Tuesday July 28, 2015

• The Music Business

My band Airplane Mode has just launched the most ambitious and personal project I’ve ever been involved with: a podcast about starting a band and making a record. This is intimate on a level I haven’t previously explored, and to be honest, completely terrifying.

What if we’re terrible? What if the show sucks? It’s hard enough to make music that people like, but to do the whole thing out in the open and take responsibility for a weekly podcast? This is nuts. And that’s why we’re doing it.

If you listen, you’ll notice right up front that Hover is paying for this. Not a huge surprise — they sponsor lots of stuff. My inner indie rock stickler was worried about selling out. what could be less rock and roll than corporate sponsorship?

But thinking about it, what could be more indie rock than getting someone else to pay the bills while maintaining 100% of your creative control?

This isn’t, to the best of our knowledge, how records typically get made. In the old days you’d sign with a record label and they’d pretend to pay for things you can’t afford for long enough to make something they can market, then lie to you about how much money it made, take most of it, and pay themselves back out of your cut. You might sell some records and make some fans, but you probably won’t make a living, and you won’t own any of your recordings.

Our deal is different. Our album gets paid for, and we get to keep the rights to everything we make. In return, we say nice things about Hover at the top of the first several episodes. It’s that simple.

It’s not quite the same as a record deal. We don’t get promotion, or access to other artists or big-name producers. But the chances of us ever getting a major label deal were slim anyway. We were always going to have to do this on our own. This just empowers us to go do it.

This model works for podcasters and YouTubers. We’re just putting a slightly different spin on it. Maybe someone else gets thanked before the show later on. Maybe they pay us more or pay us less money. Time will tell. Hover [did I mention you can use the code “airplane mode” to save 10%?] has been so incredibly supportive in getting this rolling, but now it’s up to us to prove we’re worth it.

And we’re back to the scary part. This could fail. It could fail artistically, commercially, or in pure execution. We just don’t know. But whatever happens, it’s ours.

That’s independent rock and roll.