The past four weeks have been hectic. Besides the usual holiday stuff, I suffered through numerous blue screens of death and my first trojan virus, eventually leading to the purchase of a new DAW from PC Audio Labs. I also completed the annual update of my mastering site, and mastered a handful of projects, including two really cool orchestral video game soundtracks. Beyond that, I’ve been promoting like crazy on MySpace, spending 2-3 hours per night messaging fans – and seeing results! Not so much in sales, but in mailing list signups, collaboration and remix offers, and radio and blog features. Things feel like they’re starting to snowball. This small taste of success in active promotion makes me question the central premise of this blog. Is it really enough for me to just lay the groundwork, and let technology and word-of-mouth take care of the rest?
The good news is that the technology continues to advance. Last night as I was catching up on my read/review bookmarks, I came across Slacker. The site is similar to other “make your own station” sites like Pandora and Last.fm, but they take it one step further by offering their own iPod-style player that automatically updates over Wi-Fi. The site is quite popular according to Alexa, and the hardware unit sells well on Amazon, so wouldn’t my time be better spent getting my music to them rather than reaching out to potential fans one at a time?
I recently read Music Success in Nine Weeks by Ariel Hyatt, which I wholeheartedly recommend. She argues that an artist’s best measure of success is the size of their mailing list. Though I was tempted to disagree, I can’t think of any better metric. Comparing current sales to past sales doesn’t make sense unless you can figure out how to factor in piracy and the overall decline of the music industry. She says you really need to get to 1000 subscribers before you can effectively market to them, so my sole New Year’s resolution is to double my mailing list to reach that number.
In mid-December, I had 480 subscribers. Four weeks later, I’m up to 520. I’m convinced that if I continued spending 2-3 hours per night introducing myself to potential fans, I’d get to 1000 by the end of the year. The real question is, is it worth it? If each new subscriber buys one album, and I make $8 from the sale, that’s $4000 for 800 hours of my time ($5 per hour).
On the other hand, I could spend 2-3 hours per WEEK reaching out to former mastering clients, and probably drum up a couple of extra $500 jobs every month. Currently, all my studio business comes from referrals. Occasionally I have dry spells, but usually I’ve got more on my plate than I can handle. It stands to reason that if I implemented some of the same promotional techniques, I’d bring in more business.
Active promotion clearly doesn’t make a lot of sense from a financial standpoint, but I’m not in it for the money. Ultimately, it’s a question of getting the balance right. In the long run, it doesn’t serve my fans for me to spend every spare minute promoting at the expense of recording new material. I’ll continue to tweak the work/family/artist formula a bit until I come up with something that feels right.