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A Purple Ocean Music Model

Derek Sivers: Promotion! Creating the music is easy (though still underrated). Distributing the music is so easy it’s moot. So now the delicate art of calling attention to your music means everything. Marketing is distribution.

I just read this interview and the above quote in particular got me my mind racing. Especially about this: If you are running around saying that you want to be “a successful musician” – what does that actually mean? What will you be doing from day to day when you are a successful musician?

When I started out in music I knew what I wanted – big crowds, pretty girls falling at my feet, free beer and weed – and a get-out-of-work-free card that lasted the rest of my life (which at that point I saw lasting until about 1998 if I was lucky).

Well I got the first three for a while before the sum combined effect of these gifts on my little boy mind caused a complete blow-out and I went off the music scene radar. And now, at the youthful age of not quite 35 I am playing a kind of music that I can see myself playing when I am 95 and I am eager to get out there and “be a successful musician again”. Not because of the same reasons though. Not because I need the ego trip – but just because I enjoy making music. Not because I think “I’ll be happy when” but because I am happy now – even when I am not (weird but true) – and this gives me a a kind of freedom and confidence to just do what feels right. And not because I want to get rich but (call me a hippy) because I am abundant.

So I have my new CD – click here and go have a listen and then if you like it you can buy it. It is also available through digital distribution outlets like iTunes and the like. And I have well and truly returned to live performance. Yup, I am slowly but surely getting my thang back on the boil.

But what does this actually mean?

Well I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean hedonistic excess for me anymore – I’m over it. And it doesn’t mean ‘not having to work’ because I love my work which is more like play and have no desire to give most aspects of it up.

And it doesn’t mean “Rock Star”. That concept is hackneyed and irrelevant as far as I am concerned although I concede that this may just be because I am, like, totally ancient.

And I don’t want it to mean countless gigs in front bars full of barflies who don’t care about my music. Why would I bother with that strategy? Popular wisdom has it that you do it to build a following – but is it really an efficient way to do that? I seriously doubt it. All those hours spent negotiating with horrible grumpy egotistical promoters just for that? Pah.

Personally I think that what is called for is a new model. This may not be revolutionary for others, wiser than I, but for me it needs to get clear in my head if I am to take my new music and get it heard by a decent amount of folk who will appreciate it.

So here is the model I have in my head – well it’s a model in the making actually and far from complete (and assumes that great music is being made else why would you bother). It draws on Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” book and the business strategy called “Blue Ocean Strategy” so instead of being a blue ocean it is a purple one to combine the two (very similar) theories.

My Purple Ocean Music Marketing Model

  1. Use Social Media to promote music:

I know, revolutionary hey? But actually it is.

If you were to successfully use social media to actually sell a largish amount of music then you’d be a God in my eyes because you’d have done it from your lounge room which is actually very flipping revolutionary.

And in my limited but rapidly increasing experience with using SM it is not just a case of jumping up and down screaming “look at me, look at me”. You have to have something to say otherwise you might as well not bother. I suppose there are people who do this already. Be cool to know who and explore their methods.

  1. Do Purple Gigs:

Seriously you don’t want to be stuck in front of a screen all the time as this will never come close to the sensation if playing live. (I mean it’s just crazy how much screen I do these days and yet ten or twelve years ago I didn’t have so much as a hotmail account and everything to do with music had nothing to do with computers for me then.)

But like I wrote earlier, I don’t want to do the same old rounds of crap gigs all over again. I might take the easy gigs that come my way but I am sure has hell not going to invest bulk time and energy into chasing two bit gigs. But how to approach playing live then?

Well, I have this model in mind of basically just copying what theatre people do which is they book out a theatre and pre-sell the tickets so that on the night they know how many crew are going to be there and all the emphasis in the lead up to the night is on the actual show itself.

None of this madly texting everybody at 6pm to try and convince them to come out to some crusty bar to hear you sing. No way, instead the idea is to book one night in a small theatre, pre-sell the tickets and then make sure it is such an awesome show that word of mouth kicks into gear and the venues start getting larger.

Think about it like this: Hit theatre shows don’t do endless gigs in two-bit dive bars. They rely on good self-promotion and then word of mouth based on the quality of their show.

  1. Sell Across My Brand

What I mean by this is:

  • I, Seamus Anthony, am a brand. My brand is that I am a musician, a writer, and an entrepreneur.
  • Giving away music is an excellent promotional strategy but relying solely on music sales is a poor business strategy.
  • So I will give away as many mp3s for free as people are willing to take. I will also sell them to those who are happy to buy them and will also sell other forms of music like CDs, USB sticks and live shows.
  • But I will also sell across the brand into my other offerings. For example, at Rebel Zen me and my business partner Steve have released an eBook I wrote about how to get high without drugs, call Psychedelic Meditation.

So you might come across my free mp3s, dig them, dig my blogging style here, also get into my writing style over at Rebel Zen and then buy the e book.

Voila. I gave away music and free blog content to sell a book. And that’s just one cross selling example. I have many more. But I’d rather do them than hypothesize about them.

