Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lady Gaga Secures Her Transition From Pop Star To Chanteuse

Lady Gaga at the Oscars image
One of the things about being a pop star is that success is so hard to sustain. Your life is built around the hit song and as soon as they stop coming or your audience grows up, you’re destined for the dustbin of music history. Lady Gaga is one of the very few pop stars that has managed to transcend the bonds of pop music in favor of a bigger picture that will keep her in the public’s ears and eyes long past when the hits dry up.

Gaga’s recent collaboration with the iconic Tony Bennett proved that she had the vocal chops to go legit (not an easy thing to do keeping up with a legend), and her Sound of Music rendition at the Oscars sealed the deal. Don’t expect to see her as the same pop star again, but watch as she becomes the current generation’s Barbra Streisand or Julie Andrews.

This transition comes just in a nick of time, as Gaga’s last pop album, Artpop, was considered a flop by many, yielding no true blockbuster hits on par with her previous successes (although “Applause” was close, charting top 10 in 20 countries). If you’re losing your mojo, then it’s time to change the game if you’re smart, and that’s what Gaga did with the Tony Bennett coupling Cheek To Cheek.

That album and subsequent appearances with Bennett proved Gaga to be more than up to the task of singing the standards. Even her harshest critics had to admit that she could pull it off with aplomb and that there was some trained singing behind even “Poker Face” and “Just Dance.” Read more on Forbes.

You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I'm proud to announce that both my Music 3.0 music industry blog and Big Picture music production blog have been named in the The Ultimate Top 100 Music Blogs by Musicians Empowered. Thanks very much Sarah! And thank you everyone for your support!


You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Submitting Your Songs To iTunes

iTunes Producer image
If you're an indie artist you know that its possible to submit your songs to many of the digital streaming services like Pandora or Spotify, but that's not possible when it comes to iTunes. The fact of the matter is that many digital services, including iTunes, require either a mid-sized record label or a digital aggregator like CD Baby or Tunecore to submit your songs.

One of the reasons for this is the expense of administering a large number of accounts. There's a cost for the initial setup of the account (which is why an aggregator sometimes charges a setup fee) and most solo artists accounts won't be able to cover that amount during the lifetime of their songs on the service.

Then there's customer service, or the lack thereof. It's expensive to provide and just one call can wipe out any lifetime profits for either the aggregator or the digital service. That's why it's so hard to get someone on the phone at virtually every online company.

iTunes is a special case though, in that it only deals with larger accounts, meaning labels with at least  20 albums or more, or an aggregator. Apple supplies a great submission tool called iTunes Producer that prepares your songs for submission in terms of all the metadata and artwork, but you must be approved by Apple first before the app can connect to the iTunes store.

Let's say you have the prerequisite 20 albums in your catalog and you want to become an approved iTunes label. Apple still requires the following:
  • A UPC code for each album
  • ISRC codes for each song
  • A US Tax ID
  • An iTunes store account with a credit card on file 
Finally, Apple sets a sales threshold for each territory that you must exceed before it pays you, so sometimes you can get paid much faster by using an aggregator.

If you're a solo artist, you're pretty much forced to use a digital aggregator to get your music on iTunes and many other digital services. It's much easier than submitting to each one, as an aggregator is a single submission, but it will cost you either a yearly fee or a percentage of your sales revenue. If you're a label that meets the submission standards, then it's worth it to keep the submissions in house.


You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Starbucks To Stop Selling CDs

Starbucks music image
Even if you wanted to buy a CD, it's getting more and more difficult as retail music stores everywhere continue to close. Starbucks is joining that lot by ceasing to sell CDs and selling off all of its inventory next month. It will stop selling them completely at the end of March.

Starbucks 21,000 stores sold 3.6 million units last year worth $65 million. The coffee giant limited its inventory to only 20 titles or less at a time, and most of these were designed to fit the Starbucks brand.

The company had an exclusive deal with Concord Music Group to supply titles by everyone from Paul McCartney, Diana Krall, Tony Bennett and Alanis Morissette, among others. It also featured a limited number of current hit titles as well, such as Taylor Swift's 1989 and the Frozen soundtrack.

According to a rep from Starbucks, the company will remain involved in music, but only in its digital form, although there was nothing specific about how that will be implemented.

CD sales dropped 15% last year and this year the drop may be even steeper. That was probably going to be the case even if Starbucks had continued selling the format, since its sales amounted to less than 1% of the total CD total in the US.

It's just another sign of the times that the music world we live in is now a digital place.

You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Can Interactive Artist Subscriptions Bridge The Album Gap?

Record album image
Just a quick look at album sales will tell you that increasingly we live in a music world where the single song is king and the album is feeling more and more unnecessary. According to the RIAA, album sales fell 11% last year after falling about the same amount the year before, and there’s no signs of a turnaround on the horizon.

