Hits, Hot Dogs and Spotify
When you enter a movie theatre, you are at their mercy when it comes to purchasing the products they have to offer. With high mark ups and cheap production costs, selling snacks is how movie theaters survive. Just as with airports and amusement parks, they have you cornered in their environment and can get get away with scandalous pricing, simply because there is no competition.
If you are faced with the same priced hot dogs at your local supermarket you would balk at such costs. The mass produced, nutrition-less morsels simply don't hold enough quality to warrant parting with $5, or even $1 for that matter.
With the introduction of Napster at the turn of the century, the record companies suddenly lost control of their selling environment. They used to be able to grab your attention by having a large stake on record store racking and listening posts. These were all bought, never chosen due to merit. In fact, when you were to see an album with choice racking in Best Buy, its placement came with a hefty five figure price tag. They of course were also able to control the price of the CD as a result, this is why the cost of albums climbed close to $20 before crashing to $8.99 when the majors finally realized there was a problem brewing.
With the introduction of Spotify, there is suddenly the possibility of a wide advertising reach for a very targeted demographic. This is made even greater by viewing Spotify as an old fashion record store listening post. Enticing people with a taster of music driven by a blast of advertising. Saturation of an artist can be paid for with the majors monetary muscle, and directed towards a free opportunity to listen to the album.
However, the conundrum is that Spotifys streaming revenue is a pittance in comparison with the once mighty CD.
Why should people follow through and purchase something from the newly discovered artist when it's right there in front of them for free? That's where the push to get people to subscribe comes in. By limiting use on mobile devices exclusively to the paid service, the majors are once again trying to control the environment in which the music is consumed. Through licensing deals with Spotify, they have been able to use their weight to gain control of a big piece of the pie.
WHERE'S THE BEEF?
So where does that leave the independent artist? Are we back to being minnows in the big boys pond?
Well the answer to the problem might be in the Hot Dogs.
Sure the sale of Hot Dogs is controlled by the environment that they are sold in. But the majors are aiming for mass consumption and shifting as many units as possible. With the onset of digital technology, the preparation of music for the mass consumer has never been easier. Autotune, Photoshop and CGI take care of the blemishes and flaws of the stars. Neatly squeezed between 2 buns, made from prepackaged beats and processed melodies. If Rihanna and Katy Perry are prime cuts, it is debatable as to how much of that "beef" is actually traceable in the final product.
Trouble is the Major label album experience has diminished, with the masses wanting just the hit – that little bit of beef that actually made it through the pop machine grinder.
YOU WANT KETCHUP WITH THAT?
Anyone who has passed the corner of La Brea and Melrose in LA would have surely noticed the line outside an unassuming food stand. The name of it is Pinks and it has survived for 71 years by selling Hot Dogs. They are not cheap, in fact they are the same price you would expect to pay at a movie theater. There is no restaurant, they just serve people on the street. There is no way of controlling this environment. You go there for one reason, and that is because of the quality of the Hot Dogs.
They are world famous and they obviously are continuing to turn a tidy profit. They are not Macdonalds or Burger King, they survive because of quality and exclusivity, not because of saturation and market share.
It's time for independent musicians to forget about chasing the majors game, let them try to corner the mass market. Let them struggle to meet their overheads by desperately trying to gain control back of an out of control industry. Think about being world famous for the quality and exclusivity of your product. Sure give a few free tasters away, I am sure Pinks did the same in the early days, but their product was obviously good enough for people to return and tell their friends about.
Think about world fame as having pockets of fans around the globe reachable online, not as being a recognizable face as you walk down the street.
Be 100% Beef.
If you are good enough, they will come.