140 Characters Conference (Detroit) Music Panel

]On Wednesday, October 20th, I will have the distinct privilege of moderating a panel at the 140 Characters Conference in Detroit. The panel will include Martin “DJ Graffiti” Smith – VP of Marketing at A-Side WorldwideDominic Arellano – Founder of the Few Records, and Jason Gittinger – Executive Producer of The Detroit School of Rock and Pop Music.

We plan to talk about building a music economy in Detroit and how the real-time web can help build it. Here are the general touch points that we plan to discuss.

The event should be streamed live and we are tentatively-scheduled to go out around 2:30pm. Stay tuned to the #140conf feed for the live-stream link.

What do you think of the topic we plan to cover? Do you have any suggestion for anything specific that you don’t see here that we need to discuss? Let me know in the comments.

If You Remove Your Music from Bandcamp, Quit Now

It has come to my attention that since Bandcamp has implemented their freemium program some notable acts have decided to either remove their tunes or cease to make downloading available.

This is just unacceptable. I mean, what are you going to use now? Are you going back to use sites that leave your fans susceptible to spam and malware? It is ridiculous that many bloggers still choose to use such a service, but they don’t care about the end-user. This post is not directed at music bloggers though.

Bandcamp – The Best Place for an Indie Artist to Set Up Shop

Bandcamp is a solid state service provider. They took their time to putting together an application that was robust but functional for even the most popular indie act.

You can post your music to be downloaded in exchange for an e-mail, which is the most powerful component of the application.

The one glaring question for me was how they were affording to provide an ad-free download and e-mail collection service. Not to forget, they also give high-level analytics, showing number of plays and how your content was being spread. They started taking money from download sales, but it seems there are not enough participants to believe they are profitable. Bandcamp is smart though. Their service was not quite ready for primetime, so they kept their profit-sharing system to just off paid downloads and physical albums until things were top-notch.

Now Bandcamp has built an application that allows you to have your music streamed safely and without interruption. Your music can be shared via social networks and even widgetized if someone wants to post it on a website or blog. You can post your music to be downloaded in exchange for an e-mail, which is the most powerful component of the application. Add the capability to sell physical product and an indie act has all it needs to run its own show. Please, someone explain to me why you would remove yourself from such a service?

Oh, that’s right. Bandcamp wants to be paid now. For shame?

Why Are You Being Cheap?

Let’s look at the new price structure:

  • 300 downloads for $9 USD (3¢ each)
  • 1000 downloads for $20 USD (2¢ each)
  • 5000 downloads for $75 USD (1.5¢ each)

Pennies per download. PENNIES. Okay, if you are trying to build a real fan base, this seems like a small price to pay for something that could potentially make you over 100x your investment per download.

If you are fortunate to have 5000 unique persons downloading your music, it would seem you would be able to afford to pay $75. This is especially certain if you are collecting e-mail addresses, which you should be doing. Otherwise, you are what I would have to call DUMB.

The only way you will be able to have any ability to get your fans (real or imagined) aware of your work will be through your communication posts. E-mail is still king as just about everyone has one. You cannot use Facebook, Twitter or any other social network without it. People get enough spam to know that giving you their e-mail to know they are taking a risk, just like if they were buying a new vehicle that depreciates in value as soon as you drive it off the lot. The smart music act will make sure they work to keep the trust level up with their new friends.

Invest in Your Future

This post is meant to remind you that you cannot expect anyone to want to invest in you, if you are not willing to do it first. Spending a couple bucks to give your potential fans a safe place to listen and download your music is actually priceless. That is if you believe your music to be decent enough to be shared. There are so much going wrong in the music space that it is not funny. Using an application like Bandcamp is telling the world that you take yourself seriously and you wish that others will do the same, especially if you’re a popular artist.

There is no place that is going let you bog down their precious servers for free. Let alone allow you to collect information that is not available to them as well. There is a reason why even the “free” sites have limitations and ads all over them (ads that are known to be injected with dangerous material for your personal computer).

