Note: This article is NOT a gripe & whine session. It’s an inquiry of “what should musicians do now that the game has changed?”
- Below I will outline 12 points.
- Items 1 – 6 diagnose “the problem” with doing things the old way in the today’s environment (it’s a mismatch)
- Items 7 – 11 become solution oriented, so yes there is hope! (we have to think differently)
- Item 10 is my big AHA moment and I describe what I may do next
Yesterday, a simple discussion with my girlfriend while riding in the van turned into a brainstorming avalanche.
My girlfriend asked me “when will you make your next CD?”
I then thought:
- “YAY! It’s been 3 years since I released the last CD, I have tons of new tunes and it would be excellent to have a new CD to sell at concerts.”
- “HUH? Why should I – or any other musician – ever make another CD if it is now all consumed for free?”
- “HUH? How can I get a better return on my recordings, knowing that they will be freely distributed?”
The music world has changed thanks to Youtube, Facebook, Spotify, Itunes, and most importantly – smartphones.
I first imagined myself as the “consumer” rather than the musician.
- Would I buy a CD?
- Why would I?
- How would I listen to it?
- Is there an urgency to buy one?
And then as the musician I thought about
- What do I get in return for making a CD?
- What are people wiling to pay for it?
- What has worked for me in the recent years and given me maximal exposure / profit?
Here is a quick rundown of the “avalanche” of thoughts that came.
1. My current CD listening status (I haven’t touched a CD in years):
- I myself have not listened to a physical CD in years, and bought less than 10 CDs in the last 3 years
- I have bought a few CDs at live shows to support artists I dig – singer songwriters, fingerstyle players.
- I have been “given” a few hundred CD’s and have the best intentions to listen to them, but have not gotten around to many of them.
- I can fire up Youtube & Google and find whatever I want immediately & for free…why even bother putting a CD in?
2. My current listening setup (I have no stereo):
- I have no CD player / trad stereo hookup at all.
- I have a macbook pro that is with me when I am at my home base, but I travel with an ipad mini.
- I don’t want to overwork / break the dvd drive by putting CDs in & out of the laptop.
- Any CD I’d want to hear would go in maximum ONE TIME, be imported to itunes, sync to my ipad, and not be played repeatedly. Then again, I have limited drive space so I am choosy about imports.
- For one time listens, hey I can go to Youtube and listen for FREE.
3. There is no more “scarcity” of music if it is always available everywhere free.
The idea of “scarcity” in marketing is incredibly important. Something that is always available, 365/24/7 for FREE is not at all “scarce.”
“Scarcity refers to any limitation placed on a product or service with the goal of increasing sales through pressure placed on the consumer. The fear of missing out causes people to make the decision to buy. (you got in, where others missed out).”
The LP / cassette / CD itself was precious because only the object alone could give the musical treat. To go to a friends house & hear Led Zep required that someone owned the Led Zep LP.
All we need to do now is “think” of a song, and it’s there in full stereo for free.
Why would I pay for music I can get FREE at anytime?
4. If you don’t give away FREE music, no one will notice you. Totally weird.
To hold out & say “you must pay for my music!” will result in the following: nobody will buy, especially if they can’t have a free sample first.
But – if you want to be noticed, you have to give something away free like everyone else.
This is a real brain twister and catch-22.
Our music may have musical value, but it monetary terms, for many “it’s worthless”.
“Worth” is what people are wiling to pay for it.
5. Musicians Values are Different than 95% of the World
No “sane” person would spend thousands on producing a CD.
However, musicians are willing to make CDS (which I have done many times) and put music out for returns other than money, like:
- artistic expression
- sense of accomplishment
- launching a career
- magazine reviews, (helping career)
- we become a “musician that has recorded”, thus separating us from amateurs & hobbyists
This is VERY noble! But keep in mind…
6. The popular channels make money by offering musicians “false hope”…
Youtube, Spotify, CDbaby and other channels earn money off selling “false hope” to musicians. In return, we give them our music. Then, they piggy back paid ads on our stuff.
It’s the same thing as a bar owner having bands play for free and pocketing money for selling beer.
