Turn Your Music Into a Virus

I am hard pressed to think of a virus that I would actually want to have. However, independent musicians should strive to turn their music and their fan base into a big nasty inexorably duplicating virus. The type of virus which has no cure and consistently evolves into a more sophisticated strand of the original.

Here’s how a music virus works: A band which may have a following of say 5,000 friends on myspace and can sometimes fill a local club with about 200 fans is the original host for the disease. The band has a new EP coming out and there is a single that they feel could be a real radio hit. The band makes the song available on their website, their myspace page and emails it to their fan base. The fans, who all have their own social networking site, listen to the song, totally dig it, pass it along to their friends, and post it on their own page. Now all of the fan’s friends who may or may not have been fans of the band get exposed to the song, love it, pass it along to their friends and so on and so forth.

This is how a music virus works. There are a lot of contests (radio based, club based and Internet based) where bands compete with other bands for cash or promotional prizes. Usually the way to win is to have the most people vote for your band, whether it is by casting an online vote or cheering the loudest. In order to win, a band not only has to ask all of its fans to vote for it but ask those fans to do some of the grunt work and have the fans friends and family vote. The band has to ask its network to spread the virus.

Imagine her spit and snot to be your music!

This is basically how websites like facebook.com and ning.com work. You create your own online material and want to share it with everyone you know. You, like your music, are unique and you want to show off that uniqueness to not only your friends but the world. So, you invite everyone you know to be your contact or your friend and then search your friend’s friends to see who else you can recruit. Some call it poaching, but it is really viral marketing/networking in full effect.

Music, like websites can grow this way. Your fan base can spread simply by word of mouth and the strategic Internet or email plug. Bands should consistently remember to get contact info at their shows, on their myspace or on their websites. Ask your fans to leave their email address so they can be included on the next concert invite list or have access to the newest single. It’s an easy and creative way to keep track of your audience and to build the foundation for your virus to grow.

With the death of the major labels came the end of the many huge bands. Of course some huge bands (U2, Radiohead, Coldplay, Rolling Stones) are still succeeding, but they are doing it differently. Huge bands are licensing their music to Apple, McDonalds, Mazda, AT&T and other corporate giants rather than putting a cd out and waiting for the royalties to pour directly into their pockets. Stadium Bands are putting out their music for free, marketing their music in movies, and touring like crazy to maintain their fat pockets.

Instead of ginormous bands dominating the industry there are hundreds of big bands; bands that can headline larger clubs and festivals: My Morning Jacket, Wilco, MGMT, Weezer. These bands are more self sufficient, more “indi” like. They rely on their own network of fans, their own website and promotion and their own independent virus to spread their music. There is no such thing as the easy label deal anymore. Musicians have to get creative or get a 9-5 job. And who wants that?

Now time for a gratuitous plug: Go to http://www.wearempires.com/ and download Howl. Its great and it will spread the Empires’ virus.



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