Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pandora Releases Data To Musicians

Pandora AMP data image
Pandora AMP data
Pandora takes a lot of heat for the royalties that it pays, so it's trying to make up for it by launching what it calls the Artist Marketing Platform, or AMP for short, which provides extensive analytics not previously available. The service is free to any artist that Pandora plays.

The major data points that an artist can now track are:

  • which cities have the most fans that listen to the songs, which are included in an interactive heat map
  • the number of "Thumbs Up," which is Pandora's version of the Facebook Like
  • the basic demographics of the people that listen to their tracks or make playlists contain their music

About 80% of artists on Pandora don't receive terrestrial radio airplay, so this is a way for them to receive some valuable data that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to get.

Information is power in the music business, just like in any other business. By knowing where most of the fans are, an artist can better plan tours. By knowing which songs best resonate with the fans, an artist knows how to plan sets or even what musical direction to follow.

It may not be more money, but AMP is something that can valuable nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Asks Labels For Discount

Beats Music image
Artists, bands and songwriters are complaining about what they're making from streaming services, but new negotiations by Apple and the major labels might have a big bearing on future royalties.

While $10 a month seems to be the going rate for most interactive streaming services like Spotify (Pandora charges $5, but it's non-interactive), Apple thinks that's too much. The company would like to lower that to $5 per month for Beats Music, but says it can only do so with a new licensing deal with the majors.

A new economic model could go either way for artists. If subscriptions increase, as analysts (including me) predict, then artists will make more money than they are now, and some cases, a lot more. Apple thinks that a lower price would accelerate growth, but it would also mean that subscriptions would have to at least double to just stay even.

This might sound far-fetched on the surface, but the fact of the matter is that there's only around 20 million paying subscribers globally for all services at the moment, so doubling the growth seems like a no-brainer.

That said, the general thought is that we'll reach 100 million subscribes with a few years anyway, and that's with the current model of $10 per month.

Then again, apple has more than 500 million credit cards on file on their iTunes stores worldwide. It seems like they're pretty sure that they can do some steep conversion at that lower $5 price. Hard to say which is the better way to go right now, but getting the labels to give in on this is certainly going to be an uphill climb.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twitter vs. Facebook For Artists And Bands

Twitter or Facebook image
Some recent Facebook and Twitter data have made it a little clearer which platform generally works best for most artists and bands. Here are the most recent numbers from the platforms themselves.

Monthly Active Users
Facebook - 1,317 million
Twitter - 271 million

Celebs With Biggest Followings
Shakira - 102.3 million
Cristiano/Ronaldo - 94.7 million
Eminem - 93 million

Katy Perry - 53.9 million
Justin Bieber - 52.4 million
Barack Obama - 43.4 million

Time Spent On Each Platform
Facebook - 68% mobile/32% desktop
Twitter - 86% mobile/14% desktop

But the biggest difference is the fact that Facebook drives more than 20x as much traffic as Twitter does.
Facebook - 23.4%
Twitter - 1%

There's always the people that will say that Facebook is dying, losing teens, or irrelevant, but the fact of the matter is that right now, it does a lot better job of driving traffic to websites of artists and bands that know how to use it (check out my Social Media Promotion for Musicians book to discover more about how to do this).

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 First Year Ever Without A Platinum Album

No Platinum Albums
With all the albums that have come out this year it's pretty amazing that exactly zero have been certified platinum by the RIAA. Yes, you read that right - there have been no million selling albums this year yet!

What's worse, it doesn't look like there will be any by the end of the year either. The two closest are Beyonce's self-titled album and Lorde's Pure Heroine, but both aren't even reached the 800,000 mark yet and their sales have slowed in recent months.

Actually, there has been one million seller - the soundtrack to Frozen has sold over 3 million, but that's a soundtrack and not a popular artist.

Back when the business was at its peak, there might have been 20 to 30 million sellers by this time just about every year (both recent releases and catalog), but those days are long gone.

On the other hand, there have been 60 platinum songs so far this year, but even that's down about 20% from last year, as the music consumer moves to streaming instead of purchase.

