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.

Random Debris

I haven’t been here in a while.  Between the holidays, doing some social media reorganization, some web development, a couple of radio shows a week and paying the bills, time has been very limited.  There is a ton of stuff going on behind the scenes, all of it in the continuing effort to provide maximum exposure to all of the this incredible indie music.  This article is nothing more than a few updates and some of the plans I have in place for 2018.  If you’re looking for my normal soapbox stuff, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

  • Artists, I want to hear your music.  Between the mountain of submissions received at Music Mafia Radio and those bands following me on social media,  I don’t have as much time to go out exploring for new music as I used to.  I do want the opportunity to hear you, but I need you to get my attention.  The two best ways are to either send an email to the website, or follow me on Twitter, Reverbnation or Soundcloud.  I don’t mention the social media follows because I’m looking to add to my followers list, but instead because it is easy to identify new people to the group.  In any event, I ask for you to have some patience, as I may not be able to get right to you.  I do promise that I will, as time allows.
  • New Releases are so awesome.  My social feeds are active, to put it mildly.  I probably see about 10% of what is posted by folks, and I know I’m missing some incredible stuff, simply because I can’t catch everything.  I absolutely love new releases from those artists I already know, and want to do whatever I can to get the word out.  This is another “help me help you” moment.  Tag me in social media, send me an email or private message, do whatever you can to get my attention.  I plan to feature new releases prominently on the website (including links for purchase).  I just need to know they are out there.
  • Social media mayhem.  At the end of the year, when I looked at my social media strategy, I found it to be incredibly scattered, to say the least.  While both Twitter and Facebook were operating under the Cozmic Debris brand, my accounts on Reverbnation, Spotify, Soundcloud and a few other places were set up as personal accounts.  This explains why I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of activity on these accounts- nobody knew who the hell I was.  I am currently working to fix this by creating branded accounts on these platforms.  It is time consuming, because I have to go through the list of almost 1100 artists in the Cozmic Debris library to find who I can follow on these platforms.  I’m currently working through Reverbnation, with Spotify and Soundcloud to come next.
  • Social media segmentation.  The problem with following and sharing music of all styles is that is extremely hard to catch the eye of the casual music listener, who typically tend to gravitate toward a specific style or genre of music.  To address this, I am working to create style-specific social media pages, where I can group like artists in one spot.  I will still post everything to the master Cozmic Debris accounts, but plan to see Cozmic Rock, Cozmic Country, Cozmic Pop and a number of genre-specific CD pages start to pop up in the near future.
  • The website needed a refresh.  I’ve been working on a complete redesign of the website, with the goal to provide as much content as humanly possible.  I recently purchased the cozmicdebris.net domain, and my intent is to make the branded website the center of the cozmic universe.  The long range goal is to have a website with artist showcases and links to the music, websites and social media for all of the artists I follow.  This is a huge undertaking, and the fact that I haven’t done any serious web development in almost a decade makes it a slow process to start.  My hope is to have everything on place by the end of 2018.
  • Coz, the on-air personality.  In addition to all of the above, I’ve still got a very passionate commitment to my duties at Music Mafia Radio.  I don’t think I ever announced it here, but in addition to doing live shows a couple of nights a week on MMR, I accepted the position of Programming Director, which fits perfectly with the skillset I bring to the table.  I’ve written here about Music Mafia Radio, and much like the Cozmic Debris brand, MMR is using 2018 to lay the foundation to implement all of the dreams and ideas the staff has for both the artists and listeners.
  • Cozmic Debris TV?  Okay, it sounds silly to even me, but the idea of putting together a YouTube channel has been rattling around in my head.  For those of you old enough to remember it, think old school MTV- all music, all the time.  It’s a longshot, but a possibility.  It’s at the bottom of this list, because it is at the bottom of the list of everything I’d like to do.  Everything else mentioned here would need to be in place before I consider getting this off the ground.

So, there you have it, the crazy dreams of a music fanatic.  I promise I am constantly busy, trying to get all of this in place.  I also promise that my goal of exposing incredible indie music to the world is as important as ever before.  I’m excited for what 2018 may bring.  Stay tuned, it could be a fun ride.

