Right now in the US, stories of popular indie bands such as Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective etc, are getting loads of attention. By today's standards they're doing really well, having sold hundreds of thousands albums and downloads. But is it enough to survive?
The reality is that what is earned is not exactly a lot and doesn't guarantee the band can survive on those earnings unless the band regularly tours. Musicians are not always able to make two ends meet.
So what awaits those bands who are, let's say, not exactly from a rock n' roll country that has no real interest in the entertainment industry?
For us as a band who are from the very end of the Trans-Siberian Railway - the port of Vladivostok - even at the best times of CD sales, the market was absolutely filled with pirated copies. At the end of the 1990s when a few of my debut albums had become mega popular in Russia, I hardly saw a penny and have never heard from a record label about any earnings from CD sales - they blamed everything on the piracy. The Russian financial crisis of 1998 pretty much bankrupted all young labels including OUR very own indie label.
I tried to follow the development of new technologies. In 2000, we decided to offer our new album for download on the basis of 'pay as much as you want'. In the end there were about a million 'eager' downloads and the server crashed, but the people who wanted to pay for the album I could count using the fingers on only one hand - lots simply couldn't do it, because sending money by post was problematic, and credit cards only began to appear amongst Russians 10 years later.
I can recall and remind myself that seven years later, the model of 'pay as much as you want' was well publicised by the one and only Radiohead and other foreign counterparts, who have had their good share of being part of the 'imperial' management of major record labels. It's become a good pension plan.
I want to point out that us Russian musicians are in a unique historical position. All the problems that are our international colleagues are facing now we came across more than 10 years ago. So we had to think of something new in order to live with the change of reality, after all concert tours have their own physical limits. You can't tour around Russia with a simple minivan - the only way is to fly by air, but the thing is low-cost airlines have never been introduced in Russia therefore making it even harder on your budget.
So, would you pay £5 for a mediocre salad, but not find it convenient to pay that for an album of your favourite band instead? Or, is to pay for an album by an unknown group more inconvenient? The answer is - music is available fto download for free!
So in conclusion we have come to a situation, when music becomes a hobby for a musician, it affects the quality and the quantity of the material and our interactions (in a good way). Maybe this is the future, I won't deny that!
But for now I am getting on board of a sailing vessel, which does not use gasoline, to embark on a journey around the world to show and perform my songs. The ship deck is my stage, the sea will feed (I love sashimi) - Port of Departure: Vladivostok. Destination: The rest of the world.
Yours truly, Captain Music, on behalf of the Mumiy Troll crew...