John Forte Takes His Brand Global
By Jo Piazza Posted Jan 29th 2011 03:00PM
You know the name John Forté. You may know it from his past work with the Fugees in the '90s. (He co-wrote and produced two songs on the group's multi-platinum album 'The Score,' and Wyclef Jean produced his first solo album in 1998.) You may have heard his name in 2008 when President George W. Bush gave him a very last minute pardon from prison, where he was on year seven of a much-disputed 14-year sentence for drug possession and intent.
If you've become a fan of Forté recently then you may have downloaded one of his 60 new songs off of OkayPlayer.com or seen one of the nearly 100 live shows he has performed in the past two years. It would be an understatement to say Forté is making up for lost time. But starting next month he is straying from the beaten path of how fame gets made and taking his brand global, to Russia for nine weeks: to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg and cities along the Trans-Siberia Railway in Siberia that you've never heard of.
In the crazy economic climate of today's music industry this "new business model" makes sense. Amid an era of lackluster record sales, Forté wants to do more than sell music. This tour, 'From Brooklyn to Russia With Love,' will be a multimedia venture that includes albums, a documentary and merchandise.
"We're going to have lots of ancillary products as a result of this trip: a live album, a studio album and a DVD of the live performance which will be its own movie. We will have a documentary which chronicles before, during and after this experience," Forté explained to PopEater. "The traditional model of promoting an album in an 18-month-cycle wasn't what we wanted. I would actually like four or five albums out at the same time around the globe."
But he's also offering his music for free.
"I have music on iTunes, but I am just as content releasing music at 2 in the morning from my living room because I can, and offering it for free and encouraging people to share it," Forté continued. "I know people under the age of 27 aren't buying music. Some of my contemporaries would say they are stealing it, but I know they think they are sharing it."
Christophe Charlier, deputy CEO of Onexim Group and chairman of the Board of the
New Jersey Nets, who has been living and working in Moscow for the last 13
"Like most things in my life, this one began with a conversation. I ran into an old buddy of mine from high school, and he said you should come to Moscow. I said, OK but I don't want to stop there, and what began as soup and salad turned into the continuation of my current business model, which isn't about selling music -- it is about getting on the ground and scoring a lifestyle."
To make up for lost time, for albums that could have been released, tours performed and a fan base won and lost, the artist needs to leverage his network.
"I have to leverage the network. When I was away in prison, friends of mine and people I respect and came into successes in their own right and now they are willing to introduce me to their circles and networks, and I think it is a question of synergy," Forté said, adding that before he went away to prison his potential business model was way different.
"It was about mass marketing and mass producing and mass appeal. When real life hit me and hit me hard it gave me something worth talking about."
The new approach to the fan base is smart, though risky. There is something to be said for building a loyal fan base through grassroots marketing and glad-handing. It worked for Barack Obama. And as pop stars continue to be flashes-in-the-pan, making a million dollars and then fading into obscurity or the secondary market of fame-reality television, Forté looks to be crafting a premium brand.
"I truly believe that the more the fans are invested, the more they will support the artist by purchasing merchandise and ultimately albums and DVDs," Forté said. "I think people support what they love."
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