Selling and Promoting Music: When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It?

By ajcolores

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I believe it’s possible to be a responsible business, and to be a responsible consumer. When you’re the business lecturing your consumers on what they should be doing, well, that can produce an awkward situation. Let’s leave it at saying that a certain blog post stating obvious things has resulted in what can best be described as a kerfuffle, and, since you’ve heard it all before, it’s probably not worth repeating.

Better than lecturing music lovers, then, is finding out better ways to reach them.

I know plenty of artists and even people whose day job is running a label who are heavy Spotify users, so let’s leave that discussion for the moment. What has been of ongoing interest to CDM is the music enthusiast – the person who does want to own music, on limited-edition CDs, on tapes, on vinyl, in high-quality digital downloads. Reaching these enthusiasts, even if it doesn’t net much in the way of income, can be almost an organizing tool. Getting them to spend a few bucks on your music can be about building a relationship with them.

We saw the wide spread of the musical act The Mast earlier this week. I made a rather significant error in that story, though – and what I missed says something about the diverse ideas out there about releasing music.

In their digital release of UpUpUp, the act and their label Playloop (and their other label Channel A) took a unique approach. Given a variety of models for how to distribute the music, they chose all of them. Self-released, pay what you will, straight from the artists? Check. iTunes? Check. Niche stores like Beatport? Check. Do you want this label, or this label? Yes.

They got the music out everywhere, and promoted it everywhere – and some of the resulting exposure of the music was only possible because of this multi-pronged approach.

Playloop Records’ Justin Paul (also an artist himself) sent in the correction.

The Mast EP is on two record labels, Channel A and Playloop Records. Each label is leveraging their brand and audience. Channel A is focusing on the iTunes market and Playloop is focus on EDM stores like Beatport, Juno and more. The band also has the freedom to release their content on Bandcamp for free or paid. This is a true 21st-century record deal.

Justin shares more of the details of how this came about with CDM.

This is a special situation. The band and I have a mutual friend and investor named Greg Lucas, founder of Creative Allies and former artist manager.

I was hanging out with Matt and Haale at Greg’s house in Santa Monica back in March. They were in town to do a shoot for the “UpUpUp” music video. Matt and Halle played me the original song, and I was like, wow! This would do really well in the EDM world – especially with remixes in several EDM sub genres. They come from more of a singer/songwriter and indie rock world. Greg explained to them that I’ve been a DJ, producer and label owner in EDM for a long time, and to trust my judgement. They already wanted to break into EDM and had a couple of people down to do remixes for the song.

I suggested that we do a hybrid deal. Have Playloop artists create exclusive remixes, and then release the EP via our EDM distribution channels such as Beatport and Juno. The version on iTunes and Bandcamp is slightly different. Both brands can leverage their audience and get DJs in the underground to help break the artist and record.

Deal structure:
Partnership between Channel A & Playloop Records:

Channel A / The Mast keeps 100% of the royalties from iTunes, Bandcamp and etc.

After Playloop remixers recoup their discounted production fee, the labels split royalties 50/50 from EDM distribution/stores, sync or other deals Playloop secures. Playloop remixers also get a piece of publishing if their derivative / remix gets public performance or sync
deals.

This maximizes leverage and helps establish a new model for artist and labels to follow. The traditional music business needs to evolve and
allow deals like this to take place. The contract has been via email. It also has been evolving.

The specifics here may prove directly applicable to other artists in a similar situation.

But consider the broader picture. Normally, people imagine working with labels (and labels working with artists) best left to exclusive deals, as either/or, as one choice over another. Here, there’s a true sense of collaboration. Ticking “all of the above” may have been better for all parties involved.

I could imagine that lesson applying to very different situations, too. And whatever the underlying business deal – even if you’re producing and sharing something for free – trying every available avenue may become increasingly necessary. It’s something that’s happening across the Internet, from politics to culture, whether for-sale or free.

And it’s nice to see it work. (See successes like Beatport exposure – and, hey, this site, too.) It certainly illustrates a role for a label. In this case, not only was one label better than none, two labels were better than one.

Hat tip to Yogi Berra, that legendary New York Yankee who is uniquely capable of the kind of zen koans like the one found in this headline.

And, of course, to the Muppets.

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