Isn’t it amazing how some things just buck trends. All you hear and read about is that media consumers want new, short and visual content –look at how all the social media platforms are serving their content or centralizing their algorithms around. Podcasts are the exact opposite: they’re long-form audio and they’ve been around for over a decade; yet they’ve experienced a massive boom over the last 18 months; and there are no signs of slowing down anytime soon. While it may seem like a little bit of a mystery, their growth is really not that hard to figure out. They give people the ability to tune out the world, consume information they’re interested in, and not have to stare at a screen for it.
This trend is interesting for musicians in two regards. 1) People can only listen to one thing at a time; so if they’re listening to podcasts they’re not listening to music. I’m not saying podcasts are making a big dent in music consumption by any means, but it is likely having some sort of very (very!) small impact. 2) This is how people are becoming informed on certain topics, and therefore a podcast with a good following, similar target market and relevant to your music could probably provide some pretty decent exposure.
Here are a couple of podcasts from our scene that are worth a listen:
Fuller Sh_t Show by Josh Fuller: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fuller-sh-t-show/id1322518435?mt=2
The Co-Write By Bobby Duncan and Donovan Dodd: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-co-write/id1110162867?mt=2
BadTruth Podcast by Michael Tarabay and Adam Odor: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/badtruth-podcast/id1198868722?mt=2
The New Slang Podcast By New Slang: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-new-slang-podcast/id1094554104?mt=2
Reputation is Everything in this Scene
Just remember that everyone in the music scene talks. Whether you’re an artist, talent buyer, venue owner, TM, booking agent, etc…you’re constantly building a reputation; so before you screw somebody over, or burn a bridge, or cause drama, fully contemplate the consquences; because word spreads fast! Reputation is everything in this business, and once yours is damaged it’s almost impossible to repair.
It also goes both ways. If you’ve built a solid reputation people spread the word on that spreads too…unfortunately it just doesn’t travel as fast.
Venues Reliant on Facebook
With the combination of the younger generation opting out of Facebook, Facebook’s ever-increasing limitation of organic reach and advertising becoming increasingly expensive on the platform, how a venue plans to digitally reach its potential customers going forward should be at the forefront of musican’s minds;especially since these trends with only continue to increase. The good news is, the best ways for venues to help fill the void that’s forming are pretty cheap and easy: an email list and a good, informative, easy-to-find landing page.
As we’ve discussed before, email now has a better click-through-rate than Facebook (when not paying to boost) and there are no algorithms that are going to prevent someone who’s signed up on your email list from seeing your message. This isn’t just something musicians need to adapt to, it’s also something venues and festivals need to adapt to as well. Collecting those email addresses and sending out a monthly newsletters with upcoming show dates are easy and effective! Venues can collect email addresses when people buy tickets online, they can advertise incentives for people to sign up, and offer an easy way to sign up for people who come to their website or venue.
Here’s the bottom line, if you are a venue who has relied on Facebook to do the majority of your digital marketing, you’re likely going to struggle to reach your potential customers as we go further in to 2018. If you’re an artist at the point in your career where you’re getting multiple offers on dates, and are having to compare gigs, one of the deciding factors I would use is the venue’s ability to reach their fans outside of radio and Facebook; or in other words, do they have a good email list? Twitter and Instagram are fine complimentary tools, but they won’t be able to fill the void Facebook is leaving.
Also, venues need to have an informative landing-page where the tour dates are easy to find. The events page on Facebook will likely no longer cut it by itself. Venues need a website with a regularly updated calendar of events. Here’s an experiment to try: pick out a random venue that frequently has live music, then try to find information on the next 5 shows they have coming up. If you didn’t find that information in the first place you looked, that means neither did most of the other people searching for it, and now 50% of those people have stopped looking — that translates to money out of your pocket as an artist.
Get Out There and Play!
