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« The Weekly Batch | Main | Solving the Symphony Crisis »
Thursday
Mar282013

The Rise of the Musicpreneur (Part 1/3)

Written by Tommy Darker.

Credit: Flickr ‘Zilladon’

Yeah, I know, there is a lot of debate and it is already an old hat for most musicians, who read constantly about the liberation of the independent music from the gatekeepers (‘Fuck the gatekeepers’ is more hyperbole than ‘viral’ now) and that they can go out and do it alone, without the help of major labels.

Nobody, however, has come up with a satisfactory description of what being an independent musician in the digital age entails.

It’s a cool name, but what does it mean? I reckon, the more you use a word without knowing what it is, the more the word becomes an obsolete and lifeless symbol for everyone.

 There is a class of not so imperceptible attributes than define the term Musicpreneur.

In this essay, I will attempt to adumbrate those attributes, because I strongly believe we’ll see them get amplified in the future.

As you see, I don’t mention radio, TV, licensing or advertisements and traditional media. The reason is because I think they won’t matter in the future. Yeah, right. All of them won’t matter. Talk to me if you have strong doubts, got my contact details at the end.

Plus, this is not a ‘how-to’ guide, but merely a well-organized overview of the tasks involved in being a modern DIY artist. On purpose, I will break it down to parts, so it doesn’t tire you. This is the first out of three parts.

Let’s go.

I Assets 

Every band, like every business, needs some assets before being in a position to create beautiful things and capitalize for profit. These mechanisms or assets are essential, because without them you won’t go far - or at least you cannot be called a professional. 

Most DIY bands have no idea what these assets are all about, as labels traditionally were taking care of them, keeping the bands aloof. Of course, that meant that bands who followed an independent route, after being for some time in a major label, the majority had no sense of business and how to manage their fans, thus got swamped.

We have no tangible clues about what I’m stating, but the new generation of indie musicians will be well trained on that area. Friction brings inevitable results and experience. All self-made individuals will support my previous argument I guess.

Let’s go and divide those assets into 2 categories.

Credit: Flickr ‘Fernando de la Calle Photography’

1. Business

This is the hated part. Most musicians can’t stand it. Makes sense, who wants to talk about funnels and leads? You’re indie though, somebody has to, if you want this professional image to go further and bring some money to sustain you and refuel your art.

Some of the things you have to do is:

Organize business funnel. Whenever someone decides to buy from you, they follow a specific road from decision till the checkout (even later on, in the follow-up part). Afterwards, these individuals will engage with you and eventually will buy more expensive products, becoming part of your business funnel.  These procedures need to be organized, automated and supervised by a skilled individual, who could be a member of the band with modern business knowledge.

Sustainable business model. This is how you make money.

“A business model encompasses how a firm creates value, how it delivers that value to customers, and how it captures revenue from those customers.”

 is what Saul J. Berman’s definition is. Will you choose to rely on digital downloads, apply the freemium model or be an entirely touring band? It’s up to you. There are so many business models, you have to pick the right one for you, one that primarily suits your artistic integrity. The strategist that will make the decision has to be flexible in his mindset, and, preferably, a band member. This strategy will determine a lot how your band moves around.

Schedule planning. Somehow you have to stick around with your goals and responsibilities. That’s where scheduling your actions comes in handy. A detailed, short-term schedule (3-months) can give you things to do and keep you one step ahead. There has to be a long-term plan as well, but it’s wise to keep it flexible. Long future can neither be predicted, nor scheduled or controlled. Keep it flex, but know where you want to go. Think of it like a mountain pick you always have in sight. This has to be something the whole band decides and is comfortable with.

Manage logistics. Boring stuff, but someone has to do it. Logistics is the management of your money, your income, expenses, common pool and so on. A good reason to fight for, so you’d better be clear with this kind of issues from an early stage. If you start now, you won’t have much work to do with logistics (you’ll only have expenses, which is normal, and no-one fights over who’s gonna pay the bills first!), but when you start getting a real business going, then the skills of a trusted individual will be handy. Member of the band or not, the person has to be trusted.

