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Hits, Hot Dogs and Spotify

image from www.google.com 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.

LOSING CONTROL

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.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Wow, this was a fantastic article. Really enjoyed the metaphorical use with the hot dog ingredients, but the meaning behind them carries significant weight. Appreciate you sharing your thoughts, personally I found them very helpful and will try to apply the principles for my own music. Thanks!

  2. I really enjoyed this article! Nicely thought out! My only issue is that people don’t treat or value food and music the same way. Why? Because one is needed to live and the other is not. Also, one has to be paid for while the other they can get for free.
    I have been thinking lately about the comparison of major labels as large chain stores while independents are more closely aligned with privately owned bars or restaurants. Unfortunately we’re still living in a time that marketing and exposure of your product is going to mean a lot of your success. People need to know about your product (music). In that case, most independent music still can’t even be compared to privately owned establishments. Those place at least have the benefit of being located in one spot to advertise their service to passersby 24/7. To be able to do that as a musician, you need pretty big pockets to advertise which is why the majors are still… the majors.
    Free album download at http://www.facebook.com/chancius

  3. @Chancius People don’t need hot dogs to live, they are a luxury wether it be at the movie theater or at pinks. The fact they are a food item is irrelevant to my point, it’s about consumerism.
    If you make good product then it will market itself, if you help it on its way with some savvy marketing of your own, then so much can be achieved.

  4. *article… sorry for the repeats, lurkers like myself aren’t used to typing and posting comments lol

  5. I’m sorry, bit I have to completely disagree with you. You could have the best product in the world, but if you don’t have traffic flowing past it, it won’t sell. If people don’t know about it, it won’t sell. I’m not saying that word of mouth doesn’t help, but any product needs an initial big push when it comes to advertising for it to sell and get word of mouth approval. It’s the difference between a trickle of water and a constant stream. I know this because I own my own business and work for myself. I’ve seen the difference it makes selling in one location with heavy traffic opposed to another location that has none. To further my point, I’ve spent years on and off performing on the subway and selling CDs. I always made so much more money doing that compared to any time I played in a club or bar with ot without a band. This was usually do to small or no crowds because no one knew who we were, while on the subway I always had a constant stream of listeners who would regularly tip or purchase music.
    Why do people eat hot dogs or any junk food for that matter? Because they’re bodies need fuel and in most cases they don’t always care where they get it. They need that fuel to live though. Not the case with music.

  6. We eat junk food because it is easily accessible, we seek out gourmet hot dogs because they are great. I am saying be gourmet and people will seek you out. You will find traffic, your video will be so good everyone shares it, you will be so good live, the 3 people who come to your first show will become 10 by the next one.
    If you think that throwing money at an inferior product will give you greater traction than throwing talent into a great project then you are still stuck in the old system.
    I live by the rule that if you are not well known you are simply not good enough yet. It’s tough for artists to face up to that very simple fact. If you are thinking that if only someone could put money into you then things will take off, then you are doomed for failure. You have to make it take off without a money injection, that way when you do get money to spend, wether it be self generated or that of an investor, you will have a real shot at reaching the next level.
    Location is irrelevant unless you use that location to provide quality product. If you achieve location before the product is ready then your business will fail.
    Hence make the Hot Dog so good they will come back and line up for it. People don’t go to pinks because of it’s location, they go because it is where Pinks is located.

  7. Fantastic article! Initially, I thought this was gonna defend the fascists, but I was pleasantly surprised on how it demonstrates free-market principles.
    The internet really opens up the market, and as long as people value music, we should be seeing an increase in the quality of songwriting. I’ve seen it already on Bandcamp; it just takes me a while to discover the talent.
    Also, the analogy shows how the music industry will split in two: 1. The cheap junk-food equivalent. 2. The gourmet equivalent. And the best part is that the consumers are free to choose! 🙂

  8. “Also, one has to be paid for while the other they can get for free.”
    You can get food for free too. Just make sure to limber up before you run out of the supermarket.

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