Trent Reznor: What To Do As A New / Unknown Artist
This post on Trent Reznor's NIN blog is a must read from an artist who has helped re-write the rules of modern music marketing. I've added bold type to some passages for emphasis.
"I posted a message on Twitter yesterday stating I thought The Beastie Boys and TopSpin Media "got it right" regarding how to sell music in this day and age. Here's a link to their store: illcommunication.beastieboys.com]
Shortly thereafter, I got some responses from people stating the usual "yeah, if you're an established artist – what if you're just trying to get heard?" argument. In an interview I did recently this topic came up and I'll reiterate what I said here.
If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:
* Establish your goals. What are you trying to do / accomplish? If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) – your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. To reach that kind of critical mass these days your need old-school marketing muscle and that only comes from major labels. Good luck with that one.
If you're forging your own path, read on.
* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
Partner with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this – give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people's email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special – make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them somethingYOU would want to have as a fan. Make a premium download available that includes high-resolution versions (for sale at a reasonable price) and include the download as something immediately available with any physical purchase. Sell T-shirts. Sell buttons, posters… whatever.
Don't have a TopSpin as a partner? Use Amazon for your transactions and fulfillment. [www.amazon.com]
Use TuneCore to get your music everywhere. [www.tunecore.com]
Have a realistic idea of what you can expect to make from these and budget your recording appropriately.
The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact – it sucks as the musician BUT THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So… have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database).
The Beastie Boys' site offers everything you could possibly want in the formats you would want it in – available right from them, right now. The prices they are charging are more than you should be charging – they are established and you are not. Think this through.
The database you are amassing should not be abused, but used to inform people that are interested in what you do when you have something going on – like a few shows, or a tour, or a new record, or a webcast, etc.
Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace – it's dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don't autoplay). Constantly update your site with content – pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time. Put up a bulletin board and start a community. Engage your fans (with caution!) Make cheap videos. Film yourself talking. Play shows. Make interesting things. Get a Twitter account. Be interesting. Be real. Submit your music to blogs that may be interested. NEVER CHASE TRENDS. Utilize the multitude of tools available to you for very little cost of any – Flickr / YouTube / Vimeo / SoundCloud / Twitter etc.
If you don't know anything about new media or how people communicate these days, none of this will work. The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of these tools. If you don't get it – find someone who does to do this for you. If you are waiting around for the phone to ring or that A & R guy to show up at your gig – good luck, you're going to be waiting a while.
Hope this helps, and I'll scour responses for intelligent comments I can respond to.
TopSpin Media info:
** quick update:
Thanks for the insightful comments already – when I get a moment (and a reliable internet connection) I'll respond to some of your very valid points. Please keep in mind – these were just some thoughts I quickly wrote down and posted and not meant to be a complete guide by any means. I've neglected to get into publishing and some other things. I'll update pretty soon.