A Big Announcement From Cozmic Debris

No matter what label you choose to use for me- blogger, social media influencer, radio personality or super fan, I hope the passion that drives everything I am trying to accomplish shines through.  There have been many nights where I have questioned my effectiveness in helping musicians, and I’ve talked myself out of just shutting things down and walking away more than a few times.  However, the rewards have far outweighed the challenges the entire way and have energized me in a way that I have never experienced before.  The time dedicated to making my small contributions to the music community has multiplied, and life has become extremely chaotic.  The hobby became an infatuation, which became a mission and has now transformed into an obsession.  And now the obsession takes a big next step.

I am both very happy and very nervous to announce that I am creating a yet-to-be-named social media network devoted exclusively to independent musicians and fans.  A network where artists can share music, music videos and concert announcements, and fans can explore and discover new music.  It is not meant to replace networks like Facebook and Twitter, but rather to be a targeted resource to help gain exposure.

I am very excited.  The platform will provide a number of advantages, combining the best of Twitter and Facebook- no character limitations, no algorithms to determine what people see (they will see it all) and the ability to categorize music in a way that will allow musicians to target specific audiences.  And, of course, this will all be made available at no cost to either the artists or fans.  The goal here is to bring the music to the forefront of the music industry.

Target date for rollout is scheduled for May 1st.  This will give me time to give it a good shakedown, explore some other functionality options that may be of use to musicians, as well as work with artists to have content available when it launches to the public.  This is something that I believe has to grow organically, in order to be truly successful, so word of mouth will be essential.  I’m going to go a little light on the details right now but will start sharing details as we get closer to launch.  Keep your eyes focused here for updates. 

Artists- if you feel this is something you want to be a part of, please contact me.  As I said earlier, it would be great to have a ton of content available when it rolls out

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur, but I do believe this has the possibility of becoming an essential tool for both fans and artists.  If it works, it works, and my dream is for it to be a special place for independent music.  Time will tell.

The Circle Of Life

What follows is nothing more than personal opinion.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I could be way off base in my assessment of the situation.  I normally don’t start an article off with those two statements, but I believe I’m about to tread in places that will strike a nerve with many who read this.

There is much talk these days about the odds being stacked against the independent musician.  Hell, I’ve been leading the charge on that front (or at least in the front vanguard).  Lately, the discussion seems to focus around two main areas of concern- Spotify and internet radio.  The first is viewed by many (including me) as the great evil of the music world.  The second is much more subtle in its affect on the industry, but merits just as much discussion.  However, there are many aspects of the industry to be looked holistically.  I’m going to take a stab at providing a high level view of these.

I thought it might be appropriate to look at the lifecycle of various aspects of the industry, as they pertain to artist success.  I’ll start with the perfect world of the artist and fan relationship.  If everything is working as designed, that relationship looks something like this:

Fan Cycle 1

This is the perfect relationship, where the fan supports the efforts of the musician to produce more music, which in turn causes the fan to purchase more music.  It is the perfect circle of life.  It is self-sustaining, and as long as the music remains of a high quality, this cycle can support the needs of the independent musician.

However, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Fans have a myriad of options available, with Spotify being the most obvious.  People do not have to purchase a physical copy, and rather can build their own version of a radio station, where they are in control of the content being broadcast (streamed).  As we all know, this is not a financially viable source of revenue for the artist, and our cycle looks much different with this method of music listening:

Fan Cycle 2

 

In my humble opinion, there is a place for Spotify in the equation, just not the current use.  Artists should look at Spotify as an advertising medium, much like radio.  Instead of making their entire catalog available, share just enough of their catalog to peak the interest of the average listener.  Rotate songs in and out of that limited rotation, in hopes of capturing someone’s attention enough to drive music purchase.  This is not the perfect solution, and it requires a complete rethinking of the way Spotify is used.  To those that (correctly) see no value in streaming services, it would be a tough pill to swallow. But, used correctly, Spotify can become an effective promotional tool.

Likewise, there is the ‘perfect’ cycle for the use of radio as an advertising and promotional tool that looks something like this:

Radio Cycle

 

Again, in a perfect world, this is how radio influences buying decisions and becomes a primary outlet for the discovery of new music by fans and listeners.  Radio, whether terrestrial or over the internet, is not the primary source of revenue, but rather used by the artist as an advertising tool to garner more sales.  Often times, broadcasters lose sight of this and try to become the sole point of contact between listener and music.  And while this may have been the case in the early days of radio, the artist is much more dependent on music sales in today’s environment. For some fans and listeners, radio will become their sole exposure to music, but the primary focus should be on the medium being used as the point of discovery.  A growing listener base is built on both the quality of programming and music, which benefits all involved.

Another area of the radio world that dilutes the ability of the medium to be an effective promotional tool is the large number of hobby internet radio stations popping up across the world.  In many cases, these stations are not properly paying their way.  Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear- there are precious few licensed internet radio stations that are going to provide any kind of revenue stream to an artist.  Proper licensing is not done to pad the pockets of musicians, but rather as a sign of respect to the artists.  Yes, there are poorly enforced legal implications, but the true test of a station is its willingness to play by the rules and pay its fair (however miniscule) share.  Yes, it can be horribly expensive on a personal level, but if we were to live in an environment of nothing but properly run internet stations, fan bases would increase for those stations, making them an even more viable promotional tool for the artist.

Internet promoters and influencers (like myself in a very small way) also have a responsibility to the artist to drive the sale of music, which looks something like this:

Promoter Cycle

 

This is probably the subtlest of the lifecycles, as the promoter is simply making people aware of music, and if done right, has no skin in the game.  They are playing the role of ‘super fan’ and letting the world know about great music.  Done properly, the influencer is constantly providing ‘teaser’ content to their followers, and much like the radio stations, building their followers through quality content and frequent sharing.  It is easily the least apparent and glamorous part of the business (as I can personally attest), but the role of social media influencer can have great impact on the success of independent musicians.

