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Thursday, September 27, 2012

What Is A Brand?

Your Brand image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 music industry blog Whenever I speak at a college, I always ask the audience what their brand is. I usually get a blank stare back. Now I totally agree that business terms like "brand" will make a musician's eyes glaze over faster than an air guitar contest, but it's important to be self-aware about what your brand is.

One of the things that an artist or band hears a lot these days is the need to promote "your brand" in order to get ahead in Music 3.0. That's all well and good, but it's hard to promote your brand unless you know exactly what a brand is. So what exactly is a brand?

Here's an excerpt from the Music 3.0 Internet music guidebook that describes it perfectly:

"A brand is a promise of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you go for a McDonald’s hamburger, you know what to expect. No matter what product you purchase from Apple, you can expect sleek high-tech design and an easy to understand user interface. Brand management is protecting the image of the brand and carefully selecting how to best exploit it.

For an artist, that means a consistency of persona, and usually a consistency of sound. Regardless of what genre of music the artist delves into, the feel is the same and you can tell it's the artist. Madonna has changed directions many times during her career but her brand remained consistent. Here persona remained the same even as she changed to and from the "material girl." The Beatles tried a wide variety of directions but you never once questioned who you were listening to. It was always fresh and exciting, but distinctly them.

On the other hand, Neil Young almost killed his career with an electronic album called "Trans" that alienated all but his hardiest fans, and the well-respected Chris Cornell may have done irreparable harm to his long-term career with his recent album with Timbaland ("Scream") even though it was the highest charting of his career. Why did this happen? For both artists, the album no longer "felt" like them. Both Young and Cornell built their careers on organic music played with a band, and as soon as their music became regimented and mechanical, they lost their brands. After Trans, Young returned to his roots and slowly built his brand back to superstar level, but it's too soon to know what will happen with Cornell.

How do you determine what your brand is? It's easier said than done.

In order for an artist to successfully promote their brand, they must have a great sense of self-knowing. You must know who you are, where you came from, and where you're going. You must know what you like and don't like, and what you stand for and why. And you must have an inherent feel for your sound and what works for you.

And that differentiates a superstar from a star, and a star from some who wants it really badly but never seems to get that big break."

For additional excerpts from Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age and my other books, go to bobbyowsinski.com.

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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, September 26, 2012

Neilsen Says Music Discovery Still Led By Radio

Nielsen logo from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 music industry blog
In a new report by Nielsen called Music 360, most people still discover their music most frequently from radio, but teens listen to music through YouTube more than any other source. Among the other findings is that 36% of teens have bought a CD in the last year, and 51% of teens have purchased a music download.

Here's a sampling of what's found in the report:

Radio is still the dominant way people discover music
  • 48% discover music most often through the radio
  • 10% discover music most often through friends/relatives
  • 7% discover music most often through YouTube
More teens listen to music through YouTube than through any other source
  • 64% of teens listen to music through YouTube
  • 56% of teens listen to music on the radio
  • 53% of teens listen to music through iTunes
  • 50% of teens listen to music on CD
Positive recommendations from a friend are most likely to influence purchase decisions
  • 54% are more likely to make a purchase based off a positive recommendation from a friend
  • 25% are more likely to make a purchase based off a music blog/chat rooms
  • 12% are more likely to make a purchase based off an endorsement from a brand
  • 8% of all respondents share music on social networking sites, while 6% upload music.
Music player apps are most prevalent, followed by radio and music store apps
  • 54% have music player apps on their smartphones
  • 47% have radio apps on their smartphones
  • 26% have music store apps on their smartphones
Males purchase rock music most often, while females prefer top 40
  • 38% of males purchase rock most often
  • 15% of females (compared to 9% of males) purchase top 40 most often
Digital music is seen as a slightly better value than a physical CD
  • 63% of purchasers identified digital albums as a very or fairly good value
  • 61% identified digital tracks as a very or fairly good value
  • 55% identified physical CDs as a very or fairly good value
Younger consumers who do buy digital tracks, are more likely to purchase new music immediately after its release
  • 33% of teens purchased a digital track within one week of release
  • 21% of persons 18+ purchased a digital track within one week of release
18-24 year olds are most likely to attend a music event (among those who attend any type of live event)
  • 7% attending once a week or more
  • 30% attending once a month
Although 18-24 year olds attend more live events, teens are more likely to purchase T-shirts and posters while there.
  • 54% (compared to 46% of 18-24 year olds) of teen attendees purchase concert tees
  • 14% (compared to 7% of 18-24 year olds) of teen attendees purchase concert posters
Even though Nielsen has done great research for years, there are some things that I have to question in Music 360. For instance, it's hard to believe that most people still discover music through the radio and not from YouTube, which is the predominant way that most people under 30 listen to music. Other things, like the type of music purchased and when, haven't seemed to change for years.

What the report does illustrate is that we often don't really know what we think we know. If you listen to the media, the music world has turned completely upside down. After looking at this report, it's not as different as we're led to believe.

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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, September 25, 2012

7 Ways To Improve Your Site's Navigation

Website Navigation image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
One of the main premises of my Music 3.0 book is that your website should be the center of your online universe, not Facebook, ReverbNation, Ning, Tumblr or any social network.

