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The Future of Music – by Dave Kusek and Gerd Leonhard

The Future of Music book is available in various forms.

future of music

 

You can buy the book on Amazon.

 

You can purchase the audiobook from Audible.

 

You can listen to the book on iTunes as a podcast for free. Go to the iTunes store and search “Future of Music” podcasts and subscribe.

Here are a few of the reviews.

Publishers Weekly
Two innovators in music technology take a fascinating look at the impact of the digital revolution on the music business and predict “a future in which music will be like water: ubiquitous and free-flowing.” Kusek and Leonhard foresee the disappearance of CDs and record stores as we know them in the next decade; consumers will have access to more products than ever, though, through a vast range of digital radio channels, person-to-person Internet file sharing and a host of subscription services. The authors are especially good at describing how the way current record companies operate – as both owners and distributors of music, with artists making less than executives – will also drastically change: individual CD sales, for example, will be replaced by “a very potent ‘liquid’ pricing system that incorporates subscriptions, bundles of various media types, multi-access deals, and added-value services.” While the authors often shift from analysts into cheerleaders for the über-wired future they predict – “Let’s replace inefficient content-protection schemes with effective means of sharing-control and superdistribution!” – their clearly written and groundbreaking book is the first major statement of what may be “the new digital reality” of the music business in the future.

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FUTURE OF MUSIC IS NOW
Gian Fiero (Hollywood, California)

This book is so brilliant that it makes the vast majority of music industry books that are being published seem irrelevant. It discusses in detail, the reasons why the future of the music industry is headed into the digital/mobile entertainment era. It also provides statistical information that professionals, marketers, entrepreneurs, and educators can use constructively. Both Dave and Gerd (the books co-author), have their fingers firmly planted on current music industry activities and trends. They also possess and display a clairvoyant eye toward the future that offers beneficial insight and foresight to those who may not be aware of what this whole digital (i.e. independent) revolution is about, and most importantly, what it will entail to prosper in it. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and simply brilliant. If you buy just one industry book this year, this should be THE one. Buy it now!

5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible
Stephen Hill “Producer, Hearts of Space” (San Rafael, CA USA)

A stunningly candid source of concentrated, up to date insight about the music business and its turbulent transition into the digital era. This book tells it straight and will make the dinosaurs of the music industry very unhappy.

Like Martin Luther’s ’95 Theses’ nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Kusek and Leonard drive nail after nail into the sclerotic heart of the old-fashioned music business. Their rational vision of the future of music rests on the idea of unshackling music from the hardcopy product business in a yet-to-be-realized era of open content licensing, facilitating sharing and communication among users, and growing the business to its full potential.

It provides as clear a vision of the future of the music industry as you will find, from two writers with a rare combination: a solid grounding in the traditional practices of the music business, an up-to-the-minute knowledge of the new technologies that are changing it, and the ability to think through the consequences.

I’ve dreamed about a book like this, but thought it would be impossible in today’s hyperdynamic environment where every week seems to bring a breakthrough technology, device, or service. But by digging out the underlying trends and principles Kusek and Leonard get under the news and illuminate it. Along the way they provide a brilliantly concise history of the evolution of digital media.

I can’t think of any book more important for artists to get the full re-orientation they need to survive and prosper in the digital era. It’s no less critical for members of the music and broadcasting industries who need to consolidate their thinking into a coherent roadmap for the future. In a word: indispensible.

Other things to do from here:

We have a wide variety of blog posts and articles on the music business and the future of music. Please click on any of these links to read more.

How to Promote Your Music

How to License Your Music

How to get your Music on Spotify Playlists

How to book bigger and better Gigs.

Instagram for Musicians

creative band merch ideas your fans will love

Music merchandise is a great way to make money as a musician and express your personality as an artist, so it makes sense to have some creative band merch ideas that will make you stand out from the sea of band tees out there.

Of course, there are those standard band merch items every musician should sell – think T-shirts, hoodies, and CDs.

BUT, more than ever, musicians are branching out and releasing creative and custom merchandise items.

Why bother?

  1. Interesting and unique music merch can grab people’s attention and actually get them over to the merch booth. And a lot of times, that’s half the battle. (Of course, your merch table display plays a big role here too.)
  2. It also opens up opportunities to create some higher price points, giving fans with the financial means the chance to support you to their full potential. So you could have your standard band t-shirts, but also have a higher-priced bomber jacket with a big embroidered patch on the back. Or a poster, and a higher-priced autographed poster. You can’t complain that fans are only spending $10 at your merch booth if all you have available is $10 CDs, right?
  3. And finally, it gives you the opportunity to keep your band merch display fresh. If you have the same three shirt designs year after year, your fans will have no reason to visit the merch table again. But if you can keep that fresh with unique merch ideas, they’ll come back show after show to add to their collection.

Now that you know why creativity is important at the merch booth, let’s go through a few of the best selling band merchandise options out there. Once you book a gig, try incorporating just one unique merch item in your lineup to start and build up over time.

Limited Autographed Items

This can work well for artists in every stage of their career. Who doesn’t love the idea of having an autographed drumstick, album, or guitar pick to show off to their friends?

You can price this kind of merch higher than others due to the added value of the autograph, and limiting the number of items available at each show can get your fans to rush to your merch table in an attempt to get these items before they’re gone. What you’re doing here is using scarcity to get fans over to the merch booth.

Another way to use scarcity is to create short-run, exclusive items. So maybe you create a limited number of alternate-color t-shirts or release a limited number of enamel pins for each album you put out. These can become collector’s items and can be extremely valuable to fans.


Want more creative ideas? Download this free ebook for more indie musician strategies: Hack the Music Business


Skateboards

This is a pretty niche idea, but I want to illustrate how you can create really cool, high-end band merch items by taking a look at the demographics and interests of your fans.

So a skateboard would be a great option for a punk, punk rock, or a pop-punk band because that genre is a huge part of the skate culture. It’s pretty easy to slap your logo or album art on the bottom of a skateboard, but, because you’re tapping into your fans core interests, it represents a lot of value.

If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at your fanbase and see what kind of trends you can see in interest and demographics. Your social media analytics can tell you a lot, but you should also make time to actually talk to them at gigs. Once you key in on some big, universal interests, try brainstorming merch items you can create to speak to those interests.

Phone Cases

Almost everyone these days has a smartphone, so by selling phone cases with your album art or logo on them you’re appealing to a pretty wide audience.

Cell phone cases are a profitable product in general, so these can be great items to add to your merch table. Most people these days either have an iPhone or Samsung phone, so having cases for these phones alone should work for most artists.

Lighters

If your show is during the nighttime and you have some lighter-in-the-air type songs, can generate some sales before the show for fans who’ve left theirs behind or run out of lighter fluid.

If you have great looking artwork or a nice logo, this is an item that can stimulate conversation when shared among friends.

Glow-in-the-dark merch

Another great band merch idea for gigs is glow-in-the-dark merch. Think t-shirts, key chains, or any of the items mentioned above! Pretty much anything you can make can also be made glow in the dark.

As an added bonus, glow-in-the-dark merch can really make your merch booth stand out in dark venues. Place you glow-in-the-dark merch strategically at table so they’re easy to see from far away and you’ll generate sales from fans as they’re making their way to the stage.

Want More Creative Band Merch Ideas?

Merch is something we talk a lot about in the New Artist Model music business program. Your merchandise approach can have a huge effect on your career. As you’ve seen, you can use merch to relate to your fans’ interests, to enable your biggest spenders, and even to provide really unique experiences that will help your fans step up the ladder towards superfans. Click here to find out what else you can learn in the New Artist Model music business program, or signup for free lessons here

sell more merchandise

Selling merchandise at a show is probably one of the biggest sources of revenue that an artist has left today. It’s clear to anyone in the music industry that selling music has taken such a dramatic dive in sales that it’s almost a necessity to search and reach out for other sources of income as an artist first, with record sales second. For larger artists, their brand seems to take over everything. They become this image/icon with corporate sponsorships making large portions of their income. For the rest of the world (not top 40 radio), playing shows and selling merchandise is probably their biggest asset. So, how can you increase your revenue and sell more merchandise at your shows?

1. Make it Personal

Your merchandise is a direct representation of you as an artist and your music. If you aren’t involved with picking out what pieces of merch you sell or what designs you put on them, you’ve already missed the first step. Like social media or any other hands-on interactive experience, your fans want to support you and they want to know every aspect of you as a person and an artist. So if you aren’t involved in, at very least, approval of what designs you’re selling to them and giving your personal input on, why would they want to purchase it and wear it? Your merchandise should be the best combination of what you as an artist enjoy stylistically and what your fan base tends to prefer. It’s a line that a lot of artists have trouble walking. You can’t control what demographic embraces your music, so without (and I hate this term) “selling out” or completely conforming to what sells to them, you have to find that happy medium. At the same time, you can’t be always have an “art over everything” attitude and expect to sell the maximum amount of merchandise you can. It’s the line of business vs. art and every musician has to walk it at some point.

