If you've made a record yourself and are trying to figure out how to market it, then read on... we've got some important news for you.
I've been hearing a lot of excellent self-produced albums these days; in fact, the quality of these recordings is starting to not just equal, but to surpass the quality of product put out by the major labels. Interestingly, I recently had a conversation with the leader of a Major Rock Group (hate to drop names, you know), and she was noting that the best drum sounds they were getting were not on the 24 track whiz-bang computerized board, but on the lead guitarist's Portastudio. Why? They had time to experiment, to get the sound just right, and all their Portastudio sessions took place under relaxed circumstances - a distinct contrast from the often nervous atmosphere that prevails in a recording studio, where you have to keep one eye on the tuning and the other eye on the budget.
When it comes to independent artists, take someone like Steve Tibbetts. His album was turned down by virtually every major label, so he marketed it himself. He's sold about 5000 copies of his 2nd album, "Yr" (which is excellent by any standards), and the sales show no signs of letting up.
Then there's the fellow who calls me up periodically and plays me selections from his album in progress over the phone. It's all synthesizer, all fresh, and again, up to a very high standard of quality.
These independent musicians would appear to have everything going for them: good studios, a good product, excellent music, and a degree of innovation that you're just not going to find on the radio. But they are lacking one thing: Distribution.
What brought this home to be was an album by Bill Rhodes, who also writes for Polyphony (see the article on marketing your own record in this issue). I had never heard of Bill Rhodes, but he had heard of me, so he sent me the album. The music was good, but that's not the point... the point is that his work would appeal to lots of people, but since not everybody is as visible as I am, most people will probably never hear about it.
I've played Steve Tibbetts' album for lots of people, and virtually everybody loves it. But, they would never have known about the album had I not played it for them first.
The problem is obvious: Who's going to buy an album from someone they've never heard of who lives halfway across the country? We've already attacked the problem from one direction, by hiring a reviewer who searches out as many independent releases as possible. And of course, you can always run an ad in Polyphony to promote your work, giving a brief description that will hopefully pique people's interest enough to induce them to send off some of their hard-earned cash for your record. That's great for some people, but what if you can't afford an ad? What to do...
Well, we've created an alternate means of making music, and proved that we can make music that's as valid as anything coming out of the major labels. Next, we have to come up with an alternate means of distributing. I don't have the answer, but I have a proposal.
The proposal is simple: that Polymart put out a sampler tape or LP, containing a cut or a few minutes of music from various self-produced albums. This way, listeners can buy the sampler for a relatively low price, and decide what records they would like to hear more of.
Now, there are a few details to the proposal, namely:
• Polymart would NOT handle the individual records, only the sampler. Sources and prices for all music in the sampler would be printed on the album cover, or enclosed with the cassette.
• All copyrights would be held by the artist. We're not interested in publishing songs; we're interested in helping you get your music across. You would give us the right to use the excerpt of your choice (not to exceed, say, 4 minutes) on the sampler in return for the promotional advantage it would give you.
• Artists on the sampler would agree to receive no royalties for the use of their excerpt on the sampler. The object of the sampler is to get as much music as possible out to the public for the minimum possible price; paying royalties would force an increase in the price of the sampler that might prevent people from buying it. Realize, though, that Polymart would have to make some money off the sampler, both in order to cover expenses and, if possible, take out ads for the sampler in other magazines.
Interested? I thought you would be. Here's what to do.
Send a copy of your LP or EP to SAMPLER, Polymart, (Contact Details), and indicate which selection you would like to have included on the sampler. We will then send you a form to sign giving us the right to use your material on the sampler, and also tell you when we expect to release the sampler. At the moment, I have no idea how many records we'll get; we may put out a cassette (which will probably cost less), or who knows, maybe there will be so much good stuff we'll have to release a double-album! In any event, we will not be able to return records. And, although we'll try to include as much material as possible on the sampler, we can't guarantee we'll use your music... but we'll do our best.
You readers are the wave of the future in music. We want to help, in whatever way we can; the sampler is a first step.
Now it's your turn to participate.