I had thought about putting this in marketing, but since this is more directed towards the artist, I figured this would be a more appropriate venue.
Bob Lefsetz is a music insider who has been a part of the music industry for years. I recently subscribed to his newsletter, and this just arrived in my e-mail today. The topic is "Modern Marketing". You can find out more at Lefsetz.com
His views should not be looked upon as "law", or "the way", but rather just one opinion out of many.
==begin swipe== How come it took five years for the public to turn on President Bush? Could it be that people are just that religious, or just that dumb, or could it be that they just didn't HEAR WHAT WAS GOING ON!
The left doesn't get it. The tax cuts. The lack of WMDs. Finally Katrina. What took people so long to find out that President Bush was less than perfect?
Those in power, baby boomers, are still living in the sixties. They still believe there are three TV networks. That everybody watches. But it hasn't been remotely like this since at least the midseventies. When cable started to gain significant penetration.
Think of this in terms of music. We used to believe everybody knew. Who the biggest acts were. What was going on. It was as simple as turning on the AOR in your hometown.
That's right. From the early seventies to 1982 or so, Top Forty was kind of a joke. It wasn't until after the advent of MTV that Top Forty moved to FM and was reborn. Truly everybody tuned in to only a couple of stations. Maybe African-Americans tuned into the Quiet Storm station. These stations disseminated news, attitude, musical information... You didn't need a newspaper, you just had to listen to the radio.
Then the news departments were gutted. Then rock stations refused to play what was breaking on MTV. Then AOR was replaced by Top Forty. Which was taking its cues from the aforementioned MTV. But then all the radio stations merged and tightened their playlists and MTV stopped playing music. Suddenly, there was no longer a center.
This caused CD sales to drop dramatically. Ever notice that all these forces occurred almost simultaneously? Not only radio consolidation, and lack of MTV airplay, but Napster/P2P too. Confronted with little choice on one hand, from the traditional media, the public took off to the hinterlands, people following their own muse.
"American Idol" sells records because it's got so many VIEWERS!
Check the ratings when MTV airs music videos. MAYBE 100,000 or 200,000 people are watching. Compared to almost THIRTY MILLION tuned into "American Idol". It's not that people are DYING for "American Idol" music, they're just not exposed to much more!
It's not only the casual fans. The people who purchased only a couple of CDs a month. It's the old repeat buyers. They're just overwhelmed. They don't know where to go anymore. There's so much choice and no one to tell you what's any good!
Where do you go?
MTV says it's low on videos because those are now Web-only items. But go to Yahoo Music. Or AOL Music. Would you trust these sites? They're essentially advertising. Oh, if you know what you want it's one thing, but who the fuck knows?
Reaching people has become almost impossible. Which is why record companies now use a shotgun approach. Working their acts in every medium that'll have them. Only one problem...this robs all the COOLNESS from the act, essentially shortening its career. Even so, only a VERY FEW ACTS reach quasi-ubiquity. That's another interesting point, the days of 30 million sales for "Thriller" are done. Major labels want a return to days that are NEVER going to come back. Oh, we'll have the OCCASIONAL phenomenon, like "American Idol", but multiple diamond sellers, those days are THROUGH!
The natural instinct when confronted with barriers is to push harder. Find ways to rig the system, so YOU get mindshare. But there are very few winners. And, like "Millionaire" proved, burnout is JUST around the corner.
The gatekeeper used to be the radio station. And MTV. Now the gatekeeper is the public. The key isn't trying to get a middleman to say yes, but to get the FINAL CONSUMER to say yes. And this is rough. Because THIS depends on QUALITY! The SOFTEST of sales techniques. The only people selling hard today are those who desire short term results, who are going to be out of the business in a few years, like those running major labels.
Go back to the Dave Matthews Band. They weren't sold on image. They were sold on MUSIC! Sure, blown up by MTV, but even if all those videos hadn't gotten airplay, the DMB would still be playing to thousands of people a night. Their FANS sold the band.
Now fans sell bands on the Internet. Push it and you kill it.
You CANNOT rig a fan's enjoyment of a record. Hell, we're not even selling records anymore. We're selling ACTS! People have to believe in the ACT! Via the music. Which is why all the traditional marketing techniques are passe. Because the focus is on the single.
You've got to accept that results take time. If you're not in it for the long haul, you're going to be frustrated and give up. Speak to the major labels. They'll tell you how much it costs to MARKET acts. That's why they don't want to sign you. Rather than spending all this money on advertising, invest it into the music and live gigs. Hell, spend very little and wait for your scene to percolate. And, if it doesn't, face it, you're just not that good, give up. Because people will latch on to that which is good, and sell it for you. It's human nature.
As for a place for the wandering zombies to find new stuff...we're still waiting for it. He who delivers this will make the next fortune. So far, all the traditional players have failed. MTV, "Rolling Stone", radio stations. Their Web plays are a joke. MySpace is successful because it's owned by the public. Yes, Fox essentially possesses nothing. The users can decamp in a day and MySpace will be history. It's about trust. And one trusts the technology in Google. And people. So, one needs seamless technology, which is why Apple is so successful, and you need to hand the reins to those presently not empowered. I'd say those in power now should be very afraid, but they already are. ===end swipe===
1. "this was almost TOO philosophical, but I get what he's saying" In response to Reply # 0
where is the collective of musical artists, who actually aren't trying to "make it" per se, but just want to make music AND maybe keep there "current job"? It's the same thing with sports and stuff now. People CRIPPLING and MUTATING themselves and there bodies, trying to "make it" instead of trying to achieve self mastery and self improvement in physical fitness.