Related to the last post- there are types of music fans, in my experience, who are much less likely to fileshare.
Find yourself at a small punk/hardcore show and you’ll likely see a merch table. There will be 7” singles, CD’s, CDRs, tapes. Most of which have been self-released or through small, DIY labels who work closely with the artists, or that the artists run themselves. They’ll be priced a little over cost, and they will keep bands on the road.
The fans will chat with the bands and their friends about the songs and they’ll be excited to take something home with them, knowing that they’re helping ‘the cause’. They won’t upload them to torrent sites, at worse, they’ll put a song on a mix tape for a friend.
They’ll spend their money with the satisfaction that it is going towards watching the music they love reach more people and continue to thrive, not to keep a London A&R up to their eyeballs in skinny lattés.
During a panel, ‘The New Breed’, featuring representatives from the newly established ‘success stories’ of the independent recording industry, a representative of Visible Noise (home to Lostprophets) told of a young fan who, during a meet and greet with the band, announced how much he loved the new album. Three months before its release. They didn’t seem best pleased, really.
Now, I am not here to defend or support large-scale filesharing. I can understand why labels and artists are disappointed when days before a release, the songs are leaked online. I also believe strongly in supporting hard-working artists and how record sales make both getting on the road and being able to eat whilst there, easier. However, in this instance, I can’t help but feel the point may have been missed.
See, in my humble and often incorrect opinion, the industry (both independent and major- although at times the only difference appears to be the scale of operation) seems to be falling down where it makes assumptions. In this scenario, the assumption is that the very enthusiastic young fan already has the album, therefore he won’t buy it- or- a sale has been lost. We can’t safely say that- it hasn’t been released yet. In those coming three months, he might have been salivating at the thought of owning it.
Three months in advance of a release is a long time. It appears that no-one considered (or at least out loud) that he didn’t download it with the intention of not buying it, but that he wanted to hear it before everyone else. He couldn’t wait to have it. I understand that young people enjoy being the first to show something off to their friends. No?
It’s also very likely that the opposite is true. He might have had no intention whatsoever to buy it- but- a failure to understand your customer’s needs, wants and behaviours is a failure of what it is to be a business and the recording industry is no different. The forward-thinking labels who understand the importance of pre-release content being available in some capacity, giving *some* content for free and developing relationships with their audiences are the most successful ones. Telling off young fans for liking loving your record is going to lose you money quicker than uploading your back-catalogue to Limewire.
Last week, I spent two very long days in London at The Association of Independent Music’s ‘Music Connected’ event and the organisation’s AGM. I’ll be offering thoughts (which hopefully won’t turn into diatribes- but I’m promising nothing) on the industry and an overview on what I took from a few days of being the only one who categorically cannot and will not schmooze. Enjoy.