8 Things Indie Musicians Can Learn From Taylor Swift’s Red Release

**If you like this post, you may also enjoy my follow-up post 5 Things Indie Musicians Can Learn From Taylor Swift’s 1989 Release**

Album sales may be plummeting in the music industry overall, but Taylor Swift’s latest album hit the number one position on iTunes’ Top Album charts within 36 minutes of its release last month and remained there for the past three weeks. First week sales were 1.21 million copies, according to Nielsen Soundscan – the biggest first-week figure for a new album in more than a decade. None of this was an accident – it was the result of a carefully orchestrated and deeply creative yet disciplined launch. What lessons can indie musicians take away from the way the upstart Big Machine Label Group marketed Taylor Swift’s “Red”? Sure, Swift’s label probably spent millions of dollars of marketing budget and had relationships with huge retail chains, but there are some lessons for smaller music marketing budgets.

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Identifying Your Super Fan

“Indie band marketing is similar to marketing a small, consumer-focused businesses: a marketing budget that is probably zero to little, and the objectives are finding new customers, keeping existing customers happy and identifying brand.” […more]

I’m so excited to have published my first guest blog post on the digital music distribution site, Ditto Music. These guys are a great source of information for indie musicians, and they also might be a one-stop solution for you if you are looking to license and distribute your music online.

In my guest post, you’ll learn about some simple online tools to help you profile your Super Fan – you know, the fan who loves your music so much they help you market it to others without you even asking. Word-of-mouth is still the way most things go viral on the internet, but it’s also just good marketing to know to whom your music really appeals.

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Streaming Music: A 5 Horse Race?

***UPDATE: Google To Launch Music-Streaming Service (Market Watch, May 14, 2013). This could be a game-changer, as Google is a major infrastructure challenger to Apple. Also missing from my analysis below is Amazon, who could also become a major player, and does have a cloud-based music storage system today.

On the eve of the Future of Music Coalition’s Summit, where music licensing is prominent on the agenda, it appears that the horses in the streaming music race are finally lining up. Now, I could be totally off base on this, I’m just an indie musician with a software background and not a lot of insight into the behind-the-scenes happenings, but I think it’s shaping up to be an interesting race. I believe there are some silent bettors, the major music labels and Google, and it’s not really clear (yet) whom exactly is betting on whom. These players are listed in no particular order:

First, we have the apparent favorite, Spotify (16 million active users, 4 million paying,  subscriber-revenue-driven). They’re about to close another $100 million round of investments led by Goldman Sachs, who knows a good investment when they see one, right? Why is Spotify such a good investment when they are bleeding green? Because it reportedly has licensing agreements with the major labels that guarantee it will make a 25% margin, while handing over 75% of its revenue to the labels. Some view this as a millstone around Spotify’s neck, but if Spotify can hold on long enough to dominate the market and achieve some kind of workable cost model, they become a utility: an entity with a guaranteed margin and guaranteed income.

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TAXI Road Rally 2012 Flashback

For those of you not familiar with TAXI, it’s a 17-year-old company that helps unsigned songwriters and composers submit their music for a variety of opportunities in film, TV, movies, and with labels. This is very helpful for aspiring artists like me who do not have deals with publishing houses or music supervisors. It’s also a great way for music supervisors to license new music cheaply from unknown artists. I’m just too old to be a rock star, frankly, but I’d love to create a revenue stream from my music via TAXI.

Membership in TAXI costs $300 a year (discounted if you bring others to the service), and there are small per-song submission fees as well. The Road Rally is TAXI’s annual member conference. Michael Laskow, who runs TAXI, said that they have about 10,000 members, and that 2700 of them registered for the conference this year. I have heard others say that the Road Rally conference is one of the best things about being a TAXI member, and I tend to agree. Although free to attend (members can bring one free guest, also), it’s certainly not free when you count travel expenses and your time. There are so many music conferences these days, it’s important to budget for them and to ask yourself if they are really worth attending. We spent a about $1100 per person in real money, as well as the time away from our clients and our own music creation. I always come home with some new information and insights from the TAXI Road Rally, though. Sitting in LAX thinking about the last three days I spent at the Rally, I thought I’d share why I feel it was well worth both my time and money.

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12 Amanda Palmer Lessons (Not About Kickstarter)

Naked Picture of Amanda Palmer She TweetedI’m not a huge fan of Amanda Palmer’s music, in fact, I admit I haven’t listened to her newest album. This is particularly embarrassing because I was a supporter of her Kickstarter campaign.  But what drew me to donate, and what continues to intrigue me about Palmer, is less her music, and more the gestalt of her success. As an indie artist myself, I got to thinking lately about what differentiates Palmer in a sea of indie musicians. Why has she risen above the noise in such a big way?

By writing this list, I am not suggesting that every artist should emulate Palmer, and I certainly don’t plan to myself. Instead, like David Byrne, I believe we should be inspired by her to think creatively about how to gain exposure for and market ourselves, not just our music. This is what fans really want: they want to be intimate with artists, to connect, to feel moved emotionally through experiencing their art, to feel they know them. All human beings are attracted to (and frankly a little afraid of) people who are unusual, creative and dynamic. As musicians, we may choose, like Palmer, to use that attraction to create exposure for ourselves and our music in an increasingly cluttered musical landscape, with an audience that has a shorter and shorter attention span.

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“Entertain, Inform, Be Useful – Or Be Forgotten”

This past Monday and Tuesday, I attended the second annual  Seattle Interactive Conference, a mix of presentations, panel discussions, and performance art that centered around the theme of “Game-Changers” in the digital world. And on the third day I rested. My head, and apparently also David Shing’s hair, practically exploded from the firehose of information, insight and interaction at this conference.  Interactive was the game, and #SIC2012 was definitely the place to be this week.

Presenters and panelists were a diverse mix: entrepreneurs, new media agency professionals, digital visionaries, musicians, venture capitalists, and big corporate marketing executives in the trenches executing on real life campaigns. Themes like mobile, storytelling, relationships, memes, disruptive technologies, the cloud, reinvention and, above all, clever humor, kept popping up like the undead.

“Attention is the new currency – entertain, inform, be useful  –  or be forgotten,” says David Shing (@shingy, AOL’s “Digital Prophet”, a reporter for Huffington Post, and also a musician, by the way). “Humor and creative presentation win every time,” echoed  Ben Huh (@benhuh) of Cheezburger fame.

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