2. Managing Inventory

Once you have put the time in and reflected on the designs you enjoy and believe your fan base will equally enjoy and support, it’s time to sell it to them. So you’ve got a big show coming up and you just refilled on your merch supply and you want to, obviously, sell the maximum amount possible. Well, another obvious step is sizing. Do you have all sizes available? Are you keeping tabs on past sales and seeing what sells the most? I can, without a doubt, guarantee that a band like Tool is going to sell way more M-XL shirts to their fan base, as opposed to Justin Bieber who sells a majority of XS-M-sized shirts. It seems obvious, but a lot of artists just order the same amount of every size because they don’t know (or don’t pay attention) and think that makes the most sense at the time, leaving them short on certain sizes and having a surplus on sizes they aren’t going to sell.

Another tactic you should be implying is seasonal wear. While you may be able to get away with selling tank tops in a hot sweaty club in the middle of January in Boston, there’s a lot less of a chance a fan is going to be into buying a hoodie in the middle of July in Miami. “Sweet! Now I have this hoodie I can’t wear for six months!” You’re also more likely to sell those hoodies in the previous Boston scenario and make more money than you would on tank tops.

3. Pricing

This leads me to my next point: Pricing. Are you keeping your eyes open to what other artist are selling their merch for? If you’re selling your new T-shirt for $25 and all the other bands are selling their T-shirts for $10 at the same show, who do you think is going to make the most money in the long run? People want the most bang for their buck. Not only will you sell less but some fans might be offended by your higher-than-average prices. Sure, you spent $500 for the design on your high-quality American Apparel shirt with five colors and designs on the front, back and sleeves, but that won’t matter in the moment when fans only have $25 left and like every artist that’s playing.

It’s smart to pay for merch that you can make a profit on while keeping it affordable at the same time. You aren’t playing arenas and people won’t pay $25-$50 for a T-shirt yet, no matter how nice it is. There are creative ways to design a piece of merch and keep it affordable with regards to the artist level you’re currently at.

4. Display Counts

“Hey guys, we have merchandise in the back. Please check it!” I can’t count how many times I’ve heard that at shows. The simplest way to sell more merch at shows is to make people aware that it’s available. It’s so obvious, but some bands forget to mention it or think it’s too tacky to say on stage. It doesn’t come as needy, it’s part of the experience of going to a show and every artist should say it while they’re on stage, and every fan should expect to hear it. When they go back there—most likely between sets—make sure it is clean, organized and professional looking. Having something to hang certain items up, tape things neatly to the table so you don’t have to worry about a cluster-f*ck table while trying to sell. Make things simple and legible for fans like the names and prices of items. If there is a back-side design to an item, have it displayed and labeled so you don’t get asked 100 times to keep showing people.

Efficiency always increases sales. Another great selling tactic is the use of limited edition items or limited quantity. It may push a certain fan over the fence they are on about buying that item.

5. Sales Team

Lastly, and one of the most important aspects of selling merch whether it’s you, a friend, or someone you are paying, is to make sure they are outgoing, friendly and organized. Not everyone is suitable to deal with people. Add to the fact a lot of people may be drunk, sweaty and rude coming in mass numbers, and you have a pretty solid recipe for disaster if you’re not the type of person that can handle it. If you are paying someone, take the time to go back to the merch table and check on him or her, or get feedback from a random third party. They are representing YOU! If they come off as an ass, it will be associated with you. Also make them count in and count out items. I’ve seen more than a few merch people in my day steal from their artist or jack up prices on their items and pocket the extra because the artist wasn’t involved with the merch situation to know any better.

Hopefully these tips will help you out in maximizing your profitability at your shows. There’s no secret recipe for success in the merchandise world, but the more you are organized and involved in it as an artist, the more you will sell.

 

By: Grant Brandell
Service & Product Sales Manager for Symphonic Distribution
grant@symphonicdistribution.com

Symphonic Distribution is a distribution company located in Florida. They distribute music digitally to over 300 retail and streaming platforms, for thousands of record labels and artists worldwide and continue to develop new technologies in the form of in-house systems including mastering, marketing, licensing, publishing administration, web & graphic services, label/artist development and more. Their goal is to become the One Stop Shop for the Music Industry while maintaining a personalized approach with clients.

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There’s more revenue streams out there for musicians than just album sales. Check out some of these alternative revenue streams.

Article by Mackenzie Carlin via Music Think Tank. Check out the full article here.

Offer VIP Packages for Concerts

Critics of social media may complain of young people wasting their lives behind computer screens, but the truth is, music fans still love attending live shows. You still can profit handsomely off of traditional concerts, but if you’re looking to amp up returns on your tour, consider throwing in VIP concert options. These could include special meet-and-greets before or after shows, or even private performances for your most dedicated fans. Many will gladly pay two, three, even four times the going rate for your concert if it means getting up close and personal.

Sell Merchandise at Live Shows

Music fans love showing off their favorites, be it through social media or old-fashioned band tees. The great thing about old school merchandise sales is that they can be incredibly profitable, particularly if you take on a multi-faceted approach including both online and in-person sales. Selling band merch is easier than ever, thanks to useful services such asIntuit QuickBooks, and the various on-the-fly payment systems that are available in the form of an app. Be sure to offer a wide array of products, so as to entice as many fans as possible to invest in the cause. These could include posters, clothing or vinyl records, which still retain a surprising level of popularity among music aficionados. A Music Think Tank post from last year suggests asking fans on Twitter and Facebook for merchandise suggestions, and then holding a poll to determine which options would garner the most interest.

Build a Dedicated Following With Social Media

The greater your social media following, the better chance you stand of benefiting from merch sales and VIP packages. Examples of musicians building dedicated fan bases through social media include Justin Bieber and Lily Allen serving as two of the most successful MySpace musicians. Today, the focus is on Facebook and Twitter, with several musicians also benefiting from the use of Soundcloud, a social network aimed directly at ‘sound creators.’ According to “Tech Crunch,” Soundcloud currently boasts over 250 million users, many of whom share their favorite bands and singers with their friends through the site’s popular social networking setup.

If you’re looking to make more money as a musician, check out the New Artist Model online courses.

You’ve no doubt heard that the live show is where the money lies in the music industry, especially for indie musicians. However, it’s not a magic cash funnel, and sometimes just playing won’t drive your fans to your merch table. Today indie musicians need to play the marketer, as uncomfortable as it may be. It will be difficult at first to ask your fans to buy, but it will come more naturally with practice.

This article was written by music business coach and social media strategist, Madalyn SklarHere’s 3 of the steps, to see all 5 check out the full article over at Cyber PR.

Step 1 – Greet Them At The Door

I have rarely seen artists do this but the few that do make quite an impression with fans. The best way to get ahead in this business is networking. There is no better place to network than at the door of your show. For many years I ran a monthly GoGirls showcase event in Houston, TX. I had the coolest job, not just booking and promoting it but running the door and merch table too. I met amazing people. But I wasn’t the talent on stage. I was just the girl charging cover or selling merchandise. The ticket holder is there to see you. It would be so unexpected for them to witness you greeting people at the door. It shows you are approachable and way cool. And in return you will see more sales. Cha-ching!

“Most fans have you on a pedestal. If you didn’t know this, better start believing it.”click to tweet

For those who already know it, don’t be a dick about it. Treat your fans with respect and love. Always.

Step 2 – Mention You Have Merch For Sale From The Stage

“The best way to make money at your show is by simply asking people to buy.” click to tweet

I know this one sounds like a no brainer but I hardly see bands telling their audience they have merch for sale. They always tell me they forget to announce it from the stage. Keep in mind that the majority of people at your show are not mind readers so it’s helpful to let them know that not only do you have merch for sale but you’ll be happy to sign a CD or poster for them. The next time you’re on stage, mention you have a merch table with lots of fabulous stuff. The best way to ensure you don’t forget this is to incorporate it right into your set list. It’s super easy to do. When making your set list, pick two spots and mark it as “Merch Reminder” that way you will not forget once you hit the stage.

Step 3 – Bundle Your Merchandise

Fans like things simple. So why not make it easy for them to give you a $20 bill or swipe on your Square (for credit/debit cards) by bundling two things together. I’ve seen bands put together simple bundles that make the deal look too good to pass up. You can offer 2 CDs and a sticker for one low price or maybe a CD and a t-shirt combo. You can easily increase your earnings just by playing it smart with bundling. Get creative and have fun with it.

