I’m writing a book…

…about the music and the music industry in 2010.  About where things stand now, how we got here, and where we’re going.  2010 is such an important time in the history of music (music and genres are defined by the decade, after all) and the music industry (quite literally there may be one less major label next week).

I’m going to be driving across the country and Mexico looking for answers, talking to bands large and small, label managers, record store clerks, venue owners, and music fans of all types.  The end result of what I hope to produce will be equal parts Chuck Klosterman’s Killing Yourself To Live and Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America.

I’ve created a page on the fantastic Kickstarter for my book.  I’d urge you to check it out and share it with anybody you feel may be interested.

How A Buzz Band Became A Buzz Band: A Rural Alberta Advantage Case Study

In today’s fast-moving world of web 2.0, the buzz band reigns supreme.  Unheard of one day, a virtual household name the next, it seems as if there is a new buzz band every month or even week. From the Arcade Fire in 2004(perhaps the first “modern” buzz band) to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah in 2005 (the definitive example of a buzz band) to Wavves in 2009 (the perfect example of the downside of being a buzz band), we increasingly see bands rocket into popularity.  While the actual worth of many of these bands is sometimes debatable, never mind the system that hypes them endlessly until the next flavor of the month comes along, the fact remains that there has never been an easier time for a band to breakthrough to mainstream acceptance than current day.  We’ve seen it time and time again as the internet and social media increasingly facilitate word-of-mouth through online user generated content (blogs, forums, twitter, video, etc).

But what actually makes buzz band?  What makes one band’s popularity explode “overnight”?  It’s a trick question; a band does not explode in popularity over night.  Reaching the tipping point usually takes years.  I have compiled a case study of what turns a band a buzz band to give us greater insight into the process.  This story is a rather well documented example of the power of word-of-mouth when it comes to music.  This case study borrows heavily from the work of MetaCritic Forum poster The Fall of Troy, to whom this post owes a great debt.

Toronto based Rural Alberta Advantage are blowing up, seemingly out of nowhere.  Previously known to only a select few, the band’s popularity has snowballed this spring and summer, culminating in a stunningly positive review in Pitchfork today.  Hometowns, their debut album, is considered by many to be the best album of 2009 and the band has attracted an usually dedicated and loyal fanbase through their album and through their energetic live show.  This is how that fanbase pulled the RAA from indie obscurity to indie mainstream in one year.

The Rural Alberta Advantage, consisting of Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole and Nils Edenloff, formed in 2005.  Paul and Nils met each other through Amy Cole and the band formed around an open mic night hosted by Paul and Nils in Toronto.  They played their first show on January 30th, 2005.  By the end of the year they had played 11 shows (10 in Toronto, one in Cambridge, ON) and recorded a demo.

2006 saw the band record and self-release the Rural Alberta Advantage EP and play 33 more show, all in Canada and the overwhelming majority in Toronto (although they also played their first shows in Montréal and Ottawa).

In 2007 saw the band play 30 more shows, but this time they played as many outside of Toronto as they did in.

2008 is the vital year for the RAA.  They spent 6 months self-recording their debut album, Hometowns, which featured songs from their EP as well as new songs.  Every song but one (Frank AB, which was written in the studio) was from their live show.  They sold the album themselves through the internet (it was not available in any store).  The band played 29 more shows with the majority of them outside of Toronto.

I will let The Fall Of Troy from the MetaCritic Music Forums take it from here:

On February 19, 2008, a review of Hometowns appeared on Herohill.com, a site that defines itself as “a music review site from the Great White North”. This review refers to the RAA as “probably the best unsigned band in Canada.” Herohill summed up Hometowns as follows:

“On the surface, you are hit with the trio’s Neutral Milk Hotel pop and Nils Edenloff’s detailed narratives of his Alberta roots. While it seems almost necessary to toss in a Sufjan reference when you talk about the subject matter, the final product couldn’t be farther from one of the indie rock poster boy’s releases. Instead of calculated, over thought, lush compositions, RAA prefers energetic, spontaneous, spare arrangements with just enough shocks and surprises to keep you guessing. And the power the trio delivers is astonishing.”

