Tom Petty

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

tour.jpgAs the record business trends downward, savvy rock stars have had to shift marketing gears to stay relevant with their fan base. Take Tom Petty. He kicked a North American tour of 46 major and secondary markets, beginning June 1. His twelfth album, titled Mojo, was released just last week. So Petty is out on tour as his album hits record stores – all record stores - digital and brick and mortar.

The only problem is, unlike years past, there's no central marketing platform to build a buzz for the new tour. In years' past, Petty would rely on the power of MTV, Rolling Stone, rock radio and even retail to help gather fans. But the marketing environment is completely different for music now. Like all other artists, Petty's album was released into a highly bifurcated media market, with thousands of media outlets representing a fraction of the marketing impact. For both legendary artists and newcomers, this is the greatest challenge of the digital age. How does a musician concentrate enough viewers and listeners to generate a buzz?

mojo.jpgTom Petty changed plans. He, his live promoter, Live Nation, and his record label, Warner Bros tried a new strategy. They booked the regular stadium, arena and amphitheater tour. They kicked up ticket prices, which certainly angered some of his fans. But starting June 15, everyone who bought an online ticket to the show was given a link to download the Mojo album for free. And fans who bought Petty tickets before June 15 were immediately sent two songs from the album, with a link to download the entire album on street date.

Every person who bought online tickets to Tom Petty's show will also receive eight live tracks at the end of the Mojo tour.

This is a very smart way to help market a well established artist. Think about it. I can only guess that Warner Bros got a piece of the ticket sales for giving away the album. And more importantly, they had to have gotten the email addresses of every Tom Petty ticket buyer. That's far more valuable then hoping those fans will hear about the record somewhere and go buy it at a store.

Ticketmaster has to love the idea because it helps market a very expensive tour; and Tom Petty has to appreciate it because it directly connects him with his fans at the gig. Plus, everyone will know the sound of the album before they get there. For a superstar pushing 60, that's not a bad deal.

The only group that will not be pleased with this arrangement is record retail, who are completely cut out of the economic food chain. But in the music business, it's survival of the fittest.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.