Try these steps out at your next live show and let us know how it went!

 

Join the revolution and supercharge your merch! Sign up for the New Artist Model mailing list and get access to free sample lessons.

The live show and merchandise are becoming more important in the music industry. On top of that, there has been a surge in small indie musicians trying to make it on their own. Many think that merch is out of their budget, but with the right planning and strategy merch can become a profitable revenue stream for anyone.

This article, written by Robal Johnson of PUMP Merch, was originally posted on Hypebot. To read the full article, click here. 

1. Decide what to sell

Where to begin? Start small, be patient, and analyze your early merchandise investments. Get creative. Have an artist friend design your logo: pay them in drinks and guestlist spots. Be conscious of your audience: determine what apparel and accessories are trendy. Understand the demographic: ask how they consume and share music, which can easily be done via social networking. Acknowledge your environment: if its hot, tank tops and ballcaps are essential; if it’s cold, hoodies and beanies are a must. At first, focus on selling more for less: keep designs to 1-3 colors, buy the inexpensive option, and charge fans as little as possible. Remember, you can always upgrade later.

Don’t be afraid to be aggressive. You’re not bothering anybody at the show. I guarantee most of the people there will be excited to meet you and honored you came up to talk to them. They know you’re just doing your job and they actually want to talk to you. I have approached the bar in a small town in Mississippi and sold $10 T-Shirts. I have wandered a club in Nashville asking folks if they’d like to buy $5 CDs. Merch is a souvenir purchased to commemorate a notable experience. Every music fan enjoys the pride that comes with seeing an act “back in the day” and you need to offer them something to take home that night.

2. Convenience

Once you have decided on the right products to sell on tour, your next focus should be on convenience. If you do not accept credit cards while on the road, you are leaving countless dollars on the table. Just ask Laura Keating, Melissa Garcia, and Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment and Readymade Records: “We have been taking credit card payments in some form or another since 2005 and it always doubles our sales at the merch table.” Now THAT should motivate the hell out of all of you.

Companies like Square and PayPal Here have made it extremely simple for you to accept all major credit cards as long as you have a smartphone or tablet. If you have not already, stop reading this right now and order one of the FREE card readers from either of those companies immediately. It will take you a few short minutes and the results are literally priceless. I can not stress the importance of this enough. In this day and age, you MUST accept credit cards. You will not only sell your merch to more people, you will sell even more items.

At this time Square is only offered in the United States, Canada, and Japan. PayPal Here is available in the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Australia. For acts touring the United Kingdom and Europe, Team Whitesmith/Readymade suggests using iZettle for your credit card processing needs. iZettle is now live in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the UK, Germany, Spain, and Mexico.

3. Get organized!

Third on your to-do list while gearing up for tour should be organization and accounting for your merchandise while on the road. For decades this was done by either the merch guy or the tour manager in a looseleaf notebook with pencils and a whole lot of mistakes. Then came Microsoft Excel, which we ALL love to hate. But I have seen the future of tour merchandising and it comes to us via Orange County, California in an app called atVenu. These guys are changing the game and every single touring artist needs to take note.

I spoke with co-founder of atVenu, Ben Brannen, and he shared his story of what drove him and his partners to create the service. “While on the road, I experienced first hand the inefficiencies of existing methods by which we track and settle our touring merch. Too much money is lost due to inventory issues, poor nightly settlements, limited analysis, or one broken cell in an Excel sheet. atVenu solves these problems by empowering merch reps with a mobile app designed for their needs which syncs to the artist’s web-based account where merch company and management can login and easily access a robust suite of real time analytics and reports.”

This is a game-changer for many reasons, but most importantly it is something that will save artists time and money on the road. As a merch rep myself, I can attest to the great many headaches that go along with inventory, accounting, and restocking of products while a band is touring. It is all about organization and communication. With a system in place that knows when you’re getting low on the green v-necks in small and medium and your merch guy gets a notification, imagine how much money you’ll save on those rushed deliveries from halfway across the country that will hopefully make it to the venue on time. Envision how much easier it will be to do reorders for the next tour because you know exactly what you sold, when, and where.

My buddy Randy Nichols of Force Media Management, who represents The Almost and Bayside, among others, also works as Strategic Music Industry & Product Advisor with atVenu. He sums up the app perfectly, “A tool like atVenu shows me real time forecasting data for my tour so I can both improve my profit margins and be sure to maintain a healthy stock of my in demand items. This can easily mean the difference between 10 boxes of merch in the drummers garage at the end of the tour vs an extra $10,000 in profit.”

 

Merchandise can potentially be a huge revenue stream for independent bands and musicians. However, knowing what to make, how many to make, what company to use, what to sell for, and how to let your fans know you have merch without sounding like an advertisement can be difficult.

Check out this extremely detailed guide to merchandise from Music Think Tank to get a better idea of how to create a viable merchandise revenue stream for your band.

What you should order and who you should order from

  • Music – CD’s are generally the best option for most artists because fans like having something tangible that they can take home (as opposed to a digital download) and take up less room than vinyl. They also have higher profit margins. Companies that I recommend for replication: Cravedog and Discmakers.

  • T-Shirts – The basic tee usually is a solid product to go with. You can usually get a better price and a more comfy product if you choose a lighter shirt, such as a Gildan 5.3 or 5.6 oz. More on how to get better prices below. These are some decent companies.

  • Stickers – Stickers are cheap, easy to produce, and can be used for promotion or selling. I order all of mine through Stickerguy.

  • Buttons – These are another easy, cheap product that you can sell for $1 each. I recommend the quality, pricing, and service from Busy Beaver Buttons. Or, if you have some upfront money, invest in a button maker. Badge-a-Mint makes a good one.

  • Posters – These are a staple. Most companies should give you a 12×18 poster for the same price as 11×17. I recommend Printing Conexions (let them know that Simon Tam sent you).

How to get better pricing for band merchandise

  • Begin a Partnership – I worked with a local vendor to get exceptional pricing and price terms by committing to a long-term partnership. I agreed to always consider them first when pricing options out and to order a certain amount of business. In return, I get the best pricing around and also 45 day net terms – In other words, payment for the products aren’t due until 45 days after I pick them up. It’s perfect when I need start up cash and merch for a tour because I can pay when we get back. You can also pitch a potential sponsorship deal.
  • Order in bulk – Most of the time, you really start saving money on shirts when you order at least 48 of them at a time.With stickers, it’s 250. With buttons, it’s 100. If you want to balance price per item and minimum quantities, talk to a representative about what optimal quantities are.

  • Order less designs – If you reduce the number of different designs, you can order higher quantities of each product. This in turn drives down the price per unit. Variety is good but often gives you a much higher start up cost.

To read the full guide, visit Music Think Tank.

Here is a presentation developed for clothing manufacturer Carhartt as they try and capitalize on the popularity of their products with the youth market. Interesting trends and stats posted by students from Parsons The New School for Design.  “By identifying the forces at play in the world of music and the behaviors that are driving those forces, one can identify particular patterns that support current trends. By looking forward to what the future of music may encompass, this presentation aims to provide Carhartt, with valuable insight that will help the brand as a whole, cater to the future of urban millenials.”

Ale Delgado wrote this great recap of our CMJ panel on merchandise last week.  Thanks Ale!  Here is most of it.  Visit her site for more:

Considering that I’m always looking for the next big thing, I knew I had to go to CMJ’s “Modern Merch: Beyond the Tour T-Shirt” panel. See, merch is a $2.2 billion business and one of the biggest ways an artist can make money. But while most merch is sold at shows, most people at shows don’t buy merch. Tricky, huh?

The basic premise of the panel was that opportunity comes when you marry a point of passion (e.g., a song stream or live show) with a call to action (e.g., a merch sale)– and yes, they had some tips to help you take advantage of any opportunities that come your way.

Moderator: Dave Kusek, co-founder of MerchLuv and co-author of The Future of Music.

Panelists: Zach Bair, founder of RockHouse Live Media Productions and the original CEO of DiscLive Network, which records, masters, and burns concert CDs to be made available to fans right after the show;  Mary Sparr of screen-printed gig poster pros Print Mafia and culture blog Young Mary’s Record; and Alexandra Starlight, funky and spunky indie starlette whose Kickstarter campaign resulted in 205% funding and a rainbow glitter 7″ EP.

 

1.Think of merch as an extension of your brand

As always, the first thing to do is consider your brand as an artist. Once you develop a consistent aesthetic, you can open the door to more innovative merch because fans will recognize it as one of your pieces. For example, Starlight created a one-of-a-kind rainbow glitter vinyl record for her self-titled EP. A record like that had never been pressed before and each one was hand-glittered, so each fan received a unique copy. If you’ve ever peeked at Starlight’s website (or rainbow-dyed hair), you know that a rainbow glitter album fits perfectly with her brand– and it’s damn memorable.