In early summer of this year, one of our members, nmeiborg was poking around Herohill when he discovered the RAA. On June 24, nmeiborg posted the following in the “Best Records of 2008” thread after listening to Hometowns:

Pretty impressed with a couple albums recently:

The Rural Alberta Advantage – Hometowns

Indie folk-rock that reminds me a bit of Neutral Milk Hotel

The War on Drugs – Wagonwheel Blues

Indie-rock with hints of Springsteen, Eno, Sonic Youth and early U2

This short post caused ripples that created a stir on Metacritic which has ended in a ground-swell of support for this unsigned band. Since then 7 people have put the RAA in their top 20: mneiborg (#2), RavingLunatic (#2), twinsdad (#4), L.R. Willaim Spencer (#7), Liberal Kid (#10), ajar (unnumbered, but at the top of the list), and CoCoCo (putting RAA in the “GoodGoodGood” category). Several others have mentioned it as an album they are still digesting. Not bad for an unsigned band.

RavingLunatic saw nmeiborg’s post, and picked up the album. Since then, RL has been an ardent supporter of the band. On October 5, RL made the following post in the “Best Records of 2008” thread:

Dudes, I recently re-listened to that Rural Alberta Advantage album, Hometowns, and it is freaking killer. I’m tempted to call it the best indie-rock album since The Meadowlands. These songs are passionate, catchy, and fresh. At times it recalls Neutral Milk Hotel, but they are different in many ways as well. Rural Alberta Advantage is now in a ferocious battle with Tallest Man On Earth for my #1 spot. If you are a fan of indie-rock and haven’t heard this, you need to.

This is where the RAA picks up a little steam. Seeing this post, I checked the RAA out on their myspace page. I instantly fall in love with the band. But, I’m too honest to illegally download the album and too cheap to pay $12 plus shipping and handling from their website. So, I posted a message on the message boards at eMusic directed to Yancey Strickler, one of the editors at eMusic. In my message, I asked if I could recommend an unsigned band for the eMusic Selects program. Every couple of months, eMusic signs up unsigned artists to promote and digitally distribute their albums. The program has been going on for less than a year, but so far eMusic signed up Breathe Owl Breathe to distribute its Ghost Glacier EP and at least one artist – High Places – has received a record deal after being an eMusic Select artist. Yancey was impressed with the RAA, and said that he would contact the band.

So, as The Fall Of Troy says, he posted a message on the eMusic message boards, directed to Yancy Stickler.  Yancy saw the message, checked out the band, and was promptly blown away.  That same day he contacted the Rural Alberta Advantage and within a few days they were signed to eMusic Selects.  The RAA were now exposed to eMusic’s 400,000+ subscriber base, in addition to having eMusic’s marketing and promotions team working for them.  The band joined with eMusic in Norvember or December of 2008 and within a few short months they were the all time top selling eMusic Selects band.

As of today, the RAA have played 35 shows in 2009, including their first shows in the United States (a three show mini-tour to NYC in February).  This mini-tour was followed up by three performances at the music industry showcase SXSW in Austin, TX in March.  At SXSW the RAA played in a special showcase that eMusic set up for the band, opening for indie rock fan and critical favorites Grizzly Bear at the beautiful Central Presbyterian Church.  Knowing that the idea of Grizzly Bear in a gorgeous venue such as that church would attract many music fans and members of the media alike, the event was set up to promote the RAA.  The band nailed their set with an energetic and heartwarming performance; they completely won over the crowd and their set was often cited as one of the highlights of SXSW.

Post-SXSW the band played a few shows around the United States in April and May, including visits to NYC in early April and late May.  On May 1th the band signed to indie mega-label Saddle Creek, home to bands such as Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst, Cursive, and Tokyo Police Club.  Saddle Creek re-released Hometowns today, July 7th, the same day that Pitchfork gave the band an overwhelmingly positive review.  A quick scan of Google News revels widespread attention being paid to the band from both indie music blogs and mainstream print media.

So in summary, how did the Rural Alberta Advantage become an “overnight sensation”?

-    First and most importantly, the RAA wrote and perfected an amazing group of songs and learned how to perform these songs in a very engaging manner

-   They played frequently, averaging about 30 shows a year.

-   They built up a fan base in their hometown (no pun intended) and then built off that fan base as they expanded outward, playing shows further and further from home.

-   They recorded music early in their career and got it out there on the internet so people could find them.

-   They got one positive early review.

-   One influential person saw that review and passed along its message to a receptive group of music lovers.

