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In Defense Of 1,000 True Fans - Part II - Matthew Ebel

In part ii of my 1,000 true fans series I chose to interview my friend Matthew Ebel. I have known Matthew for a few years because he runs in the same geeky podcasting circles that I proudly run in.  Matthew is the type of artist I refer to in my book as a “Builder” meaning Matthew is constantly pushing his career forward using not only musical innovation but also technology.  

What I find most striking about this interview is the fact that Matthew makes 26.3% of his net income from just 40 hard- core fans.

Imagine what it will be like for him when he gets to 1,000?  The other thing that really stood out for me is the fact that an artist like Matthew (who is totally comfortable with Social Media and extremely Internet savvy) has very little idea what to do with analytics that he is gathering via Google Analytics,, and, as well as email stats via Blue Sky Factory.  

John Wall – I’m interested in hearing how you are helping Matthew in this domain.

Here’s an excerpt from his bio:
Fully immersed in the new digital music world, Matthew is committed to being a trailblazer for other artists.  “I want to leave a legacy for other musicians and show them that it’s possible to be a one man operation or a small band and do it on your own.  I’m always looking for new ways to do that for myself and I’ll be letting people know where I’ve succeeded and let them know what to avoid from my failures,” he says.

Ariel Hyatt: Do you believe that 1,000 true fans is a theory that can work?

Matthew Ebel: Absolutely…  but I honestly think you don’t need 1,000 to earn a living.  1,000 VIP subscribers at would be enough to launch a world tour.

AH: Are you making a full-time living as a musician from your music?

ME: Yes.

AH: Can you give us a breakdown percentage wise of the following:

ME: I’ll give you exact figures for Jan-Sept 2009.  Top 3 Sources will be in BOLD

Music Sales:

CD Sales - 4.1%

Digital Music Sales - 13.9%

Subscription Site - 36.9%

Live Shows - 18.1%

Cover Gig Fees/Cover - 9.8%
Original Gig Fees/Cover - 6.2%
Tips (Including UStream) - 2.1%
Works For Hire & Voiceovers - 8.2%
Affiliate Sales (typically for my own albums/tracks) - 1.1%
Licensing - 13.2%
Independent Film - 6.6%
Internet - 6.6%
Web Design - 4.6%
(I include this because I’m doing a website for a friend… it’s something I choose to do, but it is part of my income this year.)

AH: How many die hard fans, fans that will buy everything and anything from you, would you imagine that you have?

ME: At this point, about 40.

AH: How long did it take you to build up this many fans?

ME: I’d start the clock at 2005 when Beer & Coffee launched.

AH: Do you have a strategy with long-term and short-term goals in place to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future looking aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals?

- Hire virtual assistants to book college shows (screw agents at this point)
- Continue outreach online
- Try to educate other content providers on my subscription method

AH:  Have you ever made money from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Ustream? Can you please tell us exactly how and correlate them?

ME: Not directly…  all these sites serve as ways to communicate new songs and new shows to existing fans, but not as a direct sales vehicle.  On occasion, new fans find me via these channels, but mostly it’s done via word of mouth.

AH:  Has your fame in the podcasting and online world, and your popularity with podcasters helped you to earn more money?

ME: Absolutely.  By getting into podcasting when it was still shiny and new, my music was passed around a very excited community very quickly.  Almost all of those people became long-term fans, making repeat purchases of my music and merchandise.

AH: What are your next steps to continue to help yourself move forward in your own career?

ME: I’m trying and get Amanda Palmer to hand my stuff off to Ben Folds.  Or have me open for her on tour…  ;)

AH:  If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?

OK, so, six things that have made a difference for me…

(note: Matthew contributed most of these to the Indie Maximum Exposure List)

1. Stop the Musical Masturbation
I wasted so much time playing open mics and writer’s nights in Nashville and Boston.  The same is true of all the “hot new music sites” that spring up every 20 minutes on the Internet.  The fans do not go there, you’re only entertaining yourself.  Every open mic I’ve ever seen is a room full of musicians politely waiting for their turn to get on stage.  These events only introduce musicians to other musicians and offer some live performance practice.  Trying to sell CD’s at an open mic is like trying to sell timeshare condos at a telemarketing convention.  Fans go to Facebook or iTunes, not Stereofame.  I could waste all my time playing for a crowd of other broke indie artists or I can spend my efforts approaching fans where they’re already congregating.

