The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — November 2, 2015

Amazing new Hit List this week to go along with the dreary November weather outside. Like the clouds hanging low overhead, the indie-rock vibe is strong this time around, with a good mix of sub-genres and some adrenaline punches here and there. One of the thing I’m loving about this slew of artists is their experimentation with a variety of instruments (beyond the simple guitar/bass/drums setup), so listen for the instruments you don’t normally hear mixed in ;D As always, albums are in no particular order, so give all these people some love!  \m/

1. Love Songs for the Love-Impaired – Vices I Admire – 2014


2. Perfect Little Princess – SingleFlying Kangaroo Alliance – 2015


3. PerceptionsAll Comes Down – 2015


4. Dollmination – The Inferno Doll – 2015


5. Summer Suicide EPIt’s The Lipstick On Your Teeth – 2015


6. VagabondA Reluctant Arrow – 2015


7. OmensThe Furies – 2015


8. Centaurus EPCentaurus – 2015


9. In Bloom – yougetthewordswrong – 2015


10. BurstVenus In Aries – 2015


11. Tottie & the Wanderers – Tottie & the Wanderers – 2015


12. Serene Calmidity – Royal Lips – 2015


13. EPDriven Astray – 2015


14. Horse – Animals in Suits – 2015


15. EscapePaper Clips – 2015


16. Falling Satellites – Dinky – 2015


17. The Deaf KingMorrowville – 2015


18. FootstepsThe Stereotypes – 2015


19. Starcoast – Starcoast – 2015


20. Populi EPPopuli -2015


Real Music Journalists Are Biased Little Punks

A couple months ago I wrote a post entitled Why Music Journalism Bias Works—this is the deeper philosophy behind that notion.

Music Journalism Is a Messy Business

Music journalism is a messy business—it’s dirty, glamless, mostly thankless, and at times will make you tear your hair out. It’s a struggle every day, just like writing a novel or painting a masterwork. Only this novel forces you to deal with real people in real time in dingy little clubs for (most times) no money and little attention thereafter. Many times those people remember your name just long enough to ask you to write up a review of them, or to ask you to promote their newest EP. Sometimes, if you’re extremely lucky, you’ll find yourself crossing paths with people who you truly connect with—people who remember your name because they recognize that, like them, you’re an artist too. The deeper you get into this crazy world, the better you get at discerning these people from the ones who will only break your heart.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 11.39.07 AM

Email from an artist

If you want to be “the enemy journalist” like the boy you saw in Almost Famous, go work for Rolling Stone or Vanity Fair and write about intra-band politics or drug problems. That’s not real music journalism—that’s pretentious drivel the mainstream sucks down with a straw when they want to feel raw and grungy for a moment on the subway. Real music journalism takes place in the dark hours after show-sets as you sip a warm, flat beer waiting for the band to finish loading their gear into the van and hoping they remember to come chat with you before taking off for the next gig. The artists who remember are the golden ones to keep close to your vest.

Being a music journalist is not the same as being a music critic. A critic is inherently critical, and most times that’s in a negative, non-constructive way. There isn’t a desire to see an artist rise above the noise and reach their greatest heights—most times it’s just about tearing apart their latest release. Journalists, however, are freer. They retain the criticism-arrow in their quiver, but use it to augment an argument for why the artist deserves some amount of attention. It’s not about the power trip—it’s about expressing the same artistic voice as the artist, simply in journalism form. Sometimes that voice even connects with other writers, and you find yourself on the other end of the interview!

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 12.20.28 PM_censored

Email I got from another music blogger when I was writing back in 2011

I’ve never been seated in a cushy booth with a comped drink, and I’ve only been guest-listed once (and even that was for a minor $10 ticket). I’ve been plagiarized and at times conveniently “forgotten” once an artist feels they’ve reached an “adequate level” of popularity. You learn to shake it off and focus on the real mission: get that next piece written and out to the world.

You Better Have a Late-Night Preference and Pair of Comfortable Shoes

If you want to be a music journalist—a real music journalist—you better have a late-night preference and a pair of comfortable shoes. Most times, the most intriguing things happen at the end of the night, when the show is over, and the other fans stream out to go home and sleep. And you’re still there with that warm beer in your hand, the bottle empty except for the little bit at the bottom, waiting to catch the merch person as they pack up the table. “I’m a music journalist/radio DJ, and I’d love to grab the band for a quick minute if that’s cool,” you say, hoping that the extra hour of waiting in the dive bar wasn’t for nothing.

