Mediocre Media Core

Is the popularity of reality shows like The X Factor making it harder for up and coming talent to break through and find success? While there's certainly a case that the media has become saturated with these kinds of competitions, and that record companies are not perhaps as invested in new talent, there are other avenues by which new bands can try to build a career; guitar bands, who haven't had the best few years, can particularly think about using the Internet to promote themselves, while also remembering some of the harsher realities of the current music industry.

First, it's important to note that, while still popular and influential, shows like The X Factor have experienced something of a ratings decline in recent years. Still, though, record companies aren't investing as much into developing new bands, and continue to point to the dangers of piracy and file sharing, rather than putting money into infrastructure and ensuring that up and coming bands have a safety net if they cannot support themselves through constant touring.

There are a lot of options for guitar and other bands to make a name for themselves without going down the traditional label or pop music route; however, it's still very hard to move from being semi-amateur to actually breaking through and achieving success. Bands can set up online mailing lists, can build loyal fans through social networks, and can make use of inexpensive software like LickLibrary Jam Tracks and Garage Band to keep costs down. Guitar bands can particularly look to seek out small sections of the rock audience that might be under served in their local area in terms of gigs.

However, as Bryden Haynes has pointed out at MusicThinkTank, the actual income that touring bands, and even the most hard working ones, can actually expect to earn without a label is typically not very much. Say, for example, that a band earns £90 per gig - this has to be split equally between members. Licensing songs to iTunes might earn 60p per download, which has to be divided with Apple - this might work out to about £10 a month between the band. Most unsigned bands cannot expect to be earning £18,000 a year as careers, and only 0.00025 per cent can actually sustain themselves.

What is arguable, though, is that good guitar bands that have the resources to keep on touring, and that can market themselves well online, can achieve small success within the music industry. However, there's a fine line between being sustainable and driving up debts. As Wyndham Wallace argues, for bands, ‘maybe they'll win fans, but most won't be able to do anything with that fact'. Wallace also notes that many new guitar bands and pop artists are now middle class, and have the personal resources to keep themselves going without a label deal.

Guitar bands have had a difficult few years, in particular, and the cost of equipment and touring means that many artists have to either sacrifice a lot, or be lucky to get in the door. NME have noted, though, that guitar bands are gradually coming back into fashion in terms of radio airplay and touring profits, and cite the recent success of The Vaccines, Two Door Cinema Club, and the Palma Violets, as good examples of how guitar music is becoming more sustainable.

There are several ways that bands can try to stand out, though, as Bryden Haynes explains: getting the attention of independent record labels should be the priority, as should paying to submit songs to download sites like Audio Rokit and Band Camp, where you can pitch your music. Getting income to actually be able to tour and record without living on the edge of bankruptcy is still key, though, and Haynes emphasises that a record label deal is paramount to the long term future of a band, whereby ‘I would argue that a band that is supported by a record label will have more scope for sucess than a band that shuns all notion of signing a deal.'

Rob James is a heavy metal bass guitar player who enjoys helping others to learn guitar online. He styles his rifts to sound like Sentenced bass guitarist Sami Kukkohovi.

Rob likes to listen to As I Lay Dying, Animals As Leaders, Emmure, Beneath The Massacre, and As Blood Runs Black.

Rob James

Send comments or questions to: