The medium is the message

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Hi and welcome to my newsletter. If you’re new, can’t remember subscribing or are just visiting, learn more about me.

I recently changed platforms — hello, Substack! My last mail-out was about my curiosity in the art of the newsletter. I wrote about experimenting with Domes' newsletter as a mechanism for different dialogues with our audience. The intention was to explore whether a measure of connectivity and exclusivity created value for people following our journey.

That’s been a rewarding experience for me, encouraging some great conversations that might not have happened elsewhere on social media. I’d like to take a similar approach with thoughts and stories about my creative and professional journey. It also feels like there’s a space between the length of tweet and the effort of a blog post that a newsletter might fit.

Let’s find out.

A feedback loop

My post, The album is dead, long live the album! outlined the rationale for Domes' release strategy. An experiment in bucking the attention economy, we want to sustain awareness and engagement of our songs and perhaps everything we think of as the "right" way to distribute new music has been outmoded.

I imagine standing by a fast flowing river, dropping a single leaf and hoping that someone a kilometre downstream might happen upon it—appreciating all its rich textural detail and deep shades of meaning. It seems unlikely, particularly without the traditional infrastructure of extensive touring, marketing content development (music videos) and typical capital-intensive promotional practices. Avoiding these requisite promotional expenses may be contrarian.

I considered the potential economic advantage of releasing singles over collections (albums, EPs) and looked at streaming platform user-behaviour as indicative of our prospective audience.  Reader feedback suggested it’s complicated. There was support for our reasoning but also rejection of the trend away from physical products entirely or the idea that single releases could yet create a narrative experience. 

Our essential challenge before spending any capital is whether investing in an untested idea, product or service is more important than funding the next recording experience. I reflected that the piece wasn’t fully informed by the financial reality of independent manufacture and supply of music content.

A deeper discussion required analysis of the benefits, costs and trade-offs required to bring music to market. The follow-up, Your feedback on our release strategy: singles versus albums, digital versus physical, described:

Whereas major labels are now generating over $1 million dollars hourly from streaming revenue. While that’s fascinating as a measure of influence of the distribution channel on the industry, Warner Music Group CEO, Steve Cooper (as quoted in MBW) suggests that artist/song discovery is still a fundamental problem… Independent artists fighting for oxygen in that system may not see the correlation between platform engagement and profit—especially when the revenue generated per Spotify stream is $0.0044 (2018 estimate).

We learnt from conversations inspired by the original post that:

  1. Notwithstanding algorithmic discovery, fans delve into album journeys, not playlist experiences

  2. The desire, if not the relative demand, for physical product still exists

  3. Alternative models exist but there's a high barrier to entry

After considering the economics and constraints of each insight in the context of developing a sustainable business, I proposed two further ideas. We’ve just launched one of these: an on-demand merchandise store. Please let me know what you think of the designs.

Whether this is particularly successful with our audience remains to be seen. However, on-demand platforms are a game-changer for artists. Having no upfront cost of manufacturing or inventory management means that we can bring products to market quickly in response to people's feedback. It gives us a better chance of creating a revenue stream to drive straight back into recording more music. 

For now, we continue to experiment with and learn from our single-release strategy.

What else is new?

👨‍💻 Wrote a new leadership and HR blog post, Leading through COVID-19
📱 Launched a podcast, Creative Labour, with my friend, Brendon Kahi
🎧 Domes’ latest track, Bonfire of the Vanities, is out 8 May

It’s great to have you here.

Until next time,