[Writeup of the program we did Thursday April 17 at the Governor’s Square Branch]

Last night’s presentation on the music business was a fantastic program for this librarian and music lover. I am so grateful to all who attended and offered their questions and experience for discussion, especially Mark Coleman, who volunteered his time and extensive knowledge.

The night had many high points. But can I tell you the highest, at least for me? Lil Chappy, already a successful artist, picked up one of the library’s books on the music business– and whipped out his library card to check it out.

Whatever your business, style, interest, issue or dream, the library offers FREE resources that will give you the edge you need.

So what’s the current state of the music business?

You do it because you love it, and if you’re smart, you can make money at it too.

Mark Coleman gave a fantastic presentation on the reality of the music business and how aspiring musicians can make it work for them. Guests included several folks aspiring to put their audio (music and poetry) on the internet, and hometown heroes Queazy and Lil Chappy. Some great questions were asked, and connections were made.

Mark has years of experience with the music life. He’s been in bands around Montgomery over the years. His podcast has built relationships with listeners and musicians from Montgomery to Poland to the heart of Siberia. He’s ‘the sound guy’ for various musical events around town. As an instructor at Booker T. Washington Arts Magnet, he teaches young people to use music production equipment and software to turn their creativity into a musical product they can use to promote themselves and their talent.

The idea that musicians ‘make it big’ when they get signed by a major label is just an illusion. After the record company gets their cut, musicians are often living in near poverty, often on the road, pretty much indentured servants. He noted that record (cd, these days) sales have never made musicians much money, but record sales for ‘bestsellers’ have declined to about 1/3 what they were at in 2000– which means even less money for musicians. He noted that the amazingly talented Toni Braxton had to declare bankruptcy after platinum sales, because of the nature of major label recording contracts.

He likened trying to ‘make it’ — in the traditional sense– in the record industry to trying to have a bestselling book. For every bestseller, thousands of books are published that make very little to just modest money for their authors.

So what’s a talented musician, author or producer to do?

Mark mentioned the names of several musicians or authors who earned more money by promoting their music or books over the internet than they did in their 9-5.

Mark was in favor of working with a small local studio if you can afford it, but he demonstrated software and hardware, available at prices from free to extremely expensive, for home sound production. With a small investment and some work, anyone can create audio– music, poetry, spoken word, or books.

Once audio is produced, artists and producers can take advantage of internet resources to promote their work, get cd’s pressed, or create t-shirts, hats or other promotional material with a very reasonable investment up front. Artists no longer have to spend thousands of dollars out of their own pocket to record and ‘press’ a cd or get t-shirts made up, only to have boxes and boxes of t shirts and cd’s sitting around the house years later because nobody bought them. [Mark, why didn’t you bring us all a cd and a T-Shirt?]

Queazy and Lil Chappy weighed in at the end to confirm many points in the presentation or the discussion that follows.

Pursue the dream, but read the writing on the wall. Keep your integrity, and your money. Take advantage of the great tools available to produce and promote yourself. Work smarter. Put in the time. Need help? Don’t expect a handout– think about what you can bring to the table to help the other guy in a partnership. Have realistic expectations. Keep putting your name out there. Create relationships– no contact is insignificant, because relationships create opportunity. Keep learning. Come to events like this. It can be done.

I had thought my teen club would be doing blogs and podcasts this summer but it sounds like many people of all ages, teens on up, would like to learn the basics they need to get started creating and promoting online. I am available by appointment just about any time to assist you with creating a blog of your own. I will reserve computer time especially for those who are working on audio and internet promotion projects. I am working to get the earphone/microphone sets and software needed for basic podcasting (internet audio production and distribution).

Please call 334-284-7929 if you are interested in learning, sponsoring, or volunteering to assist others as they learn.