Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: “CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast”

Posted by Maximum Fun on 4th October 2009

Boy, CD Baby has come a long way. Once an upstart outfit whose vaguely sketchy, disreputable-feeling web site put your Podthinker off more than one purchase, they’ve become the hep place to be for emerging and/or unsigned musicians with product to move. They’re so legitimate that they even produce a bunch of podcasts, the first of which, the CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast [iTunes] [XML], provides genuinely useful information to all the internet’s up-and-coming singers, strummers, rappers, key-pressers, hitter-of-resonant-objects-with-sticks, etc.

From the sound of it, they need all the useful information they can get. It’s well-known how steep a hill independent musicians face. Assuming they’ve got the chops, they then need, in no particular order, access to solid recording gear, a decent engineer, media contacts, a compelling story, a modicum of professionalism, a road budget, venues to play, an open mind, some sort of lawyer, filled-out copyright paperwork, healthy fan relations, a strong grasp of social media, management, willingness to play weddings, a sharp mastering ear, a capacity to hold their liquor and enough money to cover taxes. (Also, the ability to podcast doesn’t hurt.) If that list is as tiring to read as it was to write, think about how rough it must be to attain.

Fortunately, the CD Baby crew covers these (exact) subjects and others, clearly and conversationally, one at a time. Sometimes they do this in interviews with relevant music-industry figures, and sometimes they do this in roundtable discussions amongst themselves. For the former, they chat with folks like mid-level venue booker Alicia Rose [MP3], Max Fun favorite and success-by-Internet Jonathan Coulton [MP3], veteran publicist Alex Steininger [MP3], Hall counterpart John Oates [MP3] and rocka-ternt-indie-kids’-sanga Dan Zanes [MP3]. For the latter, they take on news, rumor, personal goings-on and such musician-affecting topics as potential concert mishaps [MP3], Twitter [MP3] and what, exactly, a “360 record deal” is [MP3].

Quibbles about increasingly busy, garish production aside, the podcast deserves accolades for the sheer applicability of the facts and recommendations it provides. The advice given by guests and hosts alike is always understandable, reasonable and, most importantly, actable-on; nothing they tell the listening musician to do lies too far outside their reach. Some of the commentators seem to believe they’re providing the cold, bracing splash of reality that these poor, naïve bands and solo artists so badly need, and maybe they are, but nothing said on the program strikes your Podthinker as especially harsh. Making oneself into a successful musician seems, at bottom, no different than founding and operating any sort of business venture: you do your branding, your product development, your advertising, your sales, your distribution, your networking.

But maybe indie musicians don’t want to hear that. Your Podthinker, who only sits on the periphery of the DJing and ambient worlds himself, isn’t quite sure. After listening to a few dozen episodes of the DIY Musician Podcast, he certainly feels relieved not to have to slug it out in the teeming arena of the struggling singer-songwriter, but nothing he heard was applicable only to said troubadorial combatants. It’s advice for the working musician, sure, but anyone doing any type of creative work can and should take the lessons to heart.

Vital stats:
Format: music-biz interviews and roundtables
Running since: May 2007
Duration: 20m-70m
Frequency: semi-erratic weekly
Archive available on iTunes: all

[Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions or threats for Podthinker Colin Marshall? colinjmarshall at gmail.]