The Endless Flood Of Crappy New Releases

We live in an era of instant gratification. For musicians, this means you may tend to hurry your project... get that new song out there fast, like you were in some kind of race to be a 'star'.

Well, I have written a lot about that drive to "be a star" but I haven't written all that much about the impatience that is rampant with so many bands and artists these days.

If you want proof of what I am talking about all you have to do is look at some facts about the increasing number of new music releases each year. For the first time in recorded music history 2008 was the year when new releases passed the 100,000 mark!

I have been watching the increasing number of new releases for the last decade, and for just a peek at the statistics check this out: Since 2001 the number of new releases coming out each year has jumped from just over 30.000 in '01 to the 100,000 that I just mentioned.

I know there are valid reasons for this increase. Technology's advances in inexpensive recording choices is high on the list, making it possible for anyone to make their own CD, and either manufacture their own CDs or just post songs on various internet sites and then Twitter away and post what you have on Facebook and/or MySpace. But there is more to the problem of the growing number of releases that come out every year.

I think an after-effect of the original Napster revolution has been the adoption of the idea that says in effect "If is so easy to record and get some music out there, why don't I record some songs, and just get them out there and see what happens?"

The problem with that attitude is this. We now have a music business that is overloaded with new songs, new bands, new singer/songwriters and so when you try to digest the fact that there are over 100,00 new releases coming out each year you are confronted with the inability of anyone in the music industry to be able to deal with this massive output.

How in the hell can anyone possibly deal with this huge output of 'product'. It's insane! So, here is what happens: when you have over 100,000 new CDs and/or digital releases to deal with... you don't deal with it. You can't. It's too much!

So this brings us back to my initial point of having all this new music trying to catch the attention of the public, or even a niche corner of the public?

Why are so many artists and bands in such a hurry to create and get their music out there?

Well, as many of you know from my book "Music Is Your Business", and my many Internet writings I try to drive home the idea that in order for your music to stand a chance of being heard, let alone being accepted by a portion of the music-consuming public there are what we call 'Gatekeepers' in the music industry who hold the key to allowing you past certain barriers. These gatekeepers are invisible to most of you, but, they are the people who do their best to listen to as much of the clutter of new releases as they can. Gatekeepers are overwhelmed by the amount of music they receive on a daily basis... they can't keep up with the onslaught of new music that is being released, so they don't even bother listening to most of the crap that comes to their attention... there simply is no time in a workday or workweek to listen to it all.

What can you do about this situation? For one thing... slow down!
The industry always has, is now, and always will look for great songs to work with. Great songs are very hard to find in this inundated marketplace of music.

I get access to hundreds of new releases that come to radio stations, on and offline press businesses, wholesale and retail music buyers, and talent bookers, and I have an exercise I do in the classes I teach and seminars I present. I choose about 200 or so of the new releases I get and bring them into my classes to show my students and clients what it is like for a Gatekeeper today to go through and try to listen to as much stuff as they can. At first I put on display several dozen randomly chosen CDs and ask the students and clients to choose a CD that is attractive to them, or choose a CD they may have heard of, and judge the CDs appearance... the cover, the back cover, the spine, the disc information itself, the CD booklet (if any) and then we try and guess what kind of music is on the CD, based on the graphics alone. (The artwork should give a clue, ya know!)

Then comes the final test. I ask for volunteers to give me their chosen CD and we listen to the CD as if we were Gatekeepers ourselves!

What happens? In 9 out of 10 cases the students and clients ask me to stop the CD within 30 seconds to 1 minute. Why? Because it's crap! and that is my point... if the artist or band had spent some serious time on crafting their music, and the manner in which it was recorded, and not rushed to get their music done and out the door, maybe, just maybe, the number of CDs released would actually, over time, sound more interesting and be more innovative in the songwriting process.

But no, that will never happen. We are forever stuck, I believe, in a suicide mission of sorts... rushing careers with unprofessional and amateur sounding music, all done in a race to be successful, to be noticed, to stand out from the crowd.

So, know this at least: the number of new releases coming out every year will never go down, no matter how much I and other Gatekeepers scream out, "Enough already!" But maybe, just maybe, the few of you who have read this article will think twice before you release your record, and think seriously, "Is my music truly outstanding," and if so who said it was? You? your family? Your friends?

I have a dream. That someday the flood of new releases will slow,and the restless masses who create so much clutter in the music marketplace will wake up out of their selfish stupor and take the time to craft their music, no matter how long it may take, and slow this raging river of crap so that a day will come when I and other industry Gatekeepers can listen to a new CD and not cringe when we push the play button.

Now,I said it is a dream. Will it come true? Never in a million years. Why? Because instant gratification is the order of the day and patience and persistence are old fashioned ideas. Who has the time for that?

Throughout his fprty year career in the music business, FourFront Media & Music's Christopher Knab has shared his experience at many industry conventions and conferences, including the New Music Seminar and the Northwest Area Music Business Conference.

Knab was owner of a San Francisco music store, co-owner of the 415 Records label, and station manager at KCMU Radio in Seattle.

He currently provides a unique consultation and education service for independent musicians and record labels. His new book is entitled "Music Is Your Business".

Christopher Knab