Archive for music business

How to Sell Out Properly pt. 2

Posted in Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on May 17, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

(This is a continuation of last month’s post of How to Sell Out Properly)

6. Maximize Your Draw: Adding a band/company to your portfolio is risky. The larger an initial market you can show your investors, the easier it is for them to justify signing you up for a few albums.

Put yourself in the A&R rep’s shoes. Even if you loved this new band you saw, how would you defend your decision to sign the band if the only people in attendance at the show are the band’s significant others?

Same decision, now assume the band can regularly pull 60 people at regional shows.

Get your pull up. Don’t assume that a label will “discover” your no-name band at an open-mic night. Get a big enough fan base and buzz that the label hears about your music and have to check it out themselves.

7. Already Be Making Money: Less risk for investors. Same as above.

8. Take Any Contract to Your Lawyer Before Signing: Yes, lawyers are expensive. But so is being trapped in a crappy contract for five albums. If you’re not finished with or currently working on a law degree, you’ll save yourself years of heartache by having a professional review the contract to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

Labels assume (correctly) that most musicians don’t know about or care to know about contracts. While there are benevolent labels out there, there’s also malevolent labels out there. Protect your band so you don’t become trapped in a terrible marriage.

9. Know Your Band Member’s Intentions: Have a serious, sit-down talk with everyone in the band to work out all the details you can think of before you sign anything.

-Does everyone want to get signed?

-Is everyone willing to relocate?

-What is the minimum offer we would accept?

-What is our goal for getting signed?

-Where does everyone want the creative direction of the band to go?

-What would make everyone happy?

-How much control will we give up?

-Will everyone be able to work around getting signed, or will some have to quit their jobs?

-Would the band member’s spouses approve?

-Would each band member be able to take care of their dependents?

-How much touring is everyone willing to tolerate?

-What would cause someone to want to quit the band?

-Are there any current issues with/between people that must be taken care of? (Skipping practice, not paying rent, fights, medical issues)

10. Be Respectful: You’ll get turned down.

A lot.

The Beatles were turned down by Decca, HMV and Columbia because “Guitar groups are on the way out.” It happened to them, and odds are your band isn’t the next Beatles.

That’s perfectly ok.

Deal with rejections gracefully. Say thanks, and scurry off. Don’t get mad, don’t act crazy, and don’t bad mouth the label; the industry is all connected. If word spreads you’re jerks, it’ll be much harder to gain an audience with already-overloaded label professionals.

There’s millions of other considerations to make, but these are the red-flags you need to take care of before earnestly pursuing a label. Anything else you think should be added to the list?

P.S.: Are you noticing how improving your band in order to get signed sounds awfully similar to how you build a career as a DIY artist?

I thought so.

How to Sell Out Properly pt. 1

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on April 19, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

So you’ve got it in your head that you must be signed to be happy. As you know, I am very much against labels as they are 95% of the time a terrible financial decision.

However, you don’t care.

Cool, let’s work with that. Join the party!

Since you’ve got your heart set on getting signed, let’s get our heads around how to look sexy for a label. As I’ve mentioned before, getting signed and getting bought out are exactly the same thing. A larger entity with lots of cash is willing to supply you with some sweet, sweet cash money in exchange for future profits and oversight. Not all of these investments (bands) will return as much cash, so a venture capital firm (label) will have a diverse portfolio (artist roster) in the hopes that a few investments (bands) will make enough money to cover the losses for all the failures.

The label’s interest in you is contingent upon how your band performs as a financial instrument. An advance is essentially the label loaning you money for a set period of time with the expectation that you’ll be able to repay the loan plus interest, thus making the label a Return On Investment (ROI).

If you’re making the label less money then they’re spending on you, consider yourself on the short list to get dropped. At this point they may suggest you change your look, sound, or direction. It’s not really a suggestion. Once a label has thrown cash at your band, it’s your duty to help them recoup their cost. Often, a band is given an advance to record an album with the stipulation that the band will not receive any additional compensation until the label makes enough cash to cover the advance. After that thresh hold is met, you’ll still earn only a percentage of profit from each sale. You have to make them that skrillah or you’re gone.

So if you really want to be signed, you want to position your band in a way that signals to labels that “this band is a solid investment.”

Let’s talk about some ways to preen your band for getting signed.

