Blogging is an indispensable tool for building a personal brand online. RSS feeds provide a slick way to manage blogs and stay on top of your online community. Here are a few things musicians may find useful:
- If you are using a Mac, as many musicians are, you can add a folder to your Bookmark Bar for your favorite music related blogs. When viewing a site in Safari, click the RSS button in the URL address field. The page will change into a list of all blog posts for this site. The view can be customized with the tools in the right sidebar. Add a bookmark to the folder you have created for this page. When new posts are added, a number indicating new posts will appear to the right of your bookmark (as well as the Bookmark Bar folder). You can do the same thing with any RSS reader, but this is particularly easy with Safari.
- Review your favorite blogs each day and add comments to posts you are interested in. Be sure to direct folks back to your blog or website to keep the connection and conversation going. This is a simple, effective way to stay connected with like-minded musicians and industry bloggers.
- You can use RSS feeds to deliver customized content in any number of other ways as well. For example, if you are looking for a job, you can create a custom search at Indeed.com (or any number of other sites), view as RSS and bookmark. This is much more efficient and manageable than sorting through piles of daily email notifications.
- Make sure that your website and blog are set up for RSS so that your community can follow you and easily engage in the conversation.
- If you visit topical websites that are not RSS enabled (for example, local live music listings wherever you may be), let the site owners know that you want to subscribe to an RSS feed.
RSS is a powerful tool that will help you to keep your blog current and communicate with your community, whether you are at home, on a laptop somewhere, or using a mobile device.
Just remember, always be authentic in your communication. Before you hit the ‘post’ button ask yourself if you really have something to say that is adding value and coming from a deeper personal place.
In a recent survey by British think tank Demos, researcher Peter Bradwell found that music listeners who participated in illegal file sharing behavior spent more money on music than listeners who did not admit to using illegal services. Two key paradigm shifts created by Internet distribution come to mind:
- Distribution, whether as playlists, recommendations, or downloads, is largely controlled by fans, not record labels or content creators.
- The per unit cost of ‘digital copies’ is essentially zero.
This creates a situation in which even an unlicensed transaction has value for the content owner; a possible new fan, and marketing data. The first challenge is to leverage that value. The second is creating legit services that provide a vastly better user experience than illegal file sharing at a competitive price. In addition, why not simply license file sharing behavior, leveling the marketplace? I know, easier said than done. The issues of copyright infringement are significant, but a major roadblock is the complexity of the traditional royalty model.
People will pay for innovative, superior products. Apple is a great example. Everyone grumbles about the proprietary nature of their business model, but folks are still lining up for iPhones in a recession. The music industry has the potential to transform itself, ushering in a new era of compelling, competitive, Internet marketing and distribution services. Executing will take hard work, visionary thinking, and cooperation.
As the music business continues to shift, the future vision for professional musicians remains a work in progress. By professional, I mean a person who has devoted themselves to the mastery of one or several of the musical arts. This would include instrumentalists, composers, orchestrators, songwriters, recording engineers, educators and producers. Music is a deep and profound human language and I think Malcolm Gladwell is fairly accurate when he sets the bar for mastery at 10,000 hours. For most people pursuing music on this level, a professional career is essential to that process.
To the general public, ‘The Music Industry’ is about pop music entertainers who may or may not be truly accomplished musicians. The topical conversations about freemium and direct-to-fan marketing have been focused on self-contained bands or singer-songwriters. The fact is, there are many complex business models contained within the music industry and all are been shaken up by the rapid changes in technology and the global economy. How do you plan your career if you are not primarily a singer-songwriter or performer?
Professional musicians have always relied on multiple income streams to make money. Today, the business is changing so quickly that musicians will need not only a thorough understanding of the traditional elements of the business, but will also need to master the Internet to brand and market themselves. As you start your career, think about what you do best. What strengths do you have that can be applied to marketing, networking and business? Frank Zappa used to ask people he was auditioning, “What do you do that’s amazing?” That’s a great place to start.
Who is your target audience? Whether they are music fans, film producers, music supervisors, educators, technology managers, or other musicians, be clear about your unique brand and use every tool at your disposal to get the word out and build your network. Educate yourself about the intricacies of music publishing and licensing. Get involved in the conversations about the future of copyright. See how you can apply direct-to-fan marketing strategies like Mike Masnick’s CwF + RtB = $$ to your career goals.
There are many excellent blogs and resources on the web. There’s a good article in the latest issue of Berklee Today on Gerd Leonhard and his ideas for collective licensing and web marketing for musicians. Don’t get stuck on old paradigms. Even traditional aspects of the music business such as publishing, are in flux. The process of change will only accelerate and the successful business models of the future will be entirely new.
The challenge is finding a balance between the need for self-promotion and the passionate pursuit of music. It’s not easy to spend twelve hours a day immersed in music and then put on your marketing hat. Planning is key. First figure out what you do best, then set specific goals for your career. The tools for self-promotion can be overwhelming. Having strong mission and vision statements and clear milestones and benchmarks will help you identify the tools and strategies that will work best for you.
Above all, stay connected to the music inside you.
Michael Masnick’s great presentation at NARM 2009 really lit a spark in me. While many of us want to hold onto or modify the old business models in this industry, everything has changed.
The supply of digital music far exceeds the demand, and most everything is available in one form or another for ‘free’. The devaluation of recorded music mandates the development of new, innovative business and collective licensing models.
As Tim Hurson states in his book, Think Better, reproductive thinking can only go so far. No amount of incremental improvement will ever turn an adding machine into a spreadsheet. Creative problem solving, the back and forth between out-of-the-box thinking and structured strategic planning, is the key to breaking free from old paradigms and dead ideas into new, productive territory. The urgent need for new ideas increases daily as the globe shrinks and technology continues to disrupt.
Courtney Holt at EconMusic
Personally, I have never liked MySpace. It’s ugly and I don’t get the brand. There is too much going on. It has become the default bulletin board for musicians, but I don’t hear of anyone making money.
With the majors onboard they have an opportunity and Courtney Holt has some good ideas. Let’s hope they can focus and build a tribe around a clear identity & business model. Independent artists and major labels have very different marketing needs and require different strategies but the line between the two camps continues to blur. Perhaps the killer app will be a marketing model that works equally well in both directions.