2.    Shove Yourself Into A Niche
Music fans aren’t found on sites for music fans.  I’m inspired by certain things– technology, animals, politics, sci-fi/ fantasy –and so is every other artist.  Whatever I’m writing about, there’s a community based around that topic.  Instead of going after generic “music fan” crowds, I chose to focus on specific niches that share MY interests.  Since I’m into podcasting and new media stuff, my music has been resonating particularly well with the geek crowd.  That is where I focus my efforts.  I’m also a big sci-fi/ fantasy nerd as well, so I hit conventions and gatherings of that nature.  Not only is my music relevant to them, I can relate to them on a personal level.

3.    Get Personal
I imagine this advice won’t apply to “concept bands” that have a specific theatrical act or image, but getting personal with my fans is what keeps me alive.  Good music is barely enough to get fans to hand out 99¢ anymore; they have to be emotionally invested in the artist if that artist wants their loyalty.  Don’t get me wrong, there can still be a “fourth wall” during a live concert or video, but real, meaningful connection with the fans is what keeps me in their heads after the show’s over (heck, even your “character” can interact with fans in-character).  I chat with my fans via Twitter, Facebook, and, and as many other channels as possible.  The more I interact with them between performances, the more I stay fresh in their minds and the more inspiration I draw from them.

4.    Keep Them Screaming Your Name
In October of 2008 I started my own subscription service– –with no clue whether the fans would like it or not.  Part of the offerings were two new songs and one live concert recording every month.  It seemed like a tall order to me, but something I could accomplish.  Little did I realize that new releases every two weeks would be better than any good album reviews or press coverage.  Giving my fans something new to talk about every two weeks meant exactly that: they talk about me every two weeks.  They’re not buying an album, raving about it, and losing interest after a few months, they’re constantly spreading my name to their Twitter followers, coworkers, pets, etc.  Regular delivery of quality material is damn near my one-step panacea for the whole industry.

5.    Don’t Suck
No amount of marketing can make up for a total lack of talent– this is why people don’t want to spend $20 on major label CD’s anymore.  25 years of piano and a music degree doesn’t guarantee I’ll be a success, but it gives me one hell of an advantage.  I try to keep myself sharp and never assume I’m good enough.  Even long-time pro football players go through spring training every year.  If nothing else, I find that surrounding myself with talent raises the bar for my own ambitions.  I listen to Ben Folds to inspire my production and piano abilities, I follow people like Ariel Hyatt and Amanda Palmer to improve my outreach, I keep a steady stream of Pat Monahan on my Pandora list to hear what kickass vocals sound like.  I always want to be on my toes.

6.    Experiment In Public
Speaking of being on my toes, I try to push my comfort level in plain sight.  Sometimes I’ll produce a song in a style I’ve never really attempted before and release it to my subscribers at –sometimes it flies, sometimes it doesn’t.  My first attempt at Trance, a song called “Night Train”, has become one of the most requested songs I play at live shows now.  It’s the first one people have openly talked about pirating.  For something I originally downplayed as “just an experiment”, it’s now one of my biggest hits.  I experiment onstage as well, trying new arrangements or even lyrics.  My fans love knowing that they’re part of something spontaneous, that they’ve got a hand in shaping the very future of my music.  Happy fans are vocal fans.

AH:  If you had $500 to spend on marketing and promotion, how would you spend that money?

ME: I’d hire a virtual assistant to hit every influential blogger or podcaster that’s remotely related to what I’m doing and approach him or her on my behalf (based on preset talking points I’d lay out first).  I would want them to interview me about what I’m doing as a small business owner AND as an artist, but any interview is an inbound link.

AH:  Is there anything else you would like to say about 1,000 true fans?

ME: I’ll let you know when I get mine.  Until then, 40 of them are paying 26.3% of my net income.  The more I can find, the higher that percentage grows until I can spend all my time touring and writing.

AH: How do you use analytics to your advantage? What are your measurable online results, and how do your measures help you with your music career?

ME: Right now I’m tracking website stats via Google Analytics,, and, I also track email stats using Blue Sky Factory.  Unfortunately, I have NO IDEA WHAT THESE STATS MEAN or what course of action they suggest.  Fortunately a friend, John Wall, is donating his time and expertise to help me interpret this crap.  I’m a musician, FFS, not an analyst!

