A couple of stories have popped up this week that has me reaching for my keyboard – the one with letters not notes. Alex commented about Suzanne Vega’s move to Direct to Fan Marketing and DMN noted that Sade just moved half a million units, going gold in her first week.
Now I love both of these artists – The Queen & The Soldier & Your Love Is King are up there on my top 50 songs of all time (well – for this week anyway) – but there is a HUGE difference between these two legends and a new artist – say like Jody Schneider – who is just starting out.
Suzanne Vega and Sade had years of label development, marketing and promotion in order to establish a fan base. Their music was introduced to the world decades ago in a record industry that looks nothing like the current music business. The scarcity model makes huge sense if you’re Prince or Bowie or the above two artists, but at the beginning of your career the only person who notices that you’re not producing is your Mom.
As the music business becomes more and more tech dependant with artists getting involved in website design, digital audio, tweets and blog posts - let’s not forget the lessons of the last 10 years of online business. Just because the big guys are set up in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to emulate them, in fact oftentimes adopting the same strategy can be detrimental.
The beauty of the web and of being your own boss is that you can change your approach fairly quickly, you can use different strategies to reflect where you are in your career, change the layout of your website, try different approaches to marketing and distribution. Unlike traditional bricks and mortar businesses you don’t need a mason every time you want to change how you express yourself.
So – I’m stoked for Sade that a 10 year break from releasing music resulted in her existing fans picking up half a million copies, but – if you’re an Indie artist and you haven’t broken yet – I’d advise against this strategy. If you want to keep quiet for the next decade – you go for it – the challenge of connecting to people who might dig your masterpiece will still be here waiting for you on your return.