-   That group of music lovers shared a mutual love for the album, encouraging one another to listen.

-   From that group emerged one person (The Fall Of Troy) who knew of somebody in a position to help the band (Yancy Strickler) and then tipped off that person.

-   That person, upon hearing the quality of the songs, used his power to put the support of an organization behind the band (eMusic).

-   That organization used its power to support the band (by making Hometowns an editors choice, by setting up a SXSW showcase and inviting media, etc).

-   One of the promotions that the organization set up (SXSW) led to the band signing with an influential record label.

-   That record label re-released the album, resulting in a furry of media attention and positive reviews.

-   The Rural Alberta Advantage became an “overnight” sensation.

It’s that simple; there is only three parts to it.  Do something amazing.  Have the right person or people see it or hear it.  Let the word-of-mouth trickle through the internet.

Sources:

My interview with the Rural Alberta Advantage and Yancy Strickler, of eMusic.

The RAA’s list of shows

The MetaCritic Forum Thread about the RAA.  Includes the Fall Of Troy’s history of the band. A very interesting read.

The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Twitter: For Musicians

 Twitter is hot.  Even though it’s only been in the public consciousness for slightly over a year, it has already gained an incredibly devout and widespread following.  On a recently weekday I counted three separate articles on the front page of the New York Times website involving Twitter.  Oprah recently used twitter live on her show.  Both Karl Rove and Rachel Maddow regularly tweet[1].  So do celebrities such as Jimmy Fallon, Aston Kutcher, and Shaq.  But perhaps the demographic that has most fallen in love with twitter is musicians.

There are many reasons musicians love Twitter.  It is an incredibly powerful tool.  So much so that some (including myself) feel that Twitter is as an essential a tool as MySpace to a musician.  Already you find many musicians have taken to Twitter and use it constantly and in innovative ways.

 

What is Twitter…

Before I go any further, I’d like to give a brief overview of what Twitter is.  It is a website that allows you to post brief (140 characters max) messages.  You can “follow” other users by opting to have their tweets sent to your home page.  On your home page, all the tweets by the people you follow are displayed chronologically (most recent first).  People who are following you have your tweets displayed in the same manner on their home page.  You can reply to a user publically by typing “@theirusername”.  You can also reply privately via a Direct Message (DM).  That’s about it.  Sounds underwhelming, right?  Where is the cause for such excitement and devotion amongst its fans? 

The real power of Twitter lies with the cumulative effect of the tweets.  One tweet is ultimately meaningless, a single brush stroke on a canvas.  But if taken as a whole over the course of weeks and months, these single brush strokes come together to form a remarkably accurate painting of the personality of the person behind the tweets.  This makes Twitter a great way for old friends to stay in touch, for current friends to coordinate their lives, for people to learn more about the bands, celebrities, and other public figures that interest them, and for those bands, celebrities, and public figures to engage their fans. 

A much more succinct portrait of twitter by user SoftCoeur, who tweeted the following:

@softcoeur think of it like a combination blog, away message, and mass text message. embrace it. love it.

Note: when quoting a tweet, you say “@TheUserNameBehindTheTweet And Then The Tweet Itself”

 

How To Use Twitter Effectively…

So, then, how can a musician use Twitter in a manner that reaps its full benefit?  There certainly is no shortage of musicians on Twitter.  COED Magazine recently published a list of 406 Bands On Twitter and that’s just the more mainstream musicians.  There are untold amounts of complete unknowns who twitter too.  Despite the plethora of musicians using the site, very few seem to have a good grasp on how to best use the site.  What are they doing wrong? 

 

Twitter…You’re Doing It Wrong

There are several common mistakes made by musicians that render their Twitter efforts ineffectual.  They are listed below: 

1Not following anybody backIf there was one word to describe Twitter and what sets it apart from other sites such as MySpace and Facebook, it would be “conversation”.  Twitter is about the interaction between people, sharing tidbits, insights, thoughts, information, and answers to questions.  If musician does not follow anybody back then they obviously are not listening.  Follow in return every person who follows you; its common courtesy on Twitter. 

