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Interview with an Internet Music Marketing Pioneer
This interview with Music Biz Academy founder David Nevue courtesy of Louise Hall, from the University of Technology, Sydney, in Australia. Nov 2003

Back to Internet Music Promotion 101

How do you describe yourself? Independent musician, online music expert, or...?

I have somewhat a split personality online, actually. On one hand, I'm a pianist, composer and recording artist. I've released seven CDs of my piano works, all of which I promote and distribute online. On the other hand, I'm an online marketing 'pioneer', if you don't mind my coining that phrase. I see myself as an explorer, seeking out new ways to create exposure for my music on the Internet. I then take what I learn and write about it in my book, 'How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet,' which I update a couple times a year.

Have you made a music career of using the Internet to distribute your music?

Yes. I do the occasional concert performance, but most of my 'career' exposure has come as a result of promoting my music online.

Do you know of many artists, if any, that have been able to embark on a music career just using the Internet?

Myself. I know Ryan Farish has done well, too. Every once in a while I hear of someone else.

What is the Music Biz Academy and how did it come about?

The Music Biz Academy is basically an information repository. My book is, in many ways, an archive of everything I know about promoting music on the Internet. In the same way, the Music Biz Academy is an archive of everything I've learned about the music business over the years. You'll find easy-to-read articles there covering virtually every subject, as well as music industry news, career opportunities, and a directory of carefully selected resources for independent musicians. Basically, with the Music Biz Academy I created an online tool that I, myself, would find useful.

Have you helped many artists through your book "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet"

Yes. Just look at the testimonials at http://www.musicbizacademy.com/bookstore/htptestimonials.htm

Is selling music on the Net just as hard as selling through retail stores and wholesalers, or snatching a major label record deal?

No, it's much easier, in my mind. The only way for a new artist to sell a large number of CDs through the traditional retail channel is to get a HUGE amount of commercial radio play. Unless you're signed to a major label, that's unlikely to happen. There are exceptions, of course, but not many.

The downside, however, is that when you sign with a major label, you sign your music away. You're putting yourself in servitude to a powerful force who really could care less about you as an artist. Further, what most people don't realize is that signing a major label deal in no way guarantees your album will get airplay or even be released. So it's very possible to sign your music away and get absolutely nothing in return.

When you go at it on your own, as I have, you're not going to sell near as many CDs, nor are you likely to find fame. However, since you keep all of your profit, you can make an OK living at it. At the very least, you have artistic control over your own work, and a good deal more income than you would by signing your music away, getting pennies for each CD sold, then watching as those pennies are sucked up by recoupment.

It could be said that most people buy items on the Internet that they know about and specifically want, as opposed to browsing for unknown items. How do independent musicians attract people to their web sites?

It's all in how you target your potential customer. What is your target audience searching for on the Internet? Figure that out and create a web site destination for them. Attract them to that destination using the search engines and other means, and then, at that targeted web site, introduce your music to your visitors. That's exactly how I started out.

There are other ways, too. Find out where are you target customers hang out on the Internet - what chat rooms, newsgroups, web sites do they frequent? Where are they going to listen to music online? Do your research, and take your music to the places where people partial to your style of music hang out.

Have your ever, or do you currently offer you music available to download for free? If yes, why?

Yes, I offer two songs from each of my albums for free. Why? Because I want my visitors to get a taste for the music. I want them to 'take it home' and try it for awhile. If they do, I know many will come back to purchase the entire album. I do believe it's important to *limit* how many songs you give away. You shouldn't give away and entire album - at least not if you want to sell it. But I think giving away 1 or 2 songs per album as a teaser is just fine.

Does giving away free downloads lead to a broader profile and then higher sales?

I think it leads to higher sales, so long as you limit yourself to just a few free downloads. I know for a fact that I've made many CD sales as a result of my music being available on Kazaa, for example.

Have you made sales to fans you wouldn't be able to reach without the Internet, such as international fans?

Oh yes. 95% of my fan base has come as a result of being online.

There are plenty of music industry experts who do not view Internet downloading as a massive problem. In fact, they rationalise that downloading increases the appetite and market for music, and when fans have the money, they’ll buy. What do you think?

I think music downloading *is* a massive problem. Downloading copyrighted music for free (without the artist's permission), then burning it to CD without paying for it is theft, pure and simple.

I don't think there's any excuse for it. If a person does it because they want to hear music before they buy, then they should sign up for Rhapsody or a similar music service. For just $10 bucks a month, you can listen to just about whatever you want, whenever you want. That's exactly what I do. I absolutely love Rhapsody. I can listen to all the music I want, and do so legally.

The major labels are claiming file sharing on the Internet is the end for the music industry and harms labels are artists alike. Do you agree that if they industry had concentrated more on giving users what they wanted, rather than preventing them getting what they already had access to, record companies would be in better shape today?  

I think the music industry waited much too long to create a useful, usable, online music service. Now they are playing catch-up. And yes, it's seriously hurt the industry, financially. Has it harmed artists? Maybe a few, but most major-label artists are already in harms way just being signed to a major-label, in my view.

iTunes has gone a long way toward repairing some of the damage. Apple has created something music-lovers are excited about. But we should have had a service like iTunes three years ago. It's only now, after a great deal of damage has been done, that the RIAA has begun to compromise so that a service like iTunes can exist.

The major labels and the RIAA have been extremely active in denouncing file sharing as destructive for the industry. Do you think they are looking out for the interests of their artists or their own bottom line?  

Both, but I believe they are *more* concerned about the bottom line. From a major-label perspective, a successful pop artist is nothing more than a 'product.' As such, the primary concern is not how to make the 'product' happy as it is to squeeze as much revenue as possible from the product. If a happy product results in more revenue, great. But once that product stops producing revenue, the product is either upgraded (such as how Madonna continued to reinvent herself), or it's dropped in favor of a new product, a new flavor-of-the-month. Britney is out. Avril is in - for the moment.

Do you think artists need a major label deal to find success?  

No, absolutely not, but it depends on how a person defines success. If you define success as being famous and on MTV, then yes, a major label deal is what you want - but you'll pay for it later. If you view success as just being the quintessential musician, working on your art, and supporting yourself with your music, then no, you don't need a major label deal.

Is the Internet the future for independent musicians and/or major artists?

In my mind, yes, but not *just* the Internet, but digital media as a whole. I think the 'Internet' is just the entry level to where we're going.

In your opinion, can and how does the industry move to digital without destroying the current industry?

I don't exactly know. I'm glad it's not my problem to figure out.

Can you see legitimate digital delivery sites like Apple iTunes ever competing with peer-to-peer software like Kazaa and Morpheus?

Yes. I think the only thing iTunes *really* has to compete with right now is Kazaa, and as the *cool* factor of iTunes and iPod continues to grow, I think we'll see much more of a balance within just two or three years.


David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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