What is the Product?

What is the Product?

Leave It All Behind

Meeting after meeting, artists tell me they need to record a new CD, or are just about to record, or are in the process of recording one. The first question I ask is “Great! What are you going to do with it?”

They look at me dumbfounded as if I am stupid. “Well we are gonna try and sell it of course” they say.

“To who?” I ask. “Well, our fans” is the usual response.

“What fans?” I ask probing further. “You mean the 176 fans on your twitter account?” “The same 30 fans that keep coming to your shows in the same city that you never get out of?”

“What are you going to do with the rest of the CD’s that are sitting in your garage after you sell 50 of them and have run out of fans?”

“What is your marketing plan?” “Who are you going to distribute it through?” “Better yet, why are you recording a CD for a fan base that doesn’t exist yet?”

“Do you have a provable demand for new music that will at least allow you to recover the investment cost of making the new CD?” 99% of the time the is of course “No.”

Needless to say from a business standpoint this is bad business. You don’t invest money into something that you have no idea or plan to make money/a profit on.

My point is: If you haven’t developed a sizeable fan base from shows and social media, you have no need for a CD until there is an actual demand for it or at least a big enough fan base to market it to. Let’s say you have a CD but you have only managed to sell 100 copies of it and you still have plenty left over. Don’t you think you should sell those first before making a new CD?

Obviously at this point you still don’t have a demand for your music, so why do you need a new CD? Your current CD still hasn’t been heard by anyone yet, so it isn’t old music to anyone but you. Wouldn’t it make more sense for you to focus on developing a demand for new music by selling your current CD and generating a fan base who actually want to purchase it?

You need to resist the “artist” urge or need to create before it is time. That doesn’t mean stop writing, it means don’t pay for something you can’t sell. Don’t be fooled by the numbers on your social media accounts. I am talking about actual true fans, not just people who follow you because you followed them or because you bought a program to add followers.

The first thing the artist needs to realize is the CD is NOT the product; it’s a piece of merchandise. TheARTIST is the product. The artist has to create the demand for themselves/live performance before sinking a ton of money into multiple CDs, let alone one CD.

You can have t-shirts and other things to sell as merchandise through a developing rabid fan base that actually wants to purchase your merchandise. This will help keep costs down. The priority is developing the artist not the CD. The artist should be working on his/her/their image, social media campaign, the best live show possible and booking only. Once this has achieved a certain level, the artist can then worry about a CD that their fan base will demand. Bottom line is that if no one wants to see you live, you have no need for anything. You have to make them want to see you live and want to make the purchase. That comes from a killer live show. Practice, practice, practice, write killer songs that have a hook and melody and blow them away onstage. Period.

The proof is in the pudding with the live show. You have to win over the audience and develop them into fans. If you do this, they will stay fans and will buy your CD when you finally do release it. Not only that, you will have a nice building up to — and can actually pull off — a great “launch” and have impressive stats from the fan base that is actually demanding and waiting for this merchandise.

“Jesse James Dupree” of “Jackyl” was on my radio show “Live From Music City” and flat out said (which I wholeheartedly agree with) that they didn’t approach anybody in the business or do anything until the were constantly selling out shows at the bars they played all up and down the east coast. That was when they had a need for a team and were ready to shop for a record deal. Then they could take their pick of labels because all the labels wanted them. It was the single best piece of advice on my show ever. Here is the interview for you to listen to: http://ht.ly/4EErD. There is simply no need for much of what most artists THINK they need until there is a demand for the artist themselves.

Simply put, if the artist would focus on the essentials; booking, image, developing a fan base and PR the rest would take care of itself. Everyone wants to do it backwards; they want everything now and have no patience. Business doesn’t work that way and when you work harder and not smarter you tend to not succeed and also are in danger of completely burning yourself out.

A simple strategy you can adopt is to record two or three songs that you can offer on digital download to tide people over until there is a need for a CD and that you can use to help market yourself with.

You can make a couple of videos to put on YouTube that should be very high quality. Rehearse your band till they are perfect and then pay a professional company to video record your performance of these songs at a good venue with a sound man who knows your sound.

Put them up as single songs and market the heck out of it with social media. YouTube is the destination spot for new music discoveries now. This is a much smarter use of your money. This not only allows for people to discover you, but share your music. Most importantly, assuming you play very well live, you can use this to show venues that you are worth booking based on the crowd in front of you and your actual performance and stage presence.

Develop the artist first then once you have a fan base you can create a CD to sell. No point paying for something you can’t sell to anyone. Be strategic in your plans and definitely plan! Don’t just do something without thought of the benefit of it and how you will get it out there.

Good Luck!

11 thoughts on “What is the Product?

  1. David, I appreciate your insight and admire your willingness to state truth. Thank you for this post. I’m going to share your words of wisdom. Keep up the great work!

  2. I just finished reading this, and I am not only very impressed, I am completely blown away. This has definitely changed the way I am looking at my current musical project. David, you have explained this so well, yet, I would bet that 99% of musicians out there do not see things this way, which makes me feel even MORE fortunate! I am so glad to have joined/become a part of this group/blog, and I cannot wait to see what is in store for future topics of discussion! Thank You, immensely and with utmost sincerity, David!

  3. Very nice …this information is invaluable. I’m definately going to share this with all my musician friends. I especiallly like what you say here:
    “The proof is in the pudding with the live show. You have to win over the audience and develop them into fans.”
    I know there are tons of people looking to find great music, especially live performances and especially around my area. My deal is if it’s worthy enough of MY attention and money, then it’s worthy enough for everyone else too! Whether or not they want to listen, I’m gonna make sure they do! LOL! I’m always trying my best to help…get the word out and push it all in their faces to discover it.
    Thanks for sharing ‘Leave It All Behind’! 🙂

  4. David,

    You make some good points, but for some artists, the recording of a CD is part-and-parcel of the act of creation. Producing goods that embody the ‘product’ is sometimes necessary so people can see, hear, experience and consume the work.

    Think about film… by your analysis here, the ideas embodied in the screenplay, and ultimately on film, projected on the screen are the real product… the script, celluloid, and dvd are merely the goods embodying that product… yet without them, there’s a very limited audience.

    The same is true for a musical artist… writing and performing songs is great… critical in fact, but distributing master-recordings (via cd or over the ‘net) is a fairly cost-effective way of building an audience… touring can be really expensive… and requires an audience who like what you’re doing, but how will they know, if they’ve never heard your stuff before?

    Also, the cost of reproducing the CDs is really a small slice of the overall expense of making the “product”.

    It’s a catch-22. Artists DO need to perfect their craft by DOING. Yet the cost of doing can be prohibitive.

    1. Gordon,

      I have to disagree. A CD is never needed until there is a demand especially with downloads and everyone expecting free music now days. Most of us managers are in agreement with this as we are the ones that have to make it happen with the artists. There are plenty of merch options that cost much less than a CD and have a higher profit margin to make money. With YouTube being the number one destination place for music now and most people listening to it there, bands looking to build a fan base are better off there, developing a social media campaign and booking shows.

      I have toured for 30 years and it’s not impossible by any stretch. Bands just have to want it bad enough period. Most don’t.

      I appreciate your comments though 🙂

  5. David,

    Great insight and advice!

    I have to admit, with all of our preparation and planning, our CD still cost more than expected. The only advantage is that we did it with no expectation of immediate return, but with our long term goals in place. I realize that that is not the case with everyone.


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