Yes, we're definitely in a singles era where the song is vastly more important than the album, but we're also in a very important YouTube era where a song can get 100 million views yet sell less than 10,000 copies. And today, that's considered a bit hit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Be Careful Who You Steal Song Ideas From

Led Zeppelin image
All songwriters are influenced by those who came before them. It's difficult not to borrow something from a song or artist you love and include it in your work, but when that borrowed piece becomes too blatant, then you're opening yourself up to a lawsuit, even 40 years down the line.

Take the case of Led Zeppelin's iconic "Stairway To Heaven," for instance. In 1967 Zep opened up for the band Spirit, who was out on the road in promotion of their first album (the self-titled Spirit) and playing the song "Taurus" every night. If you listen to both songs, you'll find that there's a lot of similarities in the chord changes and feel, which has caused the family of Spirit guitarist/songwriter Randy California to file a plagiarism suit against Led Zep.

It appears that the first round in the court battle has gone against Led Zep, as a judge has ruled that the trial can take place in the United States District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. Attorneys for the band had argued that since no one from the band resided in that area, there was no basis for the trial to be held there, but the judge struck the motion to change venues down.

Led Zeppelin has been down this path before, losing a lawsuit to songwriter Willie Dixon for changing his "You Need Love" into "Whole Lotta Love." There's also a case to be made that "Dazed and Confused," "How Many More Times," "The Lemon Song," "Bring It On Home," and a few more were not as original as the world thought when they were first heard on Zep albums.

We still don't know how the lawsuit will turn out, but the moral of the story seems to be that if you're making a lot of money on a song that sounds a lot like another, be prepared to share some of the cash and the credit lest you find yourself in a courtroom somewhere.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Top 10 Vinyl Records Of 2014

Bob Marley - Legend Vinyl Record image
Bob Marley - Legend Vinyl Record
Sales of vinyl records will be up again at the end of 2014, which is no surprise to anyone in the music business. Mastering houses that cut vinyl lacquers are busier than ever, as are record pressing plants. There's even rumor of new modern equipment being built for the first time in about 30 years.

That said, a recent ICM survey found that fully 15% of vinyl buyers never listen to them. They're purchased as much as a collectible as anything. Then again, not everyone has the means to play a vinyl record either.

Here's the top 10 best selling vinyl records of 2014 so far.

1. Lazaretto - Jack White

2. AM - Arctic Monkeys

3. Morning Phase - Beck

4. Turn Blue - The Black Keys

5. Born to Die - Lana Del Rey

6. Legend - Bob Marley & The Wailers

7. Abbey Road - The Beatles

8. Pure Heroine - Lorde

9. Salad Days - Mac Demarco

10. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Just as an aside, notice how all the album titles are either 2 or 3 syllables in length.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Today's Artist Management Uses YouTube

Artist Management
We live in a new world where promotion is no longer left solely to the record label. Now a good artist management team knows that they must be proactive online in order to increase the branding and visibility of their artists. In this excerpt from my Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music in the Internet Age book, Dan Tsurif of Mercenary Management describes some of the things that his company does for their artists when it comes to YouTube and other social media.

"What’s the most important social tool right now?
For what I’m currently doing it’s YouTube. It’s the single most important tool for a musician because you can distribute your music, monetize it, use the description to promote tour dates and merch store, and it has the social aspect so people can go and talk and share comments with their friends. For most artists, I tell them to pick just one social network and get really good at it, but if they ask me which one, I’ll tell them that YouTube is the single most important tool that an artist has at their disposal.

Do you recommend that your clients post more than just their music videos?
Absolutely. Typically the record label owns the masters to their songs, so the artists won’t make anything from posting them, and the label will want to do that anyway. That shouldn’t stop them from making their own videos. I tell them not to just focus on music but to put out videos on everything that you can. You can make a guitar lesson, show come cool backstage antics or webisodes, or even a rehearsal video. People love that. It’s very interesting for fans to see. That’s what we have a video team for.

What’s the one type of video that fans relate to the most?
Our most popular videos are webisodes of the artists on tour. Recently we had one with Black Label Society where a videographer followed them everywhere on the tour, and every day we’d put up a new tour recap. That was wildly popular.

