I am fascinated by the impact of social and technological change on the marketing landscape.
Social media music has turned the music industry on its head.
My daughter-in-law is in the process of creating and producing her debut album. http://www.lynettemusic.com/ Observing her figuring out how to promote music has been quite fascinating.
An Evolving Medium / Music Promotion
Technology has reshaped music promotion. As the medium has evolved from vinyl to digital, musicians have adapted to sell CD’s online. In the past, record companies paid DJ’s and program directors to play their material. Airtime was the primary source of exposure for launching a new album.
Record Label Representation Of Recording Artists
Musicians needed a lot of support to create, produce and promote their music. Signing with a record label was, and to some extent still is, an important step in music marketing. These companies had the resources to finance the production of the artist’s records, create a marketing campaign, and attempt to influence the key players in the music industry.
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The traditional record company / artist relationship does not always work out in the artist’s favor…for details, see How Music Royalties Work.
Dying Music Stores And Diminished Music Marketing Shelf Space
Music was distributed through specialty stores like Tower Records, and it could be found in other retail outlets. Major stores commanded a fee for prominent display positions. Currently, so many of the major and mom and pop music store outlets are gone for good. The memory of going to the record store and thumbing through LPs – and later on CD’s – is an old one!
Technology Disrupts the Recorded Music Industry
The German company Fraunhofer-Gesellshaft developed the MP3 technology, and received a patent for it in April 1989. It became a standard for audio compression, making music files smaller without a very noticeable drop in quality. Subsequently in 1999, 19 year old Shawn Fanning created Napster, a free music file sharing online service that pulled MP3 versions of artist’s songs off other individual’s hard drives. Under pressure from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) the company received a court order to block the trading of over 100,000 copyrighted songs due to an infringement ruling, and in June 2002, Napster filed for bankruptcy. The ability to compress audio data, however, continued to spark a new direction for recorded music distribution on the internet, and between personal computers.
ITunes was started by Apple, and is now the most significant player, dominating the download segment with a 70 percent share. Overall digital downloads account for 40% of the U.S music market. (Source)
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social platforms are now part of the “How to market your music” equation.
Music Marketing & Promotion
Today, the combination of affordable recording equipment along with social media, and other internet opportunities make producing and distributing music accessible to thousands of artists. While there is a wide variety of talent and quality, most of the traditional approaches to music marketing have been forced to adapt to the new reality.
One consequence though is that the artist’s precious music is often expected to be a free commodity. The Napster mindset still permeates the culture, and for those who sell music online, this can be a real challenge.
Kickstart Your Recording & Promotion Budget
Amazon has created Kickstarter, a platform to facilitate crowd-sourced funding for creative projects. An artist can put together their pitch along with incentives and then submit to Kickstarter; once approved, they are able to launch their campaign.
What are the challenges?
Even though the artist has more options available today, it is a business often filled with disappointment. The low-cost recording equipment, the internet, and the fantasy that everyone can be a star has oversaturated the market with artists and amount of music being released. Generally, the people recording and releasing their own music with high expectations are just not as talented as many of the past successful role models – John Lennon / Paul McCartney / Bob Dylan / Paul Simon / Mick Jagger / Elton John – all are unique major talents, and that gave them all longevity. If you heard any of them play a song just on guitar or piano next to almost any artist releasing their own material today – it would be so obvious how special they are. Most artists are just not at that level of talent. If they were baseball pitchers – they would not have the stuff to make it to the major league.
What about the opportunities?
A mid-level talent can forge their career with some creativity. They can sustain a modest career with 3000 – 5000 unit sales of a record if they own the master and write their own songs, and possibly get a song licensed for a film or TV show, or receive a single or multiple song publishing deal. Playing live is not very lucrative unless you have a large following and can minimize expenses. If you start making any real money – there are lots of producers, managers, agents, accountants, music publishers & attorneys who will want to help in return for percentages of gross income. Sometimes that can catapult a career – but there are no guarantees.
So Make Marketing Music A Positive Endeavor – Attitude Is Crucial!
I don’t intend to paint a negative picture – because in essence creating & recording & performing music is an amazing artistic endeavor – but marketing it is certainly a challenge. For a self-contained artist – it can be a full time day job in and of itself. It is often challenging to be creative both as an artist AND a marketer – but individuals who are able to do this are often the successful ones.
It is common for an artist to run through their entire budget – which very often is borrowed money – on the creative part of just recording and packaging their own music. This leaves little or no funds left over for the real world challenge of marketing their music and themselves so that they can recoup expenses and turn a profit. This is necessary to ultimately sustain their recording career at anything above a hobby level.
Traditional and new marketing avenues still combine to get music heard and purchased. A diligent overall plan for an aspiring artist is to pre-plan a budget that includes the addition of experienced help. There is still nothing that can replace a great publicist with accessible industry contacts, and consultation (or possible employment) of an experienced marketing professional to oversee and guide the new CD sales campaign.
If things take off – then you will probably need the music attorney, accountant, entertainment manager, music booking agent and an entourage of assistants. It’s an easier bridge to cross once you can get to it!
What Are Your Music Marketing Experiences?
If you are an artist, how do you promote your music online? What do you think of the new landscape? Please tell us – we are good listeners!