Tom Silverman opinions and suggestions are highly controversial, but I like his use of Soundscan statistics:
There were only 225 rookie artists in 2008, and less last year, that broke 10,000 albums for the first time — not that that’s the only arbiter of success, but it’s one of them. That year, there were only 10 new artists that broke through by doing it themselves. If you can’t sell 10,000 albums in digital and physical combined, you’re still relatively obscure.
… For example, in 2008 there were 17,000 releases that sold one copy. Last year, there were 18,000, and something like 79,000 releases that sold under 100 copies. Under 100 copies is not a real release — it’s noise, an aberration. In any kind of scientific study, it would be filtered out. It’s like a rounding error. That 79,000 number represents almost 80 percent of all the records released that year.
In January, right before the LA New Music Seminar, I talked to Chris Muratore from Nielsen/SoundScan, and I asked how many releases there were in 2009. He said labels and distributors had projected about 132,000. Later, SoundScan said 97,000 had actually sold. So it’s possible that around 35,000 releases didn’t even sell one copy last year. That means not even the artist or their mother bought a copy, and all those artists are out there gigging, they’re all on social networks, they’re all doing stuff to clutter the marketplace.
The artists that have broken through, look who they are: Corey Smith, a singer songwriter [more on him below], Bon Iver, with 200,000 in sales, and guys like Tech N9ne, a rapper from the Insane Clown Posse school — these are people who would be doing this if there were no internet at all. They’re not tweeting, they don’t give a shit about any of that stuff. They’re out gigging, that’s what they do. The word is spread through the shows — they’re not marketing through the internet. The internet is a medium like air, which carries sound, and you just need to make the right kind of noise for it to get through.