Many years ago, back when I had a big team of managers, lawyers, agents and the rest… One person stood out to me above all of them. He was the 18 year old intern of my manager at the time.
This kid was crazy smart. He was promoting major events with artists like the Black Eyed Peas, and this friggin’ dude was still in HIGH SCHOOL. It wasn’t hard to see that this guy was going places.
He eventually left my manager’s office and started working for Universal. I was sure he was going to be the company’s president one day.
A few years passed since he and I had spoken, and on a whim I called him up to see how things were going.
He informed that he had quit the music business because, “the music business is not a business”.
Instead he went to college to study just that… business. While there, he realized that there was a student housing shortage in the area, and so (long story short) he optioned a piece of land that wasn’t zoned for building for just a few thousand dollars. He then got it rezoned, built an apartment building on it with money he borrowed against the equity he now had in the properly zoned land, and the whole thing was suddenly worth FOURTEEN million dollars. He borrowed two million against his equity and bought a house in Malibu and two Mercedes.
The dude was like 22 at the time.
He has since become a major developer and God only knows how many millions he’s got in the bank at this stage.
Point is, this was a brilliant guy who left the music business because he felt it was a chaotic industry that didn’t follow any of the normal rules of business. And frankly, he wasn’t interested in playing crazy for the rest of his life.
That idea has really stuck with me as the years have passed and I’ve seen the music industry only continue to evolve into a bigger and bigger mess.
One thing my experience as an online marketer has taught me is that it’s all about return on investment (ROI). While that is a fundamental principle of business, it is a concept I have never had anyone ever bring up, in all my years in the industry, on four different record labels.
Instead the strategy employed has always seemed to be about hope. On the majors it was let’s spend a whole bunch of money shoving your music down people’s throats and HOPE that it sticks. With the indies it seems to be more like, lets do absolutely nothing and see if it sticks. But let us know when you’re playing. We’ll all definitely come out.
It’s no wonder that more than half the independent artists recently surveyed reported selling less than 50 albums per year.
But there is a better way…
My experience as an online marketer really changed my perspective on music, business, and even life.
The formula for success in any business is fairly simple… Find a market, get in front of it, and give the people what they want.
Everyone seems conscious of the fact that the internet offers independent artists a way of doing that, but no one seems sure of how to do it.
The long and short of it is . . . instead of just blindly going out chasing “exposure” we need to look to well-established direct response marketing strategies and apply them to music.
What does that mean and how do we do it?
It basically means that you need to create a scalable mechanism for selling music and generating income off of a relatively small number of people that are engaged with, and invested in, your career.
- You do that buy building a website that has a purpose – To capture leads.
- You do that by sending emails to your new subscribers which have a purpose – To create affinity and desire.
- You do that by actually asking for the sale in a way that entices people to get off of the fence and buy your music – Sales triggers.
Once the system is in place you can calculate how much money you have made and establish your “subscriber value”.
Once you know what that is, you can begin to seek out traffic sources that allow you to acquire new subscribers for less than what you are ultimately earning from each one.
From there, you simply scale up until you have reached your income goals… ROI baby. It’s really that simple.
I don’t want to over-hype anything and insinuate that this is some magic button that you push and suddenly you will make a million dollars. That is definitely not the case. It takes work and skill development, like anything. But in my opinion this is the greatest and ONLY real path for a musician who wants to do more than just stick their head in the sand and HOPE to eventually become famous.
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