Lisa Loeb, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, actress, and television producer, spoke to Laurence Trifon for Hypebot recently at Digital NARM. The now indie artist is embracing the digital space to market her music, and understands the challenges ahead.
HYPEBOT: There has been some debate among at Digital NARM about free music, and the trade-off between its promotional value and its potential to cannibalize music sales.
LOEB: It’s a fine line. When I was a kid we traded mixed tapes. And even now people give me entire CDs that they’ve burned that I might enjoy...
and if I like them I buy them because I know that’s the responsible thing to do. But I’m still up in the air about free music. It’s an interesting balance. I don’t really know the answer.
HYPEBOT: During the "Digital Copyright Crossfire" panel, Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild expressed that piracy has really hurt songwriters’ ability to make a living. What are your thoughts on how file-sharing has affected musicians?
LOEB: It’s terrible for songwriters who aren't also performers. When people share music for free, at least the artist brand is developed. If a bunch of fans get free Radiohead songs, Radiohead the brand is getting bigger and bigger. But if a Christina Aguilera song that someone else wrote is being passed around for free, the songwriter has totally been cut out of the puzzle. Songwriters don’t usually get advances. For them, royalties is where they make their money. That’s it.
HYPEBOT: So what's the solution for songwriters?
LOEB: Maybe they have a hobby... I don't know. Songwriters are screwed.
HYPEBOT: Established bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have been experimenting with new models for selling digital music. Are there any innovative strategies for selling music that you have tried or think are particularly promising?
LOEB: What’s worked for us really well is things like AmieStreet, a website where tracks start less expensive, and the more people who buy the record, the more expensive it gets. That kind of thing, where it’s a fight for the cheapest price, seems to get people to buy more records and buy them quickly.
HYEPBOT: A lot of people believe there isn't a future in selling music and the artist needs to focus on selling products and services around their music instead. Going forward, how do you see artists earning a living?
LOEB: For musicians who just want to make music, I think they can focus on making a living from their "music life," whether it’s selling records, recordings of live shows, tickets to shows, everything having to do with music.
For me, it makes sense that music is only a part of what I do. I like making TV programming. It provides me the creative freedom that I need in my life. I’m into physical fitness and food and nutrition. I want to be like Oprah and say “This is place I like to go get coffee,” “This is the reason that I use these tissues,” “This is the book that I read which is really cool”... For me it’s great to have a multi-media platform, and however I can monetize it [is okay].
Music is the core of what I do. I am considered a musician, and I am a musician. But I see it as more amorphous... Different things generate income and different things cost money to do. I want to do what I want to do, and I still want to make a living. It’s an interesting balance to figure out where your income is and where your output is going to be.
HYPEBOT: What do you think about 360 deals where labels get a percentage of all an artist's revenue streams?
LOEB: I think when it’s good, it’s very, very good for the artist. And when it’s bad, it’s naughty.
I work with my manager, and in a way you need to have the whole  deal because it’s not just about the music anymore. It’s the music, and the t-shirts, and the chotchkes that your selling, and where you’re going to play. You would hope by looking at the whole picture, you could keep a better eye on the entire career of an artist and how all the pieces relate. If the record company or the publishing company is doing their job, that’s worth money. They should be paid something and a percentage is the easiest way to pay them because they’re making money when you’re making money.
Metallica’s management, Q Prime, is awesome at having a hand in everything. And because of it they’re able to create this huge corporation that works really well. I don’t know if record labels will be able to do that or not... Sometimes in these big companies so many things fall through the cracks. Sometimes they put you on hold for a long period of time and things don’t move as quickly as the modern music business moves.
HYPEBOT: How are you using online tools to help you market and promote your upcoming album, “Camp Lisa”?
LISA LOEB: We’re putting out “Camp Lisa” exclusively through Barnes & Noble for the first 3 months. I will be going into stores and playing shows. It’s analog marketing -- it's me in person, existing as a human, playing music. We’re just using the Internet to reach a wider audience.
You have to use social networks, it’s status quo. To me it’s an extension of the grass roots campaigns I’ve used since high school. You invite people to know that something exists, and to come see a show or buy a record. My main things are MySpace, Facebook and my fan forum on lisaloeb.com. We also use some widgets to find out where people want me to play concerts and where my fans might be.
Another thing that’s been really important to us is partnerships. In the past we’ve worked with Sanrio, who has the Hello Kitty Brand. I was in a Candie’s shoe ad. I’ve worked with certain clothing companies... I try to use social networking to do a little bit of research as well as we can to figure out what other partners make sense and that I’ll also enjoy. - Laurence Trifon
LISA LOEB'S NEW ALBUM "CAMP LISA" WAS RELEASED JUNE 3RD EXCLUSIVELY VIA BARNES & NOBLE.