We had one with Alternative Press Magazine for Black Veil Brides where they followed them around on the Warped Tour. It was a similar concept, but those had the most impact because it gave the fans a chance to see what the band members were like off stage, then see the transformation to going on stage and performing, so they could see what’s it’s really like to be in a touring band. Especially now that it’s so easy to pick up a guitar and get into music, they want to know what it takes to get to be a professional touring musician. They get access to that world and learn that it’s not all just parties and girls.

Do you do anything special for video SEO?
Proper tags and descriptions are wildly important. I see a lot of companies spending thousands of dollars for search engine optimization, and I agree to a point that you need that boost, but so much could be done just on your own with YouTube by properly tagging and using the descriptions. You should be tagging similar artists, having full lyrics in the descriptions, as well as the name of the director if it’s a music video. Just these little things that people can do have a huge impact on the visibility of the video. 

How much are your bands involved in social media? How much do you do?

It depends on the band. It might be 10 to 50% of the time, depending upon who we’re working with. We might give them a class on how to do something, but most acts do most of it themselves. For the personalized things it’s always the band members, but if they don’t know what they’re doing then we’ll show them the ropes. We can try to put ourselves in the head of the band members and maybe post like they would, but nothing beats the actual member doing it."

To read additional excerpts from Music 4.0 and my other books, go the excerpts page at


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vevo Launches Original Music Shows

Vevo logo
It's all the rage for cable networks to invest in their own show productions these days, and now that idea is now being adopted by online networks as well.

You're probably at least peripherally aware of Vevo, the massive online music network that's owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Google, and Abu Dhabi Media. The channel is where the major music labels place their artist's official music videos, and that's how most people are aware of it, since if you watch a video, you've noticed the name.

Vevo has been trying hard to do original programming though, and since about 2009 has produced over 2,000 episodes of various shows that cover music performances, interviews and news. The shows are mostly only a few minutes in length, but they've amassed over a billion views, according to Vevo. And all of those eyeballs really add up, since between the preroll ads and branded content, original programming is responsible for around a third of the network's revenue.

All that said, there hasn't been a Vevo original show that can be considered a hit. That's why the company is trying especially hard to give 3 new shows a much higher profile than before. A.K.A is the channel's first foray into animation, where musicians like Iggy Azalea tell the stories of how they received their stage names. Day Off With shows fans what artists do in their spare time, and Vevo DSCVR (pronounced "discover") introduces new acts with interviews and performances.

All of the episodes of the new shows are between 2 and 4 minutes to stay in the "snackable" range of what the normal viewer prefers. That said, Vevo has tried other show lengths as well, starting with an hour long variety show launched in March called The Collective aimed at the Latino audience.

This is a great time to be a content creator of any type, as there's finally the money and vision to try things that would have been called crazy only a few years ago. The problem is that we're all inundated with so much information that you have to wonder how any new show can break out. That said, Vevo has some deep pockets and a lot of viewers, all they need are the shows that viewers want to watch.

Here's an example of the previously mentioned A.K.A episode with Iggy Azalea.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Save Money Producing Your Album With A Tax Credit

Tax Credits image
Increasingly, music producers are looking for State tax credits before embarking on a project.

While this has been a big part of television and movie production for some time, music is now seeing the light in how cost-effective it could be to go somewhere besides Los Angeles and New York to make a new record. And since it's easier than ever to record just about anywhere, the tax credits now loom large for many a budget-minded producer.

Louisiana has been one of the leaders in music tax credits for some time, but recently Texas has jumped into the game. Tennessee fought runaway production by following with a big tax credit, and New York producers are currently lobbying legislators to pass a bill that will provide around $60 million in tax breaks each year to studios, artists, record companies and others involved in music creation.

That's not all, Georgia gives tax credits for up to 30% of the cost of making an album, and New Jersey recently gave Sony Music some $1.6 million in tax breaks to move 50 jobs there from New York City. And of course, Canada has long been a huge benefactor for the arts.

