#085: Roundtable – What kind of business needs your music?

shake-handsA new study confirms watching music videos is still the primary attraction on YouTube.  Rock Band for indie artists may be more work than it’s worth.  Facebook topples yahoo as being the #2 most popular site in the US.  Chris dawns a handlebar mustache.  The Bolt thinks he’s discovered a great use for Apple’s upcoming iPad.  The podcasters revisit last weeks episode about strategic partnerships for your music.  Plus calls and emails from our audience.

The article Kevin mentions about getting your music into Rock Band can be found HERE.

  • Chris:

    If your music is edgy, perhaps you should consider looking into the extreme sports market. A skateboard company, for example.


    There are some audio issues with the latest episode of the podcast. Listener comments overlap parts of your discussion, leaving some silence between said voice messages and your answers.

    Also, in an earlier episode you mentioned that you were un-following people on Twitter, but if you’re using TweetDeck, you could separate those people you want to follow closely into groups by creating a new column. Therefore, you wouldn’t have to un-follow a whole bunch of people just so you can follow the people that you really want to.

    The Bolt:

    How about a giant raft instead of 9 canoes?

  • Doh. Sorry about the botched audio in the phone call section of this episode. I’m going to fix it tonight (wednesday March 20th). So feel free to re-download when it’s patched up!

    The Bolt

  • No worries – I’ve already run into all kinds of audio problems with my podcast in the short time I’ve been publishing them.

  • Bolt

    OK audio should be in better sync now. Sorry about that!


  • One thing that it seems like you should mention for music partnerships as a podcast is podcasts. A lot of podcasters would love to have a theme song (not necessarily a cheesy sung one or anything, but just a riff based theme) or incidental music & a lot of them also could use some recording tips that some of us DIY musicians might be able to give them. Maybe they can even give bands tips as well.

  • Yawn!

    Sorry, the last 4 episodes have been well, useless in my opinion.
    I Fight Dragons, please… Next year, they will be shopping for a new label, if it takes that long! Partnerships? Come on… While it’s a short sighted profit, long term, it cheapens the “artist” tremendously.

    Having read “Free” I’m dreading the next episode. The author is at best, a fool. Anyone who’s ever worked and done well, in sales will tell you the same thing. The Long Tail was a poor excuse for statistical analysis and the conclusions reached are laughable.

    In the real world, connections make sales, not marketing, not give-aways..

    The real world is about sewing and reaping. Give to get. Work to earn. Exchanging x for y. In short, commerce. The truly successful, earn more than they give away by building relationships.

    In the arts, we build relationships by connecting through our art, with people who will never know us personally. We express universal themes and emotions that people feel and connect to. Those who are successful at this, prosper. The rest, labor on in obscurity.

    Put another way, no matter how large your mailing list might be, if you cannot connect without all the social touchy feeling crap of the web’s answer to human relationships, you will fail.

  • Robert,

    Good to have you back! Actually, I found the last interviews very inspiring. For those of us trying to make some money with music, being open to the opportunities a business partnership can provide is a must. As for the next episode where I interview Chris Anderson, I knew you would hate it even before hearing it. If you actually take the time to read the book, you’ll have a better understanding of what he’s talking about and how for some, the concept works.

  • Kevin,

    I’m not surprised you found them inspiring, in fact, I imagine quite a few people found them such. The problem is, the forest. You’re seeing the trees but not the forest or, the big picture in other words.

    How none of you saw Brian of I Fight Dragons as calculating, astounds me. Every word he said revealed himself and his band as people who deliberately targetted a particular market, producing material for that market and abandoning their former direction completely. Is that a bad thing? Well, the answer to that depends on wether you or your band are out to be a commodity or art. If art is the goal, yes, it’s a very bad thing.

    The partnerships episode was depressing if you really listened to what both parties actually said. Neither were eager to repeat the process. That should tell everyone a great deal about the viability of such endeavors. Sure she bought her mom a house but she also gave up a great deal artistically in order to do it.

    As for Chris Anderson, I’ve read both of his books, actually listened to “Free” 4 or 5 times trying to find something of real value.

