We are living in a world that is experiencing a huge division in terms of wealth. Billions of people die of hunger each day while billionaires make more billions each year. In any nation we have a government and an economy. Economies give the citizens of the country their daily bread. The government takes a bite of that bread while ensuring they butter the system that leads it to you. That system will include public schools, public transportation, public communication utilities and civil laws that protect workers to name a few. Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if some of the wealthiest corporations in the world came together to fund the infrastructure of a newly discovered island in order to create an entirely new market from it? It wouldn’t be that hard to get people from other countries to move to the island if they were promised jobs and good social living standards. But it wouldn’t change a thing in terms of personal wealth and inequality. The rich will still remain greedy and comfortable while the poor suffer fear and hunger.
Last week, I discussed the feasibility of selling records as an artiste. There are various ways in which one can sell their music in whichever form it comes in. The infographic, I posted last time demonstrated how many copies of music one has to sell in order to derive a decent living as an artiste. According to the charts shown, the best case scenario would be to press an LP and sell 149 copies at 14.99 each. That way you can 1160 dollars a month. This, in most countries, is an amount that would suffice for a decent living. The worst case scenario would be to try and sell your work through Spotify which has a terrible revenue plan for artistes.
If you visit most torrent sites on the internet, there are certain categories that are placed near the top of the page on the menu bar. These are music, games, movies, and applications. Sometime you may be lucky enough to find books. What does this very feature signal? It signals the coming of an age where intellectual property could easily become worthless.
When Bill Gates came up with the Windows Operating System for office computers in 1985 he did not foresee an age where digitization of products would proliferate to such gigantic levels. He simply wanted to create something that can make managing office work a walk in the park; a simple unified station where you can draft up documents, communicate them to others, design business presentations, analyze and maintain important figures for your organization and the list keeps getting bigger each year. It was everything a white collar working man needed on his computer.
Soon, with the advent of the personal computer, communication became a more prominent function of this system and the publicly available version of the internet broke loose in 1995, ten years after Windows emerged. It was clear that human connectivity was about to see a serious overhaul. But what many did not understand is that communicating messages was one part of the grand picture. This tool would help us communicate information in whichever form it comes in. Microsoft had set it all up years before by inventing the copy paste function where information can be shared in two short keystrokes. Yet nothing was done to prevent the great torrent of internet piracy networks that was coincidentally named the bit torrent. So the gradual decline of various intellectual industries WAS inevitable. Given that most communication on the net is completely free of charge and that ISPs have no regulatory concerns over content flow, intellectual property owners were up for a major challenge; protecting their work from piracy. Today anyone can send a song they bought to someone else using their email for free. Where does this leave the artiste?
The Music industry
In the nineties, Warner Music Group was generating figures that were over 3 billion dollars in revenue but in 2004, the company was being sold off to a group of investors for only 2.6 billion dollars. Sounds to me like a major drop in value. Apparently they did this to offload the major debt baggage that they were carrying at that time. Expenses were flying high and production was not meeting sales. They strategically decided to close and sell off their compact disc pressing plants which produced physical copies of the records they sold. This was the same thing that EMI, another big name in the recording industry did before them. And that ended their physical record production business right there and then.This forced them to shift their focus to digital distribution and live shows.
On a much rosier scale of things, iTunes the new cat in the music industry was posting yearly revenues that surpassed the sell off price for Warner’s music division making to date over a billion in revenue per QUARTER! And what did it cost them? A software application. Clearly the digital revolution was impossible to ignore. While the big five, EMI’s, Sony Records, Universal, Warner and BMG, had tried making digital distribution work with Spotify, it was no match for iTunes’ popular and scalable model. They eventually collaborated with the digital music giant.
Where do you stand as a musician in this wave?
Taylor Swift released her fourth album Red this year and it sold 1.5 million copies worldwide in one week of its release. Adele’s 21 was the highest selling alum last year with over 5 million records to show. But before that all the top selling albums in the U.S since 2005 have all sold less than 5 million records. Interestingly though all top selling records from the previous ten years before 2005 have all sold above 5 million records with some even approaching 10. The signs are pretty clear that albums sales are becoming more and more diminished. There is less money to be made by the super successful pop icon today than there was 10 years ago. This might trickle down the ladder of fame but only to a certain point.
If you are a less known act you might be at an advantage especially if you plan to distribute your music globally. Years ago, a lesser known act was overshadowed by the prospect of not getting a record deal from a major company. The biggest merit to a record deal was always the major distribution opportunities for their music. Today, with online tools such as iTunes and Amazon one can easily do their own distribution and even build a fan base through other sites such as Soundcloud. Accessibility to music is becoming very fast and so is distribution. So in a situation where one would only make 10 sales a month off their debut album from that local indie record label near your home, now you can hope to make 10 times or more through such affordable online avenues. The rate at which new talent is being discovered is exciting and all it takes is a click on a link to see a whole list of new acts. Music taste can be fully accessed and therefore artistes are freer to explore their options.
