“So could we finally be reaching a social media tipping point – at least in music marketing? My view is that potentially we may well be. Ever since MySpace arrived with public stats on friend and play counts, metrics have been central to music marketing – especially to those looking to land themselves on Radio 1. I’ve seen a few instances of unsigned bands being told by prospective labels that their social media ‘numbers’ just weren’t high enough yet. Now though, things are shifting once again – and the really telling sources for response may be less easy to spot. Of all the platforms teens still use, only YouTube really provides public data. Even Shazam only provides various charts; no numbers are listed to say how many times anything has been tagged (although the company manages over 15+m tags per day worldwide – so we know a lot of people are using it).
In many respects, this is all A Very Good Thing. For too long now, artists have felt an obligation of sorts to be social online. Accepted wisdom has long-held that it is necessary for a band to have some kind of social media page (originally MySpace, latterly Facebook) through which to engage fans. Not only was this considered a great means to sell more records, it was also playing nicely to the people in radio and other platforms who would see these social media numbers as a large indicator of popularity.
The reality, of course, is that great bands get marketed most by their fans. It isn’t necessary for any band to have a social media page as such; if their music is brilliant, people will be sharing it across their service of choice – be that Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp etc – without the artist needing to do anything. That’s not to say they shouldn’t have presences; merely that their importance may be diminished and could hopefully no longer be essential.”
“I bought a lot of music in my youth. Some of my earliest purchases were the vinyl single of Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s iconic album, ‘He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper.’
My music access only increased as I got older. In college, I worked part-time at WHOV, the campus radio station where I also DJed a couple of shifts – everything from R&B to straightforward jazz. That meant a little extra spending change … and more knowledge about music than I ever thought I would need.
In 2001, when my entire CD collection was stolen from my by a very bad person, I thought I’d never be able to rebuild. But, I was determined. So I kept collecting, this time opting for mostly-used CDs via sites like half.com. A few years later, digital music came on the scene, which made it easier than ever to organize my collection, create mood-setting playlists and buy everything I liked.
But something happened to my music buying habits recently. Free streaming services like Pandora and Spotify came along and my phone got smarter, too – or at least better at gaming the system for free downloads. I just stopped buying music with any regularity. I can’t even remember what year it was when I last updated my iTunes library, and it looks like I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Billboard reported the first drop in digital music sales since the iTunes store made its debut in 2003. CD sales continued their steady decline and overall album sales also experienced an 8.4% drop. All of this made me wonder: Is owning music important to anyone anymore? If yes, then who?”
“The long drawn out demise of recorded music revenue is well documented, as is the story of artists, labels and managers all trying to make sense of a world in which music sales can no longer be counted upon. But the contraction of recorded revenue has occurred at the exact same time that the live music sector has undergone a renaissance. The net effect, when coupled with publishing revenue holding its own and the growth of albeit modest, merchandise revenue, is that the global music industry has largely held its own, contracting by just 3% between 2000 and 2013 (see figure). Compare and contrast with the 41% decline in (retail) recorded music revenue over the same period. Indeed it is the 60% growth in live revenue that has done most to offset the impact of declining music sales.
It is probably fair to say that we are approximately half way through a huge period of transition for the music industry. The realignment of revenue is merely a precursor to the new business models, products and career paths that will emerge to capitalize on the new world order. It is in this next phase that the real ‘fun’ will start. Expect every traditional element of the industry to be challenged to its core, expect dots to be joined and old models to be broken. But be in no doubt that what we will end up with will be an industry set up for success in the digital era.”
“10 grand from one sales platform at a time when ‘no-one pays for music anymore’…what does it mean?
I guess for some of you, your reaction is ‘only 10 grand?? I thought you were LOADED!’, in which case, you perhaps need to take with a pinch of salt the over-inflated claims of success of some other musicians pretending to be making millions. ‘Fake It To Make It’ has long been the received wisdom of music promo, but we’re kind of beyond that now. Apart from everything else, it makes it very difficult to build honest friendships with the people who dig your music if you’ve been lying to them for years about how massively successful you are.”
“So what does £10k mean?
Is it wages? If it is, it’s not much of a milestone. Should it be measured against what other artists are making? That seems a bit meaningless, given the role that marketing (and marketing budgets) play in headline figures. There are going to be a LOT of acts–signed as well as unsigned–who will see FAR less than we do go into their bank accounts from sales while still grossing WAY more than we do.
Because, making money from music costs money. And for MOST artists, it costs more than it makes. I could probably sell a lot more music if I assigned myself a sizable advertising and promo budget, if I was willing to do a buy-on tour opening for a bigger name act…but I just can’t afford to do that. That would cease to be sustainable. So I spend what I have–which is time–and use it to tell stories, to present the music in as many different contexts for as many different audiences as I can. For about 80% of my Bandcamp sales, I can tell you where the person heard about me, because I’ve been in touch with them already. It’s an extension of myriad friendships, not the effectiveness of an ad campaign that has bred whatever success we’re looking at here.”
Here’s a tip for people who object to artists using Kickstarter, PledgeMysic etc: don’t pledge, and STFU about it. It’s not your call.
— Bemuso (@Bemuso) August 11, 2013
So, how does a cult musician like that become a figure of popular sport? A lot of circumstances conspired to introduce her to the larger public, from a heavy online presence to her relationship with popular writer Neil Gaiman. But the turning point came when she broke from her label, took to Kickstarter to crowd-source funding for her next project, and raised — remarkably, unexpectedly — more than a million dollars. This constituted an actual general-interest news story, in which Palmer’s accomplishment could be touted as proving something important concerning “the future of music.” (That claim’s a questionable one: It’s been clear for a while now that artists with major-label histories and established audiences can gather fans around independent projects, at least the first time out. So?) And negative reactions to that press were merely warm-up for the main hating-Palmer event, which arrived when she, in the course of assembling a tour, asked fans to volunteer at various stops to play strings and horns as part of her band, unpaid. This was, technically, just another facet of that intimate connection with the audience — letting them participate in the music-making, a daydream-come-true for plenty of fans. But when you’ve just raised more than a million dollars from fans and sold them tickets to your show, it’s evidently poor PR to ask them to perform for free — and even more unseemly to claim, when criticized, that you literally can’t afford to do otherwise. It’s also an open invitation for curious parties to investigate your finances, and when other musicians did so, they tended to be baffled. Palmer suggested she was returning her Kickstarter windfall to fans in the forms of lavish gifts for donors; others saw her rough budget breakdowns as a festival of profligacy and unnecessary costs. There were also, as a matter of routine, those strangers who didn’t much care either way but found Palmer’s entire manner of being vaguely off-putting.