Thursday, December 31, 2015

Why People Still Buy CDs

Why people buy CDs imageIf you read the news at all, you probably think that the CD format is dead and buried, but that's far from the truth.

Last year there were more than 170 million CDs sold in the United States alone that could be counted. No one knows exactly how many were actually sold, since so many sales (like direct sales at gigs and online from an artist's website) are under the Soundscan radar.

But as we've recently seen from Adele, there's a large audience out there that will happily buy a CD, sometimes even along with streaming the same music online.

The following graphic from a recent BPI report shows the reasons why many people continue to buy and use CDs.



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Spotify Hit With A $150 Million Class Action Lawsuit

Spotify class action lawsuit imageA lot of artists, bands, indie labels and publishers have a problem with the payout from Spotify, but most feel that at least they're being paid something. What could be worse is if your songs are being played by the service and you're receiving no royalty at all.

That's the basis for a $150 million class action lawsuit brought against Spotify by Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker leader David Lowery.

Lowery claims that Spotify has failed to get the proper licenses to distribute certain copyrighted songs, and then failed to pay the copyright holders and publishers the proper royalties.

Spotify is currently in negotiations with the National Music Publishers Association about this very issue, and has reportedly set aside of fund of $25 million to pay the royalties for any improper song use.

There's been allegations of non-payment for some time, and Spotify has even admitted there was a problem, but blamed much of it on the lack of tracking data that was supposed to be supplied when the song was uploaded.

Incorrect metadata is a problem for almost every online service that deals with copyrighted material. Each platform has its own set of required data, and much of the time supplying that data falls to an intern or untrained employee of the label or publisher, so it's upload improperly or incomplete.

To qualify as a class action lawsuit, there needs to be a number of plaintiffs besides Lowery, and while not named, the Lowery suit claims that there will be more than 100.

If nothing else, this lawsuit should give us further insight into how Spotify matches songs to metadata and determines royalty payments.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Apple Music App Is Now Bigger Than Spotify

Apple Music imageApple Music may be lagging behind the other streaming networks in subscribers, but it's mobile app appears to be doing just fine. According to Nielsen, the Apple Music app is the 9th largest smartphone app with 54.5 million unique users.

This number may be deceiving, however. Nielsen calls them "active" users, but many users auto-downloaded the app and don't even realize that it's on their device.

The other apps on the list are pretty much as expected, with Facebook, YouTube, and various Google apps (Search, Play, Maps, Gmail) all higher than Apple Music.

That said, Apple Music is ahead of both Spotify and Pandora, both with far more subscribers.

So apps don't equal users, and as we all know, having an app on your phone or tablet doesn't necessarily mean that you're using it frequently or at all.

How many apps do you have that you don't use? Are you an Apple Music subscriber?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Year-End Review And 2016 Trends On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

2015 ReviewMy latest podcast features my annual year-end recap of what I thought were some major events in the music business and the pro audio world.

We'll take a look back at Apple Music, YouTube Red, the CRB ruling, Facebook video, Amazon Prime Music, Guitar Center and some upcoming new technologies.

I'll also provide some trends to follow in 2016, like the latest on streaming, internet  and Facebook marketing, Pandora rising in prominence, and the new-look websites, as well as the decreased importance of analog, new digital controllers, plugin overload and headphone surround.

There's a lot to look back on, and to forward to.

Remember that you can find the podcast at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, or either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play.


Beatles Songs Stream 50 Million Times In 48 Hours

The Beatles imageThe Beatles were one of the final major holdouts to streaming, and many thought that they waited far too long to be able to take advantage of the medium. That view seems to be unfounded as Beatles songs were streamed more than 50 million times in just 48 hours since they went live on Christmas eve.

What's most interesting about all the streams is demographic that's listening the most. According to Spotify, 65% of listeners are age 34 or younger. Beatles tracks were also added to more than 673,000 playlists during that time.

There's also been a lot of buzz around the Fab 4 coming to streaming, as Brandwatch found that there were 46,000 mentions of "the Beatles streaming" in the hours after launch. 87% of those were positive.

So what Beatles songs were listened to the most? Here's the top 10 worldwide.