    What I found were many annecdotal tales about old firms that failed miserably innitially but no facts to show how the ideas presented could be of use in our current consumption based society.

    He himself states that free is considered of lesser worth, less desirable by consumers. Which leads one to the conclusion that he is meaning to illustrate upselling but he doesn’t follow through.

    Basically the man is a proponent of selling cheaply to many, over selling repeatedly to one. A very short sighted viewpoint considering sales is about repeat business not just the initial sale.

    If your intent is to make money from your music, the short term is the least of your worries. Return customers are the goal.

    Look at CDBaby. It does something no other etailer does. That is, connecting with the customer. Sure it’s just a goofy little form email response to orders but, in it’s uniqueness, it’s also charming.

    I’m still waiting for my gold lined box the email said my order would come in by the way 🙂

    Fans are our customers but to keep them coming back, our art has to connect with them. No amount of social networking, email blasts, newsletters or free giveaways will do that.

    You might gain a few short term fans, I for example love the music Matt Stevens makes but I have not yet listened to the free album I got from him several months ago. Had I forked over even a few dollars for it, I can guarantee I’d have listened at least once by now but I didn’t have to pay for it and so it’s value is very low. Someday I might listen but there’s no urgency, it cost me nothing but a download.
    True, I’m still a fan but not a buying fan at this point.

    Look at Apple, their share of the computer market is tiny but, they also enjoy the highest consistent consumer loyalty of all computer makers in the world. The iPod is the #1 portable music player on earth and amongst the most expensive. But of those who purchase portable music players, the iPod line is also the one the majority purchase again and again. Despite the fact that Zoom, Sandisk, iRiver, Microsoft, Samsung etc sold millions of portable music players as well. Zune buyers don’t buy a new Zune when theirs break, they buy an iPod.

    My point is, these past few episodes have focused far too much on short term gain. Not sustained gain which is the ultimate goal none of these techniques can achieve.

    It might surprise you to learn that I read voraciously searching for ideas to improve my lot in life. Nothing I have read or listened to has led to increased sales of my music and I know why. My music fails to connect with the consumer, the fan. Will I change my creative process or the type of music I make simply to sell more? No. If I did, even with the profits, I will have failed myself.

    So, the real question isn’t how do we sell more but instead, how do we connect better with the consumer, the fan, who will ultimately buy the thing they’ve connected with.

    On a side note, I’m still listening to Everglades…

  • I am always confused by people who feel as though creating music for a market diminishes the artist. Why shouldn’t they?

    If you don’t want to create music that interest any market, don’t. Truth is, if someone has an interest in a market and creates music that resonates and captures that market – a specific demographic – it seems to indicate they are an extremely effective artist.

    I don’t believe all “artists” can do that very effectively so those that do must be effective and a “good” artist.

  • Matt,

    I’m surprised you don’t understand honestly surprised. What is the single lament of artists who signed with a label? No creative freedom.

    Any artist who changes what they create just to fit the market is in the same position. No creative freedom.

    In both cases, change things up or deviate too far from the formula that fits and the market dries up.

    The world doesn’t need another OK Go, Miley Cyrus(sp?), Jonas Brothers, Lenny Kravitz, Norah Jones. It needs artists who touch them
    as those artist have already. Not their formula.

    Effective artists touch their audience with their art. By way of examples: Personally, I hate country music but, I like Taylor Swift, Toby Keith and Keith Whitley quite a lot. I hate rap with a passion but, I enjoyed NWA and Public Enemy a great deal. I’m no fan of Punk but the New York Dolls were a personal favorite for me and even though I don’t really consider them punk, Greenday has grown on me over the years.

    In short, it was never the genre, the formula or the market that brought me to enjoy and want to purchase these artists music. But the artists themselves. Their spin on the genre, their unique world view that translates so well in their songs. That, is being an effective artist.

    My point is this, stop worrying about selling out and work out who you are. If you happen to find that you are that pop artist, then by all means go for it but don’t change who you are to become that pop artist. You won’t be happy and neither will your fans because sooner or later, the real you will want to be heard and that artist isn’t the one those fans came to enjoy.

