Just a couple of quick things for you, as I’ve got a backlog of things I’d like to tell you all about but they’re building up and I never have enough time to blog as it is!
Those of you that read my last blog about Chris Anderson may know of his seminal work “The Long Tail” – the business model of supplying niche products, rather than targeting the obvious products that sell in huge amounts* – which, while really just a re-explaining of already-understood concepts within business practice, has described how a lot of people are making money off the back of the internet.
Anyway, I digress. Kevin Kelly‘s latest blog argues that as a musician/artist/whatever that The Long Tail makes life difficult, but that if you’re clever you only need 1000 “true fans” to make a living. It’s a really interesting read for anyone wondering if they’ll be able to survive in the creative industries. It all kind of depends on your definition of a “true fans”, and whether an artist can generate enough “product” to in turn generate enough sales to keep those particular fans spending on you. It’s easy enough to get 1000 “friends” on Myspace, but as a singer-songwriter who’s only just releasing his first album, would you be able to create box-sets, DVDs and online subscriptions? Or would albums, singles and t-shirts be enough. It’s a question that each individual needs to answer themselves, but I think it’s a very important one to ask. Read the article and get thinking. It should give you a much better understanding of what exactly you have to do to live off your passion.
Also, if you’ve ever worked for, or been involved with a major label you should check out this article from FT.com. It starkly lays out how the music industry as we know it is changing (as highlighted in my last entry), and A+R men are under massive pressure to deliver the goods with a fraction of the budget. As I’ve told many of my clients and friends over the last few years – even if you get signed by a major, the chances of being unceremoniously dropped like a hot potato within a year or two are huge. To the label you are a gamble, and until you go platinum your costs will be subsidised by the likes of U2, Coldplay and the like. And until you make up, as in EMI’s case, one of the just 3 percent of artists that generate a profit (yep, only three percent!) then you’ll be a liability and prime for the chop.
So maybe it’s time to work on those 1000 “true fans” yourself and cut out the desire to sign to an unweildy and outdated major…
* This is a gross simplification, but if you know anything about marketing you’ll be able to relate to it as a different aspect of the Pareto Principle. I’ve actually just found a better description from The Long Tail website that reads: “The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”