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Can The Music Industry Save Itself ? – Part III


PREVIOUSLY: Introduction
, Part II – 1. Off With Their Heads, 2. Cut The Fat

The music industry is facing many challenges. How can the major labels and the entrepreneurs that seek to replace them adjust to compete in this new and evolving environment?

3. BUILD LABEL BRANDS – Instead of suing fans, record labels must work to earn their loyalty.

Labels once promoted their releases on the paper sleeves that covered albums. I poured over them to see what I might be missing. I couldn't wait for the next Warner Brothers Loss Leaders. Twice a year I mailed in $2 (no S&H charge) and waited expectantly…

until a double album arrived filled with an eclectic mix of live tracks, outtakes and more. It felt like I was in an exclusive club and discovery often led to purchase.

Why aren't there more low cost/no cost themed samplers that mix stars with unknowns? Why couldn't acts curate a 3 song sampler of other label acts offered as a free bonus with their own release? Why shouldn't label every debut release is a 4 songs + bonus content EP priced at $2.99 or less. Sell it direct on the web and you'd even make money doing it.

Brand loyalty is difficult to build across broad genres (jazz fans have no interest in teen pop); so don't even try. Divide your teams by passion or better yet hire for it. Name each team and emulate successful indies with 5 – 20 person staffs who live and breath a genre. Think Fueled By Ramen or Strictly Canadian. Look at Lost Highway in alt-country, Side One Dummy with punk or ATO's broad focus on younger singer songwriters and Red House as a home for older ones.

They can share back office like human resources and accounting. Perhaps they can share some publishing and national sales staffs. But the core team that signs and markets each release needs to be building a lifestyle brand. Not just a record label; but merchandise, web sites, internet streams, tours and more dedicated to serving the fan. Each is a point of contact with the fan and each provides revenue stream that feeds the whole.