Bill Zabit, president and producer of Sonoma Mountain Entertainment (SME), knew that promoting musician Melanie Dekker and her first professional CD, Revealed, would be tough.
"There are a glut of indie labels," says Zabit. "The listener has no tastemakers. It's like a giant encyclopedia with no page numbers. As soon as [music is] listened to [by] a credible source, you start making inroads."
After writing the song "Fall In/Wounded Soldier," Dekker wanted a portion of CD sales to support foundations that help wounded soldiers and their families.
Zabit says the objective was to "create a viable business model around [Dekker] and [thus] have ability to support these causes."
Dekker (along with Zabit Records and SME) pledged $1 for each of the first 1 million CDs sold through www.cdbaby.com, which matched the pledge.
Though promoting Dekker and her CD involved numerous and simultaneous efforts, "Fall In/ Wounded Soldier" and pledges to support the cause gave the team a differentiating opportunity to break through and promote Dekker while helping others.
"It's heartfelt, different, and serves mankind," Zabit says.
PRThatRocks.com president Christopher Buttner adds: "The song [became] a big thrust in selling this CD in terms of a built-in audience. Everyone can back it."
The team also aimed to break in Dekker by promoting her abroad and "bring[ing] her back to America as a star," explains Zabit.
The team targeted music enthusiast Web sites, music/entertainment media, and military media.
The agency also arranged a soft-launch performance in front of 3,000 aboard the USS Hornet at an American Red Cross benefit, TroopFest 2006, in September.
America Supports You, a Department of Defense US Armed Forces support initiative, selected Dekker for a PSA campaign.
The agency also produced a video for "Fall In/Wounded Soldier," which spread online.
Life Transformed, which works with corporations to integrate wounded soldiers into the work force, chose the song as its anthem. Zabit believes the pledge could reach up to $200 per CD via the partnership's potential to generate corporate support.
After its March release, Revealed was CD Baby's top selling disc for three weeks. Buttner says sales "increased tenfold" 10 days after the video was posted on Military.com. Current YouTube views are about 6,000.
Owing to its popularity, the PSA airing was extended through 2007 on the Armed Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel.
"It's accelerating quickly," Buttner notes. "Every two days, somebody contacts us."
Among the media coverage was a Singer & Musician magazine cover story.
"The initiative has been validated by wounded soldier[s] and famil[ies]," Zabit says.
The campaign will continue. "We're in discussions in Europe, talking with the White House, major TV shows, and potential reality shows," Zabit says.
SME and Zabit Records
PR team: Sonoma Mountain Entertainment and Zabit Records (Sonoma, CA) with PRThatRocks.com (Mill Valley, CA)
Campaign: Melanie Dekker CD launch
Duration: September 2006 - ongoing
Without question, public empowerment has shifted the communications paradigm. The music industry was one of the first to feel the revolution - its landscape, once vertical with skyscraping labels and controlled distribution channels, has spread horizontally. No one is willing to spend tons of money promoting artists without a defined audience.
Dekker's song and her desire to support wounded soldiers clearly define an audience, though neither was conceived for that purpose. Nonetheless, Zabit and Buttner are doing a good job stewarding and capitalizing on the opportunity - and everybody wins. Buttner's fee is tied to sales, and it will be interesting to see how far this can take Dekker, the CD, and the pledges.