Would You Like Fries With That?
Bands beware the Brits Illusion: Sell 44,300 albums per year or you’re better off serving Big Macs
Were you inspired by the glamour of the recent Brit Awards and are thinking of releasing an album? Think long and hard. Because the truth is that if your four-piece band can’t sell 44,300 copies per year, a feat that was only achieved by 231 albums in 2010 out of 3.2m releases, you will make more money serving burgers and fries at McDonalds than from record sales.
These are the shock findings I found after deciding to investigate the real figures behind the music industry’s glitz and hype after sales our debut album ‘Helium’ was widely perceived as a commercial success after selling over 10,000 copies.
Urban Myth Club are seen as one of the leading lights of our genre after our album charted in the Amazon Top 100 for over 200 days, receiving airplay on BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 2, Kiss and Classic FM and performing at Glastonbury, The Big Chill, The Glade and The Secret Garden Party but the reality is that we had to do an enormous amount of soul searching before deciding to take the risk of recording our new album ‘Open Up’. We are one of the fortunate few who have found a new sustainable model but for most it no longer adds up.
The demise of the high street record store, the proliferation of illegal downloading and the CD price squeeze online and by supermarkets only further highlight the collapsing of the music industry at all levels. The future of any industry is the growth of new talent, yet Music Week recently highlighted that breakthrough acts have hit a post-millennium low.
Prior to the Brit Awards, the chairman of the BPI reflected that “illegal downloading is destroying the music industry” and because of the way the media portray artists, many musicians who are on the breadline feel pressured to keep up the illusion of success for fear of ruining their image. People often justify downloading illegally because they assume all artists in the spotlight enjoy the same success as the handful they see on awards shows.
The Brits is the main window into the world of recording artists for music fans who don’t read the music industry press or business pages. We’ve got a massive opportunity next year to represent the real music industry, and I’m appealing to the Brits committee to seriously consider how the 2012 show can be used to also recognise the majority of artists out there who can’t make a living out of their music due to the current state of the industry.
It’s time to call for brave new additions to the 2012 awards show with four new awards and short films which highlight to music fans the essential contribution they make when they buy an artist’s music rather than download illegally.
The Brits can be representative of the whole music industry as well as celebrating the amazing success of our top artists. I would urge the BPI to consider adding more categories for independent artists. The Best Breakthrough artist award was a step forward, but it usually represents artist who have the backing of major labels, and by the very nature of the award, have already broken through. It’s the same story with the recent Critics’ Choice award.
It’s time for everyone to get real about the music industry. The industry as we know it is collapsing, not with the booming toll bells of the Credit Crunch, but quietly in bedroom studios as successful artists of the future give up on their dreams of making a living as a recording musician when reality hits and its time for the Brits to be part of the solution.
“Nowadays it’s more about licking stamps than executive’s backsides,” Mark explains when asked about how Urban Myth Club operate. “We’ve had to look at a completely brand new approach to everything from how we record, right down to saving £3,000 on mailing costs by using more expensive recycled materials to reduce the weight of our CD package. Gone are the days when recording artists threw TV’s out the hotel window – that’s the equivalent of selling five hundred CDs! The days of excess have gone. Today it is all about sustainability.”
“Artists trying to make a living on the sales of CDs alone can forget it. The CD is dead. It pains me to say it, but CD’s are no longer financially viable – that’s why the CD version of our new album ‘Open Up’ is a limited edition. We had 10,000 people who bought our last album ‘Helium’ but know that our fan-base is larger than 300,000 based on the number of illegal downloads we’ve tracked. Less than five years ago, a portion of that larger fan base would have bought the CD. People that buy our music are our umbilical cord because when they purchase it, they are actually investing in our next album. The price of music is getting so cheap that the inherent value is disappearing from it. I think £10 (or three pints) for a CD is good value based on the amount of enjoyment people get from it. I bought an Adele CD the other day and it was cheaper than a Starbucks coffee.
“One growth area which is often cited as replacing falling income in album sales is live. Playing live is massively lucrative… if you are a Take That or Justin Bieber. The fact is the vast majority of artists who are trying to breakthrough, they have to “pay-to-play”. Realistically, you need to be selling in excess of 10,000 albums to have a large enough audience to make live financially viable.
“I would encourage every independent artist thinking of releasing an album to still go for it because you represent the future, but forget about the glamour. It’s time to get real. Otherwise our future Dizzee Rascals and Florences will be swapping their dreams of a Number One to serve you a chicken in a bun.