Case Point: Oasis: http://twitter.com/Oasis

2- The person behind the account is not the person claimed to be – Because Twitter is all about personality and conversation with the stated person, there is little point to having a third party run your twitter account.  To do so is a bait and switch and is inherently less engaging to followers than tweets from the actual person stated to be behind the user name

Case Point: The Raconteurs: http://twitter.com/theraconteurs

3Infrequent Use – Going back to the painting analogy, the more tweets/brush strokes, the richer and more interesting the portrait.  A band that posts infrequently tends to not be worth following.  Of course it is possible to tweet too much, but that’s another topic.

Case Point: Bjork: http://twitter.com/bjork

Twitter…You’re Doing It Right!

It is also useful to look at musicians who are using Twitter correctly, to see how and why they are effective.

1Be insightful and interesting – Let your fans know about who you are or who your band is.  Make them want to read more.  The key is to engage your fans.  Sonic Youth did an excellent job with this as they recorded their last album this winter, posting frequent studio updates that provided a behind-the-scenes look at the rock legend’s recording process.  Colin Meloy (of the Decemberists) and Edward Droste (of Grizzly Bear) are both very insightful and engaging.  Their Twitter pages are a rich portrait of them, their influences, and their music. 

Case Points: http://www.twitter.com/thesonicyouth

http://twitter.com/colinmeloy

http://twitter.com/edwarddroste

2Interact with your fans – Since the whole point of Twitter is the conversation, why not converse?  It’ll engage your fans, getting them to check back often.  David Allen, the bassist from the English punk legends Gang of Four is fantastic at this. 

Case Point: http://twitter.com/pampelmoose (David Allen)

3Be creative – Find new and creative ways to engage your fans through Twitter.  The more people you have following you, the easier it will be for you to get the word out about shows and new releases.  UK rapper The Streets recently premiered a new EP via twitter, posting a new song every day.  Famous venture capitalist Roger McNamee has a band and they recently tweeted a live concert (as soon as they finished playing a song, they had somebody upload it to twitter).  Think of other creative and new ways to use Twitter.  Not only will you be engaging your fans but you might just get press for using Twitter creatively.

Case Point: http://twitter.com/skinnermike (The Streets)

http://twitter.com/Moonalice (Roger McNamee)

http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/04/13/roger-mcnamees-band-moonalice-gets-3000-downloads-from-twitter-concerts/

 

11 easy steps to getting started at Twitter as a musician…

1. Sign up for an account.  Ideally choose your band name (if applicable).  Make sure you put your band website as your link and for your bio explain who you are and what you do.  Pick a memorable (and relevant) profile picture.

2. Import your mailing list into Twitter so you can find which of your fans are already on the site.  Follow them.

3. Use the powerful Twitter search function to find people with similar interests.  For instance, if you sound like Nirvana, search for “Nirvana” and find people who have tweeted about that recently.  Follow them.  If your music prominently features cellos, search for “cello”.  And so on.  When all is said and done, you want as many people to follow you as possible.  A primary way to gain new followers is to follow people first.  People will also find you via searches, so mention people you sound like or like often. 

4. Tweet!  Tweet about anything.  Twitter itself asks the question “What Are You Doing?” but that’s just the beginning of it.  Here are some good things to tweet about:

- What am I doing?

- What am I thinking?

- What do I like?

- What don’t I like?

- What do I want to do?

- Answer a question posed by somebody

- Ask a question (you’ll be amazed at how easy and fast it is to get answers via Twitter)

5. Follow influential people.  One of the great features of Twitter is that it allows you to target various audiences very well.  You can target broad demographic groups (Metallica fans, for instance) or you can target very specific people.  Many of the most influential and important people in the music industry today use Twitter.  The primary example of this is music bloggers.  A majority of the music bloggers I would classify as “influential” have and use twitter regularly.  Since Twitter is all about the conversation, you can easy engage these people.  This will at the very least allow you to make them aware of your existence and at best, you may end up befriending some of them (which obviously has its benefits).  To find music bloggers to follow, go to their websites and see if they have a link to their Twitter account.  Many do.  When you find one on Twitter, see who they are following because most music bloggers follow other music bloggers. 

6.  Update frequently.  The minimum would be at least 3 times a day and I would say between 5 and 10 is ideal.  Any more than 20 times in a day and you’re probably going to really annoy people.  After using Twitter for a few weeks, you’ll begin to fall into a routine that feels right, and the answer to the question of “how much should I tweet” will become self-evident. 