Coz

Help Us Help You

For the independent musician, the goal is to always work towards making it to that next level.  Working to get their music in rotation wherever possible, convincing venue owners to pay them just a little more, finding a way to keep the music flowing to the public, and coming up with a strategy to separate them from a pack of a thousand similar acts.  It can be a daunting task, and one that many times can require more hours than are in a day.  For most, it is very much of a shotgun approach- get the music out to as many places as possible, in hopes of the right person tuning in at the right time.  In many ways, the business hasn’t changed in this regard in fifty years.  However, the business has changed in other ways over that fifty years that make this approach less successful than in the past.

There is another group within the music industry always working just as hard to get to the next level.  A group that works countless hours to gain exposure for talented musicians, trying to find that one gimmick that will separate them from the pack of a thousand similar competitors.  Just like the musicians themselves, most of these people are doing what they do for little or no financial gain, many times doing it at an expense, doing it out of an obsession for the art that matches that of the artists themselves.  This group I speak of are the internet radio providers.

Before I go any further, it is imperative that I make the following disclaimer- I am a dedicated part of the internet radio community.  And yes, I have a bias toward the product I help put out.  If I didn’t believe in what I’m doing, I never would have turned on the microphone in the first place.   It is that passion that forces me to constantly look at the current state of the industry and identify those areas that need to change.  This article concerns a couple of those necessary changes.

The internet is the wild west of the industry.  Most internet radio goes unregulated and most tend to make up their own rules.  Add to that the vast number of free streaming services available, and it is quick to see that the power and pull of these countless outlets is extremely diluted, to the point where there is no guaranteed outlet for proven success.  The industry must realize and admit that the growth of technology far outstripped its ability to keep pace, which has resulted in less effective channels for artists to utilize. 

The very idea of ‘radio’ itself, in any form, seems alien and outdated to the clear majority of internet users.  The truth is just the opposite, as radio, done the right way, is the most effective vehicle, both for the artist and the listener.  For the artist, a radio station with a large listener base (who does play by the rules) is the perfect platform to develop a meaningful relationship with.  Gone are the days of geographical limitations tied to terrestrial AM/FM radio.  An internet stations can reach around the globe, and a successful one makes the legwork required to gain attention much more efficient.  And for the listener, a successful internet radio station can be the best way to get exposed to new music and have a true voice in the success of an artist.  Radio stations do not rely on algorithms to suggest new things to hear (as the streaming services do), but rather tailor their playlists to those artists that garner interest from the listeners.  And a good radio station will have the expertise behind it to play nothing but incredible music, one song after another.

I’ve more than once mentioned the importance of ‘playing by the rules’, and it merits an explanation.  As I stated previously, many stations openly flaunt the requirements to legally play and broadcast music, hoping to fly under the radar and avoid detection.  What puzzles me most about this is the blind eye given to this by the musical community.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from artists is the lack of a meaningful income stream for their music, but then they turn around and give it to someone to use that will never pay a penny to use the product.  Quite honestly, this scenario has forced me to rethink my negative attitude toward the streaming giants, because they do play by the rules.  This doesn’t mean that I agree with the rules, but rather is a recognition of their practices in compensating artists (no matter how little it is).

So, now that I’ve spouted off for a few paragraphs, what are the changes that need to occur?  First off, there needs to be a huge consolidation of the industry, which focuses the content towards legitimate entities.  While this will still leave thousands of alternatives, it will allow those remaining legitimate stations to capture the listening base of the many more thousand pirate hobby radio stations.

The second thing needing to change falls squarely on the artist.  Does it make sense to throw your incredible work out to the wind, hoping that it will catch on with one of the hundred or more stations you have blindly submitted to?  Or does it make more sense to build meaningful relationships with a handful of content providers to build a ready-made audience of listeners from the ground up who are hungry for your new material?  In other words, get in on the ground floor and do nothing more than make a station (or two or three) become the listening destination for your fan base.  Find those stations that are willing to do more for you than just play your music and brag on social media that they played it.  I’ve got to be honest and say that after a year of watching the shotgun approach with many artists, I see almost no success with the results.

Let me end by saying that this is no way intended to be any kind of advertisement specific to what I personally do in the business.  I do believe that my expertise and reputation among many of you would speak to my ability to help you succeed, and I believe I have attached myself with a product that is solely focused on the success of the musicians it plays, but that is a choice for you to make.  I also believe in the power of a traditional radio format to bring attention to the work of talented artists.   In the end, there is a wealth of incredible talent out there, just dying to help you out (and do so by the rules).  Are you willing to help them help you?

