This week, industry sources say iTunes have reported 13% to 14% decline in digital music sales. This comes as no surprise as the market share of Spotify and other leading streaming platforms continue to thrive. These trends throw a spotlight on creative entrepreneur types like Ryan Leslie.
Artist / producer / all round super entrepreneur Leslie is making waves in ‘Direct to Consumer’ marketing and communications. Having originally risen through the traditional music industry ranks in the late 90s producing hit-making beats for Britney Spears, Chris Brown, Mary J Blige, Fabolous et. al; collaborating with the likes of P Diddy, Tommy Motolla and breaking artists like Cassie, Leslie continues to evolve his brand and amass a fan base primarily through the use proprietary technology platforms, further amplified via social media channels.
A first class macroenomics graduate from Harvard, despite proven professional success in his early career Leslie recognised he was not fulfilling his revenue potential within the constraints of the existing commercial music business model. He investigated the opportunities to own more of the pie through artist to consumer platform Actifan, a mobile app that enables artist to communicate and distribute directly to fans independently. He explains his approach to fan communication during this IdeasLab lecture.
Despite this authentic (some might say revolutionary) approach, why does Ryan Leslie’s music still remain outside of the mainstream? If fact, if there are established direct to consumer platforms like Music Glue and Bandcamp, why are emerging artists still hustling for that elusive major label record deal? According to the conclusions to a survey conducted by Reverbnation and Digital Music News, 75% of new artists are still chasing a conventional record deal.
It seems that the power to drive change sits not with the industry execs or the artist, but ironically directly with the fan. According to a Mercury News article from SXSW, Malthe Sigurdsson, VP, Product Design at streaming platform Rdio,
“There is still a whole ton of work to convince people that they want to select what they want to listen to – that they don’t want to just turn on the radio and listen to the country channel,” he said.
Leslie’s ethos does pose an exciting back to basics opportunity for artists to truly connect with audiences effectively and convert them into advocates, distributing positive awareness throughout their networks. In order to reach this tipping point however, there is also is increased pressure on the artist to offer unparalleled value and/or fan connection to drive behavioural change. Ryan Leslie’s continued efforts to build a tribe are an encouraging testament to this.