Study Suggest That You Need Label Help To Cross Music’s “Obscurity Line”

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"In 2008 there were 1500 releases that sold over 10,000 album units. Out of that there were only 227 of them that were artists that had broken 10,000 for the first time.
So in the whole year only 227 of the artists were artists that had broken what we call the “obscurity line.” When you sell 10,000 albums, you’re no longer an obscure artist; people know about you. You may not be a star yet, but you’re in the game…

We looked at the 227 and identified that only 14 of them were artists doing it on their own and all the rest were on majors and indies; a little more than half were on indies."

– Tom Silverman

of Tommy Boy Entertainment and The New Music Seminar in an interview on Musician's Coaching. Tom will be releasing the 2009 stat sat the LA New Music Seminar on February 2nd.

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  1. >>We looked at the 227 and identified that only 14 of them were artists doing it on their ow<< That's the most important observation in this post. So... can we find -- or compile -- a list of those 14 artist? THATs some critical info.

  2. I agree I want to know who those 14 Artists are and what did they do to break on their own. Thats the critical part. However the numbers are still discouraging. I read the full article it also states that in most of the artists that sold over 250.000 to 500.000 cd’s, the labels lost money, cause they had to spend too much in marketing. The future doesn’t look good for Majors or Indies.

  3. Part two of the interview is now up. It does not answer the question who are the 14 – I am looking into this though.

  4. Independent artists that own their own product and tour regionally or nationally and develop fan bases are making it all over the world!!! If you develop a sound/band that people want to hear, you can do it this, lots of NOLA bands do it for decades.

  5. The music industry should be well past measuring success with ‘units sold’. What about downloads, live, merchandise… Also, I’ll bet that those artists that did shift a lot of ‘units’ were heavily financed by the record labels so whether or not they were profitable is a completely different matter.
    All these results seem to show is that consumers (on the mass market) tend to purchase music from artists that they know than debut albums. Which shouldn’t really be a surprise…

  6. Isn’t this a faulty metric? I won’t be successful until I sell at least 10,000 albums? Aren’t the majors going to pretty much cast me to the wolves unless I can more 100,000 units or more? Won’t a major label consider anything between 10,000 and 100,000 records sold a failure?
    I’m solo performer still at the ‘serious hobby’ level who knows a decent number of people trying to make a go of it out in the choppy waters of the indie music scene. The people who seem most successful are generating a bit of income from album sales but I’m guessing more is coming from gigs, workshops and house concerts as well as donations from supportive fans. I’m not buying 10,000 CDs sold as the definition of success. Though I’d certainly like to know what those 14 people are doing as well.

  7. “…the game is how can you build your revenues, not how can you sell more records. You may not sell records at all. You may decide to give records away to get your revenues up. If your revenues go up, that’s what you care about.”
    -Tom Silverman from part II of the interview.

  8. This is old-school “music industry” thinking. I haven’t sold 10,000 cumulatively in my career, but I make a full-time living as a musician. If that’s not “in the game” I don’t know what is.
    People like Silverman are still thinking that success and obscurity are mutually exclusive. This is what the labels have been based on. But it’s just not true. There are 1000’s of working musicians out there who are “in the game” (i.e. making a living) while remaining far under this arbitrarily imposed “obscurity line”.
    I’m fine being obscure. And so are the other working musicians that I have profiled on my blog: http://oneworkingmusician.com/category/makin-it-happen-friday

  9. What this points out is that Tommy Silverman and the media folks who follow his line really don’t understand what is happening in today’s music market.
    Most up and coming artists, many of them commercial successes, are, in big measure, not tracked by Neilsen.
    So, time to toss out Neilsen as a meaningful measure of anything but the old-school acts/labels that have yet to enter the modern era.

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