Most producers aren't aware of the current tax credit possibilities and most States are not very good at getting the word out, so you have to do some digging yourself. The first thing to do is look online to see if there's an entertainment or economic development commission like this one in Louisiana. There are a number of forms to fill out and the granting of the tax credits can take some time, so remember to plan as far in advance as you can.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Deezer And Bose Agree To Help Each Other

Deezer image
In what looks to be a mutually beneficial arrangement, digital music service Deezer and audio products company Bose have agreed to partner, with Deezer’s Premium Plus product now available on all Bose Soundtouch and Soundlink products. As a result of the deal, Bose customers will receive the Deezer service for $4.99 a month with a 30 day free trial for one year rather than the standard $9.99 per month.

Talk about a synergistic arrangement, this one seems to be made in heaven for both companies. Deezer is now in the middle of a major push to launch into new countries worldwide, especially the US, and could take advantage of the Bose current market penetration. The Bose brand, on the other hand, is known for catering toward the higher end audio consumer who’s not quite an audiophile, but more discriminating than the average user. Deezer’s service touts higher quality streaming audio than most services, and its upscale Deezer Elite tier even promises a CD quality stream, the perfect feature to show off Bose products.

If you take notice, Bose is everywhere these days. The company made a deal with the National Football League for headsets and now every television sideline shot features at least one coach wearing gear with a Bose logo. In fact, the deal is so strong that the NFL recently barred players from appearing on camera while wearing the competition, and even fined San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick $10,000 for doing so at an after-game news conference. Beats by Dr. Dre (and now owned by Apple) headphones may be preferred by the players, but that company will no longer be getting free advertising at the hands of the NFL.

Bose Professional has also cranked up the volume as it has recently made a big push into installed sound. Once an also-ran in the sector compared to companies like JBL, the sound systems division has recently introduced a line of modular speakers and amplifiers designed for large venues and houses of worship. And don’t forget Bose noise-canceling headphones, which are the standard by which all others are measured. It’s rare not to see at least a few pair on just about any airline flight you take, despite their high price. Read more on Forbes.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

5 Questions Before Hiring A Music Publicist

Music Publicity image
Many times an artist or band looks for a music publicist to raise their visibility. Many have a less than pleasant experience mostly because they didn't do their homework beforehand. Janelle Rogers of Green Light Go Publicity wrote a great post on Music Think Tank regarding 5 questions to ask a publicist before you make the hire.

Surprisingly, she says they her company turns down 19 out of 20 artists that come to them, and just work with the acts that they really love. Needless to say, that's not the way it works in most of the industry. Here's the 5 questions that Janelle suggests you ask that publicist before you commit to her.

1. How many clients do you have on your roster? If they have too many clients, they might not have enough time to dedicate to you.

2. Where have you received coverage? This is simple. It tells you how good they are at their job.

3. What artists have you worked with at the same level and in the same genre? It helps if they have some experience in your genre, and know how to work within your level of the business.

4. Where do you think you can get coverage for us? This will tell you if they have a clue as to how to handle you.

5. How often do you send reports? Does that include who you've pitched? You want to see what you're getting for your money.

This all makes a lot of sense as you don't want to pay good money for a service that can only offer minimal help. Janelle provides a lot more information, and that's a good reason why you should read her article.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

3 Reasons Why Japan Still Buys CDs

While most of the world is rapidly changing to music streaming there is still one market where where CDs reign supreme - Japan. Indeed the round plastic discs still account for 85% of sales in Japan, while in most of the world the figure hovers around 40%.

That figure, along with pricing restrictions that keep the price of CDs above $20 each, has resulted in Japan being second in total music sales just behind the much larger US. In fact, Tower Records, which closed its stores in the US in 2006, still has 85 outlets there and does nearly $500 million a year in revenue!

But why are CDs still so popular there? There are actually 3 reasons:

1. The Japanese consumer relishes collectibles, which a CD can be classified as. Greatest Hits releases do especially well there because of this fact.

2. Digital music services, especially streaming services, haven't been able to obtain music licenses because Japan's labyrinth of copyrights makes it more difficult than other countries. There's also a reluctance on behalf of the record labels and licensing bodies to grant licenses.

3. The existing digital services don't have the latest hits. Even iTunes doesn't have many of the hits from its competitor Sony.

All that being said, Japan's total music sales were still down by more than 17% last year, and this year doesn't look to be much better, which does not bode well for the music industry in general. While the rest of the world is evolving, Japan still wallows in the past.


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