Manage lead collection. People who are interested in your music and take some minor action that allows them to be in your radar (and be marketed too), are called leads. That could be a person who subscribes to your mailing list or becomes a fan in one of your social media profiles. They are visible now, you can market directly to them.  Whoever comes up with the business model and takes care of the business funnel, this is the best person to take care of the lead generation (the way and strategy you’ll use to increase these aforementioned numbers).

Growth/metrics. This is a daunting task, in terms of finding the right metric(s) to set as the primary measurement of success. It all depends on the business model. If you choose freemium, you have to focus on capturing emails. The problems start when you focus on the goals and forget the art or the innovation. My suggestion: if you can maintain clarity of mind and can separate your creative and entrepreneurial sides, then take care of this task. If not, a third individual can do the work and report to you, and their information will be less emotionally attached to what you do.

Remarks:

If you hire a manager, this could person could be in charge to synchronize and arrange the details of the business side. It’s good to have full control, but, if you’re not that skilled, trust - and pay - another individual to do so. Will take you a long way.

Credit: Nathan Sawaya

2. Design/Web Presence

The more the world’s listeners, consumers, creators pass the torch to the new generation, the so called ‘digital natives’ (me included), the more prominent it will be to have a completely clear view about web development and online stuff in general. Hop in now, it has started years ago, it’s not a trend anymore.

Understand design. Web design, and design in general, is not an easy task. It’s got its own fundamentals, principles and gravity. Most artists reckon it’s alright to do it by yourself if you have a basic sense of aesthetics, but it’s not. An amateur design lacks a logical sequence and has a ceiling in terms of its capabilities. Full potential of design expression can only be imprinted by a professional who understands your needs. Find the right person to take over, or work hard to learn yourself. Design is another form of art, not just a deed.

Take care of branding. This is where you inject your identity in your design and approach. A brand marks its territory and stands out in the era of noise. Branding is a big chapter in the digital world’s economy, as it subconsciously moves the population to lean towards and associate with specific products, causes or organizations. Art can take advantage of it, by infusing the branding elements in the final result, without hurting art itself. That needs to be done by a person who understands how branding works, preferably one who has design knowledge, in association with the band itself, who knows who they are and what they want to be perceived. Strong identity has to be translated into a strong brand. 

Create graphics and logo. Part of the procedure of branding is the creation of graphics and a memorable logo. This is what web visitors encounter every time they see you around. Website, social media, interviews, posters, all convey messages about you. You need to have a continuous message, through branded graphics and a logo that marks your values and point of view. No matter how insignificant this might sound, having a pro take care of your image, including design, branding and graphic representation of your band, can have vital and perennial results.

Knowledge of web development. Seems that the majority of musicians are inclined towards the technical side of the web, so there always seems to be a skillful web developer in the team. If this is the case for you, great. You got your problem solved. If not, you definitely need an individual to maintain the servers and develop your website. Don’t forget, it’s your 24/7 ambassador for every country in the world. Just like your physical presence, it needs to convey the right message and inspire your character to the visitors.

SEO work. You won’t see advice about ‘getting in the first page of Google in 3 days’ here. The principle is simple: search engines go where real humans go. Keep that in mind. If you bring value to the online community, then people will notice and follow. Why do you need to be in the search results anyway? In the era of total transparency we live in, search engines are perceived to be authorities in any topic. Ranked first in this topic, I will trust you! And, anyways, you don’t want to appear second when someone types your band’s name. It doesn’t show credible. Find someone to know and let them help you, or do it yourself. No need for a professional here.

Update website. There’s nothing worse than a website that has not been updated for months. This can hurt your image a lot, as it seems you either neglect it (bad) or have no news at all (worse). The person who will do all this has to be part of your band, or really close to it, so they can come up with curated and interesting content. Necessary skill is Content System Management knowledge. With a platform like Wordpress, things are not so difficult.

Manage online platforms. Whether you use Bandcamp, Topspin, Shopify or a simple eCommerce plugin for Wordpress, this platform with your products, music, free goodies and services has to be managed and supervised constantly by someone. If you have active business experience, customer service is valued more than the service itself. This task also involves shipping orders, monitoring metrics, troubleshooting. Make sure everything’s in order. The individual needs to have experience on multiple platforms, so you can choose the right one according to your needs and level.