1. Come Together
2. Let It Be
3. Hey Jude
4. Love Me Do
5. Yesterday
6. Here Comes The Sun
7. Help!
8. All You Need Is Love
9. I Want To Hold Your Hand
10. Twist And Shout

We should have a better idea of the impact The Beatles catalog has on streaming in a few months, but for now its off to a great start.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The 10 Best-Selling Christmas Albums

Everyone thinks that Christmas albums are giant moneymakers, but while massive radio airplay may bring songwriters of Christmas songs some big royalty checks, Holiday albums haven't really sold that well.

Below is an infographic from Statista based on Billboard chart information that shows the 10 best selling Christmas albums since 1991. It's surprising that Kenny G is #1, but it's even more surprising that the total album sales is only 7.3 million units. Also a surprise is that Mannheim Steamroller has such a strong presence on the list, taking up the 5, 6 and 7 positions and totaling just under 11 million.

Of course, selling a million albums today is quite a feat, but remember that most of these top sellers were around during the heyday of the CD business, when selling a million merely got you into the game.

Have a very merry Christmas, and thank you kindly for your continued support of this blog!

Best Selling Christmas Albums graphic


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Why Consumers Buy Vinyl

Why Consumers Buy Vinyl imageLast week I posted about the extras that entice buyers to purchase a CD, according to a study by the British Phonograph Industry. Another part of that same study has to do with the reasons that consumers purchase vinyl records.

What's interesting is that the study looks at 2 groups of buyers; hardcore vinyl buyers who only listen to their purchase, and buyers who listen to their music both via streaming and vinyl.

If you look at the graphic below, those that listen to both streaming and vinyl seem to appreciate vinyl far more than the vinyl-only purchasers, as most points are in the 90% range.

What's most interesting (to me at least) are the points at the bottom. Most who listen to streaming find that vinyl is a good investment, like to show their collection to their friends, and like having it around for decorative purposes.

Covers have always been important when it comes to vinyl, and given that buyers really like to show off their vinyl purchases, they're now more important than ever, so don't skimp on that artwork!



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Kickstarter Has A Very Low Failure Rate

Crowdfunding imageCrowdfunding isn't for everyone, but it turns out that the chances of getting a campaign funded are higher than ever. Kickstarter commissioned a study by the prestigious Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania and found that 91% of campaigns on its platform get funded.

It turns out that the failure rate was about the same across all 15 categories on the platform, and most failures came from campaigns attempting to raise $1,000 or less. The most successful were campaigns attempting to raise between $10,000 and $50,000.

Even if a project failed, 73% of backers felt good enough about the process to want to back another project. That said, just 19% said that they would back the same creator whose project failed.

For those projects that just can't come to fruition, Kickstarter has a number of suggestions:
  • Explain to backers what work has been done, how funds were used, and what stopped them from finishing
  • Demonstrate that you’ve used funds appropriately and have made every reasonable effort to complete the project as promised
  • If there’s money left over, offer to return any remaining funds to backers who have not received their reward, or explain how those funds will be used to complete the project in some alternate form.
Crowdfunding isn't for everyone, especially when it comes to music. As stated in previous posts, unless you already have a broad fan base, your campaign has a good chance of failing unless you use some very clever marketing. But as the Wharton study found, if you do get it off the ground, there's an excellent chance it will succeed.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Beatles Finally Coming To Streaming

Beatle Christmas imageAll signs are pointing to one of the last major remaining holdouts, The Beatles, finally coming to a streaming network near you. Billboard, MBW, and Hits Daily Double all report that the Fab 4 will finally be available on either Apple Music or Spotify (or both) on Christmas Eve.

There's also some speculation that The Beatles music might be the first available only on Spotify's Premium tier. Last month CEO and founder Daniel Eck seemed to indicate that the company was softening its stance on making certain superstar artists available only on the paid tier and not on the free one.

This seems like a good strategy that may not only get more people to upgrade their accounts (which pay much higher royalties to artists, publishers and labels), but to appease the music industry as well.

The music business has long been railing against giving away music for free, although money is still generated via advertising, just at a lower rate.

The Beatles haven't been absent from streaming altogether though. They've been on Pandora for some time because of a more encompassing license for the non-interactive format.

Just as a point of reference, the band has sold 178 million albums in the US to date, according to the , and their music has been available on iTunes since 2008.

Monday, December 21, 2015

168 Radio Stations Play Only Christmas Music

Christmas MusicChristmas is a powerful time of the year for many people and for many reasons. So powerful in fact that 168 radio stations in the United States have converted their formats to full-time Holiday music, according to Nielsen.

