Newcomer Ed Hale about to break into the Top 10 with “New Orleans Dreams”
Newcomer to the Adult Contemporary radio format Ed Hale, who also happens to have a second new album up for release in 2011 as the singer of the eccentric indie-rock group Transcendence (now renamed “Ed Hale and The Transcendence), looks to be headed for the Top 10 next week. This marks one of the few occasions a non-major label “indie” artist has been able to achieve such a feat. This week’s chart available here.
Breaking into the Top 40 is accomplishment enough. The Top 20 even more so. Once one crosses the Top 10 barrier the competition becomes fierce. But in the newly transformed music business, the old record company models are shifting faster than the labels seem able to keep up with. The best example of this was the recent shock when the break up and sell off of long time stalwart EMI was announced. All of this shifting about makes it appear that the playing field has been leveled, allowing more room for independent artists to reach the same fanbase that major label artists are able to. But Hale, who has been signed to both major and smaller independent labels over his fifteen year career, claims that the terrain is still wrought with challenges for independent musicians attempting to make a living at the art of music making.
“The truth is that we’ve got two choices as independent artists if we really want to make it our “job,” said Hale. “We can either live on the road, just touring constantly in order to slowly grow a fanbase, first regionally and and then nationally… This I might add may never actually “pay off.” Most artists I know who live this way do not exactly live the life of Kings and Presidents so to speak, and worse yet they never get to spend time with their friends or family. And forget about it if we want to get married or have kids one day… Life on the road is a f*^king nightmare. It’s fun sure… but it’s not the most comfortable way to live.”
He continues, “Or we can go for licensing, you know, like selling our songs to TV shows and movies and commercials. We’ve been very lucky in this department over the last nine years. But just think about our business ten to twenty years ago. As artists, selling our songs to be used in “commercials” was like a major no-no. It was like a sacrilidge in terms or our artistic integrity. In the old days, when I was with Broken Spectacles, we used to turn shit like that down all the time because of what we thought at the time was our “work ethic,” like it went against our value system. Now it’s ‘standard practice. Frankly it’s the last arena left for any music artist to make any money. That’s just the truth of it. Right now the new thing is this idea of “sponsorship”. Having these big for-profit companies sponsor you. I’m cool with it as long as it’s something I actually dig personally, you know, like Sprite or Fair Trade chocolate or coffee.” [Hale is in the process of signing a contract with a sponsorship agent and could not reveal any names of companies they are currently talking to, but requested that it be known that the companies he mentioned were for example only].
“Piracy no matter which form it takes, “free mp3s”, pier to pier sharing sites, burning CDs, bootlegs, all these Russian and Chinese sites that offer our albums for sale for like ninety-nine cents before they’re even released in the States have killed the business of “selling music”.
Hale continued, “I mean, how the hell can a giant label like EMI who owns or used to own the Beatles catalog of songs go bankrupt? It’s unimaginable, right? Well not in this new music business. Commercial radio is the last bastion of hope for any artist who wants to really connect with millions of people in order to sell enough seats or downloads to make a living at this. But commercial radio is a very “special privately controlled industry unto itself.” And that’s really all I can say about it. Politically speaking I’ve already said too much if I want to continue the success we’re currently achieving there. On the one hand it feels important for regular people who are music lovers to know how the radio business works. Because it’s nothing like they think. On the other hand, I feel it’s nice to keep the fantasy alive for them. For all of us.”
“But before I really put my foot in my mouth or shoot myself in the foot, let me say this: bad music is not going to get played on commercial radio. No matter how much money someone has. I know that the term “good music” is subjective. But still. There are gatekeepers galore in this industry, like LA Reid or whoever, most of them actually no one’s ever heard of and they work way behind the scenes, who assure that the music that “is” played on the radio is really really good. The only “catch” is that it takes a lot of money to get a song played on commercial radio. No matter how “good” the song may be. That’s the way it’s always been. And that’s the way it is now. Except for the College Radio format — which is why we are so supportive of College Radio and CMJ [The College Music Journal, a tracking agency dedicated to non-commercial radio stations nationwide]. They’re essential to breaking new and undiscovered artists and they’ll play anything if they like it. They broke us when we first started. And they’re still giving us a lot of love with our new album [All Your Heroes Become Villains].”
Regardless of the potential challenges and pitfalls Hale describes, fresh new indie artists are experiencing a quasi-renaissance in a variety of areas of the industry that up to the last few years were completely closed off to them. Besides the commercial radio success Hale’s latest single “New Orleans Dreams” is achieving, he and his band Transcendence have overcome numerous other hurdles in the last year. He signed five lucrative endorsement deals, acquired international distribution for the Dying Van Gogh Records label he co-owns with a few other independent artists, his interview and appearance schedule is packed, and most notably has managed to secure articles and interviews in national and international “print” magazines — an area of the business exclusively relegated to major label artists.
In addition, his songs are beginning to pop up on a variety of Cable and Network Television shows due to two major licensing deals he signed this year. All in all Ed Hale and company are managing “the Ed Hale and Transcendence brands” just like any other business. And it’s working. Where it will lead in the long run is the real question that has yet to be answered by anyone thus far working in the music business from the independent artist angle. But the topic is still a very hot one in the world pop culture.
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