Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

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

January 07, 2008

Use This to Make a Living With Your Music

Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Go directly to the blog entry Seth Godin posted today: Music lessons. He lists 15 "things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart)."

If you've been feeling confused or off balance by all the shifts taking place in the music industry, read ALL of this for a fresh perspective.

Here's one of my favorite parts, #4 (see my comments below):

Permission is the asset of the future

For generations, businesses had no idea who their end users were. No ability to reach through the record store and figure out who was buying that Rolling Stones album, no way to know who bought this book or that vase.

Today, of course, permission is an asset to be earned. The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. For 10 years, the music business has been steadfastly avoiding this opportunity.

It's interesting though, because many musicians have NOT been avoiding it. Many musicians have understood that all they need to make a (very good) living is to have 10,000 fans. 10,000 people who look forward to the next record, who are willing to trek out to the next concert. Add 7 fans a day and you're done in 5 years. Set for life. A life making music for your fans, not finding fans for your music.

The opportunity of digital distribution is this:

When you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread (if it's good). If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop.

Many authors (I'm on that list) have managed to build an entire career around this idea. So have management consultants and yes, insurance salespeople. Not by viewing the spread of digital artifacts as an inconvenient tactic, but as the core of their new businesses.

Count me in this camp too. From my earliest days on the Internet (1995), my business model has been to give away free tips in order to spread my ideas and inspire people to get on my email list.

Over the years, I've heard a few references to this 10,000-person threshold. I quit my full-time job (the last one I ever plan on having working for someone else) four years ago when my email list was around 8,000.

Of course, it's not the number of people on your list that allows you to make a living. It's how you use it and deliver benefits and experiences that people are willing to pay for. But building the list is the crucial first step.

These days I offer free subscriptions to my blog, podcast and video clips ... in addition to an email newsletter. But the concept is the same for all of them: inspiring people who are interested in what you do to "sign up" to hear from you directly on a regular basis.

Building your list = building your career and prosperity.


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posted by Bob Baker @ 7:43 AM   2 comments


At Jan 8, 2008 9:55:00 AM, Blogger Will said...

It's amazing how many musicians don't do this Bob!
Every interaction with a fan (website, gig, cd, etc) is an opportunity to gain their email address and to start a conversation (this is known as lead generation in the business world).
Musicians tend to put their music out there (cdbaby, website, etc) and think this is enough. This is just the 'distribution' part of the picture.

At Jan 8, 2008 12:34:00 PM, Blogger Dana Detrick-Clark from Serious Vanity Music said...

I loved this article so much! And Seth is a rock star in his own right. ;) There's SO much to learn from that guy.

I look back to the promotions I've had over the years, and the biggest indicator of success has been in how much personal communication I've had with the people who became the end users of my product or service.

Higher quality physical product, more expensive, slicker production, and/or bigger investment in swag or advertising, have all been trumped by this step.

It's also the least expensive, most fun, and often, most rewarding aspect of marketing. A 'communication' plan is just as vital, I think, as a marketing or revenue plan.


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