Me with: Those Mockingbirds (top left), Bloody Diamonds (top right), The Steppin Stones (bottom left), Sunshine & Bullets (bottom left)

Me with: Those Mockingbirds (top left), Bloody Diamonds (top right), The Steppin Stones (bottom left), Sunshine & Bullets (bottom left)

In fact, the most rewarding, productive nights are when the band is real enough where their merch person isn’t an employee, but just a friend who agreed to do a  favor for a night. Those are usually the bands (artists) who you can catch as they move offstage and then sit behind their tables, happily selling $10 shirts and $1 stickers. Those are the singers, guitarists, drummers who you can grab. “Hey, I loved your set. I’d love to do a quick interview for my music blog if you’re down with that.” Hold your breath, but on the outside act nonchalant, like it’s whatever to you anyway. Then that awesome sentence: “Sure, let me grab the members and we’ll meet you outside in a minute.” Success!

Twenty minutes later you’re on your way home, your iPhone camera roll richer for the funny, quirky little interview that it now holds. You’re already thinking about when you can upload it to your blog and YouTube channel, and have promised to tag the band on Twitter and Facebook so they can promote it on their end.

Those are the nights you feel badass, the nights you let your creative self breathe.

As the Relationships Grow, So Does a Mutual Loyalty

The upshot of it all is that many of the artists you have brushes with move in and out of your life without much of a blip. But there are also those who seem to latch onto your attention, and as your fascination with them grows, so does your loyalty to them, and so does their loyalty to you. You’re not “the enemy” who they want to stay away from; you’re the valued source who they tap for advice about their new direction, the recipient of unmastered mixes and singles before they’re ready for anyone else, and of the album’s first copies when it finally drops. Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you might find yourself mentioned in the liner notes (one of the biggest rushes of my life to this day).

Mastered copy of an artist's new EP I received yesterday, 2 months before official release

Mastered copy of an artist’s new EP I received a couple weeks ago, 2 months before official release

If you want to write unbiased pieces, write about politics, economics, or world affairs, not music and not art. The very bias they tell you to do away with in journalism school and college writing classes is the very thing you should never lose. It’s your unique, creative voice that separates you from the professional critic whose “unbiased” approach is so cold and metallic it lacks any sense of joy in the music. It’s critical for the sake of mere criticism; real music journalists know this is a cop-out. Real music journalists are biased little punks who live and die by the artists they swear loyalty to. Their fealty is palpable and brusque, and immune to irrelevant blurbs written for soundbite effect and nothing else.

If you want to be lauded, go write a bestseller. This is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the fans who are so fanatical that music consumption for them is an addiction to be nurtured and enabled. It’s for the artists, the creatives, the music die-hards who simply strum better with a pen than with a guitar pick.

The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — August 10, 2015

One of the best things about doing the Hit List is the ever expanding scope it lets me have on the music scene. This time around, some amazing, pop, blues, electronic, and acoustic artists made the list, along with some more awesome garage punk and hard rock bands. As always, albums are in no particular order. Check these artists out, they’re absolutely killin it!

1. IntentionsA Life Set Apart – 2015


2. Beaux Zone Session – Hot Sauce Sandwich – 2015


3. HAALHAAL – 2015


4. Chasing SkylinesWho Saves The Hero? – 2015


5. En L’airDark Furs – 2014


6. LegsLegs – 2015


7. The Groovebox Messiah SessionsThe Stir Fry Pop Star – 2015


8. Sleeping/Dreaming EPThe Abstract – 2015


9. SynemotionOH. – 2015


10. Ghosts – SinglePaintbox Fires – 2015


11. In My HeadHillary Hand – 2015

In My Head

12. Big Road BluesThe Paul Garner Band – 2015


13. To be Called HappyLisa Rono – 2015


14. Wildfire EPHunter & The Bear – 2015


15. Vacant YouthThe Path Less Traveled – 2015


16. Spirit of FreedomPerseids – 2014


17. Daze Inn EPThe Ultrasounds – 2015


18. Means of PleasureAllergic – 2015


19. Bareknuckle LoveFreya Wilcox & The Howl – 2015

Bareknuckle Love

20. Embellish EPThe Jellyrox – 2013


The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — August 3, 2015

I think the best part about doing the Hit List every week is showing just how many amazing artists are out there. Check out these 20, a few featured again, and a bunch featured for the first time. As always, albums are in no particular order. These artists are absolutely sick!

