Friday, April 9, 2010
An Interview With Myself About Music Distribution and Small Minded People
So Chris, in the past, only labels with brick and mortar distribution were considered legitimate. Do you think that presumption holds up today?
No, there are online only labels now, as well as the traditional type of labels. It depends very much on the style or genre of music an act has. It is possible, for example, with any type of alternative music to rely more these days on Internet marketing, selling, and streaming of music and NOT have to rely on traditional distributors as much. There are a lot of small indie labels that specialize in one niche genre of music or another and they can do things these days that were harder to do in the past, like licensing deals with each other in different countries for example. For me it is a question these days of “balance’. By that I mean different genres of music require more OR less of traditional brick and mortar distribution depending on the buying habits of those music fans. If you study your fans, and find out HOW they get or buy their music, that will lead you to the answer.
With so many independents (labels and artists) flooding the market – has your approach to distribution changed?
Well for starters every year that goes by in this new millennium you find fewer and fewer distributors, because there are fewer and fewer brick and mortar stores staying open anymore. That is just a sign of the times. We are really in a ‘wild west’ kind of world where the rules of distributing, and buying music is in constant change. The problem is that we cannot abandon the older brick and mortar world of distribution...it is slowly fading away as digital distribution gets more and more popular, BUT, remember that the bulk of sales from music is still CDs, even though the number of sales of CDs is going down rapidly each year.
So, if I had a label these days I would seek out non-traditional music distribution methods and retail sales techniques. I would not stop what I have been doing, but simply monitor the results carefully of those older techniques, and use as many of the newer on-line distributors as I can handle, from CDBaby into iTunes. or even better check out Tunecore.com and see all the great stuff they have available for Indie labels and bands. It is like this: On the one hand you try to get your music into brick and mortar stores, as we always have, but with the other hand we check out and use the new and developing digital distribution companies that are sprouting up like weeds on a lawn.
Has the playing field realistically leveled regarding majors vs. indies, as so many people claim?
NO! I have never held to that belief. It is nonsense to think that a true independent label is on the same level playing field as any of the remaining Big Majors.
If an artist wants to have a real shot at the big time with what we call call ‘pop music’ in particular...they have always, do now, and will always need the muscle, money and contacts that the major labels have. Now remember, I am talking a success that any so-called Superstar has. A real independent label is not really interested in that kind of success for their artists anyway. They are more concerned with finding their niche, and mining it for all it is worth, but usually, with far less financial muscle.
Industry insiders have said, “We have to find a way to get music to people who will pay for it.” What are your thoughts on that?
This is the one question I get in most trouble with. To me that question is the wrong question. We shouldn’t even be discussing “having to find a way to get music to people who will PAY for it”. The rules have changed no matter how much we wish they hadn’t changed. A decade ago the original Napster changed the way people got music to each other forever. The genie was let out of the bottle. Music IS free..illegally free, but billions of downloads a week say it is so, whether you like it or not,it is not going to change...WE have to change the way we perceive the value of music in this brave new world.
The fact is this: Some people will always insist on getting the music they want for free, legally or illegally. It is just a fact!
So I think the question to ask is: How can we get to know OUR fans and develop a real relationship with them? So that fans will want to be proud of supporting their favorite acts and WANT to contribute to artists and bands financial well being buy music in unique packaging or digital downloads, or buy acts merchandise, or sheet music, or subscribe to some special members-only club that offers stuff they cannot get anywhere else...the list goes on.
This means a deep commitment to studying and develop a database of fan information....and not just learn the hard facts and demographics of who the fans are, but what are their lives like? What other hobbies or interests do they have?, and how can we tap into their consciousness and really motivate them to support musicians.
If I am going to work with any kind of distributor, going back to that issue, I will ask them how are they going to help me get my records out to my fans. And if I don’t like the answers they give me I will not work with them. I will move on and either find someone who ‘gets it’ or do it myself.
What else do you think could help artists and bands understand how change can be a positive thing, and not something to fear?
Learn from history...remember what a big hit it was when prohibition was the law? That really stopped people from finding a way to get drunk, didn’t it?
Life IS change, you know? The RIAA can sue the world because they don’t want the world to be round, but you know what..it’s round! So, lets get beyond what I call
“desperation thinking” that says that we MUST find a way to get people to PAY for music. a music fan's perceived value of music is what this is all about. These days its all about VALUE. If you have something someone values and the only way to get it is to pay something for it, they will pay for it. Ask Apple.
If you just concentrate on your music and make it sound the best you can, and get it out there in well thought-out marketing ways, with customer service as your byword, everything will work out just fine. I really believe that.
The sky is not falling. The stuff you feel landing on your head are drops of inspiration waiting to be acknowledged. (Please don’t be a late-adapter marketer that has to have those drops of inspiration be as big as baseballs pounding on your skulls before you start thinking in new ways.)
All most music fans are asking the record labels and artist is; pay attention to what is going on ....and dare I say it....THINK of new and exciting ways you can please your fans.
Do that and they will love and support your forever.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
No. I have spoken! Well, wait...I do want to thank you Chris for taking your time to interview me, that was very thoughtful of you>
I Know, I am a great guy.