Furthermore, if you think of merch as your brand being integrated into someone’s lifestyle, it opens up even more creative possibilities. For instance, The Hold Steady created branded foam fingers. Y’know, the ones you wave around like crazy when you’re cheering on your favorite team. What do foam fingers have to do with music? Not much, but they’re fun, different, and priced for the college-aged fan. And judging by the fact that they’re sold out, they’re a big hit with fans.

2. Cater to your spectrum of fans

Take another look at The Hold Steady’s foam finger. It’s $10 reduced to $5. Easy sale for a teenager or college student who might have a lot of spending money but is willing to pay for something cool to show off to their friends. Making sure that you have different tiers of merch for different fans is key to building sales. You should have something at your merch table for the fan who just wants to snatch a free download card and for the fan who wants to buy everything. That also means bundling items together (CD, t-shirt, button combo) for a quick sale.

3. Be show-specific

If possible, create show-specific merch. It can be as simple as individual gig posters for each city in which you tour or something a little more involved. Sparr brought up the tickets that Mumford & Sons created for their Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Tour. Each ticket was a commemorative passport that contained a download code for a compilation of songs recorded at each Stopover. Then it got better. Fans could get their passports stamped at the merch tables at each Stopover, personalizing their passports to their experience. Then it got even better. People were wandering around each Stopover with unique stamps, essentially turning the passports into a Pokemon game. (Gotta stamp ‘em all!) Talk about fan engagement.

Next, update your Facebook and Twitter on the day of the show and let your fans know what merch you’re going to be offering, especially if you have something that will only be available at that show. The more people can prepare (or at least consider the possibility of picking up your record), the more likely they’re going to buy something.

 

4. Work your merch like a pop-up shop

Think about every grumpy salesperson you’ve had to deal with. They don’t greet you, they don’t look you in the eye, they don’t care if their store is a mess, they don’t want to help you find anything, or (even worse) they’re way too pushy… Okay, now be exactly the opposite.

Your merch table is your pop-up shop. Have your items propped up nicely so that fans who are moving past your table can see what you have to offer. Greet them as they walk up to your table; don’t badger them, but put on a friendly face like you would if they were customers coming into your brick-and-mortar store. Also make sure that you’re being as meticulous as you would be if you were running a store: keep track of your inventory and double-check any email addresses written down on your mailing list. Remember that the experience doesn’t end when your show does; fans will remember what you were like behind the table.

5. Extend the experience

Well, actually, the experience doesn’t have to stop when your fans walk out of your venue either. There are a lot of ways you can extend your show experience, from the simple to the elaborate. Here are a few ideas from the Panelists:

  • Make sure there’s someone taking pictures of your show, including grabbing a few shots of the crowd. Then post it on Facebook and encourage your fans to tag themselves.
  • Have your fans post pictures of your show to Instagram with a hashtag of your choosing, and then sending them aPostagram thanking them for coming to the show or giving them a discount for your store.
  • Use DiscLive to record, mix, and master a live recording of your show. By the time you’re ready to sell some merch, they’ll have CDs ready to go. DiscLive also allows for preorders, meaning that a) you can bundle tickets and CDs and b) you’ll have an estimate of what you’ll sell at your show.
  • Use MerchLuv to bundle streaming songs with merch items to cater to those new fans who hadn’t heard of you before your show, but want to check you out afterwards. Remember, opportunity lies where passion meets action.

Read more here including a Happy Halloween Bonus Tip!

For artists struggling to make a living in the digital age, a strong merch strategy can be the difference between living life as a starving artist and making a comfortable living.

Yet compared to the recording, publishing and ticketing businesses—which have felt the full effect of technology and the Internet— the merch business today is mostly stuck in the analog 70s. If we are looking to make money in the music industry of the future, why focus our energies on debating the intricacies of Spotify payments or whether licensing terms stifle innovation. Instead let’s examine an area ripe for disruption and revenue expansion.

A Highly Fragmented Environment

Indeed merch seems to be a highly fragmented business ripe for consolidation and transformation. To illustrate, let’s look at some research conducted by a company I work with— Merchluv. We looked at the August 2012 Big Champagne charts and came up with a list of  100 top artists and analyzed their merch availability:

– The 100 artists on the list used 44 different merch vendors (how’s THAT for fragmentation?).

– 75% of artists sold merchandise on their website, Facebook page or through an official supplier.  A surprising 25% of the top selling artists in August did not sell any merch AT ALL.

– 18 artists were “self” merchandisers, meaning they used Topspin, Paypal, Amazon, or a 3rd party services or ran their own commerce site/shopping cart.

– The remaining 57 artists were served by 26 different merch suppliers.

That means to sell merch for the top 100 artists in August you need to make nearly 44 deals with merch suppliers. Clearly a consolidation of merch vendors could help to rationalize the market. Where is the Amazon of music merchandising?

Merch is an Insulated Service

The merch business is largely disconnected from the real heat in the music market today, namely the explosion in digital music services. For example: 45 BILLION songs are streamed or viewed every month, yet there is NO MERCH being sold against this engagement. And that number is just going to BLOW UP to hundreds of billions of streams per month in the next few years.

Imagine if streaming services allowed fans to browse and buy an artist’s merchandise from the same page where they  are streaming their album or buying their tickets? There is a complete disconnect between where most music is discovered today, and the $2.2 billion in annual merch revenue.  The vast majority of merch is sold at the venerable merch table at any given concert. Why not make the effort to expand that experience into the digital realm? An alignment of merch distribution with the direction that the overall music market is headed would serve artists and merch companies extremely well, and potentially unlock a flood of new revenue.

Merch is Analog

Most artists sell 85% or more of their merch directly at live shows at the merch table. As effective as they are, merch tables can stand to be improved on in the digital age.  For example:

– Fans have to know where the merch booth is.

– Why stand in line when you can order from your seat?

– What if the merch guys don’t have your size or color preference at the table?

– When you buy merch at a show you have to hold it and take it home. Do you want it delivered instead?

– What if you want a bundle of something physical and something digital.  Is this easy to buy?

– How about something personalized for you, or something bigger than you can carry home?

There hasn’t been much innovation at the merch table at all, except for perhaps using Square readers to process credit cards. I wonder if the major merch vendors of today are going to be blindsided by technology and the changing habits of music consumers in much the same way that the record labels were hit.  Merch is extremely difficult to digitize.  But the sales of merch are not.

Tons of artists have web stores attached to their web sites and Facebook pages.  Companies like Reverbnation and Bandcamp can help independent artists manage their merch on their web stores and spread the merch offer out via social media to numerous outlets.  There are many businesses such as Bandmerch and Cinderblock, JSR and Bubbleup addressing this niche, providing fulfillment, webstores, warehousing and shipping services.

But the problem with this approach is that fans need to navigate to an artist’s web site and find the merch for sale and be ready to buy.  Today only 15% of merch is sold online.  New companies like Merchluv, which I am an investor in are about to blaze new trails in digital merchandising. The reason to do this? Grow overall revenue.

The large merchandising companies are very aware of the opportunities of snaring a hot band and bringing their merch to market effectively.  The holy grail of this is the long-term sales possible from mega-popular bands over time.  Anyone want to guess how many Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts have been sold?  Companies like Old Glory have been licensing artist merchandise for decades.

Now we can argue whether there will ever be another blockbuster band like Pink Floyd or the Rolling Stones or Metallica – but if there is going to be significant revenue in the music market of the future, merchandise is going to be a huge contributor.  Merchandise might possibly become the single largest revenue generator for artists of the future. You have to think big here and broader to see what I am talking about.

When artists today are being pulled in various directions to run their businesses, create, act, teach, write and express themselves and interact with their audience, what could be better for supporting a career than a good merch strategy?  Think about the merchandising empires built by Jimmy Buffett, Jay-Z, Puffy, 50 Cent, the Grateful Dead.  The merch is the tail wagging the dog and it has made these artists a fortune.

For musicians in the digital age, revenue needs to come from something than other the recording itself.  To some extent this has always been true, but never more so than today.

Creative Explosion

My friend Todd Siegel and partner in Merchluv tells me that these days creating innovative merch and finding things that resonate with your audience is easier than ever, and many clever artists are using fan sourcing and crowd sourcing options like Talent House and Creative Allies to design merch with their fans.  Once you have a design, you can use sites like Zazzle to test ideas for new products without investing in inventory up front.
Bands like Insane Clown Possee (ICP) have created a cult-like brand through the use of iconic imagery and building a strong following by involving their fans.  The Misfits have sold more merch than music because of that iconic skull that people buy because the merch itself is cool and fashonable.