1. LegsLegs – 2015


2. The Artist – SingleEternal Mortality – 2014


3. I Was Born EPGhost Lit Kingdom – 2015


4. My Cruel Goro EPMy Cruel Goro – 2015


5. Feast of AshesInviolate – 2012


6. HorseAnimals in Suits – 2015


7. On the Rebound EPSet It Right – 2015


8. March in the Dark: Chapter TwoAnyone’s Guess – 2015


9. Nine Scythes – SingleOtherWorld – 2015


10. DetoursDamn Mondays – 2015


11. Jellyfish EPBlaine the Mono – 2015

Template 505 CD 6 Panel 1 Disc Digipak SR

12. Whole Other KindDear Stalker – 2012


13. Forgotten Realms of WondersShaylon – 2015


14. AvantéAvanté – 2015


15. Sara – SingleAltessa – 2015


16. Tide of MindTide of Mind – 2015


17. Do It YourselfCount Me Out – 2015

Do It Yourself

18. Francis Duffy & The Kingpins EPFrancis Duffy & The Kingpins – 2015


19. Back to YouDimitri’s Rail – 2013


20. Ghosts Have My NumberOur Way Out – 2015


The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — July 20, 2015

Week three into the resurrected Hit List and there’s no sign of slowing down. A new slew of amazing artists you need to hear, as well as new releases from some of my favorite independent artists from around the world! Albums are in the no particular order. Check these people out, they’re sick!

1. For Machines EPLimb to Limb – 2015

For Machines EP

2. The Black Swan TheoryImber – 2015


3. Worth the Weight Guidelines – 2015


4. Take Control EP – Free Sergio – 2015

Take Control EP

5. Kissing Boys – SingleThe Swear – 2013


6. Skin and Bones – SingleBloody Diamonds – 2015


7. In My HeadHillary Hand – 2015

In My Head

8. Paint the SkyTigerface – 2015


9. One Step At a Time – Hour 24 – 2013


10. Change EP – Derange – 2014


11. 1974 & the Death of the Herald1974 – 2013

1974 & The Death of the Herald

12. Rise to Fall EPAltermind – 2015


13. Bareknuckle Love – Freya Wilcox & The Howl – 2015

Bareknuckle Love

14. My Heroin – Single – Nussy – 2015

The NUSSY Experience

15. FoxhollowFoxhollow – 2015


16. Invisible TonightThe Nearly Deads – 2014


17. For the Dearly DepartedThe Funeral Portrait – 2014

For the Dearly Departed



19. HOMEOn Call Heroes – 2015


20. DemoThird Season – 2015


The Hit List: 20 Demos, Albums and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now — July 13, 2015

Another week, another 20 demos, albums and EP’s from the international underground you need to hear this minute. Check these artists out. In no particular order:

1. The Lost [EP]The Beautiful Monument – 2015

The Lost [EP]

2. Save Me EPForever Still – 2015

Save Me EP

3. DreamersMonster Eats Manhattan – 2015


4. Penny The DreadfulThose Mockingbirds – 2014

Penny The Dreadful 2

5. Mad Dog EPTen Dead Crows – 2015

Mad Dog - EP

6. DetoursDamn Mondays – 2015


7. Stranger Just the SameHeel – 2014


8. Uncontrollable – SingleThe Nixon Rodeo – 2014


9. Passengers EPThe Fallen Prodigy – 2015

Passengers - EP

10. Dais EPDais – 2015

Dais EP

11. EgressorThe Body Politic – 2014


12. NocturnalIsobel Trigger – 2014


13. AnchorsThe Wonderlife – 2015


14. Time and PlaceThe Playbook – 2013

Time and Place

15. Do It Yourself!Count Me Out – 2015

Do It Yourself

16. Change EPBranded Bandits – 2014


17. LungeLunge – 2013


18. Give It Away EPFelice LaZae – 2014


19. ContendersContenders – 2015


20. The Drake Equation EPHelion Prime – 2015

The Drake Equation EP

The Resurrection of The Hit List — July 6, 2015

When I was running my radio show Underground Takeover, one of the best things I did was run a feature called The Hit List: 10 Demos, Albums, and EP’s You Need to Hear Right Now. Every couple of months I would compile a list of the albums, EP’s and singles that I found myself listening to ad infinitum, and that I figured everyone needed to be aware of and listening to.

