Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting Paid For Soundcloud Plays

Soundcloud image
Soundcloud has made the ultimate move of monetizing the platform by deciding to introduce advertising on the platform for the first time, it was announced recently. The good part about this is it gives artists a chance to actually get paid for their streams just like on YouTube.

Until now, the company derived its revenue primarily from Pro accounts, but as of August 21st the company introduced a new strategy designed to give users new tools for uploading and tracking engagement, growing Soundcloud's audience, and introducing adverts into the platform.

Soundcloud will implement a new partner program called On Soundcloud that provides a brand new Premier tier, which is invite only at the moment and includes advertising from 5 different components - native (not sure what that one is yet), audio, display, channel sponsorship and contests. The first five sponsors are Red Bull, Jaguar, Sonos, Squarespace and Comedy Central.

What's interesting is that Soundcloud doesn't have signed deals with the major labels in place yet, but has decided to launch anyway. That said, the company is said to be in talks about the agreement, and expects to have something in place by the time it rolls out its new subscription service. For the moment, the program is only available in the US.

Bottom line - Soundcloud is trying to become an audio-only YouTube, and having a revenue model in place in order to pay artists for their participation goes a long way to that end.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Analyzing Online Album Buying Patterns

Album Release Buying Patterns image
Fewer and fewer people are buying albums, especially online, but it's still interesting to look at the buying patterns. Global ecommerce company GeoRiot analyzed 500,000 clicks to albums on iTunes and found an interesting trend.
  • 26% of clicks occur before the album release as potential pre-orders.
  • 19% of clicks happen within 24 hours of release.
  • 54% of clicks happen within 2 weeks of release.
  • 20% of clicks happen after the release.
What that means is you have a very short period for potential album sales that's based around the release date in most cases. That's why the new strategy of releasing a digital single every 4 to 8 weeks before the album is released makes much more sense for our Music 4.0 world. That way there are many more events to generate interest, many more opportunities for your fans and listeners to be exposed to the music, and you can still compile them into an album release at the end anyway.

We now live in a singles world and that means our strategy based on the album has to be revamped.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Dumbing Down Of Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift image
The music of female pop singers, not to mention the pop singers themselves, is so interchangeable these days that it’s difficult to tell them apart. Jesse J, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Demi Levato, Ariana Grande, Rita Ora - unless you’re a 14 year old girl you’d be hard-pressed to identify which is which when played back to back. The last star we expected to fall into this crowd was Taylor Swift, but there she is, dumbed down like the rest of them with her latest release “Shake It Off.”

In a world where the music on the radio increasingly sounds the same, Taylor Swift stood out from the rest. She wrote her own music, and was able to share the details and feelings of her life in a way that was overwhelmingly relatable to her audience. Not only that, she had a personal relationship with that fans that was fairly unique amongst pop stars today. She wrote about the things they cared about, but she was also reachable by social media, just like they were, and had the most amazing and enduring quality that any music star could hope for - she was her audience.

It’s fair to say that the measure of an artist isn’t necessarily their singing or musical ability. What really makes an artist into a star and provides for a long career is the ability to write songs, a rule of stardom that virtually every American Idol winner has managed to prove. Of course, songwriting has been Ms. Swift’s strong suit, and she certainly had her hand in “Shake It Off,” as evidenced by the lyrics. Read more on Forbes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

You Now Have To Pay To Play At The Superbowl

Pay to play is the bane of musicians everywhere, but it's especially prevalent in New York City and Los Angeles. For decades, club promoters have effectively been auctioning off time slots to any band or artist willing to purchase 100 advance tickets that they're then free to resell, or most likely just give away. Musicians in most other parts of the country are used to getting paid for their services, but that all changes in the "big city."

But now the NFL is turning the Superbowl halftime show into the ultimate pay-to-play gig. Instead of the league paying a top-shelf act like U2 or Bruce Springsteen to play the show, it's now asking the acts to pay in order to get in front of 100+ million viewers that will be watching.

The price the NFL is asking hasn't been revealed, but the first three "candidates" that were chosen for the 2015 Superbowl to be held in Pheonix, Coldplay, Rihanna and Katy Perry, have been decidedly cool on the idea.

That said, an appearance at the world's largest gig can lead to years of prosperity afterwards, as evidenced by the 2007 appearance by Prince, who's sold-out venues ever since. His career had been lagging before the appearance.

To be fair, the NFL has never actually paid performers to appear at the Superbowl, but has supplied what's amounted to millions of dollars in expenses, which can be extensive for most acts appearing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Streaming Music Primer: The Different Types Of Streams

Streaming Music Revenue image
Now that it's pretty apparent that the music world is increasingly centered around streaming music distribution, many artists, bands and managers still have no idea how streaming pays and why the royalty is frequently much less than expected. Here's an excerpt from the latest edition of Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age that provides a basic primer on the two types music streams.

