Monday, August 3, 2015

Film And Television Composer Rich Walters On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Television and film composer Rich Walters image
On this episode of my Inner Circle podcast, I'm pleased to have television and film composer Rich Walters as my guest.

Rich has been nominated for 2 Emmys and and 2 Canadian Screen awards, and his most recent credits include the Sci-Fi Network show Olympus, and the feature film Chappie (with Hans Zimmer).

He'll tell us what it's like to be a composer on major projects yet live outside of Los Angeles, as well as what a music editor does, a job that many not in the post business find completely mysterious.

In the intro I'll take a look at how music sales are up all over the world, the new Soundcloud subscription service, Rode's purchase of Aphex and Guitar Center being sued by the National Labor Relations Board.

Remember that you can find the podcast at, or either on iTunes or Stitcher.

Smartphones And Concerts Are Tied At The Hip

Smartphones at concert image
If you’re like me you’re probably wondering why everyone is looking down at their phones during a concert instead of at the action on stage, but it’s something that’s becoming more the norm and will probably be increasing in the future. And that, it turns out, is going to be a good thing for artists, bands and brands everywhere.

According to an article in Billboard by Donnie Dinch, Ticketfly (the online ticket source where Donnie is General Manager of Consumer) tasked Harris Interactive to conduct a poll asking how people used their phones during a concert or event. What they discovered is beyond interesting.

First of all, 31% of Millennials (18 to 34 year olds) use their phones for half the concert or longer, while only 15% say they never touch it while there. That’s a lot of time to be looking at a small display while the main event is happening in real life, so what are they doing exactly?

It turns out that most of those phones are being used for recording the show, but not so much as a historical document as stoking the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) fires of their friends. This applies to 40% of the females (as compared to 24% of males), who also share their posts on social media 59% of the time.

All interesting, and maybe a little sad, but the fact of the matter is that there’s a large number of attendees glued to their phone, yet hardly anyone is actively taken advantage of it.

This could come soon thanks to the new Bluetooth beacon technology that companies like Apple and Marriott are employing which automatically send push notifications to smartphones in the vicinity, providing the users with product information, flash sales or deals. With a few well-placed beacons around a venue, there could be an opportunity to sell some merch in a fast and easy way. Read more on Forbes.

Friday, July 31, 2015

I'm Appearing On The Waves Everything Audio Show

Check out the very cool Waves Everything Audio Webshow with host Dave Hampton. I'm appearing along with Barak Moffitt (Head of Strategic Operations - Universal Music Group) and producers, songwriters and artists The Avila Brothers (Usher, J Lo, Janet Jackson).

We'll be talking about the new business of music (or the new music business, depending upon how you look at it), and you'll get some great insights as well as some answers to some Twitter questions.

Go to

Thursday, July 30, 2015

On A Positive Note - Music Sales Up Around The World

Positive Note image
While we're used to hearing about the gloom and doom in the recorded music industry, it appears that the first half of 2015 has actually been a bright spot in sales.

At the halfway mark in the year, many countries that had previously seen their total sales slip recently have actually recorded increases, and all of it has come from digital music.

Germany, Italy, Sweden and Norway have all seen their CD sales drop by varying amounts, yet their total sales have risen, with streaming revenues rising to the forefront, according to Nielsen. The US and Canada also saw sales increase, although total revenue figures haven't been released.

One of the trends that mostly continues downward is what's known in the industry as Overall Album Consumption (OAC). It's increasingly turning into a single song world as more and more people abandon not only album purchases, but listening via streaming as well.

Interestingly enough, OAC is down in most countries, but actually increased by 14% in the first half of the year in the United States. No definitive reason has been sited, but the feeling is that the figure will even out by the end of the year, yet still stay in the positive range.

What do these figures mean? It means that more and more people are paying for music. Where many consumers previously got their music for free either through piracy or via a free streaming tier, an increasing number are turning to streaming subscriptions.

Now with Apple Music finally launched, and with YouTube's Music Key around the corner, we should see additional increases by the end of the year. My prediction - we'll be surprised at how much the industry has grown at this time next year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Soundcloud Subscription Tier Is Coming

Soundcloud icon image
It's been rumored for months, but it looks like a subscription tier for Soundcloud will soon be a reality, as the company CTO recently confirmed.

While the exact details haven't been revealed yet, it's believed that the service will offer a free tier with a capped number of streams and downloads per month, and a paid tier where both are unlimited.

One of the challenges is changing current users into paid subscribers, since the service has long touted itself as a free service. In fact, Soundcloud has used that as a selling point from the beginning.

