What is the Product?
Meeting after meeting, artists tell me they need to record a new CD, or are just about to record, or are in the process of recording one. The first question I ask is “Great! What are you going to do with it?”
They look at me dumbfounded as if I am stupid. “Well we are gonna try and sell it of course” they say.
“To who?” I ask. “Well, our fans” is the usual response.
“What fans?” I ask probing further. “You mean the 176 fans on your twitter account?” “The same 30 fans that keep coming to your shows in the same city that you never get out of?”
“What are you going to do with the rest of the CD’s that are sitting in your garage after you sell 50 of them and have run out of fans?”
“What is your marketing plan?” “Who are you going to distribute it through?” “Better yet, why are you recording a CD for a fan base that doesn’t exist yet?”
“Do you have a provable demand for new music that will at least allow you to recover the investment cost of making the new CD?” 99% of the time the is of course “No.”
Needless to say from a business standpoint this is bad business. You don’t invest money into something that you have no idea or plan to make money/a profit on.
My point is: If you haven’t developed a sizeable fan base from shows and social media, you have no need for a CD until there is an actual demand for it or at least a big enough fan base to market it to. Let’s say you have a CD but you have only managed to sell 100 copies of it and you still have plenty left over. Don’t you think you should sell those first before making a new CD?
Obviously at this point you still don’t have a demand for your music, so why do you need a new CD? Your current CD still hasn’t been heard by anyone yet, so it isn’t old music to anyone but you. Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to focus on developing a demand for new music by selling your current CD and generating a fan base who actually want to purchase it?
You need to resist the “artist” urge or need to create before it is time. That doesn’t mean stop writing, it means don’t pay for something you can’t sell. Don’t be fooled by the numbers on your social media accounts. I am talking about actual true fans, not just people who follow you because you followed them or because you bought a program to add followers.
The first thing the artist needs to realize is the CD is NOT the product; it’s a piece of merchandise. TheARTIST is the product. The artist has to create the demand for themselves/live performance before sinking a ton of money into multiple CDs, let alone one CD.
You can have t-shirts and other things to sell as merchandise through a developing rabid fan base that actually wants to purchase your merchandise. This will help keep costs down. The priority is developing the artist not the CD. The artist should be working on his/her/their image, social media campaign, the best live show possible and booking only. Once this has achieved a certain level, the artist can then worry about a CD that their fan base will demand. Bottom line is that if no one wants to see you live, you have no need for anything. You have to make them want to see you live and want to make the purchase. That comes from a killer live show. Practice, practice, practice, write killer songs that have a hook and melody and blow them away onstage. Period.
The proof is in the pudding with the live show. You have to win over the audience and develop them into fans. If you do this, they will stay fans and will buy your CD when you finally do release it. Not only that, you will have a nice building up to — and can actually pull off — a great “launch” and have impressive stats from the fan base that is actually demanding and waiting for this merchandise.
“Jesse James Dupree” of “Jackyl” was on my radio show “Live From Music City” and flat out said (which I wholeheartedly agree with) that they didn’t approach anybody in the business or do anything until the were constantly selling out shows at the bars they played all up and down the east coast. That was when they had a need for a team and were ready to shop for a record deal. Then they could take their pick of labels because all the labels wanted them. It was the single best piece of advice on my show ever. Here is the interview for you to listen to: http://ht.ly/4EErD. There is simply no need for much of what most artists THINK they need until there is a demand for the artist themselves.
Simply put, if the artist would focus on the essentials; booking, image, developing a fan base and PR the rest would take care of itself. Everyone wants to do it backwards; they want everything now and have no patience. Business doesn’t work that way and when you work harder and not smarter you tend to not succeed and also are in danger of completely burning yourself out.
A simple strategy you can adopt is to record two or three songs that you can offer on digital download to tide people over until there is a need for a CD and that you can use to help market yourself with.
You can make a couple of videos to put on YouTube that should be very high quality. Rehearse your band till they are perfect and then pay a professional company to video record your performance of these songs at a good venue with a sound man who knows your sound.
Put them up as single songs and market the heck out of it with social media. YouTube is the destination spot for new music discoveries now. This is a much smarter use of your money. This not only allows for people to discover you, but share your music. Most importantly, assuming you play very well live, you can use this to show venues that you are worth booking based on the crowd in front of you and your actual performance and stage presence.
Develop the artist first then once you have a fan base you can create a CD to sell. No point paying for something you can’t sell to anyone. Be strategic in your plans and definitely plan! Don’t just do something without thought of the benefit of it and how you will get it out there.