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Maximum DIY exposes proven real-world career development strategies and marketing techniques, while exploring new and innovative ways that the DIY artist can connect, market and promote themselves on the world stage

01 January 2010


Brave new world
Record labels look to diversification as a way to stay viable

Bryan Birtles /

Record companies are built upon a suspect business model that runs rampant in the media business. Instead of each release making a modest profit, record companies—not to mention movie studios, book publishing houses and a myriad of other, similar industries—have long relied on the massive profits of one huge hit to cover the losses of a series of flops.

This model, which endured for decades, finally became untenable in the late-'90s when file-sharing services allowed consumers to get music for free, and cheap and plentiful CD burners allowed people to manufacture their own discs. Services such as the infamous Napster clogged the networks of college dorms and the suburbs, profits declined steeply at major and independent labels, and the music industry faced a brave new world.

At first, the record companies fought back in the courts. A series of high-profile lawsuits were filed by the Recording Industry Association of America on behalf of the rights holders whom the association represents. These suits had the wrong effect: instead of scaring downloaders into submission, they often brought scorn from music fans as the most high profile of them involved the well-funded industry organization attempting to gain restitution from minors, college students and other sympathetic defendants. By late 2008, the RIAA announced it would cease to bring lawsuits against illegal downloaders and instead would attempt to work with Internet Service Providers to stem the tide.

But nothing has yet worked to get record sales back to anywhere near where they were in 1999, just prior to the atomic bomb that Napster and other P2P file-sharing networks dropped on the industry. In the meantime, labels are changing the way they do business, in an effort to keep their heads above water. Massive layoffs at the major labels and the shuttering of smaller ones has been the effect of the rapid changes to the way the industry operates, but these changes raise the question, "What is the state of the modern record label today?"

Diversification has become the buzzword in the music industry as labels attempt to capitalize on the elements of the music business that weren't their province even 10 years ago. The increased proliferation of what are known as "360 deals" in the last decade has changed the way business is done. Instead of an artist employing a different company for his or her music publishing, distribution and management, a single company will now take care of all of those elements, in addition to merchandising and concert promotion—two lucrative elements that are not subject to downloading.
"The physical product has definitely dwindled ... I'd say 50 percent over the past 10 years," explains John Dunham, promotion and marketing at Universal Music Canada. "That said, we're still realizing ways to get the bottom line taken care of through legal downloads, ring tones for phones, ring tunes. We're also branching out into merchandising and doing merch for quite a few of our domestic acts. We have 360 deals with bands like Stereos where we're covering everything from the distribution of CDs to management to booking. Those are all avenues we're taking to hopefully stay above water."
The 360 deal is an endeavour that is gaining steam amongst major labels, and the business model is working both ways, with labels starting management and production arms, and production companies—the highest profile perhaps being Live Nation—creating record labels, but having a holistic structure has long been the province of smaller independent labels like the Toronto-based Six Shooter Records.

Founded as a label by Shauna de Cartier in 2000, Six Shooter got its start as a way to put out records for the Luke Doucet-fronted band Veal—a band managed by de Cartier—which was having trouble finding the right label. Though Veal broke up, Six Shooter's first official release would prove to be Doucet's debut solo album, 2001's Aloha, Manitoba, and Doucet continues to be managed through Six Shooter's management arm. De Cartier sees plenty of advantages for both artist and label to take a holistic approach to an artist's career.

"The pie has shrunk so much in music that in order to be a priority [with a label] you need a company that works with you on a holistic level on your entire career," de Cartier says. "If you have a label that's not your management company they'll give you a push around the time the record comes out and that push might last six weeks or three months but that doesn't last for the full length of an album cycle—it might be two years until you put out another record. When those functions are intertwined, a manager works with you all the time—there's no break, it's just constant. So when you go on your third tour of a record, if your management company and label is the same, chances are that label will support that tour through marketing initiatives, whereas if they were separate companies it would be very rare for a label to support that third tour—or even a second tour."

But the changes that the Internet has wrought can't simply be fixed by labels moving into new areas of the music business—something has to be done to change the fact that sales of recorded music are too low for the industry to properly function. Sales being what they are permeates aspects of the industry that consumers think little about, and those sales have an ongoing effect on the viability of an artist not just in the short term but over the length of their career.

Dunham cites chart positions as one of the things being affected by the function of the Internet in the dissemination of new music. Whereas he used to be the one bringing a hot new single to a radio station, that station may have found the single on the Internet months ago in a leaked version and added it to the playlist immediately—an act that has a catastrophic effects on the way the industry functions.

