What if I do something where I put teaser tracks online (which is me doing all the parts), and then I record an album with all the parts played by the respective musicians, and that's the one I sell?
Can't speak for the industry as a whole (not that I'm qualified to anyway) but my feeling is you can only have one
product if you're a musician. Doing a "lite" version and a formal one sends mixed messages. Which might work for software. But I don't think it works for music.
From my experience, your real listeners are looking for a relationship. They want to go on a trip with you - and you're the explorer they're gonna follow. The Grateful Dead understood that. They embarked on a musical journey and invited their fans to come along for the ride.
And it worked. Whether you love them or could care less about their music, nobody can dispute that they probably did more for their fans than anybody in music before or since. Because regardless of where they played, they offered only one thing: the opportunity to hang with and listen to them. And the shows were pretty much identical. As was their music whether live or recorded. Album or concert, you got the whole shebang. You got The Dead.
You can't really do that by offering two tiers of product in music. It's sorta like accepting a date from an admirer, and then saying "Ok. You'll get a kiss good-night...and I'll buy dinner. But you won't be hearing any of my best jokes - and I'm not getting all dressed up for this date tonight. Maybe later on, if it gets more serious, I will. Are you ok with that for now?"
So...I'd recommend only going public with your absolute best
. Nobody but hipsters want to know how you work your magic. At least not in my experience. (There's a lot of truth behind the magician's advice to never tell an audience how a trick is done because it only disappoints them.)
Most listeners want to hear something really good they can relate to. And if there's enough
of it - and you keep it coming
they'll become your fans.
About the only listeners I've ever found, who can be counted on to really get into watching all the little steps in the process of creating music or a band, are the parents of the kids who are doing it. Them and the occasional deranged and obsessive stalker - which some parents remind me of.
If I were doing a band right now...or even a solo project (double basses at twenty paces anyone?) I'd do a couple of things. First, clearly understand what the primary initial
major goal is: get signed, just have fun, start my own label, get invited to perform and cut an album with Dana Fuchs, impress my workaholic friends, create some "real music" for a change, get rich, get wasted, get laid...whatever. It doesn't matter what the goal is. Because it will probably change once you get rolling. Bands are like battle plans. Few ever survive contact with the target unchanged.
Hmm...maybe they are battle plans?
Anyhoo...once that is sorted, move toward it and start lining up like minded musicians to participate, and set up a "reality check" composed of a very few trusted friends and knowledgeable supporters to honestly help you assess how well you're meeting your goals, and to be people you can occasionally bounce things off.
Because where they really come in handy is in letting you know when something just isn't
By example: the group I most enjoyed being in had a song Put the Shame on Me
that I and the rest of the band absolutely loved. Problem was...it didn't work. There was just something about it that prevented it from ever coming completely together even if the three musical ideas in it were all very solid. We worked on it for about a year without ever getting it completely right. It just sounded rough no matter what, in marked contrast to all our other original numbers - of which we had 25 finished at that point.
Finally, one of our cadre of insiders told us it just wasn't happening with that song - that it kinda lost the audience somewhat - and definitely spoiled the "vibe" - every time we performed it. So with heavy heart (and red faces) we abandoned it as written, recycled the usable pieces of it into other songs (which did work) and freed up rehearsal and composition time for more promising new tunes. And once we were cut free from the anchor of that one unworkable song, our creative output went into overdrive. We had a second hour of new music (14 songs total) written, arranged, and ready to play out less than two months later.
Apparently, that miserable song was actually holding our entire group back. Good thing somebody pointed it out to us.
So what does all this have to do with your original question? This: decide what you want it to be. And then create the organization and infrastructure to accomplish it.
Live performance group, studio group, solo act? Major label, indy label, own label, no label? Get rich, make money, break even, work for beer, work for free? New career, full professional, semi-pro, patron of the art, hobby, an excuse for a night out?
That determines the next step. If it's purely for fun, it doesn't matter what you do next. And if money isn't a concern, or even a factor, it doesn't matter much either. You can play for free seven nights a week if you want to. And give away recordings for as long as you can afford to pay the bandwidth.
But...if you're approaching it as a professional rather than as a serious amateur (or an artiste
) then you have to focus on quality and finish. You have to release everything to one
standard - your absolute best
and only allow fully finished
product out the door.
Because, unlike a live club performance, a bad recording lives forever
. And if it's put up on the web (which it will be whether you want it there or not) it can be heard by a virtually infinite audience. Blow a club date and a few hundred people will hear and maybe remember it. But probably only for a little while. Release a song like In the Year 2525
* and you'll never
live it down.
So...I'd suggest following some of Tao's advice. Get a solid group of songs (say 5 or 6) cut to whatever the final standard is you want to release them as. Setup a free Bandcamp account and get them up where they can be heard. Maybe offer one for free and have the rest as "pay whatever you want." But I'd set some minimum - like a buck each. Bandcamp and the CD Baby websites have some very good practical advice and tips for musicians jut starting out releasing their own recordings. Well worth a visit.
There's tons more, but it's getting late here so I'm gonna stop typing for a while. Till later!
*Note: the ironic thing about that song was that it actually topped the charts in the US and UK when it was first released. But a scant few years afterwards, the oddest thing happened. Not only was the song universally laughed at (and deservedly so IMO) - but for some strange reason nobody you spoke to ever seemed to recall they ever
liked it to begin with.
must have been buying it for it to make it up to #1. Must have been some other people apparently.
In the Year 2525
is now regarded in many quarters as the absolute worst song
ever written and recorded. Now there's a distinction any musician can aspire to!
So it goes.