It seems like it has been a hell of a lot longer, but our little concept record label MicroMu (known in Chinese as 不插店, or ‘Buchadian’), turns 1 year old today. You can feel paternal pride radiating throughout Outdustry HQ as we package up a one year compilation album of b-sides and rarities to celebrate:
MicroMu is our attempt at a sustainable record label model in an environment where people, by and large, aren’t used to paying for music. The solution? Give music (and lots of other things) away for free, build a loyal community around it all, and then support this (largely) through a partnership with a brand who shares your audience. Or, as we say in our label intro:
MicroMu is an experimental, sponsor-driven, free-to-user record label model designed to discover new talent, create original music and reward artists in seemingly impossible conditions.
It is obviously a lot more complicated in reality and in the long run involves a number of other areas of revenue generation, but you get the gist. I’m sure at some point we will get round to laying the whole thing out for you but we are still in a very ‘developmental’ stage so don’t feel justified in holding ourselves up as a successful case study quite yet.
How It All Began
Back in June 2008, we were putting on a show for folk legend Zhou Yunpeng in Beijing and were looking for a suitable support act. We heard demos from a young singer songwriter in Nanjing called Zhao Guang and liked what we heard to the extent that we paid for the engineering student to travel up to Beijing and support one of his all time heros. It seemed a waste for Zhao Guang to come and go without doing some recording while he was up here. It’s just that we didn’t have a record label.
The MicroMu concept had been fully laid out at Outdustry some time before, but this recording opportunity with a new artist seemed to get those fires going again, except this time we had a deadline of a few days to get things rolling. One phone call to Plastered T-Shirts supremo Dominic Johnson-Hill later and we had our cash sponsor. Dominic’s clothing brand has seen rapid growth in recent years, largely thanks to his relentlessly creative marketing and appreciation of audience (and, of course, cool t-shirts). It was a perfect match. We were aiming at a young, alternative-culture loving audience, so was he. Money well spent on his behalf, money gratefully receieved on ours…
After the Zhou Yunpeng show we took Zhao Guang for a midnight recording session at rehearsal rooms up near Gulou. He was in and out within an hour, having laid down six tracks, most in the first take = our first release.
Within the following week we had come up with a name, MicroMu (in reference to the compact nature of the business model, amongst other things), set up our website and, exactly a year ago today, made our first blog post:
So, What Is MicroMu?
Lets keep this simple to start with:
MicroMu is a record label - We discover musicians, record these musicians and then release the recordings to you, the fan.
It is obviously a lot more complicated than this in practice but, to be honest with you, this is a huge experiment so lets start slowly. The most important thing for you to know at the moment is that we are going to give away all of our recordings for free through this blog.
The whole process is funded by one sponsor: Beijing based T-Shirt company Plastered. Why are they doing it? Simply because they love the idea and want to support independent music. Did we mention that they make the best t-shirts in China ;) ?
We will obviously explain a lot more about how this will work as we go, through the blog. There is a long journey ahead of us and we hope you can help us along the way. Please, download our music, leave comments, tell a friend. Together we can change the way that music is made in China, in a way where everyone wins.
It’s all about the music.
Simple enough really. We then obviously had to go on and explain how this music could be free in another post, the idea being to involve the fans in the whole thinking behind the label in a never ending dialogue conducted through the blog. Nice and transparent:
How Can This Music Be Free?
MicroMu is an incredibly simple idea. Here is a handy bullet point guide for you:
MicroMu records some music
This music is put on MicroMu.com for free download.
All of this amazing, free music means loads of people come to our website.
Loads of people coming to our website means that a brand will want to share all the attention and will pay money to do so.
Plastered T-Shirts is that brand. They are making the whole thing possible by paying us money to be our brand partner.
We use this money to cover all of our costs and pay the artists.
The more people that visit the site, the more money Plastered will give us.
The more money Plastered gives us, the more music we can make, the more royalties we can pay artists…..the more free downloads we can have on the site!
You see how simple it is? The most important thing for us….is YOU! You are ‘paying’ for this music just by being on this site.
Tips on how to help:
Visit the site often for updates.
Leave comments, tell us what you think.
Tell a friend
Tell them to tell a friend
Tell them to tell a friend to tell a friend
Instead of emailing/bluetoothing our songs to people, send a link to where they can download them for free on MicroMu.com
There are big plans in the pipeline for MicroMu but as with all big plans they are prone to big changes. As I said, it is all a huge experiment and we are amazed and hugely encouraged to have gotten this far. Particularly encouraging is the warmth of reaction we have received from the Chinese music fans. Our music has quickly found its place in the hearts of an impressively wide audience as well as plaudits in some of the most demanding forums of the Chinese media and internet. We have also been lucky enough to work with, and in some cases record, some of the biggest and best names in Chinese independent music. That’s about as good a start as we could have hoped for. Onwards and upwards!
Many thanks to Dominic Johnson-Hill: Scholar, philanthropist, patron of the arts, dyslexic. Many thanks also to Eggplant and all of our artists: Zhao Guang, Liu Dongming, Gangzi, Zhang Yiding, Zhang Weiwei + Guo Long, Wu Ningyue, Zhang Qianqian, 6 Kings, Di Ku Ai, Shouwang, Liquid Oxygen, Travellers, Li Zhi, Zhou Lao Er, Zhang Guonian.