What's the Story?
There are no solid answers out there when it comes to selling your music or distributing music to your
fans in a sustainable way. There are lots of theories, but no answers.
The record companies are scared and tied up with red tape, so that's muddying the waters and slowing
things down. The online sharing phenomenon is chaotic, spread out and not focused on the artist but on
The good news is that the whole area is still open to new and innovative ways of doing things. If you
can find a simple way to distribute your music and make money in all the chaos, you're doing ok as an
artist. You should have no expectations of financial success because your method may not work. But
without a record deal you are free from the structures binding those companies, so you're ahead of the
The path to happiness in all this is to embrace the chaos and follow the goodness. If it feels good to
you, as an artist, do it, even if you can't rationalise how you'll make money from it or capitalise on it. If
it feels good to you, it will make other people feel good too. And they'll pass it back to you, one way or
another, if you give them the opportunity. Keep an eye out for opportunities and follow trends.
Anywhere you see an unusual opportunity, use it and see how it goes.
So, make them feel good, make yourself feel good, and who knows, you could come up with the
answer. Meanwhile, just make sure you're feeling good, playing music and sharing the love!
Web and mobile channels
• They're separate with different strategies and tools, but intersect at points. This is because web
and mobile are not really together yet, so should be treated separately until the technology
• You want to sell records, and connect with fans. These are your filters for everything that is out
there. Use these filters at all times. Every time someone recommends something from the web
or mobile world for you- ask:
1. Does it sell my records?
2. Does it connect me to my fans?
If the answer is no, move on, you don't need it.
• You can sell online yourself, you don't need any business partners.
• You need business partners (aggregators) to sell on the mobile.
• The money is good in mobile, since they can control billing and recommendations.
• Its important that the methods you use to sell your music qualify at all times for the download
charts. You can qualify for the charts through both web and mobile download sales. just do it the
• Its ok to sell hard stuff (CDs, Vinyl, Artwork) then send a link or something to allow immediate
download of the music. Give them what they want.
• Mobile track sales are doing very well.
• Billing can be controlled, so you get paid.
• Aggregators are what they call people who bring your music to the phone companies, and you
need to go through them to sell your records on the mobile and get into the charts.
• Europe is way ahead of the U.S.
• Record companies are way behind on the mobile thing but are catching up slowly.
• PART ONE: MOBILE MARKETING
"One of the catchphrases of the changing music industry is 'getting closer to the fans', and if
there's such thing as a perfect tool for the job, then it's undoubtedly the mobile phone. From
freebies and giveaways to ads and personal artist messages, from truetones and polyphonics to
wallpapers, mobisodes and bluecasting, the number of ways to engage with fans via mobile is
• PART TWO: MOBILE DISTRIBUTION
The scope for marketing via mobile is surpassed only by its potential as a sales platform. With
wallpaper and ringtone markets now firmly established (and proving to be highly lucrative),
recent moves to cap data transfer charges look set to ensure that single track downloads and
subscription services (see Omnifone) enjoy similar success."
• CBS News: "The music companies are selling rights to their musicians' recordings and images for
use in screen savers, digital images and song snippets that are then sold to mobile phone users.
Madonna and other artists already send text messages to cell phones on new albums or tour
dates. Nelly sent similar ones to fans who had submitted their numbers at concerts.
In June, members of Radiohead plan to reach fans on their mobile phones - exactly how has yet
to be disclosed - on the same day the band releases its new record, said Vijay Chattha,
spokesman for San Francisco-based IPSH!net, which developed the promotions. The recording
industry hopes to drive CD sales and, eventually, direct sales of songs over mobile phones."
• In the U.S. they're behind Europe: "Ring tones are today's business," Vidich said, "and the
downloads are tomorrow's business."
• In Ireland, Vodafone are second behind iTunes in download sales.
• Is it possible to use premium rate SMS texting to allow a TEXT TO DOWNLOAD service?
MP3, DRM and CD sales
• The record companies and people like Microsoft, Apple iTunes and Realnetworks worked out
annoying ways of protecting MP3s. This is called DRM- digital rights management. It protects the
record company's ownership rights most of all. It does protect the artist slightly and makes it a
bit more likely someone will pay for your record when they download it. But its annoying and can
piss people off. There has to be a better way. Your opinion on this decides whether you want to
distribute your music with DRM or not. A lot of people think DRM is stupid and annoying and only
a minor obstacle to piracy.
• Once you've decided on what format to deliver your records in (hopefully DRM free MP3s) you've
got to figure out how to deliver it and where to deliver it. You need lots of tools to do this but
they're all available on the web.
• The best method of delivery of music at the moment appears to me to sell the album, send the
cd (plus extras like artwork or special edition stuff) to their house, but let your fans download
• Selling CDs can be done through as many channels as possible- your own website, Amazon,
music websites etc. But always link back to the website and give more value and extras at every
People working stuff out:
• people making dents: Damien Rice/David Gray (what are they up to?-own company, plenty of
money), David Byrne, David Bowie, Prince, Beck, Radiohead- most of these guys delegate the
hard stuff but they are involved and have ideas out there.
• artwork: the thurston revival- single sold for £100 with an exclusive art object. Limited run, to
make a statement, as far as I can tell, http://www.victoriouskiam.com/
• David Byrne: spoke out against DRM (digital rights management) and big record labels at South
by Southwest. He predicted that online sales would surpass CD sales by 2012, forcing labels to
choose between accepting music sales as a loss leader for tours and merchandise, focusing more
on marketing for many artists, or only shooting for mega-stars like Britney Spears. Meaning you
take a loss on CD sales, knowing you'll make up for it with merchandise and tour sales. This is
dependent on hard work touring and cool merchandise!
• These guys aren't doing a whole lot though, because most are tied up by the big labels. They're
trying to change the industry from the inside, which is the slow way. The fast way is happening
outside, where people are downloading, sharing and communicating on the web.
• Radiohead: Radiohead's management have suggested that the unique marketing of their new
album 'In Rainbows' was a ploy manufactured to sell more CDs.
Bryce Edge, part of Radiohead's management team, said that there was an ulterior motive to
He told Music Week: "If we didn't believe that when people hear the music they will want to
buy the CD then we wouldn't do what we are doing."
• Sigur Ros just put their whole album on myspace for a while. And they're heavily pushing their
• This might be an interesting read for you if you have time:
The bad record industry past: ""what the hell do all these people do?" I tagged along on $1500 artist
dinners paid for by the labels. Massive bar tabs were regularly signed away by record label employees
with company cards. You got used to people billing as many expenses back to the record company as
they could. I met the type of jive, middle-aged, blazer-wearing, coke-snorting, cartoon character label
bigwigs who you'd think were too cliche to exist outside the confines of Spinal Tap. It was all strange
and exciting, but one thing that always resonated with me was the sheer volume of money that seemed
to be spent without any great deal of concern."
The present: "an invisible music library that lives on my computer."
The near present and future:
"record companies own the distribution and the product being distributed, so you can't just start your
own website where you give out music that they own - and that's what this is all about: distribution"
"the few major labels left are parts of giant media conglomerations. It's why record companies shove
disposable pop crap down your throat instead of nurturing career artists: they have CEOs and
shareholders to answer to."
the future?: "Maybe record labels of the future exist to help front recording costs and promote artists,
but they don't own the music. Maybe music is free, and musicians make their money from touring and
merchandise, and if they need a label, the label takes a percentage of their tour and merch profits.
Maybe all-digital record companies give bands all the tools they need to sell their music
directly to their fans, taking a small percentage for their services. In any case, the artists own
their own music."