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Create Validate Sell

Up until recently, and in a caveman sort of way, I divided the tasks of building a music business into two rock piles: a pile of things related to creating music and a pile of things related to selling music.  

In the creating music pile I accounted for iteratively improving songs based upon fan and professional feedback, and in the selling music pile I accounted for monetary feedback; you either sold music or you didn’t.  

Recently, I evolved from lumping tasks into two piles to lumping tasks into three piles.  Create and sell has become - create and validate and then sell.  In fact, the sequence has become create-validate, create-validate, create-validate, and then sell.  Thanks Steve Lawson.

While this is not information that makes the earth spin in reverse, adding a third classification column to your to-do list does cause you to perform discrete actions that you may not have taken otherwise.  

For example, when you approach validation as an essential task to be executed efficiently, as unbiased as possible, and without prejudice or lasting consequences, you end up reclassifying products or services previously lumped into another pile.

On Saturday, as I wondered about the simplest way to validate music using the criteria I just described, I ended up reclassifying the music community site Aime Street out of the interesting-way-to-barely-sell-music rock pile to the music validation pile.  For me, this action shed an entirely different light on the value Aime Street generates for artists.

AmieStreetlogo.gifAime Street is a music community site that has a unique pricing model where tracks start out as free and as popularity increases the price of a track goes up.  I only recommend sites that charge flat fees to artists and I steer clear from sites that extract percentages.  However, when I reclassified Aime Street as a music validation service instead of a place to sell music, a new recommendation emerged.

Aime Street probably isn’t going to put a lot of money into your pocket, but I have to say that Aime Street is the fastest way to validate music that I have tried to date; it’s also fun.  I would have gladly paid them a flat fee to validate songs within their community.

I simply uploaded music to Aime Street and over the next 48 hours I watched as the price of the tracks rose and the recommendations rolled in.  It was hardly profitable, but it was gratifying and comforting validation.  I’m surprised that Aime Street is not growing as rapidly as some of the other music sites on the Internet; as a music fan, this site really appealed to my sensibilities.

Similarly, I am trying the site called OurStage for the same reason.  I really like the unique voting funnel that OurStage offers, but the gratification will not come as rapidly as on Aime Street.  My guess is that both of these sites will yield the detailed validation or invalidation I’m looking for ninety days from now, albeit using entirely different methods.

The bottom line: setting out to purposely seek validation is not only important; it enables you to reframe your approach to sites, services and relationships.  The saying “necessity (to validate) is the mother of invention” applies here…

Reader Comments (10)

Everytime I read about new models of combining social networks & music (, Sellaband) I think to myself, 'why didn't I think of that?'.

The business model of Aime Street is another case of this. :)

I'll definitely be checking out these 2 sites!

March 31 | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Shelter

Hey Bruce,

Certainly a thought-provoking post. When you talk about validation, are you essentially thinking in terms of methodologies of solving a supply-demand relationships, or are you talking about artistic validation? The former makes a lot of sense to me, the latter strikes me as a form of art by committee vote.

Can you elaborate more about what, in your opinion, ought to be validated?


March 31 | Unregistered CommenterMark

I was thinking in terms of supply-demand relationships. However, now that you have asked the question, perhaps what I say next merits a discussion? When it comes to artistic validation - what matters? It's up to the artist right? I don't play an instrument, but I do create things. I don't care what the critics say, I feel validated when something I created/supplied hits the sweet spot on the demand curve; but that's me...

What I was driving at in this post was something along the lines of - don't invest a ton of time into creating a music business until you have some indication that somebody cares...

A lot of artists derive that indication from live shows. My experience with live shows is that most fans can't distinguish between a good song and a great party; especially after five beers. So, if you want to validate your songs whilst in your boxer shorts, without leaving your desk, and through an audience of 35,000 to 100,000 people - over the weekend - try out the digital tools.

Art by committee - that's one way of looking at it for sure. I was thinking art by iteration...

March 31 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Further clarification. I have invested in songs. In the future I would have myself look into having songs validated (as described above) prior to picking one to pour money into. What's actually cool about some of these services is that validation and promotion merge - to some extent. If a song rises to the top of the Aime Street charts I will feel more comfortable about expanding the promotion effort.

March 31 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Solid once again Bruce.

