by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 15th 2010 7:15am
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 25th 2010 8:01am
from the it's-out-there dept
Last week, we wrote a post about an interview with Tommy Boy Entertainment boss, Tom Silverman, claiming that just 14 unsigned artists "broke the obscurity line," -- which was defined as sales of 10,000 albums. Amusingly, three days after this post, I met Silverman on an airplane over the Atlantic... and only realized it was him when he started talking to the guy seated next to me about my post not realizing who I was (small freaking world). We had a brief, but quite enjoyable conversation, and while I see his point, I'm still not convinced his conclusion is correct on the issue of breaking artists (his view of business models, however, seems right on). Meanwhile, in the comments to our post, Peter Wells from TuneCore disputed Tom's numbers. Since then, both have expanded on the discussion.
Tom provided more details on the number of totally independent success stories (decreasing the sum from 14 to 12 due to the fact that they had mischategorized 2 of the bands) over at the MusicianCoaching.com site. He then went on to claim that the long tail doesn't seem to be working for the music business:
Clearly the ease of making and distributing music does not benefit "breaking" music. Breaking music requires mass exposure which requires luck or money or both. I can say with great authority that less new music is breaking now in America than any other time in history. Technology has not helped more great music rise to the top, it has inhibited it. I know this is a bold statement but it is true.Certainly bold words, though they did not address my original criticism with the point -- which is that number of albums sold is a poor measure of "obscurity" (or non-obscurity, as the case may be). As I said then: "You don't have to sell albums to become well known, and just because you're well known, it doesn't mean you sell albums. It's not the best proxy for figuring this stuff out." This week, at Midem, musician Hal Ritson of The Young Punx put it much more succinctly: "Sales are not how you measure success any more. You figure out how to get as many people as possible to hear your music, and then you figure out if you're profitable." Also, I still think it's wrong to only count totally independent artists in this list, because many artists signed to labels (both indie and majors) may use new technology to help breakout (with or without massive support from their labels).
Either way, even beyond that, it looks like Silverman's numbers may be suspect.
I have to say that
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 9th 2009 12:12pm
from the good-job dept
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....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...
* 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.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 7th 2009 8:16am
from the gotta-hire-more-people dept
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 22nd 2009 1:59pm
from the some-data dept
Topspin, of course, has built up a platform to better enable artists to both connect with fans and to give them a reason to buy, and has been able to work with some fantastic artists, both big and small, including Eminem, Paul McCartney, the Beastie Boys, Metric, Beck, Van Hunt, David Byrne and a bunch of others as well. The exciting thing is the level of success Topspin has found with these artists:
- The average transaction price across all Topspin artists has been $22. Compare that to the average price of a CD, which remains between $12 and $14. If you give people a reason to buy, they're willing to pay more. It's obviously not just about "getting stuff for free" as some contend.
- Even better, two separate artists using TopSpin have found that their average transaction price is between $50 and $100.
- Finally, one artist using Topspin has found (amazingly) that the average transaction price from what was being offered was greater than $100.
- And, on top of that, on one recent project, they found that 84% of the orders were premium offers (meaning above the lowest tier).
The second experiment was the "pay on your way out" concert tour. Realistically speaking, this was a series of ten "free" shows. You could get in for free, but they asked you to pay what you felt was reasonable on the way out. Given the insistence by people that fans just want something for free, you would expect that very few would actually pay anything at all. Of course, that wasn't what happened.
Terry was kind enough to share with us some data from the experiment. Despite being free to come and go without paying anything, 63% of people attending ended up donating money on the way out. Now I'm sure some folks will mock this and say that he could have made more by charging everyone, but it seems quite likely that a lot more people came out to these free shows than if he had made people pay in advance. Almost two thirds of people ended up paying, totally voluntarily -- and their average donation was $6. Again, some will claim that this is low, but you have to look at the bigger overall picture. During this tour each of the two K-OS CDs were separately in the top 50 list of best sellers.
So, he gave a series of free shows that ended up bringing in tens of thousands of dollars combined (average attendance at each show was approximately 1,000 people) and it helped get a lot of people to buy both the CDs that were being offered in support of K-OS. Some people are going to nitpick the numbers, of course, but the evidence remains clear again: it's not that fans just want stuff for free. If you give them a reason to buy, an awful lot of them will absolutely buy.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 22nd 2009 12:57pm
from the things-are-working dept