Supply And Demand In The Music Biz

So here’s the big issue, the one that no one seems to really want to address but which is the fundamental problem of the music industry and the fundamental reason why so many of you are simply not going to go anywhere as hard as you might try and as good as your music might be. It’s the reason that Threatin is going to probably end up winning in the end (What winning actually looks like I’m genuinely unsure of, but you get my point) and ultimately, why you can’t get signed or get a booking agent. We are looking at a ridiculous issue of supply and demand and this issue of supply and demand is ultimately going to mean that most bands are never going to go anywhere and any sort of thinking otherwise or hopes of stumbling into success is basically unrealistic and wrongheaded. There are just too many bands for the audience and various service companies associated with them.

Here’s a quote from a friend that really put it in perspective. He went to attend a small genre specific music festival and said to me “As I looked around I had to ask myself, ‘Who are the fans?’ or is everyone here just to network and stuff?” That’s the long and short of it. I legitimately don’t think that we have enough industry manpower or fanpower for everyone, at the risk of sounding like a doomsayer we don’t really have a big enough audience to merit there being that many more labels, or that many more festivals, or agents or whatever. There are simply too many bands looking to supply underground music. This isn’t an article where I want to rant about how you aren’t supporting the scene enough, though odds are you probably are not, but neither am I. This is more an article about sitting down and looking objectively at how many bands are out there relative to how many potential dollars are out there.

In other words, think about it this way: The entire music industry is basically funded by the fans. This can either be direct (them buying records, shirts etc) or indirect (A brand funding a band because they think the fans will like them more because that band is cool). Most of the funds that are put into the music industry end up going to various service companies and providers, the managers, labels, agents, distributors etc of the world. Nevertheless, pretty much all of those people, especially on an underground level are struggling to make it. Diversifying is important, but at the end of the day, putting out twice as many records does not generally mean you get twice as many sales, since you tire out your market. People can only afford to spend so much on music, which is essentially a luxury in a post scarcity world, per year. What this then means is that since there is a finite amount of money that can go in this thing, with every additional band the pot gets a little more broken up.

This is not me saying that you need to break up your band, quite the opposite in fact. It is simply my way of saying you need to be self aware about where we stand. We aren’t in a place where agents picking up a bunch of new bands is a huge win for them, because at the end of the day, a huge music fan in a major market is going to go to 100 shows a year and still probably miss out on 50-80% of the good shit hitting their city in a given year. You can’t expect someone to be at every single show – it would literally be the death of them. Well guess what – this also means that of the 500 people in, for example, Philadelphia, who are into underground black metal, you can’t expect more than 50-100 at any random show. In fact, if you get 50-100 a lot of the time for an underground black metal band then that’s considered to be a minor miracle!

Now I’m not trying to be negative here, I think there is a lot of good happening in the music industry and I think the expansion because of streaming, more dollars in the economy and more people taking an interest in music broadly speaking is a great thing, I am simply asking you to be realistic. When it comes down to it, there are only going to be so many people interested in whatever underground sphere of music you operate in and that means that the amount of really really good service providers in that field are going to be fairly limited and thus inundated with requests to work with them. This means that you need to carpet bomb service providers but also carpet bomb intelligently, though that is the topic of a different article. I think though that if you really take a minute to step back and think about the basic finances of your music scene and where the dollars are really coming from, then you are going to have some frankly scary realizations that might make you treat this whole thing a little bit differently.

Ultimately, when looking around you and trying to figure out why your band isn’t getting anywhere I just want to preach the importance of taking a higher view of things, looking from other peoples perspectives and then doing your best to run some numbers. Usually I think that if you do even simple back of the napkin calculations it becomes pretty obvious that the music world is struggling a lot more than any of us care to admit and its simply because the money is split in too many places. It’s great that we have diverse tastes in 2018 but the downside to this is that the ability for an individual artist to make money is a helluva lot more limited, and we simply need to come to terms with that and then change, adapt and overcome.

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