It this age of cyber technology and advanced collaboration, it is advantageous for savvy independent music companies and artists to start harnessing the power of file-sharing, social networking, and Online collaboration. I’m sorry to bust your bubble, but record companies simply aren’t checking for artists right now. They are too busy scurrying like roaches when lights come on, suing anyone they can prosecute for piracy, and trying to figure how they are going to continue to fuck artist out of millions of dollars using emerging technologies. This state of turmoil puts you my friend in a very powerful position. Believe me, no fan is his or her right state of mind is going to choose a record company over an artist-sorry Bad Boy Entertainment, but the days of the label overshadowing the artists are done. The fans are no dummies, they want to connect with the artists on a personal level and feel as if they are partners in the success of artists. In some aspects, the fans contributions, suggestions, taste, and opinions have a direct effect on the success or failure of an artist or band. For the life of me, I could never understand how an artist’s ego becomes so inflated that they begin to ignore, alienate, or disrespect the very folks that bought them the big house, sparkly jewelry, and fancy car.
Back when the cassette tape was still king, street vendors would bootleg every and any song that was being played on popular radio. Many complained that this was taking money out of the artist’s pockets and was the worst thing to happen to music since William Hung. I have personally witnessed an irrational rap star beat a street vendor halfway to death with his own box of cassettes because somewhere in his pea brain he justified his behavior by believing that the little bit of money the vendor was making from bootlegging was preventing him from ballin. Ha! What jackassary was this? What the rapper didn’t realize is that consumers would have bought the bootleg version of album would eventually grow tired of a poorly duplicated copy and eventually go out and buy the real deal. In addition, even if they didn’t buy his album, they would still become new fans that could potentially purchase concert tickets, t-shirts, and future albums, which are more powerful revenue streams.
In today’s music game, its all about diversification, how many revenue streams can you generate outside of selling music? Name one artist on the planet and I can guarantee that with enough web searches you could find his or her music on the Internet without ever making a purchase. Why fight the tide of progress and eventually drown, when you easily surf the waves to the shores of financial success.
The Internet is full of cool places to sell music such as iTunes, ReverbNation, CDBaby, and the like; however these places or saturated with tons of bigger named artists who actually have a marketing budget. Since you’re broke and disenfranchised you will take another route. Here is a thought, give your music away for free. Shit, who doesn’t like free? I guarantee the more of your music you give away the more people will buy it from you. By giving your fans and potential fans give-a-ways you earn their trusts and loyalty to your brand. With you, they know what to expect, and if your music is “hot” then expect to sell tons of it as a result of giving it way for free.
Still not sure? Check this out. In the 2010 article by Mike Masnick titled, The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There), Mike explains how musician and experimentalist Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails made $750,000.00 dollars in less than two days by giving his music away on his website. Reznor offered fans a $300 Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition album Package. He promoted it as a limited pressing of only 2500 units. This package included DVD videos, vinyl, photo images, and of course his album-you know one that he is giving away separately for free. Because Reznor built his relationship with his fans by providing them an opportunity to sample his music for free, he was able to turn consumers to customers by offering the music bundles that weren’t available any place else in the world.
Stop focusing so hard on making a few pennies that you allow the dollars to slip by. The music industry is about long-term stability, community, and boundless artistic expression. You will never become truly successful until you can build an army of followers who would rather go hungry than be without your music. Using your current resource pool, come up with clever ways to turn your consumers into customers. For example, give away your music and then sell your fans an opportunity to come hangout with you in the studio or even record a verse on your album. Sell autograph t-shirts and hats, instructional videos, books, documentaries, or what ever goods and services that your fans would appreciate, enjoy, and most importantly purchase. In this new paradigm of music it’s more about selling your brand then your music so why not just give it all away?
As always learn the business that you are in… peace
2011, Sahpreem A. King
Music Business Guru http://www.gottagetsigned.com
King is the author of the best-selling book Gotta Get Signed: How to Become a Hip-Hop Producer, published by Schirmer Trade Books. As an author his articles and commentary have been featured in music trade publications (digital and print) worldwide ranging from DJ Times magazine to The Source magazine. Sahpreem has been a panelist, keynote speaker, clinician, and expert consultant for music industry conventions and conferences including the Winter Music Conference, Atlantis Music Conference, and DJ Times Convention.
Sahpreem holds an associate’s degree in Business Management from Kaplan University, a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems & Technology from Kaplan University, and a master’s degree in Education Media Design & Technology from Full Sail University. King also is a member of the board of directors of P.A.T.H. Preserving, Archiving, & Teaching, Hip Hop; a Miami based non-profit organization that focuses on Hip Hop pedagogy and community outreach.