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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Recording Academy Tries To Bring Liner Notes To Digital

The Recording Academy image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
To those of you old enough to have experienced the joys of vinyl records, you know that one of the best things about a record album was the liner notes. Many times the liner notes (the description of the album and credits) on the back of a record was just as entertaining as the album itself (sometimes even more), and sometimes even lead to a record being purchased on impulse without knowing anything about the music inside.

As many have pointed out through the years, the liner notes are one of the things that are sorely missed in our Music 3.0 digital world these days. While the metadata (the data that describes the data) of the digital file can supply some of the info, it's usually not filled in by the record label to the degree that would inform a listener, and even then, isn't versatile enough to supply anything near the description of the old printed cardboard album cover.

The Recording Academy (the people that sponsor the Grammys) are aware of this discrepancy and have initiated a new program called "Gives Fans The Credit," in an attempt to encourage a return of liner notes to digital files. The problem is that they don't have a specific recommendation for exactly how to do that, so they have enlisted a team of industry "ambassadors" to speak to the various record labels and digital delivery services to bring the subject to the forefront. These ambassadors include T Bone Burnett, Jimmy Jam, RedOne, Sheila E, Lamont Dozier and Don Was.

I usually have issues with some of the Academy's policies, but I can't see any downside on this. Fans, especially super fans, are voracious in collecting information about their favorite artist, and the more info made available to them, the better. Depending upon how it's displayed, it may even help facilitate a few impulse buys as well.

While no specific plan on how the digital liner notes would be implemented was presented, you have to believe that the Academy has some ideas about this, at least I hope so. Going into any discussions without any ideas would be a disaster. Still, you have to give them credit for wanting to bring back the credits.

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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, August 22, 2012

8 Reasons For A Bad Band Picture


Bad Band Pictures image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
A friend recently showed me the latest pictures of his son's band and unfortunately they were pretty terrible. That led me to dig out a post from about two years ago regarding bad band pictures.

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 rockandrollconfidential.com. Just make sure you're not at work when you look at it. You'll laugh for a long time. By the way, check out The Musician's Video Handbook for some good technical hints for better pictures.
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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, August 21, 2012

Radio's Dim Outlook

radio symbol image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
While it's true that a lot of music discovery still comes from terrestrial radio, and today the industry is rejoicing in those recent numbers, all is not well in radioland. There are a number of things occurring beneath the surface that may cause a major upheaval sometime soon. Let's take a look.
  • The industry is highly leveraged. With large station groups rolling up smaller groups and independent stations, there's a lot of money money that's owed as a result. That means that even if they wanted to, Clear Channel, Citadel, Cumulus or any of the major groups couldn't take a chance on anything remotely forward thinking even if they wanted to. To keep the banks and shareholders happy, the safe and sure route is the only route, but that will just lead to more programming homogenization than we already have, especially when it comes to music.
  • A bigger yet mostly unseen problem that is the fact that the most popular on-air personalities are all baby boomers. Just look at the top 5:
      Rush Limbaugh, 61: The Rush Limbaugh Show (Premiere Networks) -- 15 million listeners per week      
      Sean Hannity, 50: The Sean Hannity Show (Premiere Networks) -- 14 million listeners per week      
      Michael Savage, 70: The Savage Nation (Talk Radio Network) -- 9 million listeners per week      
      Laura Ingraham, 48: The Laura Ingraham Show (Talk Radio Network) -- 6 million listeners per week      
      Ed Schultz, 58: The Ed Schultz Show (Dial Global) -- 3 million listeners per week
If we look at music, much of the time music radio doesn't even have a radio personality any more, using the cheaper and impersonal taste of automation instead. Granted Ryan Seacrest is big, but even he's 37, and Carson Daly is 39. The real problem here is that there's not a new generation of radio personalities in the wings.
  • And the reason for that is that college radio is falling by the wayside. When radio station consolidation began to happen in earnest in the 80s and 90s, the one bright spot for music was the hundreds of local college radio stations that spawned not only a new generation of radio personalities and executives, but also exposed new music to eager listeners as well. Since the radio broadcast program was always operated at a loss for most schools, the majority have recently opted to either close their stations or sell them. Online radio is so much cheaper that it makes sense for educational purposes, but online college radio doesn't have nearly the cache or listenership that the radio station had. What's more, since the lure of a "real" station to work at is no longer there, there's less interest than ever in radio by students.
All of this means that terrestrial radio is in much bigger trouble than previously thought. In a way, that's a good thing, since a major implosion might actually cause the industry to reboot for the better. Until then, we'll all just have to suffer along. For some background on the problem, read this excerpt from Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age.
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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, August 20, 2012

