To kick off my first in a series of interviews with music industry professionals, I had a chat with Steven Corn of BFM Digital.
BFM Digital is a digital distribution, marketing, and promotions company for select music, film, and other digital content. BFM distributes its diverse catalog via all the leading digital and mobile platforms worldwide.
1. Please explain a bit more about your company, BFM Digital.
BFM Digital distinguishes itself through its boutique size, personalized customer service and quality catalog. Representing only select labels and artists allows us to become a true partner and advocate for our client’s digital goals. We work one-on-one with clients to develop a comprehensive release schedule. Further, we interface with clients about pricing and marketing strategies aiming to increase revenue and maximize exposure of their content.
Conversely, BFM also works closely with the leading digital services to promote our catalog on their storefronts through featured placements and product promotions. The strength of our relationships with them enables us to be aware of various promotional opportunities for which we will submit your titles if they are the right fit.
2. Describe a typical day at the office for you.
During breakfast, I check on the previous sales for iTunes, Amazon and Youtube and make a note of any interesting trends or unexpected sales. On the way to work (a 45 min commute), I often will skype from my cell phone to one of our European tech partners or distributed labels. It’s a great way to kill the commute. I also create my daily to-do in my head while I commute. Usually the first thing that I do after arriving is to review the back log of agreements that need my review and attention. I try to get to at least a couple each day. Next up would be to meet with our delivery department to see if there are any new issues that have arisen. I’ll look at financials and cash flow statements along the way. At some point, I’ll discuss potential marketing submissions to the DSPs with my VP of Marketing. Mixed into the fray is reviewing potential new content providers, reading up on trending news, and seeing how various biz dev workflows are proceeding. Generally, there are several fires to put out and that can disrupt any plans that I created along my commute. If I’m lucky, I get to complete 50% of my daily goals.
3. What is your favorite part of your job?
I love tracking the success of a digital compilation that my A&R team created. We make inter- and intra-label virtual albums to create new retail sku’s from existing catalog. It’s such a rewarding feeling to see these start to sale. Creating a new revenue-earning product from nothing is very satisfying. A close second is when I see one of our needy, indie artists start to make money from their digital catalog. Our payments have literally housed some of our more financially challenged artists. Getting them off the streets into decent housing is one of the greatest motivations for being in business.
4. What do you think is the most profitable area of the music industry for independent artists today?
If you can get an album or catalog to sell across borders, that can be immensely profitable considering the cost efficiencies. However, it seems that on a per-unit basis, ringtones and limited edition vinyls present the best profit margins. But for many, a good synch placement trumps download sales. Those are few and far in-between in this competitive market for synch’s.
5. What do you look for when you are signing artists?
First, the music has to be high quality. It doesn’t matter what the genre is. I have experts in all genres on my staff who can evaluate submissions. However, good music, regardless of genre, is usually self-evident. As important as the music is a good strategy. We need the artist and label to commit to making their product a success. This means developing and executing a marketing plan. This doesn’t have to be anything complex or expensive. All we are looking for is some form of creative and consistent activity. Without having the proper ammunition, there is little that we can do to assist an artist or label to achieve the next level of success.
6. What would you say is the single most important thing independent artists can do to help grow their careers?
It’s actually two things. First, gig and gig. It is important to develop your local market as fully as possible. These will be the fans that will spread the word. Secondly, develop a plan. With very few exceptions, albums without a release strategy and a well thought out plan, rarely succeed. Take the time to figure out how you want to build momentum and fans. It always pays off to do so.
7. Today, everything is online and there is so much content from an infinite number of sites and platforms. How can artist or band can make itself stand out when there is so much content from so many artists on every digital retailer/platform?
With up to 30 million tracks on some digital services, it is most definitely a crowded marketplace. While there is no simple strategy for getting your music discovered more easily on the music stores, there is assuredly a very easy way to make your music harder to find. That would be to just “set it and forget it” (as the infamous infomercial states). It is more important than ever to develop an action plan to keep your fans engaged and interested. This can be anything ranging from a series of homemade videos, blog entries, to candid behind-the-scenes photos or videos. One email blast or tweet orFacebook post is simply not enough. An artist needs to have a consistent and continuous stream of interactions with their fans to increase discoverability on these services.
Thanks to Steve for sharing his thoughts! I’ll be sharing more interviews soon.