"What most artists and bands don’t realize is that there are two different types of streaming services, and they each operate differently, and therefore pay at a slightly different rate.

Non-Interactive Streams
The first is called a “Non-Interactive” stream and this is either from a platform that acts as an online radio station like iHeart Radio or any traditional broadcaster with an online presence (like your local radio station), or a service like Pandora where the user has a certain amount of control over what plays, but  can’t directly select a song or make it repeat. Streaming platforms in this category include services like Pandora, Last.FM, and iTunes Radio.

Radio broadcasters with terrestrial radio stations pay $0.0023 (.23 of a cent) per stream. Non-interactive platforms like Pandora pay $0.0023 per stream from a paid subscriber, and $0.0013 per stream from a non-subscriber, which increases to $0.0014 in 2015.

This money is paid directly to Soundexchange and is paid out at a rate of 50% for the owner of the copyright (which could be the record label or could be you if you’re DIY), 45% to the featured artist, and 5% to unions that represent the musicians that played on the recording.

If a services like iTunes Radio also provides advertising, it pays out at a slightly different rate as a percentage of the ad revenue is added as well (pro rated of course). In the case of iTunes Radio, that rate is 15% of ad revenue until September 2014, when it increases to 19%.

Interactive Streams
Interactive or on-demand streams are treated different from the radio-style streams in that the rate is considerably higher (between $0.005 and $0.007, depending upon how much the listener pays per month). Services that provide interactive streaming include Spotify, Rdio, Mulve, and Slacker.

The downside here is that if you’re signed to a label, the money is paid directly to them first. You’ll then be paid based on the royalty amount negotiated in your agreement. For instance, if you’ve negotiated a 15% royalty, then you’ll be paid 15% of $0.005, or $0.00075. If you’re not with a label, the money will be collected by Soundexchange or an aggregator like Tunecore, Ditto Music or CDBaby if they’ve distributed you songs to the online streaming services.

On top of the royalty paid to the artist and label, there’s also a publishing royalty that varies yet again from the above rates, which we’ll cover in the next section.

You can see why artists, bands, musicians and even record labels can be confused about how much they’re receiving from streaming. As The Temptations once sang, it’s a “ball of confusion.”

That being said, every artist should register with SoundExchange, a service created by the US Copyright Office to collect performance fees for musicians featured on a recording and a song's copyright owners. SoundExchange collects money for the actual performers on a recording, not the songwriters. Go to soundexchange.com for more information."

To read additional excerpts from the Music 4.0 guidebook and my other books, go to the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Online Videos To Carry Age Ratings In The UK

Annie Lennox explicit content rating image
Do movie and television ratings actually work? We've had them for years in the US, but do they actually do anything to prevent youngsters from seeing anything that could be potentially harmful to them? These questions could be debated endlessly, and while some regulation is no-doubt useful, is more regulation necessary?

The British Board of Classification thinks so, as it has moved to force online music videos on YouTube and Vevo to carry an age classification as of October. The ruling is designed to protect children from "graphic content," according to a speech given by prime minister David Cameron. We can all agree that there's plenty of that to go around.

The US has a voluntary system for music videos developed by the RIAA that displays a "Parental Guidance" label on videos with explicit content. Most of the large online video providers already have age verification systems in place to ensure that less mature audiences are at least warned of the content. Of course, the problem is that most videos provided by the major labels are placed in this category.

A ratings board for games already exists in the US called the Entertainment Software Ratings Board has extensive ratings categories that covers most situations and monitors that industry quite closely.

The Internet has been largely exempt from any societal rules, but that's changing as it's now a primary piece of almost everyone's daily life. It's debatable whether video ratings will make any more of a difference than has been the case until now. Concerned and diligent parents are still the prime ingredient in good parenting. Maybe we should just leave it at that.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Using A Single URL for Multiple Landing Pages

As an artist begins to have more widespread success, it's typical to have different landing pages and merch stores for different countries. What can become awkward is that it might not always be easy for someone to find the appropriate country-dedicated URL from your main "xxxx.com" address.

One way around this is to use a service that will is geo-aware enough to serve up multiple landing pages from your main URL and one of the best is smarturl.it.

Smarturl is very versatile, allowing you to assign multiple country landing pages from a single URL, as well as shortcode aliases and real time stats. It does much more though, as you can also use a single URL to access your multiple country-oriented iTunes links and send to multiple devices, and you can also point towards multiple streaming providers.

Smarturl is free, but it does have a premium tier which allows iTunes affiliate tracking and conversion tracking.

Smarturl.it image

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weighing The Pros And Cons Of A Universal Music Release Day

New Releases image
If you've been in the music business for any length you know that for a great long while now Tuesday has always the day that record labels would release their new music. The reason for Tuesday is the same that many PR agents hold their press releases until Tuesday as well - Monday is just too busy and noisy as people try to catch up from the weekend, and later in the week may not get as much attention as people get more work piled on them or are planning for the weekend.

