The new music industries work in a very different way than the record business of the ’60′s. The precious 7 inch of plastic discs of that decade (when music demand far outstripped supply) were rare; clamoured for. Music lovers saved their pennies and tens of them would gather round a single radio to hear the charts. People flocked in droves to record shops to hear the latest discs and treated their vinyl with the cotton glove respect that’s reserved for the finest of diamonds. People Treasured Music.
Today’s music environment is very different. With 13 million bands on [cough - spit] Myspace alone, a growing live scene, thousands of pieces of music becoming available free online daily, and most all forms of recorded music being easily copy and shareable, we can’t consider Music itself to be the carrier of our currency. The Democratisation of Music means more supply of music, and that means that the expectation is that it sells for less. What’s more, music is copyable, shareable, reproducable and even if only say 4% of the bands on Myspace are any good, that’s over half a million bands to compete with.
So, what can we sell?
If we can all now make, distribute and sell music, to succeed we’ve got to differentiate ourselves from the crowd & give people something they can’t get elsewhere. If we can give people something that isn’t repeatable and isn’t copyable then all the better. So, what’s unique and not copyable? A feeling, or an experience. We have a saying in Hope and Social. Have Fun, Make Art. It’s become part of our ethos. If it’s not fun we don’t do it; and if it sounds fun we should probably ask others to get involved. It may not be the same for your tribe, but for Hope and Social the currency we deal in is “Fun”.
Come Dine With Us
With the “Make Art, Have Fun” mantra resounding in our communal larynx, we took a demo of a song that sounds vaguely like French supermarket music, added the germ of an idea that a cheese and wine night could be fun and multiplied that by the effervescent mind of the brilliant Ben Denison‘s.
What we we came up with was a great way to galvanise our close fans, to get them involved in making art with us, to have a lot of fun and to raise money to fund our music making. We invited our fans to our home, the studio we’ve recorded all our albums to date in (and the venue for the Crypt Gig last year). We promised to cook great food, to have the band wait on, and play at our guests tables and finally, once everyone was suitably relaxed drunk, record a song together. We named it “Come Dine With Us” and we invited people by song.
We’ve already blogged about the amazing people who helped us pull all this together, but to see them in action is something else. A picture says a thousand words and all that:
We turned our studio into a French Bistro for the evening, we served a 3 course gourmet French meal to 70 people, the band waited tables, played at people’s tables, silent auctioned one-off items and recorded a song with our good people.
Our (initially flummoxed) drummer Gary Stewart (who joined us this past year) said, “I don’t understand… so you just think stuff up that you want to do, and people pay for you to do it?” and quite simply the answer is yes. When we do special events, we do our best to ensure that we give value to those who care enough to attend. We price it as something we could afford to do. Through this we’ve built relationships with our fans which enables us to sell unique events such as our Crypt gig last year and Come Dine With Us as far more than a standard gig.
People buy into our events because they know it will not only be a good time, but also that we’re not trying to bleed as much profit out of them as maybe we could. All our standard releases are Pay What You Want. People know we’re not in the game of ripping people off. Most importantly though, people know we’ll include them in the night and as in the case of our recent Come Dine With Us event, we might well make a song with ‘em for our album.
James Hamilton wrote a wine bottle orchestra part, we tuned 50 wine bottles, asked guests to bring an instrument of their choice and we made art. We recorded the song live along with our fans singing, blowing, clanking, banging and singing along. As Ed Waring said in his recent blog:
“Eurospin is not my favourite song on the album but it’s kinda my favourite bit on the album. Watch the amazing video below. You got to love the amazement on our faces that it’s working and the fact that the crowd just make it look so easy…”
… additionally however, the story of how we made this song has helped us reach many new fans.
The response to the event and the concept of the event has been amazing. In advance the twitter and facebook communities were rife with activity around the event, and by turning our guests into band members on the record itself, they became the evangelists for our record.
It’s not by accident that the tools we use to sell and promote our work online include the option to share. There’s the 3B Media videos, and the bandcamp music which can be easily embedded on most websites. Bandcamp also has the transformative “Post to twitter” and “Post to Facebook” direct links and through the stats package we can see this appearing daily in people’s posts. There are new blogs sprouting up about the event, and through selling more Fun we can reach out to even more new people.
The music industry has changed, however if you know your band and if you know your tribe you can give them something they can’t get anywhere else. Find that thing and that‘s your currency!