7. Post pictures!  Use a program like TwitPic (http://twitpic.com/) to give fans a behind the scenes look at the band.  Instantly post pictures from backstage, in the studio, on the road, or at home.  This is a great way to engage your fans.  

8. Post links Use a URL shortening program like Bit.ly (http://bit.ly/) to shorten URL’s to post.  Post links to articles that you find interesting. 

9. Re-Tweet.  If somebody says something you find interesting, or otherwise want to pass along, then re-tweet it.  Simply post this: “RT @UserNameOfPersonYou’reReTweeting What They Actually Tweeted”.  A RT is one of the highest compliments you can give a Twitter user.  This is a possible way to reach out to people you want to notice you (i.e. music bloggers).

10. Join the conversation!  Send @ messages to people by posting “@UserNameOfPersonYou’reTalkingTo What You Want To Tell Them”.  This is a great way to meet new people. 

11. Link your mobile phone to your Twitter account so that you can text updates from your phone to your Twitter page.  You can use twitter anywhere at any time.

 

Final Words And Tips…

1-     Keep at it!  It takes a while, several weeks or even months before you really get the hang of Twitter and begin to see how powerful a tool it is.  Don’t give up at it after a few days or weeks.  Twitter is a long term strategy.

2-     Be interesting.  No matter what you do or say, make it interesting. 

3-     Don’t spam people.  Remember, Twitter is about the conversation.  If you’re not conversing, then you’re probably doing it wrong.

4-     Make new friends on Twitter and get hints and advice from them.  You’ll be surprised at how many new friends you make.  Unlike other sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, Twitter is less about connecting with people you already know than it is about meeting new people.

5-     If you have a band account with multiple people posting, consider having each person sign their tweets with their names like this (Tom).

6-     When following influential people (such as music bloggers), do not badger them about your music or they will ignore you.  Twitter is not the place to approach them about listening to your song (that’s what e-mail is for).  Rather, your goal is to befriend them and to get them to know who you are and what you’re all about.  This way, when you do e-mail them your music, it won’t be coming from a complete stranger but rather a friend.

7-     Don’t be surprised if Twitter becomes an addiction. 

 

Useful Twitter Resources For Bands

These are links that I’ve found useful and I feel that musicians using Twitter will find them worthwhile as well. 

Lengthy but I recommend every musician read this:

Laura Fitton of Pistachio Consulting On Twitter:

http://www.musicthinktank.com/blog/twitter-is-radically-changing-the-way-musicians-are-building.html

Musicians You Should Follow And Some You Shouldn’t:

http://www.eachnotesecure.com/twitter-musicians-you-should-follow-and-some-you-should-not/

A How-To Guide For Bands:

http://www.articlesbase.com/viral-marketing-articles/twitter-for-musicians-and-bands-a-howto-guide-447592.html

Grow Your Band’s Following With Twitter:

http://www.servethesong.net/grow-band-twitter-following/

Ten Twitter Tips For Musicians And Bands:

http://soundcitizen.com/10-twitter-tips-for-musicians-and-bands/

Why Every Band Should Twitter More:

http://www.markcarras.com/2009/01/why-every-band-should-use-twitter-more/


[1] Tweet: an individual post on twitter.   Usage: “I just tweeted that joke my boss told me”. 

10 Fast and Free Strategies To Market Your Band (Without Resorting To Spamming People On Myspace)

I’ve found several near universal truths from dealing with and talking to bands.  First, almost every musician is very willing to spend a significant amount of time to market and promote themselves, which is a good thing.  Second, there is a pervasive and persistent view that the best (only?) way they can do this is by sending out thousands of friend requests on MySpace, which is not necessarily a good thing.  This might have worked in the early days of MySpace but I ask you now, when was the last time you found a band you liked via MySpace?  If you’re like myself it was some years ago (if ever).  Now, sending out MySpace friend requests is not totally without merit but for a musician this is not an efficient use of your time.  If you insist on using this strategy, hire an unpaid intern or enlist a friend/sibling in high school to do it for you. 

If MySpace spamming is not the best way to promote your band then what is?  Listed below are ten ways to market and promote your band that cost nothing and can be done with a minimal investment of time.  If an hour a day is spent pursuing these strategies then the end result will be far more favorable than twice as much time spent on MySpace.

