On Saturday 23rd January, the world’s leading music industry conference, MIDEM, was kicked off by a panel discussion with Hal Ritson and Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls discussing the artist’s perspective on new models for the promotion of music in the digital economy. Other speakers following included Pharrell, Ed O’Brian of Radiohead and Fallout Boy.

The official MIDEMNET blog reported as follows:

Artists are getting in early with their views on digital music innovation this MidemNet – the opening panel on day one features Amanda Palmer (centre, of Dresden Dolls and now solo fame) and Hal Ritson from The Young Punx (left)… It also made history as the first ever MidemNet session to kick off with a ukulele cover of Radiohead’s Creep (Palmer), interpretive dance (Ritson) and a sock puppet (representing Paul Van Dyk).

Ritson talked about his own online activities, saying an artist has to do three things nowadays: first, get people to listen to the music; second, get some emotional contact with them; and third, find a revenue stream from somewhere.

“We’ve totally embraced the point that writers of music blogs are totally taking over as the new tastemakers of music,” he said. So Ritson looks at blogs giving away free music not as a threat, but as the modern equivalent of radio promo. “You’re getting people to hear your music,” he said.

Ritson’s organisation has someone whose job is to monitor the music blogs, and maintain a relationship with the key sites. “We try to manage the release of material to the blogs pro-actively, so that on the same day, five of the key blogs might get our new track,” he said.
The Young Punx did a deal with a German beer company, for example, with the brand putting on music events, and the band integrating the brand into its podcasts. “So they were giving away our music, they were paying us to be associated with their brand – the revenue was coming from them, and everyone was happy.”

Through the course of last year, Germany became the third most important market for The Young Punx, as measured by Facebook fans. “That came from us not selling many records, but many many people hearing our music – and we got paid!… You don’t measure success by sales any more. How many people are enjoying what you have to offer, and then you have to ask whether my business is profitable.”

Ritson also gave what may prove to be the key tip for how to ‘use’ social media to connect with fans – “you have to do it passionately and personally. People are interested in the artists, not in somebody from the marketing department”.