 

###

This is the first part of the duties and tasks of a modern Musicpreneur, got two more parts coming that you’ll (hopefully) see published here in a few days. They include ‘In the Field’ and ‘For the Future’.

I hope you find this part useful enough so I can continue with the rest of my essay.

My question to you: Did I forget to include something in the list? What do you think about the term ‘Musicpreneur’?

 

—-

I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started ‘Think Beyond The Band’ because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems. 

 

I love starting conversations, join me in The Darker Side to talk about the music business. If you share the same mindset, find me on Facebook and Twitter and let’s talk!

 


Reader Comments (19)

Good introductory article. It's a route I'm already determined to go down.

It's overwhelming because I feel like I have to do everything myself. But that's the price for having total control.

I wish more musicians in the UK were more on board with this way of thinking. Most still have the dream of being signed to a record label.

March 28 | Unregistered CommenterNeill-GTR

Great article! An idea that I would think more about regarding non-traditional marketing is outsourcing. Few musicians use it, but from my experience it is worth it.

March 28 | Unregistered CommenterMike

@ Neill

Well, the fact that the online world has liberated knowledge doesn't make things easier. There's still so much out there, you gotta look for individual pieces of knowledge, evaluate and assemble them to your own understanding. Something the labels had already sorted out and could offer to you openly (with a certain price).

This could still be the case, even nowadays, but it's not.

The media world is changing - and it's been obvious for years now. The inertia of the major labels all those years has caused the slow rise of a new caste: musicians need to start looking for the new ways of getting things done alone (or with the support of a skilled team), assembling knowledge to succeed from scratch.

It's not the norm yet, as I mentioned! But it will be, whether we want it or not. Whoever jumps on the speedwagon now will have some advantages - it's still moving slowly :)

Who's gonna be prepared with the right tools? Not many yet, it's quite evident...

March 28 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@Mike

That's a great point Mike. And actually I do mention it in the next chapters. Thanks for stopping by!

Tommy

March 28 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

While you’re learning and operating all that crap, you’re not writing high quality music, so, music will suck until people wise up and get the flippin picture.
“Musicpreneur”?
Effing JOKE is what it is.
"Let’s become a shallow thinking soulless culture because CEO’s write the music" is not an appropriate response.

dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb!

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hi Tommy, thats not a bad overview of some of the pieces and responsbilities of a DIY Musician/artist.

It's not a new term, however... I've wrote that Article a while ago, and others have used the term before as well.

Did you even google it?

Here's a couple for you.

http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/the-musicpreneur-dawn-of-the-artistentrepreneur.html
http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/the-indie-artist-launch-plan.html
http://www.jamieleger.com/content-marketing/strategy/guide-to-content-strategy/

Please note that I am not writing this to tear you down, but to inform you. The fact is that there are already a few people in this space, and we are all working for the DIY musician and Indie Artist Movement.

While there are MANY aspects, and we can ALL contribute TOGETHER to deliver value to the culture and community, it's best that you do a little homework first.

Much of what you are saying is not specific, and very little is organized effectively either.

Your information is all over the place, and it's CMS. Or Content Management System.

For example: When you break down the COMPONENTS of a CMS you have an admin side which consists of php and mysql, and a content side which is the user interface.

"Licensing, Radio, Tv, or Advertisements are going away and won't matter in the future?"

That's a pretty outrageous claim.


"This is the duties and tasks of a modern Musicpreneur"

It's a good start... But maybe you should focus on a couple specific things first?

I don't mean to offend you, only give you a few pointers to try and help you out.