 

Strategies Involving Blogs –

 

-       Start Your Own Blog – Twice a week write a paragraph (or more) about what you’ve been doing, what you’re thinking, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to do, what influences you, share touring stories, ask questions, answer questions, post videos of yourself/band, share unreleased material, and engage with fans (potential and current).  Make sure your blog is linked to your website and a place where your music can be purchased.  Make sure every website you have (Myspace, Facebook, etc) links to your blog.

In 2009 the single most powerful bloc of people in the music industry are music bloggers.  If you are written up by 40 blogs then your album will sell twice as much as it would otherwise (LINK).  Music blogs are a far more powerful promotional tool than MySpace.  This gives birth to two strategies:

 

-       Build Relationships With Bloggers By Commenting On Their Blogs – Pick 10 or 20 music blogs that you enjoy and which write about music similar to the type you produce.  Read them every day and at least once a week comment about something they post.  These comments should be genuine and relevant to the post.  Make sure you leave the URL for your website but do not promote yourself or music at all.  These comments are about the blog, not about you.  Their purpose is to make these bloggers aware that you exist and that you are an interesting person.

 

-       Send Your Music To Blogs – A great place to find blogs to send your music to is Hype Machine.  They have over 1,500 music blogs on their LIST and you can search them by artist.  Search on Hype Machine for blogs that have written about similar-sounding-but-slightly-more-popular artists and reach out to them.  Send them a personalized message and do not e-mail more than one blog at a time.  Write a short note explaining who you are and why you think they would like your stuff.  This is essentially an “elevator pitch”.  Make them want to check out your stuff.  Do not attach your music but give them a link where they can DOWNLOAD your ENTIRE album for free.  Let them know which song they should listen to if they’re going to listen to just one.  Include a link where they can see your bio and/or grab some pictures.  Reach out to 10 or 20 blogs a week.  Ideally you will have already built relationships with some of these bloggers by commenting on their blogs so they will recognize your e-mail address and will give your music special consideration.  Here is some more advice on how to pitch to bloggers.

 

Other Strategies Involving The Internet

 

-       Focus Your Online Efforts On Influential Or High Traffic Websites – There are literally thousands of blogs, social networks, music communities, contests, and other music related websites.  Taking advantage of them is advantageous but can be incredibly time consuming.  Learn to focus your efforts on sites that are influential or have high traffic (these two terms are not always inclusive).  Use Quantcast to see how much traffic a website gets.  For perspective, MySpace gets about 60,000,000 unique visitors a month, Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Brooklyn Vegan get between 150,000 and 250,000, popular music blogs get between 10,000 and 50,000, and smaller but no less influential blogs often get between 5,000 and 10,000 uniques a month.  This does not necessarily mean a site with less than 5,000 uniques a month is not worthwhile.  Also use Technorati to see how influential a site is.  Technorati measures how many people link to a site.  Test out a variety of music sites, popular and not, to see how much “authority” they have.  You will find that some sites have an undue amount of influence compared to their traffic.  You want to focus your time and effort on websites that have either high traffic or high influence.

 

-       Start As Many Social Networking Sites As You Can Maintain – Start accounts on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, ReverbNation, OurStage, PureVolume, ilike, Virb, and as many others as you can effectively maintain.  The more sites the better but if you are not able to keep them updated with timely information then they are useless.  Make sure every site is linked to every other site you have.  This will serve as a basic search engine optimization strategy.  This is also another area where an unpaid intern or little brother can be of use. 

 

-       Take Advantage Of Video Sites – One of the most powerful tools in finding new fans can be video sites.  There is an entire world of online video that exists beyond YouTube and bands should use it.  A fancy produced music video is not needed.  Here is a simple strategy to use: Plan to play a cover song at your next show.  Have a friend in the audience record the cover on a decent picture camera or video camera.  You do NOT need some multi-thousand dollar HD camera for this.  I use a $300 picture camera to take live video and it comes out sounding fine.  Upload this video to YouTube and at least five other video sites (some to choose from are Daily Motion, MetaCafe, Yahoo Video, Revver, Blip.tv, Revver, Vimeo, Imeem, Google Video, Spike).  Title the video [YOUR BAND] covers [BAND YOU COVER].  Tag the video with your band’s name, the name of the song you covered, and the name of the band you covered.  Send the link to this video out to your mailing list.  Do a new video like this every couple months.

