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Music Marketing: Your doing it wrong!

There’s no money in music!??

If you aren’t meeting your financial goals with your current Music Marketing strategy it’s no mystery whyyou’re doing it wrong!

Artists all too often give their money away to the middlemen of the Music industry.

It’s no secret that I am a steadfast supporter of EVERY Independent artist having their own website. I advocate ignoring the DIY distribution services that have become the new norm in the music industry. And I’ll go one further and publicly state that today’s digital distribution services Like Reverb Nation, CD Baby, iTunes and so on… are actually doing today’s independent musicians a disservice….

Now, I know I will probably catch some shit for making this statement But the truth is, what’s wrong with the music industry is the middleman, it always has been and still continues to be.

What makes today’s music industry such a shit storm is that it’s simply a disorganized version of the old music industry. And no one is at the helm. No one seems to know how to streamline the process of; creating music, getting it in front of the right audience and returning a reasonable profit back to the artist. Everyone in the industry only wants to get their greedy little fingers into your slice of the pie. This is why you will hear artists continue to lament on why there’s no money in the music business these days.

Each time an Independent artist uploads a song and makes a sale using one of these services, a fee is taken right off the top of each sale cutting into the profits of the Independent Musician. iTunes, for example, takes 30 cents off the top of each individual MP3 sold and downloaded leaving the artist with 69 cent profit. Using a service Like CD Baby makes the whole accounting task even more convoluted with CD baby taking their registration fee and then a revenue split for each product sold, This is ON TOP of the fee that services like iTunes takes because, keep in mind, CD Baby distributes to each of these other services like iTunes…. The accounting starts to become a nightmare the deeper you dig in. This is why artists have been stating that there’s no more money in the music industry. Except, they are wrong! There is money to be found but the quicker entrepreneurs are taking it right out of your wallet while you are busy complaining on Facebook.

The Temperamental Artist

Now, after having gone on my rant above, let me qualify it by also stating that it’s not that I believe these services are scams run by greedy scumbags. Quite the opposite. They are business models based on the oldest business principle known to man, “See a need, fill a need”. 

when P2P sharing sites like Napster came along it heralded the beginning of the end of the old music industry. The stranglehold that the big labels had on the market was broken and no one seemed to be prepared for that.  The major labels have never recovered from the change in market behavior and instead of doing some critical analysis of their own business practices they put more of the burden of profitability on the market and on the artists. We began seeing Increasingly punitive contracts that took deeper cuts of the artist merchandise sales and touring revenue and even going so far as blaming the consumer for being too tight with their wallets. 

In the new music industry, the burden is now on the artist to prove that they are a viable investment for the labels leaving the artist to establish their own fan base and market share before even being considered as a prospect. This means one thing for all of today’s independent artists: entrepreneurship.  Artists were not prepared for the shift in the industry’s business model. No one told us we had to become business people, That was the label’s job! And as my wife once said to me, ” I just want to be the temperamental artist, you handle all of the technical stuff”.

But That’s OK, there’s nothing wrong with wanting someone to do the mundane work so you can focus on being fabulous. These distributors do provide a service, and for some artists, they work. There are many examples of artists doing well earning up to 4 or 5 figures a month selling through these services. But not because these services are the Gold standard of music marketing and sales, The burden still remains on the artist to build a fan base and drive traffic to sites like Reverb Nation or iTunes. you’re doing more marketing for them and not as much as you might think for you…

My position on music marketing and sales comes from observation and study of modern methods of eCommerce and the only thing that makes sense to me at this time in the industry is for Independent artists to take the bull by horns and establish their own businesses. This means owning your own website and selling directly to your fans/customers from that website. All of your music and merchandise can be sold direct to your fans from your own website and the best thing about this model is you keep 100% of the Profits and you know exactly what your bottom line looks like.

The basics of a Sales Funnel

So, what exactly is my problem with the way most independent artists are marketing and selling their music today?  Well, first of all, it is the exact opposite of what most online entrepreneurs would consider to be the “gold standard” in eCommerce, the sales funnel. Secondly, These distribution services do very little if anything to build or enhance your brand. They use you as worker bees to build their brands.

Most artists I have observed or spoken with are using services like CD Baby because they are trying to emulate the industry sales model from what I call the “Music industry version 1.0” which is to shotgun a new release into every store and sales outlet possible in the hopes that after hearing the song on the radio, watching the video on MTV (back in the days when they still were a music channel) or seeing the artist play at a concert, the fans could run right out to the local music store, Walmart or whatever and buy the CD regardless of whether that fan lived in Los Angeles or Podunk Iowa.

This is the old school sales model. It’s like carpet bombing, but with CD’s. This model worked great in its time because the major labels had all the distribution channels, all the marketing methods and all the media coverage and so could coordinate all these factors together turning artists into superstars. Artists lived and died at the whim of the label.

But this method worked because of scarcity. In order to get your favorite artist’s newest album, you actually had to go out and buy it at a store. The internet was not at the center of most peoples’ lives like it is today and in those days an independent artist was limited in just how many places they could sell their albums or singles in.  without the power and leverage of a large label, you had no hope of reaching a nationwide, let alone a worldwide audience. This is why there were so many underground artists that became popular in their own home town or state but did not get much farther. No major label support. 

So what is the major difference between the music industry Version 1.0 and Version 2.0?  let’s all say it together… THE INTERNET.  The Internet and in particular the direct sales business model changed the entire market forever. what came next is the evolution of the sales funnel which has been refined and tested for over 20 years.

The whole point of this article is to call your attention to the concept of the sales funnel. The online sales funnel is the model that pretty much every successful online seller uses to bring customers to their products. In a sales funnel the entrepreneur establishes a website, they then use various methods to drive traffic to their site. once at the site, the entrepreneur can structure the funnel in a variety of ways but the goal is to make a sale and capture the customer’s email address. 

Imagine if you will, a picture…  you as an independent artist with your album in hand, plastering that new album on every distribution channel possible. what then? where do you put your efforts toward driving traffic to? if you want to run a Facebook add do you send traffic to iTunes? what about SoundCloud? and what about Reverb Nation? if you can only afford one add sending traffic to one outlet which one should it be? Now, some ads allow you to direct your traffic to multiple sites, it just depends on how you design the ad. However, I have to ask the question, why? Why do we keep giving away more of our precious revenue just because we are afraid to dig in and create a business that you can call your own?

The fundamental nature of the sales funnel is that instead of sending your hard-won fans all over the internet looking for your music; you bring them home where you can control the experience they have and nurture the relationship between yourself and your fans in whatever way you choose. That’s why its’ called a funnel you do the opposite of sending fans over to another brand’s website. Instead you “funnel” them back to your own business site which is the home of your own personal brand. Once there, you make an offer and you ask for a sale and for an email address. The necessity of the email address is in that after over 20 years of development and research of the sales funnel The email list is still the best way to identify people who are willing take action toward supporting your cause. people who sign up for your email list are much more likely to purchase something from you, assuming you don’t screw up the relationship.

This is the future of the music business, Artists as entrepreneurs each owning their very own website and bringing their fans home.  Think about it 🙂



My name is Richard Artichoker, I am The Founder and Creator of the 7th Gen Academy for DIY Musicians. I have been involved with various aspects of the Music Business for 30 years. in 1992 I founded the hard Rock band "7th Generation". I stopped playing out live 13 years ago but continue to research the music market and digital sales and marketing techniques and I want to share my experience and knowledge with you.