Tony Thomas

Access to Free Music and Emotional Connections

April 14, 2008 12:00 am Published by Comments Off

Last week after recording a podcast for Minneapoliscast with Stook, Steve McPherson, Kyle Matteson, Sam Keenan and Peter Lochner, we discussed (off mic) McPherson’s post on the Reveille blog regarding “classic albums”. Stook made the point that there’s such easy access to music now that consumers don’t have the same emotional connection with artists as they did when a new album was highly anticipated and no one heard it before the release. Now CDs are often widely available through peer to peer networks before the release.

This poses a new challenge for recording artists. That is: How do you establish an emotional connection with your fans when there is no delayed gratification?

In the past I had been a very brand loyal consumer with regard to music. There were a handful of bands I enjoyed intensely and I focused on buying their entire catalog and researching their various influences. Now when I go back and listen to some of those same records, I realize that some of them are not as good as others. That seems like an obvious observation, but thirteen years ago, I would have had a hard time admitting that anything by Son Volt, for instance, was bad–or even less-than fantastic. Now for me, some of those releases are a little inconsistent.

I think part of the reason that has changed for me is that I have lots of music to sort through every month. I buy it get it from friends, music blogs, the library and occasionally a local artist will send a CD to me for Minneapoliscast for review. Sorting through all of that music has forced me to change how I listen to music now. Now I’m much less loyal, but listen to a much wider variety of artists with a more acute ear. If I’m presented with a bunch of new music to check out, I generally put it in an iTunes playlist and listen to it at work. Then I proceed with my day and wait for something there to catch my attention. If I take the time to look up from what I’m doing and look to see who it is, I know I’ve got myself a winner.

The point is that recording artists have to be clever in a market like this when it comes to establishing the kind of emotional connection that will turn listeners into fans. Fans who will follow them and maybe, reserve judgment on occasion. Just like I used to do in high school and college.

So how do you do it?

  1. Touring
    Minneapolis is one of the few cities where a good band can find gratification without touring. Notice I said gratification, not compensation. Compensation requires touring and even then you’re going to have to do it for a long time before you make more than gas money.
  2. Social Media
    Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Blogger, you name it. Blog it. Podcast it. Twitter it. Then respond. If someone makes a comment on your blog. Respond to them. Then you’ve got a friend. Friends come to shows and buy your stuff. There has never been a better time for independent artists to establish a fanbase this way.
  3. Give up on CDs. Sell t-shirts.
    CDs are a losing game. Know that going in. T-shirts and other merchandise are better money-makers. Think of your CD like a razor. Give it a way or sell it for cheap. A lot of those folks will come to your shows or buy t-shirts and your margins are better there anyway.

Other ideas?

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