Most people don’t want to be that guy. You know the guy that rocks the Iron Maiden t-shirt to the Iron Maiden concert. However, that guy, has helped musicians generate additional revenue for decades.
Today there are many more outlets and many more products that an artist may peddle. While t-shirts and posters still rule the merch tent, new (and cooler) band merchandise is being developed seemingly every day. Recently one of my clients put out an entire mix tape on a bracelet. The LiveStrong looking bracelet ingeniously connects via a USB drive (see below). This allows a band to sell something that looks cool, is unique and includes the band’s name, logo, design AND their music. It’s brilliant. There is even software available that would allow the band to continuously update the USB drive so the fan who purchased it will have updated music and band information and the ability to purchase new music every time the fan plugs the device into her computer. (contact Vadim at http://www.customusb.com for more info.)
T-Shirts are not what they used to be anymore either. If you remember this post: Mos(definitely A Great Idea, you know that I am a big fan of including music on non-traditional media. Computer codes and affordable USB drives can be included with all sorts of merchandise that fans are more apt to buy. Mos Def included a code on a designer tee which enabled the purchaser to download his entire new album. Magazines have used this idea for years; purchase the an issue of Spin and you can download the new single from Jack White’s new band, The Dead Weather. Even beer purchases include mp3 downloads. Obviously, indie artists do not brew their own beer, publish their own magazine or manufacture their own t-shirts. However, with a little bit of research and some creative marketing, partnerships with content starved companies can be forged.
Not only are there new products, but with band websites, myspace, facebook, sonicbids, amazon and other e-stores, there are countless new ways to sell the products. The back of the tour van will always be the primary way that a true indie rocker sells his burned cd’s, but for a couple bucks more, that indie rocker could sell you an mp3 from his couch. Internet partnerships work just as well, if not better, as partnerships to manufacture and sell physical products. If you align yourself with a like minded or themed website that has an on-line store, than you can offer exclusive gear to that site. You take a chunk of the sales and share the rest (and all of your users that visit the site) with the partner website. Everyone is a winner.
Music is quickly becoming a “value add” to products that people already purchase. In the battle to grab a consumers attention, companies will pay a bit more to make their product stand out. “Free” music is a great way of doing that. And for musicians, the deals that can be struck with these type of forward thinking companies can be fairly lucrative; or at the very least serve as a great way to get music out to a whole new audience.
Creativity has to continue after the music is recorded. In today’s era, where the only type of music sale that is increasing is vinyl, artists have to think creatively in order to make a profit. If the public will only pay for select albums and download the rest of their music for free, new income streams must be forged by bands. Selling your music in a non-traditional way may increase a band’s merchandise sales as well as “album” sales all at the same time.
Some of us who work with businesses that are on the periphery of the music industry (clothing manufacturers, software and computer companies etc.) have been babbling about the trend of coupling music with another consumer product for some time now. Finally the idea of bundling or packaging new music with other merchandise appears to be taking off. Artists like Mars Volta, ACDC, Mos Def and, oh yeah, the Beatles, are getting into the game providing major steam to the indirect music sales category.
Most of the readers of this page are not signed to major labels (at least I don’t think so). So the idea of getting your next single on Guitar Hero IV is not very realistic. However, in the past we have discussed creative ways of getting your music out to the masses. Mos Def, a true indie hip hop legend, has taken this approach with his latest release: The Ecstatic. As Pitchfork, Digital Music News and NME have reported, Mos Def’s newest release will be presented to the public via a “Music T-Shirt”. Each t-shirt will have a unique code that will allow the buyer to download the album (not to mention rock a new sweet t at the same time).
This cross marketing and cross selling idea is clearly the wave of the future for music sales. With continuous drops in physical cd sales, limited and dwindling numbers of stores selling cd’s and the tight economy, musicians and their labels have to think of new and creative methods for getting the new music to the people. The majors may be too slow and too entrenched to re-invent their sales method in time, but creative indies and mid-size labels can definitely get on board.
The t-shirt idea is brilliant, but how about including music with the purchase of a particular sneaker. If Converse knows that their shoes sell particularly well to the hipster community, why not include download codes for music from Passion Pit, Santigold or MGMT? If you are a band that has identified your target audience, approach a company whose products are popular amongst your fans. For young bands, their fans probably only buy music digitally. Why not get custom usb drives made with music embedded on it and sell those at your concert instead of cds? The cost is about the same (check out CustomUSB and Molotalk ) and the chances of a fan buying a wicked cool usb drive far outweigh a crappy cd with a handwritten label.
Musicians are creative by nature so the possibility for this secondary revenue stream for the sale of new music is seemingly endless. As with all licensing and merchandise deals, the same “lawyerly” warnings apply. As this trend grows and more non-music companies approach musicians to ask for music, more shady deals will be presented. As always, be careful before you agree to sell, license or give your music to anyone. That sweet t-shirt compilation idea may wind up as a not so awesome singing laxative container.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION OF THE WEEK
I already plugged (no pun intended) them in this article, but check out Custom USB. They have already worked with many big named musicians on really cool USB drives that can come in any shape, size or quality. They can embed software that not only includes music, but also creates a fan based intranet site that pops up once the device is plugged into your computer. Awesome stuff.