on their platform/radio or any other that they might be affiliated to and might create later. They might use it and license it somewhere else, without your knowledge and you will have no recourse against that. They will have NO obligation to you, not even the obligation to say that this is YOUR music. In short, it’s the good old “all your data are belong to us” again!

So I suggest you read all these “term of use” very closely. Each time you submit your music somewhere. You might have already submitted somewhere with these kinds of terms. I’m pretty sure you did, because they are everywhere. Now is time to think of how much you want that supposed exposure, are you prepare to forfeit your rights to your own music perpetually and irrevocably? What kind of compensation will you actually get from it?

So, again, think long and hard about where you put your music, because otherwise one of these days you will realize that they might not have a license to kill, but you might have granted them a license to steal!

The value of music 

You will hear it everywhere, from all sorts of sources: people don’t buy music nowadays! And truth is, why would they? When you can stream music for free everywhere, right?

Still there are indications that there are some people still buying music, which gives some hope for its future.

First was a report from Bandcamp (an indie music store) that boast 73% revenues increased for 2017 - so surely some people have bought some music…

Another trend (and something I would myself call a fad, but one that is significant of a slight change in listeners’ habits), is the unlikely rise of vinyl records sales. Personally, I don’t believe at all that vinyl sounds better, because it’s a proven myth that has no scientific justification, but the fact that people are buying them again is significant to a certain attachment to an object, and what it represents… Albums in particular were once seen as treasures and something we enjoyed discovering, something we placed value in. 

Anyway, again this proves that some people are buying music and are finding value in it and in the artists who have made it.

So I believe that if artists stopped devaluating their own music by giving it for free and for streaming altogether, this would further incite people to buy their music. If artists started seeing value in their own music, others too would see it again as something of value. 

Now that’s a thought!

Pick of the week 

Starting this Wednesday I will appear on KB Radio “The House Party” during the indie show that airs from 8pm EST to midnight.

For those of you who don’t know KB Radio and this particular show, its motto “What Radio Used To Be” sums it up nicely: it is a radio that air great music 24/7 like it used to be. With a veteran host, Al Yardy, who cares deeply about music and has decided to share his passion all over the globe animating shows with his legendary laid back approach that is sure to please all listeners.

The indie show itself is 4 hours of interview, new indie submissions, top 10 charts and fun banter on twitter. You have to be there to believe it, it truly is "The House Party"! :)

I’ve been in touch with Al for a while because we share a similar vision (and taste) when it comes to indie music and I proposed to do a short segment every Wednesday where I will introduce a new song every week. Al graciously embraced the idea. I will choose a song from an artist that has not been played on KB Radio but that I believe should be heard, it might also be a deep cut/different song from an artist/band that is already familiar to KB Radio listeners.

I hope this will give KB Radio listeners a taste of some more great music to discover. To that effect, I will host a page here on my website where I will put links to the artists/bands I presented, for you to follow and explore.

The Extreme Tour 

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WARNING: I haven't had any direct experience with these guys, except for a couple email exchanges. It looks like they are asking for a submission fee for an audition which I'm not sure I agree with, but they justify it in their FAQ. See the exchanges below in the comments with a few artists who have been dealing with them one way or another and make your own opinion...

A little while ago, I’ve received an email from the “Extreme Tour” to perform and take part in their worldwide tour, they said they were researching artists and came across my website… The irony of it is that, as I’ve said before, I don’t gig and have absolutely no intention to do so.

First, I’m a recording artist, and my pleasure is in writing, arranging, recording, producing, mixing in my studio. I’m a studio rat, and this will likely never change. Add to that the fact that since I’m performing all the instruments it would be a little bit difficult to do on stage. And quite frankly I’m not one to do simple acoustic/vocal tunes either. It’s just not my thing.

So, I was sorry to have to decline the opportunity, especially when I learned a bit more about what these people are doing. They propose to make the world a better place with indie music. I mean that is pretty great a goal and I’m all for it, really, so I decided that I would support them any way I could.I thought that it would be a good to write this blog post to point this out to other artists that could be interested.

The idea is that they create events all over the globe, inviting indie musicians to take part and perform. All the proceeds of these concerts go to help local communities and especially associations that aim to “reach at-risk and counter culture youth with services and resources that would assist them in making positive, as well as healthy, decisions for a successful life”. I’d say that a worthy cause.

