Patrick Parker believes today’s musicians need to focus more on connecting with their fans than web analytics if they want to survive in the rapidly evolving music industry.
Before graduating this spring, Parker, BTMM ’99, MSP ’14, submitted his master’s thesis By the Numbers – An Examination of Current Music Industry Practices, which explains how the next big act can do just that.
Parker explains that record labels are becoming an antiquated medium of distributing, producing and marketing music. Now, artists have more control over how their music is branded, but too many are focusing on social media numbers.
Jack Klotz, associate professor of media studies and production (and Parker’s thesis advisor), was impressed by Parker’s findings.
“I think the biggest revelation for most of us was the hard data Patrick was able to uncover about fraudulent ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ for musical acts in social media,” said Klotz of the acts that spend good money to boost their social numbers. Parker believes this trend impacts the quality of music that is produced.
After Parker’s first SMC graduation in 1999, Parker was a regular DJ at nightclubs Silk City and Transit Nightclub. He also produced sound design for major brands Nokia, Nike, Nautica and Kipling.
Back to school
Parker began to realize the music industry was operating differently in the ever-changing digital landscape, so he decided to return to his alma mater to pursue his master’s in media studies and production.
“In what other space would I get to sit in a classroom filled with college students and discuss music and theory,” said Parker, 37.
He has continued to mix music in his personal time and often hands out samples to friends, free of charge. However, he said he never pursued a project of his own for profit. With his thesis project ahead of him, Parker decided to put his talents to the test in the name of education.
He formed the band Minds in Time with friends and colleagues Dai Miyazaki and Jason Fraticelli. The band would become a case study to investigate what it is like to be an indie group starting out in today’s evolving music industry.
After two months or production and seven hours of recording in Parker’s apartment, the mini-album By The Numbers was complete.
“When it came time to work on this final project I thought it would be cool to have an album go along with it,” said Parker.
Standing out from the crowd
In the corner of Parker’s studio is a makeshift light box he made to take photos of the intricately designed CD covers with a laser cutter. It takes him around 40 minutes to create one. Time well spent, since it led to his first sale. After posting photos of the albums on the Minds In Time’s Instagram account, the band made its first sale to someone in Belgium.
“People want the cool factor of having a physical product attached to their music,” said Parker.
This one sale is just a small example of how standing out can lead to success.
“It’s great to be able to have something separate from everything else, something that stands on its own. People still look for that,” Parker said. “A lot of music that is played heavily could be better. There’s more effort put into the numbers and less into the music. That method can lower quality of music.”
It’s not only independent musicians who are starting to realize the need for new tactics in promoting themselves. For her last album, Beyoncé created a video for each song on the album, which was released digitally with a tweet.
“The experience for her fans I’m sure was pretty amazing,” said Parker. “Everything is still kind of changing.”
Parker seems to get it, but Klotz feels artists are having a difficult time adjusting to rapid industry changes.
“Patrick’s work on this particular project really represents the best of what academia can offer,” said Klotz. “His research into what’s working and not working with regard to monetizing the craft of making and recording music has real, practical implications for those folks who are trying to make a living plying that craft.”
In Parker’s thesis he concluded that, “being a ‘successful’ music artist today is more difficult than ever.” Though the resources are accessible, the path is no longer as clear.
The band’s sales numbers aren’t awe-inspiring; Parker has sold only 12 albums and given away 15. Through Bandcamp, Parker used download codes to share his music with DJs with the hopes that they will use the songs in their sets.
“The digital sales have been slow, which I expected,” said Parker. “This first album is more about awareness and less about sales.”
He plans on approaching the next project differently to cut down time and costs. Parker also plans to continue making music with Minds In Time. His approach to music is like his musical taste. There is never just one option.
“The doors are wide open to what the future will hold,” said Parker. “I have no idea what I’m going to create next.”