I am a KISS fan, going back to 1976 when my mom first bought me Rock N’ Roll Over. I remember taking heat in the late 70s at school for liking the band, I heard the phrase “KISS sucks” more than a few times. It also took a lot of courage to wear a KISS t-shirt to school at the time… you became a instant target. I grew up with KISS and their marketing has clearly been a influence on me and business growth. I often tell people I went to the Gene Simmons School of Marketing.
In Defense of 1,000 True Fans Part IX - Theory At Work In Australia - Down Under Series - Part 1: Urthboy
Greetings from Western Australia! As I type this I am in the backseat of a car driving from Perth to Margaret River to enjoy a day of wine tasting and beach before I teach a masterclass to local musicians. I have been invited here by The West Australian Music Industry Association to kick off their workshop series and have so far met and presented to over 200 musicians, labels owners, music industry students and managers. This is my third visit to Australia in 18 months and I love this country. I have been welcome here and have met lifelong friends and some of the most wonderful musicians (knows as “musos” in Aussie speak) on earth.
I’m not saying this to brag or boast, I am saying this to introduce and make a point about 1,000 true fans. Music Think Tank is read by not only artists but also by people who work in and who aspire to work in the music business.
As a hard working entrepreneur in today’s music industry, I constantly think about how I apply the 1,000 true fans philosophy to my business (just like every single artist I work with does). I am not a musician, and I don’t make a living creating music, I am viscerally aware of this fact, but I do make a living working with musicians and my dream to make a difference in their lives by the next generation of future leaders in my industry. My goals involve travelling the world and connecting with people to collaborate with. If I don’t connect well, I don’t get to live that dream.
Two years ago, I wrote an article about finding work in the midst of the recession. Part of the advice I gave was to focus on building clients at schools and churches, as they seemed to be the only institutions surviving the financial crisis.
It’s time for some new advice.
Now, certainly, I’m no economist. I took one, required, econ class in my whole life and I spent most of it looking pretty glassy-eyed. I can only tell you what I’m seeing in my own career and you can tell me in the comments below if you are seeing the same.
The Five Employers of Musicians
There are 5 basic employers for musicians.
The new Britney Spears video for ‘Hold It Against Me’ got me thinking about product placement and monetization possibilities for the music industry.
The video has overt references to Britney’s fragrance Radiance, Makeup Forever, Sony, and the online dating site PlentyOfFish. I have no idea* how much it costs to get into a video that will most likely garner tens of millions of views over time, but I can imagine it is not insignificant. Britney Spears isn’t the only one to include product placement in videos either—Lady Gaga didn’t shy away from video advertising in Telephone and even some rock musicians are starting to go with the trend to make up for lackluster CD sales.
Clearly it’s becoming a staple of the music industry just as it has been in television for a long time. I always enjoy a good product placement bit on 30 Rock.
It’s no secret Justin Bieber’s ascension to pop superstardom started with a cover song (a version of Ne-Yo’s “So Sick”). Could he have achieved an “underdog to celebrity” rise without one? Maybe, but Bieber performed a new spin on a decades-old formula readily available to any recording artist looking to acquire new fans and make additional money from their recordings.
Cover songs (a.k.a. “remakes”) provide an easy path to building audiences. Releasing one is similar to getting introduced to a new person by way of mutual friend (the song) rather than through a chance encounter (an original tune found on a Bandcamp / MySpace page). A positive introduction is more likely when there is immediate common ground.
Cover songs also provide a unique way of tapping into alternate revenue streams for only modest expense (i.e. money spent securing the required mechanical license and paying royalties via Limelight, time spent learning the song, etc.). So why is this an effective way of promoting your music? Let’s explore…
Connecting with fans is imperative in today’s music industry. It’s that connection that can give them a reason to buy and support your music. Utilizing social media and having a strong online presence makes connecting with fans much more achievable. Below are some good case studies of bands that found success through an online campaign. I encourage musicians to review these examples and pay attention to the elements that made them successful. Then think about how to implement those strategies into your own marketing plans.
Arcade Fire utilized HTML5 to create an interactive music video for “We Used to Wait.” Users are prompted to enter the address of their childhood home at the start of the video. While watching the video, scenes from your old neighborhood are pulled in using Google street view. The elements of new technology, interactivity, nostalgia, experimentation, and personalization all aided in making this video a huge hit. Think about those factors for your next campaign.