Jamie

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

Only an idea; how about entremusician? It rolls off the tongue a bit more easily.
Mike

March 29 | Registered Commentermike hamer

Hey Tommy!
I'm looking forward to the rest of your posts regarding this.
I think the future of the Digital Age in general is exciting and will be a huge wake up call for the entire population as they realise that they have to take responsibility for their lives and their failure/success will not be able to be able to be attributed to another ie government, record companies, employers.
There is an enormous opportunity for early adopters to learn the skills required, succeed with them and then inevitably lead the others who will need educating.
At the moment there are two camps of naysayers especially in the music business that I recognise:
1. The traditional industry's voice who shun the idea simply because there has not been a 'digital superstar'. I think this is just a matter of time.
and 2. The musician that still believes that business acumen detracts from creativity and there are too many things to learn that will take up time from being musicians. Well any successful traditional signed star spends and enormous amount of time on promo etc and probably a lot less time on music than we like to imagine. They also receive a minuscule percentage of the money they generate.

There is a lot to learn and it can seem overwhelming but when you realise what that can mean for you in terms of your career it is highly exciting. Taking time to learn a new skill is no different than taking up a new instrument or diving into new music making software.
Humans are enormously capable but also have been spoon fed and therefore become lazy. Once you know the fundamentals just keep building and getting better. And be a leader. 2013 is an amazing time to be alive.
No more blaming your lack of success on a label.

@ Brian

Well, of course you can choose to stand back, keep investing in your music and get a manager to do all that. This option was always there, wasn't it.

What would be YOUR response to the new standards of the digital age mate? Stay idle or evolve?

March 30 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@Jamie

Yes, you first mentioned the term in your articles Jamie. This is how far I went with the research on what you wrote. Because it wouldn't matter anyways to the point I'm making. I explain.

My essay takes into consideration tasks and duties I've encountered during MY career as an artist, as well as components that I've seen elsewhere and believe they will be a must in the future, contemplating the whole subject infusing my understanding of the digital world. In other words, this is compressed information, aiming to organize musicians' thoughts and duties, not to mention specifics and resources (which is in progress at the moment, in my full essay on the subject). If I take seriously people's reactions on my piece of writing, they got my points.

As you've seen, I guess, the essay is split into 3 parts, so I think you should read the other two before you create a perception of completion of my writings. Wouldn't that be more wise?

"Licensing, Radio, Tv, or Advertisements are going away and won't matter in the future?"

Yeah, I do believe that. It could be a long essay explaining why, which is not in the scope of the topic I'm writing about here.

Finally, yes, I agree that whoever can contribute to the evolution of the independent music will have to communicate with other like-minded individuals for a better outcome, so let's talk Jamie! I'm a talkable person, as you've already found out on Twitter and elsewhere.

Simply mentioning a term doesn't mean anything. The question is who will make it go further in terms of awareness. It's like a symbol - symbols with no crowd to believe in them are powerless. Clearly the same for the term 'musicpreneur'.

PS. The intention of this comment was not to tear me down - which it didn't - but the tone of it didn't make me feel flattered about the information of my essay either.

March 30 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@ Mike

Could be Mike, we'll see which one gets coined first.

March 30 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@ Carol

That's the word, early adopters and like-minded individuals have to start getting in one place together and get organized. Just getting hooked and celebrating on Amanda Palmer and Alex Day's success is not enough.

I agree with your comment on the two teams of naysayers. It's normal that they exist, each coin has two sides. My pieces of work are not oriented to convince that such musicians are wrong. On the contrary, they intend to inform and maybe empower early-adopters of this mentality (like you) to keep going this way, as the shape of the digital age seems furtile for the rise of the kind of musician I'm describing.

Finally, indeed it might seem like a lot of work. However, this is what I'm doing myself with my music, and you do the same, as you've already told me. We're not just following duties and fulfilling tasks. There's vision for innovation in between. I keep believing that success is just a matter of time, and awareness of such success will lead to inpiration and many more followers.

Happy 2013.

March 30 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@Tommy.

Terms don't really matter. It's all about progressing the DIY artist and our entire community forward.

We can use all the help we can get out here!

As we've corresponded now, yes we should chat, discuss and share resources so we can add more value to the community.

I am only aiming to give you some feedback, as you sort of came to the party without even checking what others had already contributed and it's obvious that you are fairly new to the space.

That's great, welcome!

