One of the online sales techniques I’ve been advocating in my online courses at Berklee is for artists to create different physical and digital products and make them available on their own site at tiered price points. The idea is that you can offer something for all of your fans – the hard core fans might be interested in something from you that is a little more personalized and rare, and newer fans might be able to get something from you that wont break the bank. All the while you have the ability to offer something that cannot be purchased at traditional retail, which makes the experience of purchasing off of your site more rewarding for your fans. Here’s an example from the Yim Yames site:
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As album sales are becoming a less meaningful component in the overall success of an artist or band, the live performance sector, including ticket sales and merchandise sales, is becoming increasingly important. While the live show itself must be unique in order to encourage repeat customers and ultimately drive ticket sales, the merchandise table has the opportunity to drive significant revenue and first hand, artist-fan engagement. But just having a merch table is not enough, as there are essential elements that must be accounted for in order to make the effort worth while.
Assuming that you have accounted for the typical ‘guts’, such as T-Shirts, CDs, Hats, Stickers, etc. there are essentials to any effective merch table that will do three very important thing:
- Increase your sales
- Increase your long-term engagement with new and existing fans
- Decrease wasteful overhead when investing in the merch for your next tour
Here’s a little music business story for you… This one is all about MENTORING and Rolling Stone Magazine.
A Few weeks ago I participated in the mentoring sessions at the NYC New Music Seminar.This was special for me because I helped develop the mentoring sessions as an advisor to the NMS. Spending time with active artists in an intimate atmosphere where we could ask each other questions one-on-one got me thinking about the value of having access to music industry professionals and the pure gold in having mentors no matter how big a role they play in your everyday life.
Which, brought me back to a mentoring experience I will never, ever forget. It 1998 at South by Southwest. Where I signed up to meet David Wild, an editor from Rolling Stone.
As a young publicist with a stable full of full-time touring artists, the number one request I was getting from absolutely every artist who came through my agency was, “I want to be in Rolling Stone.” This request came to me no matter how small or how big the client was. And I dreaded this request because I had a problem:
So I thought I would apply that theory to building fans and work out why I recently became a loyal fan of the artist Jason Mraz – what was the psychology and marketing that really made me warm to not just his music, but him as a artist (or brand).
I wanted to know how I went from being just aware of his hit single ‘I’m Yours’ to downloading albums of tracks, checking out his videos and tour dates - what steps did I go through as a fan, and what breadcrumbs did he leave online to turn me into a fan?
It’s worth noting that I first heard ‘I’m yours’ in Summer 2009, yet only recently became a fan of his - what was my hold up? Here’s what I think happened.
Here we are at WEEK 9(ish): 60 days in, with 15 days remaining. Phil has $3,888 raised (39% of the $10,000 goal), and $6,112 needed to get to his goal. It’s been a journey to have a front row seat during this process. As you may know I believe that crowd funding is a vital tool that artists will be using for the foreseeable future and I have been blogging a series here on MTT called in Defense of 1,000 True Fans, where I have been interviewing artists who are proving the model and creating sustainable livings from their music. Phil points out that 200,000 people have been exposed in some way to his campaign and that 0.0003% people engaged. I would like to point out a few other things.
First of all I want to commend Phil: To have 60 True Fans or “Super Fans” (the amount of people who have contributed to his campaign so far) is no mean feat. Especially since Phil very rarely performs live and he has not had a mass exposure event (such as a placement on a major TV show). These are two factors that seem to make major impact for artists, according to the interviews I have conducted so far.
My name is Josiah Mann and I am the lead singer and founding member of the band Sufficient Cause. Our goal - ambitious or irrational as it may seem - is to become fully supported by our music, recorded or performed, within 12 months from today. We plan to do this without signing to a label (outside of a new type of record deal being made just for us…). We do not have a fan base. We have never released any music and we’ve never played a single show. We’re nobody.
Let me explain. From day one, I’ve done things differently than other musicians. Four years ago, after I had written my first couple of songs, I started out like many other musicians. I booked a gig at a little coffee shop and invited all my friends. I had played guitar for about a year and had played classical piano competitively, but singing and performing my own songs was a different story. The first show was pretty rough. I was extremely nervous and my voice quivered uncontrollably. I had never really heard my voice loudly in a speaker so I could hear how poorly I really sang, causing me to shy away from the mic. I couldn’t even hold my friends’ attention. It made it somewhat less stressful that everybody was talking over my music, though… Everybody told me “You just gotta keep doing it,” and “You’ll get used to it eventually,” but I didn’t see the point. After I’d played about 5 or 6 times at the same coffee shop, I threw in the towel. Not because I was scared; in fact in a former life I was a Heavyweight Golden Gloves Champion and National Chinese Kickboxing Champion. There was very little I was afraid of. But after a few performances, I knew I wasn’t ready.
Hailing from the blue collar world of western Pennsylvania, my bandmates and I understood a hard day’s work from the vantage of a steel worker or a coal miner. We quickly mastered our extremely technical jobs of putting beers into boxes and found enough time to work as many as three jobs at once. Highland noticed our enthusiasm and we were invited back.
After working a couple of times at Highland I realized the trend. Look to your left, it’s a musician; look to your right, the same. Highland Brewery supports musicians! They understand that making music isn’t always the most lucrative of careers so they scour the local music scene and ask their favorite bands if they’d be interested in occasionally making a few extra bucks…wow!
Well, one day after looking to my right and left sides, I realized that I had been working with some of western North Carolina’s top musical acts. There really were some incredible bands working at The Highland Brewery and nobody even knew it. I spent the rest of the day thinking of a way to remedy that problem.
If I were a record label and you were an artist, would you marry me anyways, would you have my baby?