The trend actually had its seeds way back in 1998 with the introduction of the MP3, then caught fire in 2003 with the launch of iTunes, as a fans everywhere rebelled against high-priced CD albums that were perceived to contain lots of filler material. After all, why pay for 10 songs when there’s only one that you want anyway?

Yet the album won’t die in the minds of artists, bands and record labels as we see more, not fewer, released every year, with the vast majority having virtually zero chance of ever being heard outside of the artist’s immediate circle of fans and friends. To many in the music business, you’re not a legit artist unless you’ve released an album, despite increasing evidence that the format is fast turning into a historical relic.

That said, just about every artist on the planet is also aware that to gain any traction in the music world at all, your music has to be on one or all of the streaming services, and that means you’re serving up singles, not albums. 

And that’s the struggle for the music business in general, knowing full well that the audience has moved on yet not being conceptually able to let go of a format that’s been passed by, at least from an artistic standpoint. 

Art aside, there was a practical feature to the album which was responsible for the good time cash cow days that began to ebb in 2003. The beauty for artist and label alike from a business standpoint is that they could sell music in bulk. The consumer paid for a lot of music that she may never use since only one or two songs may be of interest, yet they still got paid for the other songs attached to the album as well. Is there any wonder that the consumer wanted to unbundle the songs from the album format? Why pay for something that you’re not going to use, especially if the cost for the ones you don’t like is the same as for your favorites? Read more on Forbes.


You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Friday, February 20, 2015

Facebook's Video Specs

video production image
Since Facebook is promoting video as a big part of its service going forward, rewarding those who use it in their posts with increased organic reach, it's worth noting exactly what the platform's video specs are.

Remember that to get the most out of a video post, you have to upload directly to Facebook and not embed from another service. For best video results:
  • Optimize all videos for HD quality
  • Output from your editor using the H.264 video codec with AAC audio to either a MOV or MP4 file
  • The aspect ratio can be no larger than 1280px wide, so best to output 1280x720 for best results
  • Use a frame rate of 30fps or below
  • Use stereo audio with a sample rate of 44.1kHz
  • Less than 40 minutes long
So basically any hi-def video file should work as long as it's not too wide or too large should work for Facebook.

Keep in mind that regardless of the length of your video that most people don't watch through to the end so keep the most important information up in front.


You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Upcoming YouTube Music Showdown

Youtube Multichannel Network image
YouTube multichannel networks (MCNs) like Maker, Machinima, and Fullscreen have reshaped the business of online video, but there's still one dicey area that hasn't yet been worked out to everyone's satisfaction - the music that accompanies many of those videos.

It's about to get interesting in that regard as music library Freeplay Music recently filed a lawsuit against some of the largest MCNs in the business.

Disney's Maker Studios, DreamWorks Animation's Awesomeness, Big Frame and BroadbandTV where all slammed with suits that claimed the unauthorized use of Freeplay's music in videos on their channels.

Not satisfied with YouTube's Content ID system of spotting music usage, Freeplay incorporated its own digital fingerprinting technology called TuneSat to discover what it claims was rampant unauthorized use of its music.

The company offers free licenses to video producers to use its music for non-commercial purposes, and that's the rub. In a countersuit, the MCNs have claimed that Freeplay is being deceptive with their licenses, getting a producer to use its music for free only to turn around later and demand payment.

The problem with all this is that the MCNs are responsible for policing their own copyright situations, but you could see how difficult this could be with thousands of channels and millions of videos, which is why Freeplay went to the fingerprinting system to more precisely determine for sure if its music was being used.

YouTube has been like the Wild West for a number of years when it came to music licensing, but now that everyone is aware huge amount of the money involved, it's finally gotten the attention of everyone in music publishing in a big way. Whichever way the lawsuit turns out, it can only be good for songwriters, as every little income stream is now so important.

You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Now More People See Your Facebook Video Posts

Facebook video ads image
Just as soon as we thought we had Facebook promotion figured out, they went and changed its algorithm again.

For a few years now it was common practice to always include a photo with every post and minimize the number of video posts in order to get the highest engagement. Now research company Socialbakers has found that Facebook video is now the way to go.

In the study of over 4,000 brand pages and 670,000 posts over the last 6 months, the company found that the lowest organic search reach came from a post with a photo. What's more, it averaged out that only about 4 in 100 followers actually see it, which is way down from the already diminished 16 of just a few years ago.

Videos, on the other hand, have an organic reach of 8.7%, or almost 9 people out of 100.

Links and text-only posts now have a 5.3% and 5.8% reach. Once again, this means that around 5 or 6 out of every hundred of your followers will see it.

The reason for the change is that Facebook is trying to evolve into a video platform to rival Youtube, so videos now get priority. The trick is to upload them directly to Facebook though, rather than just embedding them from Youtube.

