The Digital Devil-ution

Posted on November 5, 2010

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John’s got 28 well written songs that are available on iTunes through CDBaby. He’s got them in ReverbNation, he uses Sno-Cap on his Myspace and he’s not making any more money than he did in 1991 selling cassettes of his music at his local performances. It’s almost 20 years since he was 16 and he has truly evolved, but the devil is in the evolution and it’s bringing his music sales down.

I used to market a web development company called InTownMenus.com. This was early on in the Internet revolution and even the telephone book was lacking on the web. With the technology at the speed it was, I could provide web surfers an opportunity to find local restaurants in their area, read the regularly updated menus and learn all about their local lunch choices. It allowed you to know what you would eat and what you would pay this weekend when you went to visit your cousin two states away. Absolutely brilliant, and for $9 per month, there was nothing like it on the web in 1996.

Looking back on the sales regime for that time, I remember some of the things I heard from potential clients, and one still sticks with me today. After hearing all the benefits, the guy told me – “I have a sign out in front of my store, it’s good enough.”

I asked him if the guy across town could read the sign, or even the guy two streets over. Could the traveler who would be at that road find him online? The answer was consistently no, but he didn’t care. Remembering this has me thinking about the digital music revolution.

There are 6 million bands marketing their music to you right now online. Even if you search rock>hard rock>hair bands> glam metal> California … you still have hundreds, if not thousands of acts that surface. Some are the brilliant shitheads who choose all tags for their music. As a result you find Effrom’s rap band under Classic Rock. Jillian’s piano recitals under Christian Death metal and when it comes down to it, there’s really a sorted view of being able to search for music online when you want to purchase it. Once you find it, who says you are going to make a purchase of a band’s music when you don’t have a relationship with them anyway? Even if you know them, there are hundreds of Blogspots, Tarringas and Limewires where it’s free anyway. If you’re going to search that hard, one search more and it’s free. So as for Johnny, with his 28 tracks – how does he get the sales for his downloadable songs?

With the Evolution of digital downloads, it’s no that hard to make it available, but like the olden days of album sales – you still need to get the consumer to the product. The good news is, making CD’s that are worthy of five to ten bucks is a lot cheaper now than it was years ago, so having stock doesn’t take a lot. Using PayPal to transfer downloads is easy enough and free to use with a small stipend for sales, about 3 percent. Not bad compared to CDBaby’s 9% plus set-up fee.

So the answer comes back to basics, a tradition in music that has held true since the inception of recording and touring to support the album. Start local. Bring your CD’s and play the hometown shows. Make a name for yourself and move onto the town next door. Widen the radius of the circle where you perform and work your way up to a good stretch that can support 7 shows over two weeks within a 100 miles stretch of landscape. Working with other artists, networking socially online and bringing a crowd to the shows will enhance sales and bring new fans who may also buy your work – in person, or online.

A lot of upstart music junkies with little or no experience have fallen into the disbelief that has been laid before them by the digital media download companies. They claim, build it and they will come. Put your songs here and our traffic of thousands of daily listeners will buy it, we promise.

Remember all the things I’ve talked about in previous articles. If your music sucks, is in the wrong genre venue or is just plain poorly recorded, it would sell even if the media companies were telling the truth.

You CAN do it. You have to get out there, sweat it out, perform, play, talk, shake hands and get face to face. This will bring the people who will support your honest and hard working career for the rest of your working days. If you just shove it online and hope for the best, remember you get out what you put in. Good luck with that. The Devil-oution of the digital age is ready to send the reaper for your career. If you’re out at a show, he won’t find you when he comes looking.

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