The business model of The Lion in Tweed is a public radio model. The model is: frequently release a very small number of songs (in my case, a handful every two weeks or so, in a narrative structure), and give them away as a free podcast. I seek to develop a close relationship with my fans, and then eventually ask for memberships, have an annual membership drive, etc., like a public radio station.
To my knowledge, this is not a revenue model used by musicians yet, so one might claim it is untested. However, it is worth noting that it is currently being successfully applied to stand-up comedy. For example, Jesse Thorn's podcast empire at MaximumFun.org, which is supported by many members at twenty dollars per month or more.
I am very interested in promoting this model for three main reasons. Are you a musician? This is why you should try this model:
1) I am a musician and I want my fellow musicians to survive and maybe even establish a middle class lifestyle. I don't think the podcasting model is the road to super stardom, so if that's what you seek, I suggest you look elsewhere. But if you want to build a modest career playing to small number of dedicated fans who love your music, then it's the way to go, in my opinion. Stop trying to get a big CD. Look at the numbers: the major labels are having trouble selling CDs. Why should new musicians try to get into that market? Why not work on the market that's growing, namely: podcasts?
2) I have a strong interest in trying to establish a pay-by-donation public radio "music station" with The Lion in Tweed as the first example. I seek, therefore, to either find colleagues who are doing the same, so we can help each other out OR invite colleagues to join me in this enterprise. There are a few podcasting "labels" out there associated with comedy. Join me in some manner in collaboratively establishing a similar "label" for music. If you are not interested in the business side of things, and would rather establish a regular percentage of all paid memberships, then this is the way to go.
3) I also seek to establish this narrative music as a new genre: a rebirth of the old-time radio show in a modern era. There are others that do this well: for example, The Thrilling Adventure Hour.
Therefore I'm interested in collaborating/getting to know/sharing notes with any other musicians who are interested in doing this.
So why should you think my opinion is worth the pixels it's printed on? This is the part where I mention I'm a game theorist and microeconomist by trade who studies strategic thinking and modeling. I am a professor in the Economics Department at Binghamton University (SUNY).
The basic logic of the podcast+membership model, as opposed to selling CDs, for example, is to embrace that in the internet age, music is a public good. I mean public good in the economic, not legal sense: I mean a good that be shared at a negligible cost, like sunlight or a radio show or a podcast. Jeff Tweedy says much the same thing when he says ``Music is not bread.'' See also Nina Paley's ``Copying is not Theft'' for a one-minute musical explanation of this distinction. For more thoughts on this topic, see Episode Three's reference section. Also, I am currently writing an essay expanding on these points which will appear in the sound studies blog Sounding Out!.
You might be interested in the business model for using this podcast for success as a professional academic. If so, I would recommend you look at this webpage over here.
* You can find out more about the Lion in Tweed at this link. Or maybe you'd prefer to go to the main page?