So two years ago I made a record. You said you were impressed, remember?
That was nice. But also part of your genetic programming, probably.
Anyway, I got 30,000 people to check it out. But the tracks were free, so I didn’t make a cent. That’s not because I was too generous. It’s because music albums have literally lost a lot of value.
It’s simple economics: scarcity and cost. Everybody makes records nowadays. At the time I was making this one, 12 hours of music was uploaded every minute to Soundcloud. And according to this designer at Spotify, there were about two million artists on there. (If a word is underlined, you can click it, mom).
There’s so much, because it’s not expensive to make a record anymore.
Recording doesn’t take a studio with a huge analog desk in a big room-in-room with an engineer running around to check the tape anymore. If you know how to steal software, you only need to buy a computer and a headphone. Not that I would ever steal, mom. You know that. Also, distribution doesn’t cost anything anymore, because you can upload it to free platforms. No more vinyl or cd manufacturing, artwork pressings and sending that stuff all over the planet.
There's no more need for a big loan from a record company to get started. It only costs time now. But the problem with this democratization - basically the same problem I complained about last time - is that uploading music is the same as putting it on a USB stick, throwing that in your desk drawer and hoping someone will ring the bell to come see if you have tunes laying around.
I didn’t want that. I wanted to try and reach people. So I looked at the way things changed for music consumption, to try and use those in my advantage. Well, as far as one can do that without a marketing budget.
People don’t find new music through MTV or a music store anymore. They find it through other media interests. They find it because it’s the soundtrack to their favorite Youtube channel, or Netflix show or computer game. Then it will become part of their playlists and grow from there.
This means it’s not about albums in the first stage of putting stuff out, it’s about songs. And it's not about where your music sits, but what it is associated with.
That's why I decided to start a documented year of making tracks, instead of dropping an album all at once. I would write, record and release one track each month. So after twelve tracks, it would be done. That way I would have twelve reasons for social content and twelve moments to send out a press release to everybody.
My main channel became Instagram. Each month, I would look for a visual artist I liked, and use his or her work for the inspiration behind the track. By sharing that inspiration on my channel as I worked on the track, I spoke to a whole new audience each month. An audience that like the same stuff I did. So chances were, they would dig my stuff also.
If someone downloaded a track or started following me to stream one, I would add them to the newsletter. That way I could keep them updated more in depth on the process behind the album.
This way I could slowly build a medium sized online audience over the course of a year.
What did I reap? I reaped attention. And that is what new music is worth right now. This is making a first profit. Costs have gone down but supply has gone up, so profits are down also.
The second step would be to keep the audience I've built engaged, while slowly cultivating their attention. I didn’t really do any of that, to be honest, mom. I was really tired after making music every night for a year.
Maybe we should talk about focus and dedication at one point. You could teach me about that.
What I'd like to talk to you about next month, is what I should have done. If I were less lazy.
To grow that attention and cultivate it.
So, to be continued…