1. Study the Labels You Want To Get Signed On: Each label has a distinct personality, and your band needs to be careful about who they choose to do business with. (Death Row Records was affiliated with The Bloods and hired crooked cops/gang members!)

 Pay attention to the sounds of artists already on the label. Do they already have forty bands that sound like you? Or do you think you’d be a good way to round out their lineup? Remember, it’s about portfolio diversification.

 Pay attention to the marketing and tone of communications the label uses. Do they like proper press releases with careful wording, or are they more punk rock-ish? This will help you determine if the personality of your band would be a good fit.

 Pay attention to how satisfied artists are with the label. Does the label actually listen to the artist, or do they chew bands up and spit them out on a regular basis? (See the Victory Records Hawthorne Heights lawsuit)

 Pick out a list of a possible labels in your genre that might be a good fit for your band. Tailor your band’s “pitch” to fit each label’s personality, and you’re more likely to catch their attention.

 2. Find an “In”: Getting a label interested is infinitely easier if you can find an actual person to listen to you, as opposed to sending in a demo EP in the mail. Look around the label website, music publications, blogs, and local music industry directories to see if you can get a name.

In most cases, phone will tend to be ideal since emails and physical mail are much easier to ignore. Better still would be having a friend introduce you. Be polite and to the point with your pitch.

3. Pitch: Label or no, you need to know how to describe your music in under 10 seconds with a solid pitch. The goal of a pitch is to only get the “main ideas” of your art across and interest the listener enough to have them say “Hmm, ok. Tell me more.”

This is good: “We’re The Wigglin’ Waggles, a danceable Nirvana-sounding band from Dallas. We’d like to ask your permission to send a demo CD so we can talk further about possibly signing with your label.”

This is bad: “Hey, dude. Where do I send our demo?”

Expect more posts on building an effective pitch in the future. This is a BIG topic.

4. Get a High-Quality Demo: Your music needs to be its best to get someone to pay attention. If you have to apologize for your sound recording (It’s just a demo, man, so ignore the skipping sound), you need a new recording. End of story.

5. Minimize “Distasteful Behaviors”: Pure-bred businesspeople are uncomfortable going too far outside the norm. Musicians and artists live to push the boundaries, as that’s where artistic growth comes from.

But be aware of this disconnect.

There’s an limited amount of ‘edgy’ that a firm will be willing to tolerate before you cross a psychological thresh hold where people become uncomfortable. the ‘edginess’ works against you. Venture capital firms are less likely to help fund totally new enterprises in wholly unproven markets, as they have to defend their decision to their bosses. It’s much easier to defend investing $10 million when “the market for all-natural pet nutrition has been growing at 12% yearly, and this young company is perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growth.” It wasn’t until after Nirvana and Pearl Jam blew up that it became incredibly easy for a grunge band to get signed.

This thresh hold exists even in corporate life. Even if the official company policy says “tattoos and piercings are ok”, having ostentatious sleeves and plugs will permanently stunt your career at a corporation. We (humans) like those that look like us. We identify and help those that look more like us, consciously AND unconsciously. Being “too far out” makes others uncomfortable with you AND themselves. Just the same as if you were wearing a full suit to a punk rock show, looking like a punk rocker in a cubicle is asking for others to distrust you. Don’t.

So how do we apply this knowledge? First, cut the songs you have called “I’m Going To Punch Your Mom In The Face”. That’s not mass-market material. You can still keep some swearing and vulgar material in your songs because, hey, it’s rock and roll. But you don’t want to get too avant-garde with your performance or too offensive in your lyrics that your songs would not be playable on radio.

You don’t have to water down yourself completely, but be aware that you’ll want to polish your rough edges so that an A&R rep will spend her time selling you instead of explaining/defending you. And ditch hard drugs. Drugs signal unreliabile people which makes it difficult for a label to trust that dropping $20k on an album won’t end with someone in the band freaking out and ending up in rehab. Don’t be stupid.

To be continued next month.

What Exactly Is “Exposure” Worth?

Posted in Art Business, Marketing, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , on March 15, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek Miller is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

“Getting your name out there.”

 Some are willing to give away their entire catalog for free in  hopes that the extra exposure will build loytalty and gain fans.

 Other artists insist that every piece of music should be paid for and don’t care about exposure.

 What, exactly, is exposure worth?

 My thoughts:

 A) The exact value of exposure-for-exposure’s sake is nebulous at best.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to calculate an exact value for each additional unit of exposure, so to speak. Much like advertising, the benefits are only visible over the long-term and are often difficult to directly quantify.

