Last week, spent a fascinating day in a room full of people who make a living (or part of their living) from music. It was facilitated by Andrew Dubber, as part of a research project for Birmingham City University.
One of the things that came up was a two-part conversation about how we define ‘success’ and how much we earn. Which prompted me to raise the question about how much I earn ‘from’ music and how much I generate in earnings ‘for’ music.
Dubber differentiated years ago (in a slightly different context) between ‘music’ and ‘my music’. And I now use that distinction in considering where the value is in my online music endeavours. I’m as happy to make money ‘for’ music as I am to make money ‘from’ music. The reason being that ‘my music’ is a sub-set of ‘music’ not the other way round. So if ‘music’ does well, I can do well. It’s also true that my opinion about other people’s music is more valuable to the people I’m talking to online than my opinion about my own music. It stands to reason that I think the music I make is awesome – otherwise I wouldn’t release it. I’m not in the habit of putting out music that I don’t love. It’d be pretty much impossible for me to promote it if I wasn’t 100% behind it.
But there are only so many times I can tell people about what I’m up to – if I just keep posting links to my own stuff endlessly, it starts to look like I have some kind of narcissistic delusional disorder, believing that all the great citizens of the internet are interested in is MeMeMeMe. Clearly not.
So instead, I talk about things I think are awesome. I blog about music I think is awesome and gigs I’ve been to that are fab, I put on gigs for other people, I point anyone who cares to follow the link towards the great music that I find floating around the web. There’s a preponderance of music online, but it’s not a ‘flooded’ market, because there isn’t one ‘market’. I act as a filter for the things that I think are great. I don’t do reciprochal swaps with people, I don’t expect the people I write about to also write about me, though I hope that they get the idea and start writing about the things that they thing are wonderful.
The bottom line is that because of the value of my recommendation, I can make more money for ‘you’, collectively, than I can for me. And vice versa. Those of you who really like my music are in a stronger position to get people to listen to it than I am. The raw numbers are less interesting than the percentages – if you’ve got 40 followers on twitter, a higher percentage of those will follow a link to a recommendation than a link to your own stuff. Especially if you’ve already posted that link before.
I occasionally get emails from the people whose music I write about on my Posterous blog, indicating sales spikes, new listeners, collaborative projects and all kinds of other goodness that has happened because I took 3 minutes to write ‘listen to this, I love it’ and email it. It’s not hard, it takes me no time at all to do, and it generates lots of new listeners and no small amount of sales for the music that my awesomely talents friends make.
So, go, do it. Stop telling me about you, starting telling me about what you love – and the great knock-on effect is that I’m MUCH more likely to trust your own music if I love the music you love. If you point me to great music, that becomes the internet DNA chain that makes sense of your music. I like what you like, therefor I’m more likely to like you. It’s not rocket-science.
And here, as per usual, is something awesome – Laura Rossi’s wonderful score for ‘The Battle Of The Somme’ – it’s on Bandcamp, and you can pay *anything* for it. So have a listen, and if you like it, give her five quid. You get a bargain, she gets paid. Everyone wins: