By Ryan Wines
One thing I’ve enjoyed the most while working with Beat The World is what I’m learning about the significance of a “direct-to-fan” or “direct-to-consumer” strategy. Dandy Warhols Manager, Lee Cohen, has convinced me that a direct strategy is the only feasible way that a smaller, low-to-moderately funded indie label has a chance of sustaining itself.
What is a “direct-to-fan” strategy? Simply put, it’s developing and engaging a fan base to the extent that a majority of your fans will be compelled to buy your music and merchandise DIRECTLY from you – the artist.
In fact, you can pretty much interchange the world “band” and “artist” for “label” if you wish, as the lines are blurring for everyone today. In my opinion, a well-planned, well executed direct-to-fan strategy is the core element that 95% of all indie labels and indie artists are completely missing today. Most of them just don’t get it and this is a HUGE reason why they are failing. And if you are an independent, DIY artist or band, look in the mirror – I’m talking to you too!
About Topspin and Why You Need Them
In my recent work, I’ve had the opportunity to work with the fine people of Topspin Media, who are most definitely on the leading edge of direct strategy in the music industry. In a nutshell, Topspin provides a depth of knowledge in direct-to-fan strategy that surpasses that of most major labels and “industry experts.” They also have developed unique, web-based applications and solutions that empower labels and artists to take their music and other merchandise directly to the fans….removing the multiple layers of middle men from the equation who typically take more than half of the profits out of artists pockets. If for no other reason than that – Topspin and similar direct solutions are a no brainer.
While Topspin works with some of the biggest names in the music biz today, including Trent Reznor (NIN), The Beastie Boys, Eminem, David Byrne and Brian Eno, Paul McCartney, and Lenny Kravitz to name a few, they also work with many successful independent artists, such as Black Lips, White Denim, Ingrid Michaelson, Blue Scholars, Josh Ritter, The Pixies, STS9, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Dandy Warhols…not to mention Logan Lynn and The Dimes. In fact, many of the folks at Topspin will tell you that their best case study to date was the band, Metric’s, latest record release campaign. Apparently, Metric really knocked it out of the park. You can check out their complete artist roster here: http://www.topspinmedia.com/for-fans/for-fans-2/
While the tides in the music business today are changing faster than most anyone can hope to keep up with, it’s becoming glaringly obvious that an effective direct-to-fan strategy may truly be “the future” of how to succeed as an independent label or artist. Although Topspin still has some growth and improvements to make as they continue developing their platform – they seem to be the most promising solution on the horizon for independent artists. For a small glimpse of what I’m talking about, watch this video of Topspin Founder and CEO, Ian Rogers, explaining a little of the method behind his madness:
Topspin Isn’t The Answer – YOU ARE!
To the point of Topspin and other direct-to-fan solutions, I would like to take this brief tangent… Topspin doesn’t do it all for you. They merely provide the tools, expertise and some guidance to support you. YOU – the independent artist still must do the real work. “Real work” meaning, building your tribe, creating compelling music, developing your fan base through social media channels, touring, promotion, etc. If you don’t have compelling music and an active, engaged, and thriving fan base – Topspin won’t be able to help you.
Please don’t be naive. First go get a few thousand fans to sign up on your email list. Get a few thousand engaged followers on Twitter. Do the same on Facebook, Myspace, iLike, LastFM, YouTube and a few others. Tour regionally with bands that are a couple rungs up from you. Create interesting, compelling content and assets on a regular basis. Don’t just release a record every year or two. Be interesting. Engage your fans. Participate with them in frequent dialog via social media channels. Give away free songs. Release an EP every six months. Make videos (not super expensive ones). Think outside the box. Find ways to create a buzz and make yourself compelling and relevant. GET OFF YOUR ASS and stop thinking that you can simply write and record good songs and dress cool…and then, someday, someone will notice you or give you a ton of money and you’ll suddenly be successful. THAT DOESN’T HAPPEN ANYMORE.
Okay… I’ll get off of my soapbox tangent and back to the topic of direct-to-fan strategy.
Trent Reznor – A Modern Day Paul Revere
Along these lines of direct-to-fan strategy, I would like to once again champion Trent Reznor and the genius that he employs. As far as I’m concerned, Trent Reznor really is our modern day Robin Hood…or maybe Paul Revere is a better comparison. Simply put, he gets it. While he may be a millionaire and might lack some of the more practical situations of today’s independent artist, Trent Reznor is leading and sharing knowledge that truly benefits everyone. If only everyone would talk and share experiences and knowledge like Reznor regularly does, this music industry apocalypse-meets-revolution would finally come to fruition and us little people could finally succeed…and maybe take a few of the music industry monarchs and bourgeoisie to the gallows while we’re at it!