It's great to read an article about a well known local producer, one with gold and platinum records on his studio's walls and an obvious attachment to the music industry's past, who is willing show guts, take risks, and prove to be one of the most forward thinking music producers in the country. For someone like myself who has worked hard and spent tens of thousands on my own music 2.0 company, I found the article very inspiring. That is why I was shocked after visiting the Myspace page of Vanity Tweak to see that they are making the same mistake that thousands of other unsigned bands are doing; not setting their music to be downloadable. To see such an important detail overlooked by a professional like Otto D'Agnolo was very disappointing.
Mr. D'Agnolo has the basic concept down. Unsigned artists should not be selling CDs, not within their first year atleast. Free music is the key. Be it concerts, CDs or downloads. While CDBABY, Tunecore, and SnoCap have given millions of Protools-equipped artists nationwide an almost-false sense of empowerment, we are learning time and time again that the key to jumpstarting an artist-fan relationship is giving your music away from the get go while waiting for the relationship to truly cultivate. But let�s see if I am clear on what I just read. Otto D'Agnolo is going to use a six figure invested interest to give away a half million �coasters� but won�t allow his artist to give away free music on the web?
A further venture into the artist�s own website (www.vanitytweak.com) gives us a flash based website that doesn�t allow downloading of the band�s music. Now I consider myself a junior audiophile. I don�t have the best equipment, but I will take vinyl through Bose speakers over compressed audio and earbuds any day. But let�s get realistic. Home stereo systems have become niche. So, if the iPod is the most common listening device among the 18- 32 demographic, shouldn�t the goal of all up and coming artists (and the managers that represent them) be to get their music on as many of those iPods as possible?!? And if that is your goal, don�t you want to make it as easy as possible for your potential audience to get these songs on their portable devices?
So Otto D�Agnolo wants Vanity Tweak to connect with a college and a high school audience. Ask these kids how many free CDs they get every week from young and hungry bands. Probably atleast one per every show they attend or about one a week. I see CD-Rs from bands everywhere I go. Consider that there are more CD burners per households these days than television sets. Hell, I have probably burned a half million CDs from the day I bought my first CD burning desktop computer ten years ago to now and with all the bands I have either played with or managed within that timeframe. Now ask these kids what they do with a majority of those CDs. 5 years ago the CD giveaway was a premier promotional strategy. Today, your potential fans are not impressed. Do you want your music collecting dust on top of someone�s dresser or do you want your music directly on the iTunes and WinAmp playlists of your potential fans?
Despite how well written this article is, Serene misses one important mainstream comparison: the parallels between D�Agnolo�s bonus CD idea inside the Tempe 12 calendar and the recent and highly publicized giveaway of three million discs by Prince in the UK. Prince is Prince. His track record of making some of pop music�s finest moments gives him a free pass of experimentation. However, if you are a barely known artist competing for a small slice of the attention span pie, placing your CD inside a subscribed periodical (regardless if it�s a daily newspaper, monthly zine, or yearly calendar) equates your music to that of the AOL �First 40 Hours Free� CD-Roms of yesteryear. Isn�t anyone listening to Seth Godin? We live in a �ask first� marketing culture. You don�t spam people your mp3s and show dates unless they sign your mailing list�and you don�t �place� your band�s CD inside an unrelated piece of literature, unless said piece is music related to be begin with.
Otto, please give your client�s music away�but please be smart about it. Set the music on Vanity Tweak�s myspace page (or Pure Volume, GarageBand, etc) so everyone can download and enjoy the songs on their favorite digital player. Make their music podsafe. Go as far as to set up your own podcasting feed so you can offer your subscribers the first opt to download new tracks. Save your investor�s cash on a premier CD or vinyl package to sell when the time is right. If you cultivate fanship correctly, they will be back with money in hand to buy your client�s goods, even if the goods is a recorded medium that has the same songs offered free on the web. Once fanship is established, you can sell the tokens of fanship easily be it vinyl, CD, T-shirts, buttons, etc. Be smart or else your potential audience will see your CD and concert giveaways as just smoke and mirrors.
And one more thing�yes the labels are fucking up. However being on a label is still considered cooler than being too sponsor-friendly.
Sincerely, Vil VodkaVodka Tonic Media (inspiring music mogul and, more importantly, someone who still buys music and discovers new artists everyday).