Releasing videos and albums, a high-risk bet

Photograph by Angélica Vargas

Emerging bands are investing in creating high-end products in the shape of videos and albums, but are release parties of said products paying off the investment? It is a culture that is growing and perhaps bands will gain an advantage from it.

Last month, I was surprised to see several local bands taking their management so seriously as they held release parties for new videos and albums. Do not get me wrong, I think it is remarkable that bands are creating these kinds of events to make people acknowledge both the hard work bands put into it and the emotional investment. But, at the same time, I am puzzled why they make themselves go through such labour considering how difficult it can be to get your band promoted and to actually earn money through music.

The effort to put up an album together, when you do not belong to the “industry”, is a major endeavour. In a world were instant celebrities take up a great part of popular culture , it becomes almost illogical to put so much effort into producing music as professionally as possible. Think of it this way, you take your time to make something creative, which means it will take a toll on three aspects that somehow you cannot get back: time, emotional investment, and creative effort. For some musicians, finding those three elements is not that common, but once they do it becomes something extremely precious.

For musicians in particular, once they create a song, it takes even more time to master it to be able to show it to the world in the way they have foreseen it. For most musicians, the audience’s acceptance and recognition of creative labour is the main goal as creative beings. However, due to the constant bombarding of material and the few means of broadcasting their work, it makes achieving that recognition an even harder work.

Back in the days, you needed a label to distribute your material, to put it on radio stations and to give you money to produce a killer video to be broadcast in local or national video channels. Success depended on how resourceful and well-connected were those labels. It was hard work, but it was strongly related to how musicians could reach their target audiences. Nowadays, the story develops in a completely different way as being connected with big players and media is not as important as it used to be.

Youtube, subsequent internet channels, web-based radio stations, word of mouth, small and alternative festivals and so forth, give multiple opportunities to independent artists to reach us, the audience. The Internet and its wonders can be a good strategy set to get your musical work known around the world, going beyond their national borders and depending on their charm to sell themselves… Or so they think, as new marketing tools give less room to wander around, even in the vast internet.

If you happen to have a Google account, you must have noticed that every time you enter and surf around on your Youtube account you get certain suggestions as for what to watch next. Most of us are lazy net-surfers and we tend to stick to our old ways or just to the limited suggestions we get on our feedback page. What does it mean for the newcomer artist? It would mean that reaching out of people who are not aware of your existence as a musician will be difficult as they will not get an advertisement or even a suggestion that you exist. The same goes for Facebook cross-promotion as suggestions are based on what you have browsed through on it.

When one considers how difficult it is to be known outside of one’s circle of friends, it seems almost a mental problem that emerging bands make the effort to do videos in the first place. And I am not talking about a lyric video as a teaser, I am talking about a full-fledged video that carries out several hours spent in creating the concept behind the video, hiring the right production team to take that concept and making it a reality, and the release event. For people that are not that involved in a creative project, the entire idea is plain madness. But musicians, especially those that are taking the matter seriously, are a different kind of breed.

When we consider making an album, the creative process could be more daunting. Recording an album, particularly when the musician wants a high-quality product, is a difficult task where you have to choose wisely the kind of people you want to produce your album. For many emerging musical acts, this process comes to reality with sweat, blood and tears as most of them have day jobs to sustain their music. It can take a good while to be able to produce it in the way they foresaw them. Then, the end product is subject to criticism and to the good will of listeners through a release party. It is a high stake bet that does not always pay off.

Release parties are relatively small fields for a band to get more audiences. So, this step has to be accompanied by a strong media promotion previously and posterior to the event to ensure maximum coverage. But, to me it is like watching Deadpool forgetting his ammo bag, taking his two swords and going “maximum effort” to kill a bunch of bad guys; bands go “commando” mode to succeed. In this process, musical acts are gamblers that make their creative products their high-risk bet to spread their worth. It is scary, to say the least, but thanks to these high-end gamblers, we can enjoy, even if you do not know the band in question.

Growing musical scenes, like in Colombia, are still getting used to this new way of thinking regarding releasing a product. However, is it possible that us, as consumers, are just not ready for it yet? I think that audiences need to be taught to embrace this change in which, if we reward those acts that take themselves seriously, we can push other bands to give us well thought out music.

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