For example, how many additional fans would you expect to get for making an album available for streaming online for free? Would these additional fans buy enough of your music, merch, or shows to make this trade-off a net benefit for your band? This great post by Frank Woodworth does the math to estimate profit per stream, but attempting to discern the value of increased fans and their propensity to purchase is strictly guessing.

 As much as I’d like one straightforward answer, it seems justifying a decision based on the value of exposure is a subjective choice. In the case of streaming, I choose a blended approach.

B) Some types of exposure are more valuable than others.

Paying your own tour expenses in order to tour with an internationally popular band that fits your genre would (probably) be worth it. Paying to get your music tweeted about by a local music blog may be worth it. Paying to get your music available on a Chinese web store if you’re a Tennesse-based funk band will not be worth it.

C) Opportunities that tout “exposure” as their primary selling point should be looked at skeptically.

 Often, the word exposure is a red flag that a service or person is trying to take advantage of you. We’ve all had fantasies that if we get our music in front of the right A&R person / magical wizard, our entire musical career would be solved forever. Companies who base their value proposition on offering bands exposure are playing to this fantasy.

 In our early days, my own band bought into one of those compilation CD rackets where we had to pay $200 for a box of compliation CDs which one song of ours would be on. We were going to be taking baths in exposure-flavored champaigne!

 After dropping the cash and getting the compilation, we quickly realized that the other tracks on CD were awful and didn’t have any rhyme or reason as to why they were all included. It was a mess and we couldn’t, in good conscience, charge people for that collection of debris. I’m pretty sure we ended up throwing the box out.

 Our email inbox is so flooded with these kinds of “opportunities” you’d think we were one email and a thousand dollars away from a world tour. That exposure must be some pretty powerful stuff!

How do you feel about the concept of “exposure”? Does your band give away free music or not? Why do you make the choices you do?

Louis CK’s Million Dollar Experiment

Posted in Art Business, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , on February 16, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

For those of you who missed it, on December 10th Louis CK released a self-produced, self-financed comedy special for a $5 download on his own website. No restrictions, other than asking you “please don’t pirate this.”

He made a million dollars in ten days, no middlemen required. 

Louis C.K. said he was shocked as he watched the orders come in — and then began to feel guilty about the amount he’d netted.

“I’ve never had a million dollars all at once. I grew up pretty poor and I was like, this is not even my money,” he said. “This is just a five-dollar impulse that 220,000 people had, and now I have it. And I felt uncomfortable about having that much money.”

So Louis C.K. set aside $250,000 to cover the cost of the expenses of producing the special, then doled out another $250,000 in bonuses for his staffers.

He then donated $280,000 to five charities: The Fistula Foundation, The Pablove Foundation, charity: water, Kiva and Green Chimneys.

“I was going to [donate] $100,000, but it’s like blackjack — I just kept dishing it out,” he told Fallon.

That leaves $220,000 left over.

“Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen [sic]. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business,” Louis C.K. wrote in a statement posted on his website.

He’s not the first artist to make a killing without a label, this just serves as more proof that you can make it on your own. Radiohead’s In Rainbows made the band more money than they’ve ever made for a record even though it was a pay-what-you-want record.

1) Direct-to-fan sales mean cheaper products AND more money going to the artists.

For a large company, $1,000,000 is break-even. For a DIY artist, it’s a smash hit. Rembember $18 CDs back in the 90s? Each CD you bought from a third party only returned cents to the band.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather keep my first million.

2) Fans will pay for great art from the artists they love.What with all the shenanigans the MPAA and RIAA are throwing about to justify the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act, you’d think people will only pay for art when they’re forced to.


As the video game distribution platform Steam has shown, making legitmate purchase a better experience for consumers opens their wallets.

Piracy is a service problem.

Louis CK allowed you to download and watch his video using any platform you wanted.

He didn’t even bother copy-protecting the video.

He didn’t have to.

“I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one.” – Thom Yorke

Can Musicians Make Money Off Of Streaming?

Posted in Art Business, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , on January 19, 2012 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

Boon or burden?

There’s been quite a raging controversy over Spotify over at Hypebot as musicians across the industry chime in with their opinion on the streaming service.

Zoe Keating, Cellist and brilliant DIY musician, talks about how independant artists are treated unfairly.

That’s it. That’s my complaint: fairness.