AH: On a scale of 1 to 10, would you say you share a lot (a 10) or are you guarded in what you exposure on social media sites about yourself and your personal life?

ME: I’d say I share about 70% to 80% of my life publicly.  I figure that people will just find out what I’d try to hide anyway. :)

AH: What would you say to a fellow musician, that thinks that Twitter is just sharing “eating a tuna sandwich” and is stupid?

ME: I’d say find a better way to communicate with your fans, then.  If you can’t, maybe you should stop Twittering about your lunch and start providing useful information or social connection.  If you can, why aren’t you sharing this info with the rest of us?

Find Matthew Ebel at:

Get your copy of Goodbye Planet Earth at:

More from his bio:
For Matthew Ebel, music is the key to the journey of life, not just the destination.  Whether it’s outer space adventures or a single father struggling to make a Christmas for his daughter, Matthew’s songs and stories resonate in the minds and hearts of an ever-increasing fan base. Ebel is also paving the way in the new music economy, showing that it is possible for independent artists to support themselves through their music; growing his audience by utilizing new tools available to artists.
“I want people to take my music and then go off and create something on their own,” says Matthew.  “The greatest thrill for me is when people write blog posts based on my music or are inspired to do a version of one of my songs in their college choir – it’s the act of creating something new from my work.  It’s amazing.”

Reader Comments (40)

Thanks for the interview! I hope I can help out some other musicians get to where I am, and beyond. And I hope people understand some of the tongue-in-cheek moments, like relying on Ben Folds or AFP to move my career forward... that was just a bit of fun (though God knows I wouldn't turn 'em down). :)

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Question: I am wondering if you could give a gross dollar figure for the artist's income. So far we have percentages of income, but that doesn't really help if the 100% is $10,000. If the argument is that 1000 true Fans could work, especially if 40 True Fans accomplishes X, then we need to know what X is.




October 29 | Unregistered CommenterBrian McTear


In this case, Ariel did specifically ask me for a dollar value, but I don't feel comfortable sharing that kind of information online. Suffice it to say that I'm renting a house in Wellesley, MA with a couple of room mates... I'm not starving, I can still eat sushi from time to time, and my car (neither a Pinto nor a Bentley) is paid off. Does that help?

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Matthew: Thanks so much for sharing that info - very insightful. I'm blown away that a core group of 40 people can give you enough leverage to do your thing. Awesome. Your results around the subscription model are very encouraging. Essentially, your story is the blueprint for how independent artists can live the dream. I see it as two parts: talent/skill + creative business acumen.

The REAL challenge is to be consistent and balance the two. Let's face it, that's hard to do and figure out how to pay the bills along the way.


October 29 | Unregistered CommenterMike Echlin

Very inspirational article.... already has the wheels turning... thanks...

Thanks, Matthew. I am a record producer, studio engineer and musician myself. I am also trying to establish a new nonprofit organization called Weathervane Music that works to support and advance the work of great independent musicians.

Long story short, I've always felt obligated to go above and beyond my role to set artists I work with on a path to sustainability. I've always been very skeptical of 1000 True Fans, because I think it works of the assumption that everyone's a solo artist, and everyone can live without many of the amenities that other adults consider essential. I am 36, have been doing this "successfully" for about 10 years and I am on Public Assistance for my health insurance. My friends who've also been "living the dream" are in similar predicaments. I am sitting with one of my best friends of many years right now as he mixes a record in my studio. THe band's in Denmark, and the record is sounding great. He's respected and loved in many circles, but he has no health insurance and chronic aesthma that he's just "learned to deal with". That's a potentially life threatening situation.

I hate to say this, because I sound mean or critical or like I am raining on people's parades, but I feel like EVERYONE has a rock and roll fantasy, and for that reason people in all walks of life think there's a valid trade that they'd make: their life, for a life in Rock and Roll. They fail to recognize the meaning of a life without health insurance, retirement, the means to have a family, and many many other deficits.

I keep doing it at this point because it's what I do. I love it. And I work to advocate for musicians and to bring these things to light because all my best friends are musicians and I care for them deeply.

Nonetheless, I do think it's great that you get to do what you do and are happy. That is, after all, what is most important. And having said that, if there is any way that we could learn what type of scale you live within, that'd be awesome for the rest of us. That said....TOTALLY understandable that you don't want to share that info.

