Bob Dylan and Starbucks: A Sign of the Changin' Times

More artists have been making samples of their singles and albums available on cell phone ringtones. Missy Elliott announced last week that 26 of her tracks will be available in ringtones to customers of Cingular Wireless. In April, Coldplay's single "Speed of Sound" debuted as a ringtone through Cingular in advance of the release of its CD "X & Y."

The anticipation surrounding Coldplay's "X & Y" -- the follow-up to its Grammy-winning "A Rush of Blood to the Head" -- was so high that the group and its record label believed the new album's release had to be innovative.

"There was so much buzz surrounding the new album -- there was so much said, was it any good, was it bad, that we thought, 'How can we make this CD's release an event?'" said Mary Stuyvesant, general manager of entertainment marketing services for Infospace, which distributes content through Cingular Wireless.

Stuyvesant said different record labels have had different levels of enthusiasm about merging their artists' work with wireless technology. But, she argues, they fail to realize that their talent can be exposed to so many more consumers instantly than through traditional methods.

"They can have the ability to reach 50 million people and that's just with one operator," she said. "The numbers are astounding."

The Fan Base Time and Technology Left Behind

Still, not all artists have a young, tech-savvy fan base. Some fans may still prefer CDs or have not warmed up to music downloads, iPods and ringtones. Artists who have these kinds of fans -- or potential consumers -- must recognize them and identify the best ways to reach them.

Chip Davis, music composer-entrepreneur and creator of Mannheim Steamroller, has used his knack for marketing to outsell industry legends such as Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel during the last 15 years and to make the group's Christmas albums the best-selling of all time. Davis produces Mannheim's music through his own independent record label and has a line of different Steamroller products such as gourmet foods, scented candles and body lotions that he sells through a quarterly catalog.

Davis says one of the keys to his success -- and perhaps any artist's success -- is knowledge of his audience and making sure Mannheim CDs and other products are sold in the places they frequent the most. And according to Davis, those places are not necessarily music stores like Tower Records or Virgin Megastores.

"We created a motto: Put music in the path of people doing what they do every day," said Davis. "The average person goes into a music retail store maybe once a month. But how many times does a person go to the grocery store or the drugstore?"

Davis has had Mannheim Steamroller CDs and products sold in drugstores and grocery stores from the beginning. Also, Mannheim Steamroller has branched out beyond Christmas music and produced "American Spirit," a Fourth of July-themed album, as well as Valentine's Day and Halloween-themed CDs. Specific placement of the CDs and other seasonal items are important, Davis said, since consumers' purchases are often impulsive. He asked stores to place "American Spirit" near hot dog buns and chips and other barbecue and picnic products and that Mannheim Steamroller's Halloween CDs be placed near Halloween candy.

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