Musicians are like footballers

twilight sad - fourteenOne thing that has changed is that when music is new to somebody they only buy the music they love. Whether new music or simply new to the customer it doesn’t matter so for instance if I recommend The Twilight Sad to somebody who has never heard of them out of 5 people one may not be keen, one may buy but the other three will say how good it is and how they will go away and listen to more. Especially with local bands there was a time when the only way to hear more was to buy but now of course there are several options.

Often people make lists on their phones of things we have recommended and these days may not even feel obliged to buy anything at all. Of course this is not always the case and only yesterday a customer from Greece, in especially for the second Broken Records album on vinyl, asked for a recommendation and after listening to the Oran Mor Session eventually plumped for the limited Twilight Sad RSD double LP.

damon + jarvis footballThis is a problem not just for shops but for small bands trying to build a fan base. The constant talk of making the most of superfans is all good if you are an established band but not so good for bands starting out. On the other hand there is no reason for people to spend their money on music they simply like. The one explanation that artists seem to understand is comparing someone who is a talented musician with somebody who is a talented footballer. Somebody may be a good footballer while not playng professionally but they would never expect their workmates to all come along to watch them. Similarly these days people simply have other things to do (even if that is watching 6 episodes of Breaking Bad !) than go along and watch a band be “quite good”. They might find time to give their music a listen but pay for it !

girl who cried wolfTo be fair this is why I recommend only a limited amount of things each year and we can still have successes as Laurie Cameron proved. I find having an album of the week simply daft. Also if I’m honest while those whose job it is to constantly claim there is lots of great new music out there do so, the truth is that there isn’t. More importantly now the customer can listen to anything before buying they agree. Some things will appeal to a niche audience and that is fine but there aren’t many albums each year which we can play in the shop and guarantee to have people coming to the counter asking what we are playing. Clearly this is not a great business model for selling. However if we sold huge amounts of Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin reissues or even god forbid Adele there would be a safety net there but of course we don’t. Much as I love Joy Division and The Smiths when kids do buy them a part of me wishes they were buying something at least a little more recent like The National.

Playing in a band is a great hobby to have as is playing football but online all bands are the same and people simply don’t have the time or inclination to wade through the average to find the few gems. Also there is if truth be told only a limited number of folk out there with any interest in new music. Take away all the Adele, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith fans, add to them all those who go no further than the Arctic Monkeys and the Libertines and there aren’t a lot of people left. At the height of music sales the average person only bought six albums a year. Now it is down to one or two.

Quickbeam album coverOf course bands who do reach a certain level then often clog up the small arena that is left with solo or side projects and of course if they split up several more bands can be spawned. That new artist trying to get their first break simply doesn’t have a chance. If you are as good as Withered Hand, There Will Be Fireworks, Star Wheel Press, Quickbeam and most recently Laurie Cameron we may indeed be able to sell your album along with a handful of other artists customers may not have heard of. Interestingly more and more we find that customers have not heard of the “big names” like Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad or even ¬†Belle & Sebastian ! When a customer asks for Scottish post rock we would assume they had heard of Mogwai. Now we have to ask.

Incorporating all this into any sort of sensible business plan hasn’t been easy but hopefully there is now a way forward more of which at a later date.

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