Overexposed

I’m on a mailing list (several, actually) where musicians across the world discuss stuff. Today, there was a message from a band that spent the last week as the “featured artists” on MySpace. They got placement on the front page, alongside Madonna and the Roots, for a solid week.

One of the band members posted the numbers:

* number of times their music was played: around 20,000
* number of MySpace friend requests: 1200
* number of mailing list signups: over 100
* number of CDs sold: *ZERO*

Yep, a big whopping zero, null, nada, none. No CD sales! They’re still waiting on a report from iTunes, though. The band didn’t seem so much upset as curious — you’d think after 20K spins, _someone_ would pony up for a CD.

I don’t have any answers and I ain’t a market analyst, but I’m just _fascinated_ by this, and I suspect the clue is in the tagline — _MySpace: A Place For Friends._ a I’ve always considered the currency of MySpace to be the Friend Request, which is easily converted into Ego Boost but not much else. It’s such a low-risk, low-threshold action, too. You can never run out of Friend Requests; it’s like a money tree. I can’t believe the number of friends you have is any indication of whether they _really_ like your music or not. Besides, when you’re just one of a thousand friends, does it even matter anymore?

On the other hand, they got 100 mailing list signups without raising a finger. The band said most of the signups came from the same 1200 friends, so that’s just over 8%, which is awesome. So long as they don’t abuse their new subscribers with spam and stuff. (Do you have any idea how long it takes me to get 100 signups? Many, _many_ months.)

Anyway, it kind of hammers home the lessons I’ve been learning for the past two years, namely that most of the time, exposure is just exposure. It’s one thing to get in front of someone; it’s another thing to keep them interested, and another thing to get them to care. It also gives you an idea of the numbers game the Big Labels have to play in order to make the bucks they need to stay in business.

Now I kinda wish we could re-run the experiment. Are MySpace users just younger and without credit cards? What happens when you make the “Buy CD” links bigger? What happens when you include artwork? Change the colors? What if you offered $2 off just for MySpace members? What about a free t-shirt for the first 10 to buy? Eh, forget sales — how about a free CD to anyone who refers 10 more MySpace friends? You know, make ‘em feel good for being a MySpace ninja…

…and it’s around this point that I realize: evil marketing-bot DNA has somehow seeped into my blackened soul, threatening to turn me into a switch-your-phone-service telemarketing lizard-boy, to be scorned by the world.

I will atone by listening to Led Zeppelin I-IV.

26 thoughts on “Overexposed”

  1. Yeah, I’ve had similarly large exposure at certain points and had it result in like zero sales and just been stunned.

    Then someone links to me on their blog and I sell a whole bunch in a day. Kind of weird and hard to reproduce.

  2. Speaking of marketing: At a used book store in Missoula, MT, I picked up a lightly battered paperback of “Positioning”, the marketing book that Derek Sivers (I think) recommended repeatedly at the TAXI thing. It looks kind of dianetic from the outside. Haven’t read it yet.

  3. It sounds music is only a lucrative endeavor for a lucky small percentage.
    The majority of independent bands aren’t really selling enough CDs to make any significant profit.

    I’m sure you know this but CD Baby says:

    112,023 artists sell their CD at CD Baby.

    1,932,340 CDs sold online to customers.

    $20,181,618.66 paid to artists.

    This means that, at CD Baby, each artist, on average sold a whopping $180 worth of CDs (and that doesn’t factor in whatever fees CD Baby receives).

  4. I think bands need to get away from seeing CDs as the only thing they can sell to fans. CDs just aren’t that desirable these days.

    Find something neat that fits your image. T-shirts, teddy bears, beverages, skate board wheels, sneakers, rolling papers, condoms, anything. Figure out a way to print on it, DIY or pay somebody, there is a whole industry around printing things on things for promotion. You’ll likely have a lower profit margin then CDs but a much lower minimum order.

  5. my thong and boxer shorts sales didnt go well, but the “who the hell is Doug” coffee mugs did ok.
    considering the numbers its probably easier to just do something strange and get on CNN or FOX news like Jibjab and then your page hits go thru the roof, eating up your bandwidth and shutting down your site.

  6. This value proposition challenge applies to all kinds of products and services – not just music. And, of course, the results talked about here are due to a combination of factors – venue, type of customer, and positioning. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to: we don’t value anything we get for free. I see this in my own business (biz consulting) – someone will give a free seminar, loaded with great high-value information – and they get nada, zip, zero clients from it (if the pre-registered people even bother to show up.) If they charge for it – they almost always get business.

  7. I’ve been joking for the last two months that I thought fame was supposed to be linked to wealth and romance… heh. I launched a new blog recently which has been featured everywhere from boing boing to fleshbot, and yet, for all the traffic, most of it is just as you describe: exposure for exposure’s sake.

    On the other hand, I *have* made enough sales to break even on my initial investment and have begun actually turning a profit. A small profit, but still. I figure that’s not bad for a new business that’s only almost two months old. It’s done good things for my google ranking as well, of course.

    I think the key to this is adapting your content to each new set of vistors and really working to figure out what it is that *will* interest them most. The problem with the tee-shirts and swag approach is that the market for those is at least as saturated as the market for music by now.

    Perhaps trying to turn online viewers into concert venues would be better. If people on myspace (for example) really dug a band, maybe they could be persuaded to organize a booking at their college or local bar or whatever. After all, the whole CD and radio industries were originally invented purely to promote the real money in live performance. Just a thought from the black lizard of my soul…

  8. In the spirit of kicking someone while they are down, I’ll point out that the Myspace.com CD isn’t selling all that well and I heard they screwed up some of the promotional events surrounding the tour.