Time For A Change

Yes, I know, this has been a while in coming.  A few in the indie world knew this was coming, and I’ve written and rewritten it a dozen times.  Quite honestly, there is so much to be said on this subject that I briefly considered writing an entire book on the subject.  Instead, I’ll subject you to dribs and drabs over the next few months.  The root of the issue presented here is that the entire music industry needs to change.

The deeper I plunge into the world of independent music, the more I am astounded by the antiquated and absurd rules in place, touted as there to ‘protect’ the artists, when in fact they hinder the artists’ ability to successfully market their music.  The rules exist at many layers, but there are a few that deserve special mention.

The Publishing Rights Organizations.    Here in the United States, these would be ASCAP, BMI and Soundstream ,most notably.  Their stated purpose is to protect the rights of composers and musicians by requiring licensing for public performance or purchase.  On the surface, a very noble endeavor, but as you dig in deeper, you see that the terms of that licensing benefits neither the artist or the consumer.

To give a little history, ASCAP holds the record for the longest running antitrust consent decree in US history.  Dating back to the 1940’s, it sets in place guidelines that no longer pertain to the business as it is designed today.  Over that 70 years, royalties have fallen far behind the pace of inflation, having only been adjusted twice in the span of that time.  It is no wonder that artists receive nothing close to meaningful compensation for the broadcast of their music.

In addition, the PRO’s have put in place ridiculous rules that hinder those trying to showcase music.  BNI requires a station’s website to close when playing music over the internet.  I find it hard to understand how this affects the performance of music.  Is it their position that you cannot multitask while listening to music?  Internet stations are limited in the amount of time they may use and the quantity of music they may play over a period of time.  Internet stations may not take requests and play them immediately, according to the terms of the licensing in place with the PRO’s.  All of this, by the way, is not in place for terrestrial AM and FM stations.  Collusion?  Possibly.  Creation of an environment that creates competitive advantages for some?  More than likely.

And I have yet to talk about the disadvantage of the artist in these scenarios.  In previous articles, I’ve discussed the economics of having your music on services such as Spotify.  For most emerging musicians, the financial results are abysmal.  More on that later.  The proliferation of ‘free’ music has lined the pockets of advertisers and content providers, but done nothing to compensate artists appropriately.  And the PRO’s sit back silent on the subject, while collecting their fees.  Where is the advocacy for the artists they claim to protect?

In short, the PRO’s need to come into line with the 21st century.  Just because technology allows for the free streaming of music does not make it right (use the movie industry as an example).  We have conditioned the American consumer to believe that access to music at no charge to them is an unalienable right.

The Music Streaming Services.  Here is where I really start losing my mind.  Services like Spotify and iTunes are creating another uncompetitive market, and doing so by throwing around the power of their scale.  Paying pennies on the dollar for downloaded music to the artist, they have created a pricing structure that is financially unfeasible for the artist, and unlikely to be duplicated by new players to the game.

Spotify and iTunes add nothing to the creative or entertainment process, as most radio does.  They are simply huge repositories of music, many times played for free by their customers.  Those they do charge typically pay $10 a month for unlimited music.  Do I need to remind anyone that $10 would not have covered the cost of a single album thirty years ago? And yet, because technology allows it, we have an environment where my cost per album can be a penny or two, depending on my listening habits.  I have access to an exhaustive library of music.  Artists are forced to list their music on these streamers because ‘everyone else does it.’  And for most, it is charity work.

Regardless of an artist’s wish to put their music out for free, iTunes still charges 99 cents for that download.  Let’s examine this for a minute.  The artist is willing to give away the music at no charge, but Apple still feels the need to exact a 100% profit from the consumer, at the same price as it would be if they were paying the artist.  However, ‘paying’ might be a little too strong, as the artist is lucky to get more than a couple of cents from that iTunes download.  The scale of economics is clearly not slanted to compensate the artist for their work, and totally structured for the benefit of the corporate machine.

Fortunately for those of us looking for great new music, the true musicians do not make money the primary concern, and continue to provide us with a vast wealth of incredible music.  However, their willingness to look the other way does not make it right.  The machine needs to change, or more accurately, the current machine needs to be dismantled and replaced with one that benefits both the artist and consumer.  One that allows for the ‘discovery’ of new music, and does so in an environment where the talented artist is able to flourish.  Unfortunately, that day may never come, unless we force the change.  More on that next time.