There has never been a much better time to become an independent musician than now and likewise there has never been a worse time to be an icon. But all this is within the lines of record sales. In the second part we will analyze live shows. Meanwhile the following infographic sums up your commercial prospect as a recording musician.
The truth about content is that good content can turn any business around. Content is your gateway to connecting with customers. You get to intelligently imprint your values into their psyche in an non invasive way. In this day and age of information systems, generating and delivering content has never been easier. But for content to be effective it has to have some qualities.
Good content engages the mind of a consumer
The best way about this is by using our irrational response. The less a chance one has to think about a message, the quicker the communication. People often try too hard to come up with phrases that have a hidden message when they should be working to come up with messages that have a straight emotional or psychological trigger. The average customer does not have the time to dig into some strange messages from a strange billboard in order to dish out his money for some strange product. So shout it out.
Good content is three dimensional
Three dimensional in this case means visual, audio and text. If you are going to launch a marketing campaign, you need to be seen, heard and understood. Some businesses make the mistake of simply lining out their services on a brochure that’s been muddied with bad graphics and expect the customer’s trust in their products to soar immediately. Some have the ugliest websites that make a clear statement of poor character. In business, most customers believe what you see is what you get. You might get away with being two dimensional but adding an actual voice will suddenly transform the business into an actual human being and not just pictures of them. People relate to human businesses better.
Good content is frequent content
I call it the be in their face strategy. A seemingly hard to interpret message can become very easy once it is repeated over and over again. Consistent exposure of a certain kind of content can inevitably alter a person’s consciousness about the message behind it. It forces one to think about the message and take it into consideration. Unless the person has a serious aversion to what is being advertised they should easily start to affirm the statements made by the content for themselves. This in turn means getting them on your side once the offer is put on the table.
Good content has personality
So now your business has a human face. But is it ugly? Is it nerdy? Is it immature? The decision to make your content wear a specific personality is crucial to humanizing your business. The last thing you want to do is create the impression of confused brand after finally reeling in your audiences attention. If its funny, stick to funny. If its inspiring stick to inspiring. If its serious, stick to serious and so on.. American apparel got their brand off with the sexy image. It worked. A personality can be anything. It can be a job description or a music genre. You cant lack something unique to go with.
I have heard that there are three people in the world.
Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that don’t know whats happening. I have also heard that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that believe that there are two kinds of people in the world that those who don’t.
I might not agree with the latter but there is definitely some evidence for the former. Sometimes we are a bit of all three. We are at some point shaping the universe, consuming it or simply assuming it.
I honestly believe the most dangerous position is to strictly be one kind of person. You don’t need to be a watcher all the time and neither do you need to be a game changer constantly.
I personally have a greater leaning towards being the guy who makes things happen. But at the same time I have always felt that if I don’t watch things happen then I might impair my ability to make things happen. You need to observe in order to act, to learn in order to work. There are crucial lessons to be gathered once we open our eyes once in a while to what is happening around us each day.
At the same time there is a need to ignore what you see once in a while. Too much information flow can blind you. Switching off is the term that is sometimes used.It pays to not know what else is happening especially when you are needed to make things happen. That’s usually what is referred to as analysis paralysis. We see it happen all the time. Big corporates have this tendency to search for more and more information in order to act. Sometimes the wait is in vain and the value added for the data presented in the end turns out to be insignificant. In fact at times it only produces a loss.
Waiting for game time is a balancing act that the mind needs to master. To be a real game changer, you need to:
Think at the right time
Act at the right time
Switch off at the right time
… else you will end up in a deep dark maze.
You need two skills in business.
Communication skills and management skills.
Communication is what sells your product
You have to be on everyone’s ears, eyes and noses. Keeping in touch with your clients helps you form more than just a clientbase but a relationship too. Communication helps you define that relationship. You want to be their friends but you want them to be your loyal customers. Its crucial to make that boundary.
Communication also calls for innovation. Its an art. One does not simply say 499/= for a set of headphones. One can also give a free cd from some artiste you are in pertnership with. You can pack it up in some really trendy package while you are at it. Be creative with it. Its an image thing not a ‘sell and move on’ thing. You are looking to make your business viral by selling an image and not just a product.
Imagine you have product A. It a drycleaning business. All you need is to break even with all the expenses you took up when starting it. Getting clients from the neighbourhood alone will not help that. You have a dozen other hoods around and they don’t really have access to a good drycleaning store.Sounds like an extra market to me.
What a typical drycleaner would do is to put up a sign that reads Mr CleanPress Drycleaners above his shop. That will get you all the clients from the neighbourhood. It will take you 1 year to break even with such a market. A more than typical drycleaner would put up the sign and put other small signages around the other hoods. This will get you your own neighbourhood’s market and a few clients from the other neighbourhoods. This will help you break even in 8 months. An even better drycleaner would add some buzz and put some jisty graphics onto the signages so that he can pull everyone’s attention. On top of that he can give a 3 month offer where everyone gets a funny t-shirt for free for signing up into monthly premium membership. You break even in 4 months. After that you will be literally rolling in dough.
