Thursday, February 11, 2010

10 Music Marketing Ideas

Here are 10 music marketing ideas from the Music 3.0 guidebook. It’s easier to sell your music if you add extra value to it, so it helps to think outside the box when it comes to distributing your music. Thanks to Bruce Houghton of the great music blog Hypebot for numbers 7 through 10.

1) Develop a package - This could mean anything from a CD and a vinyl album, to a digital download and album with all alternative mixes, to a boxed set of CD’s or anything in-between (Trent Reznor’s Ghosts I-IV is a great example). The idea is to go beyond just the typical CD and digital offerings.

2) Sequential numbering - Numbering a physical product (for example; "#5 of 1000") gives it the feeling of exclusivity. The product becomes a special edition and a must-have for the true fan.

3) Tie it to merchandise - Offer a physical product that contains the code for a free download of your album. Mos Def was so successful with the T-shirt release of The Ecstatic that Billboard magazine even began counting it as a music release on their charts. Other artists have sold their music via codes on such items as golf balls, bandanas and even canned food!

4) Release a “double-sided” digital single - Rhino Record's digital releases celebrating 60 years of the 45 RPM single set a fine example for this format. For between $1.49 and $1.99, Rhino provided the original hit song, its B side (the flip side of the vinyl record) and the original artwork. You can do the same by providing two songs for price of one - an A and a B side.

5) Release on an old alternative format - We’ve seen some artists (The Decemberists Hazards of Love come to mind) release a vinyl-only physical product to great success. Cheap Trick did it on the old 8-track format from the 60’s, and some bands have even recently released on cassette tape. Releasing on a older format can be good as a publicity tool (as long as everyone else isn’t doing it) and who knows, maybe you can start a trend?

6) Release on a new alternative format - A new alternative format that’s getting some traction is flash memory, or the common USB memory stick. Once again, Trent Reznor met with great viral success by planting unmarked memory sticks in bathrooms at Nine Inch Nail’s concerts, and Sony even released the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the format. Everybody uses these things so you’re bound to get at least a look, which you can’t always say about other formats.

7) Three Sides - Offer a song in an early studio version, the final mix, and then captured live.

8) Radical Mixes - Offer two or three very different mixes of the same song, perhaps even done by the fans.

9) Two Sides of (Your City) - Two different bands each contribute a track to a series chronicling your local scene.

10) “Artist X” Introduces _____ - Add a track by your favorite new artist/band along with one of yours. This is similar to a gig trade-out with another band that many bands use as a way to play in new venues. The idea is that the band you feature will also feature you on their release as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Artist And Google Buzz

You might've heard about the recently introduced Google Buzz, a social network add-on to Google's G-Mail. While half the Web wonders why in the world Google would want to get into social networking and thinks it a bad idea, the other half is intrigued (it's still in beta so not many have been able to actually play with it so far).

I personally think that Buzz will provide a great opportunity for the artist who's a practitioner of Music 3.0, and now is the time to get in on the ground floor. Here's why:

1) Buzz seems to offer much of what Facebook and Twitter currently provide, only better in many ways (see the video below).

2) Buzz could be a game-changer in terms of decreasing some of the time that the artist currently needs to dedicate to social media management, so many apps are integrated.

3) Because it's all tied to your G-mail account,  Buzz can make it a lot easier to integrate your social media with your mailing list with your rich media (once again, see the video below).

Google has fallen way behind on the social front and as a result, they're about to throw their overpowering resources at this area, so it would be foolish to underestimate the consequences of ignoring Buzz. Wherever the app is currently deficient, Google has the means to catch up quickly. If they're really serious about social (as it looks like they are), they will become the 800 pound gorilla in the space in no time, given the number of people that already have G-mail accounts.

We'll discuss Buzz and its uses in detail in upcoming posts, but first, here's a short video introduction to just what Buzz offers.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Expensive Music Sells Slowly As Predicted

Last year when the the major labels finally got their way with variable pricing on iTunes, industry pundits were pretty unanimous about the idea being a poor one. Why increase the price of hit songs in the middle of the worst economic times since the Great Depression? Why increase the price for the hits to $1.29 when the $.99 was proven to be a workable model?

But that's not how major record labels work, who seem to have knack for doing the exact opposite of what's best for them, their artists, and their customers.

While the first month after the price increase already showed a decrease in downloads, the labels were quick with their spin, saying that revenue actually increased despite the lower sales figure. This is ultimately only a short-term business model in that revenue is not the end-all in Music 3.0. The idea is to expose the music to as many people as possible. A larger audience means more catalog sales, more concert attendance and more merch sales, so anything that lowers the sales numbers is counter-productive.

Now comes a backhanded admission by Warner Music's CEO Edgar Bronfman that the strategy was misguided, suggesting in his comments on the company's recent earnings call that if nothing else, the timing of the increase was poor. This coming on the news that iTunes digital track sales in December grew only 5%, down from the usual double digit growth even in the midst of the Christmas buying season. Bronfman also confirmed that Warner's digital sales growth had slowed to only 8% over the previous year, which was up 20% over the year before that.

Are digital music sales flattening as the market becomes mature? Yes they are and it was bound to happen. But raising the prices have appeared to accelerate the trend. It's all downhill from here until digital music subscription reaches the tipping point.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Importance Of A Short Release Cycle

If you've read my book, "Music 3.0: A Survival Guide To Making Music In the Internet Age," you know that one of the things that I recommend to artists and bands is to release music in a far more timely manner than we're used to today. In order to stay relevant to their fans, an artist must release a song or two at least every quarter (preferably every 6 to 8 weeks). This keeps the fans involved and has the added benefit of giving the fans a chance to absorb each song, instead of gravitating to only one or two when an album is released. Indeed, the days of the 2 year wait in between albums is over if an artist wants to keep his fan-base.

Now it seems that Warner Nashville has gotten the message and is now prepared to release 6 song albums on a more regular basis.  In face, Warner's is dividing Blake Shelton's "Hillbilly Bone" as a "Six Pak," a 6 song album of new material to be released on March 2 that will be followed by another six-song release in August.

Warner Music Nashville SVP of Sales and Marketing Peter Strickland told Billboard that the Six Pak will enable artists "to deliver music to [fans] on a much more regular basis at a value price package." The only thing they've not told us yet is how much the package will cost, which will be a major key to its success.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Headed For Only 3 Majors

With EMI in a death spiral due to a huge debt burden that it can't possibly pay, it looks like the 4 major labels (dubbed "The 4 Ugly Sisters" by former EMI exec Rupert Perry) will soon be 3.

If you think that the other majors are right behind EMI though, think again. Sony Music just had a great sales year thanks to Michael Jackson's untimely demise and ultimate huge boost in sales. Warner Records, for all the predicted doom and gloom (including from yours truly), is actually gaining market share and their stock price is rising, and Universal Music Group is still the king of the music world in terms of sales and ancillary income streams.

The venerable EMI was a special case among the majors in the last couple of years. Private equity investment group Terra Firma bit off more than they could financially chew at the peak of the market, thinking that if nothing else, EMI's enormous catalog would see them through. With the stock market tanking last year, major talent like Paul McCartney and Radiohead leaving in droves, and with the label's decimated staff not capable of bringing in new acts with hits, this once great and well-run label became a shell of its former self.

At this point, it looks like a long shot that EMI will survive as a label, although its enormous catalog is worth a lot of money (just not enough to allow it to prosper). Still, sometime in the near future, the major label ranks will shrink to 3.


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