"If radio station X adds a single from an artist two or three months earlier than we were targeting, it affects the national chart number. What we focus on is getting all the radio stations to add the single at the same time so the chart number goes up steadily, and those chart numbers affect [how] the next single from the artist [does on the charts]," he says, shedding light on the domino effect that bad chart numbers caused by the sporadic addition of a single to radio playlists can have on an album—such as record stores stocking less of it and its sales coming out flat. "If the record comes out and it only charted at a low number, people think it won't sell well."

The idea that getting into the promotional side of the music industry will save labels is also suspect as a long-term strategy as sales dwindle across genres and generations, and artists that haven't been on the road in years are forced back onto it because their back catalogues no longer generate the income they're used to—which has the effect of crowding the marketplace and stretching consumer dollars.
"The live sphere is very competitive; you have all the old people dusting off their rhinestones and getting out there and everybody having to tour," says de Cartier. "People say, 'Oh it's fine to steal music because you can always tour,' but not everybody can tour. People get sick, or they have babies, or they die and then what about their families? Touring is one aspect of making money but it shouldn't be the only one."

Copyright laws in Canada don't currently prohibit file sharing, but a new law on the table has de Cartier hopeful that things will change sooner rather than later—even if, as she notes, the proposed law only prohibits file sharing and doesn't contain any provisions for penalties for misuse of intellectual property.

"I think we're in the dark period of the wild wild west and I don't know how long it's going to take and I don't know if me and all the independent companies like me will be able to survive through this time," she says.

In the meantime, smaller local and regional labels continue to pop up, lured by the lower cost of the means of production afforded by bedroom studios and the increased competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, aided by globalization. These much smaller labels are incredibly successful on their own terms—terms which include doing what they do strictly for the love of music, with no hope of making a living off the music industry.

Founded in the Summer of 2004, Pop Echo Records remains one of Edmonton's best-known boutique labels, home to local artists such as Outdoor Miners, the Whitsundays and Tim Gilbertson. The label focuses on limited-run projects by bands it loves as well as quirky special editions through its newest venture, 99 sevens, a collaboration with music blog Weird Canada which sees an artist release a seven-inch in a limited run of 99 copies, available at one show only.

Label founders Travis Dieterman, Graham Johnson and Jeremy Franchuk started Pop Echo hoping it would resemble Factory Records in terms of its artist-friendly ethos and its success, but quickly found that starting a mega-successful label is not as easy as putting out what they thought was the hottest track on the planet and watching it sell out. Still, explains Dieterman, the label has paid for itself for six years and though the founders all have day jobs, the label provides satisfaction for its owners in addition to its value as a place to hear music not being put out by anyone else.

"We've never taken pay from it in six years. At first that was, of course, the plan, but it just wasn't a feasible thing. We went into it having no idea at all about running a record label. We thought we would put out the records, they'd all sell out and it would be easy money, but that's not so," he laments. "Starting out we thought we could be a national player, compete with Mint and Paper Bag and all those kinds of labels, but we just don't have the resources or the money to compete with that. In the last two years we've really shifted the focus of the label from trying to do big, national releases to just doing smaller, more regionally-focused releases."

That shift has meant that in the last couple of years Pop Echo has done considerably better than when it started out—though the dream of being the next Factory Records is a distant one. Still, for the three founders, the satisfaction of putting out good looking releases by artists they love is enough for them to keep going.

The majors and larger independents don't have the same luxury, however, and diversification remains the best chance for survival—apart from a sea change in both copyright laws and consumer attitudes towards intellectual property. De Cartier's hopes that this is simply a dark period for the music industry, that artists and managers and labels will soon emerge into a new dawn, remain tempered by the near-constant shuttering of labels and record stores, as well as the fact governments move slowly and change won't come tomorrow.

"The Internet is revolutionizing how we live. We're still figuring that out—it's still in its adolescence. I think as a society we will figure it out," she says, but adds, "I'm not holding my breath." V

Warning: Some of These Stats Are Really, Really Scary...

As the music industry stumbles into a totally new place, the number of artists actually selling serious quantities is astonishingly low. At New Music Seminar on Tuesday, Tommy Silverman and Eric Garland rolled through a tirade of stats showing the extreme challenges that marketers and artists. Sure, the album itself is waning, but these stats are still worth examining (Nielsen Soundscan is the data source).

