And here is the Blog by Marian Salzman
We’ve entered an age of newfound creativity. Because of a million ways for the average Joe or Jules to express himself or herself, being an artist has never been easier. And with sites such as Etsy creating a vast marketplace for all things handmade and crafty, it’s not difficult to imagine making a living as a creative being. (Think of what Instagram has done for photography: Do you really need to buy a fancy camera to take great pictures with cool effects? Nope.)
Of course, one of the biggest areas affected by all this digital stuff (besides advertising and marketing, naturally) is the music industry. I’ve been in New York for many years, and I remember a time when working in the music business was one of the coolest things you could ever do. Then Shawn Fanning came along with Napster and everything seemed to change overnight. Enter the iTunes age, with retail record giants like Tower shutting down, and—poof—the industry had suddenly become a different place. A very different place.
But fear not, talented lyrical and musical friends. There are lots of ways you can use social media to your advantage and become the next big thing. I think about bands such as Ok Go and their YouTube releases, and (don’t shoot) Rebecca Black and her admittedly ridiculous song “Friday.” Packaging yourself has never been easier; whereas bands and singers used to clamor to get signed, we’ve entered an age of pimp your own ride.
Take Turntable.fm, for instance. I talked to some experts in the biz before writing this piece and found that Turntable is one of the best music discovery sites out there. There is great equity in music industry gatekeepers (label reps, A&R types, to name two) when it comes to making a new discovery and getting there first. Turntable.fm enables strangers to become contacts through repeated playing of songs that an industry type may enjoy. Oh, and the excitement over Spotify is palpable. The world of music is no exception when it comes to our new culture of sharing, so dig in.
If you are an up-and-comer, there is no better time in history to get creative about getting your music out there. Think of mixtape culture and what it did for hip-hop artists such as 50 Cent and the Game, not to mention Lil Wayne. If you can score a couple of email addresses of some influential types or people who spread music around to all their pals, that’s a good trade for a few free tracks to build a dedicated fan base.
Tribes are what the social media world is all about, and building yours should be mission No. 1. Take some cues from the Grateful Dead (who many argue were the first adapters of social media, before it even existed) as well as jam bands such as Phish, who have been allowing “heads” to tape their shows and trade them for free for decades. The Dead had only one chart-topping single (“Touch of Grey”), but they made millions in concert ticket sales and merchandising—and their parking lot scenes were one of the best examples of hippie capitalism that has ever existed. Maybe you’d buy a burrito or a Sierra Nevada, but maybe you’d also buy a Dead T-shirt or program.
As one of my friends in music publishing recently told me, it’s more important than ever to form bonds with your fan base, as if they are all friends of yours. There’s a familiarity and comfort to social media that allows fans and potential fans to know all about you, what you stand for and what inspires you. I encourage you to take that challenge and craft Brand You, with social media as your tool for being the next big thing.
In concert (no pun intended) with your social media efforts should be the single most important action toward building your base in this day and age: Play out, and play out often. Live shows are still the best way to build a following; there is no substitute for authentic and great live music, especially in a digital age in which people are looking for something real. That’s what being sticky is all about. Sure, it’s informed by your marketing plan, but it’s mostly about your killer music and having as many people hear it as possible. Because those people will tell other people, and eventually your music will get into the hands of the people who matter. (P.S. Everyone matters nowadays.) From the fans to the labels and back again.
And as for those labels, according to David Hoffman, director of creative services and A&R at Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., one of the United States’ oldest indie publishing companies, they “are evolving or going to evolve. There’s no choice. Digital distribution can be done using sites like TuneCore. Where the labels come in primarily will be on the marketing, promotion and publicity side of things, especially for indie bands. Of course, you’ll still have the labels working with manufactured artists and contest winners. And in the case of many of those, the labels are sister companies with the TV networks airing the shows. I think you’re going to see a lot of nontraditional labels (i.e., brands putting out music). You already have this, like Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound. I think we’ll see more of it.”
And that, too, is what’s striking on this 30th anniversary of MTV: At one time, bands were selling out if they used sponsorship money to promote themselves or they shilled for brands. Those days are over. Look for the lines between art and commerce to continue to blur. I’m looking forward to seeing, and hearing, you in the very near future. Hope this helps.
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