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The Power of Free

 

The Power of Free

It was in the summer of 2006 that singer/songwriter Derek Webb promoted one of his albums for free online, asking very little in return from the thousands of followers, fans, and musicians who provided as little information as name, email and postal code. In just a matter of months, the success of Derek’s musical generosity provided him with a list of 80,000 emails from those who had downloaded the final product. It was after this stunning response that Mr. Webb realized the potential in extrapolating this type of internet business model throughout the music industry.

 

Free music is nothing but commonplace in a post Spotify world, but back in the early years, Noisetrade.com was way ahead of its time when it came to downloadable music. The folks working behind the scenes quickly realized that that their model of free music let artists raise donation money for the content they wanted to give away, and recruit a fan base quicker and more substantially then the normal route that iTunes and CD sales provided. The musician is not only building a larger fan base, but building a “targeted” following. Allowing him to play shows in areas where he knows the people will receive him best.

 

Music isn’t the only source of media that the company is planning to stick to, as in recent months they have received commitment from dozens of authors and novelists who want to give their works to the people, so that their fans will hunger for more. This is a kind of business that could have only evolved from a music internet entertainment platform that is constantly evolving to benefit the consumer and the creator.

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Star power in Music videos

This week I was watching ski videos like I always do and came across a picture of one of my favorite riders making a guest appearance in a band’s music video (the band is called bears with guns).  I had never heard of the band before, and honestly wasn’t all that interested in checking them out, but the photo peaked my curiosity well enough to get me actually watch the video. When I found the video, it turned out to 25 minutes long (its actually a documentary of a trip they took through New Zealand, here is a shorter version of it). But the amazing thing is that their use of a star actually got me to watch and listen for basically the full duration of the video (the skier comes in at around 19 minutes).

This got me thinking about the brilliance of this. Jossi Wells is a professional skier, but he was featured in a music video for an up and coming band. Could this same model work for other bands – getting professionals from different disciplines to endorse their music could be an incredible way to market yourself. I mean, if it got me to listen to a new band (and actually, bears with guns is quite good) when I was simply searching for new ski videos, then could a professional wakeboarder being featured in a music video (not even necessarily wakeboarding in the video) get a wakeboard fan to take an interest in the band? I personally think that it is possible and a great way to get more exposure to the music. Not to mention that athletes respect the musicians they listen to, and would undoubtedly brag, like Jossi Wells did, about getting to be in a music video, which would make the exposure even greater.

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Why Should My Band Use Facebook?

The first big step in internet entrepreneurship for bands was Myspace. How could it not be? It allowed artists to quickly create their own website, complete with a song player, pictures and the opportunity to market themselves to fans worldwide. However, in recent years Myspace’s user experience, not to mention reputation, has significantly declined. While the original social networking giant still works as a great website supplement for bands, it no longer carries the clout of Facebook in the marketplace. The reason why is a detailed story, so let me focus on the merits of Facebook for tomorrow’s next headliner.

1. Everybody uses Facebook.

There are over 500 million (and increasing) active users of Facebook, half of which log on every day and 70% of which are located outside of the United States, according to their own data. This is a staggering amount of people around the world! Getting radio airplay, record and distribution deals and significant tours requires a strong fan base. In the digital age, with this many people using Facebook, what better way to introduce your art to the world?

2. Fans want an artist, not a celebrity.

Okay, so there are still Justin Biebers out there, but the most loyal fan base with the most staying power long-term isn’t found in mainstream pop music. It’s found in garages, bars and concert halls and clubs. There are an astounding number of incredibly talented bands making waves in independent music because more and more kids want artists they relate to and can talk to after the show without paying hundreds of dollars for a VIP backstage pass ticket. These groups are even appearing in more mainstream circles as this trend continues (Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons)! Facebook gives you a chance to connect on a more personal level with fans, updating them daily with personal anecdotes and band happenings, and linking them to your Twitter, blog, Myspace and YouTube pages. I know a number of professional singer-songwriters who even make their personal pages public and give their fans the same access to their lives as their own family members!

3. Facebook is easy.

In the end, we all want to make work as efficient as possible. Facebook requires a minimal amount of maintenance (With my band, I spent about 30 minutes a day updating our page and responding to fans), quickly customizable boxes and applications for providing access to music, show dates and other information, and an easy way to connect to current fans and make new ones. For example, my good friends Deadhorse (Deadhorse Facebook page) have over 3000 Facebook fans in just over 1.5 years of being a band. Some of these were gained through extensive touring and then following up via Facebook, others simply stumbled across their page. Frontman Brian Morgante does an incredible job with reaching and retaining fans through their Facebook page, never possible without such a great tool.

To sum it all up, the garage bands of today can’t expect to go anywhere very soon without using Facebook to its full potential. You can write great music, but only with the internet and Facebook will it reach the masses.

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