The Independent Artist Spotlight is a behind-the-scenes look at what life is like for musicians who are building a career without the support of a record label. In this five-part series, you will learn about the pros and cons of being an independent artist directly from the bands themselves.
PART 5: Interview with Vlad Tanaskovic of EVANS BLUE.
The members of Evans Blue are located all over North America, with two in Canada and the others in St Louis and Dayton. The band’s four albums have collectively sold over a million records.
You guys are somewhat unique in that you started out your career on a major label and have transitioned into being independent. Tell us about what it is like to take the opposite course that many bands have taken…
There’s definitely more than one way to skin a cat. As a band, you must take an approach that works for you at that specific point in your career. During 2006 and 2007, times were very bad in the music industry. Rather than wait for the situation to correct itself, we saw an opportunity to take a different approach, so we took it. When you’re swimming in a river of shit, you try your hardest to get to the shore instead of waiting for the water to clear up on its own.
Funding is always an issue for independent artists. You guys have enjoyed commercial success before becoming an independent, but it’s different when the budget is tighter. How are you funding recording, touring, merchandising, etc.?
Everything must be done with a guerrilla-style approach. You make something out of nothing, and you become fucking Chuck Norris at it. It’s true that touring is done on a much smaller scale and less often, but instead of spreading yourself thin over places where you have limited exposure, you need to hit the markets where you are doing well as often as possible. Luckily there are always some people in the business who want to help the band just because they believe in the music.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being an independent compared to being signed to a label with deep pockets?
While I believe that being an independent artist is definitely the way of the future, I don’t think that future is here just yet. Whether you like it or not, traditional radio is still the dominant form of media when it comes to serving new music to a generation of listeners. Being limited in terms of exposure can definitely impact the success and growth of a band in a negative way.
On the other hand, the obvious advantage of being independent is total control of the creative process. There will always be music fans who will seek out new music on their own, and therein lies the hope for independent artists.
However, the majority of people rely on outside factors to shape their whole thought processes, whether that’s a hit song on the radio or a viral video on Youtube. It’s just how our brains are hardwired from birth, and there’s no way around it, at least not at our current level of mental evolution.
Your transition to being an independent happened during the social media era. Has the ability to connect with your fans through social media eased the transition for the band? If so, how?
I wasn’t involved in the social media much from the start, I’m a tinfoil hat-type by nature, and the background to that story is very long and complex. The rest of my bandmates, however, were (and still are) very active in connecting with the fans, so much so that we became real life friends with some of them. I believe that has created some lifelong fans for us…lots of good people, good drinking buddies, and you always need those.
Now that the band has experienced success as an independent, is there any temptation to return to a major label, or would you prefer to remain independent? Please explain your preference…
Nobody knows what the future holds. I certainly can’t predict it. For now, I’m quite enjoying myself being at home, not even thinking about music, the business aspects or even being on the road. There’s something very appealing about not being around other peoples farts and feet all the time.
To determine what the next step will be, one must think analytically, take all the variables we know from the current situation, and then factor those together in order to generate several possible outcomes. Even after all that logical thinking, we humans, being the descendants of amoebas, will still go with our gut feeling.
What advice would you give to other hard rock artists who want to remain independent?
I can’t advise anyone to go either major or independent. Instead, figure out whichever direction will help your band grow and expand your fanbase at the current point in your career.
There is no magic formula that guarantees success. Write good music, kick ass live and give all of yourself. There are no backup plans for greatness…you can either succeed or you can become a casualty! Even if you fail, it’s still not a big deal at all. In a hundred years no one will care anyway. Some day when future humans start digging our bones from the frozen wasteland, they won’t know or care whether you sold gold or platinum or whatever they’ve got these days. Instead, they will be baffled by how preoccupied our lives were with things of minor significance.