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How Musicians Have Become Brand Savvy Entrepreneurs and How Businesses Benefit From These Individuals

By Christopher Moore IDS 4934 Research Paper Sunday April 7, 2012

Since the turn of the century, the music industry has been furiously scrambling eggs, flipping them back and forth and upside down in efforts to find working business plans and build revenue these days. Reductions in album sales and touring revenue have forced musicians to think outside of the box and turn to non-musical, but financially lucrative alternative options just to merely keep the dream alive. Sex, Drugs, N Rock & Roll, which was a staple phrase in last centurys branding of rock music and the fabled lifestyle associated with it, has been reduced to returning as poster images easily accessed on album covers, Rolling Stone magazines, and press releases reliving the good ol' days of rock n roll. Little does the general public know that these images were all tactfully designed to drive ticket sales for the latest Motley Crue tour. Assuming all music lovers love tales of debauchery and hedonistic pursuit, the dream has become clouded in commercialism as new and established businesses look to build their brands in a noise polluted society filled with constant advertising. Nothing is considered shocking anymore and everyone knows celebrities help sell stuff. Even previously forbidden shock rock legends of yesteryear have even been picked up in A-List budgeted commercials; you can see Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber together in the same Best Buy commercial, thus further supporting my claims. Who knew being a godfather of heavy metal and biting the head off a bat on stage would become such legendary folklore, landing you in a multi-million dollar Superbowl commercial! In short, the music industry has thus transformed and many of its previous benchmark models and standards have evolved with the rise of social media marketing, and digital downloading and/or streaming for those that are hip enough to do that sort of thing. As a result of technology making art disposable, musicians have begun to think behind the music and look into nontraditional ways to differentiate themselves. The greatly lauded term selling out, which is generally regarded to be the ultimate sin within the artistic

community, has become a phrase with a less incriminating demeanor behind it these days. While this ideology will never supplement true artistic integrity, it has made a lasting impression on the music as an industry altogether. For sakes of this research paper, I will take an interdisciplinary approach where I will explain how businesses are benefitting from the celebrity and influence musicians have in efforts to build rapport with potential customers, and how subsequently musicians have turned to eliminating middle men, and thus managing their own careers. The death of the record label phrase gets thrown around the industry quite a bit, although labels are still around only because they provide services that would be too costly for someone to do themselves. These services include effectively promoting new albums online and setting up arrangements for press releases and interviews just to name a few, which the latter is typically time consuming and pricey. However there are a lot of sources available for

entrepreneurial minded musicians that just want simply to put themselves out there. Soundcloud has proven to be popular with musicians, because of its easy compatibility with Facebook, and due to its somewhat liberal policy on uploading music. Soundcloud

( allows other musicians to follow you online, and vice versa. This becomes quite valuable to people who are seeking feedback on a project they are working on, or this becomes a suitable medium for a DJ to post a continuous mix of music he wants people to listen to. Seminal alternative rock band Radiohead made headlines in large media outlets like the New York Times in 2007, when they released their seventh studio album In Rainbows at a name your price cost price, which was unheard of at the time. Most people who downloaded In Rainbows did not spend any money on it. But for fans that ponied up $100 for the music box physical package, made Radiohead sizeable profits per song that they would have never made with a record label supporting them. Astonishing right? In similar vein, Bandcamp is a

newer website which allows for musicians who seek to release albums and works without a record label backing them, at no monetary cost to the artist. This includes allowing free downloads, the infamous Name Your Price model which Radiohead popularized and of course paid downloads, all of which support high quality audio formats FLAC and AIFF. This service is unique in comparison to other services like Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, and Pandora which require a third party company like CD Baby or Tunecore to have your music hosted on those various platforms. Another beautiful thing about Bandcamp ( is that it also allows for additional bonus items to be included in the releases such as merchandise bundles, music videos, PDF album notes, and other various ideas which really make a business out of being an independent musician. For those who have an obsessively fiendish addiction to music, Spotify, a newer music streaming service originating from the United Kingdom is a popular digital music streaming service which works wonders for the promotion of up and coming artists. For the artist, a drawback for them however, Spotify ( allows albums of music to be easily accessible to listen to for free (or for a paid subscription if you are using a mobile device.) Imagine this as a seemingly infinite database of music where people can instantly access that song that has been stuck in their heads all day or finally getting to listen to that new M83 album everybody has been talking about lately. Another service I would like to bring to light is Kickstarter (, which has become popular with entrepreneurs looking to obtain funding. This replaces the role of pitching a business in front of investors like Angel Investors and such. A startup would create a video explaining their project and then offer tiered options which get better with how much money you are willing to contribute for donating funds to their desired project. Applying Kickstarter to musicians, the indie rock band Barcelona managed to raise nearly $50,000 to release their new album using Kickstarter in the

