photo by hiddedevries
By Greg Rollett
2009 was supposed to be the year that everything changed. Digital downloads were supposed to rule and fan supported bands were to break out of the indie scene and take the world by storm. Instead do you know who ran 2009:
- The Black Eyed Peas
- Michael Jackson
Yea, 3 major media players. Two who aren’t even on Twitter. And this is the stuff that I’m teaching, preaching and selling to musicians! Shit, I’m in trouble.
First, let me point out some really good year end music marketing articles that may make you happier than reading about my thoughts on the indie music industry going into 2010.
- Fellow Audiolife guest blogger Refe writes about why you should be excited about the indie music industry in 2010.
- Mashable gives you 5 Music Industry Predictions for 2010
- Ariel Hyatt jumps on the Music Think Tank and talks about setting goals in 2010
Musicians really do have an uphill battle in 2010. No matter what anyone tells you (myself included) it’s tough to do this big on your own. And I think the mentality of needing to do it big is still the number one factor that roadblocks success for most musicians. Take a look at your lifestyle as it stands today and take a look at the lifestyle you want to create for yourself. This lifestyle should be realistic. It should also make you happy. It should be sustainable and allow you to create something long term and build up your future savings.
To create that picture, do you need to sell a million records? A hundred thousand?
To create that picture do you maybe need to sell more than music? Maybe merch. Advertising. Affiliate products. Videos. Live shows.
When I created this site in August 2008, I did so with a free report, the 100 Social Media Resources for Musicians. I wrote this thing because after leaving the 2nd music conference in a row where musicians still relied on Myspace to do all the work for you and was generally their only marketing channel, I knew I had to say something.
Now with a few thousand downloads, I think we now have some smarter musicians. Smarter does not mean more established however. Smarter does not create action. Going into 2009 I was very optimistic that we would be able to create a whole slew of musicians living off 1,000 true fans or creating a niche and making a living. We were able to do that for some.
2010 will be no different. Here’s Why.
Laziness and Lack of Motivation.
One of my good friends is hands down one of the most talented MC’s I have ever seen and heard. He creates track after track of indie hip-hop beauty. I know because he sends them to me via Instant Message every few days. The problem here is that he expects people to just find his music. I even went as far as creating a new site for him, getting him hooked up with some contacts and established a content schedule.
Know how far this little project lasted? 3 posts. 1 week. And he had comments. He had over 100 hits a day. WTF?
Many musicians simply do not have the motivation to market their own music or do it effectively. That is a hindrance in a world where marketing and stories travel much faster and farther than the music itself. Did anyone really talk about the music from NIN when they released Ghosts, or did they talk about the marketing and the story? 50 Cent just released a huge project, one he called his best yet. When I saw him on Muscle and Fitness, I think there was one line about the music. On Chelsea Lately, Fitty didn’t even say a word about the album until the plug right before commercial.
You cannot be lazy in this new music industry economy.
Still Not Treating Their Music Career as a Viable Job (or Business)
At a recent event for musicians, we asked how many had incorporated their band. Zero hands in the air. How many had a business plan on paper? Zero. How many had written down goals? Zero.
If you are not working your music like a business, then there is no hope for you in 2010. If you are not calculating ROI, cost of your merch, sales per visitors both online and off, creating a database of fans (like emails) or setting goals to continue to grow – how do you even know that you aren’t making any money?
Until you start treating this as a real business, your music will only be a hobby. There are no 2 ways around it.
No Focus On Sales
There is something about marketing and sales that scares the shit out of musicians. Asking fans to give us money for a CD? That’s perposterous!
In 2009 it was the same thing. Bands shared their music. They shared on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, on MP3 blogs, with links to iTunes and anywhere else they could. They never asked for the sale. You can’t make money if you don’t ask for the sale.
This is the first thing we teach inside of Label 2.0 is how to share, market effectively and then ask for the sale. The call to action. There is some fault in the technology themself. Myspace and Facebook still don’t make it really easy to ask for the sale. Up until a few weeks ago it was tough to send your fans directly to your music in iTunes – now that is much easier with their Twitter and FB share buttons.
Bandcamp is probably the top way to go to sell digital stuff and Audiolife is the best way to sell physical stuff. No matter the tool, if you aren’t focused on sales, you won’t suceed in 2010. You need to know your conversions, have a sales process (give them a song for an email, then follow up with an email with a link for the whole album or a package with a CD and a t-shirt, etc) and have a sustainable way to keep bringing new fans into visibility.
Still Spending Dumb Money
Of all the reasons that musicians are not succeeding like us marketers want them to, this is certainly the most frustrating. Musicians still have the mindset that music marketing should be either “free” or an expense once they are making money.
I understand money is tough. I’ve been there in my own band. When we finally got it out of our ego’s that spending some money was going to be big for us, we negotiated our way into a full page ad in our local entertainment monthly magazine, bought a ton of fliers and paid a street team to push them out. The result – a sold out show. Not only that, but the money we generated paid for the ad, the fliers, the street team, the merch hard costs and we still made a profit.
The thing many marketers see is that musicians will spend a small fortune to record and spend their life savings going to Discmakers only to house huge boxes at their parents house and wonder what went wrong.
Many social tools are cheap, some are very free. Some things are worth paying for. Whether that is someone that can do the marketing for you, a team to build a plan with you or spending your money to get in the places where the most highly targeted fans will be listening to your music. If no one hears your masterpiece, was it worth spending the money to record it? Was it worth $1-10,000 to replicate it?
Your gear matters. It doesn’t matter enough if no one is listening. Good songs, great marketing and standout bands still break through.
I remember seeing Fall Out Boy at the Social in Orlando years ago and they sounded like garbage, but you knew they would succeed. Their passion was there. The hustle was there. And the marketing was there. They were selling CD’s. They stayed late to take pictures. They blogged about it. They got their fans excited. And they created an experience.
Spend more time and money on the experience. Spend more time and money to make events. Spend more time and money on HUGE product launches. Spend more time and money creating real relationships (that means paying to go to conferences, even if you aren’t playing).
2010 Can Be Different
2010 can be different if you are different. Relationship marketing works. Great music is still being heard and there are more channels than ever to be heard if you put yourself in a position to be heard. Have a great year and please let me know your thoughts below in the comments.
P.S. The updated 100 Resources for Musicans is coming very soon. Much needed. Unfortunately many of the sites featured are no longer with us and there have also been some great additions.
P.P.S. If you are looking for some direction to kick off 2010, Label 2.0 is a great place to start!
Written by Greg Rollett for Label 2.0
The Hit Music Academy | 2010
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