That's not all. Hundreds of other stations across the country have also converted their formats to part-time Christmas music.

One of the downsides to this is the fact that there's less space than ever on already crowded playlists, to the point that superstars like Adele and Taylor Swift even get boxed out by the Xmas classics.

Speaking of which, even though most music stars try to cash in on the Christmas cheer with a Holiday release, they find it hard to break the stranglehold that songs from the 40s and 50s seem to have on radio at this time of year.

That said, I was recently on a cruise ship for a week where they didn't once play a familiar Christmas song by Bing Crosby, Burl Ives or Brenda Lee and never repeated a song the entire week, so there's lots of great Holiday music out there if only stations were willing to look.

In the meantime, take heart in the fact that on December 26th there will be 168 more radio stations back playing their regular formats, and Christmas music will be forgotten for another year.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" Hits The 30 Million Mark

Michael Jackson ThrillerThere are some classic albums that continue to sell years, even decades, after their release. The Beatles Abbey Road, Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon, and The Eagles Hotel California come to mind, but the album that tops all of them is Michael Jackson's Thriller which has just reached the 30 million mark in the US, according the RIAA.

Released in 1982, the album helped lift the music industry from a recession, and has gone on to sell over 100 million copies world-wide.

The album also spent a record setting 37 weeks on top of the Billboard 200 album charts.

While Adele has had some impressive numbers with both her 21 (over 30 million worldwide), and 25 (5 million in the US so far) albums, it's fairly certain that we won't see an album with the sales legs of Thriller again, at least until another consumer-attractive physical format emerges.

It's a different music delivery world that we live in today, so the real numbers to watch are the number of streams and views that an album gets. You know you have a huge hit Thriller-like hit when you hit a billion, as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber (among a few others) have found out.

That said, Thriller remains a stellar work that still holds up well today. It's the work of a lifetime that captures lightening in a bottle. About the only thing that doesn't work (at least for me) is the cover, which seems disconnected from the album title.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

They Said It Would Never Happen - New Vinyl Presses To Hit The Market

NewBilt Record PressOne of the biggest problems with the growth of the vinyl record industry is the fact that the gear to make them is so old. There hasn't been a new record press machine made in over 30 years, and the cost of maintenance on the old machines is getting increasingly difficult and expensive.

That's about to change as NewBilt Machinery of Germany has introduced a modern up-to-date vinyl press that could relieve the entire industry of the burden of relying on worn-out machines.

United Record Pressing and Jack White's Third Man Records will get the first ones for their respective Nashville record plants. It's also reported that Third Man may also open a plant in Detroit as well, and that most other pressing plants have machines on order.

Believe it or not, there are 21 record manufactures in the United States alone, some using presses that are 50 years old, and most have lined up to purchase at least one new press. At a price of around $100,000 each for a single press system ($161,250 for a duplex system), they're not cheap, but neither is having to pay $5,000 to get a screw machined for an old press, as frequently happens.

Even if you have that kind of cash, there's still a lot more to setting up a plant, as a boiler, cooling tower, air compressor and three phase power is required as well to go along with the highly toxic chemical process needed to make the record stampers.

That said, having new presses available will allow the industry to grow and deliver in a more timely fashion, since it now can take up to four months for an order to be fulfilled.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Facebook To Release A Live Streaming Feature

A feature that many artists, bands and labels have been asking Facebook for is live streaming, and it looks like it's coming soon.

This has been something available to big "verified" brands for a long time, but now the company is beginning to beta test a version that will be rolled out to all users in 2016.

Facebook has been under some minor pressure from Periscope and Meerkat, although their 12 million users combined pales when compared to FB's 1.5 billion. That said, the company hates to be left out of anything related to social media sharing, so look for a new icon to pop up allowing for the live streaming option soon.

Beta testers have found that you'll be able to see both the people that are currently viewing your broadcast as well as the real-time comments.

Facebook's live streaming is different from other platforms in that you'll be able to specify exactly who will be able to see it. That means that you can designate your broadcast to be seen just by your fans, followers, a group, or even a small group of friends or family.

The other thing that separates the upcoming FB feature is that it will live indefinitely in your stream, unlike the limited lifetime for both Periscope and Meerkat.

