Giving fans the keys to the car

Posted on October 26, 2011


“The music has to come first. Let the fans have the keys to the car.” – Stu Pflaum

Here’s a Rolling Stone article that caught our attention: “The New Economics of the Music Industry.” With the help of a lot of visual aids, the piece looks at how much labels, artists, songwriters and others can expect to earn from the dizzying array of new distributions channels for music. It’s a handy reference if you’re a DIY musician or a fan who wants to do right by your artist and your pocketbook.

But it’s not just about about the pennies rattling into your bank account. It’s about getting people to listen to your music, make new fans and keep them, a point that’s made by this letter from Grammy-winning producer and digital music pioneer Stu Pflaum, via Bob Lefsetz’s mailbag:

Re: We’re Selling Creativity

… I recently made the decision to release our label’s latest album on Spotify three weeks ahead of street date. The execs I’ve spoken to on the move think I’m crazy. They say Spotify doesn’t generate enough revenue to risk pissing off retailers by showing favoritism to the new player in town. I’ve responded by saying if retailers are concerned about our dealings with Spotify, it reassures me that we’re moving in the right direction.

Since the release went live on Spotify we’ve streamed the album over 70K times. I know what skeptics will say; our revenue from those streams is about $7. Who cares? Our web traffic has more than tripled in terms of site visitors & discussion. Nobody is pirating the album even after we’ve distributed promo copies. And most importantly, we’re getting real-time feedback from listeners on which tracks they favor and are able to adjust our marketing accordingly with most of our budget still intact. The group & the album have a legitimate buzz now.

We’ve got to get rid of this old model where all of our moves are made to impress retailers. Our budgets aren’t big enough to burn money with radio & video promotion for singles that might not succeed. The music has to come first. Let the fans have the keys to the car. They don’t care about first week sales.

Exactly. And now that fans have the keys to the car, we’d like to make a little pitch for our model and how to get the best mileage out of it. Sponsored musicians on can stream their albums for free to listeners AND earn revenue at a higher rate than any other free streaming service (see chart below). It’s promotion, fan-community building and income all rolled into one highly portable package.

But to work, everyone has to be part of the marketing team. Whether you’re the musician, sponsor, charity or a fan, you need to tell others! It’s not hard. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the Facebook “like” button under the player
  2. Post a comment about the music on your Facebook page
  3. Use the Tweet button to comment on the music via your Twitter account
  4. Repeat regularly, without spamming. Encourage your friends to share in turn
  5. Post the player on your Facebook page. Just copy the player URL as a link
  6. Post the player on your blog using the Embed code. Here’s our Quick Guide.

Contact us ( if you need help!!

Here are the basic economics of streaming media: To earn $1,160 per month (US monthly minimum wage), artists need 849,817 streams from Rhapsody, 1, 546,667 plays on and 4,549,020 plays from Spotify. In contrast, artists need only 171,852 plays on to earn $1,161 (assuming a typical rate of $1.00 per 100 plays).