Some really interesting comments in the NYT article this afternoon on Atlantic Records statement that their digital sales are surpassing their CD sales. What really struck me was how Atlantic is going about increasing their digital sales. Good quote here:

“I think we’ve figured it out,” said Julie Greenwald, president of Atlantic Records. “It used to be that you could connect five dots and sell a million records. Now there are 20 dots you can connect to sell a million records.”

I really think the same can be said for developing artists. A common thread in my course (as well as the other business courses that we’re teaching here online) is that diversifying your revenue streams and engaging in niche marketing is a big part of making it work for musicians these days. Check out what Atlantic is doing:

Replacing compact disc sales are small bits of revenue from many sources: Atlantic Records’ digital sales include ring tones, ringbacks, satellite radio, iTunes sales and subscription services. At the same time, record labels — Atlantic included — are spending less money to market artists. In the pre-Internet days, said Ms. Greenwald, “we were so flush, we did everything in the name of promotion.” Among the cutbacks are less spending to produce videos and to support publicity tours when a new album is released.

The same principles can be (must be) applied to developing artists. Get your music out to Pandora (who accept indie submissions), start selling ringtones, start selling merch off of your own site, use TuneCore or CD Baby to get your music up on iTunes. Be aggressive with your outreach, and targeted with your outlets.

Occasionally I hear folks complain about the fact that there is no good music out there any more (this myth was recently perpetuated by LA Reid in this, my “quote of the year”). But the fact is, many of the major national and regional outlets that in the past were the gatekeepers of new content (in particular radio, retail & TV) have ether been homogenized in such a way that they are ineffective at presenting new music to consumers, they are now irrelevant as tastemaking outlets, or both. There’s a whole new world of music promotion that is rising up from the ashes of the old guard that is primarily user-generated: thousands of blogs (Brooklyn Vegan and Day Trotter are excellent outlets focused on indie music) and online radio stations (Pandora is leading the pack) are doing a fantastic job at discovering and promoting new music. There are more outlets then ever to hear/promote new music, they might just not be quite as obvious as they were 10 years ago.

All this being said, I do love seeing quality music from real “developing” artists playing real songs on national TV. I got turned onto Feist from the work she has done with Broken Social Scene, an amazing collective out of Toronto. She’s got a new solo record out and a new song, (“1,2,3,4”) that was heavily promoted in the new iPod commercial. Check her out performing on the Today Show yesterday: