As I sit here waiting to find out if the ancient Mayans were correct or not, I’ve been pondering two things: firstly, shall I bother with another fancypants coffee (I don’t want to pay for one if an apocalypse prevents me finishing it) and secondly, assuming we’re not all doomed, what is going to happen to the music industry in 2013?
For many musicians, it may seem that the Mayan prophesy is coming true and we are all doomed: with fewer and fewer people prepared to pay for CDs and downloads, and streaming services like Spotify offering paltry royalties for each play, bands might be forgiven for thinking that the Mayans were correct all along and it really is the end of the world as we know it, without anybody feeling particularly fine.
However, there is a flipside. Ok, so bands might not be making as much cash as they used to from sales – and let’s not forget that even in the glory days of the music industry, 99.9% of bands never did – but making and promoting music is getting much, much easier and cheaper. The same digital revolution which has killed off CD sales has also…
- made recording equipment incredibly affordable, meaning pro-quality albums can be recorded in toilets
- made studio time much cheaper, as pro studios now have to compete with the toilet-studio-owner in question
- made global distribution of music a reality for any band
- provided all manner of cheap digital advertising and communications tools to musicians
- reduced the need for physical manufacture (with an associated reduction in costs)
- arguably made music promotion services cheaper, due to increased competition in the music promotion services market
- reduced costs associated with music promo (in terms of postage, phone calls, promo manufacture, boozy lunches and so on – much of these can be handled online).
So basically, there’s a weird trade-off. In today’s music industry you are able to make and promote your music more easily and cheaply than ever before, but you are considerably less able to generate any cash from sales. And it doesn’t take a Mayan prophesier to tell you that in 2013, we are simply going to travel further and more quickly in this direction, possibly because the music industry lives on a computer in a shed these days, and computers – as any aficiando of Moore’s Law will tell you – double in power every two years whilst falling significantly in cost.
So as I peer into my crystal ball for 2013, I simply see even fewer people buying CDs, fewer people downloading music and more people streaming it via Spotify of similar services. (And of course if iTunes switches to being a streaming service rather than a download store, it’s really game over for music sales.)
So how do musicians cope with this? What is the point of making music if it’s looking increasingly like something that can’t be sold? Well, I’d start off any coping strategy by accentuating the positives. As a band making a racket today, and as discussed above, you have access to a whole range of things that even 15 years ago would have been completely out of your reach – incredibly affordable studio time / equipment, global distribution, cheap promo deals and direct access to listeners via social media and online communications. It’s incredible how these things (that would have looked like magic back in the late 90s) have become completely taken for granted by a lot of bands, but they are the key (and often overlooked) ingredients to creating something which is at the heart of any successful music project: a fanbase. This fanbase may not pay for your recordings, but they may be able to support you in several other ways – for example, through paying to see you live; buying merchandise; and acting as a street team that delivers vital word-of-mouth marketing.
In order to get anywhere near having a 'monetised fanbase' though, you need to do three things:
1) Create stonkingly great music
2) Work the ‘digital system’ very hard
3) Think like a business (yes, I know, yuck) and explore every avenue when thinking about monetising your music
I can’t help you with the first part of this recipe for success, but it’s my hope that over the past year or so, our Prescription articles have provided some insights into going about the second and third parts. So, as we bid farewell to 2012 (and perhaps existence if the Mayans are correct), I thought I’d provide you with some links to some of our favourite music promo articles from the Prescription archives. May they help you in your 2013 quest for rock/dance/hip-hop/indie/shoe-gazing glory (delete as appropriate). You’ll find them below – think of them as the online equivalent of a box of Quality Street from us to you. Thank you for reading The Prescription in 2012, we hope you have a great Christmas, and we wish you every success for 2013 (and don't forget, that we are always happy to discuss ways that you can achieve this - feel free to contact us for a chat about any projects you have coming up in 2013).
Life is like a box of chocolates - articles from the archive…
- Leather pants, rock gods, groupies and er, project planning? Some key tips on planning your music project successfully
- Building the perfect music website - our dos and don’ts when it comes to designing your band’s website.
- Rock success – the Ryanair way - how – gulp – thinking like Michael O’Leary could bring you music success
- The money is in the list - why an email database is still vital to any music promo project and how to go about generating one
- Let’s get physical - why musicians shouldn’t forget about cds, tapes and records in a digital age
- Managing your online reputation - how to ensure your band comes across well online
- The key things you MUST do when releasing an album independently - absolute must-read tips for anyone releasing an album without a label
- Getting your fans to fund your album - advice for getting the most out of the new ‘crowd-funding’ approach to album releases
- How good is your music marketing? - a simple way to check how good you are at marketing your music
- Top online tools for promoting your music - a list of some of our favourite tools for promoting your music
- The 80/20 rule and what it means for the music industry - how an observation by an Italian statistician can help your music promo efforts
- Getting your act’s image right - advice on how to avoid looking like an idiot (something which is Very Important in the music industry…)
- A guide to blogging for musicians - how blogging can help you promote your music – and how to do it right
- Inbound marketing and what it means for musicians - an explanation of a very useful approach to promotion called ‘inbound marketing’ and how to apply it
- Don’t forget the photography - essential tips on avoiding ending up with bad – or even worse, boring – band photos.
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