In the Internet Age, EVERY musician is a global act; your audience is everywhere.
With the popularity of YouTube, blogs, on-demand streaming services, download retailers like iTunes, and social networks, you never know how or where you’ll find your next fan — or more accurately, how they’ll find you. Hell, you could become an overnight sensation in a country you’ve never even been to before.
As an independent artist, you can’t afford NOT to make your music available digitally (as both MP3 downloads and streams) — because when something you’ve created goes viral, you need to be ready to capitalize on that splash.
Avoid “windowing” strategies for your music release
A windowing strategy is when you make your product available to the world in stages, according to certain windows of time.
Here’s an example of one potential windowed album-release strategy (borrowed from THIS BLOG):
Window 1, week 1: CDs, downloads and premium subscriptions
Window 2, week 3: Radio (excluding web-only radio)
Window 3, week 4: Subsidized subscriptions and web radio
Window 4, week 5: Ad supported streaming services
The hope here is that by delaying your music’s availability in certain online outlets like Spotify and Rdio, you’ll boost your traditional CD and MP3 sales.
But this hope rests on the assumption that you already have a loyal fanbase so invested in your career that they’re going to buy your music as soon as it comes out. If that’s the case — if you have thousands or hundreds of thousands of fans who need your music ASAP — then by all means, direct them to YOUR preferred outlet (iTunes, Amazon, etc.), and hold off on Spotify (or just make a couple tracks available for streaming). It worked for Adele, Coldplay, and the Black Keys. But if you’re not “there” yet, then you shouldn’t hope to market and sell your music in the same way as folks who’ve sold millions of records each.
The hype-machine (press, bloggers, etc.) is going to be focused on your act for a limited window of time, it’s true. But that is all the MORE reason to make your music available everywhere at once — because you can’t think FOR your fans. You need to let THEM decide how, when, and where they interact with your music.
If a Spotify subscriber reads a review of your latest album and wants to check it out, but you’re not planning to make your music available on Spotify for another couple months, is that person going to go visit iTunes or a record store instead? The answer is no. And you’ve just lost the opportunity to make a new fan.
“Windowing” might work to maximize revenue for artists like Adele or Coldplay whose fans skew towards an older demographic (people who tend to prefer CDs and iTunes anyway) — but younger, more internet-savvy listeners rely on streaming services like Spotify and Rdio in order to share their favorite new music. This free and INSTANT (read: NOT delayed 3 months) sharing is what helps create a buzz in the modern music world; and a loud buzz leads to traditional download and CD sales, too.
If this weren’t true, then Macklemore wouldn’t be the top-selling artist in the iTunes hip-hop charts AND have the most-played track on Spotify at the same exact time. For independent artists on the rise, Spotify and “traditional” download retailers don’t have to be enemies or uneasy allies. They can feed one another — and you.