The Beat is rocking, let’s get rolling.
The local music scene is advancing. Now more than ever, local artists have no time to become noticed, signed and promoted by a large record company (or perhaps they’re just not talented enough), so they take these actions into their own hands in order to make their music dreams come true. In the past, being a local band and trying to make it big looked a lot different. Bands would practice in garages to hone their craft and to look to raise enough money to go to a professional studio with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Their end product was an LP on a cassette tape or CD to shop around town and send to the big record deals in hopes of making it big. According to David Roof of Rooftop Recording, also known as the bass player for the local band Michael May and the Mess Arounds, “When digital technology starting coming into play for recording, you saw bigger and medium sized studios going out of business, but small and organic businesses thriving.”
David has been actively playing in bands since the 1980’s and has witnessed first hand the evolution of his passion with the advent of new technologies. The future of local music is the self-made musician; all production, promotion, and formatting is up to the artist. In the past, artists were dependent on local production studios to record demos, local venues to find a chance to promote themselves, and the shackles of physical music to share their music and create a profit. After talking with David in the depths of MASH, a few things became clear about the future of local music:
1. Reverbnation is essential. David said, “If you don’t have a Reverbnation page you’re not a legitimate artist.”
2. Physical music (i.e. the CD) is dead, and
3. Self-production is the best way to produce music.
(Michael May and the Mess Arounds in performing in MASH)
So, what is Reverbnation? And why do all local artists need it? Reverbnation is an online platform that allows musicians and bands to manage all of the facets of their music careers in one streamline location. This site is currently used by more than 3.9 million musicians, fans, venues and even labels, spanning 250 countries. Reverbnation provides a number of different tools for artists and fans to use, including: TuneWidget, Promote It, and Gig Finder. These tools are used by musicians to put content online, promote content through Facebook and other major music websites, and find venues. Reverbnation was founded in 2006 but has gained recent notoriety starting in 2009 with their partnership with Microsoft. Since then, Reverbnation has engaged in other partnerships to further their platform and provide local artists with opportunities to play at major venues, such as Summerfest.
Reverbnation also provides bands with incredible infographics about their presence and how their fans are interacting with them. These graphics can be used by bands to understand who is listening to their music, where their fans are, their band’s popularity compared to other Reverbnation bands, and even allows bands to track their presence over critical social media outlets. David finds these graphics useful and even touched on his premium membership that allows him to track his contacts with potential venues from when the email is sent, opened, and responded to. Reverbnation appears to be a priceless tool nowadays for local artists that want to take charge of their careers, and it certainly was helpful in David Roof’s career.
The second aforementioned point, physical music is dead, may seem fairly obvious with the use of Soundcloud, Apple Music and Tidal by major artists, but keep in mind a few things here. First, artists around the globe depend on CD sales and touring to generate their revenue due to the low royalties associated with streaming. Second, local musicians and smaller artists have historically depended on selling their CD’s or cassette tapes to further their careers.
David doesn’t release physical music, seeing as a waste of time and resources, while major artists continue putting them out. But the mainstream music scene may be following suit after a few bold claims from one of the most prominent artists of our time. Yep, I’m gonna start talking about Kanye again, and you can’t do anything to stop me. Tough shit.
Yes, Mr. West has declared that he will no longer be releasing CD’s and I venture to say that local artists in Ann Arbor and around the world have set this precedent for the future of music. Local artists have declared the death of CD’s years ago, and I would propose a very safe guess that all mainstream artists will be following suit over the next 5-10 years. The fact that their is still CD sections in stores like Best Buy and Barnes and Noble is pretty incredible if you think about it.
(Yeezus Album Cover)
David runs his own recording studio, and produces his own music using reasonably priced sound equipment he has acquired over the years. This has allowed his small and nimble recording studio to stay relevant despite the trend of local artists making their own music at home. David has similar, professional home equipment that more serious local musicians might have, but he has the knowledge to run his own business and charge a reasonable price for his studio time.
To get further perspective on David’s comments, the impact new technology has had on local music and what effect this will have on the future of this unique scene, I spoke with a millennial artist, Alex Evangelista, who also starred in my previous photo shoot. These two artists have a few different approaches and perspectives on the use of new technology to create and promote their music and the impact this technology will have in the future of local music.
(Alex Evangelista and his home studio)
Below is an interview I had with Alex in his personal studio. Much like David, Alex has found self-production and the creation of his own small studio to be the most advantageous way to hone his craft, and perhaps this will continue as a trend in the future of local music. Our conversation below was recorded on Logic-Pro, a $200 price tag for professional quality production. Alex also found the physical CD format to be useless as a local artist with Soundcloud and YouTube being useful tools to release music. However, Alex found no use for Reverbnation at this time and he might never use it, but this seems to be out of personal preference and Alex’s desire to curate a perfected sound rather than a large fan base. His insights were invaluable.
David and Alex are local musicians in different stages in their music careers. However, both of them have proclaimed the death of physical music for local artists and self-produce using technology such as Logic-Pro and Garageband. David revealed the relevancy that Reverbnation has today for local music and the impact it could have for the future. I believe Reverbnation has the technology and backing to continue to revolutionize local music. Having the necessary tools for local artists to not only create and distribute their music, but to also run the business end of their life without a manager or label is priceless technology for artists who are taking their potential success into their own hands.
But are local artists freeing themselves from labels and managers using this technology, or are they putting their potential careers at risk? With this DIY form of management, are artists missing out on the opportunity to be discovered and signed? Not according to David. “There are no record deals left. It is all about self production,” the bass player claims. But this does not explain the critical success of artists like The Weeknd or Justin Bieber, who saw their stardom rise through online media sources and music blogs. Perhaps the truth and therefore the future lies somewhere in the middle. Perhaps Reverbnation shouldn’t be viewed as a one-stop-shop to become your own artist, manager, and record label. Perhaps it’s an avenue to gain the notoriety and fame so many artists claim. I guess only time will tell, and I look forward to the first major artist to be discovered through Reverbnation or for the first Reverbnation user to manage their own super-stardom.