David Knopfler : Background

Founded Dire Straits – 1977 – Sold about 10mil CDs a year – kinda cool but not relevant

1983 – Set up indie label and publishing companies – sold 100,000 a year – also cool but again not relevant – why? because the music business has changed beyond recognition. Examples:

competition – cloning – majors in a mess – retail a nightmare – so let’s look at the realities for 2005: Totally different business to the one I joined almost 30 years ago – first to illustrate with one example – when I started the margins were terrific – if your record was ordered by a store in europe – it was sold.. no returns – and DJs chose records they liked and that’s why they played them – hilarious concept – can you even imagine? Now it’s Clear-Channel pay to play and stores charging you for shelf space even though they might return every copy. Unless you are a 15 year old phenomenon that a major is investing a million to try and break, that leaves you where most of us are – in some difficulties – but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your work and sell it. The margins are wide – and waiting to be exploited.

So How:

1. Islands Records Poster story – a terrible thing happens when you don’t promote… nothing. You HAVE to promote and you HAVE to market – that doesn’t mean and CAN’T mean you spend $3 for every $1 dollar you make though. You can’t afford the big splashy adverts – because you have to work in the margins – but the margins are wide – and the margins are where the interesting art is made. So how? Well you probably can’t get an Agent either – but someone who can do the same work as an agent is certainly doable – and you do HAVE to gig and build an audience and a fan base – so start looking for places to play where an audience will show up – forget the showcase gigs – you aren’t looking for a Major deal – probably not even an indie one – because they aren’t looking for recording artists – what they’re looking for is a whole other trip – you are going to be paddling your own canoe – and you HAVE to effectively sell your own CDs at your shows. However do bear in mind that just because your record is DIY in the US – that doesn’t preclude shopping it around for licencing deals in the rest of the world. Places like MIDEM in France are worth further investigation for that.

* The more shows – the more punters – the more CDs you’ll sell.

* Use someone that knows how to sell CDs at clubs to sell your records – it will triple your sales –

* take time and trouble to have a table for signing records – and chose a strong location – somewhere where the punters will unaavoidably see it on the way in and out –

* let your audience know you’ll be coming back after the show to sign the CDs they are buying.

In my shows because I have a catalogue for 9 CDs – it can take an hour or two just to do that – so you need to factor that into your schedule… and

* have an auditing system for numbers sold and cash handed over – no early nights for you… but that’s where you’ll make a living – not on the door money or the guarantees .. that just covers costs. For those of you who thought you were getting into this business to be artists – I commiserate.

Internet – your website is VITAL – I sell more CDs through my website – knopfler.com – than anyplace else – and I’m one of the fortunate ones that also sells through retail – because in Europe – | can still get arrested – and sell enough to just about hang onto record deals worth signing there.

You don’t need the latest slick graphics at your site – what you need is CLARITY – make it totally quick and easy for your visitors to find the inflormation that they’re looking for – and make it as seamless as possible for them to buy CDs online and to download to itunes online. 99 times out of 100 – a white background works best – don’t lose sales to everyone who doesn’t have the eyesight of an adolescent and who doesn’t dig reading tiny script on colours that blur into the background.

Make it “sticky” – joining lists to exclusive downloads. Make your audience motivated to help you with the promotion… that’s a whole science in itself.

Even if you have your own secure server – as I do – I set mine up a decade ago when the scripts to do it were still first drafts – now shopping carts are ubiquitous – and better – it’s still worth using CD Baby and Amazon – though personally I don’t advertise my CD Baby link at my own site for the obvious reason it will only eat into sales I’d be getting from my own site… but for punters visiting CD Baby anyway – perfect. On the other hand as Derek Sivers quite properly pointed out if you slam it ALL through CDBABY not only is your hands on time freed up but you increase the likelyhood of it generating a chart position and therefor more sales as a result.

Use your gigs to advertise your website – your website to advertise your gigs – build a fanbase with regular newsletters – a website is like a magazine – it needs new content all the time.

Other considerations/footnotes afterthought

pre-selling of CD and other special goodies –
DVDs – we’re working in a visual medium now- be aware of that.
book your tours through the internet – it takes longer – but no phone bills
Look for agencies that offer sponsored hotels. 


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