Written by Nathan Appleton and Courteney Shack
Within this blog we will be talking about ways of successfully selling and promoting bands and artist within today’s society. To do this we will be looking at how the music business has changed since the introduction of the internet; methods of distributing formats such as CD’s, records, and MP3 downloads; and the effect of online social medias, for example, Facebook.
In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web (WWW) and from there it has continued to grow and evolve to the point where it’s available across the world and on multiple platforms, from originally only being accessed from a PC wired to an internet modem, to now being offered wirelessly through Mobile Data! On top of this it is also available on a range of devices such as, gaming consoles, tablets, and even our TV’s. But how has this changed the way we access music?
Throughout the history of music it has always relied on four key elements: Production (recording music), Performance (playing live shows and tours), Distribution (selling your music), and Merchandise (selling products such as T-Shirts to promote yourself), and with the introduction of the internet, in many ways, has helped the music industry thrive in these areas as all can be accessed, steamed and shared instantly on a online platform whereas before, when the internet wasn’t available, all of this had to be done on multiple platforms such as, music stores, ticket agencies, record labels, etc.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows for the music industry, as the internet also opens up many opportunities to illegally download music and grant access to other’s who are not willing, or able, to pay for songs therefore causing the artist, and the labels to lose out on a lot of revenue. One of the first examples of this is Napster. Now a legal online music service, but this wasn’t always the case as when it first emerged online it was an illegal, ‘peer to peer’, music downloading website. but even though Napster has now legitimised, sites that follow there original ideas of free music still exist on the net. So how does the affect the industry?
Before the rise of the internet, we could positively state that the industries biggest source of income was Recording. Making Albums on platforms as mentioned above, as well as vinyl, brought in a large profit. The chart below shows record sales from the early 2000’s comparing to records sold today in the US.
Because all those wonderful apps available today for our use whenever we like, not as many buy the records, unless of course, we are talking about the ‘50-quid man’.
‘The 50-quid man’ is a term mentioned by Tim de Lisle in his article which is featured in The Guardian, of which he mentions David Hepworth and his definition of a “50-quid man”.
“This is the guy we’ve all seen in Borders or HMV on a Friday afternoon, possibly after a drink or two, tie slightly undone, buying two CDs, a DVD and maybe a book – fifty quid’s worth – and frantically computing how he’s going to convince his partner that this is a really, really worthwhile investment.” – David Hepworth
Today, the industries focus is shifted onto live performance being the biggest source of income. From gigs, to tours and random appearances, the price can be lifted, depending on how successful you are as an artist. Pushing the limit on your ticket prices can be the tricky thing and if you are aiming higher than you should, this can decrease the sales. For example, to see Taylor Swift in the Manchester, Etihad Stadium, tickets can vary between £83 and £280, yet if a lower end artist such as Boyce Avenue tried to sell their tickets for that price, I would personally say they would have a hard time selling out.
Since the internet and apps are becoming increasingly popular, having music streamed right from the palm of your hands on a mobile device sounds efficient as it is on the go. Good examples of this are free streaming services such as YouTube, Spotify and Soundcloud, which are easy to navigate and discover music, old and new. They also all feature an ‘auto-play’ function which can continue playing music for you of a similar genre. Though this is great for the consumer, as they can listen to a constant source of music without having to spend a penny, however for the artist and the label it is financially damaging, as the money earned through steaming is a fraction of what is made through physical sales.
According to an article on Devumi.com you can earn up to $2000 from a Million views, however that depends on a number of factors such as adverts, how many people skip the adds, audience, and public engagement to the content so the figure could end up considerably lower, especially if you are a local independent band uploading video’s on YouTube, so ultimately it is not a very stable investment to rely on.
Another way the music industry has had to change in terms of earning money through music is to start using pop music within other forms of media such as T.V. series, Video Games, and Movies. An example of this is Marvels Guardians Of The Galaxy (GOTG), and their use of the ‘Awesome Mix’ which Chris Pratt’s character Peter Quill (AKA Star Lord) listens to constantly throughout the movie via a 1980’s Sony Walkman Cassette Player, which was later available to purchase to the public once the film was released. This benefited the industry, as due to Marvels movies being so successful with their previous efforts, it was only natural that the film would attract a large audience, and on top of that with the films heavy references to 80’s pop culture it meant it gave the soundtrack a platform to be sold on tape cassettes, and vinyl records along with the movies merchandise.
