Sometimes getting signed to a major is no guarantee they'll push your music either... just ask Spoon's Britt Daniel.
The likes of Facebook and MySpace have made it easier than ever for musicians' music to be available worldwide, but it crossed our minds that it also might be much more difficult to market, especially for musicians - in Houston, or anywhere, really - who undertake such a task all by themselves.
So last week Rocks Off sat down with Chris Macek, lead engineer at Houston's Barron Studios
, to discuss how his clients market both themselves and their music. Macek wouldn't give us any bands' names to use on record - he's had trouble in the past when he's mentioned bands to interviewers, only to be contacted later by an band that was upset he didn't mention them - but nevertheless, he gave us a lot of good information.
"Houston is a really tough market to be a musician [in]," Macek says. "Local musicians, especially rappers, will get spins in Dallas, Atlanta, Seattle and even Europe."
However, in something that won't come as much of a surprise to many Rocks Off readers, Macek says there isn't much of a market for bands playing original music in the City of Syrup. Houston is kind of odd, he told us, because musicians don't get much press here unless they get big outside of the city then come back; please see ZZ Top, Beyonce, Blue October, etc.
So... Houston bands have to get signed before they get any recognition in their hometown, right? Not really.
Macek suggests that musicians focus on getting their names and music out there and getting their fans invested. Once they're invested, fans will want to be contacted. Rather than only contacting fans when you have a show coming up, a new song is available for purchase or their votes are needed for a Battle of the Bands competition, Macek suggests keeping them involved.
He recommends artists do this via live-blogging, Twitter, Facebook, BandCamp and live-streaming video. Those are a few relatively easy ways, he says, to encourage fans to come back to your Web site and buy music.
"People spend more money on music today than ever before," Macek says. "What's different is the cut that record companies are getting is smaller than it used to be, which is why a lot of labels meddle in artists' touring schedules."
So if a band wants to tour on its own schedule and prerogative, then the members probably don't want to get signed after all. There is a way to sell your music, Macek says, and although the major record companies have been acting as if the sky is falling, you don't need a label to be successful, but you do need one to be famous.
But if a band is indeed trying to sign with a record label, they should try with a smaller, independent label, one that will motivate them, not dictate their actions.
Getting signed isn't a necessary aspect of a band's success, but labels do bring industry knowledge, experience in promotion, a guarantee that an album will be available in stores and (sometimes) will even front the cash for the musical expenditure.
But then again, as Houston's Fat Tony told us, "Fuck a record label." Bands need to do their own work and not expect to be spoon-fed success.
Part 2, where local musicians including A Dream Asleep discuss how effective pushing their product on the Internet has been for them, coming Wednesday.