  • Albums that sold at least one copy in 2009: 98,000
  • Albums selling more than 10,000 units in 2009: 1,319
  • Albums selling more than 10,000 units in 2008: 1,515
  • Albums selling more than 250,000 units in 2009: 85
  • Albums selling more than 250,000 units in 2001: 214
  • Albums selling more than 5,000 units in 2009: 2,058
  • Albums selling under than 1,000 units in their first year of release: 92,601
  • Number of albums selling less than 100 copies in 2009: 81,000

The Truth About Management In The New Digital World

Anybody who tells you they've got a grip on today's landscape, that they know everything, what's truly going on, is full of shit. I doubt anybody even knows all the sites name-checked in this video.

But that's the point...It's overwhelming!

Meanwhile you DIY artists out there, never forget most people start these sites with money in mind. They say they want to help the artist, but after they're helped first. Which is why they suck and so often don't get traction. Because the concept is lame. The concept is how can I get rich? Whereas if the concept is about the art, then you truly have got a chance of getting rich.

In the end the truth comes out...

The Music Must Be Good and It's All About One Fan At A Time.

Courtesy of Bob Lefsetz

Taking D2F directly to the fan!

This performance of Atomic Tom was filmed unannounced on Friday October 8, 2010 aboard the New York City B Train, over the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn and edited from 3 iPhone cameras. All footage is performed 100% live and executed in one take.

A Few Things To Remember About Record Distribution For The DIY Artist

  • Distributors get records into retail stores and online stores, and record labels get customers into retail stores and to visit online music retailers through promotion and marketing tactics. 
  • Make sure there is a market for your style of music. Prove it to distributors by showing them how many records you have sold through live sales, internet sales, and any other alternative methods.
  • Be prepared to sign a written contract with your distributor because there are no ‘handshake deals’ anymore.
  • Distributors want ‘exclusive’ agreements with the labels they choose to work with. They usually want to represent you exclusively. Exception is online distributors such as, iTunes, CDBaby etc.
  • You will sell your product to a distributor for close to 50% of the retail list price. Online price for a song is set by each online store.
  • When searching for a distributor find out what labels they represent, and talk to some of those labels to find out how well the distributor did getting records into the various types of retailers, both on and off-line.
  • Investigate the distributor’s financial status. Many label have closed down in recent years, and you cannot afford to get attached to a distributor that may not be able to pay its invoices.
  • For traditional distribution find out if the distributor has a sales staff , and how large it is. Then get to know the sales reps. 
  • What commitment will the distributor make to help get your records into stores. Ask them.
  • Is the distributor truly a national distributor, or only a regional distributor with ambitions to be an national distributor. Many large chain stores will only work with national distributors.
  • Expect the distributor to request that you remove any product you have on consignment in stores so that they can be the one to service retailers.
  • Make sure that your distributor has the ability to help you setup various retail promotions such as: coop advertising (where you must be prepared to pay the costs of media ads for select retailers), in-store artist appearances, in-store listening station programs, and furnishing POP’s (point of purchase posters and other graphics).
  • Be aware that as a new label you will have to offer a traditional distributor 100% on returns of your product. 
  • You must bear all the costs of any distribution and retail promotions.
  • Be able to furnish the distributor with hundreds of ‘Distributor One Sheets’ (Attractively designed summary sheets describing your promotion and marketing commitments. Include barcodes, list price, picture of the album cover, and catalog numbers of your product too).
  • Traditional distributors may ask for hundreds of free promotional copies of your release to give to the buyers at the retail stores.
  • Make sure all promotional copies have a hole punched in the barcode, and that they are not shrink-wrapped. This will prevent any unnecessary returns of your product.
  • Create a relationship that is a true partnership between your label and the distributor.
  • Keep the distributor updated on any and all promotion and marketing plans and results, as they develop.
  • Be well financed. Trying to work with distributors without a realistic budget to participate in promotional opportunities would be a big mistake.
  • Your distributor will only be as good as your marketing plans to sell the record. Don’t expect them to do your work for you, remember all they do is get records into the stores.
  • Read the trades, especially Billboard for weekly news on the health of the industry, and/or the status of your distributor.
  • Work your product relentlessly on as many of the Four Fronts as possible…commercial and non commercial airplay, internet airplay and sales campaigns, on and offline publicity ideas, and touring…eternally touring!


Recently, the UK government passed The Digital Economy Act which included many, perhaps draconian, measures to combat online music piracy (including withdrawing broadband access for persistent pirates).

Much was proclaimed about how these new laws would protect musicians and artists revenue and livelihoods.

But how much money do musicians really get paid in this new digital marketplace?