When my show ended (it was a college show, after all), The Hit List ended with it. Lately though, so much amazing material has been coming out, these artists really need to be highlighted. So, we’ll resurrect The Hit List for a little while and see how it goes!

Some new details though, to reflect a new incarnation of The Hit List:

  1. Lists will be lengthened from 10 entries to 20.
  2. List items (demos, albums, EP’s, single) appear in no specific order; i.e.: there is no “top” or “bottom” of the list.
  3. I will do my best to attach relevant details to each item, including title, artist, artwork, and year.
  4. I will do my best to keep the list running, and publish a new list as often as possible.
  5. These albums and singles are spread across a variety of platforms, and thus making a straight playlist is currently too time-consuming. However, I’ll reexamine this point over the next few months.
  6. To help distinguish: demo, Single, Album, and EP titles occur in italics, artist names in bold, and years of release in regular font.
  7. Artist names will be linked to either their Facebook, Twitter, home site, or other pages.
  8. This is all for fun, so let’s keep it that way.

So with that, let’s get to it. Here’s my Hit List for July 6, 2015:

  1. Take Me – Single — Pneumatic — 2015

  2. Ephemeral   Remedy X — 2013Ephemeral
  3. The Devil Never Comes — Molly Rhythm — 2015The Devil Never Comes
  4. Passengers EP — The Fallen Prodigy — 2015Passengers - EP
  5. The Steppin Stones — The Steppin Stones — 20154pan1t-1
  6. Fourstory EPA Black Eye Affair — 2015Fourstory EP
  7. Prophet — Florence & Normandie — 2015Prophet
  8. Triangulum Mechanism — Sunshine & Bullets — 2014Triangulum Mechanism 1
  9. Half Blue — Half Blue — 2015a4155327433_16
  10. Sweet Disillusion – Single — Elie & the Engine — 2015Sweet Disillusion - Single
  11. Just the Tip — Big Red Dog — 2015Just the Tip
  12. Girls of the Yukon — The Head — 2013Girls of the Yukon
  13. Demo — Third Season — 2015Demo
  14. Faces of the Sea — Party Asylum — 2014Faces of the Sea
  15. Blur of Our Souls — Heavy Gloom — 2015cover
  16. Distance Between Us — Eat Your Heart Out — 2015Distance Between Us
  17. Miles Away — My Monthly Date — 2015Miles Away
  18. The Drake Equation EP — Helion Prime — 2015The Drake Equation EP
  19. Dais EP — Dais — 2015Dais EP
  20. Unable to Function EP — Vanilla Function — 2015Unable to Function EP

20 Jobs That Would Be Better As Hackers

Because I had 5 minutes of free time today, my mind began to wander. This is the result:

20 Jobs That Would Be Better As Hackers

  1. Lawyer – Argument Hacker
  2. Doctor/Nurse – Body Hacker
  3. Accountant – Tax Hacker
  4. Teacher/Professor – Student Hacker
  5. Mechanic – Car Hacker
  6. Farmer – Garden Hacker
  7. Cher – Food Hacker
  8. Journalist – News Hacker
  9. Personal Trainer – Workout Hacker
  10. Musician – Instrument Hacker
  11. Painter/Visual Artist – Arts & Crafts Hacker
  12. Writer – Word Hacker
  13. Plumber – Pipe Hacker
  14. Real Estate Agent – House Hacker
  15. Veterinarian – Animal Hacker
  16. Actor – Movie Hacker
  17. Pilot/Astronaut – Sky Hacker
  18. Soldier – Battle Hacker
  19. Construction Worker – Scaffold Hacker
  20. Standup Comedian – Laugh Hacker

Apple Disconnects

Originally published on Marx Rand on June 18, 2015.

