Originally posted on All About Jazz June 28th, 2010
Way back in September of 2000 a few of my friends were having a difficult time with their record labels. Some were dropped two weeks before a big recording session (years in the planning.... poof!) and others found fine print in their contracts which made it impossible for them to make money from their recordings. Being a musician myself and knowing what it was like to dedicate one's life work to music and one day after hearing yet another story of broken dreams, it suddenly became clear that we needed a solution. On that fateful day ArtistShare was born. Over the next three years I would write over 800,000 lines of code, define and redefine the business model, have many late night bar debates with proponents and opponents of the concept and finally in October 2003 we launched our first project.
Maria Schneider and Brian Camelio
Through this series of essays I want to explore the concepts that are key to the success of ArtistShare, but more importantly explore the essence of the artist to fan relationship as I see it. My hope is that by writing about my my ten years of experience, I can help others find success and longevity in their careers.
Let's begin by asking a few very important questions.
What is the goal here? Or, what am I really trying to accomplish?
To this day I am constantly asking myself this. It has a centering effect on me and tends to immediately weed out all that is unimportant and gets directly to the matter at hand. Everyone will have a different answer to this question and one of my favorite things to do when working with a new artist is to explore this aspect. It may seem strange but before I answer this I always think back to the moment in my life when I first realized that I absolutely had to be a musician. For me this moment was in elementary school when I first heard Stevie Wonder coming out of a transistor radio while standing in my Grandmother's driveway. Wow, I had heard all kinds of music before, but there was something about what I was hearing that unlocked a whole new set of emotions that I had never felt before. It was almost like a glimpse into the future and with it all of the possibilities of my life ahead—embodied in a three minute song. I knew at that moment that whatever it took, I had to learn how to do that. To this day I can still feel that moment and focusing on it always brings me back to the reason why I do what I do. Suddenly, all obstacles vanish and the purpose is clear again. Ask yourself this question, a lot. Before communicating with your fans make sure your message is pure and your enthusiasm will be contagious. Don't worry about "selling," your fans will know what to do. If you have the same effect on just one person that Stevie Wonder had on me as a child you will have passed the torch. Inspiring someone at that level is perhaps the greatest achievement one could ever aspire towards in this lifetime. Thanks, Stevie! This is not limited to making music but it should embody every aspect of your life, including your business. What is the goal here? What am I really trying to accomplish?
There are so many distractions out there, how do I get my fans' attention?
Great question! Businesses spend billions of dollars every year trying to get your undivided attention. No kidding, advertising and branding is big business with incredible competition in very small spaces. How do we compete with that? It's easy. Create some great music. It doesn't matter where you are or how distracting a situation is, if you hear a melody or a rhythm that speaks to you, it will get your attention. Have you ever been in a shopping mall (a battleground of lobbying for your attention) and heard a song you liked? It's amazing how quickly you forget about everything to listen. This is the power of music. Every musician has the power to completely capture someone else's undivided attention above just about anything. Use it. Others would if they could.
How do I get new fans?
People are constantly asking me this question. My response is most always the same; what is the last communication you had with your existing fans? The fatal flaw of most artist to fan relationships is that the artist is constantly trying to bring in new fans while ignoring the fans they have. Your real fans (fans you have direct contact with, not MySpace or Facebook friends but people who have signed up for your list) are as good as gold. You need to constantly make them feel like they are playing a major part of your artistic life. Do that and you will see your fan base grow not only in quantity but with real fans. Word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing tool and remember that no matter what everyone else is doing, a focused and personal approach to your fan building will reap incredible rewards. That is how we approach everything at ArtistShare and with 7+ years behind us we can now see the results of this approach. Always think long term.
I would like to end this section with an ancient Chinese story about the importance of the relationship between the musician and the listener.
A long time ago in China there were two friends, one who played the harp skillfully and one who listened skillfully.
When the one played or sang about a mountain, the other would say: "I can see the mountain before us."
When the one played about water, the listener would exclaim: "Here is the running stream!"
But the listener fell sick and died. The first friend cut the strings of his harp and never played again. Since that time the cutting of harp strings has always been a sign of intimate friendship.
Brian Camelio and Jim Hall
At ArtistShare our philosophy is that the listener is equally as important as the musician. Without one you can't have the other. This I believe is a healthy attitude to have, especially in these times. Until next time...