Note: This is part four of a multipart series on getting permission and why now is the best time to start a business (especially if you’re still in college). You can start from the beginning with a story about the future.
It used to be musicians could just write an album full of filler songs, stick that together with a hit single, and use that to sell millions of copies of the album; those times are gone. Musicians now have to be entrepreneurial to survive: they need to make records in novel ways, record songs better than anyone else, and sell them using new systems. Most important, musicians have to worry about building relationships with their fans; nobody buys music from people they don’t know anymore, so you need to create a persona, something fans can relate to. It isn’t just musicians who have had to evolve since the birth of the internet, business and entrepreneurship has too; we have passed the time when large corporate entities are admired; if you want people to buy from your company, you have to be like the musician; you have to be human.
Bandcamp is a site where indie musicians can sell their music. They have an easy to use pay model on the musician end, and they allow listeners to hear entire albums for free before they buy. Nobody will buy a song based on a 30 second preview anymore, and nobody will buy your product unless they can trust you; that is why it is imperative you give away something of great value for free. You can charge money down the road, but it will be a much easier sell, and you can charge a lot more money for it if you give away something for free first. Giving away free stuff also helps build your following; these people will be your market, and you can prod them to find out what they are into.
Louis CK is a comedian who gained most of his fame from the Internet. He stands out because, unlike other comedians who make specials whenever the material is ready, Louie ships one comedy special per year. This year he did something different; instead of waiting for HBO or Comedy Central to fund his special and run distribution, he decided to do it himself; he created a website, hired a film crew, shot and edited the special alone, and posted it on his website for $5; he made a million dollars in profit over the next 2 weeks, with even more flowing in afterward. Fans will follow you, they will buy from you, and in the age of the Internet there is no reason not to create and sell direct. That is why it is important to get your ideas heard; if this was Louis CK’s first special he might have lost money on it, he might even have lost money on his second and his third, but if he kept pushing forward, like he has in his comedy career, eventually he would reach the tipping point, and the money would pour in.
The problem with free content is sometimes people don’t take it seriously; sure, they will take the free t-shirt from the blood bank, but will they ever actually wear it in public? You need to create products that satisfy the needs of your customers more than anyone else can. That involves getting inside the heads of the people you are selling to. If you think like your customers, if you ask your customer’s questions and feel what they feel, you will create what they want.
You cannot do what has already been done; with the Internet, the old stuff is around forever. Unfortunately, that means you cannot just stick to what you know. You have to be constantly reading and constantly expanding your knowledge base to compete.=
For more insights or to ask questions, you can follow me on Twitter: @alxberman