Indie Revelations

Chapter 1: A New Kind of Pop
Chapter 2: Clicking Around the Indie World
Chapter 3: Unique Artistic Endeavors
Chapter 4: Performance and Studio Time
Chapter 5: Cool Video Connections
Chapter 6: Themes of the New Century
Chapter 7: Covers and Tributes
Chapter 8: Experimental Sensations
Chapter 9: In Search of the Next Horizon

Introduction: Indie Artists Paving Their Own Way
by Alex Cosper

Let me get this straight. The show is to promote CD sales and the CD is also given away free to promote the show. The website has to be there to promote not only the CD and the show, but now the downloading and the streaming. That's great except a fancy media site can be expensive and the object is to make money, not spend money. One must be careful not to fall into the goldminer trap where the people who made the most wealth during the gold rush were the merchants who sold the shovels.

I started out as a radio DJ/programmer at a very successul independent alternative station called KWOD 106.5 in Sacramento. We went from bottom of the ratings to being the top rocker in town. We did it indie style: not with hype or stunts but lots of fun, adventurous artistic expression. I wrote all about it in my online book "The Rise of Alternative Radio." We mixed in lots of unpredictable music and were loyal to the local scene, giving early airplay to Cake, an indie band that went on to sell millions.

In the 2000s, even though I worked on air in San Francisco and Palm Springs, I became more fascinated with the internet and what it can do for independent artists. I ran Sacramento's first internet station, SacLive, from 1999 to 2000, playling all local music 24 hours a day and established a promotional relationship with the Sacramento Bee.

At that time I also wrote for a radio/music industry magazine called VirtuallyAlternative, in which I wrote a lot about how radio needed to prepare for the internet revolution. That's back when the majority of peope had super slow dial-up connections, so maybe it's easy to see why some people might've thought I was crazy. Since then I've written a lot of web content. I've learned some amazing things but I'm still an explorer with more questions than answers. I myself have an indie music project called Tangent Sunset.

I became very excited by sites like that let indie artists build an attractive, professional profile for free. In a matter of weeks after signing up, Tangent Sunset hit the top ten out of over a hundred artists on Sacramento's alternative chart and stayed there from May 2010 through the rest of the year, driven by the song "Rock N' Roll Saved the Day." Some of my friends even topped the charts in their hometowns.

I enjoy studying industry leaders who are helping to pave the new world path for indie artists: Apple CEO Steve Jobs, CDBaby Founder Derek Sivers and TuneCore Founder Jeff Price, all successful pioneers of the online indie revolution. They're like the rock stars of the new world. I also applaud David Nevue's book called How To Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet from his site Music Biz That book opened my mind to a wealth of knowledge. He's a classical musician who makes a living selling CDs online. Classical music, by the way, only represents about 1% market share, according to the RIAA. That means if he can make money selling music that typically doesn't sell a lot, anything's possible.

Barriers to becoming an independent recording artist still exist in the new world. In fact, the old barriers were simply replaced by new barriers but it's nothing a determined, inspired indie artist can't overcome.

Old world barriers revolved around access points controlled by gatekeepers. Radio stations, record labels and distributors were the gatekeepers back then, when the music biz was in full swing. Major labels were the kings of music through their sales peak of 1999, the year Napster changed the whole story of who controlled the music listening experience. Labels or tech?

Tech tore down the empire of the big labels with free access to music. That event not only burned a big hole in music biz profits, it burned a hole in budgets for big advances artists used to get to pay those super high recording costs. Historically, that was the biggest barrier that kept the most amount of musicians from pursuing their musical dreams: the economics made no sense. It's quite a big risk to invest thousands of dollars in equipment, instruments, CD manufacturing and who knows how many thousands of dollars to promote all that, knowing it may never return a profit.

That's why it's so great that the indie revolution just happened to come along at a time in the 2000s when an artist can utilize the internet and just concentrate on making music and let the tech world handle a lot of the complex business stuff that was never fun in any era. A lot of the puzzle has indeed been worked out. All but the part about getting paid. That's still the mystery of 2010: how can an indie artist make a living off selling music on the internet?

The current notion is that the only way to make money from music is the old fashion way: sell your CDs at shows. Let's consider that the basis of the new world but let's also explore greater possibilities as we assess the state of independent music with the continued aspirations of discovering online treasures for the most persistant indie music pioneers.

Continue to Chapter 1: A New Kind of Pop

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