I released my most recent album called “Tea for Tyrants” under the following three guidelines: 1) Music is free 2) Music is everywhere and 3) Music needs context. The price tag of free makes it unrealistic to expect strangers will pay to consume my music through standard channels - iTunes, bandcamp, etc. Similarly, the ubiquity of music reduces the likelihood that my music will attract large audiences at live events to generate significant revenue.
So what is a musician looking to generate revenue to do?
During my brainstorm surrounding how to release the album - I realized that “free” and “everywhere” are mainly true of digital products with unlimited distribution. Physical products, on the other hand, cannot be file shared or downloaded since materials, labor, and packaging are involved. These factors contribute to the cost associated with the product whether it is coffee, toilet paper or green tea. The packaging aspect is particularly important as a means to deliver context and convey a story about the product being consumed. Seems obvious in retrospect - but many musicians view the musical creation itself as the end product instead of one component of a larger experience provided to consumers.
This discovery led me to transfer what initially was an album into a business selling loose leaf green tea that also helps musicians by distributing their music. Selling tea (or a similar commoditized product) instead of music circumvents the problems mentioned earlier since:
- Tea is not free but has a fixed price
- Quality tea is not available everywhere
- Each package of tea can be branded to match a specific musician
Traditional merchandising (t-shirts, buttons, posters) provides a similar outlet but requires the consumer to be an existing fan. Merchandising is an appealing product primarily to the existing audience of a musician. Conversely, adding music to a separate product like tea can attract consumers interested the beverage but not familiar with the musician. In this scenario, the potential for both revenue and new fan acquisition exists.
Andy Angelos is an entrepreneur and musician launching Tea for Tyrants to help fans discover new music through green tea. He also runs an online marketing firm in Chicago providing community managers for brands.