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Thursday, December 23, 2010

It Pays To Know Your Bandmates

It's tough to be in a band. Forget about the music part (which should be mostly fun), the personalities and politics are enough to make anyone crazy, as it always is when art and egos are involved. But just get close to a record deal and everything magnifies. When people begin to think they can be a star except for someone in the band (or even the entire band) that's holding them back, you get some real trouble that can't be overcome easily without serious disruption in the band itself. Then, when the prospect of big money is involved, and you have management that's looking more at the bottom line than at the music, you get a recipe for what's seeming is happening currently with the Atlantic Records band Paramore.

Brothers Josh and Zac Farro recently left the band and posted an interesting blow-by-blow on their blog that's worth a read.

In a nutshell (according to the blog post), the band started as friends in school, found a lead singer who eventually takes over the band direction, the lead singer signed the record deal without the rest of the band, the label and management wanted to fire the band, and it goes on. You've all probably heard this before.

Now there are two sides to every story, and in the case of a band, there's usually a different story for every bandmate. The sad part is that there are a thousand stories just like this, and it will keep on happening unless everyone in a band does at least some of the following (in no particular order):

1) Don't sign anything unless you have a qualified music attorney look it over first.

2) Make sure that any manager that's hired is the manager for the entire band, not for one person. If that happens, you're just a hired gun. If that's the case, at least get paid like a hired gun should be paid!

3) Don't let one person sign a record deal. If that happens, once again, you're a hired gun.

4) Make sure that you have an agreement between band members regarding at least the following:
  *  Who pays the bills
  *  What kind of vote is needed to incur expenses?
  *  How will the profits be divided?
  *  What happens if a member leaves?
  *  How are the band assets divided if a member gets fired or leaves?
  *  What kind of a vote is needed to fire a member?
  *  What happens if a member becomes incapacitated or dies?
  *  Who owns the name?
  *  Do you need a majority or does it need to be unanimous to make a decision?
  *  Who owns the bands assets?
  *  Are side projects allowed?
  *  What's the term of the agreement?
  *  Who owns the name?

And this is just the tip of the agreement iceberg (consult an attorney about this too). Without a doubt, it's one of the most difficult things you'll ever have to do as a band, but if you can get through it, you'll be a lot stronger for it, and a lot clearer about what to expect when the unexpected happens.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Music Industry Trends For 2011

Here's a post that I wrote for the great Hypebot blog earlier in the week regarding what I see as some of the music industry trends that we'll see in 2011. For those of you who don't read Hypebot (you really should because it's a great music industry blog), I thought it would be a good idea to repost it here.

I'd really like to thank Bruce and Kyle at Hypebot for all their support this year. They've been a great proponent of my Music 3.0 guidebook, and have frequently posted excerpts from it, for which I am much appreciative.
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As I see it, there will be several important trends in 2011, but they’ll all be mostly a continuation of what we’ve seen in 2010.

1) The most important trend for 2011 will be realism.

*  The realism that DIY takes a lot of work and the rewards aren’t as great as in the heyday of the major labels. Musicians and artists will begin to see success in a different way as making a living replaces stardom as the big score.
*  The realism that social networking has limitations, and traditional marketing and promotion can’t be abandoned. You still need both for effective branding and marketing.
*  The realism that the touring market is not nearly the goldmine that it once was during better economic times. Fewer venues, less money and more competition makes gigging more difficult than ever. That being said, look for this to loosen up a bit towards the end of the year as the economy rebounds.
*  And the realism that some things in the music business never change. You still need talent, some great songs, lots of hard work, and a little luck to make your mark.
Other trends for 2011 include:
2) The major labels lose even more influence, but don't go away. They'll always be needed for what they do best - taking a successful artist and making them a superstar.
3) A new generation of record label will emerge, helmed by music entrepreneurs like those in the 50's and 60's. These entrepreneurs are part of their audience, love the same music, and are as far away from corporate execs as you can get.
4) The album continues to lose ground. It’s no longer a total listening experience, so the listening consumer cherry-picks the best songs as a result. This trend will eventually reverse, but not in 2011.
5) Music subscription will finally reach critical mass as consumers realize its benefits and more services become available (iTunes subscription perhaps?).
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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When 2.5 Million Twitter Followers Doesn't Result In Sales

Soulja Boy is one of the most prolific Twitter users of any music celebrity. It's nothing for him to tweet 15 to 20 times a day, and sometimes as many as 70! As a result, he's amassed over 2.5 Twitter followers, an impressive amount by any stretch of the imagination, and a is study in fan communication.