And talk about branding, take a look at what Deadmau5 is doing with the goofy mouse head. This guy has merch everywhere and may just overtake Mickey Mouse in brand awareness across teenagers.  Even if you have never heard him perform, you know who he is.

Beats by Dr. Dre is another example of merch that has gone over the top and transcended the music entirely to become a lifestyle product that in some respects is becoming a big part of the music industry.  This in only a matter of a few years.

The brainchild of artist/producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine, Beats is bringing high-quality audio to fans through their headphones, sound systems, and now the recently acquired MOG digital music service. Dre has taken a brand established as a recording artist and is in the process of turning it into the music industry of the future, through a grand merchandising strategy.

Conclusion

In the face of declining recorded music sales, many of us are looking hard at the opportunities for generating money in music today. Most of the investment from VCs, Angel investors or Private Equity in music has been in streaming music, discovery, ticketing, crowd funding and artist services. Businesses like Pandora, Spotify, Beats, Ticketfly, Soundcloud, Songkick and Indiegogo all have received significant investments in recent years.

There are two ways that bands have always made money. One is by performing and the other is by selling merchandise. Both are tried and true methods, difficult to download or duplicate, and solid and reliable opportunities.

Why have hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital been poured into online music services in the face of severely declining recorded revenue, when one of the most profitable parts of the music business—namely merch—been largely ignored by investors? Wouldn’t it make more sense try to increase sales of an already healthy and expanding market segment, ripe for disruption?

My friend Roger McNamee, a founding Partner and Managing Director of Elevation Partners has been getting some great press lately on his thoughts on the new music business, investing in technology, Apple, Google, Facebook and much more.  Here is the transcript of a speech he gave at NARM earlier this summer, a must read.

“Our band – Moonalice – is inventing new opportunities in music. We would like you all to join us.

I have been a working musician for more than 30 years, and a technology investor for 29 years. I have played about 1000 concerts over the past 15 years, which means I have personally experienced everything in Spinal Tap except the exploding drummers. I also spent three years helping the Grateful Dead with technology and many more advising other bands, most notably U2.

My band is called Moonalice. We play 100 shows a year in clubs and small theaters, mostly on the coasts. Moonalice was the first band broken on social networks. What broke us was 845,000 downloads – and counting – of the single “It’s 4:20 Somewhere.” We’re the band that Mooncasts every show live, via satellite to thousands of fans on iPads, cell phones, and computers. We’re the band that has a unique psychedelic poster for every show. After four years, Moonalice has 371 poster images from the likes of Stanley Mouse, Wes Wilson, and David Singer. Licensing those images will eventually a big business for us. We’re the band that offers the EP of the Month for $5. And we’re the band that uses the latest technology to radically improve both the production cost and commercial value of the content we produce. Now I’m looking for people who want get on this bandwagon with me.

The first question I hope you ask is “Why now?” The world of technology is beginning a period of disruptive change. The old guard – represented in this case by Microsoft Windows and Google search – is under assault and hundreds of billions of dollars may become available for new and better ideas. I hope that gets your attention!!!

The biggest beneficiaries of this disruption should be the people who got the short end of Google’s business model, especially creators of differentiated content. For the past twelve years the technology of the internet has been static. Every tool commoditized content by eliminating differentiation. The most successful companies monetized content created by others. Google was king.

I believe Microsoft and Google are about to get a taste of what the music industry has been dealing with for a decade. Their world is going to change and they won’t be able to stop it. Not so long ago Microsoft’s Windows monopoly gave it control of 96% of internet connected devices. Thanks to smartphones and tables – especially the iPhone and iPad — Windows’ share of internet connected devices has fallen below 50% … and it will fall much further in the years ahead.

Consumers are abandoning Windows as fast as they can. I expect businesses to follow suit.

This is a HUGE deal. Businesses whose employees use smart phones and iPads instead of PCs will save up to $1000 per employee per year in support costs.If corporations buy fewer PCs, they will save tens, if not hundreds of billions per year.

This is happening because today’s strategic applications – email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and other internet applications – don’t need a PC . . . in fact, they are far more useful on a phone.

Microsoft has been in trouble since it first missed the web in 1994. Then it was unable to prevent Google from taking charge in 1998. When Google showed up, the World Wide Web was a wild environment. No one was in charge. The prevailing philosophy was “open source” . . . and free software.

Google had a plan for organizing the web’s information that treated every piece of information as if all were equally valuable. To create order, Google ranked every page based on how many people linked to it.

What we all missed at the time is that by treating every piece of information the same, Google enforced a standard that permitted no differentiation. Every word on every Google page is in the same typeface. No brand images appear other than Google’s. This action essentially neutered the production values of every high end content creator. The Long Tail took off and the music industry got its ass kicked.

Google captured about 80% of the index search business, which gave it a huge percentage of total web advertising. Google’s success eventually filled the web with crap, so consumers began using other products to search: Wikipedia for facts, Facebook for matters of taste, time or money, Twitter for news, Yelp for restaurants, Realtor.com for places to live, LinkedIn for jobs. Over the past three years, these alternatives have gone from 10% of search volume to about half.

As if all this competition wasn’t bad enough for Google, then along came Apple with the iPhone and App Store. Apple offers a fundamentally different vision of the internet than Google. Google is about the long tail, open source, and free, but also had to remove 64 apps from the Android app store for stealing confidential information. Apple is about trusted brands, authority, security, copyright and the like. In Apple’s world, the web is just another app; it is called Safari.

People who have iPhones and iPads do far fewer Google searches than people on PCs. The reason is that Apple has branded, trustworthy apps for everything. If they want news, Apple customers use apps from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. If they want to know which camera to buy, they ask friends on Facebook. If they want to go to dinner, they use the Yelp app. These searches have economic value and its not going to Google, even on Android.

When Apple and the app model win, Google’s search business loses. Like Microsoft, Google has plenty of business opportunities, but the era of Google controlling all content is over. Consumers compared Google’s open source web to Apple’s app model and they overwhelmingly prefer Apple’s model. Software development and innovation has shifted from “web first” to “iPad first” . . . which is a monster long term advantage. Get this: Apple may sell nearly 100 million internet connected devices this year!

Apple’s strength can be seen best in the iPhone vs. Android competition. There are many Android vendors. Together they sell more phones than Apple does. But Apple gets around $750 wholesale for an iPhone. The other guys get between $300 and $450. This means Apple’s gross margin on the iPhone is nearly as big as its competitors’ gross revenues. Game over.

The other thing that makes Apple amazing is the iPad. No electronic product in history – not even the DVD player – can match the adoption rate of the iPad. Apple may sell another 30 million this year. At this point, the competing products have not put a dent in the iPad. Image what happens if Apple’s share of the tablet market remains closer to the iPod (at 80%) than to the iPhone (20%)?

This sounds like, “Game Over, Apple wins” . . . but it’s not . . . at least, not yet. The open source World Wide Web has finally responded to Apple. A new programming language has come to market called HTML 5. HTML is the foundation of the World Wide Web. For the past decade, HTML has been static, which allowed Google to dominate.

HTML 5 is a new generation of HTML and it changes the game fundamentally. It allows web developers replicate the iPhone experience, but with many extra bells and whistles … and no App Store. One reason HTML 5 matters is because it eliminates Adobe Flash, which has been an inadvertent barrier to creativity

Creativity enables differentiation. Differentiation can be monetized. Huge differentiation can be monetized hugely. With HTML 5, creative people can now use the entire web page as a single canvas. For the first time in a dozen years, web pages will be limited only by the creativity of the people making them. They can create experiences that will be more engaging to consumers and more profitable for advertisers than network television.

New forms of entertainment will emerge. New forms of business. Companies the size of Facebook and Google will develop in categories I can’t guess at. Companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix will emerge to support what new content comes to market.

Whether you view Apple as friend or foe, HTML 5 offers real opportunity. Why?

Because you can deliver a better experience than an app . . . without an app. HTML 5 is cheaper to build, cheaper to support, no 30% fee . . . oh, and the apps perform better, too.

I believe Apple’s best response would be to focus on selling hardware and accept that consumers will demand products that happen to bypass the app store. Based on the argument with Amazon, I sense Apple is not ready to concede the point. That’s ironic, because the only way Apple can get hurt would be if they try to force all commerce through the App Store. The would create a real reason for customers to buy a tablet other than iPad.

Let me review my key points so far:

Google and Microsoft will remain huge, but their influence is evaporating, which means we can ignore them

Apple is winning big, which means we have to support their platforms first

For people who make content, Apple is a better monopolist to deal with than Google.