“You’ll get great exposure!” – yeah I heard that one a lot!
My question is “since we are producing the music, can we copy what the channels are doing ourselves by hooking ads / actions onto our music?”
7. Youtube vs CD Promo Case study – “Jill’s Song”
In 2008 I released my first fingerstyle CD “Gratitude” with a cut entitled “Jill’s Song.”
I did the whole “indie” shebang – a great CD design, radio promotion etc – just the way the system tells you to. I was even the “centerfold” in the Discmakers Catalog!
No one, I repeat NO ONE ever told me they liked “Jill’s Song.”
Fast forward to January 2013 – I upload a video of “Jill’s Song” to Youtube where people can consume it for free.
After uploading, I got overloaded with so many requests for sheet music that I make an instructional DVD for it. Within a month I practically paid the DVD production costs – which is unheard of for indie CD sales.
So – what do you think “got the song out there?” The whole CD “mill” or Youtube?
I’m not saying one is better or worse – I am just saying “let’s see what actually happened.”
AHA! The Avalanche of Solution Oriented Ideas Starts….
8. A Look at The Youtube Model (sort of…)
On Youtube, we get to consume videos almost for free, but there is a hidden price for watching.
We are offered “actions” that we can take such as:
1) do something the video tells us to do like join an email list, download a file, visit website
2) click on a sponsored ad (which by the way is based on our google & amazon searches)
Could we hook an advantageous action step for us onto our CD / mp3 tracks the way Youtube does with video?
Could we get listeners to take an action in exchange for listening?
9. ELVIS laughing.
I listened to an Elvis Record last year – a famous live recording of “Are you Lonesome Tonight” where he is laughing and “loses it” while singing.
I was surprised – in between every tune, there would be a 30 second version of some rocking blues tune slowly fading up & down.
The record company actually was “advertising” another record on the record by hard coding free samples.
Genius! His product (LP) leads you to take a next action (buy another LP). The adverts are built in.
10. Solution Idea for Recording today – Bumpers (Hard Wired)
Don’t laugh – I may very well do this on my next CD – radio style “bumpers.”
That’s right…directly in the audio track I may hard record something like “Visit AdamRafferty.com for free tabs” or something similar. Just as if you were listening to the radio.
These ads would NOT be separate tracks, they would be in the track.
So, if I record a song like “Imagine” by John Lennon and it’s 3:15 long, the song may fade to silence at 2:45 and then you get a 30 second advert – but the “track” is one file.
Why the heck not? That way, ANY service such as Spotify that plays the track for FREE also plays my advert, as it is part of the track.
And a computer based service such as Spotify would have no idea the way a real live radio programmer would.
11. Dynamic Bumpers (Serve up an ad)
The radio stations sell ad space between tracks, but what if, somehow the CD / mp3 audio track itself could pull an ad from a server the way Youtube rolls out an ad in front of a video?
Of course this technology is advanced, and who would fund it? Essentially it would put radio
out of business. It would be cool though.
Imagine if every time your track is played, someone hears an advert custom tailored for them and you get paid.
This is already happening with video, but would be cool with audio.
12. What if your next CD was Youtube or Podcast Only?
I am not advocating giving it away for free – but if you did something “youtube exclusive” people also have to “look” at something while listening.
Or, imagine offering a series of tracks, by Podcast subscription only. This would also allow for you to send additional messages & ads or actions you are asking listeners to take.
- Like it or not, the cat is out of the bag. Most people don’t feel that they should pay for your music.
- They feel like it’s a cocktail party, they are guests and your music is free finger food.
- If we don’t give away stuff for free, we are out of the loop.
- If we give it all away for free, we have nothing to sell.
- What else would be of value (other than money) in the exchange for free music?
- Could we as musicians harness that power rather than let the biggies “youtube, google, spotify” get the benefit for content we create?
- Could we get our music files themselves OR delivery format to somehow act “smarter” so that there is a better return?
- Could we make listeners take an action other than spend money, so that they spend further with us down the line?
Do You Have Any ideas? Please Comment Below!