Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more

October 29, 2007

Wampus Packs a Wallop

Who knew I'd find such a gem in an unexpected email?

Like most people who write about music online, I get tons of email announcing new bands and CD releases and music services. And I don't even review music. Most of these messages get deleted within seconds of being opened or aren't opened at all.

But something about this one from Wampus Multimedia caught my eye. It had everything to do with this lead-off description of a new CD release:

It isn't about image. It isn't about entertainment. Great rock is about movement -- of the heart, the mind, the feet. The May Bees, a scrappy, uncompromising duo from The Netherlands, understand this instinctively. They want to make a good impression, sure, and they want to amuse and engage you. But mostly they want to move you, to change you, to leave an indelible mark upon you.

What an awesome way to introduce potential fans and reviewers to a new band! Read that paragraph again. It isn't a dry reading of facts and features about the band. It's an intriguing description that puts the focus squarely where it should be: on the reader (the fan) and what you'll get from hearing the May Bees' music.

Plus, it's a great lesson on how to promote music using emotion -- engaging the imagination and painting word pictures that stimulate the senses.

Wampus Multimedia (a music label, ebook publisher, recording studio, and marketing communications company based in Virginia) is the brainchild of Mark Doyon. Check out his blog, where he has some great things to say about the value of music -- included this rant:

If quality = value (and it does), why not talk about the value of music? Who else on the planet but recording artists are expected to devalue their work for some amorphous promise of deferred compensation? Doctors? Lawyers? Plumbers?

The reigning nonsense about giving away music now so you can fill stadiums later is little more than "trickle-down" economics -- a Reaganesque delusion that "a rising tide floats all boats."

Does anyone really believe Salvador Dali would have stood on a street corner giving away paintings to people who didn't care enough to pay for them, just so people would like him and talk about him? Would Apple do that? Would Target? Would Barack Obama? No great artist is going to do that -- unless, of course, money is no object.

Great stuff from Mark Doyon and Wampus.


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posted by Bob Baker @ 8:52 AM   14 comments


At Oct 31, 2007 8:47:00 AM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

Sorry to disagree with you, friend, but this promotion sounds like every other band that tries to pull on our heart strings and convey some emotional benefit to their music.

It's always the same "We're different, we're special, we really rock, we care about fans, we're all about good tunes..." ad nauseum.

In the new digital universe, such "we" oriented bragging is moldy and outmoded.

I am much more attracted to a music artist who actually describes their sound, and even compares it to other bands, or at least lists some major influences.

Look at all the rotten MySpace band sites and artist home pages. Mostly, they just rave about how great they are, but give no description of what their style is.

I prefer bands that take themselves not so seriously.

I am attracted to bands that trash themselves, that practice Winning Through Self-loathing (title of my new book, soon to be released), who despise the rock star syndrome and celebrity infatuation.

I like bands who are not enchanted with their motivations and output.

I like bands that are more like ordinary people, and thus know how to reach them with real music.

At Oct 31, 2007 9:00:00 AM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

That Mark Doyen "blog" is a news feed, not a blog. There's no way to leave comments at it, either.

I stand on the side of "give tons of music away for FREE".

That's not "devaluing" the music. It's using the music itself as a promotional tool.

Yakking about emotional payoffs is absurd. We all react differently to music, nobody can claim their music will "move" us emotionally. Isn't that what opera was supposed to do?

To go from Unknown and Ignored to Known and Craved, you must send out your best ambassadors: FREE mp3s.

Distribute them on as many channels as possible: Ning, Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, Twitter, Pownce, etc.

At Oct 31, 2007 4:07:00 PM, Blogger Dino @ said...

I agree with Steven. Even Prince probably would agree with Stephen as he elloquently stated that he makes no money from CD sales really. His money comes from the live performance and licensing. So, if a major(now indie) artist is giving his music away to generate buzz, that says something to the industry that paying for the songs is becoming out moded.

I agree that a band needs to get paid but like in business, you have to provide some sort of value. When you find that value you have to turn it into a, tshirt, poster, live dvd, membership site and lunch boxes.

If a band can't monetize what they are doing, they aren't palatable enough for mass consumption OR they need a smart producer and/or manager.

I'm not saying its all about the money but really, if you are in it to make it your full time living, the music needs to make you money in some way shape or form.

So to make a long story even longer, we are getting back to the older days where a band would make their money on the road, sweating it out every night. CD sales are dropping sharply and while MP3s are attemping to float the boats, it will eventually sink. New models need to be developed and improved to make the product worthy of the peoples money as they have had a taste of "free" and will only want more.

My advice...write awesome music, record and play shows as usual...create a membership area of your website and develop your fan community...then develop your products around them. Heck yeah make a CD or tshirt...but the real money is not in the sale, its the life time value of the all important fan. Treat them like gold and they will recpricate.

Oh and BE a rock star...people don't pay to see the neighbour. Even the Boss isn't the guy next door even though he is humble as a saint...attitude is everything.