If you’re contemplating music as a career path, and are at a point in your life where can take dirt cheap gigs, play for beer, play for tips, play open mics, enter Battle of the Bands, etc… then DO IT WHILE YOU CAN!!! Being a successful artist, often means being a seasoned one, and you can only gain that experience by getting in front of people and playing. Getting out there and learning to work the crowd, how to handle yourself when you forget a line, how to play with loud drunks in the background, learning that you can’t always trust people, learning how quickly things can go awry when you drink too much, how to mix your originals in with your covers etc… only comes with time and experience; so why not go ahead and get it now. I don’t care what your excuse is young man/woman, if you can play a guitar, carry a tune, and know a few songs, then get your ass out there. What are you waiting for? The truth is it’s gets harder do this with each passing year; when life’s responsibilities grow. When you have a family. When your day job becomes more serious and therefore less understanding of your musical endeavour. When your friends can’t all come out and watch because of their own pressing responsibilities. Whether or not you have a band, or have any good originals, or even know what the hell you’re doing, it doesn’t matter when you’re young and starting out. What do you have to lose? Are you afraid that people are going to tell you aren’t very good? Well I got news for you, no matter how talented you are, people are still going to tell you suck. George Strait has haters. Go ahead and get used to it. Learn how to handle it and press on.
The younger you are, the broker and hungrier you can be. You can sleep on couches. You can make do with a bar tab and the uncertainty of tips. You can choose between gas or food. You can get your friends to come out to your shows – so you need to view all this as a youthful advantage in a competitive market, but also one that slips by with each passing year. When you get older, being broke, hungry, and drunk and sleeping on a couch with a few dollars of tip money in your pocket is a little harder to make peace with yourself about. When you’re in college, not so much. So get out there, find gigs and start playing. This is the time you want to learn, make your mistakes, and work your kinks out, not when you actually have songs that are good and have a full band and a record that’s worth more than all of your other assets combined. If you’re young and want to pursue music… get out there and start gigging now!
Streaming Also Has Some Financial Advantages
Look I get that there are some artists that are not overly thrilled with streaming royalties, and trust me I hear you; but you have to also think about the money streaming is saving you as well.
- Distribution – Your music is literally everywhere and accessible to anyone at anytime. Do you know how much it used to cost upfront to get decent distribution if you were an independent artist? Or even just the cost of printing and producing a couple hundred albums to carry with you on the road? Or the cost of having to send physical copies of your music to venues, radio stations, publications, blogs etc…Now once it’s up on a streaming platform all you have to do is send the link.
- Piracy – Lets not pretend that before streaming, everyone was purchasing music. Piracy was a major problem that’s been reduced substantially with streaming. Now those people who were literally listening to your music for free are at least generating a some revenue for you now.
- Perpetuity – Streaming is here to stay for a while, so don’t forget that every time your music is listened to you get a royalty; whether that’s today or 15 years down the road. While there’s some obvious financial disadvantages in the short run of not getting an immediate inflow of $9.99, it might not necessarily be true in the long run. How many physical and iTunes copies of the 17-year-old “Three Days” album do you think Pat Green would be selling (in a world where streaming wasn’t an option)? “Carry On”, “Take Me Out To a Dancehall”, “Texas On My Mind” and “Three Days” are all still in his top 10 on Spotify which means he’s still getting a decent amount of revenue for those songs….and that likely will continue for years, and years to come…Don’t sleep on the perpetuity advantage of streaming; especially since the amount of streamers will continue to increase for a long time!
- Touring – If you’ve got a hit record, then streaming allows you as an independent artist to really get it out to the masses and not just the areas you’re currently touring in. This means you now have the ability to create a fan-base in place in an area you’ve never toured in before, which used to cost you thousands of dollars to acquire
- Data – Data has always ruled the sales and marketing world, and that’s why people pay a pretty penny for it. If you wanted to collect data on your fans and listeners you used to have to pay for it or devote painstaking hours to it. Now platforms like Spotify give you everything you could ever dream of when it comes to your fans consumption habits for free.
- That data should also be helping you pinpoint which areas you should be touring in and shedding light on new, or untapped, markets where you might do well.
- Playlists – Getting on a big playlist is some of the best exposure you band can get….and you don’t have to drop a dime on it!
So while there’s still some progress to be had for royalty rates, don’t forget there are still some pretty decent financial advantages to the current model of streaming.
Recognition Comes Slow
Just remember that momentum, buzz, accomplishments and success will always take longer than you anticipate to be recognized. Even when you and your band are setting the world on fire, and you’re thinking “how in the hell are people outside of my fan-base not recognizing this”, it’s still takes a while for the industry to validate it. Be patient. If you’re out there killing it, the right people will notice…eventually.
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.