Trent Reznor Explains What A Musician Needs To Do To Be Successful These Days
from the good-job dept
Pretty much every other person who’s ever read the site has sent this one in today, so I figure it’s worth writing up. We’ve talked for a long time about how unknown/up-and-coming artists can embrace new business models to be more successful these days. In fact, five or six years ago the only artists who were doing these kinds of experiments were the up-and-coming ones. And when we did that, people complained that “well, sure, this works for the unknowns, because they have nothing to lose, but it’s not a real business model.” And then, in the last couple of years, with folks like Trent Reznor and some other well known artists embracing new models, suddenly the refrain changed: “well, sure, this works for them because they already have a huge following… but it’ll never work for everyone else.” What was silly was that they were both effectively doing the same thing: better connecting with fans, and offering them something of scarce value to buy. In my more recent presentations, I’ve been careful to show how artists big, medium and small are all successfully embracing new models based on this formula:
And those who are embracing it are finding that it works and works incredibly well in many cases. Yet, still people want to insist that it can’t work. In fact, Reznor himself heard this when he mentioned that the Beastie Boys new offering (built on the Topspin platform) was “how you sell music today.” In response, the second wave of naysayers listed above came out to complain, so Reznor decided to respond by explaining how new artists get noticed, build a following and build a business model these days. And the formula is basically: connect with fans and give them a reason to buy… and use free music to do both of those things. He does note, that if you want to be a superstar, you probably need to sign with a label, but doing so will mean giving up pretty much everything: control, profits, ownership. However, if you just want to be a success…
* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters….
* Parter with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this – give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people’s email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special – make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan…
* The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact – it sucks as the musician BUT THAT’S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So… have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database)….
* Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace – it’s dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don’t autoplay). Constantly update your site with content – pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time. Put up a bulletin board and start a community. Engage your fans (with caution!) Make cheap videos. Film yourself talking. Play shows. Make interesting things. Get a Twitter account. Be interesting. Be real. Submit your music to blogs that may be interested. NEVER CHASE TRENDS. Utilize the multitude of tools available to you for very little cost of any – Flickr / YouTube / Vimeo / SoundCloud / Twitter etc.
* If you don’t know anything about new media or how people communicate these days, none of this will work. The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of these tools. If you don’t get it – find someone who does to do this for you. If you are waiting around for the phone to ring or that A & R guy to show up at your gig – good luck, you’re going to be waiting a while.
Great stuff, as usual, and certainly reinforces the point: it’s certainly hard work, but it is doable. If you’re unknown, use this process to get known. Once you’re known, you can start to implement all different elements of the business model, using the music to make scarce goods much more valuable and start earning that way. Great advice for artists big, medium and small…