end of 2011. First, they offered simple things like mentions in the liner notes, and pre-orders of the album before release, however as the money increased the band got more creative offering concerts via Skype and 30 minute Q and A sessions with the band in a one on one basis to backers willing to pledge over $250. This proved to be highly effective, as the band nearly doubled the amount they were originally asking for which was $25,000. The album is slated for release in May 2012. Legendary songwriter and performer Prince has been quoted saying, The Internet is over. While this does not seem true in perspective, we could owe Prince a huge apology if these free and affordable services were to actually kick the bucket. So obviously, the first question anyone will want to ask is How do musicians make money? This has become a very valid question since illegal pirating and person to person sharing of songs via the internet have created a bevy of problems for entertainment industry professionals. The idea of selling actual product that lulls the masses into this highly revered but deftly lauded lifestyle has become skewed since websites like YouTube, Facebook, Soundcloud, and Spotify (just to name a few) make listening to music a free, and easily accessible daily activity. While this does do a great service to newly declared musical entrepreneurs in regards to promotion of their product, this same phenomena has become somewhat detrimental in actually trying to monetize the labors of love. In part, within the internet, you know the same thing that John Melloncamp and Stevie Nicks say killed Rock N Roll lies the very answer to this problem. Alright, so yes the internet killed the record store star, however it has also allowed our gifted individuals to really create something that truly drives sales, a connection with their audience. Back in social medias earliest beginnings, a website created by a young man named Tom Anderson went viral and revolutionized the internet as we know it, being MySpace. The social networking website

originally started out as a place for friends, but quickly became more than just a place for friends once entertainers started realizing the potential growth opportunities they had. As a result, MySpace launched MySpace Music and the era of spamming people with the now laughed at check out my band posts was born. Every time you would check the MySpace bulletins, which was an early version of the modern News Feed, users would frequently notice numerous posts from the same users often using third party software programs. Their objective was to quickly build their band pages friend list number to unimaginable numbers and then use other third party bot programs (as it is referred to in the internet community), to post heinous amounts of check out my band posts on peoples comment pages. It created a sense of status conferral amongst competing musicians where the camaraderie was growing further apart. Adding friends without getting to know them personally, or lacking a justified reason of doing so has become another social media clich, alongside porno-bots and the infamous work from home and get rich schemes we laugh at today. Coming from a business perspective, these time consuming promotional efforts became very transactional, leaving no regard for the actual people you were targeting online. It eventually showed in the consumers eyes and people began to ignore friend requests from these charlatans blindly pushing their music to the wrong people. Ultimately, this created a rift between customers and these entrepreneurs as new social media alternatives came to prominence, such as Facebook. People joined Facebook in startling numbers out of outrage for MySpace. Facebooks early promises of no advertising and a safe and secure social network became a gold mine for the MySpace Charlatans. Little to their knowledge though, a new era of engagement was born. In a post MySpace environment, people still want to know each other a little better than before. With new developments like the Facebook Timeline pages and Artist Fan Pages, this

sort of digital interconnection is very much a reality.

