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Interview with John Stringer of Indiehitmaker.com
By Brooke Mason
John Stringer says, “Every band that is now reporting venue sales and couldn't before is a success story.” Stringer is the cofounder of Indiehitmaker.com, a service that helps bands achieve that very thing. He first became aware of the need for reporting live venue sales to Nielsen SoundScan as an artist attending a music conference in Atlanta called Atlantis back in the '90s. Stringer’s band State of Man successfully secured a Billboard top 10 single for their song “Swallow Your Fears” in 2006. However the business model the band utilized to achieve that success cost the band over seventy percent of their sales. Wanting to help other artists achieve their level of success in a more cost-effective way, Stringer developed the concept of Indiehitmaker.com with two other artist entrepreneurs, James Beale and Bram.
Indiehitmaker.com’s main client base is the indie artist without major label distribution deals. Usually only record labels that meet SoundScan's specific criteria can report venue sales via SoundScan's venue sales program. IndieHitMaker.com is offering a service to accommodate for the independent artist. “We exist to help the independent artist get their sales counted!” says Stringer, “Our core service is for the indie artists that need to show and leverage proof that they are selling on the road through SoundScan. Since Billboard uses SoundScan data to compile some of their charts, our service is also for the artist who wants to be included in the data that the Billboard charts use.”
In addition to offering reporting to SoundScan for the independent artist, Indiehitmaker is also assisting independent labels. “We generally report for labels that are unable to meet SoundScan's requirements. This ranges from all sorts of labels, but especially start-ups. We don't have a formalized distributor reporting plan, but if their artists need our services we can always help.” Stringer is excited by the future use of technology in facilitating this goal. “The opportunities continue to expand, thanks in part to the variety of challenges faced by artists, other professionals and fans across the music industry. Part of our merchant services solution development is to help artists take credit cards at shows via mobile devices that automatically report their sales through our system. We're also planning to launch a Software-as-a-Service platform for labels and distributors that already report to SoundScan to help automate their venue sales related manual processes, and thus, save them time, energy and money via leveraging our platform.” Indiehitmaker is giving away a free report on leveraging SoundScan if you sign up for their mailing list at Indie Hitmaker.
If you are a CDBaby.com artist you may want to know what is being offered here that is different. At a glance CDBaby and Indiehitmaker are both offering a UPC code for roughly $20, but as for the live show merchandise Indiehitmaker takes a 6% commission rate versus CDBaby’s 13% take. So what is Indiehitmaker offering that CDBaby isn’t? Live venue sales reporting to SoundScan. Although artists can register with SoundScan for free at http://home.soundscan.com/register.html John says, “They can't report their live venue sales without some sort of deal (pass through or other) with a reporting label, national distributor or through our service.”
Additionally, time is a crucial factor. It does take up to three weeks for Nielsen SoundScan to process your information into their database. Indiehitmaker encourages artists to register at least two months before a new release date if possible, which provides an advanced/pre-sales reporting opportunity. Taking the time to prepare your album launch in advance is a vital element of your overall marketing strategy. If you want to take your album to a place where it can compete with the majors using a reporting service will increase your chances of getting on the charts.
Stringer offered some examples of success stories with his clients, “We have artists who we've helped reach top 100 and top 40 national sales positions through our ChartBuster program, including Sleeper Cell and HotSpur.” These artists were previously invited to test the beta version of the ChartBuster program which is now public at: http://www.indiehitmaker.com/Indiehitmaker_Chartbuster. Another success includes April Smith and The Great Picture Show. The reporting of their live venue sales through Indiehitmaker resulted in a #77 debut on the SoundScan New Artist chart.
Stringer offered an example of the type of artist who would benefit from the use the services provided by Indiehitmaker.com. The example was of a local band going on tour with two national artists to sell upwards of six thousand albums, none of which were reported to SoundScan. Although the band was open to a record deal, labels were calling bands who had reported fewer sales. Says Stringer, “Since live venue sales are the bulk of most independent touring artists' sales, its important sales are documented in a way the industry ‘gatekeepers’ will accept. SoundScan is the industry-wide ‘way’ to document those sales and we believe IndieHitMaker is the best solution for indies.” It’s the numbers game, and with a one week window to report sales because of SoundScan regulations, Indiehitmaker is a necessary tool to standardize that process. The importance of outsourcing for the creative entrepreneur is clear; spend less time on the paperwork and more time on your craft.
Indiehitmaker does offer a variety of flexible plans to fit your reporting strategy. For more information go to:
Indie Hitmaker Register
Mailing Address: 1750 Collard Valley Rd. Cedartown, Georgia