That's why it's such a surprise that the music industry is on the verge of naming Friday as the new global street day for all new releases. Industry bible Billboard Magazine reports that that this new procedure will be put into effect in July of 2015.

So why the change, you may be wondering? According to the report, it’s to prevent piracy. Right now, each country has it’s own release day, which means that if an album is released in Australia on Friday, or the UK on Monday, the recording is already copied and spread online by the time the Tuesday release rolls around in the United States. 

On the surface this seems to be a perfectly reasonable action until you begin to think about it. First of all, is piracy even an issue anymore? Except for a very few territories, we now live in an increasingly stream-filled world where music consumers have little desire to own the product that they listen to. If you don’t want to own it, then there’s no reason to want to steal it. Read more on Forbes.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jay And Chandler From Music Geek Services On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Bobby Owsinski's Inner Circle Podcast image
If you're into marketing yourself and your music, you'll love this week's Inner Circle Podcast. It features Jay and Chandler Coyle from Music Geek Services and they'll describe how they help artists and bands enlarge their audiences and sell more merch.

Also featured this week is an in-depth explanation of the "1,000 Fan Theory" of a making a living from a core audience, and a discussion of my 10 favorite microphones.

Check it out at BobbyOInnerCircle.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Get More Video Views With A Custom Video Thumbnail

Adding a custom thumbnail image
Loading a custom thumbnail
One of the easiest ways to get more views for your video is by having an appealing thumbnail image. Here's an excerpt from my Social Media Promotion for Musicians book that describes the simple process of creating a thumbnail that really sells the video.

"When you upload a video, YouTube usually selects three screen grabs from which you can select the thumbnail. The problem is that it’s likely that none of these provide an image that instantly tells the potential viewer much about your video. A customized image can now be used as the thumbnail instead of the selections made by YouTube. Here’s what to do:
  • Find the perfect still shot. Search through your original video (the one you had before you uploaded it to YouTube) until you find that one shot that perfectly describes what the video is all about. This might be an action shot, or it could be a close-up of a face or product, or it could be anything that grabs the viewer’s attention. Whatever it is, make sure that it’s relevant to the video. When you’ve found it, export it as a jpeg or PNG image.
  • Add text. Use an image editor like Photoshop, GIMP or even Preview to add text to identify the video. Make sure that the text is large enough to read easily on a small screen found on a smartphone. The file size should be less than 2MB.
  • Click on the Custom Thumbnail icon and upload. This can be found on the Info and Settings page, which is accessible from the first icon (the first one) at the bottom of the video viewer. Viewers will now see your custom thumbnail."
To read additional excerpts from Social Media Promotion for Musicians or my other books, go to the excerpts section of bobbyowsinski.com.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What To Charge For A T-shirt

T-shirt image
One of the biggest concerns that artists and bands have when it comes to merch sales is how much to charge, especially for everyone's favorite - the T-shirt. There's an interesting article about this on the NPR blog, but I've also touched on this a bit in a sidebar in the latest Music Connection magazine and in my Lynda.com Selling Music Merchandise course.

Here's the formula: After you’ve determined your cost per item (make sure you include all your costs including design, setup and shipping), the next thing is to determine the sales price of the item. One way is to just ball park the price at what you think it should sell for, which is fairly unscientific and subject to errors that can cost you money, or do it by a adding a certain percentage over your costs, which is called your markup.

Let’s say a t-shirt cost you $10. If you were to mark up it 50%, that would mean you would sell it for $10 plus a $5 markup, or $15.
10 x 50% = 5  10 + 5 = 15

Many businesses like to mark up a small item by at least 2 or 3 times, or 200 or 300% or even more. That means that an item like a guitar pick that costs 25 cents can easily be sold for $1 or even more, if the market will bear it. On an item that costs you more, like our $10 t-shirt, your market might not bear a 100% markup (although you find shirts that cost more than that all the time), so you’ll have to settle for a smaller percentage.

No matter what, don’t drop your markup below 20% though. You have to make something for your efforts, no matter how small, just to cover those contingent costs that seem to pop up later.

Although you may see T-shirts priced around between $30 and $40 at concerts for A-list artists, don't think that you can get away with the same price. The typical going rate is actually between $15 and $20, but check what you're competitors are charging first.

Here's the "Welcome" video from Selling Music Merchandise course that describes what it covers. Get 7 days of free Lynda.com access by clicking here.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Millennial's Choice For Social Networks

Millennials love their smartphones and they love their social networks. Here's an interesting Statista infographic derived from comScore and Mobile Metrix info that shows their most popular social networks while using their phones.

What's interesting is that Facebook is still the number 1 choice by far, followed by Instagram and Snapchat. Now you can see why Snapchat turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook last year.

What this chart tells artists, bands and musicians is that no matter how badly you feel treated on Facebook, don't give up on it yet. It can still be a powerful marketing tool if you know how to use it.



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