Thursday, August 12, 2010

When The Public Unexpectedly Likes A Song

As reported by the fine blog, metal vocalist and film maker Rob Zombie spoke to AOL's Noisecreep, saying:
"Truthfully, when you make a new album ... you go, 'OK here's eleven new songs, five of which we'll never play live. And here's the two or three singles that will always be in the set. 
I think they [the record industry] dropped the ball a long time ago and they're never going to recover from it. Nobody wants to actually purchase music any more ... it's a weird time because the music scene is alive and well, it's just the music buying public is not. 
A year from now, I don't even know if they'll be pressing CDs anymore or, if they do, stores won't even bother carrying em."
Certainly what RZ says is true, but all throughout the history of music, songs that the composers and artists thought were just throwaways turned out to be some of their biggest hits. The fact of the matter is that you never know what the public will like. Big hits like Gloria Gaynors, "I Will Survive, " The Spinners "I'll Be Around," Rod Stewart's "Maggie Mae," and Oasis "Acquiesce," are just a few of the songs that caught everyone from the artist to the management to the record label by surprise, and there are hundreds more like that.

That's why returning to a singles-only marketplace can be dangerous for music, because some of the best songs are the ones we never expect to be popular.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ga Ga Numbers

With all the talk about DIY (do it yourself) for bands and artists, the only way that you can get really, really big numbers is with the infrastructure of a record label at your back. The LA Times printed the following numbers in an overview of Lady Ga Ga's impact on current music.
  • 3.64 million: The number of copies Lady Gaga's "The Fame" has sold in the U.S. since its release in August 2008, according to Nielsen SoundScan. (As of Aug. 1, 2010.)
  • 1.3 million: The number of copies "The Fame" has sold in 2010 alone, making the 2-year-old album this year's fourth-bestselling album thus far. All sales numbers are courtesy of Nielsen SoundScan. (As of Aug. 1, 2010.)
  • $24 million: Billboard's estimate of the gross for Lady Gaga’s 47 European and Pacific Rim tour dates.
  • $440: The most expensive ticket package when Lady Gaga returns to Staples Center on March 28, 2011.
  • $40: Cost of a Lady Gaga 2010 tour shirt.
  • 179: Total number of shows Gaga will have played when the tour wraps next year (it began in 2009).
  • 13: Number of Moonmen she could potentially walk away with at this year's Video Music Awards; she received the most nominations ever in a single year.
Now the only way any of this happens is with a major record label, at least at this point in time. And that's the one thing that they're very good at, capitalizing on a trend. The problem is, an artist like Ga Ga only comes around once a decade at most.

Will the major labels be capable of doing the same thing the next time around?

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A New Low For The Music Business?

Here's an idea that's either a new low for the music business, a brilliant marketing idea, or just more of the same. In fact, a new low is exactly the campaign that the UK duo Reclusive Barclay Brothers are running as they pay 100 randomly picked fans $35 each to listen to their song.

They say that their thinking is that payola has been a big piece of the music business promotion for most of the industry's history, so paying you to listen is just a modern extension of the practice.

Personally, I think it's great out-of-the-box thinking and a great promotion. They're basically getting you to sign up for their mailing list in the hopes of winning some money, you're hearing their song, they're getting some much needed publicity, and their clever video explains the whole thing. It's just a repulsive enough idea to actually work, providing that the song is good.

To me it's a good, not great song, but the production and engineering is great. Regardless, the campaign gets you there, and the song is well made enough to make you want to hear more. Check out the site and listen for yourself, and maybe win $35.

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Monday, August 9, 2010

How To Know When You Need A Label

It's time for another excerpt from Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age. Although DIY (do it yourself) is very in vogue these days, there comes a time when the only way you can jump to the next level is to partner with a record label. This excerpt details when to know that time has come.