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterBrian McTear

Great interview! It's very motivating to see someone being successful in what has become a ridiculously unpredictable industry. It's been hard trying to reprogram the list of goals that I made up for myself when i was 12 years old to NOT include "get a record deal with a major label". To get this done on our own is now the new Holy Grail. It's exciting, and frustrating all at once!
Keep up the good work Matthew and Ariel!
p.s. if you're listening to Pat Monahan to hear a great vocal track, good for you. just don't look to him for an example of great song writing. i'm not sure if he's written a great song since Charlie (Train's original bass player) left the band!

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterPaulZ

Hey Matthew,
Fantastic! You're doing your thing! It makes me want to work harder; writing and putting out new material.

The Deacon

Mama's Dirty Li'l Secret
Rock Hard! Rock Sexy!


Believe me, I hear that. Like I said, I'm not driving a Bentley these days... but I am surviving without a day job OR playing shitty 3-hour cover gigs in bars. I'm just starting out, really... but my costs are so low that it makes black ink possible.

The best thing about <A HREF="">Matthew Ebel dot net is that, as more people sign up, my workload doesn't change at all. Costs are fixed and every new subscriber is bringing in more profit (not revenue, profit).

I've been at the subscription thing for only one year, but who knows where it will go in five.


October 29 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Nice article, and fantastic series, Ariel. These are exactly the kinds of details and specifics that many working musicians are looking for: How do we make it all add up? Thanks

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterKen Hiatt

Hello? Reality check please.

40 fans paying 1000 bucks per month wouldn't cover a musician's expenses if they are writing, producing and marketing one recording per year.

And how many fans have 1000 bucks per month? More like 400 fans at 10 bucks per month, and it would be hard to keep 400 fans on a subscription service. AND IT STILL WOULDN'T COVER THE EXPENSES!

Social networking provides a tiny, infinitesimal contribution to a musicians success, with all due respect to the Ariel's and Matts of the world. Getting 10,000 hours of experience in your craft (do the math on that: start with 4 hours a day and divide) and then getting in front of people is the only path to success that doesn't involve luck or patronage.

Every musician needs to stop looking for overnight success, magical formulas, viral anythings, and do what you love 51% of the time. The other 49% can be spent on booking and promoting gigs. Any percentage left over should be spent on social marketing.

When asked to give guitar lessons, Woody Guthrie replied (I have to paraphrase): "Lean up against a wall and bang on the guitar. When a crowd gathers, you've learned how to play."

I'm not disparaging the ideas contained here. A subscription service, targeting podcasters, finding unique ways to share your creations with excited earthlings: great manure to throw on the thought and action garden. I'm glad I read the interview, and it may increase my income.

But 40 subscribers? 100?

Reality check over.

PS: You can find me on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, OurStage... so don't believe anything you've just read.

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterLafe


I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at... I've been playing piano for over 25 years now (>200,000 hours) and have been working to build a fan base using traditional methods. My subscribers don't pay $1,000 a month and I certainly release more than 1 recording per year. I've read your comment several times now and... I'm just confused as to what you're talking about. Sorry!

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Faced with a difficult decision between Lefe's "This is wrong because I insist it's wrong" approach and the simple "I am living proof this works" testimonial of Matthew Ebel, I think I'll go with the person doing it, rather than the guy commenting on it.

There's very few musicians being so transparent, thanks for that, Mr. Ebel. This was a great read.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Man, seriously, I am weirded out by Lefe's comment.

40 fans paying 1000 bucks per month wouldn't cover a musician's expenses if they are writing, producing and marketing one recording per year.

WTF are you doing that requires over $40,000 a month? Is it some kind of joke about the ubiquity of cocaine addiction?

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland


Great stuff! I'm creating an environment around an even smaller fanbase: those who are famous for 15 people. You'd be a king with your 40 fans!

Seriously, I believe that there is an enormous opportunity to build an entirely new artist/audience relationship, and in a year or so I'll have some data I'll be happy to share with you.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Tiemann

My problem has always been trying to recreate these new models of success within my chosen genre, hip hop... where the majority of the music that's put out or should I say exposed through mainstream outlets is just garbage.

There are plenty of "underground" fans to be sure... but it's hard to "tap" into them as you have done.


