Archives for category: Leadership Music Digital Summit

We are in an age when a band needs to create self awareness and market their “brand”. There have been new unique ways to build a community; websites that get fans to be a part of fundraising for the groups’ next project to musicians being involved in Charity organizations and even starting non-profits.

It is getting increasingly difficult to do what Panic! At The Disco did on MySpace and get one million hits and a record deal or a YouTube video of a band performance at the local dive turning unknowns into mega stars. What worked just three years ago will probably not work again.

Country newcomer label Big Machine blew up Taylor Swift into nationwide music domination beginning with MySpace and using an online business approach that had not been done in Country Music before. The music business is a moving target and attracting press release attention in the age of democratization creates new methods.

Fragile / Hands Foundation

A new approach is being forged by bands like Fragile out of the Minnesota area. Darrell and Chauncey Marrier of Fragile started a non-profit organization called The Hands Foundation   after a youth trip in 2003 to Monterrey, Mexico. With the help of family and likeminded individuals they formed the 501c to help as many people as they could in the Monterrey area. They have helped in restoring over 150 homes. Instead a being a recent publicity stunt to develop awareness, they were self motivated individuals long before the music business took notice.

In addition, they are involved with an epic project called Save St. Hedwigs, converting the second-largest country church in the U.S. into a multi-media center and recording studio.  Until Fragile and their foundation got involved, the dilapidated church was set to be demolished.   Consequently, the property was donated to them “for life” for $50.  Their story has gained the interest of world-renowned acoustic designer Michael Cronin to help design the studio for the church.  Cronin designed and constructed Blackbird Studios, Ocean Way/Nashville, Masterfonics, private rooms for Ryan Tedder (One Republic), Shania Twain, Clint Black, and Taylor Swift to name a few.

The personal philanthropy of the band and the Hands Foundation did not go unnoticed and time was donated by world-renowned mastering engineer Bob Ludwig and mixing engineer great David Bottrill who were kind enough to give some of their time for This Land Will be Civilized was released this year.

One of the three most popular music blog sites in Nashville is Brite Revolution where every Artist involved on the site needs to support a charitable cause. With their slogan “Discover great Artists. Support great causes. Get great music…all for free”. It is a site that appeals to fans, musicians and people who like to get involved in charitable causes.

Dead Confederate

A plethora of artists from indie rock to Americana are listing up including Atlanta band Dead Confederate, who has three songs that a site member can download for free. On their page it lists they are supporting Project: AK-47which helps kids get in Southeast Asia to get out of the military and have a future. is a platform for fans to get involved in actually funding a project be it music, film or whatever. It can be a place to start or a place to go to when your record deal ends. The old adage “it takes money to make money” is still King. The difference with Kickstarter is that rather than waiting for a wealthy philanthropist to get behind your band that shares a one bedroom apartment to record the music you want, this will allow you to share in the financing. You are invested in your favorite artist.

Mike FarrisOne recent addition is Mike Farris who has been through the music business more than once with Nashville band, Screamin’ Cheetah Willies and his recent releases on INO/Columbia, Salvation in Lights and Shout! Live that garnered Mike the Americana Emerging Artist in 2008 at The AMA Awards as well as a Dove award for his old-time Gospel Blues.

Mike notified via his fan e-mail list that he would be going with to finance his next project tentatively titled “Already Alright!” while shopping for a new label and distribution deal. Once the funds are there, a project gets the green light and the work is recorded, pressed and released.

Although, these ideas are starting to take root, I have not seen much about it at any of the current music PR seminars. This is a way of finding new fans, possibly fans that are out of the loop on buying any kind of legal download or CD, to get interested in your group or you as an Artist and want to own and proudly show your work to friends. Imagine the conversations that could happen about your philanthropy or what it took to get your CD to be pressed.

If your band or somebody has a great story to tell, contact me. I would love to share it with the music Community.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Life Without a Net: The Virtual Musician Part 1

In an attempt to be informative on the current state of the music business, I find that it may be good to look at where we are now and where things are going. If you ask different label heads, publicist, booking agents or musicians themselves, you will get a different answer every time, but, one thing that is consistent is that the CD is in a death spiral and the industry itself may be to blame.

The actual numbers of CD’s sold is continuing a steady decline every year. The closing of the New York Virgin Mega store alone cost a 2% drop in music sales.  Wal Mart announced this year they were cutting in half the shelf space for CD music. The fact is that the end is still not in site.

The fact still remains that 63 million people buy only CD’s. That is twice as many as imusic buyers. They have found out recently that 58% of iPod buyers have never downloaded from a legal music source. In fact 3 out of every 4 13-25 age bracket individual has never bought a legal download. They are using file sharing and mobile download options.

One fact still remains; people are still listening to music as much as ever. The era of setting up a big stereo system and sitting down for a couple of hours to listen to music may be over, but, music is still there in the background on the laptop or going on while people are busy doing something else.

The one thing that may never come back is there were 20 million music buyers that left the CD format and never went to digital formats. These buyers may never come back.  People are not disengaged from music but the value of music, the importance of the purchase that supports the career of the Artist and the business itself is getting lost in the shuffle.

One of the issues that was never discussed at either the Americana Music Conference or Digital Summit was the competition for the entertainment dollar that began in the 80’s and kept up a relentless pace through the 90’s until now. Back in the 70’s or before there was virtually no competition for the music dollar. Sports were played with minimal equipment and there was not the ability to purchase films or video games to compete with the music dollar.

The purchase of music was part of an adolescent rite of passage. The ability to purchase tape recorded movies first on VHS then on DVD took an ever increasing chunk of discretionary income away from the purchase of music. Then came the advent of video game technology. The purchase of different gaming formats as well as the games took an even larger chunk of entertainment dollars in the average household especially for teens.

So who are buying CD’s?  The overwhelming percentage is female. The biggest age group segment is age 36 – 50 (how many new bands are aiming for this buyer?) with 51 and over being the second largest group. The imusic purchases are not even close to making up for losses in CD sales. There has been a recent nitch market in vinyl sales, but that is an “uber” fan type purchase.  Lately, they have been developing the “uber” fan market by exploiting the serious music buyers with special multi-disc releases, vinyl and other promotional product. These are buyers that will buy no matter what. Many times they are musicians, essentially preaching to the choir.

The biggest problem is getting the average music listener to make a purchase. There are a few ideas coming down the road, subscription services, “connectivity” the wave of the future with devices such as Blue Ray players that are connected to the internet that make it possible to download movies will make it possible to download music. In the end the IPod may end up being a stop gap nitch market itself.

Next we will look at what bands are doing to raise funds, develop awareness and release music.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN