by Ross Hill & Barry Shrum
The new formula for the music industry, as described by Techdirt’s Mike Masnick, is “CwF + RtB = $$$$,”5 which, translated means “connect with fans,” and give them a “reason to buy,” which in turn translates to sales!
Masnick’s presentation at MIDEM09 was geared towards this new business model and, frankly, he may not even be the originator of this idea. The actual breakdown of the model is Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = Success. In today’s market, an artist has to set him or herself apart from the rest of the people on the Internet. By “connecting with the fans,” an artist let’s them know that they care about them, which prompts them to support the artist, or in other words, gives them a “RtB.” Engaging fans on a daily basis increases the sense of belonging they feel. This is where services like Facebook and Tweeter come into the picture, as one artist – Amanda Palmer, formerly of the Dresden Dolls – aptly illustrated in 2008. When Roadrunner Records stop promoting her solo album, she took matters into her own hands and began setting up “flash gigs” via Tweeter. She would tweet the location of an upcoming “impromptu” appearance to her fans, who would show up in droves. One such flash gig on a beach in Los Angeles drew over 200 fans via Twitter. On another night, she begin tweeting about the “Losers of Friday Night on their Computers” club and before long became the #1 trending topic on Twitter. Soon, she had designed a t-shirt based on the conversations of her fans which she ended up selling at $25 a pop, generating over $11,000 in income. She had learned the concept of “connecting” with her fans. CwF!
In his lecture, Mike Masnick described the experience of the more well known band, Nine Inch Nails (NIN). NIN is the prime mover of successes for this business model, specifically the entrepreneurial ideas spawned by Trent Reznor’s experiments.5 Reznor perhaps first established the importance of connecting with the fan and engaging them beyond the music. Connecting with fans beyond the music is an area in which Reznor was a professional. By creating interactive games, blogs, and creative pricing for his albums, Reznor became even more of a success than his band had let him be. Although NIN had a fan base before Reznor put his new business ideas into play, the effect they had on the industry was extremely unexpected. Reznor taught the industry that it is not so much about selling the music as it is about getting the fan to fork over the cash for related experiences!
The reason this formula now works is simple: for the first time in the history of the music industry, artists now have access, via the Internet, to the four things that only major corporations had access to for a long time: advertising, marketing, recording, and distribution. As the music industry – major labels, radio, retail record sales – fights to stay alive and keep the independent artists’ newfound power at bay, artists are constantly finding new ways to become successful with little or no help from the major powers. There are so new ways being developed every day that allow today’s artists to connect with the fans and give them reasons to buy.
Social media expert Vashon Patterson says it best, “If you don’t have a Facebook, you aren’t relevant.”6 Facebook, currently the world’s most popular social media site, is another platform on which artists have learned to promote themselves. It is estimated that 1/10 of the worlds population has a Facebook page.7 By staying on top of their page and engaging with the people who visit their page, artists can quickly gain a fan base.
Cyber PR consultant Ariel Hyatt gives the young musician several keys to being successful using Social Media:
“Find bands that sound like you and recruit their friends. On MySpace and Facebook, it is very easy to see who is friends’ with bands that sound like you, seek out those people and let them know that you exist. Comment on peoples’ pages to let them know you are real. Get Personal. Let the fans know you care that they care.”8
These simple tasks are some of the easiest ways upcoming bands can connect with their growing fan base. Little gestures to let fans know that they are needed are some of the key ways artists are getting noticed and will continue to be noticed.
For more ways to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, consult with the experts at Shrum & Associates.
About the co-author: 21 year old, Ross Hill is a Music Business and Entrepreneurship double major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee and a former student of Dr. Barry Shrum. He has been singing his entire life and his love of music fueled his desire to pursue a career in entertainment entrepreneurship. Ross is a well-known musician and DJ in the Lexington and Nashville area and spends his free time experimenting with photography and cinematography. Ross is constantly looking for new ways to utilize the potential of the internet to promote artists and their music. His personal love of music and the industry led him to choosing the topic of his paper.
5Linksvayer, Mike. “NIN Case Study Video: Connect with Fans Reason to Buy.” Creative Commons. 6 Feb. 2009. Web.
606 Dec. 2010. <http://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/12695>.
7Hazlett, Bob. “Social Networking Statistics And Trends.” Upload & Share PowerPoint Presentations and Documents. 1 June 2008. Web. 05 Dec. 2010. <http://www.slideshare.net/onehalfamazing/social-networking-statistics-and-trendspresentation>.
8Hyatt, Ariel. “ITunes Success in 12 Steps — Echoes – Insight for Independent Artists.” Echoes – Insight for Independent Artists. 29 Oct. 2009. Web. 06 Dec. 2010. http://blog.discmakers.com/2009/10/itunes-success-in-12-steps/.