If Spotify would level the playing field and make the distribution equal to all artists. I would lay off (since I am sure that my constant complaints are a total priority for them!). Now, if Spotify was to make those royalties algorithm-based, they’d have my full nerd support. For example if, thanks to their ‘related’ algorithm,  people listen to small-artist X after listening to large-artist Y, then I could see that a particular play, not all of them, of artist Y could be ‘heavier’. However, if people end up at artist Y by searching for them directly, the play-weight should reflect that. Data, do it with data!

But just to pay tracks from major labels more because they are major labels, that is so OLD. Where is the revolution in that?

Four indie labels have already withdrawn from the service. Sam Rosenthal of Projekt, the most recent label to pull out, issued a public statement explaining the label’s decision bluntly: 

For a stream on Spotfy…. NOW READ THIS CLOSELY….. on average $0.0013 is paid to Projekt’s Digital Distributor. 5000 plays generates around $6.50. In comparison, 5000 track downloads at iTunes generates $3487. To be clear: I am not suggesting that every stream would have been a sale at iTunes. Believe me, I understand the reality of the music business. I am providing that as a comparison for you. Let’s look at this another way: To earn the U.S. monthly minimum wage – $1160 – 892,307 plays a month are needed at Spotify. This is not a viable number for artists.  

Spotify responded to Projeckt by changing the subject:

Spotify does not sell streams, but access to music. Users pay for this access either via a subscription fee or with their ear time via the ad-supported service [just like commercial radio] – they do not pay per stream. In other words, Spotify is not a unit based business and it does not make sense to look at revenues from Spotify from a per stream or other music unit-based point of view. Instead, one must look at the overall revenues that Spotify is generating, and how these revenues grow over time.

Spotify is generating serious revenues for rights holders, labels, publishers and the artists that they represent.  We have paid over $100m to rights holders since our launch, and the overwhelming majority of our label partners are thrilled with the revenues we’re returning to them. Spotify is now the second single largest source of digital music revenue for labels in Europe, according to IFPI.

But is this current royalty structure sustainable? According to Spotify’s filings in the UK, it lost $42 million on licensing fees in 2010 alone despite a five-fold increase in revenues from the previous year. 

What does all of this mean to an independant artist? Is streaming worth the loss in income so more fans can listen to your music? Can you ever break even on streaming? Is it better to just ignore the whole deal?

Here’s how I see things playing out:

1) Streaming services are similar to radio in that both benefit major labels with more money and muscle than independant bands. 

When it comes down to corporation-level negotiations, a DIY artist will always be at a disadvantage. Self-sufficent bands don’t have legal departments, lobbyists, consultants, piles of cash, or a fanbase ranging into the millions that can be used in negotiations. If Spotify can’t sign a DIY singer-songerwriter it’s no big deal, but if Spotify doesn’t have access to the entire Universal Music catalog, the streaming service will be severely crippled. The streaming service has to make that deal.

As such, these large entities leverage their influence and power to ensure that they maximize their benefit from negotiations. Organizations not at the table miss out.

It sucks, but I don’t see a solution to this problem without either a PRO stepping into negotiations or a coalition of DIY artists forming their own right’s group.

2) There’s no turning back, the cloud is here to stay.

For better or worse, streaming services figured out how to monetize piracy. Judging by the success of Rdio and Spotify, businesses have made their services more appealing than piracy. Unless there is a game-changing method of piracy to replace BitTorrent, the ease of use of the cloud will continue to draw in customers. (Piracy in Sweden is down 25% since the Spotify’s introduction.)

Businesses won’t give up this revenue stream without a fight.

3) Streaming is marginally better for indie musicians than radio.
Radio was a passive music experience, with a song selection heavily influenced by who had the most cash for promotion.

Streaming/cloud services/piracy enable an active music experience by allowing curious fans to give new bands a try. It won’t pay much, if anything, but it does benefit smaller and niche bands that wouldn’t get much airplay on traditional radio.

A minor win.

4) Streaming an album is a moral dilemma.
As a fan, it was absolutely awesome to hear the new Mastodon the day it came out for free on Spotify. Now I’ve got no qualms about throwing dollars at Mastodon, I’ve bought every studio album because they’re that gravy. But. having spun the album a few times, there wasn’t any reason for me to buy the actual album anymore.

This is a mammoth moral dilemma.

