Monday, September 1, 2014

The 5 Most Expensive Music Videos Of All Time

Madonna "Express Yourself" image
Once upon a time music video budgets were almost like TV movie budgets in that directors took advantage of the record label's largess and went for the best of everything available. Today that's all changed as music video budgets have decreased quite a but due to the ever falling fortunes of the music business, but also because the basic costs of gear has fallen so low as well.

That said, there are 5 music videos that totally stand out from the crowd as the most expensive ever created. Surprisingly, all 5 are divided between only two artists - Michael Jackson and Madonna. Here they are in decreasing order in today's dollars adjusted for inflation.

5. "Black or White" - Michael Jackson - $6.9 million. 11 minutes long and premiered on all the music channels at the same time all over the world with an estimated audience of 500 million!

4. "Bedtime Story" - Madonna - $7.7 million. Surprisingly, this was not one of her bigger hits.

3. "Die Another Day" - Madonna - $7.9 million. The James Bond inspired video was the best selling dance song of 2002-2003 and nominated for a Grammy.

2. "Express Yourself" - Madonna - $9.4 million. The most expensive video ever made up until that time (1989).

1. "Scream" - Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson - $10.7 million. It won a Grammy and 64 million people watched when it debuted on ABC's Primetime Live show.

They don't make them like that anymore, and we should all be thankful.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Instagram Launches The Hyperlapse App

Every platform needs a "killer app" and while Instagram has always been about pictures, it's new Hyperlapse feature might be just the thing to push its use in video over the top. While time-lapse video has always been pretty cool, it's been a major production pain, requiring hours of shooting time. Hyperlapse allows the user to instantly get that same look without any pain other than holding your smartphone still for a while.

Hyperlapse is different from most platform apps in that it doesn't require an account since its a dedicated app that sits on your smartphone. You just tap to begin recording and it automatically defaults to 6x speed, although you can change it to something slower or faster if needed.

You can shoot the video for as long as you like (providing you have the arm strength to hold the camera still that long), but like all video shared on Instagram it's limited to 15 seconds and presented in its signature square format.

Music video directors should love it though, and here's a video called "Overblown" by Doctor Popular as a sample. If you have an iPhone, you can get Hyperlapse from the App Store here.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Social Media Expert Dae Bogan On The Latest Inner Circle Podcast

My latest Inner Circle Podcast features social media and video distribution expert Dae Bogan, who'll provide a number of tips that every artist and band will find useful.

I'll also talk about Facebook Likes, who has the most and what they really mean, as well as a look at my personal experience with some expensive high-end audio and power cables.

Take a listen at, iTunes or Stitcher.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Numbers Add Up For YouTube’s Music Key

YouTube Music Key launch screen image
For the better part of a year we’ve been hearing rumors about YouTube’s “soon to be launched” subscription music service, but details were always sorely lacking - until now. Android Police seems to not only have uncovered some details about the service, reportedly to be called “Music Key,” but even has a few screen graphics as well.

If you’re not familiar with the situation already, YouTube (which is owned by Google) is the leading online platform for music discovery, as well as the preferred music service for those 18 and younger. In fact, 38.4% of all its video views come from music, and 10 of YouTube’s top 20 channels are dedicated to music, according to the YouTube analytics firm Tubular. Google has wanted to monetize these music video views even more than it has already with advertising by spinning off a separate music-only subscription service, and that’s what Music Key is.

Reportedly the service will be an audio-only platform that will cost $9.99 per month, but for that the commercials are eliminated, and the user will have the new-found ability to listen to songs offline. A free 30 day trial is said to be offered, at least during the product launch.

Google does face a number of challenges with Music Key however. First is the cannibalization of its own Play All Access music streaming service. Word is that the company will rebrand it as Google Play Music Key, but it still seems like there’ll be some confusion there, like which service do you subscribe to? Is there a difference between the two? Does one have advantages over the other? Does a subscription cover both? The problem here is that the company should be trying to draw a distinction between itself and other competing services, not between its own properties. It seems like a small issue now, but it just might be enough to make a potential customer throw her hands in the air in a fit of indecision and subscribe to Spotify instead. Read more on Forbes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The 2 Types Of Fans That Every Artist Has

Fanbase image
Every artist, whether they're selling out arenas or still working in clubs, has two types of fans. Most artists never bother to differentiate between the two and therefore don't grow their fan base as quickly because they tend to cater to the wrong group. In this excerpt from the latest edition of my Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age book, you'll see the differences between groups and why one is more critical to your success.

"Music 4.0 is totally dependent upon the development, care, and feeding of your fanbase. Your core fans or “tribe” is only a piece of your total audience though. Your audience can be broken down into the following two categories: your casual fans and your core fans. 

Your total audience, or your fans, are fervent about a particular small niche of music that’s usually a subcategory of a larger genre, which means that they love speed metal (as opposed to the much larger metal or hard-rock genres), bluegrass (as compared to the larger country-music genre), or alien marching bands (as opposed to either of the larger alien-music or marching-band genres). If you’re an artist in that particular niche, your audience will automatically gravitate toward you, but still might not be your fans. This includes casual fans, occasional listeners, and people who like what you’re doing yet aren’t particularly passionate about it. 

Although this part of your audience can’t be ignored, it’s probably not a good idea to expend all your energy on it. They’re aware of you and will probably give you a try with every release, unless they’re disappointed too many times in a row. They can be turned into passionate fans though. One “hit” song or album, a change in image, or a change in general perception, and they become the passionate critical mass needed for the breakout that turns a respected artist into a true star. 

In Music 4.0, your most important core audience contains your most passionate fans, or your “tribe,” as described in Chapter 4. They’ll buy whatever you have to sell, work for free, recruit other fans, and basically do anything you ask. All they want is access to and communication with the artist, which is the basis of Music 4.0

So to summarize:
  • Your audience consists of your casual fans and your core fans
  • Fans may like an artist but may not be particularly passionate
  • Your core fans (true fans, uber-fans, super fans, tribe) are very passionate about everything you do
  • Most of your energy should be directed towards your core fans"
Knowing the difference between fan groups can make a difference between chasing your tail trying to please casual fans that only marginally care about you, or growing your audience by cultivating your most passionate ones.

To read additional excerpts from Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age and my other books, go to the excerpts section of


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 for more information."

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

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 "" 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 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. image


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