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How to Market Indie Music the Google Way

GoogleCupOne thing that the traditional music labels have always been good at doing is making money. One thing that the indie music world has always been good at doing is connecting with fans. In this day and age, I would say that the indie world has a definite advantage over the major labels.

But only because the labels are so stuck in the 20th century. They built themselves up on one model and that model is now obsolete. The indie world was always largely about the music. About the fans’ emotional connection to it. And that’s the right way to do it.

But you still have to make money, right? Just because Google gives a lot of things away for free doesn’t mean you have to. You still need to pay the bills.

There’s one very important idea that you need to understand about how the world works today. It’s an idea that the major labels and many large, old fashioned type companies are very aware of. But most choose to ignore it because they don’t fully understand it. They also ignore it because they think that they have sufficient power and resources to prevent change. So did the Republican Party in 2008.

The idea I’m alluding to is that of abundance vs. scarcity. One of the hardcore realities we all have to deal with on a daily basis today is the sheer overabundance of information around us. Don’t you feel like there’s too much information sometimes? Bing is correct when they talk about information overload.

I’m sure that the glut of information around us makes it harder for you to get your name out there. How are you supposed to set yourself apart from everyone else? Everyone’s on Twitter, everyone’s on Facebook and everyone’s got a cool website.

The issue of information overload is a legitimate one to be contemplating as you lie awake at night and stare at the ceiling. But in the end, you have to recognize that in the war between scarcity and abundance, abundance has won the day. Ignoring that could be music career suicide. And no, that statement isn’t hyperbole.

To see how this rivalry has played out in real time, just look at two companies; Google and Yahoo. Google was the first company that really understood how to use the abundance that the Web provides to its advantage. Google uses the content that other people produce to make money for itself through search advertising. Yahoo, on the other hand, has largely embraced scarcity. It makes most of its money by directing people to its site where it sells banner ads at a high price. That’s why it tries to bait you into reading it’s mostly low quality content with catchy headlines. Google’s won. Yahoo’s lost.

For the past decade the record labels have been trying to keep music scarce through many different methods, including suing people and embarasshing them. There’s an element of evil to their methods. They don’t want YouTube showing their videos. What the hell is that?

How do you survive in Rome when Rome has already disappeared?

Scarcity still does play a role in our world though. It always will. And it’s in that area that the money always lies. In the music world of today, scarcity is live events. You can’t make copies of a high quality live event without tremendous effort. That’s why it’s scarce. Touring is where you make most of your money. And live event byproducts like merch. But it all has to have emotional appeal because that’s what human nature demands. Emotional appeal is a scarcity. Few people can make heart wrenching films the way Clint Eastwood can. That’s why he’s Clint Eastwood.

And you take advantage of abundance by spreading your tentacles out on the Web. By joining the chatter on Twitter and Facebook. None of it is trivial in the least.

One piece of advice I would give regarding this new world of abundance is this: Don’t tell people what to do. We live in an age of subtelty. Let people discover you. People love to discover valuable things. It’s more natural. It’s more human. And ultimately more profitable. Where have you ever seen a Google or Twitter ad?

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.

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  1. Agree w the gist. but the term I think you're hunting for is 'attention scarcity' and some very smart people are arguing the exact opposite of your point of view. Ken Lehrer of the HUFFPO fame makes a strong argument for info-ubiquity being critical to sustaining a brand, band, blog, bling-blah. I agree re: live performances...but there are attention scarcity issues there as well. Thanks for the post. ;)