Loss Leaders and Flipping the Switch

LOSS LEADER:

Definition: “a pricing strategy where a product is sold for free or below its market cost to stimulate other sales.”

Loss leaders are the discount CD’s sold in Best Buy, ultimately leading to the purchase of your new TV, or the inkjet printers sold at a loss, because you can now only buy their proprietary, hyper-expensive ink cartridges for many years.

The most common example of loss leaders in music is when new artists offer music for free to “gain exposure”. The challenge, then, becomes creating a real (like, really, REALLY real) strategy on how to maximize that exposure, and ultimately drive it somewhere more costly. The marketing and sales plan of: A) uploading a track on Soundcloud, B) posting that link on Facebook/Twitter, and C) crossing your fingers, is pretty limited.

But music is different than inkjet printers, and selling creativity is different then selling a microwave, because, just as people like to know what a painter was feeling while creating a masterpiece, music consumers like to know the story behind the artists they love.

With the rise of the internet, and resulting decline of one-size-fits-all mass advertising, an artist’s story now truly unfolds online, gradually. If someone relates to the story behind a song (and not purely the song itself), they are much more likely to share that song with a friend. That is why stage two, after offering your music for free, must be to first identify and then amplify your story online.

Once you have both tons of exposure and a story people are connecting with and sharing, then you flip the switch. Flipping the switch could mean announcing your first tour, line of merch, or making those same songs that had been free now available exclusively for sale… or all of those things back to back over the course of a few months.

If you take the long road of truly developing your project, by first offering something to spark interest, then building a story, and finally flipping the switch, your odds of building a trusted brand and career skyrocket.

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1. Fanbases Are Conversations

2. The Power of a Story

3. The True Function of Social Media

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A Few Reminders For Artists

  • Being a musician is not an excuse to be irresponsible or disorganized.
  • Music spreads through conversation and sharing.
  • The internet connects like-minded people, no matter how small the niche.
  • Managers can only work as hard as their artist.
  • The “average person” spends 40+ hours per week working.
  • You must give people a reason to listen to your music.
  • Social media is not a “necessary evil”. It is the best way to communicate with your fans.
  • Success = Preparation + Opportunity. Can you honestly say you’re preparing?
  • Do you have a story worth telling?
  • Focus on the key platforms that amplify your strengths – don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Press helps develop your story.
  • You are not entitled to paying gigs based on talent; you earn them as you build an audience.
  • Stop blaming record labels, other gatekeepers, or people who “just don’t get it”.
  • Don’t get lost somewhere in the middle; focus on the edges.
  • Fans love being acknowledged.
  • Managers are not assistants.
  • Transparent, authentic one-on-one interaction always win.
  • Real success comes from brave, painful, concentrated effort.

Why Ignoring Labels is the Best Way to Get Signed

Although the music industry is evolving, it is still hard for artists to get out of the “pick me” mindset, which has been drilled into bands’ heads through a combination of the traditional record business model and endless stories of A&R scouts signing bands in dirty bars.Crane Game

I often hear artists declare from day one that their goal is to get signed to a label. The problem with this line of thinking is that it distracts you from the unbelievably difficult task of building a fanbase and developing fantastic material. You might argue that you can do both, and that, in fact, the goal of signing to a label will only excite you further and drive you to put more effort into your work. But I wouldn’t believe you.

I believe starting a project with the goal of making the most deliberate music possible, coupled with an absolutely relentless focus on turning your supporters into a true community, is a much better use of brain-space than having phrases like “would a label want this?”  in the back of your head every step of the way.

Labels don’t sign artists that want to be signed by a label. They don’t sign artists who know in their hearts that, if only a label signed them, they could do big things. Labels sign artists who are already starting a movement and turning heads. They sign artists that are completely engrained with conviction in every song they write, every stage they step on, every mailing list email they send, and every post they make on their Facebook page.

If you take it upon yourself to start your own movement and truly create something that spreads, labels will come to you. It may seem backwards, but ignoring labels is the best way to get signed. If you begin by hoping to be validated by someone else, you’ve missed the point completely.

Pick Me

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Jack Dorsey: Advice To Innovators

Those who have worked with me closely know that I draw artist development inspiration from the tech/digital space. Jack Dorsey, creator of both Twitter and Square, is an idol of mine. I just came across this fantastic video where he shares his “advice for innovators”. As always, artists can [should] compare themselves to entrepreneurs, creating and shipping ideas into the world.

Here’s the video, and five key quotes/lessons:

1) Never feel like you’ve made it. Constantly innovate, push yourself and raise the bar.