Why You're Losing Facebook Fans

Facebook image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
CD Baby's DIY Musician blog recently ran an article entitled "10 Reasons Why You're Losing Facebook Fans." You can read the entire article on their site, but I thought I'd pick out a few that I feel are especially relevant.
  • Constantly asking for people to vote for you. Contrary to what shows like American Idol and The Voice may tell you, music isn’t a competition. Sure, you can take your career to new places and get your fans engaged with the occasional songwriting, performance, or fan-voting contest, but stop entering every damn one you come across. It looks a little desperate.
  • Posting your stream of consciousness updates every 20 minutes. If you’re posting more than a few times a day, it better be good stuff! Don’t use your Facebook band page as your personal profile. The few folks who might care what you’re up to every day will stop caring quick.
  • Requiring someone to do something before they can hear your music. People don’t like to jump through hoops. Let fans listen to your music right away– even if it’s only a couple tracks.
  • Advertising by posting on someone else’s wall. Remember MySpace? This is the kinda nonsense that would happen on MySpace all the time– and why people stopped using it. Do NOT put your marketing messages on other people’s Facebook walls. That is what YOUR wall is for.
  • Begging for “likes”. It’s probably OK once or twice a year to ask your friends on Facebook to “like” your band page. Don’t make a weekly habit of the practice, though. Your band page won’t get “liked,” and you might just get de-friended.
There are five additional items that are worth taking a look at, but these are the ones that personally bug me the most. Remember, online etiquette is just as important as personal etiquette.

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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, August 19, 2012

The Reality Of EDM's Global Popularity

Electronic Dance Music image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 Blog
Depending upon who you listen to in the music industry, EDM (Electronic Dance Music for the uninitiated) is either the next big thing, the biggest trend in the music world right now, or a passing fad (although it's been 30 years now and it hasn't passed yet). Recently EMI did a pretty comprehensive survey of over 750,000 consumers and presented an interesting paper at the Ibiza Music Summit). These were some of their conclusions (taken from their slide show).
● There are 7 high level genres of EDM, 45 detailed ‘sub-genres’. 
● The biggest countries for EDM are Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, and the US.
● The US is a special case because Dance/electronic music has only half the passion that Rock music has, even for young people. It has a similar level of passion to Urban music, and it's rivaled or beaten by Country music, even for young people.
● The US has little passion for dance (16th out of 17 countries), but it has the most people who are passionate (1st of 17).
● In the UK, passion for Dance/Electronic music rivals that for Rock music up to age 25. It’s consistently more loved than Urban music. It has no rivals beyond Rock, Pop and Urban.
● In the US, the most passionate age group (16-24) are only half as passionate (57%) about dance/electronic music as they are about the biggest genre. In the UK they’re almost as passionate about dance as they are about the genre they’re most passionate about (87%).
● There is no evidence that dance is ‘older’ or ‘younger’ in the UK or the US. The pattern by age is similar in the UK and the US – it’s just proportionally bigger in the UK.
● In the UK dance is pretty mainstream (less engaged consumers are about 75% as passionate about dance as the engaged consumers are) whereas in the US it’s not very mainstream at all (less-engaged consumers are only about 56% as passionate about dance as engaged consumers are).
● Passion for the different genres of dance music are similar in the US and the UK, except for Drum n Bass, which is more popular in the UK. And except for Techno because the word is often used in the US to describe dance/electronic music overall.
● There is a language problem. The most popular dance genre amongst people passionate about dance /electronic music is … ‘dance’ – they don’t know how better to describe what they like.
● People passionate about dance/electronic music describe it as: Cool, Upbeat, Energetic and Edgy.
● People not passionate about it describe it as: Boring, Annoying, Intrusive, Superficial and Noisy.
● The same artist is often described very differently in different countries. Always as ‘Energetic’, but sometimes as Edgy and Upbeat (France), sometimes Cool (Germany, UK), sometimes Catchy (UK).
I found this to be a great study in that instead of relying on numbers exclusively, it got into the essence of EDM's standing in the music world. Plus, this was very insightful for a major record label to do as well. It would be great if we could see more of this in the future.

The upshot is that the genre is certainly the current trend in that it's getting a lot of press and label attention, but it's still not as large or as passionate as that same press leads us to believe. There's much more to the study, which can be read here.
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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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