Repent Tokyo Records is an online record label in world where the term "record label" has less and less meaning with each passing day. What started off as a method of distributing vinyl and mp3 versions of the music of Slammer Virus has evolved into an on-going experiment of large scale parties, music distribution, artist promotion, and musical creation. In the past 3 years
the music industry has changed rapidly around me, and with it, my attitudes towards what it truly means to successfully negotiate what some would term a "career" in this enterprise.
Does it even make sense to commercially sell music anymore? Is there truly an individual market for electronic music? Of course there is - but this market is neither large enough
nor responsive enough for draconian measures like digital copy protection or RIAA lawsuits to have anything other than a destructive, crushing influence. Controversially,
I would even go so far as to say that the idea of a direct exchange of currency for a digital or analog representation of music is dead. Forgetting for a moment the sad and twisted
world of the pop music business, I feel that electronic artists have the rare opportunity to carve out their own path in a global market.
For the most part, there is no one standing over the shoulder of dance music producers demanding that they follow a decades old path to fame and fortune. We are still in the midst of a largely self-deterministic industry where personal motivation, luck, and talent play a large role in determining success. This is not to say that the pressures of genre restrictions, club formats, local and national legislation regarding the legality of raving, and the issues of sample clearance have or will ever disappear.
But on an economic level, the electronic artist is presented with many choices that can go a long way towards their music hitting the ears of hundreds of thousands of
eager partiers and bedroom DJ's alike. The first clear cut decision that should be made is to let go of the concept of selling representations of your music, be they CD's, DVD's, vinyl, mp3's etc. Instead, focus on selling your music itself. Before you write me off as a loon, let me explain:
The single most important thing to an artist, be they just starting out or 30 years in, is awareness. If your audience is not aware of your music's existence, it is going to be very hard for you to sell it - in any form! Likewise, if you are not aware of who and where you audience is, the same problem presents itself. The key to overcoming this issue lies in exposure - getting as many people as possible listening to as much of your music as possible, and then re-listening, and then telling their friends, etc. One of the best ways to initiate this kind of exposure is to give your music away in a pre-recorded format - and one of the best ways of doing that is to make it available online. This can be through an artist website, through peer-to-peer networks, through music community websites, or through internet broadcasting.
By now anyone with a vested interest in the current vassal state music business model has recoiled in horror and made the sign of the cross at such a gross breach of accepted dogma. Give it away? How, then to profit?