December 30, 2012
The digital revolution of this millennium has led to an explosion of new artist careers both big and small, says DIY artist manager White...
…as well as established artists adapting to the new music industry. Artists like Sydney Wayser (photo) have been able to go from a local New York artist to touring globally, performing on US national TV, landing syncs and extremely strong press pieces, all without a label. This would not have been the case a decade ago or earlier.
The modern music industry has seen the launch of countless new artists finding fans with the free and cheap tools of the internet, as well as major labels having success churning out large pop and mainstream rock acts. A middle class of artists has formed, due to the sustainability of new artists being able to continue to record and release music while growing their fanbase for careers that can last as long as the artist wants it to (hopefully forever!).
Artists who may have been previously signed, and are neither new nor smash hits, are now able to maintain consistent careers even if their labels have dropped them, forging their own path and building direct relationships with fans for again, what is hopefully a long time.
However, we’re always after that elusive ‘hit.’ In Brendan Benson’s world, we have built a sustainable release platform via his own Readymade Records. The great thing about the artist having control is that we can evolve with the public’s demands and not be beholden to asking permission as to how and when we release music. I’m not quite ready to announce how we are releasing Brendan’s music in 2013, but I can say we are catering to how music fans beyond his hardcore audience consume music in this era.
We will of course be taking care of our beloved superfans, but it’s interesting to develop release strategies that cater beyond the artist’s core audience in a sustainable manner that is relatively risk-free. And by being smart about how we release music with regard to putting artist-friendly deals into place, if putting a deal into place at all, when an artist does have a hit, the upside has a very large profit margin that primarily goes back into the artist’s pocket. How exciting is it that we live in a time where we can execute on so many new ideas both ahead of what is happening or in reaction to the culture at large?
But if that radio or buzzy blog hit isn’t there, if an artist has built their fanbase correctly and collected as much data as possible, their base audience will still be there (assuming the artist is continuing to make great music). Therefore on one hand, our industry is growing into more and more niches, which benefits more artists than ever. However, because the playing field is so wide open in addition to fans being distracted by other media forms, the competition is fierce. So a new artist who has built a niche audience, even if it’s 100 or 1,000 fans, needs to cater to that niche throughout their career and continue to grow it if possible. If and when spikes happen due to radio airplay, a sync, the right support tour, and/or a combination of such things, the artist must keep retaining the data of their new fans and hopefully they’ll hang on for the long-term ride.
By properly looking after one’s audience, consistently releasing strong music and ensuring that e-mail addresses are collected and Google Analytics / Facebook Insights are being added into the artist’s career strategy, one can have a career in some form or another forever. However, consistency is key for both revenue and attention. And instead of griping about “lost” revenue from the past (which I was never a part of nor were many artists on my roster anyway), start seizing new revenue streams from all sources.
Whether it’s house concerts, sustainable touring via Songkick’s Detour programme, D2F bundles, income from synchronisation placements and PRO’s, publishing, online and live show merch, smart touring income (that’s a blog post in and of itself), streaming platform revenue, digital retail revenue, Rdio’s artist programme, physical media revenue (which kind of falls into the merch category at this point), sponsorship, and beyond; there is money out there. And possibly from more sources than in the past.
Note that an idea like Rdio’s artist programme is deriving a NEW revenue stream for the artist instead of squeezing pennies from rights holders and squabbling over it both publically and behind the scenes.
Thus, look after your career properly, continue to go your own way in a manner that is meaningful to you and your art, and the right elements may even come together for mainstream potential in one form or another. But even if it doesn’t, you have a career, you have fans, and you have income; all of which are possible because of the new music industry. Which, from my perspective, is thriving.