1000 Fans of Natalie Merchant: 2 essays for artist in the digital age

March 7, 2008

pgp-8142.jpgThe recorded music industry has become the global icon of how to destroy customer goodwill and torpedo an industry, in the digital age. Their mis-steps go from the tragically self-defeating (suing fans, grandma and apple pie) to the spectacularly ineffective (seeding corrupt files on P2P networks, malware and DRM). The US recorded music industry isnt in decline, its dead, there is nothing left to do but harvest the usable organs.

The surest sign that the recorded music industry has gone the way of chimney sweeps and buggy builders, is a couple of recent articles from blog A-listers Seth Goodin and Kevin Kelly. These are not folks from the lunatic fringe screaming in the wind, like myself, these guys are mainstream pundits well respected by the conference booking set. Even they no longer question but are promoting solutions to come after. The lessons and insights they offer could be as instructive to magazine publishers and indie flim makers as they should be to musicians.

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Kevin Kelly’s article, 1,000 True Fans is a must read for any artist hoping to make money in the digital age. In it he argues that an artist can make a decent living ($100,000k/yr) concentrating most of their efforts on cultivating a fan base of just 1,000 “true fans”. He defines a true fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce”, ie your mother. The model is actually very well reasoned and hearkens back to the patronage model that Pholks have been debating for years. The application of a CLV to a music fan that appeals to me on some fundamentally geeky level but attempting to a hard dollar value on fans is frought with issues. While this is agreat article with lots of interesting areas for exploration and strategy building its to be taken with a dose of salt.

head.gifMarketing god Seth Godin, one of the coolest looking bald guys since Cypher, released the text of a speech he delivered on the music business. His Live Music Talk is another long read, but well worth it (pdf here). He basically argues that fan engagement, he calls it “tribe management”, is the future of the music business. Get permission, get personal and get pervasive is the point he is driving home. Of course he says it much better then that but you get the point. Seth, we’re that close, reimages the music industry through a consumer marketing framework, using Natalie Merchant to make it concrete. While this article doesnt offfer anything really new it does make seem to crystallize and simplify many older arguments.


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