5 Social Media Trends Artists Need To Understand

For musicians, proper marketing and networking using social media can be tough. The possibilities are seemingly endless and as such, musicians are likely to spread themselves too thin. But not all forms of social media will give you the big pay-off. In fact, some methods are a complete waste of time for musicians looking to grow their fanbase, sell more albums, tracks and tickets, and who are ultimately achieve enough success to sustain a viable career within the industry.

It is very important for musicians not to get caught up in the semantics of every new thing, yet is just as crucial to follow and understand the current trends of social media so that their efforts are not in the wrong place. Why is it important to follow the trends? Simply put, the bigger the trend, the more likely it will be that you see quicker and more significant advancements within.

The following are 5 current trends in social media that all musicians NEED to know about. Not every trend will apply to every artist, but not understanding and assessing if they are right for you is a wasted opportunity:

1) Fan-Funding Campaigns:

Finding the funding for an upcoming project can be an extremely difficult process, as more than ever before, labels are only looking to invest in artists and bands with proven high-volume sales records. Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, has stated that the 10,000 units (albums) sold mark is called the 'obscurity line' - upon this achievement, you are no longer seen as an obscure artist within the industry, and it is not until this point that labels will take an interest in you.

This new trend in social media is one that absolutely every musician should take a look into. Fan-funding (or crowdfunding) is the simple concept of empowering the fans to raise money for you- to FUND your project. Typically this is done through an incentive system, in which the artist will set a monetary goal, and has a set amount of time to reach said goal. There are then different levels of rewards that vary based on the amount a fan contributes towards the project.

A fan-funding campaign is an excellent way for emerging musicians to create a grassroots marketing campaign around their next passion project. But be forewarned, this takes both significant amounts of time and effort in preparation and execution. Most fan funding platforms, such as Kickstarter, Pledge Music and Rockethub, require that the entire goal be hit before the artist sees any of the money.

2) Metrics:

The internet has made it easier than ever for artists to make effective, informed decisions about who, when and where to target their audience. But a bunch of analytics/ insights start-up companies have set out to make this process even easier and effective, by giving artists the ability to obtain actionable data about their music and their fans.

Each start up offers a slightly different variation, but the goal is to supply artists with analytical data based on fanbase growth, fan engagement and/ or online music streams across multiple platforms. Many of the services can even track the geolocation of the plays and/or fans helping artists understand where their fanbase is the strongest. Tip: This is HUGE for when you are preparing your first tour. Some of the most popular music analytical services are:

- Band Metrics
- Next Big Sound
- GigsWiz
- Music Metric
- RockDex

3) Social Currency:

Social currency is the evolved idea of giving music away for free. The myth that giving away music for free would garner new fans has been (somewhat) busted, as more often than not, the music will be given away, yet the new 'fans' will never return. The exchange was off-balance.

With social currency, musicians create an even-exchange by 'charging' for their music through an exchange of a track or an album for a tangible return that will increase their reputation and reach, rather than their bank account. The most ideal choice of social currency is to exchange music for an email address (and location if possible -this will come into play next), as it gives artists a direct connection to their fans. Bandcamp does an excellent job of facilitating this exchange for artists.

Other forms of social currency that have recently become popular are tweeting for a download, and a similar idea of a Facebook wall post for a download. Both of these options have the pitfalls of being less beneficial for the artist in a long term sense, and are unfortunately seen by many as just a new form of spam. A few popular tweet-for-a-download services are Tweet For A Track and Pay With A Tweet.

4) Geolocation Marketing:

In the past year, the use of geolocation has become one of the most important advancements in social media. Through services such as Four Square, Gowalla and more recently, Facebook Places, users can 'check in', leaving an update focused on their current location rather than their current activities. While most geolocation based social networks include some form of gaming component, rewarding long-term use and excessive exploration with unlock-able badges and the like, it would be easy to overlook the benefits that these services offer to musicians.

Two of the most popular mailing list services, Fan Bridge and Mail Chimp, have both included a geolocation feature called Geo-Targeting, which allows artists to send out location specific announcements/ updates. In other words, if you have a show in NYC next week, you can send out an announcement of the show or special offer to those on your mailing list who are located within and around the NYC area.

Geolocation marketing also gives artists new opportunities for fan engagement. The idea that an artist or even the fans can now 'check in' when and where they arrived at a specific location creates new possibilities for the artist to engage with the fanbase through competitions (i.e. first 10 people to check in at a specific location gets a free album), scavenger hunts for free tickets, and even unannounced concerts.

