Jan 22, 2010

10,000 Reasons you are not a successful music act.

I wrote earlier about Tom Silverman's assessment that artists who sell less than 10,000 copies of an album are some how unsuccessful. After an interview at musiciancoaching.com was posted this week there has been a lot of grumbling about a) whether the seemingly arbitrary number of "10,000 albums" was anything less than well, arbitrary and b) are the number he quotes accurate?

Steve Lawson makes a few key points about this:
It’s ... based on ‘Soundscan’ statistics.

I hadn't considered that when originally reading Silverman's comments. His numbers may be accurate regarding sales tracked by Soundscan but
by their very nature, Independent artists operate outside of the Soundscan retail sales ecology.
At Aderra we often work with artists and labels that bundle a studio album on a MicroSd card or flash drive along with a live show we have recorded. While the studio album sales are always carefully tracked and reported to Nielsen the live tracks are not recognized by Soundscan at all. In 2008 our clients moved about 100,000 flash drives. Assuming there were 20 live tracks on each one
that is 2,000,000 digital track sales that were never once even whispered to the folks at Soundscan.
(This is a gross estimation, I'd have to go back and do an actual count but my math should be fairly close...)

So after I had this brilliant epiphany I came across Jeff Price from Tunecore's post in response to the musiciancoaching.com post. While he sounds a bit hurt by all of this he takes my little realization and blows it up to over 42,000,000 tracks sold by Tunecore artists, especially noting some such as MGMT, Drake and Soulja Boy who broke the 100,000 track mark before going on to success as signed label artists. (Disclosure, I have used Tunecore to distribute tracks for Eggfoot Records). (That is the first time I have worked a shoutout to Eggfoot Records into this blog so far. 2010 is our 20th Anniversary as an independent label.)

In the end Lawson makes probably the most important point in all of this debate:
10,000 listeners is a much more creatively inspiring target than 10,000 sales.
As I mentioned in this post, having fans discover a new artist is far more important than ensuring a per track sale.

I am sure that this will be discussed in great depth next week at the New Music Seminar in Los Angeles.


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