Being Successful With New Business Models Still Means Hard Work

from the no-sitting-back-and-relaxing dept

One of the interesting things we've seen in talking with various content creators who seem down on some of the new business models that are out there, is that they balk at the realization that some of them involve real work. We point to examples of musicians better connecting with fans and giving them reasons to buy, and we get critics mocking those because some of them involve such horrible things as having to do actual work or involve (horror!) actually having to go out and talk to fans. I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that these people might just be lazy. They seem to want everything handed to them. Because one thing that becomes clear as you talk to the many success stories in the content creation world is one simple fact: they work their asses off.

That doesn't mean that all it takes is work, or that if you work hard at things, you're guaranteed to succeed. There's nothing that's ever guaranteed success. But working hard can't hurt. Parker sent over this cool example of the band Hollerado, who detailed not just a variety of creative ideas, but also detailed the almost superhuman level of work and commitment the band put into building up their success as an indie band. The details come out in an email the band sent to Bob Lefsetz, whom they follow (not surprisingly). I was trying to pick the highlights, but there are so many, that I'll repost a big chunk of the letter, because the story is really worth reading (if you want to see the full thing click the link above):
For our first american tour, no-one wanted to book us. So, instead of booking shows, we drove as far way from our homes in canada as we could get. We would then show up at venues where a show was going on and tell them we were 2000 miles away from home, had a gig booked down the street but it somehow feel through. "Would you guys mind if we played a short set here tonight?" IT WORKED! We played countless shows this way.

-Since we rarely got paid more than a few drinks and sometimes pizza, we needed to make gas money.

-We had a laptop with the the tracks to our demo CD. We would go to best buy, get a CD burner and a couple spindles of blank cds. We would burn a hundred demos in the parking lot and then return the CD burner to Best Buy. we would then put the demos in ziplock bags. (hence the name of our first record… record in a bag)

-Once we had a stash of demos we would drive to the nearest mall and set up shop in front of Hot Topic (probly the most shameless thing we have done for our band). We would stand there for hours, with discmen and demos asking anyone who would stop to take a listen if they wanted to buy a demo in a bag. We could sell the discs for 5 bucks and still make $4.50 to put towards gas.

-We did this for 2 years. Anything to avoid having a real job, right?

-In febuary 2009, we released our first full length album for FREE online.

-That same month we invented the RESIDENCY TOUR. We took the old concept of playing a residency one day a week at the same bar and made it psyco. We booked 7 residencies for the month, one for each night of the week. Every Sunday of that cold February we played in at the same club in Boston, every monday at Piano’s in NYC, Tuesday was Lacolle Quebec, Wednesdays- Hamilton ontario, Thursdays - Toronto, Friday - Ottawa, Saturday - Montreal. Repeat 4 times. 28 shows in a row. over 12,000 miles of crap canadian winter driving in 28 days.

- In febuary 2010, we started our own record label to release "record in a bag" in stores in Canada. Although every distributor we talked to said it was impossible, we were finally able to convince one (Arts and Crafts) that we could literally package "record in a bag" in a ziplock bag filled with goodies. So far we have sold over 10,000 copies of it in Canada. With no label support, our first single "Juliette" went top 5 in mainstream Canadian alternative radio.

- Things began to take hold in Canada and we soon became privy to the Canadian grant system for touring acts. Still, when they gave us a budget to play a showcase in China, we took the budget and stretched it for all it was worth. We turned it into a 3 week tour deep into china. We recorded a song in mandarin chinese and released it on the internet in China. We were able to return for another tour 6 months later.
Now that's a hard working band. But it's also a band that doesn't take anything for granted and that isn't sitting around waiting for someone else to give it the magic answer for success. It's a band that clearly cares about its craft as well, and recognizes the value of getting out there and playing. While it doesn't come through as fully in the letter, some of the commenters on the post also add in the point that the band is also extremely engaging with fans, and puts on a fantastic live show (not a surprise, given everything else).

