a note to musicians…amanda hocking has a better idea
I wish that I discovered this story on my own, but it made it’s way to my inbox via Bob Lefsetz’ letter. A music industry exile (or as I call it:unemployed), Bob considers himself an industry analyst who has been writing and sending out his letters for about twenty-five years. First hard copy, than email and now he also puts that up on his blog.
A few days ago Business Insider published a story about Amanda Hocking, a 26 year old writer who has written seventeen books. She doesn’t have a publishing deal(or at least didn’t until recently) but she is one of the top authors in the Kindle store. She sells them cheap…some are three bucks, but many are just 99 cents. And since she put nine of them them up for sale last April, people have downloaded about 185,000 copies. And she keeps 70% of the sale, while Amazon gets 30%.
Do the math.
And take note fellow bloggers: she wrote these stories and put them up on her blog before getting the idea to sell them.
In an interview with Tonya Plank, Amanda shared the following:
TP: You began self-publishing these series in April 2010, correct? How many copies have you sold at this point?
AH: As of Tuesday, January 04, 2011 at 9 PM, I’ve sold over 185,000 books since April 15, 2010.
TP: And are the sales a combination of ebooks and print books?
AH: Yes, they are, but the majority is ebooks through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I’ve sold about 2,000 paperbacks since October, and prior to October, I sold maybe 20-50 paperbacks.
TP: What has been your strategy for marketing and publicizing your books?
AH: I didn’t really have a strategy. I think one of the advantages I have is that stuff considered marketing is stuff that I do a lot anyway. I’ve been active on social networks and blogs for years. I also send ARCs [advance review copies] out to book bloggers. Book bloggers are a really amazing community, and they’ve been tremendously supportive. They’ve definitely been a major force that got my books on the map.When I first published, I did do a bit of promoting on the Amazon forums, but they’re not really open to that, so I haven’t really interacted there much at all in months. I hang out Goodreads, Kindleboards, Facebook, Twitter, and I blog. And that’s about it.
Back to Bob and his analysis:
So what does this mean for music?
Turns out your best marketing may be the Web. Assuming you’re going independent. And bloggers are not people who steal, but passionate friends who will promote your work.
Now in the music business we’ve got gatekeepers. Talk to any big time label or manager and they’ll wax rhapsodic about radio. You’d truly think it’s the twentieth century. You see that’s the way you reach the most people instantly. But if you want to go that route, you’ve got to please so many intermediaries, not only the aforementioned managers and labels, but the program directors and the people at TV… If you’ve got something unique and different, they’re going to say no.
But the mainstream media means less than ever before. A late night TV performance is for fans only, it closes almost no one new, there’s a negligible sales bump.
And there’s a good chance your target audience isn’t even listening to the radio.
If you make metal music (Ed: Substitute Americana, folk, alt-whatever), could you replicate Amanda Hocking’s success?
I’d say so, if you were good. Any genre music that doesn’t fit a radio-ready format could blow up online, because these genres have Net infrastructure.
But for all the mainstream companies and media outlets saying nobody ever breaks online, that you can’t do it without them?
Amanda Hocking is proving you wrong.
P.S. Music isn’t underpriced, it’s overpriced! Albums should be as cheap as Ms. Hocking’s books. Go for mass consumption, make the hurdle low, allow people to indulge and build a career…and make a hell of a lot of money.
I should mention that Bob believes that the current music business model should be blown up. He is a believer in cloud technology and subscription services. And he’s often off the mark as he is on the mark. Nevertheless….there’s some interesting points in Amanda’s story that I think every musician should hear:
-The current pricing of 99 cents a track and fifteen bucks for a CD is an artificial industry-set standard. It’s the price charged whether it’s the Beatles, a seventy year old jazz recording, todays Gaga or Easy Ed’s Wheat Germ Blues Band. (Imagine if the auto makers did that.) Out of that you have costs subtracted to pay for recording, marketing, advertising, touring, publishing, record label profit and whatever else I forgot. Amanda writes a story, does some social networking in her free time, lobbies bloggers, uploads it to the e-sites, practically gives it away at 99 cents/book and puts 70% in her pocket.
-The best way for a musician to get noticed these days is to make your music available to every two bit (that would be the likes of me) blogger and let them wax ecstatically about your talents. Give it away…put it up on some of the more popular file sharing sites (there…I said it out loud) and let people buzz buzz buzz.
-Price your downloads CHEAP….not at the industry-set prices…but CHEAP. Like Amanda, make it an impulse item.
-Create…let me say that again…CREATE something unique to sell at your shows on on your website that you can’t download. And get a premium price for it. Paint a ukelele and stick a CD inside, sew a sweater with a five inch pocket, press some vinyl and put it inside a wooden box hand painted by Estonian monks. Make it different, make it yours.
Well there ya’ go…something to ponder as you stare at your record label’s monthly statement.