Independent music label in St. Louis: Access to the machine

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Welcome to March 2017 – almost a full year after the initial planned release date of FameMachine. I am an independent label owner – quite by accident. I’m also an independent music producer – also, a complete accident. And it’s been hard. This project has survived personnel changes, delays in the studio and an incredibly long mixing period. Right now, it’s supposed to be released in April but I have no idea. We have partnered with a new company in town and we are all kind of figuring it out as we go along.

Me? I started my journey in film school. After I graduated college, I wrote screenplays on spec. Which is basically, I came up with ideas and wrote them for free and tried to sell them. I had varying degrees of success, but no big sales. Lots of meetings, lots of pats on the back but no checks. So now, I find myself working with some of the most creative people I have ever met and they happen to create music. And there’s a reason why ex-drug dealers have done so well in the music business. This is a relentless grind for transparency, access, interest and support. In short, if your music is not already popular, nobody with access and money is willing to invest in you. The days of seeing diamonds in the rough or hearing the music and taking a chance seem to be over. The conversations are all about branding and licensing. In fact, it appears that if the music isn’t able to be put into commercials or movies, anyone who can monetize your project will overlook you. Oddly, hip-hop seems impervious to this trend. They have carved a niche, almost a cult-like following, for that one kind of song that kinda all sounds the same. It’s Drake and then everybody else. And I like Drake but right now hip-hop is not where innovation is happening. And it’s challenging to be innovative in any industry. Once people make money in one area, that’s it. It’s like heroin. You’re chasing the dragon after that. Money and fame are hard to lose so once you’ve had it, you are tempted to just keep doing the same things in order to stay ahead of the game financially. Which leaves us where we are now. There are a lot of good artists in every genre that you haven’t heard of because they are in their own lane. All I can say is support artists you love. Buy their music. Buy their merch. Talk about them on social media. Use their songs in your posts. Instagram about them. Everyone won’t make it to the top of the charts and maybe that’s a good thing. But if you love someone’s music, let them know with your wallet and your actions. The gatekeepers need to be reminded that they don’t know everything.

judith a. culp|just mediaworks

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