Here is a guest post excerpt from my friend and artist MC Lars from the Huffington Post UK.
“In last week’s State of the Union, President Obama stressed the importance of creatively revitalising our nation’s economy. He called for “an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values,” the blueprint for lasting domestic prosperity. There are some parallels to this shift in thinking in today’s indie rap game, specifically in application of sustainable new media economics.”
“What this means then is that in order for artists like me to survive, I must be creative with how I let people hear my music. A primary means of distribution in 2011 was my USB robot, a two-gigabyte hard drive keychain that housed all of my albums digitally. I also sell t-shirts with cartoon characters I draw myself and I try to print on shirts manufactured domestically when I can. 47% of my income comes from merchandise, 40% from ticket sales, and 13% comes from iTunes, Spotify or other paid music services through the internet. I used a crowdsourced funding site called Kickstarter to produce my last album, with added bonuses of drawings and personalized songs to the highest contributors.
If the internet were compromised or regulated to the point where the 13% of my traditional digital income (from iTunes, Spotify, and others) were to disappear, it could likely mean that people would turn to getting my music for free, which would then mean that I would need more ticket and t-shirt sales in order to maintain my income level. (My income, by the way, covers my expenses, taxes, and health insurance, and that’s it.)
“Economically, we are living in an era that takes us back to the punk and indie roots of the 70s and 80s. Musicians must be able to go out and perform for years in small clubs to tiny crowds; it’s the way one perfects his or her craft and pays his or her dues. It’s how bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat became legendary, they had explosive, powerful shows and were willing to sacrifice everything to make their music heard. Henry Rollins of Black Flag tells his story in his classic book of journals, Get in the Van, an important read for any indie musician today.
We live in an era of innovative fusion of old and new. Being a musician no longer means simply being a songwriter and performer. One must also know a little bit about business, branding, t-shirt design, social networking, production, publicity, accounting and tour managing.
Ultimately, what this is means is that if you own and run your own business, no one can take that away from you. (The MPAA and RIAA exist to maintain the status quo of the entertainment industry, but I don’t need someone with a large salary lobbying for my interests as an artist when that person is disconnected from the reality of new media economics that I’ve described above.)
The internet in its current free and open format is important to me as an independent indie rap musician and artist. In fact the internet is essential to me and to all of the other artists who are like me. The government’s harnessing and regulating the internet and its free flow of information would be a dangerous thing in that it could lead to government control of a very important channel of a portion of the income that I earn – and through which I express myself freely, exercising my First Amendment rights as an artist.”