By Rhian Jones
Do musicians need to sign to a major label to make it in 2015? Do they need Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote themselves, their music and that super exclusive behind-the-scenes selfie with their dog? Increasingly not, and a wave of new apps look set to make it even easier to sustain a direct-to-fan eco-system.
Both launched in June, UK based app development company Disciple Media and US firm Freeform license their technology to labels and artists (here’s an example from the iTunes Store), who then use the platform to distribute music, videos, lyrics and merchandise, generating income through monthly subscription fees (around $5 a month) and/or converting free users into paid with upgrades.
It’s a model that’s worked for US producer Ryan Leslie, who says he made $2 million by texting an invite to fans who hadn’t yet bought his album through his Disruptive Multimediainterface, a mobile-based direct distribution/communication model he developed. The dollars were generated through a combination of selling about 13,000 albums through a variety of platforms, asking for a contribution to go into the studio with him while recording (making between $2,500 – $4,000 for each session), live gigs and invites to a no-expenses-spared New Year’s Eve Party.
Leslie has moved his fanbase away from social platforms to improve his reach and to avoid losing that fan data to whatever the “next cool place to be” is. When he first gave his number out, around 36,000 of his 560,000 Twitter followers called or texted, another 32,500 took the next step to introduce themselves, and one in every two bought something from him. Disciple and Freeform do the same, by allowing artists to push whatever they might be offering via one channel, and to keep hold of the fan data they generate.
The difference between what has gone before and what Disciple and Freeform are offering is interactivity, a two-way channel between artist and fan through instant messaging features, as well as new ways of earning money through advertising and brand sponsorships. Freeform boss Tim Quirk (formerly of Google Play and Rhapsody, who co-founded the company with former SoundExchange exec Brian Calhoun) recommends that artists give away the app, as well as some content within it but also set some parameters, like being able to listen to an album or track for free once a day and then having to take further action to carry on listening. That could be clicking a buy button, or accepting partner offers like free trials of Rhapsody or Spotify.