Anyone who’s plunked down money on a musician-emblazoned tchotchke (hey, we all have Extreme II: Pornograffiti dog-tagged skeletons in our closets) should check out Fast Company‘s look at Musictoday, the Virginia-based company that sells music-related merchandise to artists’ most devoted fans:
Founded by Coran Capshaw, the storied but reticent manager of the Dave Matthews Band, Musictoday works behind the scenes to fashion an online identity for artists, then connects them with fans–and drives commerce. It feeds the sort of passion, or obsession, that turns a $20 teddy bear in a Dylan shirt or a $45 Red Hot Chili Peppers messenger bag into a necessity. It fulfills fantasies: owning Carlos Santana’s black fedora, say, or playing blackjack and softball with the Backstreet Boys, or sitting in on a soundcheck with John Mayer. Musictoday can even help fans become part of the music itself, as when Christina Aguilera incorporated their voice-mail messages into “Thank You,” a song on Back to Basics, her most recent release. “This is all about taking your fans behind the velvet rope,” says Matt Blum, Musictoday’s fan-club manager.
While the big money is still in touring, Musictoday rechannels revenue streams–merchandise margins and ticket fees that traditionally padded someone else’s pocket–in the talent’s direction. For new or lesser-known bands, that money could mean the difference between touring and trading in that Stratocaster for a busboy tray. “Somebody you’ve never heard of will sell $10 million in merchandise in two years,” says Jim Kingdon, executive vice president. And for megabands like Dave Matthews, which has more than 80,000 fans paying $35 a year for fan-club membership alone, the money can snowball.
The article’s a lengthy, solid look at Musictoday’s empire and the mechanisms it uses to bring alternate revenue to musicians–including the idea of the “paid fan club,” which serves a sorta-scummy purpose, since it doubles as a way for fans to feel like they’re “in” (through ticket presales and merchandise offers) and a way for musicians to gather data on their biggest acolytes, who can later be converted into street-teamers or other evangelizing types. (And here you thought all they were getting was your $30 a year.)
Way Behind The Music [Fast Company]