The Australian music industry has been making compromises since the start of 2020. The Bushfires Crisis forced the cancelation of many summer festivals, and only a few weeks later, all live gigs were postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Back in April, it was reported that the industry had lost more than $340 million in revenue. And that was just one month into the pandemic.
With their primary source of income put on hold, independent Aussie artists had to find a new way to make a living. Enter Serenade Sound, the site that took the Cameo model and applied it to music. The man behind it is Max Shand, a former Afterpay employee who decided to go all-in on his idea for personalized serenades sent straight to your inbox. We caught up with Max to learn the story of Serenade Sound so far – and he was kind enough to give us the full serenade experience.
Tell us the story of Serenade Sound so far.
Max: “Serenade is an outcome of both my work within tech and my position on the board of FBi radio (an independent, not-for-profit community radio in Sydney, Australia). I do a bit of music journalism on the side. I was completely shocked by how difficult it is for artists to distribute their music directly to fans, which hugely impacts their income.”
“I was writing a piece for the Sydney Morning Herald on how musicians were dealing with brand bias. It shocked me how an artist like Steve Kilbey of The Church might not be able to make rent because he can’t tour for a month. Surely, given the goodwill and absolute adoration that we have for music, artists just need a new way to wrap those songs up in an experience directly to fans.”
It always seemed like to make more income, artists had to work outside of their core practice. And I thought that that was kind of ludicrous.
“It always seemed like to make more income, artists had to work outside of their core practice. And I thought that that was kind of ludicrous. Why can’t musicians make a living from doing what they’re known for?”
The platform looks as good as the artists’ sound. What was your approach to bringing the brand to life?
M: “I found a really great designer to craft our online presence. As an outsider, I needed to get feedback from people in the music industry. So I decided to meet with as many managers and artists as possible. By doing this I formed a far deeper appreciation for what their issues and interests were. So the voices of the music industry actually influenced its production.”
“Then I worked on it with a developer and my designer over the next few months, continually pumping in more feedback from the music community up until I did the soft launch. I was really floored by the response.”
How are audiences responding?
M: “Upon signing up to Serenade, artists’ receive a bunch of social media assets that they’re then incentivized to push on their own channels. We found that whenever an artist actually uploads one of those tiles, they sell at least one Serenade.”
“I think Kim Churchill uploaded an image the other night and received just shy of a thousand likes. All of his community were tagging their friends and suggesting it as a gift.”
What’s the split for artists on Serenade Sound?
M: “Artists retain 70 to 80% of the income from every Serenade recorded, and Serenade retains the remainder. That’s the only fee that Serenade earns, and it’s there as a way to communicate to artists that we only benefit when you benefit. You get all those promotional tools upfront for free.”
For context, Rolling Stone reported back in 2018 that artists only earn about 12% of the money their music generates. For live gigs, it’s a little better. The top 1% of artists in 2019 earned 60% of the revenue from live concerts. But of course, a lot of that money has to go back into gig expenses, managers, promotions etc.
What are some of the strategies you’re using right now to promote the platform and grow the audience?
M: “We’re giving artists the tools to promote themselves. Then, we’re using digital marketing to make sure people think of Serenade for someone’s birthday or really any special occasion.”
“We’re engaging press to ensure that people are aware of Serenade. We’re having lovely conversations like this one to create exciting partnership opportunities with other brilliant companies.”
“To create some stickiness, we’re asking our artists if they’re comfortable putting us in their Linktrees, to ensure that fans know that the artist is willing to do serenades for them.”
Just on a personal level, who are you most excited to be Serenaded by on the platform?
M: “It’s got to be Slowly Slowly. I’m a big Slowly Slowly fan. This business is a very selfish activity for me. I get to bring the artists that I love onto a platform that elevates the appreciation for them.”
Serenades are meant to be true experiences. It’s something that your favorite artist spent time working on delivered directly to you.
M: “And Serenades aren’t the same thing as merch, it’s closer to a VIP experience where you get to step backstage and meet the artists. I’ve done those before and you get one high five from an artist and hopefully a photo, but that’s about it. Serenades are meant to be true experiences. It’s something that your favorite artist spent time working on delivered directly to you.”
Where do you want to go next? What’s in store for Serenade Sound?
M: “The future plans are just bringing on board as many artists as possible who want to deliver a completely new and intimate experience to their fans. Artists who want to distribute their music directly to the people who care about it most. ”
Serenade Sound's Linktree
Max has been a day one user of Linktree, and we gotta say, Serenade’s Linktree is looking good. It is truly an extension of his brand.
Serenade’s Linktree is a great example of how to drive clutter-free conversion for artists and audiences alike.
You can keep up to date with Serenade Sound via their Linktree, and head here if you want to see what happened when we surprise-serenaded the Linktree team with music from Imbi The Girl and Kim Churchill.