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So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star – Part I

Topics: Music | Add A CommentBy admin | July 29, 2009

A few of the music industry’s most successful artists share how.


Are you sure you wanna
go down this road?

Music won’t leave me alone. Not that I mind; I’ve been in love with music since I was about four, when my mom managed a music store and would bring home demo models of pianos and dual-keyboard Hammonds with beatboxes built into them. As a teen, I had an Arp Axxe synthesizer before most people knew what a synthesizer was. In the early 80′s I had a good-looking but tragically Human League-like band, and in 1989 was convinced by a very savvy manager to turn down a major label deal. At that point I put music on the backburner as a career, doing occasional soundtrack drivel (well, maybe my stuff’s not that bad) through the nineties, until 2005 when I came close¬† to jumping into the fray of on-line music distribution by expanding my web business. Recently, I’ve been hired to research and plan some marketing for a couple of artists (including Ann Arbor’s Khalid Hanifi), and among other things, was blown away by this 2007 article (which I somehow missed at the time) in which Columbia Records’ Rick Rubin actually says out loud that the traditional music business model is toast. More interestingly though, I’ve been impressed by the wealth of information shared by artists who’ve been very successful with the new business model, much of which can be distilled down to one simple idea: forget unit sales and make money on everything else. Here are a few interesting reads, if you’re an artist looking for some direction:

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails posted this informative piece in the NIN forums, in which he suggests using Amazon Fulfillment, TuneCore, TopSpin Media, and MySpace Music. More importantly though, he talks about giving music away to collect user info, because “music is free”, and it’s better to have the public getting it from you than from a Bittorrent.

Wired presented an interesting pair of articles a while back; in this one, David Byrne does a very thorough job of outlining six business models that range from what he calls the “360/Equity Deal” (the kind of deal Madonna makes) to the “Self-distribution Model”, including lots of real-world stats and some amusing interview streams with people like Brian Eno and Mac McCaughan from Merge Records along the way. In this one, Byrne and Radiohead’s Thom Yorke talk about the “real value of music”, and the results of Radiohead’s bold move to release In Rainbows as a “pay-what-you-will” digital download. In case you never heard the figures, roughly 40 percent of fans paid for it at an average of $6 each, netting the band nearly $3 million.

The links shared here are easy-to-find resources; in part 2 I’ll share some much more up-to-the-minute information about some of the specific approaches I’m applying to the projects I’m working on.