The company is currently under pressure both from investors to make money, and from the major labels pay royalties, however, so it looks like this will be changing soon.

That said, Soundcloud hasn't been entirely free for some time, as it offers both Pro ($6 per month) and Pro Unlimited ($15 per month) tiers for creators that want increased storage and analytics.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A List Of Every City's Favorite Song

Musical City Map image
Spotify recently did an analysis of its users to find out which songs were being played the most in each city. The results are pretty surprising to say the least.

Needless to say, tastes are very different in just about every region of the United States, which when it comes down to it, is really a good thing.

Here's what Spotify found:

Atlanta: Lil Donald, "Juice"
Austin: Bob Schneider, "Honeypot"​​​
Baltimore: Young Moose, "Dumb Dumb"
Boston: Thundercat with Flying Lotus, "Them Changes"
Chicago: King Louie, "B.o.n."
Houston: Slim Thug with Joel Osteen, "Chuuch"
Los Angeles: Grupo Maximo Grado, "Unas Heladas"
Miami: Chocolate, "Guachineo"
Nashville: Elliot Root, "Punks and Poets"
New Orleans: Showboy Cj with Sissy Nobby, "Josephine Beat"
New York City: ​Thundercat with Flying Lotus, "Them Changes"
Philadelphia: PnB Rock, "Fleek"
Portland, Oregon: Sylvan Esso, "Wolf"
San Francisco: Nef the Pharaoh, "Big Tymin'"
Seattle: Sam Lachow, "Banana Goo Pie"
St. Louis: Vega Sills with La4ss, "Momma"

Agree or disagree?
Agree or disagree?

Thanks to Jesse Jaye for the heads up.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Labels Considering Removing Artist Videos From YouTube

YouTube image
In a dispute that's reminiscent of what happened with MTV in the 1980s, the 3 major labels are considering removing videos of their most prominent artists from YouTube, according to various reports.

Out of all streaming sources, YouTube pays the lowest royalty rate and the labels are looking for what they consider a more fair split (it's currently 55% labels/45% YouTube).

The platform has long been a source of frustration for the majors, since YouTube has a firm grip on the ad policy, sales channel and monetization and the labels have very little say.

Perhaps throwing fuel on the fire, YouTube recently announced that the number of advertisers increased by 40% last year, with the average spend up more than 100% over a year ago. What's more, YouTube's revenue was over $6.6 billion last year, but the music industry only saw about $150 million of that, according to the RIAA. YouTube disputes that figure and states that it's really "in the billions," although no hard figures are given.

While the majors are quietly increasing their support of other platforms like Vessel and Snapchat, they're being careful about removing support from YouTube just yet. The platform is still where most people consume music (especially new music), and it still provides a significant source of income.

Plus, with YouTube's Music Key subscription service around the corner, that income could possibly increase even more, although most top level label execs are skeptical.

However it shakes out, this bears watching.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Have Apple And Spotify Already Lost The Chinese Music Market?

Alibaba Music sign image
Most Western music streaming companies look at China as sort of a golden goose. It’s not laying any eggs at the moment, but you think that one might come at any time. That goose may be stolen even before it makes its first deposit though, as the Chinese mega-company Alibaba recently announced that it will combine two of its music properties, Tiantian and Xiami, into a new as-of-yet unnamed music service.

The Chinese music market is potentially huge, with an estimated 471 million people currently listening to music online already. That said, the revenue is relatively minuscule at only $91 million last year compared to $3.5 billion in the U.S, according to the IFPI.

The reason is that Chinese consumers are used to getting their music for free, thanks to over a hundred pirate sites in the territory. Yet in a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, it wouldn’t take a significant portion to really make a difference in the music industry’s bottom line if they indeed did pay for their music.

Western companies know that, of course, and eye China as the final frontier of music distribution. That’s easier said than done though.

For instance, Spotify is available in over 50 countries, but it’s still not officially available on the Chinese mainland (it is in Hong Kong). Some premium tier users who have subscribed to the service elsewhere say that coverage around the country is spotty at best, with speculation that it may be due to government censorship. Even the recently launched Apple Music is available just about everywhere in the world except China at the moment. 

Although you can almost hear the corporate wheels turning in board rooms of streaming countries everywhere in the West, China remains a tough market to crack, and with Alibaba entering the picture, it just got tougher. Read more on Forbes.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

8 Social Media Mistakes That Artists And Bands Make

Social media mistakes image
SocialTimes recently ran a post about the 8 social media mistakes that you can make, but the post was aimed strictly at traditional marketers. I've reposted them here with a music twist that specifically looks at artists and bands. Here we go.

