Debut Column – “The Biz” – Insider Perspective of the Music Biz by Engineer Peter Mignola

“The Biz is a Glide column by guest columnist Pete Mignola, the owner and chief engineer of MetroSonic Studios which is located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY.  MetroSonic Studios is a world renowned fully analog & digital studio hosting projects for major & independent labels from EMI, Island/Def Jam, Warner Music Group, Vice, Universal and  ABC TV to a diverse list of artists like Anthrax, Chromeo, Flight of the Conchords, Black Lips and Andrew Bird.  Mignola opened the studio in 1991 and has worked both as an engineer and artist in the music biz for over 30 years. With Pete’s experience comes a unique insight and understanding of what can help take a career in the music biz to the next level.”



Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a music biz panel Q&A.  Events like this inevitably generate some anxiety.  My routine does not include speaking to a large group. Truthfully, I’m locked away in the studio most of the week.  Aside from the time I spend with my family, I really don’t get out much.  The experience reminded me of my gigging days.  As a musician, you live for that reaction you get from an audience, but the initial “getting up on that stage” is always a bit nerve racking.

The chance to listen, observe, & catch up on what others had to say about the current state of the music biz was a chance well taken.  While many topics were covered & opinions offered, I found two themes that seemed to repeat throughout the evening: First: The music industry is a constantly changing landscape.  Ok, nothing new there.  The evolution of the music biz has been shaped by each wave of new technology and new music adopted by the public.  Second: Today’s “do it yourself” environment is wrought with new choices, new opportunity, and a whole new world of dilemmas.


 There are two strong factors behind the movement of artists into the world of DIY: Advancements in technology used in the music industry have led artists away from relying on pros for production.  As software and hardware have advanced, it has ultimately brought the cost of production down and opened up the process to just about anyone.  And, the consumer focused Internet has replaced the role labels have traditionally provided for marketing & distribution.  Social media and music & video sharing sites have made it easier for artists to release music to a virtually limitless audience.  We see this is as a positive change because more people now have a chance to pursue their musical ambitions.

Over the past decade we’ve witnessed huge changes in the music biz that have lead to greater access and opportunity for the independent or “indie” artist.  As technology has advanced, it has changed the way albums are created and distributed for artists all around the world.  Now you can release music directly to the consumer via digital platforms and control all the aspects of the production process.  In many ways, this change is fantastic because it gives the artist more ownership and control over the development of their music and brand. However, with all the new outlets and control of your product there will also come more challenges and problems for the indie artist to solve.  Some questions we will be asking and trying to objectively answer over the course of our upcoming articles :

Is it wise to take on everything yourself just because you can?  Does this approach really save you money over the long term?  Maybe most important, will my DIY approach achieve the expectations I have for my project, and my music career goals?     

Indie artists face a real challenge of being taken seriously (or not) by industry professionals.  Your project will be held to the same standard as artists who are signed to labels with budgets for production, management, marketing and distribution services.  To save money, you may choose to produce your own tracks, manage your own marketing campaign, and act as your own manager.  But do you have the skill & experience to really pull it all off?  In some cases, you may have no other choice, as this is the only way it will get done.  But, be realistic…

As an indie you need to be willing to have the hard conversation with yourself or band, about which activities you’re willing to outsource and which ones you not only want to do yourself but are actually skilled to do on your own!

I thought it would be a good idea to offer feedback through actual artist responses. Since I work with artists regularly, I hear first hand what they’re experiencing as they push to reach their goals and dreams. In the next installment, I’m sitting down with some of the artists I have recently worked with to explore how they came to decide what to pursue on their own, and where they thought it was best to engage others to help them out.  How did those decisions work out for them? What changes, if any, did they make to their plan along the way as they were able to see results? Some of these artists may be new to you, and others might already be on your music discovery radar! But you’ll get an understanding of the dedication that goes into actually “making it” in this industry.



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