One of several downsides is the fact that many are already hip to what's happening, so more and more artists are promoting their video posts, which means that there'll be more competition for the 1.3 billion eyeballs that are there.

You should follow me on Forbes for some insights on the new music business, Twitter and Facebook for daily news and updates on production and the music business.
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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

To Pay Or Not To Pay Interns

My name is intern image
The connotation of the word "intern" is now changing as it has gone from "free worker" to "paid temp employee" thanks to a class action lawsuit on behalf of 3,000 former unpaid interns that felt abused by the system.

Recently Warner Music Group became the largest music company to resolve litigation over its past internship program by agreeing to settle for an amount of $750,000.

Other similar lawsuits in film and television have ended in the same way, prompting all media companies to reevaluate their intern programs, which potentially means far fewer opportunities for those seeking the few internships that are available. The laws governing internships are different from state to state, but a precedent set in one tends to carry over to the others, which is what's happening here.

To be sure, this applies mostly to large corporations, but could possibly have a chilling affect on even smaller studios as well. While most interns are just too happy to have a job that allows them to learn from a pro and would never conceive of bringing an action against an employer for fear of what might happen to their career, just the threat of something like that happening can have a chilling effect on a potential employer.

I have a friend who owns an upscale but small studio that was sued by a former intern because he didn't get the promised studio downtime simply because the studio was busy with bookings. The studio owner won the case but it still cost him time and lawyer's fees. That person now runs a no-intern shop.

So paid internship is now a double-edged sword. It's nice to get paid for the work you put in, but the opportunities to learn will now be far more limited.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How We Spend Money On Music Is Changing

93% of the US population listens to music, spending an average of 25 hours a week listening to their favorite songs, according to Nielsen's Music 360 Report.

That said, 2014 provided a paradigm shift in how we consume music, as streaming has now become the preferred method.

In fact, 67% of music fans tap into streaming music on any given week.
Indeed, we streamed more than 164 billion tracks last year alone.

That said, Americans spend an average of $109 a year on music, and you'd be surprised how we spend it.

As you can see from the chart on the left, the majority of the money is spend buying live music tickets, and the next largest sum is buying CDs!

That's followed by buying music gift cards for others, and tickets to music festivals. Paid online streaming is almost last, which means there's big room for growth in the future.

Friday, February 13, 2015

5 Snapchat Secrets

Snapchat image
Snapchat has 100 million monthly active users and most of them (71%) are under 25 years old, with 77% of college students using the service daily. There are over 400 million snaps sent every day, but very few know how to use them for promotion, since only about 1% of marketers even attempt to do so.

Recently Snapchat has added a number of features that can help expose you to a brand new audience. Here are 5 secrets to Snapchat success from social media pro Gary Vaynerchuk.

1. Make emojis huge. After you've taken your snap, type in an emoji, then tap the big T button in the top corner. You can drag it anywhere on the screen.

2. Find the hidden colors. Snapchat limits the number of colors in a snap but you can bring out one that's hidden just by dragging your finger to the left and bottom of the screen to open up a rainbow palette.

3. Use the geofilters. Swipe to the right while filtering to see the location appear.

4. Replay your snaps. Thought they disappeared right away, didn't you? You can replay the last snap you viewed once during the day, but it has to be the last one. Enable reply in your settings first.

5. Cross-promote. Save your photo after you take a snap so that you can post it to your other social accounts as well.

If your audience is on Snapchat, that's where you should be too, and these 5 tips will help you reach them faster.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Jay-Z Nears Deal For Streaming Company

Jay-Z buys Aspiro image
Not to be outdone by Dr. Dre, who made a windfall when Apple purchased Beats last year, rapper and business mogul Jay-Z has bid for the Swedish streaming company Aspiro. The company owns two streaming services offering audio and video called WiMP and TIDAL.

TIDAL has been mentioned on this blog a few times already, since it's a premium service that offers CD quality streams. The service was only launched in the US late last year, and has about 500,000 subscribers at $19.95 per month.

The surprising part of the deal is that Jay-Z's subsidiary company Project Panther Bidco bid only $56.2 million for Aspiro, which seems like a steal compared to what similar services are priced at.

Aspiro's board of directors has approved the deal, and the only thing holding it up now is approval from the shareholders.

I think this is a brilliant step by Jay-Z. It's only a matter of time until all streaming services have at least one hi-res tier, and TIDAL is really leading the pack at this at the moment. Not only that, the price is very reasonable considering the infrastructure and subscribers included. Aspiro looks to be cash-strapped, so it gives the founders an exit strategy while breathing new life into the service.

I don't know if TIDAL will survive when Google's Music Key and Apple's rejuvenated Beats Music launch, but right now it's one of the few streaming services with something unique to offer.

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