Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Suggestions for Walking Corpse Syndrome

In my last post, I started looking into Walking Corpse Syndrome, an independent gothic metal band from Missoula, Montana. From a potential customer's viewpoint, I noted what I liked and didn't like about their sales approach. I also explained how I would personally use file-sharing in this situation and how file-sharing could lead someone into becoming a fan and then a buyer.

Everyone reading this already knows that I'm going to recommend that they should pirate their music. That will certainly be on the suggestion list, but it's a little more complex than that. If the only thing they did was put their music on the file-sharing sites, they're not going to see any benefits. Selling music to the file-sharing community is a multi-prong attack. Before I offer my suggestions, I'd like bring up something that I feel is a vital component in getting me to buy.

Taking a step back and looking at this from the consumer side of the transaction, most independent musicians give me two choices. Some artists want me to buy what they've already completed. So maybe they'll give me just enough to tickle my balls in the hopes that it'll be enough to get me to buy that 3 year old CD that they overvalue. This cycle will repeat itself as they release new albums. Even if I like their previous releases, I'm constantly struggling with the gamble of buying their products.

The other artists want me to buy what they haven't done yet. They shower me with affection, they take me on a date and pay for dinner, they give me gifts, they never tell me no. They give me the equivalent of a consumer blowjob. They make me feel guilty for all the attention because it's so one-sided. Is there any doubt in your mind who's products I'm going to buy? By this point, I want to buy their next project because of how well I've been treated.

Getting back to Walking Corpse Syndrome, here are some recommendations that would potentially get a listener to open their wallet. It will sound like I'm talking directly to Matthew, but I'm really talking to all the independent artists who create and sell music:

1. Fix the homepage graphic to reflect the $5 mp3 album. I still think $5 is too high for your albums. It has nothing to do with your talents and I'm not trying to diminish your accomplishments. It has more to do with who you are and where you are in your career. In my original open letter I noted that digital albums should always be cheaper than physical CDs. I also recommended a $3-$5 price point for an mp3 album. You guys are an independent band still in the process of building a following. If I was borderline on buying your music, getting albums for $2-$3 each would push me over the edge and turn me into a customer.

2. Get some new music out there. The first album came out in 2008 and the second (and most recent) album came out in 2010. Like it or not, customers always want fresh content. Especially paying customers. You think World of Warcraft would be as big as they are if they never expanded their game? Put a new song as a free mp3 download on the site. Build some buzz. Is your next album taking too long to finish? Then put yet another free song on the site. Fans talk to other people and you need to give them a reason to talk about you.

3. Coordinate your social media. Although I gave you props last post for dipping your finger everywhere, I did notice the lack of consistency. While your Facebook profile looks healthy and active, you only have 8 tweets in 2012. At a bare minimum everything you do on Facebook should get a tweet. There also appears to be inconsistencies on the sites where I can hear your music. Pure Volume has only 2 of your songs. Reverb Nation has 8 songs. Last.fm has one album, Amazon has two albums. Rhapsody has 8 songs, Jango has 5 songs. Don't half-ass it. You have no idea where a potential customer might find your music. What if your album had 10 songs I loved but none of them were the two on Pure Volume? Next band please.

4. Give away the first album for free. If you can't stomach that and your conscious insists on $5 mp3 albums, maybe offer a two album mp3 package deal for like $7. Entice me. You have a 4 year old album and a 2 year old album. You are not The Beatles. You do not yet have a valuable back catalog. All this is doing is putting up a wedge between me and your music. I understand you have fees and other considerations when using CD Baby, iTunes, etc. But as an up-and-coming band, you can't let pricing alienate your potential fan base. Maybe you have to suck it up and sell your stuff at a break even point for a while. Or maybe what you need to do is pull the first album from the market and offer it up as a free download if you buy the second album at $5. I'll buy when the price is right for me, not when the price is right for you.

5. Put the other album up on your site as a full stream like you did for your current album. Don't make a customer leave your site to sample your works. All of those social music services are designed to get people to sample music that isn't yours. If you drive me to Reverb Nation, another artist is going to catch my eye and you could lose my attention.

6. Maybe you're already doing this next one and I just can't see it on your website, but you should try to get creative about getting your music in the hands of fans. Here are a couple of examples: If you're playing a show where the tickets have unique identifiers (serial numbers, barcodes) then offer your fans your first album in mp3 format for free if they tweet/email/post a photo of their ticket. I see that some of your shows have the same bands playing. Join forces with the other bands. Get 4 bands to each offer up an mp3 album and sell the package for $10. If you're playing at a no-charge venue that has distinct sections, offer up the section nearest the stage for anyone who buys your CD. The possibilities are endless.

7. Pirate both of your albums. I understand this one may be the steepest hill to climb. Regardless of how good your music is, I don't believe a band in your position is served well by putting a paywall up in front of your customers. Obscurity is your number one enemy at this point. And just because you are pirating your album doesn't mean you have to advertise it. You can continue with your current business model and let those who engage in file-sharing find you on their own. If they're interested, they'll find it.

Now of course, none of what I recommended is going to magically double your sales overnight. This is more about building your future, a future that includes me, the guy with the money.

Next post: Criticisms of my behavior.

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