Gigs & Bytes: Artists Are Doing It For Themselves
MP3.com’s early success was based on aspiring artists and bands wanting to be heard. As such sites proved to the world, there’s a vast audience that doesn’t rely on radio, MTV or “American Idol” for new music, making the Web a matchmaker of sorts, bringing artists and listeners together.
But what might not be so obvious is how easy the Web has become for artists. Not only for building fan bases and selling CDs, but also for hooking up with music industry players that might be able to lend a hand or ear.
Artists such as Phil Ayoub, for example. You might not be familiar with the Boston-area singer/songwriter whose first CD, Schoolbus Window Paper Heart, is receiving radio airplay in Beantown. Maybe not familiar yet, but the 32-year-old artist, who cites Bruce Springsteen, U2, and Oasis among his influences, has relied on the Web not only for selling CDs and building his fan base, but for other musician-related matters as well. He even hooked up with a professional producer online.
Ayoub first met the man who would eventually produce his CD – Tim Bradshaw, keyboardist and guitarist for David Gray – through an online ad Bradshaw placed. Plus, Ayoub’s music has been featured on many podcasts dedicated to showcasing new artists.
But you won’t find Ayoub spending late hours pounding HTML code or fulfilling CD orders. Web opportunities for musicians have come a long way in a very short time, and Ayoub, who has an MBA from Boston College, knows how to delegate.
For Web expertise, Ayoub went with a local company, Boston area’s Pioneer Printing and Graphics. Pioneer maintains the Web site, leaving Ayoub free to handle the “personal touch” fans have come to expect from artist Web sites. Ayoub maintains the journal where he communicates directly with his fans and maintains his mailing list.
As for selling CDs, Ayoub’s music can be found on CDBaby and Tower Records, and his Web site is set up to handle direct purchases through PayPal.
But Ayoub’s positive Web experiences didn’t start with his solo career. Before he went out on his own, Ayoub was in a band called Riverside Train, which attracted a couple of mentions from ESPN.com columnist Peter Gammons. “If your tastes include The Black Crowes and/or 3 Doors Down, get the debut disc of a great new band, Riverside Train,” Gammons wrote on the site. Ayoub didn’t complain about the exposure.
“We ended up getting a bunch of CD sales from around the country and some international as well,” Ayoub told Pollstar.
Aside from his own Web site at PhilAyoub.com, Ayoub also has a presence on MySpace – myspace.com/philayoub, and will use both sites to promote an upcoming swing through the West Coast that includes a March 22nd stop at Los Angeles’ Viper Room.
Of course, having a Web site for promotion and a professional producer to guide the recording process doesn’t guarantee instant success. Like many aspiring artists, a lot of Ayoub’s promotional efforts mimic tried-and-true methods performers have used for years – playing live, selling CDs after shows and relying on positive word-of-mouth. But Ayoub knows that the Web has become an important tool for new artists.
“It obviously spreads the word a lot easier,” Ayoub said. “It’s easier for people to hear the music and decide whether or not they want to buy it. I think that the Peter Gammons example is great. He put something on the Web and then hours later a bunch of people are buying our CDs. Before the Web, I don’t think that could have happened that quickly.”