A few weeks ago Wired posed the question “Is YouTube Bad for Music?”. Their article asks if music fans’ access to almost limitless free music via YouTube is hurting revenue for artists by undercutting premium streaming services, and of course, iTunes/CD sales.
Later on, YouTube responded, stating that “Free Music Can Pay As Well As Paid Music”. YouTube retorted that their monetized views via AdSense and In-Video ads were putting millions of dollars into musicians’ pockets every month. (well, more accurately, into the record label exec’s pockets, but that’s a discussion for another article).
The more interesting debates seemed to happen on various music industry blogs who weighed in on the discussion with their own oped pieces.
This is not another one of those opinion pieces, this is a fact piece.
How do you tell a businessperson that success in the music business…has nothing to do with business?
On Music Think Tank, where I have posted over eighty articles, you’ll find an overwhelming amount of advice on social media practices, fan engagement and conversion strategies, business planning, artist management, music marketing, music technology and enough similar sounding posts to make your head spin. One might even be misled into believing that the equation: decent artist + solid business support = success. However this formula is about as a sound as building a one legged table.
If you are ever thinking about financially backing or supporting an artist, you should know that there are two other legs of the table that are of equal or greater importance. In fact, if these first two legs are solid, the third leg, the business leg, almost organically grows itself.
When it comes to your music, people are predominantly concerned with one thing - not what your music means to you, but what your music means to them. This is one of the most important lessons any musician can learn.
The birth of social networks allowed fans an insight into the more mundane aspects of celebrity; as a result, this sparked a newfound intrigue into their normality. However, now that everyone from the drummer of the Black Keys, to the State of North Korea are all Twittered up, the days of dietary intake being shareable news are long gone.
The tides have turned.
As you’ve no doubt realized by now, image is pretty important to your success as an artist. It affects your live show, it affects your online presence, it affects your marketing opportunities and strategy.
But in the countless hours you’re obviously devoting to exploring and experimenting with your image, are you thinking about what kind of image you’re going to use?
The superb Riff City published a tremendously insightful post last week entitled Docs of Perception: Visual Records and How We Hear Music. In it, author Julianne Escobedo Shephard explores the relationship between camera technology and our perception of artists.
Do you or your band have a daily online routine? You better. At the speed this world moves you can’t afford to miss even one day of what is happening. Your competition is not sitting still, so you better be out there. But as a band you have to find a balance that is not going to hinder your ability to be a band. You need to write, rehearse, record, perform… if you don’t do any of those things, being online won’t mean much.
So I thought I would take a look at my daily online routine and maybe you can apply to it your routine.
10 Things Every Musician Should Do Online Every Day
1. Quick Email Scan. – When you wakeup, you’re a band, so whatever time of the day this might be is fine. Grab your iPhone or smartphone and do a quick scan of your email for anything important or urgent. Respond to those very urgent emails right away. You will know what they are when you see them.
The latest version of MP3 Rocket (a media downloading app) now allows you to download YouTube videos as mp3s, so you can listen to that new Lady Gaga single whenever you want. MP3 Rocket claims this isn’t breaking any copyright laws, because their software is to be used only for “time-shifting, personal, private, non-commercial use”, which cites the same ruling that video tape and VCR manufacturers use to make home-recording of TV shows legal.
The first argument that should pop into everyone’s head is that YouTube videos don’t air only once, on Monday nights at 7pm Est / 6pm Central… YouTube already provides the convenience of “time-shifting” because you can ALREADY watch or listen to the video whenever you want, as many times as you want.
I just passed this logo over to Bruce and Kyle at Hypebot, but it occurred to me that others may need it also. Without further introduction, may I present…the Music Think Tank logo (as a PNG).
By now everyone has read a string of thoughtful predictions by many great music industry minds regarding the future of the music business, and most of them certainly have merit. Let me propose the 4 steps that I think would help thrust the music business truly into Music 3.0. Some of these you’ve no doubt heard before, but some you may have not.
1) New Blood For The Industry - The music industry was creatively at its best when the pioneers of the business (Berry Gordy, Ahmet Ertegen, Mo Ostin, Jac Holzman, etc.) were actively running their companies. They were fans first, businessmen second, and they intimately knew their audience well because they were part of it.
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(Updated April 6, 2015)