I can tell that where you are at-as reflected in your writing is at a certain stage, part of the compiling and synergizing phase, and I can say that from experience.

I can also tell you that as a tip, it would be more wise to go and find the people who are already successful and already have done the homework and the research, compiled the data, and then build off of that.

We don't need more overviews, what the community needs are more specific case studies and proven tactics and strategies to share.

It's all love all around, but you could have saved a lot of time and effort, all you had to do is look around instead of trying to reinvent the wheel.

I mean, seriously, google is our friend. and it's the number 1 result...

Bottom line, of course, everyones free to post what they want, but on your website and in your communications you make it sound as if no-ones figured this stuff out already, noones been out here for years already, do you not get that?

Lots of people have been successful, lots of people have figured it out, lots of us have been helping others do the same, been down this road before and seen people like you post things like that. Not trying to discourage, just telling it like it is.

Specifics are going to move us all forward. Clarity and Focus are the keys to success in the new music business.

Case studies, not essays. Again, and I just want to make this clear, because "tone" cant easily be translated in text, this is not personal, or meant to offend, our community is glad to have all the help it can get!

March 30 | Registered CommenterJamie Leger

Good idea for an article, but embarrassingly over-reaching given the final product. The article comes off as juvenile, signifies a fundamental lack of editing (whether external or internal), and doesn't seem to be thought through at all other than a general outline and some filler text seemingly obtained through a few hours of research on the web. Ironic for a website that calls itself a "Think Tank."

March 31 | Unregistered CommenterAnon Y Mouse

@ Jamie

Thanks a lot for the constructive feedback Jamie. Appreciate you took time to write those comments. I don't think I need to reply with another lengthy answer, as we obviously don't agree in every point. We can talk more personally soon.

March 31 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@ Anon Y Mouse

It's funny mate. There are many opinions about a piece of writing, so I will respect that. Can I ask? Are you a musician?

March 31 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

Radio and TV will surely not matter in the near future. It's a very top heavy industry and if the latest US primetime "hit tv show", B and C level "celebrities" diving off platforms into pools, is any indication of where TV is headed... I shudder to think. Anyway, appointment viewing is done, long live video on demand. Creative licensing ideas will still be a goal for artists and labels.

More obviously and more notably the reason TV and Radio will go away is because the next generation lives online via smartphones, tablets, and laptop/PCs. 10 years ago we didn't have ipads, now we have 10 year olds on their second ipad already. If not explicitly theirs then their parents. Netflix, Vimeo, Youtube, gaming consoles with streaming capabilities and let's not forget the real magic box we are all waiting for, AppleTV.

The creators will flock to the next available outlet/distro service, the new ones especially. TV is in a "take the money while you still can" mode. There is no future for the traditional broadcast model.

Great read. Reminds me of sitting in the CMJ panels with a room full of people all asking the same exact question "How do we do it?"... If you are just asking that whatever answer you get is already expired.

April 2 | Unregistered CommenterRedEyeTransit

You are definitely on the right track. We at www.indieheaven.com have been saying this for years! I'm a consultant with www.theinnervizion.com -- Each and every comment you have so eloquently stated has taken the independent artist and given them their own control...Working smarter, no harder helps to take this process to an even better level. WE provide a FREE daily opp(ortunity), every Monday thru Friday, at a site called www.thedailyopp.com. I am not trying to shamelessly self-promote, just to add to the many ideas that you have listed...GREAT JOB. Looking forward to reading the next ones...Creatively His, Sue:)

April 8 | Unregistered CommenterSue Mohr

Good point!

But I think this vision is aligned with the past & present.

Every line is true, but let's wonder how could be in 8-15 years for example?

I believe will appear in the new network (internet of things) intelligent music recommendation systems that they will be able to recommend or simply send a type of music appropriate to a person's taste, based on artificial intelligence.

when that happens, the entire music business completely change!

then impose that utopia that music will make its way according to the quality and style.

all the know-how for marketing and business today that is used to position an artist will be redundant.

this is just a point of view!

Many thanks for your great article

Jose

April 30 | Unregistered Commenterjose luis

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