What should bands pay for? Can art and marketing coexist? Has the digital world made do-it-yourself recording, marketing, and distribution easier, or do musicians still need the old-fashioned triumvirate of booking agent, record label, and radio airplay to thrive?
If you're interested in such questions, and you're heading to the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, this year, check out a panel discussion in which I'll be participating called The Artist as Entrepreneur at 1:30 p.m Wednesday. Most of the people on the panel are in the business of helping musicians use the Web and other digital tools to turn their music from hobby into career--or at least sell a few CDs and get some decent gigs.
Not me! I'm a mere blogger, trying to report as objectively as possible on all these different businesses. I've got a well-developed sense of skepticism, honed by my somewhat-schizoid existence over the last 15 years as a writer and analyst covering the world of high tech (all day, every day), and playing bass in half a dozen gigging and recording bands (from which I've been on hiatus for the last year or so). I hope to provide some balance, or at least the occasional arched eyebrow, if anybody gets too self-promotional.
From the artist's perspective, Sonicbids charges subscription fees for creating and maintaining an electronic press kit, then provides an automated system for submitting that presskit to get gigs--including some pretty big ones, including SXSW, Seattle's Bumbershoot, and the Vans Warped Tour. (Full disclosure: Panos invited me to be on the panel, for which I get a free badge to the show. I'm covering travel and all other expenses out of pocket.)
Also on the panel are Derek Sivers, who founded online music marketplace CD Baby (which I write about all the time) and left last year to form a new business, MuckWork. I've also blogged about TuneCore, an online marketplace for digital downloads from independent artists, whose CEO, Jeff Price, is on the panel. I'm looking forward to meeting the other folks on the panel and hearing their stories.
Apart from that, I'll be meeting with a bunch of other companies that straddle the edge of music and technology, catching as much music as I possibly can, and if all goes according to current plan, I'll be talking to Metallica for about five minutes on Friday about its upcoming Guitar Hero game.
I'll blog as much as I can, and you can always follow me on Twitter.