On my return last week from a too-short but much-needed vacation, I was gratified when reading Nielsen SoundScan’s year-end statistics, to see that the decline in unit sales of recorded music was considerably less in 2003 than for the two prior years -- only 3.6 percent. The drop from 2001 to 2002 was about 12 percent, and was approximately the same for the year before that.
This improvement is pretty good news, but let's hope that 2004 sees a healthy increase in both unit and dollar sales for the industry as a whole, and the indie segment in particular.
UMG continues to be the giant with over 28 percent of album market share. The Indies are in second place with a 16.7 percent share, a very slight increase in overall sales from the previous year, but a slight decrease in “current” album market share. Current albums are considered by SoundScan to be for the first eighteen months of a title’s release.
So what can you do to increase your own label's market share?
Start by looking at the quality of the music you release. Can it be improved? I for one think that no matter how good your music is, it can probably be improved to some extent. Be sure that every single title you release this year is the best you can possibly make it. If you're a little unsure about a project, consider dropping any weak tracks and go back in the studio and record better ones. Then, when you think it's ready for the public, release it with a strong marketing campaign.
This campaign should be carefully crafted to reach the target audience for the music, no matter what genre it may be in. Muster lots of enthusiasm within the label, and then spread this passion to the public at large. Try to generate lots of favorable press, and as much airplay as possible in the radio format that's most appropriate.
Have you thoroughly researched all the publications that might write about your acts and their music? New magazines and newspapers are always coming out, both in print and online. For example there's the new Tracks, which writes a lot about singer-songwriters and artists with established careers.
Have you tried any alternative methods of marketing your music? One possibility is life-style retail stores whose image aligns with that of your artists.
Are you keeping your artists touring and working in front of their public? Have you tried getting corporate or local sponsorship for any of these tours?
Do an objective and close scrutiny of your web site. Is it complete and comprehensive, or is it "tired" and in need of an update? Be sure there's lots of information about your artists and their music that's readily available without unnecessary effort. Be sure to include tour itineraries, and post positive reviews that might help sell some extra copies. Make it easy for visitors to find what they're looking for, and provide plenty of brief, but secure, samples of your music. Be sure that graphics are tightly compressed so that pages download speedily.
Brainstorm with your staff to see if anyone has additional bright ideas that you might not have tried. Some of the best new concepts frequently come from where you least expect them.
Finally, be sure you've left no avenue untried in order to reap the highest achievable sales.
My book, "The Complete Guide to Starting a Record Company," will be going to the printer later this week and should be available very soon.
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Copyright 2003 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.