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July 17, 2009

Reznor's latest advice ... another beauty

Techdirt has another gem from Trent Reznor. Advice for indies on how to run their business. It's fairly general advice, but pretty good. Some of the comments provide interesting additional advice and so on. Rather than just report this, I thought I'd add some commentary to each point this time.

The basic model:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

Well, yes, that's pretty much true of any business. Important, however, that musos (who are not generally noted for their business acumen) learn to think in these terms.

* Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters....

This works for most - as long as you have catalog depth and other revenue streams. Brad is a classic example of a guy who gives his record away but sells copies as well. Even he doesn't know why, but he's happy either way.

I like the irony of "cheaply (but great)". That's easy for a guy like Trent, whose worked with the best in the business and had a lifetime to learn the ropes ... not so easy for a first-timer making a CD at home. For most people, production is either cheap OR great ... not both ... at least a beginner can record some great *performances* very averagely.

* Parter with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this - give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people's email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special - make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan...
* The point is this: music IS free whether you want to believe that or not. Every piece of music you can think of is available free right now a click away. This is a fact - it sucks as the musician BUT THAT'S THE WAY IT IS (for now). So... have the public get what they want FROM YOU instead of a torrent site and garner good will in the process (plus build your database)....
* Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace - it's dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don't autoplay). Constantly update your site with content - pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time. Put up a bulletin board and start a community. Engage your fans (with caution!) Make cheap videos. Film yourself talking. Play shows. Make interesting things. Get a Twitter account. Be interesting. Be real. Submit your music to blogs that may be interested. NEVER CHASE TRENDS. Utilize the multitude of tools available to you for very little cost of any - Flickr / YouTube / Vimeo / SoundCloud / Twitter etc.
* If you don't know anything about new media or how people communicate these days, none of this will work. The role of an independent musician these days requires a mastery of first hand use of these tools. If you don't get it - find someone who does to do this for you. If you are waiting around for the phone to ring or that A & R guy to show up at your gig - good luck, you're going to be waiting a while.

The point is to build your act's reputation. That reputation (or Esteem) can be converted into money or labor.

Posted by Hughie at July 17, 2009 4:44 PM

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