Lastly, the role of live performance venues plays an important role in the success of indie artists:

Venue Cycle

 

Honestly, this is an overlooked part of the equation by anyone not tied to the industry.  Often, venues act as if they are doing the artist a favor by allowing them to play, while filling their cash registers with an abundance of food and liquor receipts.  Establishment owners do not recognize (or even care about) the huge financial burden carried by the artist to get to the point of being considered for booking. Many times, the amount paid does not even fall into the range of a fair minimum wage for all involved.  When this happens, the cycle starts to look strikingly familiar to the Spotify cycle:

Venue Cycle 2

 

So, there you have it.  One man’s view of the music industry.  I don’t expect to get unanimous praise for my thoughts, but I hope it gives you all something to think about.  There is a world out there that can truly support the independent musician.  It is up to us to determine if that circle of life is something we are willing to commit to.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I’ve sat down a dozen times to write an article over the last few months.  A lack of time has been the primary reason, as time has become a very precious commodity in the Cozmic Universe.  But, while I haven’t written anything, I have been extremely tuned in to both the industry and the indie music that appears to be gaining some momentum.  In short, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting perceptively brighter.

I’ve written about the great sense of community in the indie music world, and I’ve been able to personally experience the goodness of that community a number of times over the last few months.  Whether it being the honor of attending a benefit concert for a local nonprofit that focuses on bringing music to the children of the community, to playing on stage for the first time in decades with my original musical partner in crime, to attending the show of another lifelong friend and a group of newly found musical friends, to (in the next few days) getting to meet a local talent I have been following for months, this incredible journey I find myself on has blossomed into something resembling a career, but without all of the nasty connotations the word usually carries with it.  It truly is a labor of love, and it is the people I am encountering that are making this truly the most rewarding period of my life.

That is the beauty of most indie music.  This collection of amazing talented people have rallied around me, but not nearly as much as they rally around each other.  I saw this first hand on a recent quick trip to Nashville.  The entire purpose of the trip was to attend a show being put on by Nashville Non Prophets and Cliff Wheeler Band.  Two groups of musicians from different states that had no knowledge of each other a year ago.  They discovered each other on Music Mafia Radio, and started talking about the burning need to do shows together.  This is not going to be a review of that show (that will appear soon on http://musicmafiaradio.net) . Rather, this is meant to highlight the brotherhood of the musician I witnessed throughout the entire weekend, along with some other great things I’ve seen recently.

I’m too lazy to go back and see if I have mentioned this before, but Mitch Laney (of Nashville Non Prophets) and I go back decades as friends.  And while I had never met Cliff Wheeler Band in person, they were already great social media friends.  We all had the opportunity to hang out the afternoon of the show, and it was like a family reunion. The Cliff Wheeler Band had driven over eight hours to play an hour long set in Nashville.  Mitch put the band up at his house, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to be around these great musicians for that afternoon.  We got to know each other on a personal level, and I got to witness a young songwriter get mentored by a master of the craft as he was writing a blues song.  It had been a long time since I had been around people that “speak the language”, and it did my heart good to see the passing of knowledge, and the series of “hey, try this” moments made for a very fun and entertaining afternoon. At the show that evening, I got to meet family and friends of the bands and other indie artists that had made the trip to catch the show and support their musical friends.

I’d be in heaven with just that experience under my belt, but my story is not complete yet.  Last night, I heard about a former musician in Appleton, Wisconsin, who bought an old monastery, which he has turned into a place for indie musicians to come and record material, staying in the monastery while doing so.  Oh yeah, one important thing I left out- there is no charge for the recording time.  In addition, a growing indie music festival has been created by the same former musician, a festival that is growing into one of the largest in the USA.  You will hear more about this festival, and the man behind it, a little later in the year.

I bet you thought I was done.  Not quite.  This Saturday, Fiddy and I have been invited to House Concert by an artist we recently brought into the Music Mafia Radio familia.  A very talented kid who has been following me on social media for a while, and finally made the connection between Cozmic Debris and Music Mafia Radio.  I was excited to play his music for the first time on MMR, and we now have a friendship evolving.  I was quite honestly taken aback by the invitation, but like the other stories contained here, it has forced me to realize that I have become a ‘thing’ in the business.  This realization is filled with a mix of humility, encouragement, focus, excitement and purpose.  I can no longer deny that I am a part of this wonderful community of artists, and I find myself now trying to find a way to devote even more of my time and my life to strengthening and lifting these artists to their proper place in society and culture.

These stories are meant to be examples of the awesome counter culture of independent music that exists and is growing all around us.  They are not unique experiences, and a quick poll of those who will read this would result in many other stories of a similar nature.  Musicians supporting musicians.  My generation providing options and opportunities for the new generation.  The old guard passing the knowledge on to the new breed of musicians.  No attitudes or egos, but rather gatherings of lovers of the art form doing their small part to elevate the craft.

This, my faithful readers, is how this business will flourish.  This is how the indie music will bring the big industry interests to their knees.  It is a long, hard battle ahead of us, but if we do band together and support each other, that light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter and brighter.  I’m committed to doing part (and more).  Who’s willing to join me?

Coz

 

Cozmic Debris is a social media influencer, blogger and on-air personality on Music Mafia Radio.  You can catch Coz every Tuesday and Thursday, 8pm Eastern, on Music Mafia Radio (http://musicmafiaradio.net).  Artists are encouraged to submit their music for consideration by emailing cozmic.debris@comcast.net.