I’ve run across a few situations recently where people have been limiting the amount of their music that can be heard online. So here’s a few thoughts about free streaming music, and the business model involved:
Most of the research I’ve seen – as well as the conversations I’ve had – tell us that a reasonable percentage of people still buy CDs. They still want music on CD, and are going to buy the music they like.
Nothing that I’ve seen or heard tells me that music fans will pay money for a CD in order to hear music they’re restricted from hearing online – just so they can find out if it’s good or not – or that people who buy CDs are happy to sit and click ‘play’ over and over again on last.fm instead of buying music…
There are people who like music on CD, and there are people who like the digital version. Some people divide their listening into music that’s ‘good enough to buy’ and music that’s streamable but not worth parting with cash. There seems to be precious little evidence that people DON’T buy things because they’ve heard them, or do buy them because they haven’t been allowed to hear the whole thing…
So, what’s the business model?
Well, if a certain percentage of your audience will be CD buyers regardless of how they find out about you, and another chunk of them aren’t going to buy your music, no matter what, the connection you want to make is to get as many people as possible listening to you, so that the percentage that are into buying stuff will get on and do it.
So it makes sense to make it available to hear as easily as possible. Whether or not you do free downloads is largely moot. The important thing is that at the point when someone hears about you, they can then hear you. Last.fm, Reverbnation, Myspace, facebook, Spotify, Napster, Rhapsody, iLike… all these are places where people find out about music. There’s no guarantees that just by being on there, you’re going to get an audience. But there is a guarantee that if you’re not on there, your potential audience are going to be discovering someone else.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again until it becomes the norm: having an audience of 500,000 that aren’t currently making you any money would be an INCREDIBLELY WONDERFUL problem to have to solve. I can’t think of many puzzles I’d rather tackle. Having no audience, a cupboard full of CDs that nobody knows about and no plan for getting people to hear your music, talk about it and come and see you in concert is a bloody awful situation to be in. I’d hate to be there.
At the moment, I’m somewhere between the two. I’ve got an audience, enough of them are happy to pay for either CDs or higher-res downloads that my music career is well in the black. It’s not 500,000, but neither do I have mountains of unheard CDs that are being considered for the recycle bin.
So, get heard! That’s #1, #2 & #3 on your list. Once you’ve got people listening to you, excited about what you’re doing, interested in the how, where and why of what you do, THEN they are are likely to provide you with the answer to how to make some money out of it, without you even struggling.
- gig tickets
- house concerts
- premium web content
- super hi-res audio
- CDs and limited edition boxed sets
- or good ole fashioned generous donations from people grateful for your music –
there are TONNES of ways to ‘monetize’ your music. But finding an audience and making your music available to them used to cost a fortune and require you to be magazine and radio friendly. Now it’s just a matter of telling your story and getting your friends and fans to do the same. Easy as pie 😉
So what are your favourite zany stories of how bands have found an audience? Best strategies? What about merch? What do you spend money on? Your thoughts please!by