I would simply think of it less like "tapping into" a fan base and more like "creating a connection with people". Subscriptions like only work because it gives me a closer bond with the real human beings buying my music. Maybe you could find out what makes a person connect with your artist and play off of that.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

This is a fine article, one that underscores the fact that being a very successful independent musician is entirely possible.

This isn't something new. We have new sets of tools that can make the job easier than ever. There are many artists who could easily be successful by simply substituting the time they waste complaining about how impossible it is to succeed with pointing their nose towards a solution and start moving in that direction.

No, I'm not theorizing or speaking in the hypothetical, I've done exactly what I've described for over 15 years--it's really not that hard.

Kudos Matthew Ebel!

There's plenty of room for everyone who is smart about how they spend their time and effort.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterRob Michael

@Universal Indie

A good case study for you would be Big Quarters, who use this exact model for their own work, releasing 5 tracks a month to fans who subscribe to their work. Pretty much everything Big Quarters does is worth paying attention to, they're very experimental and very, very motivated dudes.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I ran some numbers to get a feel for this.

If 40 people subscribed for the most expensive subscription, $150 a year, that would generate $6000. And if that contributes about 1/4 of Matt's income, that would be about $24,000 a year. That's not a ton, but if you have roommates and not a lot of other expenses, it is doable.

So for others to achieve this or more might require:

1. Fans who have at $150 a year to spend. It kind of depends. It's not a lot for some people. For others who are looking to avoid more bills on top of phone, mortgage/rent, car, etc., they might balk at committing to anything.

2. Can you make it worthwhile for your subscribers? I know artists who play as many as 200 shows a year, and who also turn out a CD a year, but they might feel under the gun to generate a stream of content every month.

3. Are you a solo artist? I think it's a lot easier to make this work as a solo. Chances are you will not play more gigs or write more songs as a band than you would as a solo, yet you'd have to divide the money among more people.

October 30 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson


Not bad on the math there. Bear in mind, of course, that some of them are paying for the VIP pass monthly, not yearly, which comes out to $180 a year. Not a huge difference, but every little bit helps!

Bear in mind, of course, that Matthew Ebel dot net has only been around for one year. Every live show I play and every big release helps bring in more subscribers, so I'm hoping someday to have 1,000 VIP's just like the article suggests.

At that point, it's not a "live with room mates" kind of living, it's "support a family and make great music in my studio all day" kind of living. God willing. :)

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Ebel

Thanks for this interview. Kudos to you for setting up a membership site. I am a big fan of 'selling access' as Glen Leonhard and other media futurists have predicted via a fan club, training program, coaching system, etc.The content is secondary to the experience.

I've taken a slightly different route in music than most musicians as well - never wanted to tour around and play crappy bars for free beer or play on the street for chump change. I give away my music for free but focus on teaching others whether that be teaching guitar via my membership site Online Guitar Coaching or showing people how to set up your own membership site and other things.

I'll take people who take action and get it done over whiners and theorists anyday!

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterWill

I don't have personal experience with the subscription model. On the one hand, I know people who easily spend $15-$20 a month going out to hear music. And I know people who will go see their favorites whenever they play. I get in debates a lot with people over the concept of overplaying. I think it's fine to play many shows (as long as you play a variety of venues/locations to gain exposure to new people), but others argue that people won't come to see you all the time. I think it depends on the music. If you play the right music and create the right community of fans, some of them will see you weekly if you play within driving distance. I've witnessed it.

On the other hand, trying to get people to subscribe to one more thing can be hard in this environment. They think twice about upgrading cable, or getting a magazine or newspaper, or supporting NPR.

I'm taking notes on this subscriber thing to anticipate how it will work if everyone starts to do it.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

I find the best way is to get out and do it. And don't underestimate your attitude/power of attraction. Based on what you have said, I can guarantee it won't work for you until you believe and put in the consistent effort. In my case I focus on teaching guitar so people are motivated to learn. Maybe people aren't motivated to do it for a particular artist or just for the music, depending on their talent and offerings within the site.
In other areas besides music, people are doing memberships like crazy. Keep in mind we all have different interests - I might sign up for a 'raw food coaching program', 'learn jazz guitar', band x fan club, etc.