It’s been said that over a million songs a year are being uploaded to the Internet, and that number is growing. In addition, the number of new “artists” entering an already crowded marketplace is exploding. And as you all know, it’s not only hard to generate a return on investment when promoting artists and music, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to fight through the noise. The last thing music fans need right now is another PUMP; what fans do need and want…are FILTERS they can trust.
From this day forward, this label will cease to PUMP out anything and everything you create. Moreover this label will no longer support or promote artist websites and brands. This label is going to have one management team, one fundraising initiative, one website, one set of widgets, a unified scheduling page, one mobile app, one social stream, one streaming radio service and one voice.
Jonathan Ostrow: 10 Tips For Turning Your Fanbase Into A Tribe.
Apryl Peredo: Conquer Your City - Conquer Your World.
Mike Venti: Selling Out Your Shows Every Time.
Ariel Hyatt: Four Cases You Need to Know About and How They Affect The Music Industry, Part 2 with Joyce Dollinger.
Brian Hazard: The Individual Edition CD.
Jonathan Ostrow:The Musicians Guide To Fan-Funding.
Fans of groups such as the Insane Clown Posse (the Juggalo), the Grateful Dead (the Deadhead), and Jimmy Buffet (the Parrothead), are all apart of communities that exists beyond the band. The music is what brought these groups of people together, and the loyalty to the music acts as the glue bonding them together, but the artists themselves have no responsibility to control the group - the community acts as it’s own separate entity, with its own leaders and followers.
These fans belong to a tribe.
What Is a Tribe?
Tribes exist as a way to connect and to share an interest in a topic, and it is because of this that you as an artist must recognize that creating a tribe is an essential step towards success and career-longevity. And since a developed tribe acts as its own entity, the incessant ‘shameless self-promotion’ that unfortunately paints the walls of all too many artists’ Facebook and Twitter pages will become a thing of the past.
With a tribe of loyal fans at your side - just one announcement of any album, any show, even any new merch will be absorbed and spread like wildfire. Remember that a typical characteristic of a tribe member is to be overly dedicated, or obsessive, which can be used to your benefit! Think of these obsessive tribe members as your own instant viral marketing strategy- these are the types of fans who make sure that everyone in their social networks know about this new announcement.
A downfall of indie bands that I have noticed is their lack of inspiration when playing their local area. Often times they are so longing for some grand international tour of stardom, they forget that they can create fan buzz and music sales on their own home front. The band or musician finds one bar/venue that will let them play and they set up 1, 2, or 3 gigs per month there. Each month. As for promoting the event – Facebook invites! And a myspace notice!
I am not saying that a regular venue is bad. And I do not deny the tepid power of a general Facebook invitation. Certainly artists need to take advantage of all that online social media can offer – although there are far better ways to do that than most bands utilize. That is a topic for another article though.
This article is more of a checklist on setting up and promoting a city tour. Musical success will not come waiting on an international tour. (Actually, there have been bands that have become well known globally and have financial success with music sales without leaving the comfort of their home area. Again, a tale for another day…)
A sold out show is a day that every artist looks forward to. Nothing’s better than a packed house where the energy emanates from the audience to the stage and back again.
Unfortunately, many artists don’t get to experience sold out shows that often, if at all. Perhaps, only at the occasional CD release show, or a coveted opening spot for a more established act.
Thankfully, there is an easy way for you to change this and begin playing sold out shows more often. It’s quite simple in fact.
The key is to play in venues you can sell out.
The typical artist wants to play the best venue in town, regardless of their draw. The club where you have to play Tuesday nights for months, until the booker notices you and maybe bumps you up to a Thursday. It doesn’t matter that the venue has a 500 person capacity and you can only bring out 50 people.
A show is a show, right?
Four Cases You Need to Know About and How They Affect The Music Industry, Part 2 with Joyce Dollinger
Artists, especially independent artists, depend on the openness and freedom of the Internet to survive and thrive in their careers. Independent artists run their businesses online: they sell music, tickets and merchandise; send emails out with press kits attached; chat with team members and fans; book gigs, and on and on… So for independent artists especially, this may impact their daily existence because they are not in control of their own destiny and most importantly – they are not in charge of their own music distribution. Until there is a definite ruling on the matter of Internet control, the ISPs seem to be in control of the Internet “airwaves” and they may now block the Internet network delivery and sales of their music and ancillary products, including merchandise and ticket sales.
Therefore, the net neutrality issue in this case is extremely important to independent artists; they need to have access and be able to compete on a level Internet playing field. They need to have access to the “airwaves” so that they can create their intellectual property – their music – and work within legitimate online distribution mechanisms that they know will stay open to them so that fans can receive their music. Additionally, they need access to broadband for their business dealings since music and video files are big and without broadband we would potentially be back to the Internet caveman days where you would need to wait all night for a file transfer to complete. This would end up hindering the speed with which artists would be able to sell and distribute music, especially in the fast, instant gratification world in which we live.
This month I released my 8th full-length album, slated to be my last physical release. I might have gone the digital-only route this time if I hadn’t won free CD manufacturing from Disc Makers through the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. The fact that it was a physical release allowed me to take pre-orders, which provided the opportunity to test out my latest crazy idea - one that actually panned out for a change! Here is how I described The Individual Edition CD to my fans:
It will probably come as a surprise that I can’t create the exact same mix twice, even though the album was recorded entirely “in the box” on my studio computer. Arpeggiators randomly cycle through the notes of a chord. Panning effects start and end at different points. Some devices purposely insert glitches and other random anomalies. Beyond the occasional surprise, these differences are tough to pick out unless you know what to listen for. The qualitative listening experience is the same, but the fact that each mixdown is an “audio snowflake” gave me an idea:
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(Updated Sept 29, 2014)