As many of you know, I was throughly invested into that world for many years, working as an artist through The Acappella Company and as a distributed label artist through Word and Sony. The latter portion of my time there I worked as a "label exec" and had the opportunity to see the business from the other side. I know what it took to get an artist where he or she needed to be. What amazes me is that the things I formerly worked so hard at are now available to any up-and-coming artist through various online resources.
The resources that a label provides as an exclusive service, and therefore an incentive to sign with the label, are becoming fewer and fewer. This is probably one of the reasons that labels, as I'm told by the few contacts I have left in the label world, are generally concentrating more on building up current artists than on recruiting new talent.
One of the great new resources is a company called Discmakers. They are not, by definition, a new company or resource, but they have made great strides in recent days in offering new artists (and established, for that matter) the tools they need to make a presence in the music world. Granted, their ultimate goal is to sell their service and make money, but they have figured out the best way to do this is to increase your chances of making a sell.
Take, for instance, one of their recent blog posts. It is a portion of Dexter Bryant's latest ebook The Record Label’s Guide To Digital Branding & Music Marketing 2.0 which can be found in its entirety at this link.
Music Marketing 2.0: The Digital Brand Manifesto
Every artist needs a fully customized DIGITAL BRAND to succeed. Proper branding requires the following:
1. A unique web domain separate from an artist profile on the record label website. The artist’s website functions as the central web hub for that artist’s digital brand.
2. A simplified e-commerce system on the artist website. Easy check-out store supporting various forms of payment (PayPal, credit, debit, etc).
3. The artist’s web properties are interlinked for increased e-commerce (website | social media pages | web stores).
4. Preorders: the key to maximizing digital revenues. All retail digital albums should launch with at least 3 months of preorder promotions. Promote digital singles with 1 month of preorders.
5. Digital distribution of singles & albums to key online retailers in target markets worldwide (determined by the artist, management, and the marketing department).
6. Free mp3s and mixtapes “leaked” to bloggers, podcasters, DJs, internet radio, journalists, and e-zines.
7. Digital PR team working internet radio, podcasters, bloggers, journalists, and DJs. PR team handles online promotions for packages of similar artists. Use logic and common sense to assemble artist packages.
8. Cover/promo art for all mp3 and mixtape releases. Submit art to major search engine image directories (Google, Yahoo, Bing).
9. Web concerts, web TV shorts documenting the artist’s life & career, concert & tour footage, and interactive web events that allow the artist to build direct connections with his/her fan base.
10. A mobile app that is integrated with the artist’s web properties. App features frequently updated multimedia content with the artist’s music as the primary focus. App is compatible with iPhone & iPad. (Eventually, Android & Blackberry compatible apps should be explored for maximum marketing reach.)
11. Direct to fan (DTF) engagement on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Conduct 2nd string social media marketing on PureVolume, Bebo, and MySpace.
12. Custom banners on social networks containing links to the artist’s other web properties.
13. Current electronic press kit containing 2-5 promo shots, 2-3 mp3s, a music video and/or mini-documentary featuring artist, vital info for all current releases (title | “buy now” link | Soundscan data | station adds & airplay | target markets), links to the artist’s primary web properties (website | Facebook | YouTube | Twitter | iTunes), and booking & management contact info.
14. An email list of the artist’s fan base. Post email list sign-up form on all the artist’s web properties (along with multiple sign-up incentives) and ask fans at concerts to sign-up. Communicate with the artist’s e-mail list regularly using an e-marketing service equipped with an autoresponder.
15. A frequently updated events calendar listed across all the artist’s web properties.
16. Negotiation of strategic brand partnerships and sponsorships to cross-promote releases and drive customer acquisition.
17. A 24/7 digital radio station airing current priority releases. Available on label website, artist websites, high traffic internet radio directories (Live 365 Radio, etc), and cable & satellite music channels. Brand this station as your record label’s official radio station.
18. A digital licensing platform for film, TV, multimedia, and ad agency professionals with a no hassle licensing system. Brief turn-around time for licensing quotes and approval from the label/artist. Reference existing music licensing platforms to research basics and best practices that you can implement on your platform.
For this system to be effective your artists must be encouraged to take an active role in their digital brand. Equip all artists with a mini HD camcorder, a 500 gig external hard drive (for video storage), and a 3G mobile device (netbook/notebook/iPad/iPhone/Blackberry). Require all artists to stay connected with fans on the go.
The aforementioned electronic devices are necessary items for artists who want a digital future in the music business. The expense of these items is negligible when compared to the revenues that can be generated from the post-production and retail distribution of inexpensively produced video content.
Creativity and direct-to-fan engagement are top priorities in the digital future. Each artist will personalize their direct-to-fan engagement strategy based on persona, image, and how much of his/her personal life the artist is comfortable sharing with fans. Fans demand direct relationships with their favorite artists and it is the artist and the label’s job to facilitate that relationship. Failure to engage fans will result in lost sales and lost opportunities.