The reason why is that you control everything about your website, where if you're on another platform, you're at their mercy. If they change their terms of service, the parameters of their user interface (i.e. Facebook), navigation, or anything else about the platform, you have no choice but to go along. A website can be custom designed for your brand, and everything else should feed into it.

That said, many artist websites are quickly designed with little thought. Even if you have a website that's due for an update, consider these 7 tips to improve its navigation, courtesy of Searchengineland.

1. Keep it consistent. Consistent navigation from page to page in both how and where things appear on the site promotes ease of use and increases your visitor's ability to find relevant information more quickly.

2. Divide categories clearly. All categories must be clearly and visually defined, with category headings separated visually from sub-categories.

3. Make all navigation elements clickable links. All major category headings should be clickable links, even though you may have a drop-down menu with sub-categories.

4. Use accurate navigation titles. Visitors need a general idea of what they should find on a page even before they click on a navigation link.

5. Ensure every clickable image has ALT text. Every image should include the ALT attribute (the alternate description of the graphic) complete with descriptive text. This is so everyone who views the page knows what the link is, regardless of how they view your site.

6. Ensure that your search feature works. You do have a way to search your site, right? Be sure that it always produces relevant results. No one likes a "not found" result.

7. Always test your site. Make sure that every link functions correctly before it goes live. This not only ensures a better user experience, but a better search ranking as well.

These are very simple points that will lead to a much better user experience, which is what we all want from a website.

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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, September 24, 2012

The 9 Top Music Pirate Countries

Digital Pirate from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
We hear less about it these days because online music streaming has become the hot button issue, but there's still a good bit of music piracy that goes on all over the world. Musicmetric has compiled a report called The Digital Music Index that found that there were over 400 million illegal downloads after watching Bittorrent for the first 6 months of the year. They broke it down by country, and here's what they found.

1. US - 96.68 million.
Most downloaded artist: Drake

2. UK - 43.26 million.
Most downloaded artist: Ed Sheeran

3. Italy - 33.15 million.
Most downloaded artist: Laura Pausini

4. Canada - 23.95 million.
Most downloaded artist: Kenye West

5. Brazil - 19.72 million.
Most downloaded artist: Billy Van

6. Australia - 19.23 million.
Most downloaded artist: Hilltop Hoods

7. Spain - 10.3 million.
Most downloaded artist: Pablo Alberan

8. India - 8.96 million.
Most downloaded artist: Billy Van

9. France - 8.39 million.
Most downloaded artist: Sexion d'Assaut

I'm actually surprised at how low these numbers are. If you listen to the RIAA, they should be about 20 times higher, but here we have empirical data that shows that while pirating still continues it's not to the level that the music industry tells us.

Still, if you're a record label, it must be distressing that 400 million potential sales were left on the table. That said, how many of those would've been turned into a sale if piracy were eliminated? My guess is that it wouldn't have been even half of that total, and spread out world-wide, the potential revenue is a drop in the bucket compared to what major record labels deal with every day. If anything, this study shows that streaming music is beginning to take hold and piracy is decreasing.

It will be interesting to visit this again next year. I bet the numbers will be a lot lower.

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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, September 23, 2012

This Is Why Artists Hate Major Labels

James Taylor image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
The prevailing wisdom in today's music business is that any artist signed to a major label (and many indies as well) will get shucked and jived out of hard-earned royalties in that rare case when an artist has a hit. It was certainly like that way back when the record business began, and even though artists have made great strides since then in protecting themselves, it's still happening now.

Case in point - iconic balladeer James Taylor. JT is suing his former label Warner Music Group (WMG) for several million dollars, and even after several audits where his accountants have found over 50 contract improprieties, he's still having trouble collecting. This is all laid out in a wonderful article over at Digital Music News by Paul Resnikoff called "52 Ways To Screw An Artist."

It takes a long time to get through every one of the points, so I'll summarize them here.

JT's accountants first did an audit way back in 2004 and found that he was underpaid by $1,692,726. After Warner's and Jame's representatives got together to hash things out, they settled on a figure of $764,056 and WMG immediately cut a check for only $97,857. After trying to get the balance paid over the next 8 years, WMG finally decided to officially dispute the remaining amount, claiming they owed just around $147k instead of the $666k balance, but of that money that even the label agrees is owed, they paid a grand total of $0.

So basically it turns out that JT finds that WMG owes him $1.6 million, they settle on a figure of $764k and pay him $97k and let him twist in the wind for the balance ever since.

What's funny is how blatant some of the royalty "mistakes" are, from charging manufacturing costs (which is on the label) as recording costs (which is owed by the artist) to paying a royalty rate under the agreed amount of points, and on and on.

But it doesn't end there. In 2010 JT initiates a second audit, and this time discovers that he's owed $1,147,559 for the three year period between 2007 and 2010. WMG basically blew him off and never responded to the audit inquiry. And that only appears to be the tip of the iceberg, as there were several additional revenue sources where royalties should have been paid that the auditors couldn't find.

The bottom line is that if James Taylor's high-powered accountants and attorneys can't get paid, you have almost no shot if you're a new artist. And the labels still wonder why artists want to go the DIY route?

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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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