As artists, you would not get paid for these concerts, but you would get “food and lodging provided for at each performance date”, and you can decide what dates and what places you can/want to go to. So as well as doing a good deed and not being out of your pocket for it, you could perhaps also find a new audience at these events!

So if anyone is interested, I suppose the best is for you to check the Extreme Tour web site - they have a FAQ page that should explain things better than I do, then you can apply online here or contact them via email for more information at  xtartistrelations@gmail.com

Eclectic Underground 

Today I thought it was time to tell you about the Eclectic Underground

I have always said everywhere that I was proud and happy to be independent. Meaning no label is going to tell me what music I should record, no producer is going to tell me how it should sound, no one but me is responsible for the music I do.

I cherish that freedom and would not trade it for all the fame and money of the world. As an artist I want to be able to explore my own ways, my own sounds, my own style. One example of that is the new album that I just released which is resolutely different from the previous EP. I know people might not follow me on that but genres are irrelevant to me. I do the music I love, and I leave you to call it whatever you want…

So, you might ask why I joined this collective of artists who all come from different background, different music and different tastes? Is it a label?

The fact is that I also share a lot of ideas with these people. Mainly that we, as indie artists, want to share and care and that we’re all in it together. I wrote a few times about that already and still believe it strongly.

So I totally adhere to the Eclectic Underground motto, which is “A collective of like minded but musically individual indie bands and artists. Not so much a label more a mutually beneficial musical commune.”

As Erin At Eleven said so well on her own blog: “We believe in writing, recording and producing our own music. We support one another & other independent artists we like.” - Yay to that!

You can find us on Bandcamp at https://eclecticunderground.bandcamp.com/ and hear a sample of the diversity in our collective here: https://eclecticunderground.bandcamp.com/album/eclectic-underground-sampler

I wish more indie artists will join us soon and share and care with us!

Opting out 

Things are not going well in the music industry…. That’s an understatement. The truth is that things are pretty screwed up in the music industry… That’s also an understatement!

More people need to realize what artists get paid by streaming platforms for their hard work. More people should care!

The cold numbers (per play)
Napster pays $0.0167
Tidal pays $0.0110
Apple Music pays $0.0064
Google Play pays $0.0059
Deezer pays $0.0056
Spotify pays $0.0038
Pandora pays $0.0011
Youtube $0.0006 (IF you monetize)

To get on these platforms you also have to go through a distributor, for example CD Baby, which takes 19% of these royalties… On top of the fixed price for the entry ticket of course, which varies between $49 and $89 for an album. And of course to withdraw that money, you will have bank or Paypal fees…

So in average among these platforms, you get $0.0065, minus the 19% that’s a whooping $0.005265! Meaning for 10,000 plays you get roughly $50

Sleeping with the devil

So, I see indie artists trying to work around the system one way or another, trying to aggregate playlists to be played in loops all day on a desktop (sound muted) by all the people featured… And for what exactly? Hopefully they’ll get a burger by the end of the year. Who has even been truly listening??? What kind of interaction have they gained from being there, do they even know, do they even can contact the fans who have played and liked their music on these platforms? Nope.

I see countless artists, even radios, linking to Spotify and Deezer and Tidal on social media, actively promoting their links and playlists! And I’m thinking “I’m sure these platforms are really pleased that your fans are sent to them to listen to YOUR music.”

There’s a name for it, I believe. It’s called “Sleeping with the devil”.
Every day these platforms are petitioning in court to try and pay less and less royalties to artists, and put more money in the hands of their shareholders. They have no trouble using your content to do so. They will not promote you in any way, they are bound to big labels who couldn’t care less about indie music.

And then what?

I have decided that I will no longer condone any of these platforms, link to them or put anymore of my music on any of them. I’m just tired of endorsing crooks and bend over to get screwed a bit more, and say thank you while I’m at it…  It’s not going to make that much of a difference in my revenue anyway, that’s for sure.

And I sincerely think all indie artists should do the same.

You will be able to find my music on my own website where I’ll get 100% of the revenues, on Bandcamp, CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon (they all take a cut).
But also especially you will be able to hear it, alongside many great indie artists, on indie radios and podcasts and shows, and read about it on indie blogs and magazines… All of the true distributors and dispensers of today’s indie music that we should all support, link to and recommend.