Coz, The Slacker

If nothing else, it’s time for a few updates.  I have been pretty much MIA for the last few weeks, both here and on social media.  I have been personally disappointed with myself for appearing to bail out on the musicians I have come to know and love, and it has frustrated me to no end to think that I was letting folks down.  As I announced almost a month ago, I joined the staff of Music Mafia Radio as an on-air ‘personality’.  It has been many, many years since I’ve been behind a microphone with the intent of entertaining people, and I’m still settling into my new role.  The most entertaining (and frustrating) aspect of this new adventure has been watching myself struggle a bit with the technology.  Entertaining, because technology is what I do, and the stupid mistakes I was making were enough to make me laugh.  Frustrating, because I have run into some technical issues that have impacted the quality of my shows.  The good news is that it all appears to be behind me (fingers crossed) and I can get back into the swing of things.  I took this on with the promise to myself that nothing else I was doing would suffer.  Unfortunately, things did suffer for a couple of weeks, but everything is back on track.  Be prepared for the renewed onslaught of social media posts.  I am back!!

I do need to take time and thank the staff of Music Mafia Radio for the awesome support they have provided me with.  Working with a group of people that I’ve never laid eyes on is something completely new to me, and they have been wonderful in dealing with my somewhat eclectic (okay, maybe not somewhat) personality.  Kim and Rose are doing incredible things with social media and the musicmafiaradio.net website.  And I would be lying if I didn’t admit to a deep admiration of Rick Landstrom.  In addition to being one of the most entertaining people on the internet, his passion and drive to not only take the station, but the entire indie music movement, to the next level is incredible to watch.  I knew going in they were passionate about indie music, but it has been amazing to see that passion behind the scenes in action.  It is a non-stop enthusiasm that is extremely contagious.  Now that I have all of my technical issues behind me, I can’t wait to be able to jump in and do my fair share!

And so, the adventure continues.  I am back out on the trail, looking for even more great music to discover, share, and persuade people to try out.  Now, I have the added pleasure of being able to play some of that great music for the entire world to hear, which brings me to my big ask of the musicians reading this.  Music Mafia Radio is always looking for the best of the best, and many of you reading this fall into that category.  The station currently runs on a ‘submission only’ basis- we only play the artists that have submitted their music.  If you’re interested, head over to musicmafiaradio.net and hit the “Contact” link for information on how to submit your music.  There are some of you I am dying to play on the air!!

Coz

Follow Cozmic Debris on Facebook and Twitter (@DebrisCozmic).  Be sure to tune in to Cozmic Debris every Tuesday and Thursday night at 8:00pm Eastern, exclusively on Music Mafia Radio.  Also, tune into Rick Landstrom every Monday, 8:00pm Eastern, to hear the results of the Musc Mafia Radio Top 30 LIstener’s poll.  Visit www.musicmafiaradio.net to hear the show and learn more about Music Mafia Radio. 

 

An Announcement From Coz

When I started on the musical adventure that is Cozmic Debris, I was ill prepared for what the journey would entail.  The time commitment is, at times, daunting and the very high expectations I’ve set for myself have frequently seemed unattainable.  However, the blessings have far outweighed the nuisances.  I’ve come to not only love the indie music scene, but I’ve made many connections that are blossoming into true friendships.  I’ve become obsessed with sharing every last bit of great music I can find, whether it be through social media or here on the blog.  In short, I’ve become a huge indie music addict!

For the last month or so, I hit one of those plateaus that are to be expected in an endeavor like this.  Growth occurs in spurts, and in between are flat periods of little or no growth.  Those times can be discouraging, and during a few of those periods in the past, I quite honestly found myself questioning my own effectiveness in doing the best possible job of bringing indie music to the forefront.  Obviously, I never threw in the towel, as I’m probably doing more at this point in time than any other point in this project.  I survived them all and grew stronger because of them.

This current time of flatness has taken on a much different form.  I’ve spent the time looking at what I’m currently doing and trying to figure out what I can add to the mix to take Cozmic Debris to the next level.  What could I do to bring even more visibility to the great and amazing talent that surrounds us?  All I had to do was reach out to one of those previously mentioned connections/friendships and ask a single question to find the answer, which leads to the announcement I have to make.