HTML 5 will give you a better product than the Apple app model at a lower cost and with more value.

Now let’s figure out what we can do together. My band Moonalice exists because T Bone Burnett wanted to produce an album of new and original hippie music in the old school San Francisco style. We put together an all-star band with in late 2006 and recorded the album. T Bone was about to win the GRAMMY for the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant album, Raising Sand, so we thought we were made.

We had a budget
We had an A-list PR guy
We had a really fine manager
We had custom label deal with a nice budget
T Bone’s innovative sound technology would make the album cutting edge

Old school music is good. Old school marketing wasn’t going to work for us. About four months before release, I reviewed the media plan with our PR guy. He said, “Sorry, man, but nobody cares.”

A few moments of somber reflection followed. Then, with great regret, I let our manager go. I let our publicist go. I let our label go. For all intents and purposes, we wrote off an album everyone was extremely proud of and which accounted for half of T. Bone’s portfolio the following year when he was nominated for Producer of the Year.

But I freed up most of our operating budget. Real money. And I focused it all on Twitter and Facebook. Our goal was to build an audience of dedicated fans around a Moonalice lifestyle. Three years later, we have 57,000 fans on Facebook and 75,000 on Twitter. We learned a great truth: as hard as it is to get people to spend money, it is much harder to persuade them to spend enough time listening to you to become a long term fan. We traded our music for their time. We discovered we could build an audience by giving away stuff that costs nothing to produce and distribute. These are serious fans who engage with us dozens and often hundreds of times a year.

The first thing we invented was the Twittercast. Before us, no one had ever done a concert over Twitter. Now we have done 103. Our marginal cost is exactly zero. Next we created Moonalice Radio, which has broadcast one song every hour on Twitter for the past two years. Then our drum tech bought a video camera and started recording the shows. Then he bought more cameras, put them on mic stands and started doing live video mixes. About a year ago, he figured out how to mooncast our concerts over the net for free.

Nearly all of our past 100 shows have been mooncast live on MoonaliceTV and then archived. Because we play mostly late shows on the west coast, only 10% of the audience watches in real time. But approximately 3,000 people watch EVERY show on a time shifted basis. Fans like the Moonalice Couch tour because they can chat, make friends, and do things that are not permitted at a live venue. They even buy Couch Tour tee shirts. And they are helping us create a new ecosystem where most of the music is free, because Moonalice art and life style products have huge economic value.

Thanks to HTML 5 and a satellite dish, Mooncasts can now be viewed on a smart phone without an app. Our video quality competes favorably with the best you have seen on an iPhone, and the technology to do all this costs the equivalent of six months of our former manager. He was a really good guy, but a satellite-based tv network is more valuable.

I want to finish up by recommending a course of action for you

Step 1: Remember that HTML 5 is just getting started, but the learning curve is less expensive and more profitable for those who commit to it from the beginning. The new business is going to emerge over a few years, not overnight

Step 2: Don’t wait for the labels to figure this out. Labels are not organized to get this right, which leaves a big hole in the new music market where labels used to be.

Step 3: Don’t wait for major artists to figure it out. The great new stuff is going to come from artists who have nothing to lose. Artists who come out of nowhere will create huge value for next to no cost.

Step 4: Make sure you are successful addressing the needs of next generation content creators … not just listeners. There are WAY more of content creators than you may realize. Thanks to Moore’s Law, Karl Marx is right at last: the means of production are in the hands of the proletariat. At the peak, there were 8 million bands registered on Myspace. They weren’t playing gigs, they were creating stuff, mostly for their own entertainment. Those people spent a lot more money creating the content they posted on Myspace than they did on recorded music. Thanks to Apple’s Garageband, the population of people capable of mixing something is now measured in tens of millions. Making these people successful is the key to creating new markets and new music products.

Step 5: Do everything in your power to encourage new product ideas and new forms of content. HTML 5 is a blank canvas and there is no telling what people will do with it. For all I know, HTML 5 may produce five or even ten amazing categories of product.

Contests, prizes and publicity will give you an opportunity to associate yourself with whoever creates the cool new stuff. If you have local stores, do local events. Think Alan Freed.

Step 6: Near term, focus your platform strategy on Apple.

Step 7: Long term, focus on HTML 5. The sooner you commit to HTML 5, the more likely you will produce something of economic value.

Step 8: Remember that HTML 5 will produce companies as important as Amazon, iTunes, and Netflix. It costs musicians practically nothing to create good digital video and fantastic audio, but they need distribution systems optimized for their content.

Step 9: Make music fun again”

And if that isn’t enough, Roger was kind enough to share with me his thoughts on investing in technology related businesses.  TechInvestingHypotheses

From the Economist

“The music business is surprisingly healthy, and becoming more so. Will Page of PRS for Music, which collects royalties on behalf of writers and publishers, has added up the entire British music business. He reckons it turned over £3.9 billion ($6.1 billion) in 2009, 5% more than in 2008. It was the second consecutive year of growth. Much of the money bypassed the record companies. But even they managed to pull in £1.1 billion last year, up 2% from 2008. A surprising number of things are making money for artists and music firms, and others show great promise. The music business is not dying. But it is changing profoundly.

live sales chart

The loudest boom is in live music. Between 1999 and 2009 concert-ticket sales in America tripled in value, from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion. Ticket sales wobbled in America during the summer of 2010, but that was partly because some big-selling acts took a break. One of the most reliable earners, Bono, U2’s singer, was put out of action when he injured his back in May. Next year many of the big acts will be on the road again, and a bumper year is expected.

Music’s cachet and emotional pull also make it a potent weapon for businesses that want to build their own brands. The Rolling Stones (again) led the way in recruiting tour sponsors, from Sprint, a phone company, to Ameriquest, which sold mortgages. Sponsorship can lead to musicians wearing a company’s clothes and naming songs after it: Rascall Flatts, a country music band, has done both for American Living, a label carried by JCPenney. IEG, a firm that tracks the market, estimates that the value of tour sponsorships in North America will reach $1.74 billion this year, up from $1.38 billion in 2006.

Because it derives revenues from business as well as consumers, publishing is much more stable than recording. Record companies’ publishing departments, which once seemed rather dowdy next to sexy, talent-spotting A&R, have become vital cash machines. Publishing supplied 29% of EMI’s revenues and 45% of its profits in the year to March 2010. The outfit’s new boss, Roger Faxon, comes from that side of the business—a reflection of how the economics of music have shifted.

Many of the acts that now draw huge crowds emerged in an era of multi-album record contracts, lavish marketing and radio airplay. They built their brands gradually, overcoming the occasional lousy album. They “invaded” other countries when they felt the time was right. As a result, they have legions of fans who are prepared to stump up for concert tickets. Because their songs appeal to several generations of listeners, they are attractive to advertisers and TV programme-makers. The young dreamers in shows like “The X-Factor” commonly perform songs that are more than a quarter of a century old.

Some music executives fret that the stadium-filling acts will not be replaced. It is true that the starmaking machines run by the record companies are creaking. But this does not mean there will be no more popular acts. Musicians will build fan bases in other ways—through social networks, by recording music for TV or simply by trekking from gig to gig (which is how bands became famous for much of the 20th century). Some will rise with a speed that would have shocked their predecessors—witness Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber, a 16-year-old singer who was almost unknown a year ago. Those who doubt their staying power may wish to consider that adults have long believed the music their teenage children listen to will not endure as long as the tunes they grew up with.”

Read more from The Economist.

From a fascinating article just published in the Atlantic. “The Grateful Dead’s influence on the business world may turn out to be a significant part of its legacy. Without intending towhile intending, in fact, to do just the oppositethe band pioneered ideas and practices that were subsequently embraced by corporate America. One was to focus intensely on its most loyal fans. It established a telephone hotline to alert them to its touring schedule ahead of any public announcement, reserved for them some of the best seats in the house, and capped the price of tickets, which the band distributed through its own mail-order house. If you lived in New York and wanted to see a show in Seattle, you didn’t have to travel there to get ticketsand you could get really good tickets, without even camping out. “The Dead were masters of creating and delivering superior customer value,” Barry Barnes, a business professor at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida, told me. Treating customers well may sound like common sense. But it represented a break from the top-down ethos of many organizations in the 1960s and ’70s. Only in the 1980s, faced with competition from Japan, did American CEOs and management theorists widely adopt a customer-first orientation.

