The modern trend of online streaming and downloads has put a lot of musicians especially the Indie artists in a spot. A lot of them, for the lack of knowledge and awareness, are not sure what to do. What are technical terms they need to know and what are the concrete steps they need to take in order to survive and also continue selling their music online.
The best way, obviously, is to seek out guidance from an expert — somebody who has done it.
Well, for that, we have a music monetizing guru, who has done it all. A two-time Emmy-Award winning musician, music supervisor, recording artist, and a prolific writer on the subject of music monetization, Michael Whalen has transitioned from a traditional musician to a modern geek. Let’s hear what he has to say about some of the most troubling questions that independent musicians have.
Q1. You have achieved so much success being a musician, composer, and expert in the music industry. What gives you the ideal motivation?
I am motivated by the people and events in my life. My children. My extended family and friends. Life is made up of moments that are filled with inspiration if we are courageous enough to be fully present to what is happening — when it’s happening. People are too willing to have life happen to them and to have life wash over them. As an artist, my job is to be listening acutely to my own experience and creating music that will inspire others. It’s a double-edged sword. Being that aware of life can be painful and confusing because so much that is happening is happening without context or even an attempt at an explanation. We hear about tragedies every day in the news. So many people have stopped listening because life is too much to process. Like anyone, I have had hard times and loss, however, I have tried (as much as possible) to keep the channel open. I think that’s why people connect with my music. They hear the passion and authenticity. You can fake it. In new age music, there are too many people “phoning it in” and the audiences know it. My inspiration is ultimately what my heart is willing to put in my brain and then into my hands.
Q2. With changing dynamics on almost a daily basis, what modern musicians need to do in order to survive?
Honestly, many musicians are getting swept away by the “new economy” because they are unwilling to leave the “old” way. Artists are addicted to SELLING stuff as a way of figuring out whether their music has any value. That’s a mistake. I have been saying this for almost 20 years: the ONLY thing that matters is how the audience USES music. Right now, they stream it and make playlists. This seems to be an insurmountable concept for musicians who complain about how they are getting cheated by the big music streaming platforms.
Q3. Do musicians need to be tech savvy in the age of downloads and streaming? If yes, how much is minimum?
Yes, absolutely. It simply doesn’t work for musicians to say that they are not computer literate in 2018. They need to know computers, music software and Internet applications — but they also need to know what an aggregator does and speak the language of metadata. If you don’t know what or whom an aggregator is, do a Google search!
Q4. What is your personal goal when you work on your music?
I make music that I myself want to listen to. It sounds obvious, but it’s a tall order. I will not make music that my “fans” ask for if it’s not what I want to make or ultimately listen to. The minute I start approaching my art as a “product”, any real emotional connection is cut and I might as well pursue another career. So, I know if I am listening to my own music — — I have reached my goal.
Q5. Three things needed to achieve success in the music industry, like you achieved?
1. Be connected. Know people in the industry.
2. Be a person of integrity.
3. Create your own authentic music versus creating what is “trendy” or “popular”.
In the end, being successful is about being consistent and that your colleagues and clients can depend on you to deliver every time. After 30 years, I think I have a pretty good track record!