An Artist's Perspective On Fair Music
Interview with Kiran Gandhi (Madame Gandhi)
1. As a musician and a performer, what is your take on the dichotomy between trying to appeal to the masses vs. focusing on real fans?
“ I think the absolute core of the music industry today is focusing on real fans. There’s a lot of math and data out there that shows that when you have a small group of people who you’ve given love to, who really feel good when they listen to your music or get involved in your project in whatever way, they do the evangelizing for you. They will tell their 5 or 10 friends to listen to you, so you’ve already turned a group of 100 to 500 or 1000. The more people you can manage at this higher level by giving them attention or personalized love back, that’s really when you do a good job. I think technology far enables that now more than any other time in the music industry because you can actually target the fans that have shown you appreciation and give them that love back.”
2. What effects does this have on how consumers view artists and the argument over payment flows in the music industry?
“Well, if you build on my first answer, obviously consumers would love this because the ones who are getting love back feel really good. The idea that artists may spread themselves too thin or play music that specifically appeals to a larger group of people may not resonate well with consumers. I am of the belief that when you make normal sounding music or radio ready sounding music, I don’t think your career will be that long. I think you will have a longer lasting career if you’re doing something innovative; you have your initial tribe following you from the beginning and then more and more people latch on to the mission and to the music that you play.”
3. How important is it for consumers to understand how artists get paid?
“This may sound controversial but I don’t think consumers care at all. I really don’t. On my panel at the Fair Music Workshop I remember there was a lot of debate about creating a seal of approval that marks certain songs fair trade aka – if I’m listening to something and it has a fair trade stamp, I know the artists were compensated fairly for it. Troy Carter said “Music sells everything but music”. The sooner you come to recognize that, the better you’ll do in the industry.”
4. In terms of artist to artist relations, talk about some issues you see regarding transparency on the creative side.
“I think one of the biggest difficulties for artists is negotiating internally what their financial relationship is. Today, people are collaborating more so than ever. I recently sent some percussion over to a Soundcloud artist in Hungary. There’s no finance there, I just want him to use my music because I love what he’s doing. In other situations, you have to pay for recording studio time but the actual cost of recorded music is very little. Sometimes between 2 friends, there’s no money. You guys are just recording together, one person is singing and one person is recording on Ableton. Then money starts to come in and you didn’t even think about money and now you don’t know what the split is. That’s a very awkward and difficult conversation especially for those artists who don’t have business experience. Honestly, even for someone like myself with a Harvard MBA, I definitely find it difficult to navigate each of these interpersonal relations. The best advice I have and the best advice I’ve been trying to practice is make sure that the financial conversation is being had as early on as possible.. Or at least mentioned and acknowledged so that both parties feel respected.”