As Barnes and other scholars note, the musicians who constituted the Dead were anything but naive about their business. They incorporated early on, and established a board of directors (with a rotating CEO position) consisting of the band, road crew, and other members of the Dead organization. They founded a profitable merchandising division and, peace and love notwithstanding, did not hesitate to sue those who violated their copyrights. But they weren’t greedy, and they adapted well. They famously permitted fans to tape their shows, ceding a major revenue source in potential record sales. According to Barnes, the decision was not entirely selfless: it reflected a shrewd assessment that tape sharing would widen their audience, a ban would be unenforceable, and anyone inclined to tape a show would probably spend money elsewhere, such as on merchandise or tickets. The Dead became one of the most profitable bands of all time.

It’s precisely this flexibility that Barnes believes holds the greatest lessons for businesshe calls it “strategic improvisation.” It isn’t hard to spot a few of its recent applications. Giving something away and earning money on the periphery is the same idea proffered by Wired editor Chris Anderson in his recent best-selling book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Voluntarily or otherwise, it is becoming the blueprint for more and more companies doing business on the Internet. Today, everybody is intensely interested in understanding how communities form across distances, because that’s what happens online. Far from being a subject of controversy, Rebecca Adams’s next book on Deadhead sociology has publishers lining up.

Much of the talk about “Internet business models” presupposes that they are blindingly new and different. But the connection between the Internet and the Dead’s business model was made 15 years ago by the band’s lyricist, John Perry Barlow, who became an Internet guru. Writing in Wired in 1994, Barlow posited that in the information economy, “the best way to raise demand for your product is to give it away.” As Barlow explained to me: “What people today are beginning to realize is what became obvious to us back thenthe important correlation is the one between familiarity and value, not scarcity and value. Adam Smith taught that the scarcer you make something, the more valuable it becomes. In the physical world, that works beautifully. But we couldn’t regulate [taping at] our shows, and you can’t online. The Internet doesn’t behave that way. But here’s the thing: if I give my song away to 20 people, and they give it to 20 people, pretty soon everybody knows me, and my value as a creator is dramatically enhanced. That was the value proposition with the Dead.” The Dead thrived for decades, in good times and bad. In a recession, Barnes says, strategic improvisation is more important then ever. “If you’re going to survive this economic downturn, you better be able to turn on a dime,” he says. “The Dead were exemplars.” It can be only a matter of time until Management Secrets of the Grateful Dead or some similar title is flying off the shelves of airport bookstores everywhere.”

Read more at the Atlantic.

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.


Great post from Mashable about how artists are creating upgrades and enhancements to music business models. Earlier Mike King reported in his blog how Amanda Palmer made $19,000 online using Twitter on a Friday night. The important thing is not the fact that she used Twitter, but that she found a way to engage her fans and make money, on top of the traditional approach of trying to sell CDs or tickets.

“Amanda is not producing money out of thin air, or by swindling some people into buying something they do not want. She’s engaging her fans who are glad to be able to buy some merchandise directly from the artist. Secondly, she’s not a professional PR or a marketing professional; she did it by engaging her audience through the simple tools at her disposal.

Which brings me to my most important point: Twitter is just a tool in this case. Her 30,000 Twitter followers aren’t just people who she followed and then they followed her back; they’re not some random mass of people who just happen to be following Amanda Palmer. They’re her fans, which means that any artist who has fans can do the exact same thing. It’s not a one-time thing or a passing fad: true fans will always be interested in buying a t-shirt, attending a secret gig, or getting their record signed.

We’re still at a very early stage in the online music revolution. Soon, artists will have a multitude of tools to help them communicate with their audience, offer them extra value and, last but not least, make money.

Ultimately, we’re not talking only about replacing current business models; we’re talking about upgrading them; finding new, better business models. You think that the music business is fine as it is? It’s not. It scales awfully. It’s great if you’re hugely popular, but if you’re an indie artist, the big record companies don’t care much about you. As Amanda bluntly puts it:

“TOTAL MADE THIS MONTH USING TWITTER = $19,000
TOTAL MADE FROM 30,000 RECORD SALES = ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.“

These new tools, such as Twitter, will help the entire music business scale much, much better. Very popular musicians such as Radiohead will still make a lot of money. But relatively unknown artists, by promoting their work and selling stuff directly to the fans, using free or inexpensive online tools, will be able to make a better living than they do right now. The future might not be very bright for the big record companies, but it is indeed bright for the artists.”

Read more here at Mashable.

I have know Terry McBride for many years now and have had the privilege of working with the entire Nettwerk team on overall strategy a while ago. I am very proud to see some of what we worked on taking shape. What I love about Terry is his ability to act on ideas very quickly and make things happen one way or another. He is not afraid to experiment. He is also not afraid to take risks and transition his revenue model to something that makes more sense and is sustainable.

He got out front very early on in forming a “network” of companies to manage artists, promote tours (remember LillethFest), create merchandise, distribute both physically and digitally, publish writers and integrate the marketing. He tried memory sticks, free downloads, free stems for people to mash up, artist-owned labels, viral and crowd-based marketing.

I met with him in Vancouver a month ago and am preparing a video interview. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from a fine piece by Mark Glaser at PBS.

“At the vanguard of the movement of crowdsourcing music and putting the fans in control is Nettwerk Music, a record label and band management service in Vancouver, BC, that has become synonymous with digital music and alternative revenue streams. The label completely revamped itself in 2002, putting digital music and Internet promotion at the forefront and downplaying physical CD sales. Fans have been able to remix albums by Barenaked Ladies and rapper K-OS — even before his new album comes out — and Avril Lavigne has racked up millions of plays and possibly millions in revenues on YouTube.

The driving force behind the digital makeover of Nettwerk is CEO Terry McBride, a man who has helped pay legal fees for people sued by the RIAA for sharing music online. After McBride took such a strong stance for digital music — and away from CD sales — he started speaking more at conferences and talking to the media to spread his vision for a “digital valet” service. He thinks we will all end up paying $5 to $10 per month for access to all music, TV and movies, with a digital valet that knows our tastes and finds media for us.

While most music labels have been squeezed by the shift to digital music, Nettwerk has had growing revenues, McBride told me, and he expects 80% of the company’s 2008 income to be from digital and alternative revenues — and not CD sales.

“In 2007, about 70% of our sales on intellectual property was all digital, and this year it will be around 80%,” he said. “A lot of physical sales comes from our bigger artists and we do print-on-demand for our smaller artists, for their mail order or for touring…My stance on file-sharing did not match what my brethren in the music industry believed. I remember giving a keynote speech three or four years ago, and having a lot of pissed off people.”

When did you realize how important digital music would be vs. physical music and CDs?

Terry McBride: We started our whole change internally in spring or summer of 2002. We did it really quietly. We had one of these executive team summits. We looked at where everything was going. We looked at the fact that 25 million [CD] sellers would be 5 million sellers. The fact that million sellers would be quarter-million sellers. And how our existing model would work within that. Would we take the same stance, to protect the castle and fight, or was there a different way of doing it?

The interesting thing then was that we had the initial digital data to look at. We saw a lot of what was happening. And we said, ‘Where will all this be in five years, and will we be ready for it?’ There was a conscious decision made at that meeting to get out of the physical music business. So we decided to retool our whole company and over the next two years, that’s what we did. For a company that had had an attrition rate of 1% or 2%, a company of 120 or 150 people, over the next three years we had a turnover of almost 25% a year as we changed almost everything.

Rather than have a marketing team with marketing meetings, and promotion team with promotion meetings and sales team with sales meetings, we got rid of all that and created silos. We created three teams that had everything from Internet to traditional marketing to sales to IT to promotion — all in one group, and got rid of the meetings. So everything you needed for an artist was in that group. There was no heads of marketing. We shifted from 12 traditional marketing people to 3 traditional marketing people and 8 or 9 Internet marketing people.

Then we aggressively went after every DSP [digital service provider] that was interested in music that we had, and we set up a team to deal with the programming of metadata behind what we were actually doing…All of our marketing is not around albums but around bands and brands. Our marketing is about understanding the social elements of songs, of music, of emotions.

Fortunately we’re a growing business right now. We didn’t protect the castle. We also made the switch at a very good time to make the switch. Avril had broken, Coldplay had broken, Dido was doing amazing, Sarah [McLaughlin] was doing amazing. The Barenaked Ladies were doing amazing. We were flush with cash. If we made those changes now, it would be very very difficult because money is much more tight.

You have been pushing many bands to start their own labels. How did that start?

McBride: That came from a point of view of how do we get collapsed copyright. How do we get an authentic relationship between the artist and the fan? How can we remove everything that we possibly can from the relationship — or between the relationship — of the artist and the fan. Artists owning their own copyrights and being able to be in direct communication is a far more authentic relationship.

There’s a risk and reward to that. If an artist is signed to a major label, then the manager has no risk, but then you’re only getting a commission from publishing and master royalties combined, maybe a maximum of $2 [per CD sale]. With an artist [label], we had to finance it, but we were commissioning off a $5 or $6 net [per sale]. So obviously we get a much better commission, but it’s a much higher risk. With these artist imprints, it takes two to three albums for them to work.