  • This is where the Blue Ocean theory will come in because a lot of musicians don’t offer other services and products. Ok it has been done – Henry Rollins’ spoken word for example – but it isn’t wide spread and I am not aware of anybody who has offered the kinds of stuff I am thinking of.

4. Start Pumping Out New Music – and partner up to do it.

Although ‘Dogs May Bark’is a 100% solo effort, and while I will surely do more solo stuff, I am currently preparing to team up with some other dudes to release music under a couple of different names. I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Mixing it up with dudes always makes for different music than I would just make by myself, and if one project takes off, then I suppose we’d just run with it. Meanwhile you could cross-sell the acts amongst each other.

5. Re-Package the Past

One thing I think is a real shame is how some bands burn really bright for a while and then just get forgotten because they are not then re-packaged and re-marketed (yeah, I sound like a corporate tosser I know, can’t help it, I flick from business to artists brain really easily, but really I am just a nuff-nuff in a funny hat).

For example I was in one band called reckoning, and not to blow my own trumpet but well, you know, Bwaarp! So me and Peter from this band are getting back together this summer to record new music and meanwhile we are going to put together a website and a best of compilation (plus make all the mp3’s available for sale too) of the old band because it was a great band and more to the point, when I get into a new band or solo artist, I always want to know what other stuff they have done, so I assume that’s how other music fans also think.

So yeah, don’t let the past just die (but focus on making new music of course). Your history gives you context and depth.

6. Just Study the way things are done and try to do new things. (or if not new then just plain excellent).

If any readers could offer some ways to help invent a truly different music marketing model then I’d love to hear them so leave a comment (so far very un-comment-y visitors to this site, I see the stats but I don’t get much feedback, speak up! I love it!)

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15 Comments on A Purple Ocean Music Model

  1. Will
    December 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    As an instrumental rock guitarist, I’ve never wanted to tour. I don’t sell cds or mp3s, all my songs are free. The perceived value of easily copyable digital products is low. Selling the experience is high (things that can’t be copied).

    One model I’m using is to sell access to me via a membership site. I teach guitar but am selling access to me – students can submit videos and get feedback on their playing.

    I wish musicians would embrace DIY marketing. Instead of relying on 3rd party sites, set up your own website (easy these days with WordPress), build your own following with an email list (collect emails at every possible point). Membership sites can be great for recurring monthly revenue. They’re cheap to set up and try.

    People like to theorize that this or that won’t work, but they never take the action to try.

    There’s still a huge focus on record labels and the future of music sales. I have so moved past that now, I wish others could do the same.

  2. Seamus
    December 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    “People like to theorize that this or that won’t work, but they never take the action to try.”

    That’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it Will. Action. I knew this when I was younger, forgot it for a while, and have rediscovered this incredible ‘secret’ over the last three years and it has made a massive difference to everything I do.

  3. Mark Alan Dooley
    December 16, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    I have come to understand that “obscurity” is the true enemy of the independent artist. Since we do not have the million dollar marketing package to make us relevant to the masses, we must take the task on our narrow shoulders to market ourselves as efficiently as possible, i.e. free! All of my music is for free and for sale! The various social net mechanisms and viral widget toys abound for this purpose, as well as merchandising nets like for band swag, etc (all free but the time it takes to mess with it all). I wish I had a bunch of monkeys to just blog and post 24/7! If you can converge all of the elements with some decent live shows and make a living?! Heaven. Back in the day we made 30 and 60 sec commercial spots and ran them on MTV timed around our rock demographic…cheap and effective at packing venues. I will be curious as to what really ends up working for you.



  4. Seamus
    December 16, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Yeah I know what you mean about an army of social media robot-monkeys, that would be nice.

    Thanks for the comment Mark, I guess if you want to see how I go then best to subscribe or sign up to the email list 🙂

    By the way, I am playing tonight at the Empress in Fitzroy, Melbourne for those Aussies that might be from around there. 9:30pm

  5. Rachel
    December 16, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Been thinking along these lines myself. The Richmond Fontaine singer, Willy Vlautin, now has two published novels out; Laura Viers is giving performing lessons. I have, almost accidentally, started doing booking/promo workshops and press/radio mailing.

    But I need something new to sell this coming spring tour …

    So just this week, I was thinking about my old rockabilly band. Why not get the guys (now known as Clambake) together and crank out a Little Lotta Dickens & The Pulltab Playboys cd? They’d be stoked to have product, I’d have something to sell this coming tour, my fans will love it – a big departure from what they’ve heard of me so far. Plus there’s the added bonus that the cd could actually do well and lead to us touring together a bit.

    Then I also thought about a possibly better idea – what about the other moderately successful songwriters I know? Say I get two other women (folks seem to be going crazy about chick harmonies lately, and it doesn’t help I’ve been listening to way too much Andrews Sisters lately. So I get two other songwriters. If I selected those other two wisely: we co-write everything, we co-invest, and we co-promote. For me that means 1/3 the work, 1/3 the investment, 1/3 the profit, but the cd itself will get three times the marketing. Not to mention the booking benefits – we cross sell yes, but we also, if the other contributors are selected thoughtfully, introduce one another to our own markets. (ie I have the UK market. Any act I am involved with can humbly but successfully tour there. So I want other singer-songwriters who have other geographic markets.)

