I referenced this earlier, but wanted to highlight the article in today’s GO! Magazine about Moonalice, the Bay Area-based jam band led by super-successful venture capitalist Roger McNamee. Not because I think it’s a brilliant article or anything, but because of what McNamee — a guy with extensive business experience and a genuine passion for music — had to say.
Essentially, Moonalice began a couple years ago and went about distributing their music and marketing their band just as the vast majority of bands have done over the past several decades. They spent a bunch of money to record an album and promote it and tour behind it. And it wasn’t working to McNamee’s liking. As he says in the article:
“The necessity here is that the music industry just isn’t supporting much in the way of new bands, and it’s for sure not supporting established musicians who were not the (big) name in their band. People in my band have all been in Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bands … but the industry … is not making room for all the incredibly talented musicians out there.”
So the guy dove headfirst into a business model for Moonalice that takes advantage of social media (Twitter, Facebook) and the direct connection with fans that those services can provide. Again, from the article:
“We have this notion that we will not be undersold. The theory is to make the barrier to adopting Moonalice the lowest it’s ever been in the music industry. Anything that we can record for free, we’ll give away for free. That’s the basic algorithm. It’s all about building an audience, because in the long run, the thing that sustains you is your ability to play live.”
Something McNamee told me that didn’t make the article is that, since the band dropped its manager, publicist and other hired guns and McNamee began concentrating on pushing Moonalice through social media, they’ve seen a significant upswing in interest and support from fans. The band’s Twitter followers are energetic and enthusiastic about Moonalice; the Bend gig, in fact, came about in part because of the tireless work of local techie and Twitterholic Julie Anderson (who also hammered on me about Moonalice until I paid attention, too.)
The point is, there’s no way to know whether or not the Moonalice model is the wave of the future, or whether it would work for every band. Certainly, McNamee has a deep pool of money he can use to subsidize Moonalice, though he makes the point that nearly every band that has ever made it big was infused with capital at some point, either by a record label, or family member, or whatever. And remember, it’s not money, necessarily, that has put Moonalice on an upward trajectory over the past several months. The band has, in fact, cut costs (by eliminating the manager, publicist, etc.) and much of that work is now being done by McNamee, who says he spends about three hours each day on marketing Moonalice. I thought this was a particularly insightful quote:
“It’s like farming. You’ve got to prepare the soil, you’ve got to plant seed, and then you’ve got to work it. It’s taking the only things that most bands have — time and content — and leveraging it like crazy.”
If you’re a local (or even non-local) musician or band, only you know whether what Moonalice is doing would work for you. Perhaps it would, perhaps not. But I think McNamee’s right about one thing, for sure: Most bands may not have his kind of money, but they do have time, and they do (or can) have content. And for a band looking to build an audience and a brand, a well-oiled social media machine could be a fast track toward achieving those goals.
The whole Moonalice article is available to everyone (even non-subscribers) right here. I hope you’ll read it. And if you have thoughts on this topic, I’d love to hear them in the comments.