At Nov 1, 2007 2:16:00 PM, Blogger Sam Bhattacharya said...

With all due respect, I think both of you (commenters) are beating around the bush.

For a musician to give away some music for free to generate a buzz and gradually build a fanbase is fine. But to say that all or most of the music is going to be or should be free is begging the question... What exactly are musicians supposed to make their money from, if it's not from the product of their art?

I also disagree that all the trends are pointing to free music. Sales of CDs by independent musicians have increased significantly over the past 10 years. Just ask Derek Sivers at CD Baby. Also, sales of digital singles on itunes have also been increasing exponentally since the store began in 2003.

At Nov 6, 2007 9:25:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

Sam, I disagree with you.

Free recordings is the present and future. It's not just about promotion for an up and coming band. It's the law of supply and demand in action. If you have an infinite supply (ie mp3s - near perfect reproductions of the original), then your price has to be zero. 15 years ago, this wasn't true, since you had to buy music to get it and there were only certain places to buy music (record stores) and you couldn't reproduce them easily (we didn't all have CD burners in our computers or iTunes/p2p).

Musicians won't make money on selling recordings. They will make money through performing, licensing, merch, and fanclubs. Charge people money to see you play; the performance/experience is the real product, not a recording. Read that again, the concert EXPERIENCE IS THE PRODUCT, not a recording. Charge businesses money to use your music in commercials, movies, TV shows, etc. Charge fans directly for merchandise, and charge them for fan club memberships (ie - licensed access to you, plus special benefits/merch/etc).

Don't charge money for recordings. They are like business cards. You don't charge people for business cards do you? You wouldn't make a music programmer pay for the CD/mp3 to play it on their radio station, right? Why would you charge the people who can promote the best? Word of mouth has always been the best advertising and with the internet and mp3s as tools, it can be more powerful than ever now. You just have to charge money at the right places. You'll make more money that way than the current "charge for everything" mentality that's dragging the current recording industry into the toilet.

At Nov 6, 2007 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Yonga said...

I really like to pay money for music that I like. It just feels like there's been an exchange, taking and giving, instead of only receiving. That's the right thing in my opinion. Sure, the prices for CDs in a store are often way too high, but only yesterday I bought a new album on iTunes for only 8,95 Euros (instead of the usual 17,99 in a store). The music is great and I'm glad I could give something back for it.
I'm a professional musician myself and am always happy when people buy my music. But I'd rather send someone my mp3s for free than having that person NOT listening to my music at all.
I believe that enough people share my view on fair exchange and are willing to give something. My trust in that belief feels like the right thing.
I'm glad that more and more "big" artists (like Radiohead e.g.) "trust" their fans in this way, too.
This may sound lame, but positive vibes are a good thing. Trust = positive.
I'm curious if anybody thinks I'm being to idealistic here.

At Nov 6, 2007 3:21:00 PM, Blogger steven edward streight said...

I'm quite astonished that you posted my antagonistic comment. My respect for you as a music marketer, and blogger, has moved up many notches.

I guess my pet peeve is going to artist or label sites and seeing no free mp3s to download.

Just hype and photos and news and upcoming concerts. But several free mp3s of entire songs would perhaps convince me to buy tickets to their concerts, visit the bars they play in, buy their CDs and iTunes songs, etc.

When you provide several or many free mp3s, people may take it on their iPods or burn CDs and play your music at friends houses, parties, etc. thus promoting you, for free.

Free leads to Paid.

With so much music, too much music to swim through, it's the free mp3s that can help people decide if your sound is something they want to buy and obtain more of.


At Nov 7, 2007 6:28:00 PM, Anonymous Corey said...

I'm on the "give the music away for free side" too.

I believe that in this day and age and with the tools we have now, bands can get a lot more creative in how they make a living. The traditional way of selling music is still there but you can also figure out other ways just by thinking outside the box a little bit.

At Nov 8, 2007 11:26:00 PM, Blogger sara said...

I think that for up and coming bands to be successful in today's fast-changing world they will have to better understand the new terrain, unlike the record labels. As Radiohead showed with the 'pay as much as you want' risky but innovative marketing play, people are not going to pay for music if they don't have to, and especially if it is easy to burn a friend's cd or use some music crawler on google to look for free music. The big record labels are losing the war against free distribution of music and they don't know what to do about it. In my opinion successful music acts will increasingly have to be Grade A live performers that can draw large paying crowds and rely progressively less on getting the big check. New acts that understand this new ground-level reality will be able to weather the big storm that's already eroding away at music sales.

At Nov 9, 2007 11:29:00 PM, Blogger Sam Bhattacharya said...

For an artist to give away all or most music for free does tend to devalue that music.

If you're trying to build a business based on a product, it makes sense to start by selling that product. If you worked hard at creating your music, then why would you want to give it all away for free?

And doesn't doing that set an unhealthy precedent for the rest of your business? If your fans are getting your music directly from you for free, then what's to say that they will pay to come to your concerts, buy your merchandise, or whatever else you have to sell? Are there examples of indie bands that are doing this successfully? Just curious.

