The degree to which the music industry has ignored the future is criminal. It’s hurt a lot of people. It’s confused a lot of Indie Music types. Including maybe you. Think about American Idol. Here’s a hugely popular show that propagates the dusty old notion that music is still about “getting signed.”
That notion is a virus that will corrupt your mind if you engage it strongly enough. And I have no doubt that far too many of you still have this virus planted somewhere in the dark shadows of your mind. Maybe you’ve already accepted that the music industry has dramatically changed over the last 8 years. Maybe you already understand that the labels are screwed.
Or maybe you keep reminding yourself, “Indie or Die!” That you’re on your own now. But, but…at the back of your mind, there’s still a hushed little voice that says, “maybe I’ll get signed.” Or “maybe the labels will figure it all out.”
I must admit though, over the last 40 years, the music industry has done a masterful job of branding itself as the Gate Keeper. The demi-God. The Adonis. And that branding has still got many people by the balls. But it’s beginning to loosen its grip and break down. Breathe easy now.
Walk with me into the future. There you’ll learn that everything you’ve ever hated about the music industry has fallen apart. From radio, to lack of talent, to fake glamor, to Beyonce’s ever-transforming L’Oreal face. It’s finally about the music now.
To be the future, you have to think the future. There are many lessons that you, the all-powerful Indie music artist can learn and apply from the collapse of the music industry. Here’s a few, which I think are the most important. Burn them into your memory:
ATTENTION IS YOUR GREATEST ASSET
There’s too many musicians making to much music that people don’t have time to hear. There’s too many people producing ideas and things that people don’t want to consume. There’s too much email. Too much information. There’s too much clutter in people’s lives and not enough time.
It’s becoming harder and harder to get people’s attention. But if you can get someone to pay attention to what you have to say or what you have to offer for even just 5 minutes, and you manage to do this over and over, then you’ve acquired a valuable asset. You have their undivided attention. And with that attention comes the opportunity to build trust.
If you can do that with 10,000 people, then you have 10,000 fans. The old way, the major label way, was to find fans for the music. The new way is to make great music for your fans. You don’t need all that many of them either. You just need a few who trust you and love you. That’s attention. And that’s your most valuable asset in music 2.0.
MUSIC CAN BE COPIED, COMMUNITY CAN’T
The RIAA once maintained that copying a CD to your computer amounts to making an illegal copy. What’s next? Remembering a song is copyright infringement? The RIAA is a gang. They’re an old school gang, and they’re 20 years behind the curve. The RIAA is made up of a bunch of crusty record execs living on an analog acid dream. They think that music can still be protected. The way a mother protects her child.
You on the other hand should give less than a damn about protecting your music because you can’t. Don’t waste your time trying. Plastic and vinyl are becoming obsolete, so there’s no value derived from scarcity anymore. You can’t make your music scarce because the Internet won’t let you. And things that aren’t scarce naturally have less value.
But the things that do have value are you and the community and interactivity you create. Your shows and your fan community are the things that have value today because they are scarce and hard to produce. Albums aren’t. Remember, you don’t need a huge following to create value. Just a following that adores you.
DIGITAL IS THE FUTURE
Most of the kids born in the last 10 years will never buy a CD or subscribe to a magazine. They live in a digital world. They are the consumers of the future. Forget CDs and albums.
In the future, to engage these consumers, you too will have to embrace digital. Think mp3s. And remember, your music should never be thought of as a stand-alone product. A song is relatively easy to produce and easy to replicate. It holds little value. It should exist to create community and interactivity.
FORGET ABOUT “MAKING IT”. THINK MARKETING
Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby says, “Creating the music is easy(thought still underrated). Distributing the music is so easy it’s moot. So now, the delicate art of calling attention to your music means everything. Marketing is distribution…Learn everything you can about marketing. That’s the biggest challenge in music now. It’s the one thing you can’t neglect.”
The winners in the digital music era will be the best marketers. Don’t get me wrong, good music is still extremely important and will always be. But if you don’t have proper marketing, you might as well live in a black hole where nothing is seen, heard or felt.
The days of showing up to the record label and outsourcing your marketing are over. Done. Thank God Almighty.
Embrace marketing and especially teach yourself traditional online marketing. Social networking sites matter a great deal, but are of limited use to your profitability if you can’t integrate them with traditional online marketing channels. Remember, you actually need to talk to your people through controlled messages. Not the vomit that passes for conversation on many social networking sites. Think websites, email and good sales copy. Solid marketing will always be your ticket to success.
Go out and embrace the future.
Mika Schiller is a writer for the Indie music website MADE and he writes about where the music industry’s headed and how it relates to the Independent Music artist. He gives irreverent career and personal development advice to the Indie music artist. For more great writing and irresistible advice, along with a free report on effective MySpace music marketing, please visit http://www.letsgetmade.com.