Fans should stop using these platforms. Radios should stop promoting any links to them. Their only aim is to create a monopoly and eliminate all the little guys, they will kill any creativity that’s left. Let’s not play their game!

But we don’t have a choice!

The main objections that I hear from artists are:
“You have to be there to be found…” - really? And who is finding you there, except the fans you’ve pointed to, to begin with?
“You don’t have a choice” - hum, isn’t that how dictatorships are made?
“If you don’t do it, others will” - again, isn’t that how the 3rd Reich’s atrocities happened?
“If you’re not there, no one will want to promote you” - I don’t believe the people in the indie world are really looking at Spotify to find the music they play and review and promote.
“It’s not that bad!” - go back and read these numbers from the beginning again, please!

Perhaps not many artists will find that worthwhile, and perhaps not many will change anything and they will keep linking to Spotify and the others, but as for me, I’m just tired of sleeping with the devil… I’m opting out! I think you should too!

You’ve been bearded! 

As many things do, it all started with a silly joke! 

I was urged to show my face by some people on the internet (yes, you, you will recognize yourself!) but as I’ve said many times, I don’t have a public face, I’m invisible and intend to stay so, as I believe my music is there to speak for me and all the rest is unimportant and uninteresting… 

But the pressure was such that I took the image of a fellow artist, and Photoshop-ed a beard on him… That pic is now infamous and I deeply apologize Codie Prevost! I hope you have a sense of humour, it wasn’t meant to be a joke on you in any case, and I do love your music! Let’s just say you were the first but you will certainly not be the last!

Because this made me think, and I was also prompted by my good friend Walter Hargrave from Indie Music Bus, that I should use that as a recognition award.

I really mean a recognition award, not a Top 10 or “best artist”, or anything like that, but as a token of my appreciation for the good music and the artist/band, or even for some great indie supporters, radios, blog, anyone active in the indie scene that deserve thanks for all they do for the love of music.

So from now on, I decided that I will give that award from time to time, here and there, (and I’m afraid there will probably be an accompanying pic, yes!) to shout out to great people, so that anyone who follows me will also know that I’m thankful to these people and that they deserve a following, a listen and some love back…

So, watch out because anyone worthy might get bearded!
And you might well be next! 

The importance of a street team 

This blog post was inspired by two things that happened today, kind of a coincidence, really!

The first one is a post by the amazing Walter Hargrave of Indie Music Bus, about a cool new idea he has launched, which is to help and reward indie music fans with various promotion goodies and a chance to steer the bus wheel…
See Indie Music Force for more info.

Another one was conversations with 2 big fans of Codie Prevost (a great Canadian songwriter, see my “friends” page to know more) who have each been creating a twitter account to post news about Codie and support their favorite artist, engage in friendly banter with many people and generally get some attention around their idol.

It made me think again about the importance of a street team. We all know about the old concept of enrolling your friends, family and fans to distribute your flyers for a concert, now the same thing applies to social media.

A street team is a group of people who will tweet about you, post content on social media, interact with other potential fans and artists, bring more attention to your content and your music, vote for your songs, they do it because they love your music and your attitude, they do it because they are here to support you!

So how does one creates a street team?

If you’re doing gigs, it’s probably easier because you can interact with the audience after the show and when they tell you they loved it, you can ask them if they would help spread the word. If you’re an online artist it’s perhaps a little bit more complicated, but I think it all comes down to the same idea again: human connection.

After all, isn’t it the ultimate goal of music? To share and make us all feel part of the same family, people with similar taste, enjoying the same music without barrier, without frontier and without care for any difference of race or gender or religion or political ideas, just being human beings after all?

One of Codie’s fan asked me what I was thinking of her supporting endeavors and I had to remind her that Codie is very fortunate to have her, because music means nothing if there’s no fan to listen. Yes, they are one of the main reason we do it in the first place!
Does music even exist is there’s no one to listen?

I engage all the music fans to do what they do best, love and care for music and for the artists, buy their CDs and merch, go to their concert, share their music and news on social media, vote for them on radio charts, spread the word and the love! 

We love you back!