More than 40 years ago, Joey Kramer, a young student at the Berklee College of Music, quit school to play full time for a small band. Just over a year later in October of 1970, Jam Band, as they were called at the time, added on a few more members and started playing in public venues.
The band moved in together at 1325 Commonwealth Ave. and played regularly outside what is today the George Sherman Student Union. They also chose a new name – Aerosmith.
Today, everyone knows that name – and if you take a second to listen to the talent in and around the BU community, it’s hard not to wonder whether another local artist will experience comparable musical success.
“It’s really nice to share music around here, and play it with the people that I love,” said Todd Siff, a senior at the College of Fine Arts’ School of Theater and a member of the Long Brothers, an acoustic, folk, reggae-covering band. Siff plays alongside fellow seniors Phil Berman, also in the School of Theater, and Alex Schneps, a film major.
Although he’s a full time student, Siff said he has had relative success in publicizing his music.
“With our other band, Corduroy, we planned our own tour, 13 stops, and made a few bucks on the way,” he said. “We did pretty well.”
But Siff explained that The Long Brothers were taking a different approach. The band puts on a number of free shows, either at BU Central, in their Allston apartment or even just on the BU beach.
“The Long Brothers, we haven’t had that approach yet, it’s less commercially driven. We want a grassroots type feel so we can get support for our music before anything else.”
Others have branched out into more public venues, landing gigs in bars and restaurants.
Constance Bainbridge, a junior violin performance major in CFA plays solo under the name of Mei Ohara and is in the band Light.Sweet.Crude. She has performed at venues such as Harpers Ferry and Cask n’ Flagon in Boston, as well as other venues in Washington, D.C. and New York.
Bainbridge said shows bring in money, though obviously not on a large scale. She plans on pursuing a career in music, but admits it is difficult to get noticed.
“Always, the biggest challenge is exposing your music to the right people in order to either get fans or business connections,” she said. “With the Internet, people have access to so much material that getting noticed is becoming increasingly difficult.”
Berman of the Long Brothers agreed.
“You send out a hundred thousand emails and 10 of them will get back to you,” he said.
And that’s where it seems as if the Internet is both a blessing and a curse.
“As much as the Internet has made music too easy to obtain for free, there are still some great sites to start sales from,” Bainbridge said. “For free, artists can sell their music on sites like reverbnation.com or ourstage.com, or for a more official brand name tie, musicians can pay a nominal fee to submit music to iTunes or similar online music stores.”
Nick Goldston, a senior at Berklee, has been successful selling music on iTunes.
Golston, who writes, produces and records his own music, has two albums on iTunes, and said he plans on staying independent.
“I have many friends who have signed with a label, but I want to have nothing to do with it,” he said. Goldston is a music business major and plans to manage his own music.
Recently, many artists are choosing not to sign with labels, in order to ensure that the ownership of their songs remains with the artist, and not the label. Organizations such as the Featured Artists’ Coalition in the United Kingdom are rallying for more control over their own music, especially on Internet domains such as YouTube or Myspace.
Other artists, such as Siff, said they welcome the opportunity of sharing their music on a large scale, although they are careful at the same time.
“We want to be open for any opportunity to play for anybody,” he said. “And I mean, if we can do this for a living, that would be awesome. We’ve had a few dealings with people in the industry, but we’re looking for the people with good spirits, and not just people that are looking to make a dollar.”
However, Siff admits he is an idealist.
In the end, it seems important to have a solid grasp of how to handle the business of the industry. Great musicians can be great, but they also have to know how to sell themselves and have to be prepared to get what they deserve.
“With the rise in popularity of independent artists, more than ever we are expected to become more involved in the business side of music,” Bainbridge said. “It can at times be difficult to take something so emotional and organic as music and have to treat it like a commercial good. But learning to market one’s creation gives modern musicians experience that can help them should they ever choose to change careers entirely. We deal with money, people, technology and much more, so in a way we are regular business men and women.”