5) Streaming Video:

The Youtube craze has been sweeping the emerging music community for quite some time now, but streaming video, through services such as UStream and LiveStream, is a trend that is just starting to explode. There are numerous ways that artists can use real-time streaming to offer additional value for fans, such as streaming live performances for fans who cannot attend, stream jam sessions or intimate acoustic performances from the comfort of their own home, or even engage directly with fans through a real-time question and answer session or even a fan request performance.

By Jonothan Ostrow of Hypebot

The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online

You’re always hearing that the music business has changed. That’s not quite true. In fact, it’s changing – and that’s quite a different thing.

Facing that change, and negotiating it as it happens, is one of the biggest challenges for independent music businesses. The best way to navigate in such interesting times is to really understand what’s going on around you, so you can adapt and respond appropriately.

You don’t have to be a computer whiz – you just have to understand some basic principles. I reckon there are about 20 of them. If you understand these, and apply their principles, you’re off to a good start in the new media environment.

1. Don’t Believe the Hype:

Sandi Thom, the Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen are not super famous, rich and successful just because of MySpace, and nor because they miraculously drew a crowd of thousands to their homegrown webcast. PR, traditional media, record labels and money were all involved.

2. Hear / Like / Buy:
It’s the golden rule. People hear music, then they like music, then they buy music. It’s the only order it can happen in. If you try to do it in any other sequence, it just won’t work.

3. Opinion Leaders Rule
We know the importance of radio and press. There are now new opinion leaders who will tell your story with credibility. You need to find out who they are — or better yet, become one of them.

4. Customize:
A tailored solution at best, or at the very least a bespoke kitset approach to your web presence is crucial. An off-the-shelf number will almost guarantee your anonymity.

5. The Long Tail:
Chris Anderson has pretty much proved that the future of retail is selling less of more. Put everything online. Expand your catalogue. You will make more money selling a large number of niche products than you will selling a few hits.

6. Web 2.0:
Forget being a destination — become an environment. Your website is not a brochure — it’s a place where people gather and connect with you and with each other.

7. Connect:
Your website is not a promotional strategy. Learn how to tell a story, and learn how to tell it in an appropriate fashion for web communication. Think about how that could be translated for both new media and mainstream PR outlets.

8. Cross-promote:
Your online stuff is not a replacement for your offline stuff, and nor does it exist independently of it. Figure out how to make the two genuinely intersect.

9. Fewer Clicks:
This is especially true if you want somebody to part with their money. If I have to fill in a form, navigate through three layers of menu and then enter a password, I don’t want your music any more.

10. Professionalism:
If this is your business, you need to be businesslike. Treat your online profile the same way you would treat any of your business communication.

11. The Death of Scarcity:
The economics of the internet is fundamentally different to the economics of the world of shelves and limited stock. You can give away a million copies of your record in order to sell a thousand.

12. Distributed Identity:
From a PR perspective, you are better off scattering yourself right across the internet, than you are staying put in one place. Memberships, profiles, comments, and networks are incredibly helpful.

13. SEO:
You need to understand how Search Engine Optimisation works, and how you can maximise your chances of being found. Be both findable — and searchable.

14. Permission:Your message must be welcome, relevant and personally useful. Letting people choose to engage with you is a far more effective targetting strategy than spamming them.

15. RSS:
Provide it, use it and teach it. RSS is the single most important aspect of your site. Treat it as such - but remember it’s still new for most people. Help your audience come to grips with it.

16. Accessibility:
Not everyone has a fast computer or high speed access. Not everybody has the gift of sight. Make everything you do online accessible. It’s easy to do, it’s important, and it stops you from turning people away at the door.

17. Reward & Incentivise:
Everything is now available all of the time. Give people a reason to consider you as part of their economic engagement with music.

18. Frequency is everything:
Repeat business is one of the most successful commercial strategies in the cultural industries. You want people to come back? Give them something to come back to that they haven’t seen before.

19. Make it viral:
Whatever you do, make it something that people will want to send to other people. Your best marketing is word of mouth, because online, word of mouth is exponentially more powerful.

20. Forget product — sell relationship:
The old model of music business is dominated by the sale of an individual artefact for a set sum of money. The new model is about starting an ongoing economic relationship with a community of fans.

Why Piracy Actually Does Affect Concert Prices...

"so if you want ticket prices to go down stop stealing music."
@irvingazoff, Aug 3rd.

Skip the Twitter fireworks and ridiculousness for one second. And there's plenty ahead. But Irving's opening Twitter salvo makes a good point. Because the concert industry is suffering partly because of piracy and its resulting havoc on recording sales.

