Though he has never scored a platinum hit, fans can count on Downing to bring quality and craftsmanship to each release.
Recently our Lee Bailey sat down with the crooner as he gears up to perform at various venues, including JazzFest West in July. It was 1988 when he released his first album, which was self-titled, on Polygram. Fast-forward to the present and it’s been over two decades of grinding for Will. He tells us a lot has changed in that time frame.
“It’s in disarray,” said Downing of the state of the music industry. “The one thing that we thought would be around to support the industry is no longer there. People seem to not to be buying in the numbers we used to sell at. That’s very disheartening. The machine that we built is going to come back and haunt us. The music industry is so ‘disconjointed’ nowadays. People have so many different outlets to get it from that it’s suffering. Obviously, you don’t see as many gold and platinum albums as you used to. It’s almost a rarity these days to see someone’s album reach that plateau. With the advent of the internet there’s so many things for people to divert their attention to that music has almost taken a backseat.”
According to Downing, because of the Internet, and sites that cater to the crowd that loves free music, many artists are suffering.
“Years ago, when people got their checks on a Friday, they would say ‘Oh man, I gotta go to the record store and pick up that new album’,” said Downing. “The mere fact that I said record should tell you something, records don’t even exist anymore (as a dominant format). You can talk to 10 different people and they will tell you they get their music in 10 different ways or from 10 different sites. Some legally, some illegally. It’s a very interesting time.”
“I believe the internet is one of the greatest inventions ever to have been created,” he continued. “But, at the same time, it’s also one of the worst inventions ever to have been created. On the internet, everyone is in the left lane. Everyone! Everyone thinks they’re Lee Bailey, everyone think they’re a recording artist, everyone thinks they’re a know it all, everyone has a say so. Everyone is driving in the left lane, and it’s clogging up things. It’s clogging the lane for people who really have something to say, people who really have some substance to offer. There’s so much out there that you’re not even paying attention to it. Everything is momentary. 10 minutes later something else is up, and I’m probably giving it 9 minutes too many.”
Judging by Lee’s conversation with Downing, he clearly isn’t feeling the world wide web. And he has company. Especially when you consider how easy it is get free stuff on the web. stuff that’s not necessarily supposed to be free.
“For every one or two people that are successful (using the Internet as a primary business platform),” explained Downing, “I think there are 1000 people who are complete failures at it. I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m doing OK, but I’ve never worked this hard before in my life to sell products.”
Because he is no longer signed to a major label Downing has to do all the legwork to get the word out about his respective projects. He tells EURweb.com that he has discovered a new found respect for those behind the scenes individuals that make everything happen at major labels because now he is the “behind the scenes” individual.
“These last two EPs that I’ve released ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Today’,” said Downing. “I’ve released independently and I have a new respect for those that used to run the streets and run my records to radio stations and do the promotional end of it. Now, I’ve got my daughter and I’ve got my wife and we’re sitting here all day long either mailing things out, promoting, and trying to make something out of this thing that we have. We’re trying to make it bigger than what it is and trying to get people to pay attention to it as opposed to going to YouTube. It’s like, ‘C’mon guys and listen to the music over here! I know you can get it free on YouTube but why don’t you come over here and get the real thing?’ People can’t seem to differentiate between what they hear over there and the real thing. But they don’t really care anymore. It’s scary, and I hate to keep using that phrase, but it’s very scary and very disheartening.”
Not only is Will disheartened by the lengths to which he now has to go to promote himself and his works, but the state of the game itself. This fact was alluded to in a prior paragraph. Every so often, all industry vets are approached by a fan or aspiring musician and asked what is the secret to their success. Will tells Lee Bailey that he isn’t quite sure what to tell them anymore.
“Everywhere I go someone is asking me ‘How do you make it in the industry? How do you make it these days?’ And there used to be some kind of formula that you can say to them. But you can’t even do that anymore. There is no normal format anymore. There’s nothing. How does a person make it these days? I can’t imagine what it’s like for a young person to try to make it. People are getting found from making a YouTube video or something got streamed online. People are getting discovered that way as opposed to ‘Alright, well, let’s do a demo and send it out, have a showcase and invite people’ that stuff is almost non-existent. I don’t know how people are making it, to be honest with you.”
We’re sorry to have to do this to our dear readers, but we’re going to cut this piece short, but there’s more to come as we continue with our conversation with Will Downing. Come back for more later this week when Will tells us about his new two EPs: “Yesterday” and “Today.” In the meantime, get more info and listen to the tracks at www.WillDowning.com.