Peter Haeder (Phaeder), moved from northern Germany to New Zealand two decades ago, quickly establishing himself here as a leading avant-garde guitarist and composer for film and TV. He is a prolific multi-instrumentalist, active in the world, dance, techno and drum 'n' bass styles of electronic music.
A long-time Buddhist, Phaeder has mastered deep voice singing, the esoteric one voice chord chant, now taught at just two monasteries in the world. To the amusement of the Tibetan Lamas, he has married this skill with his German electronic roots - plus Flamenco guitar and jazz.
The most recent result is an online-only album he has called'Phaeder EFJ', standing, naturally enough, for electro, Flamenco, jazz. 'EFJ' weaves together exquisitely crafted beats, guitar, singing and chanting in nine different languages, with his own electronica.
'EFJ' is my first digital online-only release, so I was quite nervous and excited to see how I might go about doing it and how it would work out. It turned out to be an invaluable experience which not only made me grow as a musician, but made me realise how the industry landscape has changed. This article focuses on the after-production events and techniques to get your music out there, rather than the actual production process.
In an article in the New York Times I read about a musician (somewhat more commercial than me), which explained how he goes about liaising directly with his 'friends', getting people to play guitar solos for him, and turns it all into a bit of a competition. This in turn generates more foot soldiers for him who not only buy his product, but are savvy and knowledgeable about the artist. They engage in promoting his music to other punters for him and even manage some of his online affairs like graphic design and fan clubs.
This is not dissimilar to MLM, or viral marketing, and is in essence old-fashioned word of mouth. One thing that crystallised for me is that we need to engage our audiences much more than we used to as musicians, no matter if it's through live gigs, online interaction or active participation in blogs, forums, chat rooms etc.
So I did the solo musician thing and wrote the music, produced it, mastered it, cut it to CD and MP3, created a bio, took some cool pictures and put a press kit together. These days you can go online and talk to a Down Beats editor directly via email (might not get you a review, but the third time around he'll remember your band).
Tip:I have a little USB flash key I carry around. It has my tracks, pics, press kit, reviews I collect, virtually everything I need to attack on the fly or give an interview or drop a track into someone's media player. It is a fantastic way to be organised and media ready. Bear in mind though that all of this takes preparation time and it is a good idea to make a things-to-do list of your tasks around each step of getting your music online.
Being in IT (my day job) and never more than a few feet away from a computational device, I can access the web, check email, update my ftp site (I use it a lot for DJs to download their tracks from), synchronise my files (geeky eh?) and check sales on various music websites. FTP stands for file transfer protocol, which is one of the oldest and still widely used network protocols; its biggest advantage being very efficient transfer of data and data files in any format. Most websites come with ftp as an option, so when choosing a web host make sure you do choose that.
I have around two dozen music source websites in my Outlook folders, all of which I hooked into and checked out, to find that there are a small number of generic models, which all of the cyber shops use with little variation. The likes of Broadjam give you a little space and let you upload a few tracks and than charge like a wounded bull for anything else - but they do offer web hosting and will peddle your tracks to TV and film (for a price, lol). There are a number of up and coming music sites which offer greater flexibility and web space for the musician, and the cut they take varies from anywhere between 20% and 50% of the sales made online.
I figure on iTunes, for example, if every second or third click leads to a sale one should make around eight hard bucks for every 24 hour period or so. Here in the homeland we are lucky to have amplifier.co.nz. These guys are astute, love music and have their chops down. Within a couple of days of contacting them I had a promo on amplifier for my previous albums ('Lotus Beat', 'Emerald' and 'Singularity') and the orders came in. They also have charts and do both physical and digital distribution, which is what most online stores do.
I found the CD Baby people cool to work with as well, their site looks like a late '90s low-fi version of Days of Our Lives, but boy is that thing functional! And the service is prompt and caring. MySpace is a friends network, and the largest on the planet at that, but bear in mind that it requires feeding and watering - you must actively network. Contrary to common belief, the more friends you have does not equal more plays and sales of your tracks. I came across a profile which had 10 times the number of friends as mine, but only a tenth of the number of plays my tunes get.
My advice (from experience) is to build meaningful relationships and communicate well. When you design your MySpace site, make sure it really contains valuable info, change the content every now and then, and make sure it loads quickly.
Another thing I learned by serendipity is called 'chunking'. Chunking is a technique used primarily for things written for the web, but is also heavily used in advertising. You edit your written content in a way that keeps it flowing and consumable, with different types of fonts, background colours and font sizes to create text that has a 'scent' and draws the reader to it - eye voodoo!
Tip:Leaders are readers. I spent a lot of time researching the online social networking phenomenon. There are a plethora of forums and user groups you can hook into and I also found a couple of cool books. I can recommend Robert Kyiosaki - The Cashflow Quadrant, Bob Baker - Myspace Music Marketing and John Pospisil - Hacking MySpace.
MySpace is not the means to an end. As a musician you need to have your own website otherwise if MySpace falls over one day, you lose your web presence all together. Where are your friends, your contacts, your fan base and customers? The other factor here is that some record companies won't take you seriously if you only have a MySpace web address - and I have had that confirmed!
I found it is good to have a record label (or three). Debatable, some might argue, if you are a successful self-promoter and have your sales chops down, but I prefer to concentrate on the music. The function of a record company is to sell your product, look after the distribution, promotion, deliveries and royalties etc. That basic role has not changed even with the increase in virtual and digital media.
I chose B&3 as a label because they were the international distributor for 'Lotus Beat' and because they understand what I do musically (not an easy feat). As a plus they also know international copyright law very well and have affiliations in the Americas.
Producing an album alone is a time consuming and labour intensive undertaking. Most of the musicians I know are in this for the long haul and prepared to go all the way. If you think there is a quick buck here, make no mistake - there isn't. It takes a solid three to six months studio time (and that is fast), a month researching the web, another month setting up websites, getting ads happening, liaising with publishers, and refining the product etc. It can be a bit much at times, but in the end we love music and it is a great feeling to see your stuff out there in a worldwide market!
After finishing production and review, recompiling and re-mastering a few numbers, I sent the whole shebang off to the label and they passed it on to the big muscle distributor. Again a word of caution, most distributors (online or physical) do not accept unsolicited material so having at least a publisher, even if it is your own record company on paper, gives you advantage in the game. My publisher in Germany (B&3 Berlin) not only has the power to deal with and negotiate directly with large entities, but also assists in streamlining the material as in 'A&R man'.
The record company deals with the online distributors and gets your work into the online shops. If I imagine having to go to all the iTunes, Napsters and Rhapsodies of this world myself instead of making my music, Buddha, I'd grow gray hair, shrivel up and die from exhaustion and boredom - so: record label!
In the case of EFJ, the relationship between my publisher, the 'online warehouse' and my little old self, yielded around 100 online shops being supplied with my off-the-wall 'EFJ' product.
Than I went to Yahoo advertising, Google ads and (don't spit the dummy) Microsoft and created some nifty little sponsored online ads. A friend did a reading a couple of days ago and there were 11,000 entries for Phaeder. Need I say more? The industrial age is over and the information age has well left the station people. And of course, I had to take advantage of YouTube and make a cheesy little video, which I shot in my house, wrote a mean soundtrack to and edited the whole thing in Windows Moviemaker.
With so many slide-maker, video-maker and networking sites, you can get virtually all your online promo material, site builder codes and even pics for free and store them online as well, while exposing virtually millions of people to your music - for free!