Today’s first panel in the Direct2Fan Camp saw artist Michelle Phelan, fan Lorene Pillin and Google Music’s Tim Quirk welcomed onstage by Whitesmith Entertainment’s Emily White (far left) to discuss the intricacies of the direct-to-fan (D2F) approach, from an artist’s, a fan’s and a platform’s point of view.
Phelan, half of folk duo Carosel, told the audience about her experience on Hangouts, social network Google+‘s videoconferencing service, which allowed her “to play personal concerts for some fans from the other side of the world, who I’d never even seen before.”
Such is the power of the tools on offer to artists today; indeed, as Quirk said, that is the real game-changer today. “Everyone in this room is a fan,” he said; “we’re all here because we’re fans! The fan part isn’t new. What’s new are the tools that allow artists to reach out directly.”
Google Music is one of those tools, as it is one of the few major music platforms that allows artists to upload their music directly, to sell it at any price they like, or even give it away for free.
But regardless of platform, said Quirk, the key to D2F is targeting your efforts to the many different types of fans out there. “There are casual fans and superfans, en everything in between,” said Quirk; “but it’s in all artists’ interests to reach more people.” So for example, a casual fan would not go for a “KISS-emblazoned coffin”, whereas a superfan might, he joked.
Artists should hence “cater for different levels of engagement,” said Quirk, citing the example of Neil Young, who “hates mp3s, so will give them away; and instead sell lossless files.”
All of which is well and good: but just how do artists make money?
Said Phelan, “we’re crowdfunding right now with the new service (and midemlab contestant) Oocto, “asking fans to help us raise money so we can make our first French-and-English song,” said the Paris-based Irish artist. “So on the site we’ve made a list of rewards for donations. I’ll even cook for people!”
Creative control, however, takes priority over money for Phelan. “We’re not at the stage where we’re making a profit; but when I was with a label I didn’t control anything. They even told me what to wear! I’m not ruling that now; but I want to finish any creative process first, and then accept money afterwards. From anywhere, even a label!”
“It’s always been hard to make money from music,” conceded Quirk. “You still have to do all the hard work you did before: you just have a lot more tools to get it out there.”
What Google can offer to “get it out there” is huge exposure. Its mobile operating system, Android, is the most-used in the world, with 20 million people per day visiting the Android Market homepage right now. “Google’s Artist Portal gives you access to that,” said Quirk.
The artist portal and Google Music are not available everywhere yet, but Google is rolling it out “to anywhere we can take your payment” as we speak, said Quirk.
BONUS! Michelle is one of our star videobloggers this midem: she grabbed Tim Quirk for a quick post-panel chat here: