I was on spanishran.com a while ago and saw that a new album was out called The Dark Times of Mike Dowd by Madhattan produced by Spanish Ran. At this time, it wasn’t on streaming and the way Ran does it if you want it before it hits streaming you listen to 30 second snippets of each song and pay $25 for the project. A perfectly understandable model that would have Roc Marciano slow nodding. The thought hit me that I love Spanish Ran production so much and trust his ear for lyrical collaborators to the point that if Ran announced a conversion of the site into a subscription hub I would pay monthly. If the site provided full streaming access (possibly downloading as well) to the depth of the Spanish Ran catalog, exclusive first rights and discounts to merch along with sneak previews of unannounced projects I’d definitely pay $7-9 a month for that.
I’ve often used this as a joke. For artists like YL who are wild prolific and might release 3 to 4 albums in a year with merch, just sign me up and debit me when you drop. I’m in. Your great. What if it wasn’t a joke?
Prequalifier: you would need to have a large base of people who are insanely loyal before even thinking about this option. So, what about Backwoodz Studioz? It started with Armand Hammer for sure but think about all the artists people listen to on Backwoodz just because of a deep trust in woods ear. I got a chance to talk to Fielded when I interviewed her. It was a totally new base of people engaging with her for the first time and loving a sound they may not have naturally gravitated to. They knew if woods digs this enough to put it out its going be great. So let’s imagine Backwoodz sets up a subscription, the website doesn’t change its face you can still casually buy vinyl, digital, cds, apparel BUT a second level is created behind the casual level. You tug the right book in the bookcase and it opens to reveal a secret membership. You might get first pick on vinyl, merch or you might be able to listen to songs that haven’t been formally released yet. Maybe bonus cuts that didn’t make the albums. Sounds awesome to me but let’s think about the issues that would need to be solved for.
- How do you split or cut in the artists on the label? So people pay $7-9 a month to get behind the Backwoodz bookcase…how much of a cut does Fielded get from that? What about Duncecap? Steel Tipped Dove? Everyone I talk to says woods is an elite business mind, this would be the first question in his mind. How do I set this up so no one feels like they are getting ripped off?
- New customers are not any less valuable than the base. You would HAVE to find a way to make the levels of engagement flow together so a casual fan could jump on buy a shirt and a digital album, enjoy it for a few months. Follow woods, PremRock, and others on social media and when the time is right and the level of interest has peaked pull the trigger on membership. If all your energy goes to the existing membership your not building… which is the job! The levels would have to naturally flow and that would be a critical part of this.
I don’t have the answers for how these questions would find solutions. I can tell you what is at stake. Spotify wasn’t founded in the best interest of the artist and it’s not alone. If you think Amazon Music is much better your wrong. Artists and labels need consistent meaningful income that will stabilize creative life and create capital they can use to fund the next project or tour. Could it work? Stranger things have happened….