I have been encouraging several artists starting new projects, and the accepted workflow and landscape has changed so much, it’s forcing them to sit down and truly think about what they have to say, who they need to say it to, and why. Sinking into oblivion is all too easy with tired shotgun approaches to no one in particular with some vague idea about stardom one day. Questions about what to measure, what success means, and where to focus limited resources become crucial. As they wade into writing, recording and releasing their new material, they almost have to bring as much talent to their marketing plans as they do to their music. With the abundance of music at our fingertips, fans are more discerning than ever, and artists cannot keep using the old models if they expect to thrive.
The good news is that innovative companies create and test new models every day. While focusing on your art, you must keep your eyes open. Or make sure someone on your team does. Take for instance, my current favorite called Sponsored Songs by ReverbNation and Microsoft. Artists can sell ads along side their digitally downloaded album covers and give the songs away for free. Advertisers pay the artists now instead of the fans. Head smack brilliant!
Even though the major record labels are holding onto whatever they can of the past, many new artists are realizing that they do need the business help labels traditionally offered them. Just because the Internet levels the playing field doesn’t mean an independent artist can play fast or smart enough to sustain. Between social and mobile media, video, globalization, and upcoming technology not even on the radar yet like holographic technology, all beaming and streaming your concert or message around the world instantly, every middle man between you and your fans are crumbling fast. And it’s not slowing down.
John Mayer posted a great little diagram on his blog called Battle Studies, which tracks his entire journey to create his latest record. I typed it up below:
FIG. 1 – “The Old Way”
|— write > demo > record > mix > master > photos > artwork > press |—> tour
FIG. 2 – “The New Way”
|— write —|
|— demo —|— mix —|— master —|
|— record —|
|——- artwork + visual media ——–|—> tour
|——————- press ——————|
Just the visual of the process condensing down is enough to see how much faster artists can launch new projects with the right tools. They can be writing, demo’ing, and recording while their designers complete their album art and videographers shoot their video blogs. While they are at their photo shoot, which is streamed live directly to their fans’ mobile phones and browsers, they are simultaneously shooting their documentary film, tweeting their favorite local cuisine and being written up on the latest music blogs. By the time they hit the road, their new single has been downloaded by thousands, streamed on Internet radio by thousands more, and their fans feel so connected to them that they have to come to their show.
And it doesn’t stop there. Creative video blogs from the road, like this one by Mat Kearney, further build rapport with fans. The best concert idea I’ve seen lately has also come out of his last tour — the photobooth concept. How do you make your name, new album, and tour viral? Plaster your fans’ faces all over them at the show. Then tell them how they can get their photos online to post on all their bloggity blogs and facey spaces. As an added bones, the photobooth creates a memorable experience for his fans and produces an unforgettable keepsake. Double head smack brilliant!
If this sounds like an overwhelmingly fast race you cannot win, it is not. Don’t compare your music, art, ministry, process, or marketing to others. Stop. Breathe. Think. You are the artist. You have the most tools, models, and ideas available to you than any other artists in the history of the world. Now go out there and inspire us. Lead us. Save the world. Just don’t blink.