2) The absolute hardest thing to do is start. Get the idea out of your head. Draw it out, make it or create it, and then talk about it with someone.

3) At the end of the day, you can only rely on constantly bettering yourself.

4) Biggest mistake: lack of focus on data. Speculating on what’s happening creates debate; data tells you what’s actually happening and how to act.

5) Everyone has an idea, but it’s about executing, building and attracting people to your idea. That is the biggest challenge.

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1) YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE EXPERIENCE

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Making the Choice: Online or Offline?

This blog post came via the “Request a Topic” tab on my blog. Below is the great message I received, followed by my response:

“I’m in a brand new band, and am really excited about what we’re doing. We’re talking to each other now, and one band member thinks we should focus solely on our internet presence, but I think we should focus on sounding amazing and playing live as much as possible. Which do you think is the better way to go?”Social-Media

In a band setting specifically, it’s always challenging to deal with varying opinions and personalities. It’s common for leadership to drown in collective conversation, as people wait for someone else to step up and give direction to the project’s aim. Conversation between band members like this is absolutely great, but problems arise when it becomes a “let’s do this or that” discussion. The answer isn’t to pick between the two, it’s to do both. And not just both, but both with a focused strategy that ensures each half fuels the other half. There are two things to learn from here.

RepetitionConsistencyFirst, your online and offline strategy must be intertwined. Once you book a gig, focus obsessively on your daily social media actions to ensure that they’re embedding the voice, look and feel of your group into a network of potential fans. Just as you develop songwriting skills by consistent writing, you develop your identity through repetition and consistency.

This process is so gradual that most get discouraged and give up. But if not, you will have a higher level of awareness, which will serve as your platform when you promote your upcoming show.

Second, I would recommend working backwards, by asking yourself big-picture questions:

  • What do we want to highlight? Which social media channel(s) will highlight this?
  • Who and where are the people who generally like our genre of music (both on and offline)?
  • What’s our budget? Are we willing to invest money into the band?
  • Who is going to be in charge of running our social media?
  • Who is going to be in charge of booking our shows?
  • What is the voice, look and feel we want to represent?
  • How can we capture our live show, and direct the people in the venue audience back online?
  • How can we capture awareness, loyalty, and trust online and direct it back to our live shows?

After answering those questions, you should have a much better picture of what you need to do. Having your on and offline actions constantly fuel eachother, all within a focused, big-picture setting, will ultimately best position you for success.

*To submit your own question, click here.

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A Body of Work

When hiring a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, or any other creative service, nobody asks them to interview for the job. Instead, they ask for an online portfolio of some kind, to immediately see their current footprint, both artistically and professionally. If the creative can’t provide anything for you to see, it becomes almost impossible to care about their work, no matter how passionate or dedicated they are.

This is a rare situation, though. Almost all of the time, any of these people are happy to share their portfolio with you, even if some of the material is old or doesn’t fully represent their current capabilities. The accumulated body of work is more important than everything being perfect.

I think it would be beneficial for artists to adopt this same mentality. A lot of artists do just the opposite of this; they wait (sometimes months or years) until they have a small amount of perfect material. Then, when they release this material, it goes unnoticed because they hadn’t gone through the gradual but worthwhile process of building up their body of work and therefore their name.

Without any name recognition, and no accumulated body of work, it is very difficult for even your best piece of music to make an impact.

blank-chalkboard

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1) Exponential Habit and Fear

2) Stop Being Scared – Release Your Music

Build, Measure, Learn

Some people have asked me to build on what I discussed in my last post, specifically when it comes to feedback.

Rather than try to come up with my own creative guideline, I think the “Build, Measure, Learn” model from Eric Ries will do the trick.

BUILD:

Create something and release it.

MEASURE:

Determine your goals – both quantitative and qualitative – and then decide the best ways to measure them. Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, YouTube channel data, etc., are all good. Data doesn’t lie. But even simple intuition – studying your friends’ reactions, and watching how your songs spread through social media pages – is helpful.

Build Measure Learn

LEARN:

Listen closely. See how your friends respond when you play your music for them. Friends and family will often lie to be supportive. Usually the best way to tell if someone truly loves your work is if they share it with someone else. Study where your music goes once it’s released. Study which songs people like the most, and figure out why they like them. You’ll start to see patterns if you’re truly looking. The longer you do this, the more well-received your songs will be. You’ll grow as a songwriter and artist, and you’ll quickly identify your audience.

It takes a lot of effort and courage to release music. You owe it to yourself to not stop there.