Australian Media on Paganism
Net gains for local artists
Witchcraft has been in the headlines
this. week. Andrew Masterson spoke to a practising
witch about bad press and suburbian rituals.
Andrew Masterson and Nathan Cochrane,
28th Feb, 1998 - The Age
In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream. Lots of
people, however, can hear you sing.
For all its creative vitality, the Australian music
industry faces formidable geographic and economic barriers.
The domestic market is not big enough to provide more
than a handful of artists with a decent living. For
musicians without a contract with a major record company,
the cost of establishing a profile in the more lucrative
Northern Hemisphere markets is often extortionate.
For an increasing number of Australian musicians, the
solution lies with the Internet.
Well over 200 Australian soloists and bands have their
own websites. Some use websites purely as an extension
of normal publicity mechanisms - as a virtual press
release. But the multi-media capability of the Internet
means that sites can contain graphics, animation, video
and, most importantly, songs.
Few musicians, however, put more than 60-second samples
of songs into cyberspace. Music is data-intensive, which
means that files containing entire songs tend to be
large and unwieldy.
They can also be downloaded, perhaps to a home CD-burner,
and released as pirate copies, thus denying the musician
much-needed royalties. Even a complex website can be
maintained for less than $50 a month and constructed
using commonplace word-processing software and readily
available freeware. It takes only a handful of extra
punters at gigs, or a few extra albums sold, for the
site to pay for itself.
Andrew Penney runs a tiny record company called Viridian,
based in Fitzroy. He said websites were an essential
component for exposing his artists to local and international
audiences, as well as generating orders for albums.
Better still, a virtual music business, with little
or no infrastructure and staff, radically alters the
economics of survival.
"An album has to sell 70,000 copies in Australia to
go platinum," he said. "We can make the same sort of
money over the Net by selling one-tenth that number."
Penney maintains websites for two well-known Melbourne
singers Wendy Rule and Kerri Simpson. Both artists have
released a number of independent albums and credit their
websites for generating exposure, sales, publicity and
air-play in the Northern Hemisphere.
"I think it's crucial for independent musicians to
get their work seen and heard overseas," said Ms Simpson.
"It's virtually impossible as a solo artist financing
everything to get back and forth. Via Internet you can
get radio play. I've had quite a bit of interest in
Europe because of the website, especially in Germany.
Last year, I had a radio station in Berlin feature all
my CDs, which apparently generated a massive response."
Wendy Rule's website has also spurred international
interest, particularly in the United States.
"The good thing about it is that for people who don't
have access to my live shows, it gives them a opportunity
to have a more direct link with what I'm about," Ms
Rule said. "They can e-mail me, for instance. It's a
nice sort of mid-step to bridge the gap between live
shows and the CDs."
For Andrew Penney, the prime benefits of having a presence
on the Internet are marketing and economics. He tells
of a show performed by Ms Rule at the Continental Cafe
in Prahran, for which half the tickets were sold through
the website, well before any press advertising. Her
new album, Deity, will be released in March only via
the Internet or mail order.
"A website gives you a really good way to get information
out to your solid-core fan base at almost no cost,"
he said. "If you do a normal mail-out to 400 people,
it's going to cost you $200 in postage. We've got 150
people on our e-mail list, and it costs nothing to send
them all information.
"It doesn't sell a huge amount of albums, but we get
a steady trickle of orders from Europe and the US. More
importantly, it generates word-of-mouth."
He said album orders from overseas were doubling every
three months, and he expected the trend to continue.
"We're probably doing about $50 to $100 of orders from
America each week," he said.
"Without institutional support from a record company
or distributor, getting any press overseas is really
a hit-and-miss affair."
Wendy Rule: http://www.lpr.com.au/wendy/
Kerri Simpson: http://www.lpr.com.au/kerri/
The Age, 28/2/98