Whether you like it or not, your music is or will be exchanged, remixed, re-interpreted, mashed up and freely shared. Musicians, bands, and labels are charging for music and CD’s but the sad reality is it is becoming a smaller percentage of overall revenue. That only means we have to adapt and adopt different ideas to engage fans and appeal to them on a new and different level. By understanding our audience we can find the intrinsic value proposition to engage them and appeal to their pocketbooks with other methods.
Here is one example of many that I will review later on how to rethink your band as a brand and lifestyle. My wife and I just got back from a Kid Rock Cruise. Yes, Kid Rock (amongst others) has his own cruise. It was one week, approximately 3000 people, left from Miami to Cozumel, had a huge party and band on the beach and 10 bands playing in rotation non-stop for the entire week. Yes, my liver was punished.
Here’s how the business model works. Norwegian Cruise Lines bought 49% of a company called Sixthman. Sixthman’s business model is similar to Ticketmaster and AEG but they handle all the one week cruise festivals. Right now there is a total of 8 cruises. Kid Rock, KISS, Train, The Florida Line and other venues all have an agreement with Sixthman to handle the organizing, booking of rooms, stages, managing fan list and communication, and the details with the cruise company. The relationship is, Sixthman pays Kid Rock to play on the cruise like a concert. He also participates in all the merchandise sales and (this is hearsay) drinks and other sales that take place on the boat. Bottom line is he is making money all five days on the cruise, having a blast doing it and deepening his relationship with his core fans.
What is interesting to note, is the 10 other bands are only given rooms, food and drinks for free but they have to play for free. The idea is that the bands get to piggy back and gain access to a core group of fans that are ready and willing to spend money on similar music and especially those that Kid Rock endorses. Big money by the way. The cruise on the bottom end is about $2k per person (drinks not included) and goes up to almost $10k. The idea is bands that Kid Rock has curated and (may or may not ) brought under his label get access to his fan base. Therefore Kid Rock makes more money.
What I am trying to hit home here is the value people place on ANYTHING is subjective. Whether you are the musician, band or manager, I invite you to use the basic premise of music being free” to force you to look at your craft and it’s value differently.
“Let the Fan decide what your value is to them. All they have for you is money. Let them spend it on you. Stratify an experience like RadioHead and Trent Reznor (see links below) did to maximize profit. He offered outlandish fun things that come with a premium price tag. Dinner for two with you, for $1000.00. You just might get it! “
Fans choose to spend money on various things because it speaks to them. Music is that voice and language that lures people in. If we look at the music as both a commodity and as a “business card” the closer we get to understanding how people relate with you as an Artist and literally “buy in” to you as an artist. Money is really the only thing a fan has to offer. They want to be a part of your world and by combining the power of e-commerce, recur billing, affiliate networks (see how Affiliate Networks work here) and social networks you are much more able to engage your fan over a longer period of time and make MORE money from them.
So, it all comes down to you as a musician, band or manager to look at your songs like a commodity (even though I don’t agree with that statement) and understand that YOU are the “experience.” YOU are the lure to attract people and engage them with other Your core fan base wants to be a part of the Cult of “You” and be your friend and financier. That’s why it’s important to get your music out there as far and wide as you can.
Let’s look at the word Fan; it is derived from the word “fanatical” which means:
fa⋅nat ⋅i⋅ cal –adjective
motivated or characterized by an extreme, uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in politics or religion.
This is your core audience. Your Evangelizers. You need them. The classic 80/20 rule applies. 80% of your money is going to come from 20% of your Fans. It’s the law of averages. YOU are the religion.
So, since you are basically starting your own cult, give the disciples a place to come and be a part of your experience. Give them an experience in the form of a website and let them use their wallet as their way of connecting. Cast your lures into the social media strata and pull them back to your website and give them an experience, a glimpse of your world on regular basis. It may not sound compelling to you, but to them. It’s everything.
Let’s take a brief time warp back to when music was first pressed onto wax, It was revolutionary and changed the way people could not only listen to music but how to sell music. Originally the concept was to give away the music on the wax records and get people to pay and watch the concert. Bands got into their Cadillacs and vans and hit the road to do gigs. The labels quickly realized supply and demand worked to their advantage. In fact, they could not press records fast enough. By investing and solving the supply and demand issue, the realized they could not only capitalize on production and sale of the record but they could charge the Artist for the production of records, gas for the vehicles, studio time, etc AND ultimately charge interest on every part of of the process the musician went through. By paying musicians virtually nothing, they kept them hungry, stuck under their thumbs and writing more songs under crazy agreements. As the detailed and ominous contracts began to become more prevalent and commonplace, exploiting artists was almost expected. Many great talents have suffered from these types of stories (Sting and Dixie Chicks are most notable for me) The problem is an artist typically wants to work on his/her craft. Not necessarily handle the business affairs. For those dedicated, naivety breeds opportunity and that’s exactly what happened… The labels grew huge and exploited the artists. Some artists at the end of their contracts were bankrupt AND didn’t even own their own music.
Now back to present day, with Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, torrents, iTunes, Amazon and a slew of other online music stations, never before could you as an Artist get so much exposure in such a unique and impacting way. The labels are going crazy because in the end they are becoming little more than a fan management company. Their large salaries and expenses unable to support the paradigm shift.
