Two years after its initial publication, I've finally
gotten around to reading Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan's The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician
, which is already something of a modern classic. As the title implies, this is a soup-to-nuts guide to musical survival in the 21st century, written by two of the members of Beatnik Turtle
, a very successful indie act that has used the Internet for artistic satisfaction, to build an audience, to sell a lot of music, to license music for TV, and to fill clubs. The authors are, respectively, a successful IT manager for a Fortune 100 company and a successful attorney, and they bring an admirable business-sense, maturity, and technical and legal acumen to their subject that gives their personal experience with Beatnik Turtle the ring of greater truth.
The Guide goes from the macro (the philosophy of Creative Commons, the value of audiences beyond immediate music sales) to the micro (how to manage your rehearsal space), and covers an immense amount of technical minutae (how to use compulsory mechanical licenses to record and distribute covers; which places to sell your music to ensure maximum PRO payouts; how to mix down and master a CD).
But where it really shines is in the creative strategies for attaining popular and commercial success, drawn from the direct experience of indie musicians who've found joy by, for example, cold-calling websites that cover subjects related to their music (crocheting, beer-drinking, and everything in between) and suggesting featuring their music, or offering extra CDs from the duplication plant in plastic sleeves with liners advertising upcoming gigs to be sold for $1 by local music retailers (with the retailers keeping the whole sum), a strategy that got Beatnik Turtle free point-of-sale promotion at all their local record stores.
Chertow and Feehan began the guide as a free, Creative Commons-licensed download and were picked up for print publication by Macmillan in the USA, and various major publishers all over the world. They're tireless, principled, talented, funny, and passionate, and this is just the sort of zero-BS guide to modern artistic survival that should be in every artist's handbag.
The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual for the Do-It-Yourself Musician
I first started writing about the remarkable Joi Ito in 2002, and over the decade and a half since, I’ve marvelled at his polymath abilities — running international Creative Commons, starting and investing in remarkable tech businesses, getting Timothy Leary’s ashes shot into space, backing Mondo 2000, using a sprawling Warcraft raiding guild to experiment with leadership and team structures, and now, running MIT’s storied Media Lab — and I’ve watched with excitement as he’s distilled his seemingly impossible-to-characterize approach to life in a set of 9 compact principles, which he and Jeff Howe have turned into Whiplash, a voraciously readable, extremely exciting, and eminently sensible book.
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