The Madonna leak made something visible that was never there before. The record label along with the artist reacted swiftly. They didn’t react by going nuclear with lawyers. They reacted by coordinating to finish a sub-set of songs and having them available for purchase on iTunes. Hanging over Madonna and her team was the Christmas break and a deadline to get the music to iTunes before they shut down for the period. However they got it done and the result was that the songs dominated the iTunes charts and sales.
In the Eighties when Madonna broke through, the game was about marketing the album to death so that it would have a big first week and by default retailers would order more stock. Today, an album has a huge lead up and then what.
AC/DC had a huge lead up with “Rock Or Bust”. The Malcolm Young illness story was free marketing, the Phil Rudd legal shenanigans was also free marketing and add to that free marketing all the paid for marketing. And if the band expected huge sales on the board they would be seriously disappointed. However is that a true indication of an albums reach or influence.
In the end, its not about how many records or mp3’s got sold. It’s about who is listening to it. Does it really matter to AC/DC because everyone knows AC/DC makes their money on the road?
Machine Head released an album that sold decent in the first week for a metal band. The media were all over it and then it disappeared from the news outlets. However if you go on Spotify, you will see numbers there of people listening to it. Go to YouTube and you will see the same. Go on Facebook and you will see fans engaging with each other and talking about the album. Subscribe to Robb’s blog posts and you will see the discussions they generate among the people.
The game has shifted. It’s all about the audience and if the audience is listening to an album six months or a year after the release date then that is not news to the media outlets like Blabbermouth and Loudwire. What is news to these outlets is the album release and the lead up. But that is not the only news the audience cares about.
Robb Flynn is aware that to triumph in the future you need to be prepared for a long game. Excellence will survive and you need to work it.
Jonathan Coulton is not a name that is popular in metal and rock circles however the way he has embraced new business models is a great example of an artist who is building his own road and making a living in the process.
As with a lot of musicians, Coulton tried to become a professional musician 25 years ago, however he was unable to break through the gatekeepers. Thanks to the internet, he nurtured its power and reach and became a success this time around. This is the beauty of the internet when it is done right. It levels the playing field. Coulton didn’t have the opportunity under the old system however today he has found his niche and is making pretty good money in the process.
In 2010, he brought in $500,000. And guess what, because he doesn’t have the entourage that other artists have, the majority of the money earned was for him. In other words he cut out as many middle men as he could and that meant the record label.
He used the web and connected with people who became fans, however the big break came with a geeky song about an out of love computer programmer called “Code Monkey”. As I have said a million times it is all about the song. In this case, Coulton put the song on his site, techies picked it up and started discussion it in forums and the rest is history.
One other thing to note here, is that since 2003, he has released music consistently and every year. In some years it was multiple releases. How many metal and rock artists are doing that right now.
I know that George Lynch is and he is an established artist. Check out the last eight years:
2007 – George Lynch – Guitar Slinger
2008 – George Lynch – Scorpion Tales
2008 – Souls Of We – Let The Truth Be Known
2009 – Lynch Mob – Smoke And Mirrors
2010 – George Lynch – Orchestral Mayhem
2011 – George Lynch – Kill All Control
2012 – Lynch Mob – Sound Mountain Sessions
2012 – T&N – Slave To The Empire
2013 – George Lynch – Legacy (EP)
2013 – Lynch Mob – Unplugged: Live From Sugarhill Studios
2014 – KXM – KXM
2014 – Lynch Mob – Sun Red Sun
2015 – Sweet And Lynch – Only To Rise