Once upon a time creative young people dreamed of writing the great novel. Today they imagine themselves at the top of the world of pop music. But it’s only in terms of the initial dream that a parallel can be drawn between books and music; once the dream hits the production stage the similarity breaks down.
Book publishers have traditionally published young unknowns for fun and prestige alone, knowing from the outset that it’s money down the drain. Publishers are not always motivated solely by money. Recording companies, profit-oriented to the death, will settle for nothing less than a hit. Therefore it has never been easy for performers to land their first recording contracts.
Right now it’s almost impossible. The oil shortage, assuming it’s real, has created a shortage of polyvinyl chloride, from which records are cast. Vinyl in 1974 has become gold. Most companies are phasing out their budget and classical album production to save all available vinyl for albums that are guaranteed to sell, meaning, of course, releases only by established groups. New musicians are inevitably left out in the cold.
Since the same situation applies in Canada, we’ve lately noticed a new phenomenon: albums that are created, produced, packaged, promoted and often marketed by the performers themselves, at a cost varying from $5,000 down. It’s strictly private enterprise, and it takes guts and money. Some of the self-made products are well worth buying. They are David Essig’s Redbird Country, Stringband’s Canadian Sunset (which the band claims was self-produced only in order to maintain full artistic control), Michal Hasek, by the performer of the same name, and Doug McArthur’s Letters From The Coast.
Of the four, McArthur is the one with the most confidence in his future. In order to gather funds for recording, he portioned himself into 20,000 shares, of which he personally kept a controlling interest of 11,000. He then sold 3,000 shares at a buck each to put out the album, and the remaining 6,000 he set aside. Why? To sell at two bucks apiece once the album becomes a hit, of course.
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