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The EvO:R-Pedia Musicians Tips Section
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reference library for Indie musicians...Just about every tip has been used so you won't find false
promises and a series of books to buy after reading each tip. This section was put here by musicians
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The Long Tail to Sales
by Posted By Les Vogt
There’s a book out by Chris Anderson titled The Long Tail, his term for certain species of increased sales opportunities on the internet.
Anderson was writing an article about the website Ecast when he noticed a major change in the way music sales work. Previous market research dictated the “80/20 rule,” meaning 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your product. This explains why record stores are loathe to stock local artists – they take up valuable space that could be used for more Britneys, Beyonces, and Beatles, the three Bs, the 80 per-centers.
Posted By Les Vogt
But, just as the internet has changed the political debate, it’s changed the way people buy – especially music, books, and video. A brick and mortar store can only stock so many CDs, but an online merchandiser can stock millions of digitalized tunes. Rhapsody, for instance has a library of 1.5 million songs. Sure, U2 will sell the most songs, but Anderson was surprised to find out that about a million of those other songs sell at least once a month! And this is “the long tale.”
Of course that means nothing to the editors of Billboard, but it means millions to Rhapsody, so it is to their advantage to list as many artists as they can.
Artists like you!
You can even buy MY CDs on Amazon! I’ve put them on CDBaby, who don’t care if I am an old fat bald guy living in Middletown, Delaware. In cyberspace no one can tell, and every dime I make is a couple cents for them. The longer the tail the more those pennies add up.
And shelf life doesn’t matter. The pop music scene is appalling. You’re done at 30, literally a hero today and nobody tomorrow.
But Internet sales of music, books, and movies work differently. In his book Anderson compares Blockbuster, ninety percent of whose movies are new releases, to Netflix, with a library of sixty thousand titles. Seventy percent of Netflix’ sales are oldies. Same with books: “at Amazon.com … about a quarter of all book sales come from outside the site’s top-one-hundred-thousand best-sellers” (emphasis added).
What does this mean to “the little guy?” Well, I have about twenty copies left of my 1983 vinyl release out melting in the barn. Recently a couple of people without turntables wanted to hear that old chestnut, which is dated because I sound different, it’s on vinyl, and I don’t do such raunchy material anymore (I am old and fat and bald, etc, and it SCARES people).
So I typed in “cheap CD reproduction” and found a place called Kunaki.com, a real weird setup in Brooklyn, extremely impersonal. For instance, Kunaki’s mission statement mentions “Kunaki prefers to be thought of as a machine.” In an hour I had downloaded their software (for free). Another hour and I uploaded a CD copy of my old vinyl record, along with Jpegs I snapped of the vinyl’s album cover looking good perched next to my mandolin on a bright red chair. Sort of folksy.
Three or four hours later Kunaki is paid and everything in the works and Kunaki says the 30 CDs at $1.65 each plus postage will arrive in 3 business days. I say “Oh yeah, sure,” figuring at worst I’m out about seventy bucks.
Ay caramba! The CDs arrive in less than 48 hours! I send a half dozen off to CDBaby with thirty bucks and by the end of the week I get an email that two of them have sold! Whew! My head is spinning.
A BRAVE NEW WORLD
It’s a brave new world for somebody whose opus is off beat or not-for-prime time. Me, I realize I’ll never be on MTV and I want to strangle Toby Keith.
Though personally I try to resolve these issues everyday – I spend most of my waking hours, when I’m not watching MTV beach parties and swilling Coronas, hugging my life-size Toby Keith doll—I have considered just accepting myself.
It’s possible there is a niche, albeit a tiny one, even for me. It used to be everybody got their 15 minutes of fame – now you just need to hit your niche.
Maybe not in Nashville, but in cyberspace, somebody might want to hear your screams.
Author's site: http://www.members.shaw.ca/lesvogt
Les Vogt is an independent producer, promoter and