Breaking Through The Clutter: A New Artist’s Perspective On The Music Industry
The music industry is going through major changes. Some say that this is the best time to get into the music industry while others think the opposite. No matter what, new artists will always come onto the music scene and people will continue to make music.
It is interesting to see the perspective that new artists have upon entering the music business. I got in touch with a new artist that opened for Kina Grannis. The artist, Imaginary Friend, is starting out in the music industry and has recently released an EP. In this interview, he gives his thoughts on breaking through the clutter in the music industry and building a sustainable career in a tough climate.
Natalie: As a new artist, what challenges have you faced in this industry?
Imaginary Friend: I think the biggest issue is just breaking through the clutter. There are so many artists out there fighting for attention, so it's definitely a challenge to make yourself heard. Connecting with fans and building strong relationships is the best way to form the foundation of a career. By really getting to know the people who are supporting you and letting them get to know you, I think a bond is form that goes beyond the music, and that's way more powerful than any marketing.
Natalie: Should artists solely focus on creating music or should they be involved with other aspects of their career (ie. managing the business side)?
Imaginary Friend: It's definitely different for each artist, but personally I love to be involved in as many aspects of the process as possible. Developing a presence online is the main non-musical aspect that takes a lot of time and is something that I as an artist find that it's very important to be involved in. That includes creating and maintaining all of the social networking websites and consistently being aware of how you are being represented in those spaces. If you just focus on the music, it can be difficult to maintain control, so you need to be monitoring all of those "business" elements as well.
Natalie: Do you think that fans have too much control?
Imaginary Friend: No way. It's all about the fans, more power to 'em. I love the idea of fan-funding and I know a lot of fellow musicians who have raised enough money to make entire albums via fan donations. It's incredible that it can be such a collaborative process in today's world, and I think it's a much more natural relationship than having there be this giant wall between performer and fan. The walls are coming down!
Natalie: Are you comfortable promoting and selling your music and what methods have you used to market yourself?
Imaginary Friend: I'm not a great self-promoter; I like to let the music speak for itself. But you have to put yourself out there, it's the only way. I've used the standard myspace, facebook, twitter route at this point. Twitter is definitely my favorite of the three; it's all about connection and it seems so personal to me. When I chat with fans via Twitter, I really just feel like I'm texting with my friends, and I love that. Myspace has undergone some nice developments recently that have made it easier to navigate, but I think once Facebook gets their music pages up and running, Myspace could be in some trouble.
Natalie: What are your thoughts on music downloading and piracy?
Imaginary Friend: It's sort of a necessary evil in this environment. I like to look at the bright side of it and know that at least the music is being heard by more people. The people who are serious about downloading free music are always going to find a way; it's been going on for so long at this point that the people are used to this idea of unlimited free content are going to have a very hard time going back to paying for songs. It's possible that when iTunes releases their cloud network eventually and people can store their music collections online, there might start to be some more legitimate music sales if they sell the albums for a lower price.
Natalie: What method of getting new music do you prefer? (ie. Downloading songs, Buying CDs, Streaming)
Imaginary Friend: I get most of my music buying albums on iTunes.
Natalie: How do you make efforts to connect with your fans?
Imaginary Friend: Twitter and Facebook make it very easy to connect with fans, and I love using both of them to stay in touch.
Natalie: When using social media, do you let fans learn about details in your personal life or are you more guarded?
Imaginary Friend: I like to keep my personal life pretty separate, so I would say I'm more guarded. In my songwriting, there's definitely a lot of personal material going into it, but a lot of it isn't specific and doesn't give away all of the details. There's always plenty of room for interpretation.
Natalie: If you had 1,000 true fans, would that be enough to support your career? Do you have a target number of fans you want to reach?
Imaginary Friend: That would definitely be enough. I don't have a target number, I just want as many people as possible to enjoy the music I put out there.
Natalie: Do you have a strategy to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals?
Imaginary Friend: Keep writing and playing and connecting. And have fun with it. Ideally I would love to get some of my songs in tv shows or commercials, but that's a step that most likely will come much later down the road.
Natalie: Is the music market too saturated or is this the best time to play music?
Imaginary Friend: It's the best time. There are so many opportunities in this musical climate and so many more to come.
Natalie: What are your plans to help move forward in your music career?
Imaginary Friend: I want to get on the road and tour as much as possible. That's what it's really all about for me in the end. I'll be playing my biggest show to date on December 10th at The El Rey Theater, opening for the lovely Kina Grannis. Getting out to SXSW is a goal for the future, but I definitely have some work to do before then. I'm not quite ready, and you only get one first impression.