Thursday, August 16, 2012

Max Bemis and the Song Shop: Making Money in the 21st Century

Technology - the Internet in particular - has brought a whole new wave of challenges and opportunities for artists of all sorts.  While there are times and places for these to be discussed in depth (and there have been many, many places where it's already been discussed) one of the biggest challenges is one that's been around forever: how do you get people to buy what you're selling?  Conventional wisdom says if it's good, people will buy it.  Maybe you need a better marketing plan to get it in front of more eyeballs.  A unique facet of this in the 21st century, though, is getting people to buy goods like music, which can be reproduced infinitely and instantly at nearly no cost.  Why should people pay ten bucks for an album when they can get it elsewhere for free?  Piracy exists.  There are plenty of reasons for this - convenience, price, and more - but it doesn't stop the fact that it happens.  From Napster to Kazaa to torrents, trying to stop it is like cutting off a hydra head.  Sure, you stopped whatever is being used today (and likely crippled a legitimate technology because of some bad apples) but something else will pop up tomorrow - or it already exists, just waiting for people to find it.

So, you need something to sell.  Tangible objects are good.  A band might have their music downloaded illegally but sell shirts, vinyls, and more at a show (and the shows themselves are a source of money, too).  But creators are finding more unique ways to sell themselves - that is, their skills or personality or time or whatever.  Kickstarter is full of campaigns with rewards that include talking to creators, having dinner with them, and so on.  A while back the band Kinch included a custom song on their site.  Max Bemis, of the considerably successful/popular band Say Anything, took a similar notion a step further with the Song Shop.

It's a simple concept, really.  Bemis has a number of open slots and lets people pay for personalized songs.  He sells half- and full-length songs, as well as an EP bundle.  You give him a little bit about what you want, and he'll fashion an acoustic song out of it.  That's about it.  Bemis reports to have done songs for over 1,000 fans since 2008, which is an impressive output.

The Song Shop is really a great idea.  It makes Bemis a little more money, which is always nice for him.  It gives some people their very own song, which is cool for them.  It also keeps Bemis, and by extension his "day job" of Say Anything in the public consciousness, which is great for their future releases.  Finally, it gives a really great connection from the band to fans.  One of the most surefire way to get people to buy is to make them want to buy, and an easy way to do that is to get them to like you.  People enjoy supporting endeavors that they feel connected to or can put a face to.

If you want a song of your very own, as of this writing, there are a number of slots still available for this incarnation of the Song Shop.  You can also check YouTube for some examples of Song Shop products before you purchase; people have been cool about sharing what was written for them.  If you're a fan of Say Anything, you know the quality output you'll be getting.  If you've never heard of the band or of Max Bemis, this might be a good time to take a listen and support a clever source of income and creativity.

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