Last month I attended the Charleston Music Confab Conference in Charleston, SC, which brought record executives and artists together to talk about where the industry is headed and provide vital direction to young artists on how to standout in a sea of YouTubers and Spotifiers. One executive I had the pleasure of partying chatting with was Indiehitmaker (IHM) Founder and President, Bram Bessoff. Via narip.com,
IHM helps independent artists advance their careers by enabling them to report live venue sales to SoundScan, a service once only available to signed artists. This makes technology available, affordable and easy to use for every one of the 300,000+ independent artists currently touring and performing in the US and a way to leverage the only industry-accepted sales metric, SoundScan, to get on the Billboard Charts.
Indiehitmaker has 356 artists who are using a release plan in some way and has had 2,000 customers on their platform since their 2007 inception.
In my chat with Bram, it was clear the music industry was way more complicated than I had thought. His “Dropkick 12-step Release Plan” encompasses all the key industry parts and is broken out as such: Vision & Audience, Goals & Budget, Catalog & Royalties Setup, Document Existing Content, Choose Release Format, Create Marketing Plan, Pre-Production, Production, Live Performance Prep, Post-Production, Pre-Release, Drop Release.
Browsing the website, IHM’s platform provides so many different services, so I chatted with him further to have him break it down for me on a simpler level for me.
I think a common first question from a lot of young artists would be “How do I get more streams and what do I need to do to get on the Billboard charts?”
Bram: “There’s a difference between getting streams and making your streams count. There are two different types of charts on Billboard right now. The album sales charts tracks things that are purchased. Whether it’s CDs, downloads, or a song. Those charts are going away, so they won’t be around much longer. Every artist needs to be thinking about a hybrid consumption strategy. This is what comes into play: streaming, radio play, and sales, and there’s a very special formula, which is part of our secret sauce that makes our platform work. How many streams versus radio play does an artist need to get on a top genre list and then into the coveted top 100 and 200 charts which is cross genre. We have the #1 and #2 artists on a few album and singles sales charts right now.” [Week 40 – At time of interview]
“And then there’s momentum. A mix of digital music marketing, social media strategy, publicity, and sync licensing – getting your song into a movie, ad, or video game. When something like that hits, it takes you a whole next level.”
So you have a strategy for syncs (ad, movie song placement?)
Bram: “Yes, we have partners. Artists get a free kick off session when they join the Dropkick platform. That’s where we start talking to them about goals and open up the 12-step release plan.”
So, for goals, if an artist comes to you and said my songs are on Spotify but I have less than 1,000 streams, how do I get that to 10,000, 50,000 and more?
Bram: “Within our Momentum plan we have a group of partners. We focus on goals, budget and their audience. We create a team of Sherpas (named after the Nepalese locals that help climbers reach the peak of Mount Everest). It begins with your Drop Sherpa, main point of contact, who helps plan your release. Then depending on your goals & budget you may work with a Sherpa for SEO and your website. We have Charting Sherpas, Streaming Sherpas, Radio Sherpas, and of course Sync Sherpas. So, when you put that all together, like spokes of a wheel, you get a lot of momentum. Picking a digital aggregator is also very important. Choosing the cheapest one can sometimes get you into pitfalls with your music rights so we help consult with that as well.”
“So, now at this point how do you get people to listen to your music? You’re just one of millions and millions of tracks up on Spotify. How do you drive traffic to get to the numbers you need? I’ll tell you right now to get up on the charts you need millions of streams per week. And that might be mind-blowing for artists but we’ve done it before. And they may not be artists people know but that’s how you leverage relationships in the industry. You essentially get someone on the right playlist. And that’s how we start momentum on that side. Artists necessarily can’t afford to do that on their own so we’ll come up with an agreement and do the hard work for you to get you above the noise. Our service and Sherpas will carry you up. There are artists and labels that spend a shit ton of money upwards of tens of thousands of dollars a week to build promotions on Spotify. It’s a whole economy that makes it tough for independent artists to compete with. “
“Think of it this way. An independent artist is trying to get where they’re going on a bike. We’re a motorcycle.”
What happens when a band comes to you with music that is terrible or you don’t agree with and you have to use your personal contacts to advance them?
Bram: “So, if there’s a band that wants to spend that kind of money or give up their streaming royalties to cover costs, we will say, ‘You’re not ready for that!’ We bring them right back to step one of the release plan and start with a Drop Sherpa session. We go back and work with them to figure out their mission, vision and identify their true audience – those people that will buy into your vision and ultimately become super fans. That way we can dissect and say why their music is not ready for their goals. Then we can decide who they need to work with to get their music and brand up to speed.
There’s the whole live music production aspect as well. Ultimately, you have to get on stage and do more than play your music, you must capture and engage your audience by taking them on a journey. If you can’t, you’ll notice your crowd starts to thin after three songs. You have to beg people to come meet you at the merch stand and buy a CD versus there being a huge line to meet you at the end of the show. And wanting to be on your mailing list, which is how it should be every single night. I’m an expert on showing artists how to do that in a live situation. We call that ‘loving your audience.’ There’s a difference between performing and loving your audience.”
What is coming down the line for your platform?
Bram: “So, the big thing is an integration with PayFlock, a new payments solutions company bringing a suite of payment tools to artists. A fan integration app. Integrated advertising. Online sales. The platform will beat Square & Stripe with transactions fees less than 2.5%. We are also excited to be part of first artist friendly, fully rights protected, and affordable digital aggregation service to get your music distributed to all online music sales & streaming platforms like iTunes, Spotify, etc without any of the nasty user agreements. We’re also working with a cryptocurrency company so artists can have their own bitcoin so to speak. Digital currency.”
Thanks Bram for the time. For any artists out there, $10-$20 a month seems like a no-brainer, especially with no long term contracts. Check it out.