This post is a case study from Phil Nicholas, a music industry professional managing Emily Barker (a folk artist) and running a record label to release her music.
It is a time of rapid change in the music industry. Tried and tested ways of reaching customers, the products themselves and income streams for artists and record label have largely been replaced over the past five years and whilst the internet now boasts myriad ways of monetising your music product, many of these business are still in relative infancy.
The challenge is varied: people are buying less CDs and downloading instead, thus margins for labels and artists have been slashed. The piracy of music versus legitimate downloads has been a big issue, but coverage of this phenomenon often misses the wider point that now customers have experienced ‘free’ music, it is difficult to get them pay for music, even when legitimate outlets gain huge worldwide status (how many of you, for example, know that Amazon.com’s mp3 download store offers better quality mp3s for the same cost as iTunes, the market leader by a long stretch?)
Although reaching your current customers as well as gaining new ones still occurs via traditional methods such as press & radio campaigns to promote album & single releases and live touring, these are crowded media. Massively increased use of the internet has spawned new methods of fan contact and nurture via social networking sites, targetted content delivery (signing up for RSS feeds and email newsletters) and data collection at point of sale. The beauty of online trading is the ease with which data can be collected and presented to the user.
An example of this is online store Bandcamp.com, which is still in development but with tens of thousands of users. It allows the artist or label to sell both digital music downloads alongside physical product. The neat management tools supplied to the store owner include a stats page which lists the number of visitors listening to tracks on your page, purchasing items and importantly, from whence they arrived upon your page. Thus we can tell that over 50% of net traffic to our bandcamp page (http://emilybarker.bandcamp.com/) during the month of January has come via an embedded widget on the number 1 Wallander fan site (http://www.inspector-wallander.org/index.html). Needless to say we will be placing future advertising with them.
In order to widen our customer base (potential CD or download buyers and gig-goers) we employ a service at Musicglue.com which simply captures customer emails and location in return for a free download. The advantage of grouping your fans by location is to be able to inform them of events taking place in their area, a live show, for example.
These websites and other like them are becoming evermore simple for users to customize and exploit. So whilst a playlisting on Radio 2 and a national headline tour remain the most powerful ways of promoting an artist and generating merchandise sales at gigs plus CD sales over the internet and on the high street, a new artist looking to maximise earnings from lower-priced items sold in small quantities, can confidently monitor customer behaviour and collect payments on a global scale from the comfort of their home studio.