Instead of Mastodon seeing my entire $10 for a digital download (minus iTunes’ cut), the money is instead spent on a subscription to an intermediate who only offers the band a fraction of the $10. The middleman (streaming) scoops most of the profit off of album before it ever hits the band.


How do we cope with this?

5) Delaying and limiting releases to streaming is an effective compromise.

By delaying release of new material to streaming services, we ensure that super-fans who are willing to pay for a “brand-new” album actually pay for the album, while not excluding casual listeners who may convert to a sale later down the line. This is the same method of price discrimination that movie companies use; movies don’t come out on DVD/Netflix until months after they’ve left the theaters. This ensures that movie-buffs willing to pay a price premium to see a movie in theaters actually pay.

For the same reason, any b-sides, rarities or limited-edition material shouldn’t be released to streaming services as this would discourage willing fans from paying at the cost of providing the material to casual fans, who really won’t care about “extra” material.

What are your thoughts on streaming?

How Much Does It Cost to Make A Hit Song?

Posted in Art Business, music, The DIY Musician with tags , on October 20, 2011 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

According to this NPR article on the Rhianna song “Man Down”, it costs $1,000,000.
Some highlights:

-Pay to Play (aka Payola) never disappeared. 
Majors labels are venture capital firms, and they need smash hits to cover all the money they’ve spent on their unsuccessful artists. And it’s in the interest of radio to convince the music industry that it’s THE kingmaker. “Court us, or suffer irrelevance!”

‘Treating the radio guys nice’ is a very fuzzy cost. It can mean taking the program directors of major market stations to nice dinners. It can mean flying your artist in to do a free show at a station in order to generate more spots on a radio playlist.

Former program director Paul Porter, who co-founded the media watchdog group Industry Ears, says it’s not that record labels pay outright for a song. They pay to establish relationships so that when they are pushing a record, they will come first.

Porter says shortly after he started working as a programmer for BET about 10 years ago, he received $40,000.00 in hundred-dollar bills in a Fed-Ex envelope.

Current program directors told me this isn’t happening anymore. They say their playlists are made through market research on what their listeners want to hear.”

-If you’re a DIY artist, radio is a waste of your time and money. 

Radio plays what majors push, it’s a symbiotic relationship (even though labels HATED radio initially and used the same arguements that level against today’s music piracy). With competition for listener’s ears from iPods, satellite radio and internet radio, advertising dollars in radio aren’t what they used to be. The cash has to come from somewhere.

The return on investment for radio plays doesn’t make sense for a DIY musician. You’d be throwing your money away at what is essentially bribes, when you could hire a manager or a publicist at a fraction of the cost and have a much bigger impact on your fan base through targeted marketing.

One caveat: Sometimes radio will play more independant music, but only once the listeners begin demanding to hear the music. It’s cheaper and better to have your fans convince radio through their voice than you trying to convince radio through your wallet.Let’s be fair to radio, though. If I could figure out a way to legally get $40 thousand dollars sent to me without any questions asked, I’d be all over that like mayo on a gas station tuna salad sandwich.

-The major labels are built on old economics.

Too much overhead.

Back when there were only a few major distribution channels in the 50s, you could reasonably count on huge acts selling tons of CDs because there weren’t as many bands to choose from. Now that there’s an infinite number of bands, the industry isn’t concentrated anymore. You can’t “gurantee” a hit even by throwing millions of dollars at it (the Rhianna song has been met with lukewarm reception and flagging profits). A fan doesn’t have to have taste dictated by the masses anymore, hence the arrival of fantastic niche players in genres such as Gypsy Punk and Cello Rock.

Good for our ears, bad for majors.

-Throwing dollars at a mediocre song can only do so much.

Have you guys even listenered to her new song?

“rum pa pum pum pum”…

Come on now.

Music is about the music.

How to Make Fans Faster

Posted in Art Business, PR, The DIY Musician with tags , on September 15, 2011 by artlovemagic

post by Derek Miller

How To Make Fans Faster

The band you crave, the music you listen to when you’re having a bad day or feeling amazing, your idols… How did this happen? How did you find them? Think for a moment.

I heard Radiohead’s Kid A by picking it up because it had cool artwork and I’d sorta heard about them. I hadn’t listened to the CD yet so I brought it on a CD player to a friend’s house in high school. After one minute everyone in the room was noticeably not enjoying it, “What is this weird stuff?!? Turn it off!”

I loved the band instantly.

