MIDEM Blog: Breaking Through The Noise

The following appears courtesy of MIDEMNet’s Blogs. See all of Ted Cohen’s blogs for MIDEMNet at MIDEM.com.

by Ted Cohen


The Internet was supposed to be the ultimate leveler, great music would be able to find its audience, the ‘big label’ gatekeepers would no longer control access to the masses. It hasn’t exactly played out that way. According to my friend, Tommy Silverman/Tommy Boy Records and the co-founder of the New Music Seminar recently pointed out to me that less than one tenth of one percent of music released last year sold over ten thousand units. That’s not very encouraging to the other ninety-nine percent!

While tens of thousand of artists are self-releasing their music, their ability to get noticed in a meaningful way is stifled by the sheer volume of music that is arriving daily at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, MySpace Music, Yahoo, Rhapsody, Pandora, iHeart and others. Ten years ago, there were roughly twenty-five thousand album releases a year. In 2009, it is estimated that there will be over one hundred thousand albums put into digital distribution. That’s roughly a million new tracks a year, four million minutes of music, or almost three thousand days-worth of song. But, maybe, if I listen really, really fast, I could….nope!

The competition for my attention is overwhelming. I’ve got a spare hour this afternoon, I can listen to fifteen new songs, how do I find the fifteen new artists that will rock my world?? That is the career making-or-breaking question.

From my perspective, you have to be in business with the majority of these players to succeed:

Digital distribution can be easily achieved through aggregators such as:

  • Ioda
  • Iris
  • The Orchard
  • InGrooves
  • BFM Digital

Indie Artists can directly secure digital distribution by paying a fee to, among others:

  • ReverbNation
  • Tunecore
  • CD Baby

Artists can establish direct fan communication through these key outlets:

  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Twitter

If you want to insure your success, availability is mandatory on:

  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Zune
  • Rhapsody
  • Pandora
  • Slacker
  • Spotify
  • Yahoo, AOL and iHeart Radio

There are some great marketing services, metadata providers and digital tools, including:

  • Topspin
  • ReverbNation
  • CyberPR
  • Chain Reaction Media
  • The VirtualCD
  • GigMaven
  • Hello Music
  • All Music Guide
  • Shazam
  • LyricFind
  • Gracenote

Through my involvement this past year with Sara Haze,  an amazing nineteen year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, I’ve learned that it’s a full time effort to build a fan base. Creation and availability is just the start. You’ve got to continually engage with your fans, encourage and incentivize them to ‘spread the word’. BLOG, TWITTER, POST, make at least some of your music available for free to your public, let them know how good you really are! At every gig, grow your mailing list and your army, make some noise, it will pay off.

While global stardom might be your ultimate goal, focus now on making your music career your day job, Starbuck’s, McDonald’s and HomeBase should not be part of your resume going forward.

The point of my post today is to motivate you, not to intimidate or dissuade you. The good news is that you are finally in charge of your career. The bad news is, that face in the mirror, it’s the only one to blame if things don’t go well.

Posted by Ted • Wednesday, December 16, 2009 .