Build Careers, Not Moments

PLUS: Bandcamp Listening Parties, Major Label Revenue

Welcome, artists & builders.

Each week, we navigate music’s future together.

Today, I tackle the industry’s “depression” about the state of breaking artists & how we can work towards an artist-focused future.

Inside Issue #17

💡 Context: Build careers, not moments
🛠️ Tools: Bandcamp Listening Parties
📊 Numbers: How are the majors doing?
🗞️ What You Missed: Music’s $28 billion opportunity in Africa & more

Why Aren’t Artists “Breaking”?

J. Erving gets it.

These artists won’t exist if we don’t incentivize them.

They won’t thrive if we don’t support them.

We’ve Forgotten the Point

That we should build careers, not moments.

Sure, attention matters.
Reach matters.

But the endless pursuit of short-term, unrepeatable wins creates a system in which nothing is real. Nothing is authentic.

And nothing lasts.

This is what happens when you chase the wrong things

→ When artists are removed from context
→ When it's all discovery & no retention
→ When it's virality over everything

The incentives of streaming & social don’t align with long-term artist careers.

They’re incredible tools.
Use them.

But, don’t bend & conform to optimize everything you do for an incrementally higher chance at playlisting or virality.

That’s chasing moments, not careers.

You’ll lose sight of what’s authentic & drives real fan connections.

The things that compound.
The things that last.

Don’t forget the point.

Artists careers are not a lottery ticket

Something that either hits & you’re a star, or you don’t matter.

Real artist careers exist outside superstardom. And we need to re-assess what “breaking” looks like.

Artists that build real communities are winning.

Keep buying lotto tickets & you’ll lose.

Building From the Ground Up

To develop artists & fandom, we need systems that support it.


Passivity → Interactivity & Depth

Think payout models, pricing, and product focus. These base layers determine everything on top of them. If streaming’s north-star was driving merch, memberships & ticketing, you’d see an artist-first, engaged experience.


Low-intent → High-intent.

Focus on measures of fandom, create more of them, and make them easier to track. Resources funnel to what we measure.


Funding, support & distribution pick winners.

If we better monetize fandom, and better measure it, systems will rise to better support artists showing promise in it. (I discussed some options last issue).


Build fans. Build careers.

Stop chasing virality.
Stop using empty metrics.
Stop optimizing for discovery 100% of the time.
Stop churning out music with only Spotify & Tiktok in mind.

Start focusing on what sets you apart.
Start building from the ground up.
Start crafting real stories.
Start connecting.

Building for development is a long game.

Focus on high-intent fans & high-intent interactions.

We all need discovery & reach. But that’s only part of it.


Oh, and the majors are doing just fine as is….see below.

📚️ My 3 Favorite Reads This Week

All around the issue of building artist careers

  1. 10 things Ted Goia would do if he ran a major label

  2. The industry’s misaligned incentives (Tatiana Cirisano / Midia)

  3. The internet blew up the pop star factory & the world will be better for it (Adam Singer)


Make Your Release a Shared Moment

Bandcamp has launched Listening Parties.

Start sending people where you’re the context - for a shared moment with all your biggest fans.

  1. Premiere your album

  2. On or before release day

  3. Chat & answer questions

All right where they buy.

Features Include: You can add moderators, enable supporter-only chat & chat goes for 1-hour after the album ends.

They Should Add: Tokengating, only listen if you’ve pre-ordered, and limited drops that are only available during the party.

Plus, live audio commentary during the stream would be nice. I’m trying a work-around where you cut it in pre-recorded.

🧠 Shared moments are so rare. Create them wherever you can.

🧰 3 More Tools Like This

  1. Stationhead: Artist-hosted stations that earn Spotify/Apple streams for each listener & offer album buys on release week.

  2. Single: live video sessions inside your Shopify store, with member or token-gating.

  3. Turntable Live: integrates with Discord & gives artists all the data.


Major labels are making $72 million every day

The 3 majors made $1 billion more revenue in the 1st half of 2023 than 2022. It doesn’t look like the lack of new superstars is hurting them.

73% of streaming is catalog. And they own the blue chips.

🔥 What You Missed

🔥 Oh, That’s Helpful

Plus, you’re chances to get on New Music Friday & what it actually means for you.

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That’s all this week. See you on Twitter or LinkedIn.

- Rob

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