The major marketing tool for the M30 artist is the music itself. It’s no longer the major product that the artist has to sell, although it still is a product, so has to be used differently and thought of differently as a result.
Perhaps recorded music was never the product we were led to believe it was. In the M1.0 and M1.5 days of vinyl records and CDs, the round plastic piece (the container that held the music) was the product. The artist never made money when a song was played on the radio (the songwriter always did, although the artist might soon get their due depending on the status of current legislation), and the artist only made a small percentage (10 to 15% of wholesale on average) of CD or vinyl sales. The artist made the most money on concert tickets and merchandise while touring. There was a cost involved in the manufacturing of the the container that transported the music (physical material costs, artwork, etc.) that had to be recouped as well as the production costs of the music. But if you look at music in terms of the advertising world, you see music in a different light.
If you’re selling a soap product for instance, the production for a commercial to broadcast on television or the radio is a trivial cost. It’s the total ad buy (the agency purchasing the radio or television time for the sponsor) where most money is spent. Even then, it’s considered part of the marketing budget of the product, which might be about 3% of total sales.
In M30, if you consider the music production costs as part of the marketing budget in the same way as a national product, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Since the music is considered the major marketing tool for an artist, it should be considered a free product, a giveaway, an enticement. Give it away on your website, place it on the Torrents for P2P, let your fans freely distribute it. It’s all OK. Since most millennial’s feel that music should be free and have lived in a culture where that’s mostly so, don’t fight it. Go with the flow! Just as it was during the last 60 years, the real money in the music business is made elsewhere anyway.
Plus, just because you’re giving it away doesn’t mean that you can’t charge for it either at the same time or sometime in the future. There are numerous cases where sales have actually decreased for an artist’s iTunes tracks when the free tracks have been eliminated.
One is Corey Smith. After 6 years, Corey’s has built his gross revenue to about $4.2 million and free music has been the basic building block of his tribe. You can buy his tracks on iTunes (he’s sold over 400,000 so far), but when his management experimented by taking the free tracks down from his website, his iTunes sales actually went down as well! The free music allows potential fans to try Corey out. If they email and ask for a song that’s not available for free, he just emails it back to them. He’s tending his tribe!
Of course, you can charge for your music with box sets, compilations, special editions and other value-added offerings. But the initial releases for an artist on any level (except for the already-established star) must be free to build a buzz.
Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.