I'm often asked to write and speak about how the internet and social media have changed/are changing the way traditional media operate, and how we consume traditional media. This includes the evolution, or perhaps revolution, taking place within the music industry. I love the things my friend Deni Gauthier is doing online (and I finally get to meet him in person this week!). I also love newer, more innovative distribution models like what the folks at Noisetrade are doing.
You see, I believe that there has never been a better time for indie musicians. The costs and barriers previously associated with recording and distributing music have been reduced greatly. Anyone, including me, can record an album at a very low cost on a home computer, and find all sorts of interesting ways to distribute that music globally. Of course the downside of all this is the fact that I can record an album. I have no musical talents or abilities whatsoever. And if I can record an album, that means a lot of other equally untalented "musicians" can also fill the internet with their mediocre or horrible music. This means that while the costs are lower for all of us, it takes a bit more work for the truly talented musicians to rise above the din. The good news in all of this, is that the proof is in the pudding. We can let our ears tell us what is good and what is not.
I keep my ears to the ground when it comes to the music industry and follow a lot of different publications. As a music love, I also follow and listen to a lot of different bands and musicians. On Facebook recently I saw something in my newsfeed that intrigued me, and is further indication that the music industry is changing. Radically. And for the better.
One musician I have followed for years is Jesse Sprinkle. Jesse is a multi-instrumentalist who has worked with a number of my favorite bands from Poor Old Lu to Demonhunter to Dead Poetic, to mention a few. His music has ranged from beautiful indie pop to hardcore to rap, and everything in between. And it's all very good. One of the things about being a solo musician, and a member of various bands, is that you acquire a lot of unreleased music over the years, and Jesse is no exception. Songs are recorded, but never release. Recordings are left unfinished, many of them never seeing the light of day. But with the internet and social media, music lovers and their favorite artists can connect on a much deeper level. One aspect of this is the ability of musicians to release music digitally at little or no cost.
In the old music model, you would release albums. Period. If something wasn't included, it was probably lost forever. Of course there were the occasional B-Sides and rare recording releases, but those were left to mostly the biggest name artists with large fan bases. Not anymore. This month Jesse Sprinkle has been hosting something he calls "Digital April" on his Bandcamp page, as well as cross-posted to a Facebook group and his personal Facebook profile.
During the month of April, Jesse is digging into his archives and is releasing a new song ever day; free to listen and just $1 to download. With each song you get a bit of a story related to the song. These songs span Sprinkle's career, and the music genres that have been a part of that. They range from some of the darker and more introspective songs to lighter pop songs; from a song written for a wedding to a kids' song written for his son about the number four! Each of the stories is fascinating and gives us a deeper look inside the artist, and a greater connection to the music.
The songs also range from remixes to raw demos to fully produced. Here are a few of my favorites so far this month, from a variety of styles.
This is like a double-CD, B-sides release, but more personal. The connection between artist and audience is more intimate, and transcends that of manufacturer and consumer. Certainly Jesse isn't the only one doing something like this, but this is what more bands and musicians should be doing. It's a great way to stay connected with fans in between "official" album releases and tours, and also a great way to give them something back.
Not only is this a great way to make money for an artist who isn't making millions, but similar models could be used to make money for charity, such as when Deni Gauthier recorded the song World's Away as a fundraiser for relief efforts in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami. And others might just offer those "extra" songs, b-sides, outtakes, or remixes for free as a way of giving back. None of those models is better than any other, but all are a great way of doing something special for your fans. For Jesse, this not only helps him make a living, but helps him with another of his passions: helping those living in poverty in Uganda.
This isn't just a great business model for musicians; there are applications for all businesses, particularly small businesses. Find ways to keep the relationship with customers intimate. Find ways to engage with them in the in between times. Take your work and product directly to the people. Social media has opened many new doors for musicians and
So take some time and check out Jesse Sprinkle's Digital April. Listen to the music, and perhaps buy some. And then think about how you can apply this to your own situation, no matter your field or business.