In the past few years, several major artists have decided that it was not in their best interests to resign a contract with their label. Instead, they are looking to market themselves directly to their fans. Not only are they changing the way in which they are marketing themselves to their existing and potential fans, but they are thinking outside of the box of the collapsing structures of the music industry and are adopting the tools that the major labels have forsaken for so long.
In 2007, Radiohead refused to resign their contract with their label and chose to let their fans determine the price they would pay for a digital copy of their album, In Rainbows. Along with directly marketing In Rainbows to their fans, they offered a version of the album that was exclusive and limited edition. This model resulted in 1.2 million downloads on the first day. Also in 2007, Madonna broke with Warner Music and opted to trade a share of her profits with Live Nation in a $120 million deal that pays out in stocks and cash over the next 10 years for 3 albums and exclusive tour promotion.
So what does all this mean to you? According to Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, it means the power is back in the hands of the artist. You can read his advice, here. Reznor believes that the industry is levelling and the tools to directly market to and, most importantly, collect and own the data left by your fans are within reach to bands just getting started. Furthermore, he provides great information regarding these tools and how to use them.