I don't buy the paper but it hasn't nothing to do with subscription model, i'm not interested and I can get news for free online. There's no connection between me and the publishing company.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterWill

found via techdirt. it's great to hear of artists (or anyone really i suppose) finding success on their own terms with innovative business models.

October 31 | Unregistered Commentertom

In other areas besides music, people are doing memberships like crazy. Keep in mind we all have different interests - I might sign up for a 'raw food coaching program', 'learn jazz guitar', band x fan club, etc.

A lot of it has to do with the economy. If people are cutting back on everything that isn't a necessity, music/entertainment is one area where they may not have the money to spend. Some artists have fans with less money to spend than others.

That's something I try to factor in when trying to determine how a subscription plan might work. Some fans are hurting financially as much as the artists they want to support. Maybe they can trade labor or help in other ways, but they really don't have the money to give you.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

If you believe that then it's true! I'm making more than I ever did online - not as much as I'd like but growing slowly over time. Plus things are only going to get better so you'd be set up to take advantage. If this guy has 40 people right now, imagine what he could have in 2-5 years as things improve. Why focus on the fans who don't have any money? There's almost 7 billion people on the planet right now, but all you need is 1000 or even less fans to make it work. 100 people at $20/month plus other revenue streams would be fine for most people.

Subscriptions aren't the only way to go. I sell my own products for instant access, and affiliate commissions on products I highly recommend to my following and about $80/month from youtube adsense revenue.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterWill

Will, I applaud your optimism. I guess I'm hedging a bit because I have seen how hard it can be for most musicians, even trying to do everything right.

I think to really make it work, it's good to shoot for around $100,000 a year. That gives the artist enough money to live on and pays for expenses and support staff. But when you start to break it down into maybe trying generate $8,000 to $10,000 a month, and what you have to sell or do to make it, it is more than some can achieve.

I think some artists get overwhelmed by trying to do both the marketing and the music creation. If you are trying to promote yourself to find those 1000 true fans, plus writing and recording enough material every month to service your current subscribers, you may burn out.

That's why some artists say, "Can't I just do the music and let someone else do everything else?"

The other challenge, which I have run into with women artists, is that they don't want to keep doing this full-time for years to build up that fan base. They want to get married and have kids. So they are trying to juggle that with the music. And I know one who is very successful, but took a part-time job because it came with health insurance. She had been paying for her own, but then she got married and had a baby and found the only way to get her family covered at an affordable price was to work at a non-music job for part of each week.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Nice, thanks for the candidness and specificity.
I've been working on unraveling my path in the long tail world. Am making good headway. The thing that strikes me most is how can i get more interactive, without being a pest? I want to learn how to make my blog/website more interactive. Probably a good thing to outsource :)


Mark Cool

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterMark Cool

Will, I looked at your website about how to set up a membership site. So I see where you are coming from.

Offering services that help make people money during tough economic times is a good approach.

In contrast, musicians and their marketers have traditionally stressed the appeal of the music itself on the assumption that just listening to or owning the music was sufficient. Now musicians are starting to stress the pluses of belonging to a community built around the music, but many people are still learning how to best provide and market that.

October 31 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson


I would simply think of it less like "tapping into" a fan base and more like "creating a connection with people". Subscriptions like only work because it gives me a closer bond with the real human beings buying my music. Maybe you could find out what makes a person connect with your artist and play off of that."

Very true. I'll work on that... thanks...

"Maybe you could find out what makes a person connect with your artist and play off of that."

That's important. I've worked with a variety of artists and each had a different group of fans. So you kind of have to study those fans (watching them at shows, reading their emails, seeing what they say when they buy CDs) to understand what draws them to the music.

Usually you have to create a different approach for each artist because the fan bases are different. You can use the same communication tools, but what emotions you tap into tend to vary greatly from artist to artist. And I don't mean to suggest that the artist should become a packaged personality just to sell music. The artist should always be real, but it helps to know that if the artist starts to head off in totally new directions, he/she may lose some fans who were attracted to the old directions.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

More great advice.. thanks Suzanne.

What it seems like in my genre is that

1. tmore and more people are downloading than actually paying for music. Hence the falling record sales in rap unless you're Jay Z or Lil Wanye. So I'm not sure about the subscription thing. When a pretty well known artists, Murs tried the Radiohead pay what you want type model... he practically made nothing. I mean I didn't expect him to do Radiohead type numbers but the end results were pretty dismal.

