Starting An Online Record Label

How much do you think local musicians earn from their music? I bet it is pretty low. Perhaps that is why musicians in our part of the world have full time jobs. As a musician, when you give your song or album to a local record label such as Ogopa Deejays, or Calif Records…how much do you earn? How much do they earn?

I believe that all artists should have affordable access to all channels of music distribution, get all of the money generated from the sale of their music, and all without giving up any of their master recording ownership, copyrights, merchandise rights, live performance income, public performance royalties or any other rights or money. Do you share my beliefs?

So recently I helped a friend (a musician) set up online. He made a sale yesterday. A Swedish couple, in Sweden, liked his album, and bought it. My friend emailed me saying, “you should start an online record company.” I actually have thought about that for quite a while. I know for sure that our local artistes have a far better chance of earning from their music online than through the local market. Blame piracy.

Is there need for an online record company? Well, look at it this way…if I was a musician and I found out that I can quit my day job and focus on my music, I would jump at the opportunity! Would you? The bigger issue is whether there is a market for Kenyan music online. More research needs to be done on this but I do feel there is a large and untapped market for anyone’s (not just Kenyan) music online.

What would it take to start an online record company? I do not know. But as with all good ideas that I have, I shall share my thoughts with you, dear readers.

First and foremost, one needs to know how to market online. You shall be taking the hopes and dreams of people and you shall be responsible for their success or failure. You need to know how to build an online presence, nurture it and grow it. This requirement means that, currently, not many Kenyan are qualified to start an online record label.

Secondly, one needs to understand how to market music online. Apart from setting up the artist’s website, blog, etc etc one must be able to actually find a market for the music, and then sell it. The most obvious places to sell seem to be places like: iTunes, Amazon MP3, Zune Marketplace, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc. One should also understand the more indirect methods of selling – for example, one American band famously gave away all their songs free on MySpace. They then went on a tour of the USA, and had live – well paying – shows in almost every town, big or small. Despite being a small unknown band, almost all their shows were well attended. It turns out almost everyone knew of them and liked their music (they got it free).

Looking at the two requirements above, I would say that, really, all a prospective online music label needs to have people who know the Internet; people how know marketing and, above all else, people who are creative and are not afraid to to do new and different things. Could this be you?

Let’s be honest, some music is harder to sell than others. If I had an online record label, I would find ways to work with only those musicians whose music inspires or impresses me. One would think that the best way to run the business would be to accept all musicians. I be to differ. Perhaps you can offer certain limited services to every other musician but I believe real success can only be achieved if you work with musicians who you believe in. Marketing is challenging, online marketing even more so. if you do not believe in what you are trying to market, then you will not market it so well.

Finally, my type of online music record label would be creative in how it charges its musicians. I believe that musicians deserve 100% of all their royalties, copyrights, merchandise rights, and any other rights. Instead of charging a commission on the royalties, for example, I’d charge a small annual fee (depending on how much work I do for them).

Does this make sense to anyone? Discuss below, let’s start an online music record label, shall we?

Photo by Shankar, Shiv.

An Online Strategy For Companies in Kenya

This one is from a while back. Someone asked me:

My question to you is, what do you think should be the online strategy for a tour company in Kenya and how should they approach it and what tools should they apply?

Here’s my response:

What would be a good online strategy for a tour company in Kenya? This is an interesting challenge. So let’s see, what I would do is launch an elegant website that is intuitive to use and stylish (web2.0-ish also). I’m assuming this site will have some sort of ‘place’ (a shopping cart, online booking form etc) where a sale needs to be made – focus on this. Make the buying/ordering process easy to use for even a passing browser. And the sales copy around it has to be absolutely well done. If need be, hire professional copywriters for this one page (menwithpens or Kenyan Freelancer come to mind). You do this to make sure that your site doesn’t suck at selling.

Now, in my mind, the target visitors of this site are not in Kenya. True? So you need to find how to reach them. I would include a blog with the website. You can talk honestly and with a personal voice (no corporate-speak) about Kenya, and why it’s such a great country. I’m sure there are tons of things that your blog can talk about.

How to get visitors? I like the organic way – make a remarkable site and blog and then apply SEO VERY well (the works: link building, directory submissions etc). Also, since your visitors are not from Kenya, it should be easy to find out where they hang out – other travel blogs, forums, etc. Go there and join those conversations and, by all means, get noticed. But be subtle.

To complement this sort of ‘organic’ strategy, also carry out a PPC advertising campaign (with Adsense or YPN). This will get some visitors and some sales (if you did your sales copy well). I don’t like extended PPC campaigns so probably you should phase this out as the organic traffic rises – unless your returns on the advertising are very good.

As you get visitors to the site, have some way to opt in visitors into an email marketing campaign. Use mailchimp (by my experience they rock!) to provide your auto responder software/services. Don’t spend too much money on this – people sometimes go crazy – just a basic Mailchimp account will do (they even have a free offering). Be creative in how you get people to join your email list (NEVER buy email addresses). Perhaps you could offer free Swahili lessons via email, or an amazing free video of unseen Kenyan delights. But I’m sure there’s no shortage of creativity on your end.

I think if you do this, you’ll have a good strong start. I doubt many other Kenyan sites have done this well. 😉

To recap:

  • Build an elegant site. Let is be super easy to use.
  • Do your sales copy excellently.
  • SEO everything.
  • Market the site by authentically joining the conversation on other travel blogs, forums and other sites.
  • Carry out a PPC campaign and consider stopping it (or slowing down) when there is enough organic traffic.
  • Create an email marketing campaign.

I had not mentioned a social network strategy (Facebook, twitter, etc). I’ll work on that and post it here soon. Stay tuned. Got questions? I have answers! 🙂