While this has helped Soulja Boy sell singles ("Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)" is the 14th best selling download of all time at 4.5 million), his massive Twitter following hasn't helped when it comes to album sales. In its first week after release he sold only 13,000 (11k physical and 2k digital) of his new album "DeAndre Way."

SB appeared to do everything right in terms of promotion. He kept his fans engaged, tweeted daily about the album's availability, and included an iTunes link. Yet even his first single from the album, "Pretty Boy Swag," sold below expectations, although at 590,000 downloads, it seems pretty good to me.

So what went wrong? Here's what I think.

1) As I discussed in my post last week, "6 Reasons Why The Album Format Died," it's likely that Soulja Boy's audience does not buy albums, even from someone they like.

2) Could it be that the audience just doesn't like Soulja Boy's new music? We've seen time and time again, that all the promotion and fan engagement in the world just won't sell something that no one wants.

3) Could SB be the flavor of the month, and the month is over? This is what happens to big label singles artists. It's extremely difficult to build a lasting fan base because you're only hot until the next fad appears on the scene.

All that being said, almost 600,000 downloads is nothing to sneeze at, expectations or not. I wouldn't weep for the guy just yet.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pink Floyd Defeats EMI In Court

EMI keeps getting kicked in the ear in court, as it loses yet another legal battle, this one with Pink Floyd. Actually, the company suffered two setbacks. The Floyd had sued EMI over an alleged $15.7 million in unpaid royalties from 2002 to 2007, but the court also ruled in their favor in another matter that had much larger implications.

Music Week reports that the court recognized the band's 1999 contract which specified that EMI could only sell Pink Floyd music as albums are also covered digital downloads. In other words, it prevents EMI from selling individual Floyd tracks online, which would be a potential financial windfall when the company needs it most.

That being said, it's also been reported that EMI may be put out of its corporate misery any day now, with creditor Citibank taking it back to sell off the parts in the hopes of covering some of the debt. The latest buzz has BMG Rights Management making off with EMI Publishing and Warner Music Group ending up with the catalog rich record group.

On one hand, it's such a shame that such a storied company could meet such an inglorious end. On the other, this is a case of over-reaching greed reaping a sad reward for EMI owner Terra Firma.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

10 Music Sales Tips

Here's another excerpt from Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age. This time it's from Chapter 5 about the new distribution methods of the M30 age, and some appropriate sales tips.
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Here are 10 sales tips to always keep in mind.

1) Ask for the purchase. Never forget that, even though you’re selling yourself, you’re still in sales.

2) Sell a package. With a ticket you get a CD, with a CD you get a T-shirt, with a T-shirt you get a ticket. The idea is to make each purchase something with added value.

3) Sell merchandise at as an affordable price as possible. Until you’re a star, you should be more concerned about visibility and branding than revenue. If you want to spread the word, price it cheaper.

4) There are other things to sell besides CD’s and T-shirts. Hats, a song book, a tour picture book, beach towels - get creative but choose well. Too many choices may actually reduce sales from buyer confusion. You can now sell a variety of branded merchandise with no upfront costs using CafePress.com or Zazzle.com.

5) Begin promotion as soon as possible. It allows time for the viral buzz (aka free promotion) to build and ensures you’ll get you a larger share of your fan’s discretionary spending.

6) Capture the name, email address and zip code from anyone who makes a purchase, particularly ticket buyers.

7) Always give your customer more than he expected. By giving them something for free that they did not expect, you keep them coming back for more.

8) Give it away and sell it at the same time. In the M1.0 to 2.5 days, you used to give away a free track to sell other merchandise like the album.  Now, if you give away a track, that track actually sells more.

9) The best items to sell are the ones that are the most scarce. Autographed items, special boxed sets, limited edition vinyl that’s numbered - all these items are more valuable because of their scarcity. If the items are abundant, price them cheaper. If the items are scarce, don’t be afraid to price them higher.

10) Sell your brand. You, the artist, are your own brand. Remember that everything you do sells that brand, even if it doesn’t result in a sale. Just the fact that people are paying attention can result in a sale and revenue down the road.

For more sales, promotion and marketing tips, see the Music 3.0 guidebook.

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You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

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

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