BitDepth#885 - May 14

Kelli Richards, online digital distribution pioneer, offers advice to local creatives on moving their work online...
Digital distribution dilemma
Kelli Richards speaks at NAPA. Photograph by Mark Lyndersay.

On May 07, Kelli Richards, President and CEO of The All Access Group presented the second of several local talks on digital distribution at the UTT Campus at NAPA.
Richards began working in digital distxribution at Apple in 1987, back when all online distribution of music and video was illegal.

At NAPA, speaking as a guest of COTT and hosted in T&T by the US Embassy of Trinidad and Tobago, her talk was focused on music, but also covered film, e-books and perhaps most usefully, the need for artists to become far more engaged in online marketing as a critical component of their success strategy.
The digital distribution entrepreneur began with Patronet, an early experiment with the direct to fan business model.

“You must see your creative work as a business,” she warned the musicians at the COTT event, “and you must see yourself as a brand.”

Crowdfunding, a growing source of capital, she noted, was just “one spoke in the direct to fan wheel.”
Artists who chose crowdfunding to access capital for their projects should be careful to choose their outlets and to review their business arrangements. Kickstarter, for instance, is all or nothing, and takes a two to five per cent cut of the take. IndieGoGo allows artists to keep all the money that’s pledged, but takes nine per cent of a missed goal and four percent if you get all the money you’ve asked for.

But crowdfunding isn’t just post it and hope, artists need to be willing to keep pitching the project and keeping their marketing ongoing. One good example of a crowdfunding break out of perks is here:
For musicians, Richards suggests a regularly updated presence on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook.
“Post as much as music as you can,” she advised.
“Post a video. Share and update as much as possible, as often as possible.”

For musicians and audio recording artists, her advice was quite specific. If you charge, make sure the product is of the highest possible quality. If it isn’t, it might be better to just give it away.
Surprised at the hesitation to engage online in so many of the young artistes coming to the microphone at NAPA, I followed up with Victoria Trestrail, a young folk rock singer who asked some particularly pointed questions at the talk.

Trestrail, who has a presence on Reverbnation where you can hear her work and view her videos (, has placed three of her songs in five episodes of the quirky web comedy The Louise Log and joined the team to see the results of their nomination The Shorty Awards in Manhattan in April.
Victoria Trestrail first tried working with local musicians, but she says, “It didn’t work out. I went international, and I was appreciated.”

In 2009, Trinidadian Rishi Ramlagan, aka Snakeman, reached out to her on Facebook after hearing one of her songs and produced three of her more successful works, Johnny’s Fool, Steady Now and The Essentials.
Steady Now earned an Honourable Mention in the 2010 Billboard World Song contest and been featured in the Facebook app Hit or Not.
“I consider myself a songwriter that sings,” Trestrail wrote in response to emailed questions, “but I write for other artistes as well”

Richards’advice distilled...

Be available.
Own your online presence.
Know your audience and market.
Gauge your expectations.
Invest in the product, make it polished and professional
Sometimes it’s wiser to give it away for free.
Connect with the world.
Engage with your audience and produce work.
Adapt and evolve. Keep yourself relevant.
There’s no right path to success.

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