New ways artists are earning more – “the Eminem cassette tape album re-release” example

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May 19, 2017
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June 5, 2017

All in the music business today know that it is becoming ever more challenging to earn “real” money (or at least enough to allow you to stop busking and sleeping in your car). With the advent of the 360 degree recording deal and the introduction of digital downloads and streaming, earnings, even by major artists, are lower than ever.

But, artists are finding inventive ways of filling the “gaps”. Most artists are now, in addition to the main streams of royalties, including publishing rights and sales of singles, LPs and EPs, are focusing more attention than before on “value-added” fan-based “products”. They are seeking new ways to engage their fans and provide additional, appealing methods and means to obtain this income.

A prime example of this is Eminem. Digital Music News stated in a recent article:

‘ Last year, as part of its fifteenth anniversary, Eminem re-released The Slim Shady LP in cassette tape form.  He did the same for the sixteenth anniversary of The Marshall Mathers LP,and gave some fans bricks from his childhood home.’

How is that for ingenuity? He has brought something very personal to him into the hands of his most loyal (and probably wealthiest) fans. This is what the “new-age” fan really wants; a real piece of the artist they adore. It’s not enough just to buy your favorite artist’s album or go to his show, or even purchase some merchandise on his/her website. Additionally, the cassette tape is warmly remembered by those born pre-90s as a medium to buy their artist’s latest release and even more so, create mix-tapes for personal use or for that “special person”. The revival of this medium of recording by Eminem, even amongst his youngest fans, for the re-release of his albums, creates that warm, nostalgic connection or re-connection between him and his fans.

As a new project, Eminem will give a similar cassette tape form treatment to his third album, The Eminem Show.

Eminem first released The Eminem Show in 2002.  Now, the rapper will release a series of “bundles” to commemorate the album’s fifteenth anniversary.  Along with a cassette tape re-release, he’ll sell t-shirts and autographed posters.

For example:

  1. For $30, you can take home the album in cassette tape form along with a poster.  The description reads,

Celebrate the Anniversary of The Eminem Show with limited edition cassette re-issue, featuring lenticular motion printed cover, plus a 24″ x 18″ poster featuring prints of handwritten annotations of the liner notes by Eminem.

2. For $35, you can purchase the album in cassette tape along with a T-shirt in small, medium, large, extra large, or 2-XL.  The description reads,

Celebrate the Anniversary of The Eminem Show with limited edition cassette re-issue, featuring lenticular motion printed cover, plus a t-shirt that pays homage to album artwork featured in the liner notes.

Two bundles have already sold out: the $60 cassette tape with a poster and a T-shirt, and the $250 cassette tape, t-shirt, and an autographed poster.

Other artists have revived the vinyl medium (which would include, perhaps, special artwork, a copy of the album both in vinyl and a code to download the album on iTunes, etc). Another interesting recent release was David Bowie’s “Blackstar” album (which was released on 8 January 2016 – what a New Year’s gift to his fans) which still to this day, fans are discovering new bite-size nuggets of meaningful information from the artist on the album cover and within it. So, fans still feel connected to Bowie beyond his passing, and ensures that the album and the artist will live on (probably ensuring a future revenue stream for his wife and family).

Advice for the up-and-coming artist:

  • Don’t totally drop your focus from your main purpose – making good quality music; without good quality music, no-one is going to buy your merchandise, let alone your first single or EP.
  • Look for new ways to engage your current fans and gain new ones.
  • You can “do it yourself” – many of the new ways bands and artists are engaging their fan-base is through social media, which, if you can master and have a end-game strategy, can be a huge asset for future revenue.
  • Don’t neglect looking after the “business-side”! What I mean here is you must ensure that you have all the right contracts in place that you feel are necessary to ensure your success.
  • Also, you should consider protecting various aspects of “you” as an artist/band by virtue of intellectual property rights registrations (where possible). Besides the copyright you own in your album and other works, for example, you may file and register a trade mark for your or your band’s name. Remember to always ask an attorney to assist you with conducting a trade mark search (as well as an internet search) for the name you wish to use. This is vital, because in the beginning, you may not be on anyone’s radar, but as soon as you start making a name for yourself, any artist/band with an identical or confusingly similar name will have his/her/its attorney write you a letter requesting you to change your name.


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