I'm sure some of the usual commenters will claim that this is somehow horrible or will misrepresent this as me saying that all bands should just start driving 12,000 miles to do a show in a different city every night. But, as I've pointed out over and over again, there is no magic bullet to be successful (and there never was). The point is that if you're committed, hard working, good, creative and willing to embrace what fans want and what the technology allows, you have a much better chance of succeeding today than ever before. As these guys have shown, you don't have to worry about gatekeepers any more. In the past, the strategy was almost entirely focused on getting "noticed" by a gatekeeper and then hoping that they would provide that magic bullet (which they rarely did in real life).

For those who are willing to embrace what this world allows, the story above is likely to be inspiring. For those who want to sit back and have everything handed to them, I could see how it would be horrifying. But I get the feeling those people won't ever be satisfied.

Oh, and make sure to check out this absolutely awesome live action "human" 8-bit video they did (all in one take!) for one of their songs.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    charliebrown (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 2:10am

    Thanks for linking to that video, I enjoyed it =)

     

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  2.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 2:12am

    Loved that music video, truly original...and they managed all of that in one take? Now that is true talent!!!

     

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  3.  
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    The eejit (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 2:31am

    Well, now, I'll have toi find me some way to buy it here. That was fun to watch.

     

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  4.  
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    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 2:58am

    It's coming...

    Someone's going to seize on their "abuse" of Best Buy's return policy as the key to why this business plan = fail.

    Myself? I could care less. I once had a Geek Squad member offer to charge me $79 to install pre-installed computer software. (For real. On a desktop set with OEM Windows software. I guess he thought the step-by-step walkthrough might be too overwhelming for the average non-Geek human being.)

    I hope these guys do well. They're full of what my parents and grandparents referred to variously as "elbow grease," "hustle" and "gumption."

    So much for "kids these days" being "kids these days."

     

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  5.  
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    Yogi, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 3:35am

    WOW!

    That is one amazing music video. The music is good too. i'm glad they're doing well.

     

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  6.  
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    John Doe, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 4:29am

    The American Dream

    Ok, I realize they are Canadian, but it still applies here. The American dream use to be you worked hard and made something of yourself. Now we want it handed to us on a silver platter. Bands think they should do a little time in the studio, produce a hit album and become millionaires overnight. The thoughts of having to actually work for it like most everyone else never enters their mind.

     

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  7.  
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    Ben (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 4:29am

    Re: WOW!

    WOW! indeed. I could spend all day stepping through the video to see all the cute things they did. "One Take" however is somewhat questionable when it is pixilated (ala Wizard of Speed and Time). Still *great* though! Makes me wish I knew about them when they were playing Boston.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:25am

    Sure, this plan will work if the a band has talent, incredible levels of hard work and dedication. But, what about the rest of the musicians who deserve to get paid?

    Dang it, I meant to work in a "paid promo" reference in there too but failed.

    One take comment.

     

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  9.  
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    abc gum, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:30am

    Re: The American Dream

    American dream - more like a day dream. They are not real either.

     

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  10.  
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    abc gum, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:32am

    Re:

    But what about the labels - how will they get paid?

     

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  11.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:37am

    Fr Srs

    That video (and music) was awesome. *And* they play in my backyard (Boston)?

    +1 fan. :)

     

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  12.  
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    Brian Schroth (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:56am

    Seems like all the good musicians are coming out of Canada these days. Hey Rosetta!, Arcade Fire, Dan Mangan, etc...

     

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  13.  
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    The eejit (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 6:14am

    Re:

    I dunno, there's this up and coming band from Colorado called Choke the Word...

     

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  14.  
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    Hajo Versteeg, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: WOW!

    The video was indeed shot in one take. The entire vid cost about $4000.00. All the action was slowed down to 1/4 time and then after the shoot was sped up 400% to get back in time (more or less) with the song. They practiced for days before the shoot. Google "making of Americanarama" to see a youtube video of how they did it. It is fascinating esp the part where the lead singer points a baton behind his back to flip the sign cards!Truly DIY ... hard work and very creative!

     

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  15.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 6:25am

    I was very impressed and highly entertained by that video. That was extremely creative. I will seek out this band now. Good stuff.

     

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  16.  
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    John Doe, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 6:46am

    It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    New bands who are happy to give their work away for free for publicity, have to compete with STOLEN FREE music.

    You thieves are hurting new bands like the above.

     

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  17.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    I can't tell if this is sarcasm or not. If it it, goto (1), if it isn't, please goto (2).

    (1) Well played, sir. I will attach a gold star next to your name on my poster board of names of funny people on the internet. If you get 5 stars, you get to feed the class goldfish!



    (2) So, you're complaining that, if all music were free to download, we would have to make a decision of what music we listened to based solely on personal tastes and the musical talent of the artists? I, too, pray that the hellish musical landscape you've described for us never truly comes to pass. Indeed, I can barely control my urge to scream in terror!

    Nudge nudge, wink win. :)

     

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  18.  
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    John Doe, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    If people were not stealing Lady Gaga's music for free, they would listen to more of the legally free music from bands such as Hollarando above.

    Therefore stealing copyrighted music from Lady Gaga hurts both Lady Gaga and new bands such as Hollarando trying to give their music away for free for publicity.

     

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  19.  
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    CSMcDonald (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 7:39am

    Still, it does seem they needed a bit of government money to make the last step? Or does the grant system mean something else?

    Good work though.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    This Lady Gaga?

    http://www.steveboswell.org.uk/2010/05/lady-gaga-offers-her-thoughts-on-people-sharing-her- music/

    (from a quick and dirty google search; includes an interesting comparison w/Lily Allen)

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    You know, that's the greatest argument against piracy that I've ever seen. I don't know how well it would hold up under scrutiny but I like it anyway.

     

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  22.  
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    Joe Publius (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    I'm okay with the grant, I think the main point is that they were not afraid to put in the effort to use all of the tools available to them, sometimes is giving an album away for free, sometimes its working 2000 miles from home for beer and pizza, sometimes its writing a grant application to get a sponsor.

    Today, there's no magic path to success, but success is still there for those who really want it.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    I agree 100%. Since this is a true problem with growing new bands. The penalty for downloading Lady Gaga illegally should be to listen to Canadian indie music for a week.

    I think we've finally hit upon the 100% full proof solution to this problem.

     

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  24.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

    I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that these people might just be lazy. They seem to want everything handed to them.

    I think we have Dire Straits to blame for some of this. Even though they were being sarcastic when they wrote the song, way to many people are thinking that if you record a song or two you can "get your money for nothing and your chicks for free".

     

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  25.  
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    abc gum, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 5:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    "If people were not stealing Lady Gaga's music for free, they would listen to more of the legally free music from bands such as Hollarando above."

    That is retarded.
    What makes you think free is a zero sum game?

     

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  26.  
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    John Doe, Apr 15th, 2011 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    It's the SUBSTITUTION effect in Economics 101.

    In general, when the price of one product falls (the price of pirated Lady Gaga falls to zero), the sale/use of other products that are "substitutes" falls.

    I never said it was a zero-sum game. Piracy, like all theft, is a negative sum game once you look at all the costs and benefits.

    If you only look at part of the story, you can find benefits to crime. Theft of food from Walmart might redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. Slavery provides work for slaves, in addition to civilizing savages.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Apr 15th, 2011 @ 7:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    Piracy, like all theft, is a negative sum game once you look at all the costs and benefits.

    I find it quietly hilarious that you keep calling it theft, considering the subject of the article.

    As an aside, you call it a negative sum game, but do you take into account the positive benefits of the increased exposure? A quick search will show study after study that says that piracy, if intelligently leveraged, will lead to greater income than the lack of piracy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Apr 16th, 2011 @ 7:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    "If you only look at part of the story, you can find benefits to crime. Theft of food from Walmart might redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor. Slavery provides work for slaves, in addition to civilizing savages."

    If you look at the whole "story" you might see that the crime is actually not the theft of food, but the orchestrated poverty which benefits the rich. btw, your slavery reference is what some people actually think.

     

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  29.  
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    John Doe, Apr 16th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's tough to compete with other business models that don't pay or STEAL

    Your statement is literally meaningless (Bull Shit). You could have said the same thing about slavery in 1855 if you willfully blindly ignore all contradictory studies that you don't agree with.

    A quick search will show study after study that says that SLAVERY, if intelligently leveraged, will lead to greater income than the lack of SLAVERY.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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