Sidenotes in the Independent Consciousness

Apple either refuses to, or simply can’t, understand the mentality of a huge growing customer base, that of the independent artist. This is going to present significant challenges going forward, since now that the Internet of Things is beginning to take connective shape, a new sort of revolution is getting underfoot—but without Apple’s involvement being required or wanted. Power breeds knowledge and knowledge breeds power: with the help of the world’s largest value network, the internet, the independents are beginning to have both.

Last week, Apple announced the release of its latest music platform, Apple Music Connect. [1] The product comes on the back of Apple’s shady dealing with independent artists: never mind the fact that the artist which Apple spotlit during the keynote was a manufactured act, it turns out they won’t get any of the precious royalties from Apple for the next three months anyway. [2]  While just 9% of college students say they are willing to shell out for Apple’s new music service, all these things are ultimately sidenotes in the grand picture of the independent consciousness anyway.


Simply an Attempt to Mollify

Apple made headlines recently with the release of its new music service Apple Music during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). While the presentation was panned by many for numerous reasons, there was one feature that stoked a range of discussions: Apple Connect.

Connect sat amongst a whole slew of cool new things that Apple announced it was releasing that day. (New, remember, does not carry the same weight in the post-Jobs era as it once did, when it used to be a synonym at Apple product launches for unprecedented).

Connect nonetheless seems like an attempt to mollify artists who have become increasingly disgruntled (which is exactly what I predicted before).

Low streaming royalty rates and complexities with the service in general have become a hot-button issue in the music industry lately, so everyone is presently searching in the dark for the magic potion to lead the blind to the place of worship. (Naturally, in such an environment, most preach what they claim is a slightly more purified version of the same stuff as their competitors have concocted already).

What is amazing is how few people are focusing on how irrelevant Connect will end up being as a tool for independent artists.


“Even unsigned artists” = “You’re still a secondary priority”

“Apple Music will be great for all artists,” the Cupertino, CA.-based one-time music industry disruptor claimed at the launch. Unfortunately, that’s not quite what independent artists heard Apple say.

“Even unsigned artists [will benefit],” was how Eddy Cue,  the senior vice president of Internet Software and Services for Apple, addressed the possibility for independent artists to use Connect. In other words, they were spoken to like second-class customers. Yet again. Cue might as well have intoned:

“You’re irrelevant and pretty much a second priority for us right now while we continue to fight the bigger media war that’s a lot more profitable with the major record labels on that other platform—the one we can’t seem to get off now that’s called iTunes!”

Try and put this in perspective for a minute: these artists are not in a perpetual minority anymore. They are now a rapidly growing segment of the music universe, and are actively looking for a place to creatively collaborate and build to their strengths, despite being ‘left of the dial’. And yet the words coming through the Connect presentation are basically reinforcing this “You’re nothing but an afterthought!” mentality.


The Great Irony

The result of all this is, ironically, that over the long term Apple will come out most shaken of all.

It’s barely days into the product launch of Apple Connect, and there are signs that this is the case already. The technology into which multi-millions of dollars were invested in the form of R&D and product sales and marketing, presently is sitting out there on the high seas, flapping like a half-full galleon with a split in the side of its sail, and no navigational map. The very people that Connect was built to serve Apple is locking out at the first port of entry.

iTunes is a great music library, but what is far too often taken for granted these days is the notion that because Apple disrupted the industry once, it will succeed in doing so again. The reality is that the concept of paying for music is now more elastic and ambiguous than it ever was before, and Apple needs to find a way to adapt. In that sense, the company appears more like Sony did in 1998 than it does any brainchild child of Steve Jobs right now.

Alienating a rapidly growing market segment worldwide is definitely not going to help Apple sail back into the balmy seas of yesteryear.


The New Apple Music Q&A Page

If you go to Apple Music’s information page and read through the questions and answers, two of them immediately stick out. The first of those two questions is:

“How do I get my music on Apple Music?”

Apple’s response is flat and corporate: “you can go through either your label/distributor or one of our approved aggregators.”

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 1.11.12 PM

Wow. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in.