The difference between self-management and having a major record label behind you comes with each of their own pros and cons. For instance, being part of a record label gives you easier access for production of your songs, yet self-management gives you freedom over when and where you record but could end up more cost consuming than you thought. We come right back to the internet though, with funding sites being set up by self-managing bands to create albums, or go on tours, meet their fans, not including all the other financial aspects in between. (Instrument hire, transport, food, hotels).
For self-management comes a greater responsibility towards yourself. You rely on you and you alone. Isolating yourself by sitting at home and uploading will only be a disservice. You need to get yourself out to be heard live, as that is where the most importance of income is received. Take things as they come and plan efficiently. If you jump ahead without putting to question all the small important aspects, you could end up with holes throughout your ideas and stuck in a rut. Jen Cloher’s written piece on Music Feeds will you give you some useful tips on the common mistakes that can be made within self-management.
Chance the Rapper is a self-managed artist who succeeds without the help of a label. He talks about being able to play whatever gig he likes, do whatever video he likes, all down to even talking how he likes as he is in control.
Many labels have confronted him wanting to sign but he has stuck with SoundCloud with a Tweet saying “I’ll stick with SoundCloud till the day I die. It’s the only music platform that cares about the artist and the fan.”
Our Last Night also shows different ways to stay successful self-managed. Although they did start out signed to Epitaph, after their contract was up they decided to leave the label behind and continue their journey independent. In this video by Our Last Night, it shows their Indigogo campaign which essentially provides them with financial support to create two new EP’s and much more, explained in the video.
Any signed artist however has more options than the unsigned. Ranging from financial commodities for better producers, down to marketing and more exposure. This generates a fast-moving pace for yourself/ the band and could bring you on top a lot quicker than you would hope. This sound good right? Maybe it is, but you must be willing to deal with the cons that come with it.
You are scheduled on a deadline, strapped in a deal needing to make x amount of money with most of the cut going to the actual label. Your own originality must take a back seat and be influenced by corporate demands. Check out Prince’s take on the record labels, or this YouTube video on record label pains.
Regardless if you are signed to a label or not, a social media presence is essential, as this gives you a platform to target fans directly and give them an insight on life as an artist. However it is important to use social media correctly as there is such a wide variety of it available these days, because of this you have to be aware of your demographic, and the media you are uploading, whether it is text, videos, or pictures.
According to statista.com the photographic app ‘Snapchat’ is predominantly used by a younger audience of 18-24 by 77% in the UK. Through this information we can then decide what acts we would use to target an audience of this demographic. An example of the is Little Mix. This is because Little Mix is a Pop Act which is quite fashionable and considered inspirational to their fans for being successful on the X-Factor and continuing their success in the charts. Because of this it would make sense to advertise them on Snapchat whereas advertising someone such as Noel Gallagher, who in himself, a member of the older generation now being in his 50’s and with him gaining the majority of his fans during the 90’s. Instead using a more universal social media such as Facebook would benefit more to an artist such as Noel as the users of Facebook are more diverse within their age range than Snapchat. However, with this in mind it is important for artists to have access to a range of social medias. This grants the artist more platforms to get in touch with they’re fans and inform them of any events that are coming up, whilst also increasing their own popularity as fans will share content an artist uploads, and this can attract more of a following.
In summary, when it comes to distributing your music you have to have an open minded approach to it, so explore your audience, discover your demographic, discover the best ways to engage with them, whether it is through social media, using the song in adverts, or releasing physical copies of your music, and discover ways to broaden your audience as all of these will help your product to sell and be heard on a wider scale. On top of this don’t be afraid to approach labels if that is you’re goal as they do have better resources and influence on the music industry however if that’s not what you feel is right for your act then an independent approach is available.
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