    So I’m super f**king stoked to read your ideas about repackaging the past and about partnering to create new music. If Derek is thinking it too, it must be a good idea : )

    I am in the process of thinking about income streams, but also about expenses, and finding out where really is the bang for the buck in this whole DIY thing.

    Ian at Smart Choice Music UK recently told me that in all his years as an online retailer, he has found that only radio play and press reviews, occurring simultaneously, is what sells cds. That totally makes me rethink doing any paid advertising.

    I’ve also spent over $6000 on a radio promoter the past year and a half (for two cds). I am currently in the midst of an experiment on this matter, and so far … well, the short is that, at least for my genres, radio promotion isn’t needed. It is not a necessary expense.

    I’ve also been looking at income/investment ratios. For example, I paid a radio promoter $3000 to work to just shy of 200 stations for my debut cd in the US. I worked all the other US radio, plus all of the non-US markets, including the UK. After a year and half, my BMI royalties for the first record stand at:

    US: $546.25
    UK: $2,277.33

    And that’s with WAY WAY more spins in the US. So you can imagine what I’ve begun to think since seeing these figures come in…

    At any rate, thanks Derek, for thinking the way you do and for sharing that thinking with others!

  6. Jarome
    December 16, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Actually, believe it or not, there are, and we may be the only ones…

    That’s right, We are an army of social media robot monkeys who blog and post and tweet and network.

  7. Mike
    December 16, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Good thoughts above. I hadn’t thought much about working with other musicians to make other music until just recently… You’re absolutely right — why not? It would only help motivate across all initiatives. I may be giving that a try starting in 2009.

  8. Per Boysen
    December 16, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I too moved into “the Purple Ocean Model” about ten years ago. My reason was that I wanted to expand my expression and experiences outside the typical “signed band format”. I took up writing books and magazine articles to provide additional income beside the music and it has been working well ever since (as an author I work mostly inside the Swedish language sphere, which may have been a mistake looked on in retrospect). I was lucky to have an interest in becoming “a modern renaissance man”, but I really don’t know what to advice people that doesn’t have that interest. It seems there is not much space left in today’s music space for those who “just want to make music and nothing else”. A bit sad, because many wonderful musician in the past have been so inclined. Not that I care much though, the world moves on…

  9. Ronnie
    December 16, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Army of social networking robot-monkeys sounds like a job for Derek Siver’s Muckworks. Thanks Seamus for helping us thing out side our boxes. Looks like I found a new feed for my Google rss page

  10. jason myers
    December 17, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Good ideas, good article. I have two projects that are completely different: 1)jazz trio and 2)a novelty band. I just recently started promoting the novelty band but without revealing my real name or that I was actually the creator of the content. But the “selling across the brand” is so simple but brilliant. Self cross-promotion!

    Best regards,

    Jason Myers

  11. Seamus
    December 17, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Firstly – thanks to Derek for the tweet – amazing what the right link will do for a quiet little backwater-blog hey?
    @Rachel – Thank you Rachel and all I can say is ‘think and grow rich’. You are doing the thinking, and wonderfully too, back that up with action and you’ll do fine 🙂
    @Jarome – Thanks for the link I am checking Pro-Soul Alliance out right now (well, after this).
    @Mike – I reckon the only way I ever found a decent band was by working my way through several incompatible attempts at forming groups until I stumbled on the right combo. It can be a numbers game. Every failed attempt brings you one step closer to a winning combo. I am going through this process again myself now.
    @Per – I think the trick to it, this is my theory anyway (good at those!) is to tie everything you are doing to a single major goal or purpose. You might like to read my ebook about this at, it’s free
    @Ronnie – thanks for subscribing and for the encouragement, very kind of you. It means a lot to me.
    @Jason – I have no problem with doing the opposite, but I personally try to restrict all sub-projects I do to those compatible with my major definite purpose. Again you might like to read my eBook at aboutthis.

  12. Per Boysen
    January 4, 2009 at 2:05 am

    Hi Séamus,

    I must admit I haven’t gotten around to read Purple Cow yet. Will do though. Thanks for the reminder! And good luck with your Purple Ocean way! :-)) Over here I just went ahead starting a new web site to hook up properly with the social media sphere. My old web sites – in English and in Swedish – has been around since the nineties and rather than go into those murky areas of cleaning up bad code I’m going with WordPress now (good tip, BTW!). It’s amazing how the online interactivity has evolved today; I just took a ride with Googles Blog search and found that a movie in Germany uses my Creative Commons licensed music. Didn’t have a clue about that and I won’t get paid either. Not by those guys, cause they’re still in film school, but well from other sources that eventually comes around as a side effect from “free music”. I’m slowly moving my mindset into charging fro ME and MY TIME rather than for “a specific product” – which was the case in the traditional record busienss. Cheers and happy 2k9! / per

  13. Seamus Anthony
    January 5, 2009 at 8:26 am

    Cheers Per and best of luck with it all. Stop back and let me know how you’re going sometime.

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