 

-       Use Twitter – Sign up for a Twitter account and post something at least 3x a day.  Like with the blog, post about what you’ve been doing, what you’re thinking, what you like, what you don’t like, what you want to do, what influences you, share touring stories, ask questions, answer questions, engage in conversation with the rest of the Twitter community.  Do not use Twitter as a purely promotional tool for the band.  Your Twitter persona should be your personal persona, the man or woman behind the music.  Make sure you link to your website in your bio but don’t overtly hawk your music.  Maybe once or twice a week casually mention something about your music and provide a link.  There are many fine articles giving musicians advice on how to use Twitter such as THIS ONE by Ariel Hyatt. 

 

Other Strategies

 

-       Read “Tribes” by Seth GodinBuy this book, read it, think about it, read it again, and then act upon it.  Start your own Tribe and lead it.  I could write more but the book will do a far better job than I of explaining this idea.

 

-       Give Your Music Away For Free – Everybody gives lip service to the idea of “viral” marketing but rarely seize upon the easiest and most effective viral strategy open to them.  Of everything you can do, your music is the thing people are going to be most willing to pass along.  Not some dumb video on YouTube, not some silly contest.  Do not attempt to make money off your music because it has little, if any, monetary value.  Instead, sell elaborate packaging (like the In Rainbows boxset did), a connection to the band (such as the Trent Reznor signed, ultimate fan affirming Ghosts boxset), or a souvenir (a CD-as-a-concert souvenir).  Read further about how Trent Reznor gave away his Ghosts album away for free but still managed to make millions without compromising his integrity. 

 

-       Make Amazing Music – This should go without saying but in the marketing process so little attention to it.  The most important part of marketing is to have a great product and the most effective marketing and promotional tool you have is the music itself.  The better it is, the more marketing and promotion will take care of itself.  If your music is not amazing, why are you promoting it?  Create something compelling and, to borrow a line, people will come. 

 

 

 

Does Music Have Value – Follow Up

This is a re-write/rephrasing of something I posted two days ago.  I realized my phrasing was way too broad and that I was ignoring the non-monetary value of music.  My argument was that music has little to no monetary value.  Hopefully this is now a little more accurate.

 

Music is now without monetary value.  This is a controversial statement and I’m sure many will disagree with it on the basis of both personal conviction and economics.  I believe I can address the economic objections and I hope I can also sway some to reevaluate their belief that the music they create, sell, or buy has a monetary value.

 

The reason for the “worthlessness” of music (and I say this in a purely economic sense and I am not referring to the personal value music holds for many) is its infinite supply.  In a manner of minutes (seconds?) I can find and download almost any album or song online for free.  Putting aside the legal objections to this action (and since 95% of music downloaded is done so illegally, this objection is largely irrelevant), this essentially infinite supply of music renders it without a monetary value. 

 

This has several implications.  It does NOT mean that it is impossible to make money through the sale of music.  However, the days of selling albums or songs at 128kbps or 192kbps are rapidly drawing to a close more and more people awake to the notion that the supply of music at these bitrates is infinite and that paying money for them is a silly proposition.  The economics of scarcity and abundance are worth examining.  People have stopped paying for music for the same reason people don’t pay for air.  It’s everywhere and free so why would you?

 

Except people do pay money for air, in certain circumstances.  If you scuba dive, you will gladly pay good money for air.  Of course, the value in this situation does not come from the air itself but from the packaging and delivery of the air.  In short, air = worthless.  Air in a tank when you need it = valuable. 

 

Likewise with music, the basic digitized music is increasingly hard to sell for money but there are ways to add value to it.  One such way is to offer higher quality files, such as 320kbps or lossless.  Another is to add value through packaging.  This is why Nine Inch Nails was able to sell 2,500 of their $300 Ultra-Deluxe Ghosts boxset.  The music itself was free (you could download it from the NIN website) but the packaging added the value.  Because the Ghosts Ultra-Deluxe boxset was autographed by Trent Reznor himself, it is an example of a third way to add value to music: by adding a connection to the artist.  This is the “souvenir method”.  People are willing to pay money, or more money than they normally would, if there is a component of connection to the artist.  Autographs can provide this connection as can individualized artwork.  Selling music at a concert is less about selling the actual music and more about selling a physical memory of the event, thus providing the connection to the artist.

