Reflection #2 – Critical Research Question/Thinking

My critical research question has evolved over the course of the semester from the specific focus on making music as a musician to eventually focusing on how to survive in the music industry to make touring a viable career, and how this works in the current music industry itself. In the beginning of the semester, I have been focusing on success stories and what it takes to survive in the industry to focusing on how to be careful in the industry, because the music industry can have some shady dealings especially with some greed-oriented major record label executives. Before I explored this research in detail throughout the semester, I came with the misconception that musically hard-working bands are often gone unrecognized because bands that were image-oriented, such as many pop bands, get more recognition. My views on this has changed because in the music industry, besides being musically educated, you need to hard-working in the business and marketing aspects of the music industry. Music, marketing, and business are core elements of the music industry because touring musicians need to play quality written music, touring musicians need to find ways to target their demographics successfully, and touring musicians need to learn how to sell merchandise, and also deal and negotiate with the contracts of records companies or labels (unless they plan to be completely self-sufficient by going completely DIY).

I feel that it takes these skills of a decent level expertise in music, marketing, and business dealings to survive in the music industry. Many touring musicians learn these skills by experience and by the advise of fellow bands that have prior experience in the industry. These skills can prevent musicians from being exploited by greedy people in the music industry who are looking to exploit musicians. While some musicians may use income from a side job as a catalyst to help raise money to start their tours, if bands have the skills to save on expenses and market themselves to an audience, bands have to potentially to be more than self-sufficient and make good profits at the same time. In the music industry, musicians mainly deal with promoters, venue owners, fans, distribution companies, record label companies, sponsorships, and more. It is the job of the musician to approach people in the music business with caution, by reading contracts carefully. The ability of staying prudent and cautious with various forms of music management decisions by the tour musicians will help their career profit comfortably, while playing the music they enjoy to create and play.

Reflection #1

From conducting my research on touring musicians in the music industry, I have learned that it is not impossible for newcomers to gain recognition and profit for their music fast. Profit is a matter left towards the decision that musicians chooses to do with their musical career. While on the interview part on my research, I found out that CD sales are still a viable form of music income. In this day and age, I thought that people do not buy CDs much anymore. However, with my interview with Zachary from the group “Elysia”, I found out that CD sales, both physical and digital, are still in demand by fans. In the interview, was especially surprised how much physical sales of CDs are helping the touring musicians, while knowing that there are many people who tend to file share or “pirate” music.

In November, I went to see a concert in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom as part of a participatory activity. The bands that played were The Devil Wears Prada, The Ghost Inside, Texas In July, and Volumes. I conversed with some of the members and tour crew that were present at the venue.

The headlining band, The Devil Wears Prada, is a highly successful band that is on an independent record label, Rise Records, achieving their highest Billboard Top 200 entry of #10 on their album, Dead Throne. At the venue, I talked to the Jeremy, the guitarist of The Devil Wears Prada about what it took to get to this stop of the tour. From venue to venue, the band is given a “guarantee”, which is a set amount of money paid to the bands to ensure that the musicians have enough gas to go to the next stop on their tour. Jeremy also had to resolve an issue with the venue over promotions done by a street team member at their show. At the show I went to, a street team member of Rise Records attempted to distribute free stickers for the band at their show, in exchange for exclusive fan prizes. Street team members are commonly at shows to boost marketing to potential new fans of the musicians they promote.

From what I have observed, I feel that touring life for a musician can be hectic, but can at the same time be profitable. Musicians can either choose to agree or to agree to disagree when it comes to profits. Musicians strive to have the money to go to their next shows. I feel that the most crucial aspect of a touring band is the marketing aspect to new people. Marketing to a new audience can be hit-or-miss, because touring depends on what day shows occur frequently. Musicians try to aim to have shows on the weekend or Saturday, because those days in the week attract most people and bring the most profit because people who go to shows are less likely to have work or school on the weekends.