2. There aren't really a lot of venues (at least in the tri-state) where unknown indie hip hop artists can play due to the ignorance of some of the fans (violence)

3. If you can get a show out here.. it's usually the type where you either pay $200 and up out right or are responsible for selling tickets to cover the costs.

I'm just searching for that model that will resonate with an "older" hip hop crowd. Those of us who grew up on this who are now in our late 20's, 30's and 40s and want music that reflects our lives as opposed to the mainstream stuff aired on the radio or BET>

Which tri-state area are you referring to? If it's New England, I'm baffled, because there are tons of opportunities for indie hip hop there.

Finding the model that resonates with an older crowd is pretty easy: just determine who the big fish are in your tank and model what they're doing. Make refinements. Beastie Boys are working with Topspin and that seems to be going great.

Having checked out your site, your presentation might be holding you back. The graphic design on everything but Dominque LaRue's latest album (which has some bangers btw) is straight Microsoft Paint and the overall engine is pretty bland-looking.

There's a number of indie labels who are doing great on record sales, and a solid live show/touring engine is at the heart of every one of those operations, from High Water to RSE to Def Jux to MYX Label out in Cali. Don't focus on single failures ilke Murs -- he also made a pretty lame album. He's got a serious problem with releasing his best work for free.

Another good operation to get familiar with, especially if you are in New England, is QN5, the house that Tonedeff built.

November 2 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

The Tri-State area I'm referring consist of NYC as the focal point. I know the New England market and where it is at now... is where NYC used to be back in the early 90's before everything became dependent on payola. At one time it was based on talent.. I know because I released a single in 95 and a a single in 97 that was distributed by TRC, garnered radio play on Hot 97 thanks to Red Alert and wound up selling 2500 copies of each without any promotion.

Yes, I understand times have changed but so has the attitude towards hip hop in NYC and everyone is simply trying to make a buck off the artists. In noway can you compare what's currently going on in NYC to the scene in New England. You guys have a great scene... hopefully it will stay that way.

As far as the record covers and site presentation... I disagree but I won't argue the point as that's subjective to each man's taste so it's pointless arguement

What I do agree with you is on the touring and right now artists like K.Sparks who is bubbling heavily (google him) is still having a hard time trying to book a tour. In time I guess.

I also agree about Murs album (and have known about QN5 for ages)...

This isn't a new article, but it's new to me. But it does a great job of explaining why getting 1000 true fans can be harder than it looks.

November 5 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Don't get into music expecting to make a million, even if you are a genius it probably isn't going to happen. Enjoy the journey, music should be a labour of love wealth and success welcome by products. Take lots of small steps and cherish your true fans....oh and try to write good songs and maybe the gods will smile on you.

November 7 | Unregistered CommenterPete Smith

Thank you for being so honest and open about your music career. It is great to hear from people that are in the trenches and making it happen for themselves!
This is super inspiring and thought provoking!
Every musician should be reading and seeing that it is about reaching the fans.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterChad Sharp

Problem w/Universal Indie Record's complaint about the hip hop genre is that it's not difficult to implement these solutions because what is on the radio is garbage, it's about targeting the right audience/demographic for your style of hip hop. Most "underground" artists are not going after the 13-22 year old market that urban radio targets...most kids don't want to hear people spittin SAT words and talking about how their flow is so much better than some other unknown MC. They want to dance, have sex, get money, and then spend it.

URI - If you are underground, it's easier for you to follow Matthew's model because there are so many people tired of the radio and hungry for something different. It's hip hop artists that's music sounds mainstream but are not signed to deals that have the harder time because that same demographic respects and idolizes people who are already famous and co-signed by the industry. The only thing standing in your way is that the fanbase for many underground artists are made up of people who will illegally download your music for 2-3 albums before they decide you're music is "worthy" of being purchased. Endemic of hip hop, even the underground peeps are more likely to buy you if you're MF Doom or Little Brother (and even they get bootlegged left and right!) If you can find a way to get them hooked beyond making great music - through great shows, interactions, etc. - then you can get that 40+ true fans like Matthew's got in no time.

May 22 | Unregistered CommenterGilette

With all due respect, I am suspect of anyone's figures if they claim 200,000 hours on piano in a mere 25 years.
That equates to almost 22 hours a day.
Every day.
For 25 years.

February 4 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

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