I heard about Kaki King through my mom’s recommendation. I was dreading the listen as her musical taste and mine intersect once every thousand years, however this time, Mom was right. I LOVE Kaki King.

I had never heard of Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears before, but after seeing them live at Bonnaroo at a friend’s suggestion I was immediately hooked. Their live show’s energy and style reminded me of The Blues Brothers. Groovy.

So what’s the common thread?

(dramatic pause)

(go get a cup of coffee or something, so it’s like a biiiiiig pause)


Music is not experienced in a vacuum, it’s a social art form. Not only do we go to shows with friends to see the actual band, we judge music based on the social cues we receive. We expect to see world-renowned concert violinists playing in carnage hall. We expect to see mediocre violinists in the subway. Guess what happens when world-renowned concert violinist Joshua Bell plays in the subway? No one paid attention.

Does he look world famous to you?

There are effectively an infinite number of bands out there today. It’s impossible to weed through every boring or mediocre band, there’s too many. So we look to our guidance from friends, family, reviewers, bloggers, bands, anyone to find out what’s worth listening to.

Even more so, we want to be able to connect with people. When someone says to you, “Hey have you heard the new ____ album?” you want to be able to go, “YES! That album was amazing!” Music, like TV, news, gossip, art and history is cultural currency.

If you want your art to support you, you must realize this and use it to your advantange. Social Proof is powerful.

People can recommend music explicitly by playing a show or wearing a shirt, or they can recommend implicitly by simply being a member of the crowd for a street performer. The more people present, the better the social proof of the artist’s talent.

Which do you think would be better in the long run: Selling 100 tickets to a 200 capacity room or selling out a 50 capacity room?

You will have to fight for your first fans. If you’re smart, it won’t be long before your fans fight for you.


Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship, painter, and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music. Got a business question about your art? Shoot him an email at

Guest Blogger – Derek on Fan Velocity

Posted in Art Business, music, The DIY Musician with tags , , , , , on June 14, 2011 by artlovemagic

Derek is an MBA in entrepreneurship and bassist for Onward We March, a local progressive metal band. He teaches business skills to artists and writes weekly music business advice for his blog Derek Thinks Music.

As a musician, you’ve crafted your music to the best performance and presentation it’s ever been, but that will only carry you so far.

The real multiplier for your music career’s success is the velocity of your fans. Do they rabidly promote your band because they connect with you and love what you stand for? As an example, and I’m terrified of them, you can’t deny the efficacy of the Juggalos, the name given to fans of Insame Clown Posse, for supporting their band. Or do the people you’ve touched actively go out of their way to discourage others from listening to your music? Example: Metallica lost a good number of fans after the band decided to sue its followers over the Napster controversy.

They're millionaires. Yep.

It used to be that there was an invisible wall between the artist and their fans. PR spokesmen, artist managers, burly security guards, tinted limos, etc… if you didn’t want to talk to the public beyond your music, you would have someone step in for you and create a buffer. You could live in space when you weren’t on stage as far as anyone was concerned. Rest assured there was someone out there actively interacting with fans, spreading the gospel of your music.

But the middlemen are disappearing.

Today it’s just you and the fan. They can interact with you directly through twitter, myspace, forums, email, carrier pigeon… If they see you before or after a show, they wanna talk to you. The fan *expects* to be able to interact with you. This is part of your job description as an artist. Communicating emotion involves communication.

Why is this?

Choosing to listen to a band is an identity decision.

When I say “I’m a HUGE fan of Boris“, it’s an identity statement. Music is all about emotions, philosophy, and stories. When we state our preferences, we’re explicitly saying “I identify with the message they are conveying to the world. This band and their music represents how I see the world.”

We project the person we want to be onto our artists.

As such, we, as your fans, want to know as much as we can about who we have decided is worthy of membership into our “Personal Identity Club”. This is a club for cool people *only*, because we’re the president of it!

So if we finally interact with an idol and they look down on us, blow us off, or call us chumps, they’re out of our club. Gone. Even worse, any time the former-fan hears the artist’s name, they’re gonna chime in saying “They’re a jerk! Don’t listen to em’!”.

Even not replying to their messages is a slight. If you don’t respond to a fans’ attempt to connect with you, to them it feels the same as a a friend blowing you off. It hurts.

You can’t ignore or hate on your fans anymore. They’re the only ones keeping you afloat.

Work on your fan velocity.