Sitting at Café Centro and musing over the travails of the music business. Part two.
Yesterday, I posted my theory about how a massive increase in supply against a constant level of demand is the real reason behind the music industry’s travails. Today, I propose my answer for how musicians can succeed in this new reality. A caveat: my answer probably won’t seem very deep, but, in my opinion (unlike Obama’s!), great complexity is no indication whatsoever of a thing’s merit.
In a nutshell, just as the problem lies in supply and demand, so does the solution.
SUPPLY – The situation in music today is, as I posted yesterday, akin to what would happen if we could suddenly all make large, high quality diamonds at home for next to nothing. In such a world, the jeweler would rein supreme. After all, a diamond would be no big deal, but cut and set in a certain way, it could once again be precious. Music is not that different. Since any idiot can now create vast quantities of music, craft is all you have to set you apart. So, part one of The Answer to the Musician’s Plight in Today’s World is to work harder than ever at your craft. If you are a songwriter, take the time to really study the greats, be hard on yourself, go beyond friends and family for opinions, try, try, try and never quit. If you have some talent*, effort is all you need (and luck). Success will be yours on the supply side if you can honestly listen to your own material and be happy with it. If you want to make a living, then others have to be happy with your work, too.
DEMAND – Here’s the paradox: there are more ways than ever to generate demand for your material, yet it is harder than ever to generate demand, given that there is so much supply. What to do? Well, you could send off your songs to Tunecore and see them pop up on every major music site across the globe, but all this does is create availability, which, of course, is not the same as demand. Equally concerning, this approach will assure you a very, very small royalty payment per song (roughly $.10, according to info I can find). Instead, I think the answer to creating demand is the now well-known notion of 1000 True Fans, which is pretty self-explanatory. Critical to attracting 1000 True Fans is selling direct, so you can build a relationship with those interested enough in you to buy your stuff. Using this approach, here’s my plan for creating demand (for health reasons, I’m not a performer, so there is nothing in here about concerts):
1) Post my album to bandcamp, a direct music posting/selling service that does not keep even a penny of revenues, and set the price at “name your own”, with a $5 minimum, which bandcamp research has revealed to be the best pricing strategy.
2) Announce my album on my blog, Facebook and Twitter.
3) Send everyone I know an email announcing my album and showing where it’s available.
4) Respond to every email I get in reply to mine and do everything I can to be engaging and personal with people who have been kind enough to write me back.
5) Over time, use bandcamp’s email capture service to generate a list of whoever buys my album, and follow up on each and every purchase with a thank you note and a free download (I think, gotta work out the details for offering a free download).
6) Build until I have 1,000 True Fans.
8) Go for 2,000 True Fans!
That's it! Stay tuned and in about a year I'll let you know how well it's working!
*I'm one of those annoying people who believe in talent. Some have it, some don't, and for those that don't, all the effort in the world can be for naught.