  9. Yeah — it’s one thing to get your name in front of someone, even have them press play on an mp3. It’s quite another thing to move them so much in those 3 minutes that they’ll find their credit card and buy a CD.

    And I’m pretty sure myspace is mostly 17-year-olds without a lot of disposable income, without credit cards, and without any sense that CDs are something you buy.

    I guess we need to get used to giving away music, and find some other way to fund the things about musicianhood that cost money… but I dunno what. Some artists don’t want to make t-shirts and buttons, they want to make music. Then again, maybe those people should probably be playing shows and selling CDs there. That’s where my little label has had the most luck selling our stuff.

  10. I have a very popular website that has probably a similar demographic to Myspace – young, high-school to college, more female than male – and have had similar results any time I tried to run an ad campaign that requires a purchase.

    It’s very hard to make money from this group, whether because they don’t have credit cards or are just more skeptical. The only people who seem to make money from that group are collegehumor.com (mostly selling T-shirts).

    So equal exposure in a venue with a differrent audience might sell some CDs, but MySpace clearly hasn’t figured out how to monetize their audience either…

  11. “It’s quite another thing to move them so much in those 3 minutes that they’ll find their credit card and buy a CD.”

    That’s if they even listen for 3 minutes. I have only listened to a handful of songs online till they finish. Most of them I hit back in the first 15 seconds.

    Part of this is quality. 99.9% of the bands out there suck. It is sooo easy to turn out crap these days, everyone is doing it.

    If 20,000 people listen to your song, and don’t buy your product…maybe its time to face the fact that people dont get it, and get a day job.

  12. You’re just asking for grief to expect many sales out of a first-time exposure. Whether it’s MySpace or YourSpace or TheirSpace, any marketing tool should be used primarily to start and maintain relationships with a growing number of fans.

    With the first exposure, they may only note your name or photo. The next time, 30 seconds of your song. The third time, they sign up for your ezine or podcast.

    Of course, not everyone will progress along these stages. But by viewing your exposure points as thin coats of paint that steadily build up over time, you may eventually end up with a growing fan base that actually does reach for their wallets.

    -Bob

  13. Well, what I find funny that I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is: WAS THE BAND/MUSIC ANY GOOD?! that’s the key factor here…is there any other press that would point to the fact that they deserve to be on the front of myspace?

    as is usually the case in the “music biz” hype is generated based on nothing. it surely has nothing to do with talent, good hooks, or new ideas.

    i’ve run a couple of labels for a little while, and i got into it knowing it was a money pit…there is no way to manufacture success…is it really worth being a momentary flash in the independent music scene? how bout if you build your fanbase slowly and let hype develop naturally over time….

    it’s just natural selection mixed with a las vegas crap shoot, and in some cases silicone.

    also: whomever said that 17 yr. olds don’t have much disposable income is either insane, 140 years old, living in a shack in Montana, drunk, or all of the above.

  14. I am surprised that the band equates the MySpace demographic with the baby boomer habit of buying a physical product in order to get music… I will be much more interested to hear what (if anything) they made through iTunes. And even more interested in knowing if they have an easier time filling performance with interested fans… Kids today are SO over CDs! Yes that means the music industry needs to grow up into something new… Guys – give away the music, it is being stolen anyway. Sell the culture – performances, and assorted products that will always remain physical – hats, shirts, posters.

  15. Heres an idea… offer only digital downloads but at CD prices but instead of a CD you sell the tshirt, buttons, stickers, skateboards,etc….

    they get the download and they get a tshirt from the band… most likely people are going to take their cd and throw it on their ipod anyway so make it easy for them and give them something extra to boot…

  16. Another point – a ‘play’ ain’t a ‘play’. Hitting the button and then moving on is very different than listening to an entire record. Beyond that, the way the track’s presented will greatly affect who even bothers to try and listen.

    20,000 plays is probably only a few hundred ‘listens’ and of those people probably less than 100 thought the track was really good. At that point you have to wonder who they are (do they have money? Credit Cards?), where they are (can they purchase even if they want to, are they at work?) and what they think (does your album art look crappy? Is your checkout system scary and offputting? How well designed is your website?)

    I find the numbers easy to believe if you look at every step as a hurdle.

  17. Submerse sell shedloads of CDs theyre still unsigned but fans all over buy their tees, buttons and albums. myspace is a big help to them they did send out a bulletin mentioning fans didnt have credit cards or worried about postage so now theyve put up some pay-for download tracks ive not bought them myself but i imagine its working out well for them.

    http://www.myspace.com/submerse

    maybe its because theyve customised their page? a lot of fans include the submerse vid in their own profiles too. i just want to see the boys make it out to the usa and get a label supporting them

  18. Hi, we work with this artist. Who we know will sell for two reasons:

    a) real talent
    b) real songs

    MySpace is full of absolute tosh – thank heaven for the no bands buttons.

    20, 000 plays and 3000 friends. He designs his own limited EP’s and refuses to have add for adds sake on his site. The EP’s were offered about a month a go. He’s sold 200 +, which we feel is not bad at all and a good indicator of what the future holds.

    Point: you can have 2 million friends and absolute zero – keep it REAL because if you don’t, you will only fool yourself!

    Our goal is to sell 6000 ep’s a year, and you know what, we will because we work for it!

    Foobah

  19. I think if you have good music, people will buy it. Age of the buyer does not matter. We all know for the most part, it’s a crap shoot. You never know what’s going to take off and launch a band into stardom.

    Maybe the band just was not that good.

    Wil

Comments are closed.