Mistake #1. Having no social media strategy. Randomly posting without a reason is only a little better than not posting at all. In order to get the most out of social media promotion, you have to have a strategy about your goals and how you're going to accomplish them.

Mistake #2. Creating accounts on too many platforms too soon. No one can be on everything and do them all well. Pick one and get good at it, then add another, etc. Choose the social networks most used by your fans or potential fans.

Mistake #3. Paying for fake followers. Those follower or viewer counts sure look good when they climb overnight, but your real followers won't be fooled and neither will record companies, management, agents or anyone else in the business. Get your followers the old fashioned way - earn them with great content.

Mistake #4. Talking about nothing but yourself. You're using social media as a promotional tool but your posts get boring if it's all about you, your band or your music. Talk about your followers, ask questions, throw in some relevant news and generally change it up to keep the interest and engagement high.

Mistake #5. Using irrelevant and excessive hashtags. Hashtags that don't mean anything are useless for promotion. Using more than two on a Twitter post (more for Instagram) actually decreases engagement, so choose them carefully.

Mistake #6. Sharing too much in a short amount of time. Dominating a feed is a great way to lose followers. If you're going to post a lot in a short period, at least warn your followers beforehand.

Mistake #7. Forgetting to proofread. People judge you by your grammar and spelling. Check it first before posting.

Mistake #8. Neglecting the “social” aspect of social media. Remember that engagement goes both ways. Be prepared to respond to comments or questions on any post.

If you're not sure how to develop a social media strategy, or want more information on using social media as a promotional tool, check out my book Social Media Promotion for Musicians. You can read some excerpts here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Most Music Discovery Still Happens Traditionally

It's very easy to believe that good social media promotion will get your name out there, and it certainly will, but when it comes to having your music heard there's still nothing like traditional media.

According to a new study by EvenBrite, most people still discover new music through traditional means like radio, television and word of mouth at 68%. Streaming came next at 42%, while social was way down at 14%. Live was even worse at only 8%.

This study corresponds with others in that radio still comes out #1 for music discovery, although YouTube seems to be catching up (at least for the moment).

Streaming does have another huge positive effect though. 51% of people that buy tickets to concerts do so because they discovered the act on a streaming service.

Music Discovery Channels

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Amazon Now Selling Concert Tickets With No Extra Charges

One of the things that everyone hates is the service charge attached to a concert ticket when you buy it from a broker and even directly from the box office.

Amazon may finally put an end to that as it's trying to get into the ticketing business, promising full transparency and no extra charges in tickets purchased from the site. In a pilot program launched on Amazon Local, the company is selling tickets to the Bestival shows on the Isle of Wight in early September.

Amazon will offer more shows in the UK through the end of the year, then after the bugs are worked out, will roll it out to the US as well.

One of the little known secrets in the concert industry is that it's not the venues or promoters inserting this extra charge though - it's the acts themselves. Instead of raising the ticket price to where it seems too high, it feels more acceptable if there's that service charge on the back end.

Many acts actually hate the idea of doing that to their fans, and these are the ones that usually allow paperless ticketing, a practice that has yet to gain tracktion in the industry.

If Amazon ticketing catches on, it might finally put a stop to the insane extra charges that we so reluctantly pay.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Will YouTube’s Music Key Streaming Service Be A Hit Or A Miss?

YouTube Music Key logo image
Now that the Apple Music launch has come and gone the next shoe to drop in the ongoing music streaming wars may be the one swinging the heaviest hammer. That’s Google’s YouTube Music Key, which has been hinting at a launch for months now with very little solid information about its final form forthcoming.

Until last week when YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke about it at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event, the silence around Music Key had been so deafening that you get the feeling that Google (which owns YouTube) was waiting to see what would happen with Apple Music before it committed itself to a launch. If ever there was a strategic pause, we’ve just seen it, as the company could only be sure of the hand that Apple was playing by watching Apple Music’s actual entry into the market.

Now that all of Apple Music’s features are out in the open, YouTube is free to tweak its service to either take a different approach from the rest of the competition or attempt to do some of the same things.

Music Key has been in a limited beta since late last year at an introductory price of $8 per month, but we’ve already been told that the final price will be more in line with the rest of the streaming industry at $9.99. That’s not Google’s choice (nor was it Apple’s) even as the general feeling in the tech industry is that $5 per month is actually the ideal price point.

Five bucks won’t fly with the major labels though, and the streaming services can’t distribute something that they don’t own the rights to, so Google, like Apple, will be forced to toe the line and charge $10 per month when Music Key is finally introduced. The place where it can make a difference in price however is with a “family plan” that extends additional subscriptions to family members. Read more on Forbes.


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