To all you artists and labels thinking about leaving Bandcamp because they want a little money for their hard work, stop being stupid and give them your money. If you really have a problem with paying for things, then you should get out of the music business. If times are tight, think about setting up a Kickstarter campaign or something. If there is a will, there should be a way.

Bandcamp allows new users your first 200 downloads for free. Current users get another 500. If you have the good fortune of cracking 200 downloads, you should be cheering for joy, not pulling your tunes.

Hey you, reader. Am I crazy? What do you think about these here thoughts? Leave me a message in the comments.

Co-Branding – The Next Indie Frontier

Hey everyone, it’s Hubert Sawyers III – your trusted resource for music marketing advice. Most recently, I have had some awesome opportunities to get local music acts played in spaces where they normally would not. The most notable ones were the Detroit Music Spotlight (Not AM… Not FM… it’s DM) and coordinating the music performances of TEDxDetroit. Both of these opportunities were eye-opening in the level of untapped potential within my region for local artists to expand their fan bases.

This has me thinking about co-branding and how vital it is in the grand scheme of expanding in the way of business. I see new examples like the Hennessy Artistry tour with The Roots and Q-Tip and Mazda2 Sponsoring Mayer Hawthorne*. This gets me thinking, will we see more instances like these, especially for non-major label acts, as artists try to find new income streams? My money is on YES.

Corporations merge – like every single day – to give themselves greater opportunity to be more successful than they currently are. It only makes sense for music acts to consider merging with other businesses to try to travel farther and reach more people.

Sometimes similar companies band together and become one. The Googles and Microsofts of the world are notorious for buying tech companies that are onto something that they would like to own the innovation, whether to eliminate competition or to enhance their own business. That is not to say bands buy out other bands, but it is not new for bands to combine resources and create new material. When you think of it that way, commingling is second hat for music acts. What has been not prevalent – at least from an indie level – are overt strategic collaborations. Pop stars leverage their social capital to expand their business dealings beyond music all the time, but what about acts like Blueprint and Homeboy Sandman?

If you were looking to find a fitting business to associate your music, how do you think you would go about doing that? What band-business combos do you believe are just a blink away from happening? Let your thoughts in the comments.

* Full disclosure: I am paid to assist Mazda USA in their digital marketing efforts. This blog is not a part of my normal work. though.

Brand Camp University – Awake Your Inner ‘preneur

When creating things, we are pressed to categorize and place names on them. Whether it be a new song or a painting, eventually the piece must be given a title, so that people can get a better understanding of what it is. Sure, you can listen or look at the thing and get a general idea, but the name usually helps drive the message home. Some might say you are branding your work. If you ask me, there is no question about it, YOU ARE.

When a group of musicians decide to give their collective self a name, that’s branding. Now you may not like this for whatever reason, but it is true. That is why it is good to assume responsibility for the brand that you have inserted into the public minutiae.

While it is hard to control how you are perceived, you can still be proactive in managing what is out there in relation to the brand that you are associated. Ultimately, your customers, fans or associates aid in defining your brand. You can help them by supplying them with the information you would like them to share.

On October 8th, in metropolitan area of Detroit, Michigan, there will be an event that is set to help you manage your personal brand. Aptly called BrandCamp, it features internationally-known speakers that run the gamut of entrepreneurs, communication professionals and folks with significant celebrity. This event was founded by Hajj Flemings, author of The Brand YU Life (Amazon affiliate link).

I was recently interviewed by David Murray for BrandCamp on my thoughts on personal branding. The main takeaway that I iterated is good for artists that lead “double lives.” Hopefully, both of your personalities are on the up-and-up or you will find yourself in a lot of trouble in places you might not want.

I would prefer the artists I support be who they are at all times, but if you must distinguish your different personas, then realize that your fans may be different than your friends. With that comes more work, because life is hard like that. I plan to talk about this more in future blog posts, so stay tuned.

Check out my brief interview and let me know what your thoughts on personal branding in the comments.