MySpace made online transactional

spamming a thing of the past, well at least into the regards of people looking fondly upon it. With Facebook, people get to really know who you are as a person, which proves to be most valuable thing an artist has to their repertoire. People have been looking for personal meaning in songs, paintings, and other forms of art since the beginning of time. The most profitable songs of today are ones that drive deep into interpersonal connectivity. Look at post-breakup songs like Goytes Somebody I Used to Know and Adeles I Set Fire to the Rain for example. This same sort of relationship is what consumers now crave. This is the reason why people need to establish brands for themselves. Why else do you see so many celebrities jumping on Twitter? Let your fans get to know you, respond to your fans, and post great content so that other people will want to jump aboard. The money and notoriety will follow afterwards. Speaking of money, Ive been talking all of this internet jargon, so now let me show you the real money. The internet is no longer exclusive to musicians and bored teenagers anymore; business has capitalized on this as well. Essentially, people flock to where everyone else goes, and the business world monitors these trends like a hawk looking for its early morning prey. Businesses want to be liked by people. People share their opinions of business via word of mouth on a daily basis. That is why businesses have been seeking the services of our right brained musicians to bring a new sense of rapport and branding to their professional identities. For example, look at Converse/Chuck Taylor shoes. The shoes are well known in the alternative and punk rock community and as a result from frequent endorsement from bands like Nirvana and The Ramones. As a result of this cult like following, Converse has become one of the biggest shoe brands in the world. Originally these flat footed canvas shoes were marketed as basketball shoes. Enough said.

Corporate tie-ins and cross promotion have been key in the entertainment industry for years. For example, there is a long history of M & Ms candy packaging themselves with Star Wars imagery and merchandising. Businesses and musicians have also jumped aboard this bandwagon. The Vans Warped Tour is an annual touring rock festival where a bunch of up and coming alternative rock groups perform in front of angst-y teenagers and skateboarders who typically walk around grass fields in their favorite Vans shoes. Vans, which is primarily a shoe company, sponsors the event and largely in part of holding this annual event, people associate Vans with the skater/punk rock lifestyle. Some other quick examples I can think of off the top of my head is the partnership of Polaroid Cameras and Polaroid appointing Lady Gaga as Creative Director, and the almost clich business ventures of hip-hop personalities having their own clothing businesses such as P.Diddy (Sean John), Jay-Z (Roca Wear), and the Wu-Tang Clan (Wu Wear). Besides musicians making money off these profitable extensions of themselves, what do businesses see in this? Why cant musicians just let the music do the talking? Why does Bacardi choose a Matt & Kim song to promote their product? Why not use Britney Spears or someone people already know? Simple. It is supply and demand. Businesses want to be on the forefront, they want people to see them as cutting edge. Promoting new music is cutting edge, the music is new, it is different, and for some individuals, independent music represents sophistication and culture. You know, sticking it to the man and polluting the mainstream. You can possibly blame this on Starbucks, however this trend has become international and numbers wise this makes a lot of sense. Indie musicians are typically cheaper and usually ask for much less than getting a highly revered name like Sting to back you. supporting the arts serves as positive public relations for businesses. Also, this idea of Consumers love

conscious companies like Starbucks, American Apparel, and Whole Foods Market whom all are known to support budding independent artists. Musicians can also add lots of value to a new startup company. Businesses are always looking for endorsement from musicians, and you can frequently find commercials which use celebrities in advertising. Recently, there was a Burger King commercial which enlisted Mary J. Blige to sing about a new chicken wrap which was recently launched. The advertisement was pulled off the internet rather quickly, due to its demeanor of stereotyping African Americans and their supposed love of fried chicken. Also earlier today in my Entrepreneurial Marketing class, my professor showed us a Chrysler ad on YouTube which glorifies the city of Detroit and features an appearance with influential rapper Eminem. Every day on Twitter, people see their idols tweeting about various products and brands that they would support, or would they? In reality there is some value to both mentioned parties in this type of third party endorsement method of advertising. In this same Entrepreneurial Marketing class I am currently taking, we had Ted Murphy of IZEA (an Orlando based company) come in and speak to us about his business and how IZEA works with celebrities to endorse companies online through social media platforms. His