Turns out that the seemingly-separate subdivisions of the music industry are actually quite interrelated. Often scarily so, and the sinkhole happening in recordings is actually dragging areas like publishing and even touring with it. This is a body with highly interconnected organs and appendages.

Once upon a time, the thinking was that artists would simply make their money on the road, by delivering a unique and controllable experience. Forget about the recording, that was so easily duplicated, stolen, and devalued. But the live performance! That's where the unique, one-of-a-kind experience happens, the memory of a lifetime. So artists were urged to simply give away the recording, jump in the van, and enjoy the fruits of a tweaked model.

Except, every artist embraced this advice. And, artists started leaning disproportionately on touring to generate more and more revenue. This is partly why they demand such a huge cut from the ticket price!

Oh, and then the Great Recession put the accelerator on the entire mess. Artists needed more cash, but fans suddenly had much, much less. Get the picture?

And this is not just about the biggest touring artists, Irving's roster. Labels used to give developing artists touring support, to work the chops and stimulate local followings. And, smaller independent or unsigned acts could stuff themselves into a van and struggle from gig to gig.

Actually, that of course still happens, but a critical moneymaker is now subtracted from the equation. Namely, the CD. Yes, it turns out that the album freefall has had a huge impact on merch table revenues. Once a small-but-meaningful purse for otherwise starving artists, the decimation of in-venue CD sales has switched the touring math considerably.

So, is piracy responsible for higher ticket prices? Like most things in this industry, the answer is quite complicated. But the devaluation of recordings is factoring into the current concert crisis more than it would seem.

But outside of a time machine, the solutions are limited. The file-swapping kitty has been out of the bag since 1999, and its milk long since spilled. This is not an issue Live Nation can solve, but ticket prices (and service fees) must be adjusted nonetheless. That's the market today, and that's what Irving and Live Nation can actually control.

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher,

The Great Music Marketing Void...

Artists have enough hammers and nails to build a mansion. But where are the architects, the developers, the people who used to sit in marketing and A&R development departments at the labels? The answer is they've been fired, went back to law school, switched to a different industry, or are now just listening to music for fun.

Welcome to the great music marketing void. Mike Doernberg at ReverbNation got in front of artists recently at New Music Seminar and doled out endless pearls of wisdom. This is one of the experts, but Doernberg can't hold your hand the whole way. In fact, Doernberg himself calls DIY 'crap,' as bluntly as that.

And doesn't that say it all? The guy who would love nothing more than to create a magical marketing button is telling artists that ReverbNation is simply a distribution tool, not a marketing brain. And that was echoed throughout the event.

Ariel Hyatt may have been preaching "1,000 True Fans," but that sounds like one lonely lottery ticket. Instead, most regarded DIY as an early-stage vehicle out of abject obscurity, at best. A more developed career involves serious marketing pros, real resources, and sharing the resulting profits with musical and marketing partners alike. Everyone is taking a risk, and putting a lot on the line, and mostly likely, suffering along the way. And even then, the chances of serious, sustaining success are slim.

Say what you will about the label system. But labels - both major, major-distributed indie, or pure-play indie - specialized in developing marketable artists and songs, and then selling the resulting content (mostly albums) for a profit (imagine that). They were critical to the marketing ecosystem, and created downstream successes for everyone else to enjoy.

Of course, there are a million problems with a label contract - big or small - but at least there was a division of labor and an infrastructure for making an impact. There was investment. And every so often, it really worked. At its best, a good label would allow an artist to write music, tour for free, and enhance the lifestyle and imaging aspects that are oftentimes critical to connecting with audiences. In other words, specialize.

But who are these marketing pros today? Well, there are actually plenty of brilliant people who are trying to make sense of it all, including managers, remaining label people, and even publishing groups. There are incredibly smart people trying to re-engineer the upside-down economics of the modern-day music industry. And, trying to pluck that rare, talented artist and actually create a real success story.

And what a strange time to be one of those talented artists! On one hand, direct-to-fan platforms offer the ability to reach out and touch fans. How liberating! But typically, the discussion ends with a paltry check from CD Baby - or ReverbNation, TuneCore, Bandcamp, or whomever. And this includes seriously talented groups. There's just too much competition, too much noise, too much media saturation and distraction.

But there's also a business rebuilding itself, and slowly figuring out how to develop serious artist careers. This is not about sticking it to the man, uploading content onto iTunes or playing a corner coffeehouse. This is about rebuilding an entire marketing infrastructure, a totally new set of best practices, and making the numbers make sense again. And for those willing to struggle through the disruption, this is also about serious opportunity - to fill the great music marketing void.