Earlier today, I officially joined the staff of Music Mafia Radio.  There’s still a lot of work to figure out exactly what that is going to look like, but we have it on a fast track to make it happen quickly.  I’ve committed to do some programming, and it only makes sense for me to help with their social media exposure (after all, that’s what I do).  I am excited beyond words at the opportunity, which is balanced by the anxiety and nerves associated with getting behind the microphone and doing live programming.  In my head, I know exactly what I want it to be, but the next week or so will be dedicated to shaking off more than a few years of rust.

For those not familiar with Music Mafia Radio, it is one of the most entertaining internet radio stations/podcasts out there that are exclusively indie, hosted on spreaker.com.  On top of that, the format includes all styles and genres of music, much like Cozmic Debris.  But most important to me is that the station has personality.  It is not one of those mindless automated playlist ‘stations’ that litter the internet, and it is not just someone simply announcing songs and then playing them (lather, rinse, repeat).  Instead, the approach of owner/personality Rick Landstrom is to recreate what I call the Golden Age of FM radio(1970-86), where the content between songs was as entertaining as the music itself.  However, the focus of every show is the music itself, and the support given to the artists in their catalog is a delight to watch.  They heavily promote artists, both on social media and their webpage musicmafiaradio.net.   The mainstays of their programming are their weekly Top 30 fan poll countdown and a series of artist interviews that allow musicians a great forum to discuss their music and give fans an insight into the world of the independent musician.  Both shows are wildly popular with fans and artists alike.

Broadcasting on Spreaker also gives them the unique ability to have an active group chat going on during their shows.  This chat provides yet another avenue for fans to interact with musicians, as it is common for both to be present on any given night.  I’ve personally witnessed artists planning collaborative works in the chat.  It adds an entirely new aspect to the ‘radio’ experience, one that is creating a true community of fans and artists.  And it is this sense of community, along with the pure entertainment value of the shows themselves, that made my decision to join the team a no-brainer.

Helping to grow the station is my number one priority.  Providing additional airtime throughout the week devoted to playing more indie artists is also right at the top of the list.  This is a pretty big jump for me, but it’s one leap of faith that I believe is an important next step in the evolution of Cozmic Debris.  Prayers that I don’t fall flat on my face are greatly appreciated.

I’ll share more details here as they become available.  Now it’s time to hit the studio and brush up just a little.  At least I don’t have to deal with splicing tape this time around!

For more information about Music Mafia Radio, visit musicmafiaradio.net.  The weekly Top 30 Countdown airs live Monday nights at 8:00pm Eastern Time on spreaker.com. 

What’s Coz Listening To This Week, Volume 2

Okay, I promised a new Soundcloud playlist, and here it is. As I look at it, I was definitely in an 80’s alt rock/ 90’s pop frame of mind for most of it, but you also find a few other gems in amongst the rest. Hope you enjoy!  30 incredible artists, including:

BATTS
Jeaux London
Nigel Brown
Essential End
Color Theory
Sariah
Riff Reign
Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors
Biotin Babies
Dandelion Charm
Future Generations
Matt Mercer
Tamanie Dove
TeamMate
Plevyak
Catholic Action
Traffic In My Head
Sub-Radio
Red Light Effect
The Japanese House
HYPERDOSE
Wide Eyed Boy
The March Divide
Josh Taerk
Kill For Eden
Meadowlark
Ballerina Black
The Aces
Fizzy Blood
Kylie Hughes

 

What’s Coz Listening To This Week?

Something a little fun to start the week.  I may do a Soundcloud and Reverbnation playlist later in the week as well.  Don’t fret if you didn’t make this week’s playlist- I’ll be changing it up every week.

Want to know what Coz is listening to this week on Spotify? It’s just two hours of some of the greatest indie music on the planet! You’re crazy if you don’t check it out.  Search for “CozList” on Spotify or click the player below.

