Local musicians embracing digital marketing renaissance

Releasing albums as an iPhone app just the latest weapon in the 21st century music-marketing arsenal

Justin Currie

We are increasingly living in a digital age of PVR, peer-to-peer sharing, social media and flashy gadgetry. With the popularity of pirating music and the new DIY culture, artists are having to find new and creative ways of getting their music out there, and finding new ways of standing out from the crowd.

Local musician Ken Zaporzan did just that by releasing his latest album Buddha Curse as an iPhone app last December.

“I wanted to try to find an innovative way to promote my music,” Zaporzan said.

“I had been utilizing the Internet to promote some of my music, (but) I was wanting to try to do something different. When the app album idea arose, it seemed like a good choice because it was a marketing idea which was more than a novelty. Having an album within an app is a good way to give people from around the world access to the album. It made sense, and it would turn heads.”

Buddha Curse has been downloaded nearly 10,000 times from Soundclick.com, Zaporzan said. Fans not only get the tracks on the album, but also other media available through the app.

“The exposure from those 10,000 downloads was noticeable when I Googled ‘Buddha Curse.’  It was amazing to see how much the album had been heard and discussed around the world.”

Zaporzan worked with Winnipegger Mark Kaminsky, an economist, filmmaker, musician, entrepreneur and founder MSK Software, which specializes in iPhone apps, to create Buddha Curse.

Zaporazan said he is proud to be the first musician to release an album as an app.

“Though others had done musical and promotional albums, none were ever marketed as an app album,” he said. “Apple does not allow false descriptions for apps, so that’s another indication (that I was the first). It means a lot to me that this idea comes out of Winnipeg.”

Local rock band Juniper Drive also launched an iPhone app for their music earlier this year. Several requests for comments from the band were not returned.

It’s a tough market out there because a lot of the traditional ways that people used to do things – magazine ads, and through Much Music, and stuff like that – is not as essential as it was before.

Sean McManus, programs manager, Manitoba Music

Still, it’s a sign that the music world has shifted its focus from record sales, to touring, merchandise sales, and developing one-on-one relationships with fans with this digital renaissance.

Sean McManus, programs manager for Manitoba Music, said that on the one hand, creating app albums is a great thing – especially for independent artists.
“In a lot of ways it can level the playing field or it can open up markets to people that previously would have had to have a deal with a label or something to reach that many people,” he said.

“The other side of it is (that) every time one of these new things gets added, it usually means more work for the artist because often the old ones don’t go away.”

Digital promotion has become a must-have in any marketing arsenal to nurture relationships with fans. Artists marketing their own music allows them to gather information they can capitalize on – like simply collecting e-mail addresses.

A database of e-mail addresses can allow an artist to contact their fans with deals and opportunities like offering specially released tracks, or giving fans the opportunity to buy tickets before they are available to the general public.

“It’s a tough market out there because a lot of the traditional ways that people used to do things – magazine ads, and through MuchMusic, and stuff like that – is not as essential as it was before,” McManus said.

“Magazines and newspapers are struggling, MuchMusic and MTV have gone to reality television instead of videos, and so it definitely feels like we’re in a bit of a flux right now where people are still trying to figure out what’s going to work.”

Manitoba Music brings in experts throughout the year to talk about topics like music marketing. Artists can also talk to Manitoba Music’s training co-ordinator, Roland Deschambault, who will consult with artists and help them develop marketing plans.

“There (are) a variety of approaches out there where we have some who are really embracing the new opportunities and some who are sticking to what they know,” McManus said.

Published in Volume 65, Number 5 of The Uniter (September 30, 2010)

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