This entire book so far has been about getting along in the new music world without a record label, but there does come a time when having a label is worth considering if you want to jump to the next level as an artist. Record labels are not intrinsically bad, it’s just that you have to weigh the advantages versus the disadvantages to determine whether the time is right for you to be associated with one or not. 
It’s easy to look at them as buffoons (like we do politicians), but most of them are surprisingly smart. This last 10 years has been humbling for them. It’s shaken out the people that were only in it for the money, so most of the people at labels today are in it for the right reasons and are more entrepreneurial.
Derek Sivers
You might want to consider a label if:
They’re offering you a staggering amount of money. If this happens, you either must be hot enough for a bidding war to have broken out or they really, really believe in your future. Just remember that this might be the last money you’ll ever see and it may have a significant negative impact on any credibility that you have with your fan base. Best to test the notion of signing with a label with your tribe just to see the reaction first since they won’t buy anything from you if they feel you sold them out.
You need money for recording, touring, or any other needs. One of the things that labels do really well is act like a bank using your music as collateral. Major labels still do this as well as ever before, but is it worth the price you’re going to pay in terms of the freedom that M30 offers?
You’re spending too much time on certain aspects of a career. A label can take some of the burden of marketing and distribution off your shoulders. You still have to be involved on some level though, or you run the risk of things getting way off course before it’s brought to your attention. If you don’t have a manager already, this might be a better association than a label when you reach this point.
You need expanded distribution. If you need distribution into brick and mortar stores beyond what a small indie label can provide, a major label can be your friend. They have the relationships, the sales force and the means to collect the money. If you’re distributing by yourself, you’ll get paid if and when the stores feel like it since you have no clout. In some cases, you can’t even get into the remaining chains and retail stores because you don’t sell enough to get on their radar. A major label or large indie sells the stores a lot of product and they’re trusted, so it’s a lot easier for them to get the retailer to take a chance. Plus, the label has some leverage in that they can always threaten to withhold in-demand product if they don’t get paid.
You want to expand into foreign territories. Let’s say that you have a huge following in Germany via your online efforts, but you can’t service them properly because you live in Kansas City. A major label can use their overseas resources to promote you and get product in the stores there. It saves you the hassle of reinventing the distribution and marketing wheels.
You need economies of scale. Sometimes the power of a big label can be used to your advantage as they can cut a better deal with a service (YouTube and MTV come to mind) than you ever could as an indie.
In the video business there was a conscious decision made that video was no longer going to be free anymore. How can it be promotional if MTV doesn’t play it? It has become a product, so we’re going to make money out of it. It turns out there’s a tremendous demand for music videos and they can be monetized. Now we’re the biggest channel on YouTube. But it’s better for us to deal with YouTube on a centralized basis, than as individual labels.
Howard Soroka - Vice-President of Media Technologies - Universal Music Group
You need major marketing. The one thing a major label does well is to market you traditionally. If you want airplay on radio and appearances on television, a label may be your only hope. If you want reviews and articles in mainstream media, they still have the clout to get it done. 
If you feel that you’ve gone as far as you can go as an indie artist. If you need help to push your career over the edge to stardom, then a major label or major label imprint may be the way to go. This is what they do, sometimes well, sometimes not. 
Unless you have a specific need for any of the above that you’re sure you can’t fill any other way, it’s best to stay independent for as long as you can as long as M30 is around. Who knows how long it will last? Maybe a year or two if we’re lucky, but maybe a lot less than that, which might be lucky too since it will spell the latest music business evolution.
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Sunday, August 8, 2010

8 Tips To Avoid Bad Band Photos

Band or artist photos are an essential part of the business of music. You need them for promotion, you need them to help get you gigs, and you need them so your fans know what you look like. They're extremely important, so why are they taken so lightly by so many bands?

Check out this site for a collection of the worst band photos. It's totally hilarious thanks to the captions (I can't remember when I laughed that hard for so long), but as you'll see, it's also sad that they have so little regard for themselves and their photos.

Here are some of the things I noticed that you can put to good use the next time you need a band photo.

1) Get the best photographer you can afford. An iPhone shot won't do and neither will one by your local wedding photographer. Get someone who has experience taking band or fashion photos.

2) Stay away from brick walls and train tracks. That's been done to death. Your sound is original, right? Why make yourself look like everyone else with pictures that use the same background?

3) Posing in your underwear isn't cool. You might think you're a revolutionary, but most people just think it's unprofessional. That doesn't shock anyone anymore.

4) The bathroom is not the place for a band picture. No matter what anyone tells you, it's just bad taste unless you have a genius photographer. Once again, it doesn't shock anyone anymore.

5) Giving the finger doesn't shock anyone anymore either. It makes a promoter, booking agent or club owner say, "Next!"

6) Try not to feature the lead singer too much (unless his name is in the band's title). Lead singers love to take their shirts off or wear a see-through shirt. Nothing screams "I need attention" more than that. Unless it's the lead singer and his or her backup band, make it seem like you're all in it together.

7) Eye-liner went out with the 80's. Give it a rest, unless you're an 80's band.

8) Make an effort. Wearing the same clothes that you wore all day doesn't make for an interesting picture. It screams "I don't care." At least give your wardrobe a little thought and wear something clean.

I can think of a lot more items, but hopefully you get the idea. You'll see all of these things for yourself when you check out the bad picture site at Just make sure you're not at work when you look at it. You'll laugh for a long time.

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Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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