Included are songs by:

Adam Strelow
The Band of Heathens
Matt Maloof
Charlie Millikin
460 South
Adam Stern
Blue Helix
Dave Jordan & The NIA
Che Orton
Doctor Paul Constantine
Zack Walther Band
Black Cadillac Kings
Ships Have Sailed
The Pussywillows
Swampbox
Kylie Nicole
Raftree
Saint Luke’s Drifters
Chase Walker Band
Jefferson Coker
Cliff Wheeler
The Puss Puss Band
Camryn
Almost July
Fickle Friends
Massive
Royal Canoe
Flowers in Syrup
Near Deaf Experience
The Grizzled Mighty

The Rock Star Lifestyle

Ladies and gentlemen, church is now in session.

Imagine being a talented drafting engineer, possessing the highest level of skill possible, responsible for some of the most talked about work in your field.  How would you survive if all of your works were readily available on the internet for free, while the company you worked for (who is not paying you a dime) was raking in millions from the sale of your work?  Would you take a day job to support your passion, or would you simply stop doing it because it was not financially viable?

I’ll take a lot of flack for that last paragraph, with many saying that my example is ridiculous and not credible.  A drafting engineer would never have to work for free, that’s preposterous! To those that think it silly, replace the words “drafting engineer” with “indie musician” and let me know how ridiculous it looks now.  What it becomes by making that replacement is the real world, at least for the indie musician.

The current economy of music is built on an archaic and outdated model.  The perception of the arts in general in modern culture presupposes a false sense of entitlement by the patron (a term I use very loosely here) to have unfettered and free access to whatever art form they seek.  The societal view is that because it is art, it should be produced for the public consumption, purely as a labor of love.

Newsflash, folks- love doesn’t pay the rent.  Go to the local grocery store and let me know how many pounds of ground beef you can get for love.  Go to your bank and ask what the currency exchange rate is for love to dollars.  For the very large majority of musicians out there, the bills are paid by some other endeavor that takes valuable time away from the creative process.  For some, the decision to live on that razor’s edge between subsistence and poverty is consciously made to be able to devote as much time as possible to the art.  The public’s image of a musician is often a Mick Jagger or Michael Jackson, living a rock star, jet setting, opulent life.  For today’s musician, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, I’ll get even more pushback for that last little bit, mostly from the musicians themselves.  That pushback is justified, because to the great majority of them, it is the love for the art form itself that drives them.  Honestly , that is the only reason they should be doing it.  But, the love of the art should not be construed as something that should be done for the greater good out of some sense of social welfare.  It comes at a price, and that price should not be the sole responsibility of the musician to bear.

In 2015, Spotify reported $2.1B in revenue.  In 2015, Spotify reported paying out $1.8B of that revenue to the record companies.  Not the artists, but the record companies.  From there, the artists were at the mercy of the record company to receive whatever small percentage of the total pot that is called for.  For an independent artist to earn $10 for an album on Spotify, a single user would need to stream the album around 1200 times.  That’s listening to the album once a day, every day for almost four years! Keep in mind that the independent musician has spent many thousands of their own dollars to produce said album, meaning that millions of song streams are required just to break even.  The system is clearly broken.

I regularly hear of musicians, whose quarterly or semi-annually check from the performance rights folks comes in under $5.00 for everything available to the public. Interesting to note that the great bulk of the revenue is not sitting in the pockets of those who provide the service (Spotify), or those that created the art (the artist).  God forbid if someone were to recommend advertising between songs to help either end of the spectrum get their fair share.  The public demands immediate, continuous, uninterrupted, unlimited streaming of every song known to mankind, and will very loudly protest the $9.99 per month subscription fee required to get such a service.  In their minds, it should be free.  The public forgets a time not all that long ago where that $9.99 wouldn’t have even purchased a new release album.

There are many evils in the music business, some more horrible than others.  But, I contend it is public perception and the accompanying lack of education that is the most dangerous pitfall out there for any independent artist.  We must change the way society views our artists.  They should be held as a priceless treasure, valued for their positive contributions to society, and not as some throwaway commodity that isn’t worthy of our real patronage (in the true sense of the word this time).  Think about that the next time you pass by an artist’s merchandise table.  That CD you buy could literally be the difference between eating and not eating that night for your favorite musician.  That may sound rather dramatic, and doesn’t apply in many cases. But it is a sad reality for more incredibly talented musicians than it should be.

Okay, I’m done ranting for now.  No promises on how long it will last.  I leave you with two simple questions.

What would life be like totally devoid of music?

Are you willing to truly support the artists who bring a smile to your face?