Communication is also about listening. Put two or three attendants at the door of the shop once a week to take queries and suggestions from each customer. Even a note can suffice. But do not write suggestions or comments at the top of the note. Ask two vital questions that will actually help the business. Did the cashier attend to you well? What products do you want to see introduced?
Then comes the management needs
I always say, you need to ship in order to stay in business. Management is about keeping your head above things – knowing exactly whats going on.
It’s the science in the business. This involves promptly delivering, improving your product, keeping operational policies in check, checking your finances and careful expansion. You do not need to be creative with this. You simply need to observe, note and conclude. You are basically the scientist analyzing a system that is in progress. A notebook is very useful when managing your business. It keeps track of everything that has been assessed so far. You can use ledger and minutes but if they are only going to complicate your life then toss them in the bin.
People often disregard the importance of controlling a business’s quality. Banks have suffered business because of this. The biggest complaint that any bank client normally has is the long queues they experience. Because of this a lot of banks have turned to internet banking. But imagine the frustration of taking an internet banking plan only to find out that it has some technical issues and you cannot finish your transactions in one day. That’s where management comes in. If you cant ship an extra item don’t even launch it. It beats sense to have more complaints about the firm’s products simply because a new product has been unleashed. Make it available and make it functional.
You also need to manage your staff. If you hire someone you will want to make them want to work and not need to work. This way they can even add hours without being told to which always translates to additional costs. People management calls for understanding and appreciation.
When these two tools are used hand in hand. You are bound to make a lot of organic growth in your start up in no time.
The most successful businesses on the planet thrive on spreading ideas. They make a concept and morph it into reality by creating products that represent it. They say actions speak louder than words but products are a big package of action that can speak even louder when spread to wide markets. Think about every slogan you have ever heard of after a business title. For example CNN have this phrase they use – beyond borders. It exemplifies their dedication to getting hold of the news from every nook and cranny on the earth’s surface. It represents the idea that the world can be constantly updated with important happenings regardless of where they take place. American Apparel always rode on the idea that dressing should be a way to bring out the sexy in everyone. Safaricom have always had a vision to better lives even when they came up with the mobile money transfer system M-Pesa. Thus their slogan “The better option” says it all.
The problem with a lot of people who start businesses and fail is that they start from the notion that the business is there to make them money. They start with the question which thing should they sell instead of which idea. That is the kind of thinking that triggers a series of self sabotaging thought processes. Think about it for a minute. Literally anything can make you money and lots of it at that. We are not really motivated to run good businesses because of the money. Its very easy to make a shit product and sell it to a market segment that doesn’t know any better. This kind of attitude can easily make you a few buck but it will eventually send your customers away and in the end you will have little money coming into the business. And then the closure.
Alternatively, you could decide to make a better product but to do this you must gain interest in the product itself, how it works and how it meets people’s values. Inevitably, you find yourself drawn to having a better relationship with your product – one that is grounded on more than just pure commerciality. I always say that once a person takes interest in bettering something they become inevitable fond of that thing because it reflects who they are. The more focused you become at creating a better business and more value for people, the more passionate you are bound to become about the process.
As soon as your passion unfolds for your product, you will clearly possess a vivid picture of what message your business is sending to the world. A doll making company can send a message of love. So can a wedding cake maker. The business becomes an entity with organs, duties and character. It ceases to be a labour of focus but one of purpose. Once you know what purpose and passion you derive from the business, running it becomes a natural endeavor. The idea you are sending through your business comes first. The money comes later. Although the two are inter-related. More money can encourage building the idea further and building the idea further can spike profits up.
One of the most popular ways that corporations all over the world fuel their profit growth strategies is by sensitizing everyone on the team about the idea being spread. Film production companies do this all the time. Ideas makes them profits. A bad movie idea is only a brewing recipe for massive losses. A Hollywood screenwriter once told me that once you write up a movie script and hand it over to some big time movie producer, you have essentially created a new company for the period in which the movie is going to be made and sold. The same thing applies to musicians.
Google have perfected this art and embodied it in the organizational culture of the firm.Working at Google feels a lot like working at home. Employees get to eat and play around at the office. This way the system becomes democratic. The organization thus works to serve the best interests of those who keep it alive everyday. The philosophy then spreads to the end product which is made with the consumer in mind. Google’s home page is the easiest search engine page to use in the world. It is also fast and relevant. It has everything a user would primarily ask for. Google offices similarly have everything an employee would ask for and with such an intimate relationship between creator and creation the firm has always been set for success each and every year.
So with business there are no two ways about it. You are either in or out. Don’t worry much about the money because that’s can only come from the consumer who wants a good idea in return for it – he wants a good story. What’s your story?