Read this. Not because it’s a blueprint for your success, but because it illustrates the decline of the major label paradigm. Today you’ve got to do it for yourself. If you’re waiting for someone else to help you, you’re waiting to be enslaved, if anybody pays attention at all.
Attention… How do we measure that?
Major labels use old school metrics. Primarily record sales and traditional publicity. Yes, majors are investing heavily in online video, but if you think one spiking YouTube video establishes success, you just haven’t watched the Evolution Of Dance on YouTube
158,981,597 views and counting: Evolution of Dance
One thing we do know… Music lives online. It’s a digital medium. The fact that majors still get the most revenue from CD sales illustrates their fear of the future. If you’ve got nothing to lose, you take chances. If you’re the steward of a dying business, you don’t want to take the blame. You want to blame everybody else. But the blame game is done.
In order to make money you’ve got to have an online presence. You’ve got to build your name to the point that people know who you are and are interested in following your next move. Once upon a time a hit made fans interested in what came next. Now a track is seen as an isolated event. You can quite literally be here today and gone tomorrow. How do you succeed? By burrowing deep online.
1. Match your music to visuals. Music should be enough, but if you can get someone to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to your work online, you’ve got a better chance of hooking them.
2. Constantly create. You have to engage your fans on an almost daily basis. It doesn’t always have to be new music, although that helps, but interaction and innovation should be your credo. Constantly put something in the trough that hooks fans.
This is the primary reason the major labels are dying. They’re massaging tracks for long term radio success. And radio is dying just as quickly as they are. Everything has a short shelf life online. It’s the accumulated mass that establishes you.
3. Ask your fans to help. It’s not as simple as building a street team. Sure, you can ask for money, but that’s kind of cheesy. Ask them to put up posters. Ask them to house you and your road crew. Ask them to sell food at your gig in an alternative location. You may view it as shitwork, but that’s not how your fan feels. A fan feels involved, like a piece of the puzzle, and his beaming countenance and frothing description of his interaction with you will gain more followers than an e-mail imploring someone who doesn’t care to listen to your MP3.
4. Music is your calling card. If you don’t think it should be free, you’re destined to the dustbin. The key is to charge for it in different forms. Maybe you personalize songs for fans. Or you create special packaging. Or you stream it online and it’s downloadable at the store. iTunes is about convenience. Many people aren’t savvy enough to know how to download from the Web, or don’t want to take the time. In other words, you can give it away and still sell it too. The key is to get someone to listen.
5. Forget trying to make it by the old rules. It will only hold you back. Gain enough success so the old school people come to you and offer you a deal on your terms. Still, old school people can do less for you than ever before, and want more money for their efforts because they make less income. If you’re not about making the money for yourself, you’re not successful.
6. Only you will know if you’ve made it. Sure, "Billboard" and BigChampagne have newfangled online charts, but they can’t calculate the number of fans and the quality of the bond. Only you can. Using your own metrics. Do you get more e-mail? Have more friends? Is attendance at the gig increasing?
We are living in an era of chaos. And it’s unsettling to oldsters and newbies who want to get a ride on the old train. The oldsters are refining their paradigm to the point of ridiculousness. They want cute kids who in many cases haven’t even reached puberty who can appeal to impulse buyers, those their same age. If you’re twenty five and play anything but beat-infused tunes and you’re wondering why the major isn’t interested in you you’ve got your head up your ass.
Maybe, at some point in the future, we’ll find a new way to measure music success. But sales of recordings is no longer it.
Old schoolers think albums don’t sell what they used to because of theft. The real story is albums don’t sell because not enough people care. The audience is scattered. Then again, it’s easy to reach everybody online. You can gain great success.
I applaud OK Go, but I’m not sure where they go from here. Their success demands constant stunts. But they started in the major label game, looking for instant attention.
Don’t do that. Grow slowly. Over time. So that when someone hears about your act from friends multiple times over years, they finally decide to check you out. They figure you’re in it for the long haul. They believe you’re for real. They want to know what all the fuss is about.
MTV rocketed acts into outer space and they quickly fell back to earth. Corporations are the twenty first century equivalent. Everyone is looking for the easy way out. But if you want to sustain, involve no middlemen, keep yourself pure. Just keep building the bond with your fans. Spend nights thinking how you can get people more involved, not what third party you can get to pay you. You don’t want to be owned by anyone but your fans.