 

It has been pointed out to me that there many other types of value contained within music still.  While this is the topic for an entire other post, the attention and personal conviction behind music absolutely have value.  My argument is merely that on a macro scale, people are increasing realizing that paying for music with money is not a fair proposition for them, the consumer (hence the drop in CD sale).  They are willing to pay when this music has value added to it (hence the rise in the sale of vinyl – the value is in the better packaging). 

 

Is Music “Worthless” Feedback…

Because I was recieving a lot of negative feedback on my last post, where I said that I believed that music is now “worthless”, I decided to ask Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine and author of The Long Tail if what he thought of my hypothesis.  His reply:

Although your point is generally right, you made a rhetorical error by equating “value” and “price”. Just because something has no price doesn’t mean it has no value. Indeed, in the non-monetary economies of attention and reputation, it may be valued very highly. In short, your mistake was using “worthless” too loosely–to quote The Princess Bride, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” ;-)

This is a common error, and I address it one chapter in the book.

Chris Anderson’s next book, out this summer, is called FREE  and is about the economics of Free.  It is my most eagerly anticipated book of the year.   Thanks so much to Chris for responding and so quickly (in ten minutes!).  

Check out the comments by Jermey Meyes and David Rose on the previous post for some interesting critisism of the post.

The Value Of Music, Pt. 4 – Music Is Worthless

Part four of Hit Singularity’s look at the value of music is authored by myself.  It is my attempt to answer the same question I asked each of my previous guest posters.  Before I give my take, I’d just like to take a moment to again thank Matt Morrell, Bud Caddell, and Christopher Lars Carlson for their time and insightful views.

The question at hand is this:

”What is music worth today?  Is it worth the $17.99/album that a CD retails for?  Is it worth the $9.99/album that you can buy an album for on itunes?  Is music free (or devoid of worth), now that it can so easily by disseminated online?  Does it have some other value or gain value from some other place?”

Music is now worthless and has no longer has any inherent value.  This is a controversial statement and I’m sure many will disagree with it on the basis of both personal conviction and economics.  I believe I can address the economic objections and I hope I can also sway some to reevaluate their belief that the music they create, sell, or buy has “value”.

The reason for the worthlessness of music (and I say this in a purely economic sense and I am not referring to the personal value music holds for many) is its infinite supply.  In a manner of minutes (seconds?) I can find and download almost any album or song online for free.  Putting aside the legal objections to this action (and since 95% of music downloaded is done so illegally, this objection is largely irrelevant), this essentially infinite supply of music renders it valueless. 

This has several implications.  It does NOT mean that it is impossible to make money through the sale of music.  However, the days of selling albums or songs at 128kbps or 192kbps are rapidly drawing to a close more and more people awake to the notion that the supply of music at these bitrates is infinite and that paying money for them is a silly proposition.  The economics of scarcity and abundance are worth examining.  People have stopped paying for music for the same reason people don’t pay for air.  It’s everywhere and free so why would you?

Except people do pay money for air, in certain circumstances.  If you scuba dive, you will gladly pay good money for air.  Of course, the value in this situation does not come from the air itself but from the packaging and delivery of the air.  In short, air = worthless.  Air in a tank when you need it = valuable. 

Likewise with music, the basic digitized music is worthless but there are ways to add value to it.  One such way is to offer higher quality files, such as 320kbps or lossless.  Another is to add value through packaging.  This is why Nine Inch Nails was able to sell 2,500 of their Ultra-Deluxe Ghosts boxset.  The music itself was free (you could download it from the NIN website) but the packaging added the value.  Because the Ghosts Ultra-Deluxe boxset was autographed by Trent Reznor himself, it is an example of a third way to add value to music: by adding a connection to the artist.  This is the “souvenir method”.  People are willing to pay money, or more money than they normally would, if there is a component of connection to the artist.  Autographs can provide this connection as can individualized artwork.  Selling music at a concert is less about selling the actual music and more about selling a physical memory of the event, thus providing the connection to the artist.

There are more ways to add value to music than those listed.  Even in an age of, what I believe to be, valueless music, there are many ways to add value to music.

 

I’d love to hear your critique of this piece, especially my grasp of economics.  If you like it, help to spread the word by Digging this piece.