Gotta shake these monkeys out of the "Build it and they will come" tree and get them roaming upright on the digital plane!

also got my packages filled up nicely btw. But I can still make room for you if you're keen! haha :p

March 31 | Unregistered CommenterMatt @ Kurb

"Validation"... at what point are you "validated" (when every comment on your work is positive)?

In my opinion every artists work is "valid" (for lack of a better term)when it is created. You will never please everyone, therefore to measure your works worth by comments on a web site seems a bit futile to me.

If every artist quit recording because they received a bad review (thus not "validating" their work)... then there would be knowone left making music.

Keep in mind most massive hits are a product of a major label marketing machine rather the the general populations preference. Songs are rammed down your throat until you start saying "hey this tune is growing on me". LOL

I understand everyone likes to have that vote of confidence that the masses will appreciate their efforts, however to "judge" any art form by this method is dangerous territory.

BTW...very cool forum for discussing these issues....nice work!

April 1 | Unregistered CommenterChip Gall

Thanks for the clarification on validation of business potential vs the art itself. When it comes to determining ROI for your music business, it is important to understand your potential market, as with any business endeavor. But, when it comes to the art itself, outside of commercial concerns, the only opinion that is "valid" is the artist's.

April 1 | Unregistered CommenterClif Johnston

Interesting topic. In my opinion every artist needs some degree of validation on a psychological level. Getting honest and good feedback drives the passion
and encourages you to do more. But when is that feedback really honest? Does it matter? No because your encouraged to do more, and being productive is good. When considering your music as a business, most artist (including myself) need to get their bubble popped, and I sincerely think that these internet tools are worth the PR work you put into them.

Because the records labels are saturating, musicians must find solace elsewhere. Its natural they turn towards their community to get feedback, it's all they got. Most indie bands only live off live shows, and the relationship they sustain with their 'steady fan base' is through the internet.

Music social networks allow better validation criteria rather then having your song judged by say your family and friends. Again it depends of which platform
we are talking about because all Myspace-like social networks (Mindviz, Reverbnation, Purevolume etc) are great for connecting people but don't always give you steady or concise feedback on your music. Bands usually just add in a good word for you to accept them as freinds.
Amie Street represents good feedback, as does Ourstage. Both sites let consumer behavior have an influence on the 'popularity' you represent. And the outupt is money or prizes plus solid promotion which is what most bands aspire for. Of course this popularity is self-contained in the website's regular users opinions (hope that made sense). If every song from every social network were to be placed on Aimee St. you might not even get a listen. So the validation you get through such services is proportional to the popularity of the website itself. But in the end what matters is that you made a difference, and that your community helped you make that difference. So I think its important to subscribe to these sites and play around with them.

Another good idea is to subscribe to where professionals send you detailed written feedback of your songs. Or just register to some music forums who host threads about music feedback. The Sonicbids forums are a good place to start. is also a place where the community's participation helps the band. Only 1000 votes and you get to perform live on their channel.

All your fans have an internet connection and they are all web savvy. I definitely think they will have as much importance online then offline for a band's career in just the years to come. So to capitalize on their behavior and their validation is pretty important I'd say.

April 2 | Unregistered CommenterGigDoggy

OurStage has huge potential but it seriously and desperately needs quality control. Since I had tracks up there, I felt reasonably obligated to judge a lot of other contests.

99% of the material I heard was horribly bad f'ing music. They need to give judges a "go home" option to click -- there has to be some means of weeding out the really agonizing amateur stuff. If the contests featured better music, I would probably be mildly addicted to this site by now.

Instead I find myself unable to go back -- feels too much like unpaid work, and I do plenty of that already.

April 3 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I went to a conference a few years back and one of the panelist talked about the value of having key people (who's ears you trusted) give you feedback on your songs before you went "too far down the road". These could be retailers, A&R execs, managers or others in the industry that you developed relationships with. I always remembered this and have included it as part of my music creation/promotion cycle.

As you've written, the digital age as given us much more creative ways to receive this valuable feedback. And, I love your "Create, Validate, Sell" labels. I'm going to use that from now on. I would also add The Sixty One to your list of Validating Websites (http:/

Great post. I've read every one and I count this as one of my favorite music blogs.

April 4 | Unregistered CommenterEric Campbell

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