The old business model where you needed record companies to get to the public is dead.
Two thirds of the record stores in the USA have closed in the last 10 years and the remainder a moving to stock more DVD and Blueray product.
The artist selling direct to fans, or via iTunes and other online shops can make a 6 figure income on sales to a couple of thousand committed fans. The sales might include: MP3's, autographed CD's, DVD's, T-shirts, signed posters and other merchandise. There has never been better opportunity for artists to develop a following than today.
The Internet offers enormous reach on a small budget and holds great opportunity for independent artists. In spite of the amazing marketing, interaction and distribution capabilities of the Internet there is still a place for live gigs and recorded product sales. Nobody has gone from playing gigs in their basement to a streaming video camera, to successfully playing gigs in stadiums without playing hundreds of live gigs in between. It just takes practice doing live shows to be able to pull them off well.
There are heaps of people who want to experience independent music without leaving their bedrooms. A punter could spend years and tens of thousands of dollars touring the world to see independent bands play live or see their video from the comfort of their computer room and the band is ready to play at any time a punter wants to see the video. Everything is available from New York jazz bands to Irish punk bands to harmony singers from Soweto. It is great time to be a music fan with wider taste than mainstream Top 40 pulp.
A typical artist web site should include:
Make sure you can update the web site yourself without having to wait for a web developer to get around to it, or having to pay for every update. It is not technically difficult to make changes yourself.
When people visit your web site you should use the power of the Internet to build a database of fans. If you get nothing else from this web site take this to heart. Your mailing list is a cheap way to market gigs, recorded music and merchandise directly to people who are interested in you and your music. The 4 pieces of information you want to collect from each fan is:
Collect the same information at live gigs. Use a clip board and ask: "Do you want to join our mailing list to find out about future gigs?" and have them write their details down.
You need a mechanism for collecting e-mails, storing them in a database and sending mass e-mails (your ISP will block you if there are too many people in your address field.) There are plenty of companies that offer this kind of service but I have found that http://www.icontact.com/ offers a good service and value for money. Also see: http://mailchimp.com/
They will provide html code you can embed in your web page to collect the e-mail addresses. They will store the database and provide an SMTP server for sending. There are even templates for designing your marketing e-mails.
Developing a good e-mail list and mobile phone number lists for SMS marketing then using it wisely for appropriate communication to your audience is one of the most cost effective marketing activities you can do.
Make sure not only do you have URL links from your web site to your Facebook, ReverbNation and YouTube sites but they are linked by a consistent look an feel. Your web site should be the centre of your digital world, the other sites should direct people to your web site.
I can’t give you a formula for internet marketing because almost as soon as it is written it will be out of date. I have been to a number of seminars about marketing music via the Internet and I have found speakers recommending very different strategies. Some of them recommend giving away your music for free on the Internet and making your money out of your live shows. Others focus on getting your songs into the iTunes and other catalogues. There is little agreement on the best way to go. The successful business models are still developing so you are pioneer. Arctic Monkeys had 30,000 friends on www.myspace.com that got them a major label record deal but the next band to get 30,000 friends won’t get the same attention. There are some characteristics that are widely agreed to:
Develop a business model that works for you. If you have a good live show are are actively touring you might choose to give away your songs as MP3’s in exchange for an e-mail
address and location then make your money off your touring and merchandise. (This would be a bad plan if your were a
'one hit wonder' like Cindy Lauper and gave away “Girls Just Want to have Fun” for free.)
Prince gave away one of his album for free as a CD attached to a newspaper in the
Putting well produced videos on YouTube means you can be watched by people anywhere in the world and you can reach under age people who would never have a chance to see you live in a licensed venue.
First thing set up your own web site based on your band name ie. www.myband.com.au which you use as your primary marketing tool. Work a couple of the social networking sites but don’t spread yourself too thin. This way you can meet thousands of people on these sites in a context of who you are musically. There are new sites springing up every day trying to be the next www.Facebook.com or www.youtube.com . Put a marketing effort into a few of them but don't try to keep up with social exchanges on 10 different sites. Look for sites that are designed for your target demographic. Keep in mid that a site that mostly has a user base of musicians is probably not your target market (musicians never have any money and expect to get their music for free.) If you sound like Barry Manallow then you would be looking to do your marketing effort on sites with lots of women in their 30’s and 40’s. If you do Goth music then Goth social networking sites would be appropriate to share your angst with sites for 'vampires' etc.
There is a new generation of music fan who may rarely go to a gig or buy a CD from a "bricks and mortar" store but maintain an intense relationship with you watching your YouTube videos, listening to your MP3’s, putting your photos in his wallpaper and screensaver, and exchanging e-mail with you. Sell him or her a signed poster, t-shirt, DVD and your best material via an online fulfilment company. You might give away MP3's for free but there will increasing opportunity to sell premium quality product with new high definition music and video formats.
Just because you have been giving away music via MP3 does not mean you have lost the copyright to it. You should only give it away on a condition of personal use only, no right to copy or distribute. You are also quite within your rights to stop giving it away and start selling it.
On your web site you could even sell the guitar you played at your last gig or recording at a considerable premium to what you paid for it. You have added value by using it to perform or record. This could be quite valuable if you start becoming famous. I know a girl who had been selling CD's and songs via iTunes but has made more money selling signed pictures and posters. She is an attractive girl and the photography is excellent. (A good photographer is a real artist; just see the fabulous work of David Lachapelle at http://www.lachapellestudio.com/ Or search 'David Lachapelle' on Google Images.)
The challenge to the musician is to find a business model they can make careers in the music business out of. With an Internet business model it does not matter where in the world either the musician or the fan lives, it can still be a close relationship. A musician in a town of 2,000 people can do a gig every week (even if the physical audience is the same 20 kids from school), video it, post it on the Internet and you could have 10,000 people see the gig each week.
The danger with this sort of model is if you have 50,000 fans in 100 different countries and they are spread around the planet you might not have sufficient density of fans to ever fill a gig with your fans. I did some work with a band some years ago that had 18,000 friends on a web site and their songs had been played over 6,000,000 times. Unfortunately they were unable to 50 people to a gig in their own city. You need to build a fan base in the area you work if you ever want to succeed live.
The order you do these things is important:
- Come up with an artistic concept for the visuals.
- What are you going to wear? Don't try to work this at the photo shoot.
- Plan the session before it begins.
Great ideas, great songs and good production.
OK Go, The treadmill guys hired 8 treadmills for 3 days, a hall and the video was choreographed by one of their sisters. The camera was on a tripod and never moved. Not exactly high tech or expensive, just £200. It just required a bit of imagination. They have now passed 50 million views.
Make sure you have control of your own name. When you are thinking of names sit at your computer and check availability in the www.CrazyDomains.com.au or www.GoDaddy.com site of every name you think of rather than thinking up a killer name and finding that www.killername.com is already taken. Once you register www.killername.com you own that URL world wide. Legally there are very few other ways of getting world wide ownership of a name.
Have your own web site with your name in it eg: www.myband.com NOT www.smallpond.com/usercommunities/myband
I have seen people make some really bad mistakes with their marketing. Don't do the following:
Most people can read HTML e-mail these days so make your e-mail colourful and visually interesting. Get help if you are an audio guy like me who is a bit challenged by the visual aesthetic. Plain text e-mail just looks like it is going to be boring so why read it?
Web designers get too focused on the way they want the whole page laid out and often don't cater for the variety of different browsers, screen resolutions and speed of download. The result is it can look great on the designer's computer but be difficult to navigate on other computers. The most common mistakes are:
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