01 January 2010

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.

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