Basically what Apple is telling the independent artists––who in a rising number of incidents have professed openly to rejecting major label offers voluntarily––is that they need to be a part of the established label/distributor paradigm in order to even have their music played on Connect.

Then there is the question of users having to submit through Apple’s “approved aggregators.” Apple seems reluctant to admit that increasing numbers of musicians are deliberately foregoing the major record label route (or even any label at all), and it looks here like they are trying to cover their bases a bit thinly by aggregating specific unsigned artists in what will be of a halfway house solution.

But what Apple misses is that when it comes to aggregation, the net result is the same for the artist: less creative control over the product, and more control for the gatekeeper. Anyway, even if there was a way to harmonize this risk, the question still lingers: who are going to be the appointed aggregators? Guys at Apple? Guys at major record labels? Now we’re back to square one.

The second question smacks of exactly this sort of highly-selective, industry buttoned-down approach:

“How can I get access to Apple Music Connect?”

Apple responds by providing a link to a Google News-style verification gate.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 1.11.34 PM

Guess who’s in charge of the admission policy? Ostensibly it’s Apple of course, but it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that major label brass might have a say in the outcome of who gets picked for Connect and who gets the door slammed in their face.

Now I know that many will say that verification is the only way to keep a service from falling to trolls or being overrun by artists who aren’t really serious. But the reality of it all is that trolls and non-serious artists will get through anyway—that’s just the nature of this business. (For a great example of this, look at all the marketing and spam that gets through Google News’ aggregator every day.)


The Upshot and the Bigger Picture

Apple is clueless about how independents will—or won’t—react to different innovations. They will wonder why they need to be verified, what “verified” even means, and who gets to decide. And why shouldn’t they wonder? They’ve pretty much spent their entire existence in the independent sphere marginalized and pushed aside by the major label dynamic.

The upshot is that if I’m an independent artist, Connect will essentially be the same to me as all the other services out there. What people need to understand is that the established music field of the music industry moves with a different rhythm and flow than the independent universe. Dynamics that are taken as gospel for the former do not necessarily apply to the latter. Independents have their own rules, and you can’t play their game without learning how they work.

But when it comes to Apple, the company is not even trying to do that.



[1] The time articles in the piece reflect the original publication date of June 18, 2015.

[2] This policy has since been changed by Apple, while it stood true at the time of the article’s original date of publication.


Thanks to Alyssa Shaffer and Shelley Marx for reading early drafts of this.

YouTube Plays Out of Key

Originally published on Marx Rand on June 11, 2015.

Since being embarrassed after some of the more litigious contracts it makes with independent artists using its platform were made public recently, YouTube is in damage-control mode. The media platform provider has  understandably taken a lot of heat as a result. Right now especially the video streaming service, which was purchased by Google nearly a decade ago for $1.65 billion, is in the process of trying to make nice with the artist community as it braces itself for the onslaught of Apple’s new music service release, Apple Music.

YouTube Has Music, But Isn’t About Music

It’s easy to see why YouTube is concerned about Apple Music. After all, the very same (music) community that in significant measure helped YouTube top $1 billion in revenue last year is just as likely, if not more so, to gravitate towards Apple’s serving of the pie as it is to hang out lapping up mainstream internet TV dinners.

For artists– and especially independent artists – YouTube could be quite a useful tool. At least, what the service is capable of offering should be something that sets YouTube apart from its competitors in the music arena, certainly.

But YouTube is still going to struggle to win in the artist arena for one reason: while YouTube has music, it isn’t about music. For YouTube, despite its cool analytics and humongous user base, is still not a music-centered service. This matters because, at the end of the day, artists are a focus, but not the focus.

With the online music landscape heating up, the services that are able to pay more attention to artists as a principle priority will be able to carve out a significant niche for themselves. In the face of such competition, no one else stands a chance. It’s that simple.

The Percentage Points

A big part of YouTube’s problem when it comes to appealing to independent artists is that it’s a victim of its own success. At the end of the day, YouTube has an overwhelming user-base of consumers (and not just of music, but of all sorts of media) that it needs to keep on satisfying – at last count, there were 23 million subscribers to all the various channels on the service. And that’s only the regular users.

Naturally, it makes sense for YouTube to see that its existing customers are well-catered for, but the reality is that such an approach falls far short of what’s acceptable when it comes to satisfying independent music makers and promoters. They can increasingly afford to be much more selective about what they desire and require from the digital distribution channels that they work with.

