Going Where the Money Is

Originally published by So’lano Music Group.

The government, ISPs, and record labels have been going round for round over how to enforce copyright laws. In the mean time, artists are left floundering in the middle, hoping the resolution will be enough to support their livelihoods.

It is a respectable choice to persevere; to continue to release albums and singles, digitally and physically, and hope that fans will either choose to go legal, or the government will remove convenient access to any alternatives. But it is also prudent to consider the possibility that album sales will not turn around, that the market may have shifted too far to turn back.

It isn’t just music that is seeing this trend; numerous articles have been written talking about why the recently released film Scott Pilgrim vs The World tanked at the box office. While some have been quick to blame too tightly a targeted niche audience, a much larger aspect is the fact that the age group to which it was intended to appeal — teenagers and twenty-somethings — don’t often pay to see movies. They download or stream them. Spending between $60 and $90 million dollars on a film directed towards people who largely do not pay for media is a recipe for disaster.

So how does one cope? Rather than finding new and inventive ways to deprive the pseudo fans of your content (new and inventive forms of DRM protection, for example), lavish attention on the smaller portion who will pay for what you have to offer.

Are you fans the kind of people who have vinyl collections alongside their digital playlists? Release a vinyl edition of your album. Do they like to converse with their musical heros? Offer VIP concert tickets that include access to a post-show meet-and-greet. Figure out what they will pay for, and offer it to them.

Don’t try to force fans into your market; it is exactly this kind of approach that is alienating record companies from music lovers. Open yourself up to their markets. A small but loyal core following is a far greater investment (and will yield a far greater return) than a large, disinterested audience that feels it is being punished.

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