We’ve given Trent Reznor and NIN a lot of credit for pioneering new ways of connecting with audiences via the Internet. Reznor has used free music downloads, Creative Commons licensing and fan remixes to reinvigorate his career.
Whenever we mention Reznor and his new media music experiments, though, the most common comment is that “sure – that works for an established act, but what about unknown artists?”
Reznor addressed that question at the NIN site today with a post that offers his “thoughts on what to do as a new / unknown artist”:
If you are an unknown / lesser-known artist trying to get noticed / established:
Establish your goals. What are you trying to do / accomplish? If you are looking for mainstream super-success (think Lady GaGa, Coldplay, U2, Justin Timberlake) – your best bet in my opinion is to look at major labels and prepare to share all revenue streams / creative control / music ownership. To reach that kind of critical mass these days your need old-school marketing muscle and that only comes from major labels. Good luck with that one.If you’re forging your own path, read on.
Forget thinking you are going to make any real money from record sales. Make your record cheaply (but great) and GIVE IT AWAY. As an artist you want as many people as possible to hear your work. Word of mouth is the only true marketing that matters.
Parter with a TopSpin or similar or build your own website, but what you NEED to do is this – give your music away as high-quality DRM-free MP3s. Collect people’s email info in exchange (which means having the infrastructure to do so) and start building your database of potential customers. Then, offer a variety of premium packages for sale and make them limited editions / scarce goods. Base the price and amount available on what you think you can sell. Make the packages special – make them by hand, sign them, make them unique, make them something YOU would want to have as a fan. Make a premium download available that includes high-resolution versions (for sale at a reasonable price) and include the download as something immediately available with any physical purchase. Sell T-shirts. Sell buttons, posters… whatever.
See the NIN site for the full article.