To compound YouTube’s difficulties with attracting the independents, YouTube still has in place the same tenuous clauses in the contract that upset the artists just recently. The fact that there are a large portion of artists who are currently unaware of this fact only makes the problem worse over the long run too, for the risk that another public embarrassment for YouTube looms large over the shiny brand image that parent Google has cultivated over the years.

There’s a more fundamental problem than any of this, however, and that’s the following: unlike the teenage makeup artists and tween clothing models that have made gazillions from leading their fans to new cosmetics brands eager to pay top dollar for all the eyeballs, the realistic revenue generated from YouTube for music artists is pretty much zilch when you do the math.

Information Is Beautiful, an analytics service based in the United Kingdom, recently published a breakdown of online revenues obtained by artists across a series of music platforms, namely Bandcamp, CDBaby, iTunes, Spotify, Deezer, and—you guessed it—YouTube. The analytics provider concluded that the percentage of independents able to eek out a minimum wage living on YouTube revenue streams was just 0.07%. Here are the screenshots of the YouTube portion:

Image courtesy of; with edits

Image courtesy of; with edits

Here are the pathetic revenue stream earnings for the signed major label artists:

Image courtesy of; with edits

Image courtesy of; with edits

And now, the revenue stream earnings for the independent artists:

Image courtesy of; with edits

Image courtesy of; with edits

That’s amazing – it’s a seventh of a basis point! In other words, it’s even lower than the cheapest commission charged on an online stock trading platform.

And remember, this is not 0.07% of all one billion dollars of YouTube users, or even 0.07% of all 20-something million YouTube subscribers we are talking about here; it is 0.07% of just all the unsigned artists who receive revenue from YouTube streams! It’s likely you can count that number on the fingers of your left hand while clicking over to the next song with your right.

The Discovery Dynamic

The overriding concern here is that the audience consuming the music of these independent artists is incredibly small. But before you leap to your feet and splutter out the old argument that this is because the music created by independents artists simply “isn’t good enough” or “needs to be curated,” step back and think about the fact that these independents are trying to compete on a platform which is essentially not constructed for them.

Though the dynamic of discovery is big on YouTube, it’s not specified to discovery of new independent artists at all (though it’s great for makeup and clothing brands, which adopts an entirely different sort of discovery process through media). As a result, artists end up competing with an amalgamation of other media – most of which is not music-related – and the poor comparative result they are left with ultimately diminishes any chance that there might have been left over of being properly appreciated or even recognized.

All of this adds up to one very simple reality: inasmuch as YouTube is trying to repair its relationships with artists (and independents among them), it is, at the end of the day, very far from being the be-all, end-all for independent artists that the platform is for other genres of media and entertainment. The fact that less than a tenth of a basis point of artists can eek out a minimum wage using the damn thing – while many other professionals in different walks of life make a lot more than that from five minutes of video stream – attests to this fact.

Thus, for all the potential scale and analytical sophistication that YouTube’s platform offers artists, it is still an ecosystem that is fundamentally unsuitable for them and for displaying what they create. And many of them know it now, too.

Independent Music Is Still  Wild West

The independent music market is very much a wild west, and the introduction of a new tool or a new feature isn’t going to win anyone over. To do that, you need to win the trust and confidence of the independent artists, the way Etsy did with hand-crafters, or even the way that Amazon has managed to do with its dominant share of literary readers and authors alike.

This process is not one in which you can achieve ubiquity by striking a deal with a major corporation which fundamentally only offers enhanced distribution such as a major record label. It’s one in which you need to go straight to the product source – in this case, the artists and their fans – and persuade each of them that what you are providing is somewhere they can interact on a creative level and where the music uncompromisingly always comes first. It should not and cannot be a place where their product looks and feels like an afterthought in the ravenous race to profitability.

The upshot – and the sad irony – of all this is that it’s yet another example of a situation in which one of the very same companies that is so adept at spinning creative mainstream entertainment out into the marketplace proves hopeless in creating a fresh and appealing approach to the rising independent music scene.

As Queen so eloquently put it, “another one gone, and another one gone … and another one bites the dust.”