You’d have to be living in a cave somewhere to have missed the fact of how much the music industry, among many other creative fields have changed these days. The older concepts of getting a record deal with a “major label” have certainly shifted, and the idea of going in a much more independent direction with your music has really take hold of most of us! It’s not to say there aren’t any major “deals” to be had out there, but the record labels, or what’s left of them, must be much more selective about who they sign and put money behind, since the buying public has also so radically changed from what it was before.
In the end, it still all really boils down to talent, and if you’ve got it, just how you are prepared to proceed with “making it” in your career. In the days when I was starting out, it was hard for me to chart a clear course for my actions, so I would rather take the more natural approach of “let’s see what happens” as I kept on weaving in and out of being a sideman “hired gun”, a studio player and a solo artist. Add to that, being a columnist, an author of 12 books and an entrepreneur who started Hot Licks, and you’ve a recipe for having a very scattered career and schedule! I always did believe though, in “spreading” myself around, so that the perception of the public was that I was a truly well-rounded artist who was not putting all his “eggs in one basket!” In this manner, I recorded solo albums for 5 different labels, wrote books for around 6 different publishers, wrote for 3 or 4 different magazines, ad of course played for countless different artists.
These days, I find myself with my own independent record label, booking tours and gigs on my own, producing my daughter Lexie’s second album, and just generally doing all kinds of things soloistically. It has really become an accepted thing for the younger generation, but for us older players who went through the decades on the 50s, 60s and 70s, when the “big deal” was what we still shot for, the new reality of 2010 is something totally new and different to embrace.
There are blessings in this new order of things however…such as the fact that we can much more easily track record sales, downloads and more thanks to everything going digital…it’s easier to mix and record now than ever before, and one can promote themselves on entities such as Facebook, Myspace and of course, our own websites. This gives bands and solo artists far more control than before, and allows us the chance to really stay on the “pulse” of the music scene, and how we fit into it. I love for example, that I can use the internet to actually track radio airplay of my records, something that was only a mystery just a few years back!
So try to stay on top of the “changing face” of the industry, but above all, and through all the changes, stay true to your talent, and try to avoid the syndrome that so many fall into…that of feeling like they must keep following trends, only to end up always one step behind!