Paul Resnikoff, Publisher @

Make A 360 Deal With Yourself

As we have seen, there are many different ways to make money in music today. In the past few years, much has been said and written about the 360 degree deal, where an artist/writer enters into a business partnership with a company and gives the company lots of rights to recordings, songs, merchandise, and touring, usually in exchange for a larger advance.

My advice to you is to make a 360 degree deal with yourself and find ways to generate revenue from your writing, performing, brand, activities, and interests that suit you and what you stand for. DO NOT license these rights away to any one company, even if it waives a huge advance in your face. You do not want to be dependent on any one entity for your livelihood, other than yourself. If you make the 360 degree deal with yourself, you can then selectively find the right partner to help you exploit the various revenue streams that you have by focusing on each stream individually to maximize its potential.

The other reason to make a 360 deal with yourself is that you want to integrate the marketing and promotional efforts across all revenue streams. The artist/writer and their manager should coordinate the marketing efforts to maximize revenue and to gain the broadest possible exposure from advertising, publicity, public relations, direct marketing, interactive marketing, etc.

The new 360 deal:
  • Own your masters and publishing
  • Purchase the services you need
  • Use and integrated marketing approach
  • Create multiple revenue opportunities
  • Control your career

Learn more at Music Power Network

What is the Artist Manager’s Role in Today’s “D.I.Y” era?

D.I.Y. / Do It Yourself.

For many independent artists, the D.I.Y. option is chosen either by design (because they are perfectly happy and capable of doing things without a manager or label) or by default (because they are unable to attract the attention of a manager or label). Either way, artists have lots of help getting things under way.

In this D.I.Y era, dozens of fan relationship management resources like Reverbnation and FanBridge, among others, are marketed to artists as tools that enable them to engage with fans in a more direct and meaningful way. Sites like GigMaven and Sonicbids enable artists to pitch directly to venues and book their own tours. Resources like Sellaband, Pledge Music, Kickstarter and others enable artists to raise money for recordings, videos, tours, and more. Music libraries and licensing agents (like those found at Music Library Report) offer assistance with music placements in Film & TV productions. Digital distributors like Orchard, CD Baby, Tunecore, IODA and others offer musicians a means to distribute their music directly to fans via iTunes, etc. Social media networks (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc) make it possible for artists to handle publicity duties themselves.

So, with all these resources available to artists, what exactly is the artist manager’s role in today’s D.I.Y era? With fewer artists interested in record deals today, a managers’ role has evolved away from choosing which labels/agents/publishers/attorneys to work with, towards finding ways to best help artists increase their fan base and generate more income.

The manager’s role in the D.I.Y age is less that of an advocate and cheerleader, and more that of an analyst and advisor. The division of labor in the artist/manager relationship is for artists to concentrate on writing and recording songs, rehearsing and performing live shows, and growing and engaging their fan base; while managers analyze data and make strategic recommendations based on the information gathered.

Using resources (often in combination) such as Band Metrics, RockDex, Big Champagne, Next Big Sound, Band Camp and others, artist managers analyze data to help figure out things like:

  • which of the artists’ products sell the most (downloads, physical products, custom items, tickets, subscriptions, etc), and which sell the least and perhaps should be discontinued
  • what new products can be added and which new revenue streams can be exploited
  • which pay models work the best (fixed price, pay-what-you-want, donations, bundles, etc)
  • which campaigns are the most effective (virtual street teams, newsletters, videos, chats, vlogs, blogs, etc) and which ones generate the most feedback and results
  • which calls-to-action are the most effective (e.g., sign up to the mailing list for a free download, pre-order a limited edition, autographed CD, etc)
  • what trends or patterns are developing, and how to best take advantage of them
  • which platforms/widgets are most useful and relevant for a particular artist (review demos and sign up for trials to find the best fit)
  • which songs, videos, images, t-shirt designs, etc, resonate with fans the most
  • who the artists’ “super fans” are, and how to leverage that relationship to generate more sales
  • which questions to include in polls to figure out what the artists’ fans want
  • which ways do fans most wish to engage and interact with the artist
  • what actionable information can be extracted from comments and feedback from fans and listeners
  • where are fans clustered and what are the best ways to route a tour
  • what does the data reveal that will result in an increase in sales and income
  • what are the true costs of the artist’s operations (i.e., what is being earned vs. what is being spent)
And much more.