At Nov 12, 2007 8:45:00 AM, Blogger Dino @ said...

Well said Chris(and to a number of comments after yours)...this is the way things are going whether we like it or not. The public has had a taste and will only want more...whats more is that the entertainers that use this to their advantage will gain the upper hand, just like in the early days of open source boom - the biggest players now are the ones who produced good products and gave it away, charging money for the peripheral services. Redhat(Linux) has made a fortune on this model.

To add to the fire, Radiohead have apparently made a success out of their pay what you want online album release...they managed to promote the heck out of a great record(my opinion) and keep the interest going for thier physical product due out in the next few months. On top of all that, they made quite a bit of online revenue from loyal paying fans. Brilliant and I think and most would agree that it is not difficult to do the same at an intermediate or even beginner level in ones musical career. Granted the monetary values might be considerably lower, but the time is right for people to get on board and start treating their musical careers seriously - dare I say, like the business that it is. To paraphrase Chris and myself in an earlier post, you need to charge your fans for the experience, and merch - not the music itself. So make sure you have a GREAT show and equally great merch.

At Nov 12, 2007 3:32:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Sam: the difference is, the recorded music is not the product.

Look at this way: you’re running a retail business. You’re going to spend a fortune on the right signage, mailers, letterhead, logos, websites, etc; basically marketing materials. You’re going to spend a lot money on this stuff because this is your image in the marketplace. People see this logo, this site, this sign and automatically decide whether they want to do business with you.

You’re also going to spend a ton of money of the things that you actually sell – your products.

Recordings fall into the marketing materials category because they are not your products. Your products are the concert experience, merch, and fanclub memberships.

Sure, there will be plenty of people who won't come to the concert, buy merch, join your fanclub, etc. That's fine. I would bet those people wouldn't have bought the CD anyway. They might get it free from a friend or online somewhere, but they wouldn't have bought it anyway. In the retail world, these are called window shoppers. They walk into the store, browse for a while, and leave without buying anything. And that’s ok. Foot traffic is a good thing, even if it doesn’t directly translate to sales. It’s also potential word-of-mouth marketing (the most powerful kind) for you which may lead to sales down the road.

For artists, this means one thing: make good recordings – you don’t want people to get the wrong impression of you and your music. But concentrate more on your concert/show (your REAL product) and make it the best it can be. Sara's got it right. Bob Lefsetz has been saying this too.

Then focus on the relationships to your fans (relationships are the key to life anyway) and everything else will fall in line. People will throw money at you.

At Nov 15, 2007 7:22:00 AM, Blogger Sam Bhattacharya said...

Chris, it sounds to me like there’s going to be room for both strategies – paid as well free music. In a way, much music has been “free” ever since the advent of radio and later free tv. A stroll through a shopping mall, stores, theme parks and such exposed people to free music as well. Later, cassette duplication allowed even more of it. And yet, through all of it, people continued to buy music (and lots of it) from artists.

I think it’s going to be the same in the internet age. There will be lots of free music everywhere, but people will also continue to pay for music. As Bob Baker always stresses, the most important thing about marketing music is your relationship with your fans, the members of your “cult” so to speak. They are the ones who will give your music $ value and spread the word because they are the most moved by it, inspired by it and identify with it. The “general public” will most likely get if for free through file sharing, or some other newer or conventional source.

And to me, that’s a fair exchange: I will make the best quality albums I can, and I expect my fans who get value from it to support me by paying $10 for each (or whatever reasonable price the market will support). Note that fans are also paying for the value of the artwork, design and lyrics of a CD.

Also, as I mentioned previously, there are two competing trends going in music sales over the past 10 years. Most people know that CD sales by major label artists have been declining. And I argue that one of the reasons for that, other than file sharing, is because the quality of major label music has declined and people are going elsewhere to find the music they love.

The other surprising, lesser-known trend is that CD sales by INDIE and UNSIGNED artists have been rising dramatically during the same period. And it’s mainly because of the internet. Millions of music lovers are actively discovering and buying music by lesser known artists on sites like CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon. Just read up on CDBaby and iTunes, and you’ll see. I know a number of unsigned artists who are making several hundred dollars a month just from digital sales on iTunes only. That’s not making anybody rich, but it’s a far cry from saying that the age of paid music is over.

I agree with you that bands should focus on their live performances to create a great experience for their fans. But even there, I vouch for the fact that your concerts are one of the BEST places to sell your music. Back in the late 90s, I played in a band where 100% of our CDs and cassettes were sold at our live shows.

As we all know, it’s hard enough to make a living doing music just as it is. I think an artist needs to have multiple streams of income to have even a reasonable shot at being financially successful doing music. And selling music is still going to be one of those viable streams.

The future is hard to predict. Will a lot more major label artists start doing what Radiohead did? Will it lead to greater success if lesser known artists do it on a wide basis? We’ll have to see.


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