The Strategic Marketing of Indie Labels

So many indie labels in Nashville are set up to try and compete directly with the huge corporate labels.  Others are not even interested in that game and prefer to find niches and micro-markets for their artists and music.  Which is the better route?

By way of The Long Tail, Seth Godin breaks it down:

A lot of people don’t seem to understand a key implication of the long tail: Given the choice, it’s better to make a hit.

If you have a choice of cutting a top 10 record or making a track of Jamaican polka music for iTunes, go for the hit.

If you have a choice between being on page 30 of the Google results for “Bolivian sushi” or the number one match for “buy life insurance”, go for the latter. No brainer.

The problem, of course, is that you don’t have a choice. You can give the hit a shot, but it’s awfully crowded at that end of the curve.

The implications of the long tail have nothing to do with this false choice. What it explains in a powerful but subtle way is:

  1. Collecting many many products among the tail permits you to amalgamate a market that may be just as big or bigger than the short head. But you need a lot of them. Squidoo is my proof–a profitable site with no real short head. So are eBay and YouTube and dozens of other places. Which is going to be worth more in ten years: the leaky boat of a network TV franchise or the relentlessly growing collection of long tail video at YouTube?
  2. Within the long tail, there are micro long tails. The long tail permits entirely new micro-markets to emerge (exercise clothing, for example) and within that market there are hits and then the tail. It’s sort of a fractal curve of new markets living within markets. (Simple example: Amazon enabled an entire eco-system of books on presentations and graphics to emerge).

Read the rest of Seth’s article here.

I think it is possible to be set up to do both, or at least be prepared to.  Nashville indie labels (heck, all labels) are having a tough time going for the hit at radio with every artist and release.  If they are fortunate to attain the big hit, then the challenge is to hopefully sell enough product to cover the marketing of the hit.  That is, if they can get the CD into Wal-Mart.

It would seem the indie model really wasn’t set up to focus on what everyone else has done in the past and the current failings plaguing the industry.  The structure should be one of innovation and flexibility; being able to move at a moments notice and to ride close to the curve of technology and culture. 

Sure, radio should be in the mix and a hit should be welcomed and worked for if the music warrants.  But if that is the sole marketing strategy of the label, then count on the investor(s) to get very nervous after a short couple of years.  Trust me on this one.

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One Response to The Strategic Marketing of Indie Labels

  1. keithmohr says:

    great post Mike.. I love Seth’s teachings. We employ them on my Indieheaven.com site.
    Keith Mohr
    President
    http://www.indieheaven.com

    Like

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