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People who succeed at greater levels don’t have some secret code and aren’t immune to the everyday obstacles we all encounter. What they do have is a different mindset and a different approach compared to the masses that get lulled into accepting stagnation as a way of life.
Since this is such a widespread issue (and one I wrestle with myself), I wanted to share my version of the Cycle of Success
Do you ever dodge your creative work? Say, your practice time arrives, and you race off to do some chore. It might be a chore that you detest, but now it calls to you. Then, instead of refining your music, you start cleaning the house or doing whatever. If that scenario sounds familiar, you’re not alone. Artists of every sort contend with avoidant behaviors. Why do we sidestep doing what we love? The answer often stems from the nature of creativity.
It’s easy for me to imagine high margin digital music products that can’t be stolen (as they will be infinitely attached to some server somewhere). If you have not seen this already, take a look at the Sports Illustrated’s tablet edition (concept video below). Start planning your digital music industry future now. Like all things internet, this stuff will eventually be accessible to everyone. And, here are eight things I would put into one of these products…
If you have not tried MOG’s new streaming music service, then take a few minutes and watch the demonstration video. MOG’s streaming music service features a fader that enables music fans to simply adjust the flow of new (relatively unknown) music that’s inserted into any MOG music stream. I believe Echonest powers this feature. Enabling music fans to completely control their music experiences is no longer a pipe dream, it’s now a must-have feature that will appear everywhere over the next twenty-four months.
Quality faders will change the promotion game.
I think it’s relatively easy to enable consumers to control just about any part of their musical journey, but what about quality? Quality is subjective (or maybe it’s not?), however with artists creating over a million songs a year, the absence of a quality fader (filter) reduces the flow of new music to a trickle (the new music fader stays pinned to the left), as no music consumer wants to be burdened with the need to sift through a truckload of poorly written or poorly produced songs. (Note: I believe Echonest is already (somewhat) filtering for quality (hotness)?)
In my opinion, a quality filter-fader that everyone can trust - changes (ends) the promotion game for everyone. When we get to a point where quality, combined with other attributes, can be faded in and out, the entire industry will terminate the marketing department and hire a gaggle of people that can improve quality (subjective or not, it will me measurable). Promotion will become something you (possibly) do after you measure “quality”, not before.
Support and help can be a funny thing. If some one offers to help someone, most would hope that they are helping to get that person moving forward to a better place, closer to success. Or perhaps delivering some of the tools or resources (including, yes, money) that will lead to bigger and better things. However, there are those that become enablers. Their intentions are good, but they may end up hurting more than they help.
Everyone has heard the old joke, “what do you call a drummer with no girlfriend? Homeless!” It’s funny but also, in a number of cases, true. There are numerous aspiring musicians are supported by their family, their girlfriends, their boyfriends and plenty of others when it comes to money. That is not always a bad thing. If communication is good, if expectations are clear, and the guidelines for support are set in place before a dollar changes hands, that help can be worth its weight in gold. That help can bring the artist to the next level if they are struggling. It can make things a little easier. It’s not a golden ticket, it’s not a back door from paying dues and learning invaluable lessons. It simply makes a long hard road a little easier for a few miles.
Lou Reed is an iconic rock star who’s bands and music changed the face of rock music decades ago - as Brian Eno said about The Velvet Underground.. “although few people bought the album, most of those who did were inspired to form their own band.” And it’s not because I begrudge Lou the chance to cash in on his brand by selling an iPhone app. No, it’s because the app is not a creative move for Reed, it doesn’t add a jot to his pantheon of work.
Kelly Richey has been described as “Stevie Ray Vaughan trapped in a woman’s body with Janis Joplin screaming to get out.” That’s an apt appraisal of the Lexington, Kentucky native who’s now based in Cincinnati for many years. A working musician since her teens, she began her professional career as a member of the Arista Records group Stealin’ Horses; in 1990 she formed The Kelly Richey Band, with whom she has become both a national and international touring artist.
Numerous readers have emailed or questioned my post pertaining to artists needing a Global Self-Promotion License. The post was a fake. It’s not real. I was trying to be funny.
I should have waited until April Fool’s day, but the world changes so fast that I didn’t want the post to be outdated. The thoughts arrived. I wrote them down. I clicked the post button. Sorry about the confusion.
If there’s any doubt about the disarray and desperation afoot in the music business, just check out the Internet’s affect on the media business – music, print and broadcast – overall over the past decade. A recent article in the New York Times covers the waterfront on this issue quite well.
While the devastation of digital democracy vis-à-vis the Web made its first blitz through the belly of the music biz, the print media was next in line, and the battlefield there rivals Antietam.
When digitized, all of the photos, images, text, comments, sound, video, songs, lyrics and any media that’s posted on a site - represents the sum of the values, interests and desires (the V.I.D. DNA) of a web site’s contributors and users (this is true for any website where humans have a voice). Google repeatedly indexes this media, and then makes it easy for humans to find humans with similar V.I.D. DNA. This is how people find and form communities on the Internet, not by demographics but by shared V.I.D. DNA (learn more). I believe we will shape the process of forming our own V.I.D. DNA by trimming around the edges, but eventually the community will dominate (and grow) the brand, and this exactly what we want to happen.
I promote to establish and nurture a genuine relationship with my fans. I measure my success by the number of subscribers to my mailing list. Notice I said mailing list, not Twitter followers or MySpace “friends.” I’m talking about the people who grant me permission through a double opt-in process to email them directly on a regular and consistent basis. Right now there are just over a thousand, but there are plenty more out there who might love my music if they heard it. So how do we reach those potential fans?
As we approach 2010 and the new decade, I decided to revisit this essay, one I originally wrote and posted in June of 2008. For much of this decade, social media as an idea, term or simply a phrase, has been willfully bandied around by agencies, social media “consultants,” PR folks et al, as if it was the cure-all for any brands’ online presence. White noise engulfed common sense; nature, particularly how humans behave in society, was hardly ever considered as marketers embraced what they considered, the white hot future wrought by technology. That lack of consideration of human behavior on the web when it came to an online brand strategy, I believe, was an early mistake that really muddied the waters. This post is in reference to one I wrote here earlier this month - Dear Musicians - Please Be Brilliant or Get Out of The Way. Simply put, it’s my argument that social media or social networking are very natural activities for us, both online and off. Therefore a musician or musician’s digital strategy requires an understanding of how people actually use the web. Here’s the link to the post - Anthropology, Technology, The Social Web and Advertising
You may be aware that last week’s UK number one single was Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Killing In The Name’. It was a pretty big deal, and it prevented what otherwise would have inevitably been the surefire ‘X’-mas number 1 from reaching that spot.
X, in this instance, standing for X-Factor.
The campaign was started on Facebook, which is an interesting story in itself, and you could possibly do a fascinating case study in online activism and social media around that very point. That’s not what this blog post is about, but it’s worth a mention.
There was a lot of noise made about the RATM campaign. Some people said it was wonderful, because it kicked against the corporate nonsense that the Christmas charts had turned into. Others said it was a shame, because it stole the rightful place at the top of the charts from a young lad who had earned it fair and square in plain view of the British public.
And another bunch of people said that the whole exercise, while well-meaning, and coming from the right anti-corporate perspective, was essentially flawed and pointless. After all, Rage Against The Machine is a Sony artist, just like young whatsisname who ‘won’ that TV contest. And so any protest centred around a chart battle between those two artists simply filled the coffers of the people who stood to gain had nobody done anything.
Personally, I disagree. With everyone.
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(Updated Feb 25, 2014)