Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musicians -- You CAN Make Money In the Online World -- Create Connections, Access, Experiences AND EXPERIMENT!

Musicians -- how can you make money (monetize) in this brave new online world which has completely disrupted (more like shattered) long-time business models?

Well, for the vast majority of musicians -- all except the biggest names -- it's not about selling the music itself anymore (but then again, it never really was).  Instead, it's about getting out to your fans (touring) and connecting more directly with your audience, something that this brave new online world enables in a way that was never before possible.  And, this direct-to-audience path is available to all musicians -- established or not.  The Internet has democratized the overall opportunities available to musicians.  It also gives musicians the opportunity to connect with their audience essentially anytime, anywhere 24/7.  That means the opportunity is there for significantly more "consumption" -- including critical discovery -- of your music.

We all know what is happening now as a result in this brave new reality.  Most musicians practically give away their music in order to establish this connection, this bond with their fans.  Loyalty results.  And, sprinkle in direct access for your fans to your daily life, your thoughts, your dreams, your shows -- your WORLD -- and you really begin to build something.  Things you can monetize.  Music fans will pay for that kind of access -- that's why artist fan clubs are so successful.  They also will pay extra (frequently significantly more) for an "experience" -- not just a show.  A true "experience" means all of the above -- including special access and merchandise (Taylor Swift anyone?  My girl, Hunter's favorite by the way ...).

Here's just one example of new kinds of opportunities -- experiments, really -- in this brave new digital music world.  We all know that "all you can eat" online music subscription services (Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio) provide great value to customers like me (I have been a proponent and heavy user of subscription streaming services for nearly 10 years).  But, we also know that the artists themselves make virtually no money directly from these streaming services.  According to a recent article in Daily Variety, artist payments amount to one thousandth of a cent per streamed track (of course, that is not the whole story, since such streaming leads to overall artist awareness which, in turn, should translate into downstream dollars via the access and experiences I discuss above).

In this context, enter online music service Rdio -- the one founded by the Skype guys (who, interestingly, began their illustrious careers founding Kazaa, one of the most notorious peer-to-peer services that the music industry originally held accountable for massive piracy that upended their long-time business models and overall businesses).  Now, in an ironic twist of fate, the Kazaa guys want to give musicians a hand in making more money.  How?  By earning $10 for every new paid subscriber they bring into the Rdio fold via social media.  In other words, "Artists cash in when subs sign up" (which is the precise title of a relevant article about this new Rdio initiative that I read in Daily Variety).  Magnanimous?  Well, not exactly -- the original Kazaa'ers reap the primary benefits of recurring subscription revenues that can mount up significantly over time (particularly as users like me simply forget that we are auto-paying them).  Nonetheless, Rdio is at least giving artists a new opportunity via this new experimental program called "Rdio Artist Program."

Musicians, listen up!  Put yourself out there!  Use all available means to establish initial "connections" with your audience.  Grant them access.  Create unique "experiences."  And, EXPERIMENT IN THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD!  Throw caution to the wind and try out this new Rdio Artist Program.  Why not?  Go forth bravely!  There is no one right model -- and this experiment may be one small step along the way that leads you to the promised land of actually being able to afford your music career.

Drive "the path" forward.  And get heard ....