Poking around the MIDEM site, I came across a whitepaper that really blew my head—Brainstorming Session on New Business Models for the Music Industry Report: From Theory to Action–and I think it’s something that everyone involved in indie music, especially black rock artists, should read and read again.  A lot of this stuff I was aware of, but reading this paper really made me rethink the advice I’ve been giving artists.

Now it’s true that, aside from Taylor Swift, the time for selling shiny discs is ending or over, depending on who you talk to.  However, the fact is that there’s more music being made today than ever.  Even more important is this: The amount of music being in paid to support music—merch, shows, etc.—is at an all time high.

Bottom line: There’s money to be made.  We just have to think differently, especially if you’re indie and don’t have a major label behind you.

So, what’s it about?

Connecting with fans

What this means is really making an effort to connect.  Not just getting names into a database.  Not just doing great music.  That’s hard enough, I know.  But, it’s about going above and beyond.  And artists who aren’t willing to do this will get left behind. Sorry.

The new models basically break down like so:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

It’s simple, right?  The authors of this paper give a bunch of examples, all the way from well know artists like Trent Reznor, Amanda Palmer and Jill Sobule to artists who are not nationally known but who, nevertheless, have profited from this approach.

Basically, the idea is to provide tiered offerings that make each more special than the previous.  The music might be free in digital format, but you could buy a 2-disc CD for a modest price.  Then, maybe there’s something even more premium that includes concert video.

Good thing, too, is that the authors provide a number of examples of ways to connect.

Reasons fans might buy what you’re selling

The paper also offers ten (10) reason that fans might buy what you’re selling.  What’s great is that it’s just a starting point.  For example, some reasons might include:

  • Access (as in giving folks time with their favorite artist, and it might be a nice thank you to top fans)
  • Exclusivity (giving value because not everyone will have whatever it is)
  • Belonging (helping people feel like they’re part of a tribe)
  • Time (saving or making)

There are others.  Again, these are just a starting point.

Finally, the paper ends by framing up how you can begin thinking about your offerings by taking you through a process that helps artists brainstorm about what’s unique about themselves.

The paper is free, but you’ll have to give MIDEM some contact info.  But it’s well worth it.

Download the paper here.

Do you guys have any stories about how you’re making it happen?  Leave a comment. I’d love to hear ’em.

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  • I’ve actually read this paper almost a year ago on a website about new music models. I’m really glad you posted it. I still don’t see enough examples of Black independent musicians going straight to the fans. They use their social networks to gab with each other instead of fans. They use their websites to highlight accomplishments by the industry instead of engaging with fans. Basically, they are losing out on the whole equation of connecting with fans. The ones that are succeeding are almost 100% fan engagers like The Foreign Exchange collective. I just hope they see that fan patronage can actually sustain a career and waiting for those royalty checks to come from 10 second commercial ads isn’t the way to go.

    • First, thanks for confirming what I suspected. That is, that the paper wasn’t quite recent. After all, the Trent Reznor example is from 2008, I believe. Nonetheless, I agree that there are definite lessons that black indie artists can take from this. It’ll require a big reorientation, not the least of which is more humility. Fan patronage (nice term!) is the future, but it will definitely require more of a service mindset, something that’s easy to forget while we’re out here “grindin'”.

      Thanks for your comment, and I’ll see your around the internets, V.

      • Well I know you will lead the way by providing this demographic examples on
        how to truly share their art as a service to fans.