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More revelations from Kenny Love on how artists can (and should) take advantage of the current Utopian environment.

Hear Ye! Hear ye! Friends! Romans! Countrymen! For, I come not to tease thee, but to please thee!

(*Wait a minute...that's not how it goes...*)

Okay, but hear me out anyway...since I've lain that on ya, allow me to this on ye lay as well...

Trying to operate in today's unrequited Music industry feels like watching an espionage cat-and-mouse chess game played out by Bond.James Bond (independents) and Dr. No (RIAA et al). "Bond" makes a move, then "Dr. No" counters by blowing something up...anything...and always out of proportion.

Therefore, I am stepping in even closer to the game, and portraying one of those little pip squeak guys who is on Bond's team and so readily provides him with all of the neat little gadgets for counterintelligence and, ultimately, escape.

Amidst all of the mad confusion, evolution and obtrusive incidents that are occurring by "the powers who think they still are," there are 2, I dare say, TWO phases of marketing and promotion that, not only has the RIAA not (yet) considered but, at the same time, 2 things you can immediately take advantage of that will help your career out tremendously.

Actually, I must give Derek Sivers (CD Baby.com) due credit for inspiring me with one of these ideas, and into pursuing it to further fruition. And, in regard to the current state of it, it was immediately apparent of Derek's distaste for it, as he used a rather colorful metaphor when discussing it.

From this, I determined that it was not among his favorite things. But, I won't reiterate the term here, as the readership might also include priests, nuns, rabbis, monks and, saints be praised, Mrs. Arnold, my former college English teacher whom is otherwise known after hours as the "fingernail extractor".a true bird of prey whom might take serious offense with my usage.

1. Video:
First of all, through a few previous issues, I have advised independent artists to pursue the "video" aspect of their careers, if for no other reason than radio across-the-board is becoming quite saturated with artists seeking airplay. However, after doing so, I felt that my admonishment had, for the most part, fallen on deaf ears and blind eyes.

I believe this is, largely, due to the myth that all music videos must cost the same as the videos of such superstars as Eminem, Avril Lavigne, P. Diddy and others, which range in the area of $4.72 billion dollar$. But, this is far from the truth...in fact, artists have now forced me to take one last stab at trying to convince them to start producing videos of their singles by my now pulling out a *really* heavy weapon called Jeffrey P. Fisher.

If you don't know Jeffrey, he is the author of several of the few music industry references that I deem to contain solid, real life workable information that you can immediately put to use in benefiting your music career. But, in regard to the video aspect, do yourself a favor and read just how cheaply Jeffrey managed to get a video produced for a client at http://musicdish.com/mag/?id=4526 .

In fact, I am so convinced that his article will serve you so well, and show you just how inexpensively and simply a video can be produced, that I am going to move on to the next pressing subject at hand. Now, this is a basic video production, so if you want to include a 747 jet, or you need to have Star Wars special effects that allow you to disappear, then reappear in anot her location, I am now going to disappoint you by informing you that this level of production is going to probably cost you an extra $50, or so. :-) Oh, by the way...upon completion of your review of his article and, as a result, you decide to pursue the video avenue, contact me for the creation of your video script.

2. Distribution
In contrast to one of my recent articles, "Declining Online Music $ales..." whereby, I stressed the importance of offline retail distribution, I believe that I must now do a bit of backpedaling by somewhat opposing that argument. It is often said that the first sign of insanity, is when a person begins to argue, discuss, debate and differ with himself. But, please humor me for a while longer...don't write me off just yet. For, I believe you will agree with my newfound reasons for somewhat of a change on perspective. And, here they are:

1. Through the dark madness affectionately known as the "corporate" sector of the Music industry, the Internet has become a beacon of light for unsigned/independent artists who refuse to be taken by the "suits" for a joy ride with a 1-way ticket to financial Hell, with no possible hope for a return trip. Worse yet, not even a customary glass of ice water awaits them at the entrance. But, simultaneously, the Internet has also become a Catch-22 blessing/curse. How so?

Well, it is fairly difficult to put up a web site of your music, but keep it a "local store." People, literally, across the world will soon find you out and stumble into your virtual store. And, if they like your music, they will hunt you down like a bloodhound on a convict's trail. There's just no stopping them, and that is the blessing.

The curse, is trying to get product to them through offline distributors. First, you must convince the distributor to "like" your music, in terms of the marketing and promotional game plan you will use to move product out of their doors and onto retail shelves. Next, you must consider that, if you happen to get even a mediocre "hit" on a worldwide basis, if you try to fulfill retail, you are going to find it necessary to sell the house, the car and anything else you own, in an effort to keep up with the product demand.

Hence, since fulfilling the supply obligations of a demanding public on a worldwide scale is unrealistic for most musicians going it alone (unless their surnames happen to be Rockefeller, Gates or Buffet), to assist you in avoiding a diet consisting solely of Maalox and Jim Beam, I am now suggesting you to exclusively market your product online.

The great thing is, again, in opposition to my previous advice that most people are offline (which is true), is that as an independent artist, you do not require the high profits that traditional labels require, simply because their operating expenses are incredibly high.

Yet, simultaneously as an artist, your sales income will bring a much higher royalty than major label artists could ever hope to receive, and even superstar artists at the pinnacle of their careers. I believe the current scenario is approximately $1-$2 (major label artist mechanical royalty) versus $5-$6 (independent artist mechanical royalty). With that return, in terms of income, you can readily see why it is unimportant to have a million seller and why it is important to remain independent.

2. Online, with proactive and aggressive marketing and promotion in both online and offline environments, and with a competitive recording, an independent artist should, reasonably, be able to sell a *minimum* of 5,000 units within a year's time and, most likely, a great deal more.

That online amount, well, amounts to a minimum of $25,000 for a year. Now, add on the money you will make from gigging and see the close-to-home dollars you can earn on your own. Yeah, with that amount, you can afford to eat out at McDonald's an extra day in the week now, can't you?

Again, as an unsigned/independent artist, you want to market and promote both online and offline, but you want to strictly distribute "online," in the effort of saving you from the distribution experience of bankruptcy.

My point now, is to convince you to not become financially "in the red" at the distribution level because, again, as an average Indie artist, it is not a law of probability but, practically, an assurance that if you attempt to distribute solo without deep pockets, and in competition with traditional labels with deep pockets, you will eventually find yourself financially 'broke' to the point that you cannot even afford to take a bath. For, distribution can quickly become like a beast that is never sated, but ever hungering to be fed.

3. Stage Banners:
I, initially, said I wanted to advise you of 2 things, but I must also take this opportunity to advise you on another vital tool for self-promotion that seems to be a rare consideration of performing artists...stage banners. By all means, for your gigs, consider investing in a large enough banner that can be strung a good distance across the back of your band or, even better, suspended overhead, if possible. This is the type of banner that you usually find at car dealerships, and is made of plastic with ties at its ends. These banners usually promote a special sale that is taking place.

For your own banner, you should simply include the name of your act, along with an even more important element...your web site address. Even if you sell your music at your gigs, your banner will still have a great effect, as it will allow people to later peruse your site for more information. Also, as club lighting is, naturally (or unnaturally) darkened, have your banner created with a black background while your lettering is either white or bright yellow.

And, in addition to displaying the banner, also hand out any cards, fliers or other promotional material after your show as well. If you have a manager or assistant with you, have this done sometime during your performance in order to catch people who may leave early. By the way, this promo info *does* have your web site address on it as well, doesn't it? Just checking...

But, perhaps, the most important aspect, is not only the technological, marketing and promotion power that is afforded to artists today, that translates into financial power, but the opportunity for a direct connection that artists now have with their fans through artist web sites, email addresses, discussion lists and newsletter mailing lists.

Through the years, I have observed a common denominator that assures and insures long-term successful career artists. No, it is not how well they sing, play, or perform. Alternatively, it is, how well they connect with their audience...how much they are willing to reach out and become "in synch" with their fans and music buyers through their singing, lyrics, and live performance interaction. In other words, sending the message that they can relate to, are accessible and appreciative of the loyalty, support and devotion of their fans.financial or otherwise.

If you don't believe me, just recall the times you have entered a business establishment to make a purchase. How did you feel when store clerks directed you to help yourself *without* their assistance, as opposed to clerks who greeted you with a smile, while readily offering their assistance? That's exactly what I'm talking about...shaking the prima donna attitude, coming down to earth, and making your fans a part of your extended "family." After all, your debut release probably isn't (hopefully) the one and only release of your career.

Bottom line...this state that we find ourselves in today in the Music industry, should not focus on an Indie vs. Major competitive playoff. As an artist, it should, otherwise, focus on your partaking of the married blessings known individually as freedom and technology to, ultimately, acquire an enjoyable lifestyle through your art, such as you have never experienced.

Friday, November 15, 2002 Kenny Love

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Editor's Note: Kenny Love manages MuBiz.com, a multi-service music firm specially created for independent musicians at http://www.MuBiz.com and is extensively involved in both the Music and Writing industries. Receive more details with requests to aboutkennylove@getresponse.com and klmubiz@getresponse.com.

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