The Lessons Music Business Can Teach Authors

Brian O'LearyThe content explosion characteristic of the Digital Age is reshaping media in every form. Once inhabitants of disparate worlds, musicians and authors today find themselves in the same global game, where creation and distribution are easy, but monetary reward comes slow and painfully.

In 2013, an abundance of content has made success in the marketing and sale of books, music, and even film a greater challenge than ever. Lessons learned in one field are worth sharing. Recently while in New York City, CCC’s Chris Kenneally spoke with publishing blogger Brian O’Leary, founder and principal of Magellan Media Partners, on just what a rock singer could ever have to teach a novelist or freelance journalist.

Cory Doctorow not too long ago wrote, in effect, that you can’t live on fame alone, but it’s really hard to make any money if you don’t have at least some of that,” says O’Leary. “Musicians have a leg up [over book authors] because they have an act that they can take on the road. They can be heard in small doses, as opposed to reading an entire printed work. For authors, the barriers to entry may be low, but the barriers to discovery seem much higher. That’s a problem I don’t know that we’ve solved just yet.”

Taking inspiration from a February 15, 2013 Publishers Weekly article, O’Leary observed that time for almost all artists is now a more precious quantity than ever.

“Independent musicians, as well as self-published authors, have reported trouble balancing the act of creating – creating music, creating a book, writing – with the act of getting discovered. That work has traditionally been done in the past by established companies – music labels as well as publishers,” O’Leary says. “When you’re self-published or independent, more and more of that work shifts to the person who’s created the work.”

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