Don't Go For The Masses,
Go Direct To Fan
Major labels are mass marketing power giants; it’s what they do. Before the advent of the social web, they were the only way to reach the masses. Due to their influence on commercial radio stations, at big-box retail outlets, and on television, much of this remains true. If an artist wants the general public to become familiar with their music and know all words to their songs at the next show, then having the financial support of a major label will help them achieve that feat.
What’s interesting though, is that despite decades of experience in breaking new artists, major labels still have no idea whether or not their mass marketing is working until the end. Online analytics, small boosts in sales, viral YouTube videos, and conversations—these all serve as little cues that something is starting to happen, but there’s no way to tell when the point of reaching critical mass been achieved. That is, until it actually occurs:The blockbuster album.
"Get It Right In The Small"
Now, contrast this with the experience of a direct-to-fan marketing manager and an indie artist they represent. Through its easy for both parties to default into thinking like a major label, to try and reach the masses and put off the moment of understanding how successful their marketing has been until the campaign is over - that’s just not how going direct-to-fan works. From the very beginning, the direct-fan-marketer knows if their promotional efforts are working. Why? Because they must get it right in the small. An email can be sent to 100 fans and if it gets a great response rate, only then can it be mailed off to several thousands more.
“Get it right for ten people before you rush around scaling up to a thousand,” writes marketer and author Seth Godin. “It's far less romantic than spending money at the start, but it's the reliable, proven way to get to scale if you care enough to do the work.” In other words, artists need to remind themselves not to go for the masses, when they can go direct, one fan at a time, slowly scaling up, until their message and their music is truly ready to be hard. After all, a failed marketing campaign is much easier to fix early on. If an artist is trying to reach the masses, then like a major label, they won’t know if they’ve failed till the end.