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Musicians & fans redefining the game

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

On the fan side, there’s Nikki Vinci, who a few years ago heard a song by the Damnwells, went to the band’s web site and bought a T-shirt. She not only became a customer of Musictoday, a low-key fulfillment house serving artists, she eventually went on to manage dozens of its online stores, including sites for Tiger Woods, Led Zeppelin and the Damnwells.

On the musician side, there’s singer-songwriter John Legend, who realized when he hit it big that he’d better be wise to the people lining up for his money. Although he does release music through a major label, Legend also formed his own company and hired a contractor to market his stuff.

That contractor is Musictoday. Founded by Coran Capshaw, the manager of the Dave Matthews Band, the company creates an online identity for clients, then invites fans to feed their passions, from a Red Hot Chili Peppers messenger bag to blackjack with the Backstreet Boys.

Aspects of Capshaw’s leadership:
  • He patterned his firm on the “do-it- yourself” model invented by the Grateful Dead, who bypassed radio and marketed themselves directly.

  • He realized that he could aggregate and share fan data, helping musicians decide where to tour.

  • He discovered that even no-name bands will sell $10 million in merchandise over two years.

  • His life’s recurring theme is challenging the status quo and finding a chink in the industry’s armor that he can exploit for artists.
It’s the unglamorous side of the business, and it pays well. “In the not-too- distant future, this could mean you won’t need a label anymore,” Legend says. “That’s the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”

—Adapted from “Way Behind the Music,” Chuck Salter, Fast Company.

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