company, IZEA is an internet engagement company which works with clients to grow and develop their online presence. It is a frequent occurrence to see sponsored tweets on Twitter as well, which is generally a hash tag which is created and promoted on the top of the Twitter trending topics page, in efforts to get people to tweet about various subjects. Just for quick reference to non-Twitter users, a hash tag is when you use a pound sign in front of a word or group on conjoined words to add a tag to a subject. The hash tags become useful as people

outside of your network on Twitter can see your post, which can be retweeted (sending this tweet along to your own network of friends), and seen by people outside of your followers on Twitter. Another highly practical way for musicians to benefit businesses is to create jingles, which those are memorable tunes in advertisements that are 30 seconds or less. The emphasis of being memorable is extremely important when composing jingles. Some popular jingles of our current generation can be the Subway 5 Dollar Foot Long tune with the big and cheesy vocal harmonies in it, or the often mimicked Meow Mix jingles, which are frequently aired on television. Working for businesses is quite different from the way musicians are typically portrayed as dream seeking heroes that want to sell out stadiums and live in luxurious mansions. In this field of work, it is not about what you personally think sounds cool, but what the client will favor. This can be a daunting task for most musicians, but this could be a rewarding experience for those people who may not be successful in living the dream. In terms of payment, most people who compose jingles usually make money off royalties every time that commercial is aired on television or played on the radio. This allows musicians to make a living doing creative work that they love, which is a true privilege to have in a down economy you know? Obviously, this can get very competitive, just like any type of employment in a creative work field. Jimmy Harned of Tonefarmer (, states that Id say very often, our clients are looking for something that theyd call unexpected, (Murphy 2012). Harned is referring to the character of the song and how it fits with the commercial he is composing this song for. His goal is to get an emotional response out of people, which is the most powerful method of closing a sale. People dont buy what you do; they buy why you do it. To conclude, I feel that right brainers will rule the future, much like what book author Dan Pink says. Although I did not reference anything about abundance, automation, or Asia, I

did discuss some of the many ways that right brainers are using left brained disciplines to further themselves while those same bean counters they are turning to for money, are finding ways to actually benefit from their given talents as musicians. In reality, what I have discussed in some detail on this paper is not brand new by any means; however the new perspective of doing it all yourself and the capabilities this has opened, is life changing. Before the internet, it was rare to find people talking about self-released albums, unless you were talking about mixtape trading at cyphers and various meet-ups in different music scenes. Computers and CD copiers werent common place in the early 1990s or before then, but you still had punk rock bands doing limited releases of their music on cassette tapes which were passed around their circle of friends, never being heard outside of their interpersonal networks. That world still exists in some places, but now the internet has made the gift of music as an easily accessible thing made for mass consumption. With Barcelona (the band), it is even possible now to obtain funding for an album release without the services a record label would provide. Music streaming services may take a sizeable cut from a musicians income, but the interest in actual content from these musicians has only increased as more people are going online. Performers have become more identity

conscious with the use of social media to promote their products, those products being their music, merchandise, etc. This is more important than ever before as an entrepreneur.

Remember, that people dont buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Businesses have found a way to reduce advertising cost by enlisting independent musicians to help them. This has been effective in many video advertisements where songs have gone viral and helped boost sales, and you didnt have to oblige yourself to a rider from a Madonna sized budget. More and more businesses have thus partnered and sponsored more up and coming musicians as a result

from this win-win deal that have occurred amongst their startup contemporaries. Who doesnt like to support new music? While this interdisciplinary business model of right-brained creative turning to the wealthier left-brained people and those wealthier left-brain people wanting to make more money off of the right-brained people is still in development, there is a much bigger chance that the music industry can rise back to its feet once again. I believe the value in recorded music still exists, but only as a mere marketing tool for the actual identities that the musicians perpetrate. Social media has made personal identity much more valuable than ever before, creatives are just now beginning to realize the connection that people have with each other is what will get people get off their behinds and root for you. Ask yourself, what do you stand for as an artist? How will you contribute to society? How do you want people to perceive you? Nobody wants to deal with a transactional salesman that does not relate to their customers do they? Now go HAM (Hard as a Mother.) and let everybody know who you are.


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