We’ve found in the digital space, that you will sell anywhere between 25% to 50% of your volume from your catalog upon release of any new albums. So you are layering intellectual property. In the digital space, where you don’t need to buy shelf space, if you create the right metadata behind what you’re doing, and market it in an effective way — you’re not marketing the new album, you’re marketing the brand. By the time you make it to album three, you are selling as much of the catalog as the new album, but you don’t have the cost with the catalog and everything starts to make sense.

So I had to get people here to believe in this, and stop people from having a heart attack over the equity we were tying up, which we had no ownership in. But proving the model that you have have an artist like State Radio, which is a great example of an artist who makes a couple hundred thousand dollars a year from intellectual property, which will help finance the next album.

Chad [Urmston of State Radio] just played to 2,800 people with a $25 ticket price in New York on the weekend. He’s marketing a brand, he’s not just marketing intellectual property. Now it all makes sense. He’s happy, he owns his future, his audience has grown with him really well. Now everything makes sense to him, where initially he was unknown and had to work from the ground up.

The Internet marketing team and his manager did a spectacular job of understanding who his tribe is and would be. Out of the eight artist imprints that we launched, seven of them are very profitable, but it took time and selling the managers on the fact that there were no commissions to be made to a certain point. If they signed an artist to a major label there was instant commissions. And it took the lawyers years to get their heads around it because they just didn’t believe in it. It’s taken time, but now the managers are looking at a very steady cash flow, and the artists aren’t fighting for their creative freedom but actually using their imagination — and those are two very different things.

For the marketers of music these days, how has their job changed? It used to be about talking to radio and retailers. Now is it about search engine optimization (SEO)?

McBride: Search engine optimization, the ability to write basic code, understanding how social networks and blogs work together, how to connect that interaction back to the sale of music or monetization of behavior or crowdsourcing music. It’s understanding all of those things, and having a very imaginative marketing plan around the artist vs. around a product. It’s really brand marketing. What are the artists’ causes? Are there cause alignments? Are there other brands we can hook up with to align our causes? And if the other brand is bigger, can we give them free music and get exposure to their audience because it’s like-minded tribes?

It’s basically social marketing. It’s understanding social tribes and peer-to-peer interaction that the social networks have taken from a small group of 20 of your peers to 250 of your peers. And not focused on recommendation engines, but the social aspect of recommendations. So it’s not a computer making the recommendation, but social groups doing it. Looking at the technology but not using it for what it was meant for. That’s what the creative arts do. The technologists build something with a certain purpose in mind, and then the creative people take what the nerds have done and take it in a completely different direction than what people saw coming.

You’re doing a lot of crowdsourcing of music, where you put out pieces of music and let people remix them. Is that about engagement and interaction more than business?

McBride: Well it’s both. We started initially with T-shirts. We found out that the T-shirts that the fans designed — even if the artists didn’t like them — the people who went to shows liked them more than the ones that the artists designed. That was consistent whether it was Barenaked Ladies, or Avril or Sarah — the fans’ T-shirts always sold more. The fans would do the designs and vote up the ones they liked, and filter them to the top, and we would take the top 3 voted designs and put them in production. And they were consistently the top sellers out there.

In 2005, we took it a step further by releasing Barenaked Ladies songs in stems [pieces of the music tracks]. That sparked the idea for the guys who created Rock Band. That was more of a remix. Now I’m more about the mix; to hell with the remix! We have an artist named K-OS, and we released all of the stems two weeks ago, and the fans have not heard the album. It’s not due out until March, so they are actually mixing the album. So we will release physically and digitally the artist version and the fan version. And when we go to radio, we will service the artist version and fan version. So we are taking it the rest of the way.

You can even take it beyond that. With K-OS, we’re thinking about having the audience vote on which 10 to 12 cities he plays in Canada. We might even take it one step further: pay as you go not as you enter. And maybe when you leave you get a copy of the fan mix for your donation, so there’s karma pricing on the exit. Let’s take this whole tribal/social interaction the whole way. Everyone including Nettwerk has dabbled with it. We have probably dabbled more than any company with a wide assortment of artists, so we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work. But with K-OS it’s the first time we’ve gone all the way with it.

Read the whole PBS Interview here.

I have posted about Jimmy Buffet before. He is the epitome of genius and invention when it comes to mixing music and commerce. There is so much to learn from him.

“The title of his most popular song is showing up on restaurants, clothing, booze and casinos. Among the products he’s involved with are Landshark Lager, the Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurant chains, clothing and footwear, household items and drink blenders. The Margaritaville cafe on the Las Vegas strip is said to be the top grossing restaurant in the nation. Buffett writes best-selling novels. There’s Radio Margaritaville on Sirius. Even his recording career is booming as the music industry tanks: His recent album, “License to Chill,” was the first No. 1 album of his career.

“He wants to be known as an artist and musician, but he’s an extremely savvy businessman,” said Brian Hiatt, an associate editor for Rolling Stone who covers the concert industry.

Buffett is somewhat unique among aging crooners in that his fan base is broad, and is not tied solely to a string of past hit songs. For most of his career, Buffett had only one Billboard Top 10 hit, “Margaritaville,” in 1977. What he offers his fans is an accessible fantasy. “Anyone of any age could imagine retiring to a tropical paradise and drinking margaritas,” Haitt said. “There is something extra-musical about the whole thing.”

You don’t have to go to a concert to buy his stuff. Margaritaville boat shoes and flip flops are found in shopping malls. Margaritaville Foods sells salsa, hummus, tortillas and dips in Wal-Mart and other stores. Landshark is sold in grocery stores, and Margaritaville tequila is in liquor stores. And concert tickets sell out in short order, despite prices that run well over $100. The Buffett brand is on a growth spurt, usually as a result of marketing deals.”

Read more from Starpulse here.

I had the great fortune to interview Jimmy earlier this year. Lets see what he has to say about the Future of Music.

The last few weeks have heralded some great news for the music industry. Radiohead’s experiment with user-based pricing, Madonna’s new deal and the formation of ArtistNation, a “360” model for music where the artist and the company partner on numerous levels including recordings, touring, merchandise, etc., and Apple’s repricing of DRM free tracks to $.99. These are all very positive moves that continue to point toward a healthy future of music.

Madonna left Warner Music for a newly formed ArtistNation designed to optimize the revenue potential and investment strategy by combining multiple revenue streams into a package deal. “Madonna is the first step to making Live Nation into the next-generation music company,” Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino said during an investor conference call. “We believe it should help attract additional artists.” Let’s hope so for them.

Read more about this deal here.

The Irish Independent published a great commentary on the state of the music industry this past week. “Madonna – the most successful female artist of all time – is the latest high-profile artist to turn her back on the music majors, ending a 25-year relationship with Warner Music in favour of a lucrative deal with Live Nation. The deal follows the recent excitement around Radiohead’s decision to ditch EMI and offer their new album for download with the consumer choosing what to pay – a move set to be echoed by The Charlatans.

Earlier this year, Prince gave away his new album to readers of The Mail on Sunday. Meanwhile, a slew of yesteryear’s superstars, including Paul McCartney and Joni Mitchell, have signed record deals with Hear Music, which is owned by the coffee chain Starbucks.

It appears that artists of all calibres are forsaking the traditional route to fame and fortune – making a hit record with a household-name label – in favour of giving music away and making money off the back of touring and T-shirts. Arguably it reflects the way that consumer attitudes have changed toward music over the past decade, with today’s consumers happy to pay vast sums to see a band but unwilling to pay for songs they can download for free. Many of today’s music fans – and artists – hold a very dim view of the music majors, arguing that they have charged too much for CDs for too long and that the dinosaurs of the industry – namely Universal Music, EMI, Warner Music and Sony BMG – were too slow to harness the power of the internet and the way the industry has changed.”

This potentially is great news for established artists seeking to renegotiate their contracts or establish new deals with more forward thinking companies willing to write the big check. However, it has yet to be seen how this model will benefit emerging artists looking for marketing muscle to help them break through the noise level. Can a LiveNation afford to break acts now in order to develop the revenue streams it will need in the future? If not them, then who?

With the widespread sharing of files online moving into the end of its first decade, and the rapid disintegration of the old-school record business clearly in sight, what exactly will the future hold? Will these new models make it easier to find new music? Will the new 360 companies garner the trust of the consumer and make it possible to grow the music business again? Will it be more convenient for the music lover to get all their Madonna stuff from one source, or will the widespread choices available online keep pulling control away from the center and distributing it out to the edges of the equation, namely in the hands of the consumer. Interesting times to be sure.