As most tech savvy people are aware, The Pirate Bay turned 10 years old a few days ago. In all of this, the Pirate Bay has stood strong against the pressure put on it by the MPAA and the RIAA and their sister organisations throughout the world. Much larger organisations have tried to stand up against these bodies and have failed. The fact that the Pirate Bay is still alive is something to respect.
So what can artists learn from The Pirate Bay?
The Pirate Bay spread via word of mouth. It didn’t embark on a scorched earth marketing policy. For an artist there is no better marketing strategy than word of mouth. That is how virality works.
Metallica – built their fan base via word of mouth on the strength of their album releases and live shows. It wasn’t until 1992 that Metallica decided to form a fan club.
Heartist – built their fan base all on line via fan to fan connections. This was all done without even playing a show. It was a total online strategy.
Volbeat – built their fan base via the strength of their material. A song that they released back in 2008 got traction in 2012, which in turn started to bring attention to their 2011 album release. Success comes later in today’s world. In some cases much later.
Galactic Cowboys – Back in the late eighties, Geffen Records signed a band called Galactic Cowboys. I have three of their albums that I picked up in the bargain basement bin. Geffen just kept on pushing the band onto the public with a pretty high profile marketing campaign, however the public just didn’t take to them.
Mutiny Within – I remember the Roadrunner marketing campaign for the band Mutiny Within. The campaign had the band linked to Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater. Instantly this is putting a pre-conceived ideal into the mind of the listener and in my opinion, didn’t do the band any favours. One of the flyers that I saw, had phrasing like “Mutiny Within is the twisted child of Killswitch Engage and Dream Theater.” The public decided that the band was not worthy of that title and the band was dropped from their label deal.
Artists (especially major artists) should seriously consider using The Pirate Bay to market the release of their next batch of songs. There is still a demand for free mp3’s. At the moment iTunes cannot service that demand as the iTunes platform needs to be paid. So what options do the artists have to provide their fan base with free mp3’s.
1. Use their own website and collect geographical information and email addresses. Get to know their fans and survey their fans.
2. Team up with Bit Torrent
3. Team up with The Pirate Bay
4. Team up with a crowd funding platform, where the perks involve t-shirts and so forth, with a free Digital Download of said music.
The Game Of Thrones creators have recently said that the piracy of the show has contributed to the cultural buzz of the show and that it is better than winning an Emmy. The creators have also said that they have seen a high increase in DVD sales. I always bring people’s attention back to the Southern and Central Americas’. Sales of recorded music is not high in countries that fall in the Southern and Central America zones, however bands have had great success in touring these areas.
The recent IFPI report shows Brazil as a market set to surge. Go to http://www.ifpi.org/content One of the comments on the report is a WTF moment. It’s on page 24 and it states the following;
“The launch of iTunes showed that Brazilians are prepared to pay for music. We thought consumers were so used to piracy that they would never buy music again. But this has been proved wrong. Moreover, a new generation of consumers can now have their first music experiences in the legal environment.”
To put the above comment into perspective, iTunes was launched in Brazil at the end of 2011. Seriously this is a terrible business model from the record labels. While they screamed piracy in Brazil and then had a real draconian Copyright law passed that can take down sites on the say so of the entertainment groups, the actual consumers, the music fans, could not download a legal mp3 in the country. Instead of trying to get licensing arrangements in place to launch iTunes earlier in Brazil, the Record Labels spent millions fighting piracy in the courts. Instead of trying to get licensing arrangements in place to launch iTunes earlier in Brazil, the Record Labels spent millions lobbying politicians to vote for SOPA and PIPA.
The Pirate Bay is easy to use. It has an ecosystem built around Trusted and VIP uploaders to Helpers and Moderators that delete hundreds of ‘spam’ accounts and fake uploads every day which in turn keeps the site running smoothly and its users happy. This ensures that the content is exactly what it is described to be. The ranking system of uploaders (which is a skull in different colours like the Karate belt system) allows any novice downloader to form a bond with a certain uploader.
As an artist, you need to have a unique reference point, something that is easy to find. Having a generic band name is not a unique reference point. If you Google names like Bon Jovi, Van Halen, Motley Crue or Metallica you know you get back searches that are related to the band name you Google’d. Google a band name like Today I Caught The Plague or Burnside. Then Google the same names with the term band attached to it. Any artist starting off needs to make it is easy as possible for people to find them online.
There is always room for improvement. The Pirate Bay keeps on evolving as technology evolves. Now it is simply an indexing site, that services the needs of its users, the same way Google service the needs of its users. It is always re-creating itself with the rise of new technologies.
All artists need to be doing the same thing. The web presence of any artist needs to be maintained, updated and recreated. It needs to adopt to changing technologies, to offer as many features as it can to its fans.
Why do so many Dream Theater, Bon Jovi, Metallica, Motley Crue or Five Finger Death Punch fans spend so much time on Forums that have no connection to the main web site of the band. Bands should be fostering these kinds of interactions on their main website. They should even be contributing to it, the same way they contribute to their Facebook and Twitter accounts. At least you know on the band forums, the real fans are there to interact and respond.
The Pirate Bay’s user base is growing because the users are prepared to share and people are prepared to download. This alone should inform the legacy gatekeepers that the fans of music are no longer sheep. The Pirate Bay showed the RIAA and the MPAA that their rules and prices suck and that service is a problem (remember iTunes launched in Brazil in 2011). The old model of basing success on record sales is gone. The old model of going to the record store and planning what albums you were going to buy in the months to come is over.
Artists need to service their fans. Make it hard for a fan to get your music, and they will go elsewhere. Trivium is a great example. They recently had a very complex (also brilliant) smart phone strategy that once you completed all the steps needed, the fan got to hear a sample of a new song. I can tell you that as a fan engagement tool, this attempt failed miserably. It was too hard for fans. So what do Trivium do next. They offer the full song for streaming via their website and as a free download. Now it is easy as hell. To paraphrase the Eagles, keep it easy…