Artists Doing it for Themselves

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This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.

How times have changed! Twenty-five years ago, the music business was closed, open to insiders exclusively. The artist s only real option was to work with record companies. The artist's job was to make a great record, and show up for its promotion. The label, meanwhile, handled most other things, including organizing the recording, manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of the album as well as the dispersement of profits to the artist.

These days, musicians in record numbers, are self releasing their latest cds and in many cases, the artists have created their own record labels. The DIY or Do It Yourself movement of the music business has been flourishing in stunning numbers. The movement now has instructional books, conventions, online websites, independent consultants, legal counsel, distribution companies, and much more.

For the next 3 weeks, I'll explore what s going on with this new business movement, how the past has changed, and what we can expect in the future.

25 years ago, the cost to record an album often ran into the six figures. Only a handful of successful artists dared to record an album on their own. In those days, most artists and bands waited for the record label to finance the recording, handle all the details and advance them funds to live on.

There was a diy movement back then, but it was primarily limited to punk rockers making 7 vinyl.

Since then, the digital recording age has changed everything.

The cost of making a record has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be with prices for recording equipment and studio time plummeting. Many artists have their own recording studios, often in their homes. These days, developing artists are more likely to record a record, and deliver the finished album to a record company. If no record company has committed to the release in advance, the young artist will shop their master recording to dozens of labels, to find their best champion. In other words, the era of the demo tape is ending.

Another significant change is in the cost of duplicating CDs. In the early 90's, the cost of cd production was still high. Now, one can manufacture cds for less than $.90 cents a unit.

The third main aspect helping the diy movement is the internet, giving artists community to showcase and distribute their work to, with or without a record label.

The changes in the digital recording process, coupled with the reduction in cd manufacturing costs, the internet, and the major labels reticence to finance unknown talent, have created the foundation for a robust DIY world in the music business.

These events have helped make a more even-playing field for many artists who would otherwise have lost out on the opportunity to have their musical visions produced.

Everyone benefits from more access to good music, and I am grateful for the wealth of talent that is allowed a voice today.

This is Celia Hirschman with On The Beat for KCRW.