While artists can perform many of these tasks themselves (and indeed many do), doing all this alone along with writing, rehearsing, recording, performing music, touring, and interacting with fans will leave them very little time to do much else, and will often cause them to burn out and/or get discouraged when things (as they very often do) don’t go as planned. The managers’ role is to do much of the “dry” analytical work that helps to chart a course for the artist to take, while leaving the artist to create and perform music and engage with the fans.

As an artist manager, however, it is important to keep in mind that there is more to the “business” side of music than what these resources alone offer, and while all these resources, widgets and apps help to reveal a strategy; they are not in and of themselves THE strategy. It is up to the manager to have a deep understanding of how things work in the music business, and along with access to the best available resources, formulate the appropriate strategy for the artist to follow.

A manager’s role today must be to contribute more to the artist’s career and financial bottom line than the artist can do alone or with the help of fans, friends, and family members. Without such a contribution, the managers’ role will fade into insignificance while artists do it all themselves (even if they don’t necessarily do it all alone).


Jeremy Rwakaara is author of the Artist Management Manual, director of the Artist Management Resource, and founder of the Indie Managers Association.


©Copyright 2010 Jeremy Rwakaara

DYI is not DTF, and DIY has its limitations

This week's New Music Seminar was an absolute overload of information for attendees, a large percentage of whom were aspiring artists. The tips were flowing strong, and those taking notes probably have a year's worth of information to sift through. In some ways, "you had to be there," but there were some important themes that should not be missed - by artists, labels, marketing teams, managers, and everyone in-between.

Here are five to ponder...

(1) DYI is not DTF, and DIY has its limitations.

DIY - or 'do it yourself' marketing for the uninitiated - was widely viewed as an early startup approach during the sessions. ReverbNation CEO Mike Doernberg called pure DIY "crap," though at the earliest stages it can help an artist get some initial traction. "The DIY problem is that people think it's DIY for life - it's not... you cannot do it yourself," said Steven Van Zandt. "All the best records ever made were made by an army of people."

By contrast, DTF, or direct-to-fan, is highly related but ultimately something different. The marketing team surrounding Amanda Palmer, for example, is going direct-to-fan. But Amanda is not doing it all by herself.

(2) Consider Consolidation.

When looking for a direct-to-fan partner, consider the advantages of putting multiple services under one roof. The reason is that different platforms and initiatives are frequently interrelated, and harder to analyze independently. For example, a package that includes analytics, store distribution and email management can provide lots of coordinated intelligence that would be harder to understand independently.

So, the one-off widget can be isolating. Then again, more developed teams and labels can easily 'roll their own' and do the analysis and strategy on their own. But someone is coordinating and analyzing the bigger picture, not swimming in the flotsam and jetsam of disparate partners and services.

(3) Control Is Good: Think More Data, Better Cuts, More Flexible Pricing.

Artists have more control than ever over transactions with their fans. But, the preferred transactions are ones that give artists the most data, the best percentages and the greatest pricing flexibility. So, while artists are wise to put their content on iTunes, the better sale happens on the artist site.

(4) Quality Is the Beginning of the Conversation...

You've heard this one before, though it was the source of considerable discussion at the event. Amidst all the marketing tips, platforms, and strategies, the assumption throughout is that the music is something people really want to listen to.

There was a wide range of opinion on the matter. The definition of quality is incredibly subjective, though most agreed that the real judges are fans. Either they're reacting and nodding their heads, or they're not. And once the judgement is made that the music is great, fans become evangelists as a rule.

But what resonates? Just Blaze urged artists to focus on originality, while making sure all the creative juices are still accessible to audiences. He also urged artists to "focus on one lane," and focus on their strongest genres or styles.

Steven Van Zandt told artists to focus a lot more on their creative process and musical chops. That means putting activities like arranging, composing, and performing before recording and instant-uploading. Little Steven also urged artists to dig into the roots of their music - 50s and 60s for rock n' roll, early 80s for hip-hop - and to work out the kinks at a smaller venue. "The closer you get to the roots, the better your expression will be," Van Zandt said.

(5) Consider "FQ," or the "F*&k-ability Quotient"

So who won the NMS band competition? Hotspur, a group of great-looking guys with lots of sex appeal. Or, as Kelly Cutrone referred to it, "FQ" for or the "F*&k-ability Quotient". "Hotspur has FQ in spades," Cutrone quipped to the delight of the crowd.

Sounds hilarious, but Cutrone correctly noted that some of the most successful acts in history - from the Rolling Stones to the Jonas Brothers - appealed to girls based on great looks and on-stage charisma. So what was that about quality again?

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