You as the musician or artist are creators and collaborators. You want to perform and have people hear your voice. So let’s investigate this connection. If you and I as musicians connect, you are going to WANT to give me your music… For free. When you make your first “album” “CD” or set of songs nothing would make you happier than having your songs being played at a party or on the radio. Equally you would want to hand out a CD to everyone just for the exposure. That is until it grows and hits the radar. And here is how the resentment begins:
I give to a friend or someone at a party
they give it to their brother,
he gives it to his friend,
he doesn’t know you,
music starts gaining momentum,
music takes on a life of its own.
Label gets interest and signs
Artist now under control of label
Label charges huge management fees
Passes fees on to Artist
Artist is making barely enough money compared to the overall sales
Music is being pirated
Artist and label upset and spiraling
So it’s a double edged sword. You are either frustrated because you can’t get your music out or mad because there are too many people sharing or stealing your music and not enough money coming back to the pocketbook. If you want to see a great documentary on this very concept watch “Searching for Sugar Man”. It’s a great story about a man who’s music becomes as iconic as The Beatles. Only in South Africa. I don’t want to spoil it for those who are unfamiliar with it. But watch it, it’s a great film.
Also understand if you are selling a CD it is merely a transport and archive mechanism to get music into an iPod or other portable device. Make it easy to obtain. However many songs you have, charge between .99 and $1.49. It’s the standard.
There are also interesting marketing tactics to find your Fan base and to help you find and focus on your 20%. The reality is this is the most exciting time ever to be a musician. It’s how you approach your craft and knowing that you are a product as much as you are a celebrity.
RadioHead In Rainbows and Trent Reznor: A lesson in redefining your music and craft.
Let’s take a shorter step back in time to the RadioHead InRainbows album release If you not familiar with it, check it out here, it’s a great read. They did a fantastic job of creating buzz and not only starting off as a “pay what you want” model but then migrated to pay something/anything to get the music. They are estimated to have made somewhere around $4M with all sales (CD’s, boxed set, digital downloads). However, they missed the boat and probably left additional $1M on the table. The simple reason is psychology…guilt, conscious, and proper incentivization. What’s even more interesting is the Artists and/or labels are not doing it either.
Here are notes to think about when marketing your music online, starting a store or creating a membership driven site:
Use lower quality MP3’s and MP4’s: When sending content out to the networks you can use lower quality files to seed networks and gain popularity.
Universal Website: Even though it’s basically dead, never use flash animation, HTML 5 is standard and make sure you make your site available on mobile. On a side note, Google is going to penalize sites for not having mobile ready websites. Get a wordpress theme here at Theme Forest. They are great and auto size to fit to mobile (this is also called Responsive Design).
Always ask for a sale or email: Anything. Put a pop up screen (modal pop) with a song, lyrics, eBook.. anything. It doesn’t have to cost anything, just something personal they can only get and identify with you at the site. It could also be to get a discount on merchandise or promote a widget that pays you for downloads. You can also get more money for .flac file.
Testimonials and emotional upsell: When at the donation page or sales page, have a community of responses by fans in the form of a bulletin board that encourages them to pay more than $4. IE: “The album is great…I paid .99 cents for every track!” Or “even if I didn’t find the entire album great at least give them $10 for putting out a solid album.” – The point is getting people to think about not being a cheapskate and paying more for the experience. They like everyone else, are fans. And fans respect fans because its their own little “club”. Take advantage of that fact.
Easy to fill out order page: never. Ever. And I mean NEVER utilize a flash enabled pay screen. Standard HTML. Its one less thing to go wrong, everyone has it out of the standard operating system and HTML is universal. Make it clear and easy for people to give you money. If they miss something MAKE BIG HIGHLIGHTS and keep the info they have already filled out.
Gift certificate: the cost to send the music to friends is negligible. Also, you only get dinged once from the processor. Allow listeners to send emails to other fans as gifts. When being charitable, people tend to want to spend more money on their friends than on themselves.
After the sale: once the sale is made, take them to a page that is special. A special thank you from the band, a song not on the album but can be downloaded as a bonus track, rare footage both on or off the stage…any of these should be an “easter egg” for purchasing.
The zipped music file: once the music has been downloaded to your computer, make sure it decompresses into one folder. Inside that folder should be the following:
The upsell for merchandise and or the boxed set at a discounted rate.
A .m3u track for easy and instant playing
Wallpaper – and link to more
Ringtone – with links to more
Special links – these “easter egg” links are meant to be shared and drive more traffic to different landing pages with content on the band website. Ultimately you funnel them back to the main site.
Remix Links: allow people to link to a part of the site whereby people can download individual tracks and remix.
Album artwork for iTunes
Lyrics – with links inside the lyrics .pdf is great.
i. Upsells – always being upselling your experience.
If you are so inclined to do a donation model: Once on the pay screen, there should be comments in the form of a bulletin board or twitter feed, that specifically discusses what other people have paid for the music. Peer pressure will drive donations UP. Do not reference the 99 cent model because not every song is going to hit every person the same way so they won’t be inclined to pay $10 for the whole CD…but they may actually pay more.
Think beyond the download: Once the download screen is up and they start the download…it is going to take some time. Move them into another screen that is only accessible from the download page. Prepping them with lyrics and background on each specific song.
Boxed Set – they state this in the article. Get creative with your offering. Check out what Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails did here. It’s a 15 minute video but will give you additional good ideas.
So get out there and start making music and making money. This is the best time in the world to be an accomplished musician with solid songs.
Mark Heninger is the owner of 11 Amps Agency and specializes in the distribution, lead generation email marketing and monetization of content online. He also has tutorials and graphic templates to help marketers market their product and services on search and social networks.
Check out the next post, Online Marketing Mantras for Musicians