    Remember, The Beatles were an ever evolving band, change worked for them only because they were such a huge deal already. U2 nearly ended their career with one album because they deviated from the formula their fans loved. Miles Davis still has a huge fan base even though to many his music is not music by any measure but disodent noise. He made his music, I don’t like it but you might.

    In the end, the truly successful artists, please themselves musically. Commerce is not the goal, the desire yes but not the goal. The goal is and always has been for those bitten by the music making bug, to create music they themselves like. If others like it too, bonus.

  • Robert, you made some excellent points in your last post.

    I agree that I Fight Dragons sounded pretty calculated but I don’t have as much of a problem with it as you do. I just accept that for some artists, that’s the route they want to go – they target a market and go for it. That’s why I don’t really listen to music radio for long stretches these days, it sounds way too calculated.

    I’m glad you, like me, picked up on the apparent dissatisfaction of the two artists on the partnership episode. I mentioned that in the comments for it and even as I was typing I was thinking, “Was she as unhappy with it as she sounds? She bought a house!”

    While I’m here I’d like to make a small apology for any listeners who heard Kevin read my comment about the last episode and promptly did a search for Newmann Retro mics and looked for a Pancho Ballard and the Banditos sound clip- they’ve taken it off! It only lasted about a week 😀

    If anyone did so and was disappointed, head over to our website – click on my name – and get in touch. A free track is waiting for you!

    Which all ties in nicely to the forthcoming podcast. I look forward to it as usual.

  • I rather enjoyed the I Fight Dragons interview. I thought it was refreshing to hear someone own up to the fact that they made deliberate choices of style and genre.

    A co-worker of mine just left to do his band full-time. He turned his goth-y electronica band into a one-of-a-kind steampunk-themed act, complete with costumes and belly dancing. They do massive business on the sci-fi/fantasy convention circuit. They might not ever be a household name, but they deliver great entertainment and their fans go NUTS over them, so who cares what anyone else thinks?

    Just today, a band I sub on bass with played at the Emerald City Comic Convention, one of the largest conventions in the northwest. The songs are primarily about comic book heroes and video games. It might sound silly, but that’s only because you weren’t there to see the packed room of people, some singing along to every word. It works because our frontman/principal songwriter is a true-blue dyed-in-the-wool comics nerd.

    I can’t recall who said this: it’s easier to connect with people when you share their worldview. Sometimes that means you don’t get to be as big as Coldplay, which is okay, because most artists don’t even come close.

    What I like about this podcast is hearing about all the different ways artists are figuring out how to make a living, even the approaches that I’d NEVER consider myself.

  • I don’t mean to take on the esteemed RLK, but I have two interjections: 1) You probably mean that you think Miles Davis music is DISSONANT noise (containing harmonic tension) rather than “dissodent” noise (has it been exiled from another country?). 2) Miles Davis had a 40 year career, during which time he played and innovated jazz in a variety of idioms, some of it dissonant, and some of it quite consonant and pretty (the “birth of the cool” stuff, the stuff w/Gil Evans, the more recent “Tutu” and “You’re Under Arrest,”. There is so much depth and breadth to his work to be found upon serious study of it (or even a casual listen), that I distrust the opinion of anyone who would dismiss his work.

    So, I’m saying, I guess, when “nobody relates” to MY music, I have to take a look in the mirror and ask myself if there’s anything I can do to improve my skills, deepen my understanding, maybe even re-examine music I had originally dismissed (which I have done over the years with Country music, for instance, with rewarding results).

  • Based on previous postings, some seem to be artists who wants to solely be artists. The game requires all of us now to be business people. To use the cliche, “There’s a reason why it’s called ‘show business’ and not ‘show show'”. If your goal is to be solely an artist and put the business side of things to the back burner, by all means, you’re allowed to do so. However, don’t admonish the others who place emphasis on the the business side over the artistic side. Both kinds of artists have different end goals and different paths to take.

    My personally, I like to try to be good at both. Sometimes the business side comesto the front and others the artist in me springs out. Finding a balance for me is key.

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