One disadvantage is that your broadcast can only be seen on Facebook, unlike other platforms where the broadcast can be shared on other networks. With 1.5 billion potential viewers, that doesn't seem like much of a limitation though.

Look out for this new feature in early 2016.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Extras That Entice CD Buyers

Extras That Entice CD Buyers
Everyone knows that if you're music doesn't connect, then nothing else matters, but a British study (which I also quoted yesterday) has found that certain extras offered with CDs really make a difference when it comes to making a sale.

As this chart below shows, there are various extras that streaming listeners take into account before purchasing a CD, including (in order of importance):
  • Exclusive tracks not found anywhere else
  • Making the disc a limited edition (i.e. #59 of 500)
  • Cover artwork designed by the artist
  • Priority booking of gig or concert tickets
  • Discounted or bundled merch
  • Exclusive access to online content
  • Membership in a fan community


If you're not including any of these extras with your CDs, now's the time to do so, since your potential customers are expecting one or more along with their piece of round plastic.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Streamers Buy Music Too

vinyl recordsWhile nearly everyone in the music industry complains about the decrease in sales, a new study by the British Phonograph Industry (BPI) and the Entertainment Retailers Association has found that streaming may actually be at least partially responsible for whatever sales there are. Of course, this study was conducted in the UK, but it may be significant nonetheless.

The study found that streaming was a way for users to sample music and artists before actually buying. In fact 44% of the respondents that paid to stream said that their album buying habits have either increased or remained the same.

66% of the music fans surveyed also obtained their music from multiple sources, meaning streaming and CD or vinyl. The general consensus was that users streamed to discover, but actually purchased something they fell in love with.

Surprisingly, the results reflected not only older music fans but younger consumers as well, with the tastes of millennials falling in line with baby boomers in this area.

Also, about 33% of respondents would prefer a "one stop shop" where they could stream content, but also buy the CD on the platform if they wished as well.

Finally the survey found that around 40% of all albums are purchased in the final quarter of the year, with about half of these coming at Christmas. CDs and vinyl records are still prime gifts.

It just goes to show that there's still life in the CD side of the business, which may very well be around for longer than industry analysts predict.

Friday, December 11, 2015

An Attempt To Reel In Concert Ticket Scalpers

Concert Tickets
When you buy an Adele concert ticket in the UK, you'll get a notice that "The resale of tickets will not be tolerated." Team Adele is taking a zero tolerance approach to scalping that already seems to be having an effect.

According to an article in Music Business Worldwide, about 20% of hot concert tickets end up on the secondary market, often at super inflated prices. In Adele's case, whenever a ticket is offered for resale by a buyer, the sale is immediately canceled as each ticket is individually registered to the fan that bought it.

This has resulted in less than 2% of her tickets now available for resale, and that number of dropping.

The prices appear to be as high as $1,500 over face value, but buyer beware though, as you might be buying a ball of hot air that won't get you into the concert after all.

It should be noted that in many cases the artists themselves are responsible for the high scalping prices, as they hold back a block of tickets and sell directly to the secondary markets for a quick profit. Not so with Adele. to her credit. She's already made plenty of money, and would rather her fans not have to pay more than the asking price to see her live.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

5 Kickstarter Tips From Amanda Palmer

Amanda Palmer's 5 Kickstarter Tips
Amanda Palmer may be the perfect example of how social media promotion is done in our Music 4.0 age. She's developed a big online bond with her fans that hasn't quite carried over to her music, but it has in other areas.

Amanda took advantage of that social notoriety to launch a highly acclaimed Kickstarter campaign a few years ago where she raised $1.1 million more than her original $100,000 goal.

So just how did she do it? Amanda gave away her secrets on crowdfunding to the Music Awards BlogHere they are (with my comments afterward):

1) You have to have fans before you can ask them to help you. [This one seems pretty obvious, but is mysteriously overlooked by many artists.]

2) Show, don't tell: HAVE A GOOD VIDEO. [This is a lot harder than it seems. You have to sell your fans on your idea/music and not be obnoxious about it. People get paid a lot of money to do this every day, which suggests its difficulty, so make sure you put a lot of thought into it.]

3) Don't just reward the rich: keep every level rewarding. [If you look at some Kickstarter campaigns, it seems hardly worthwhile to even consider some of the lower pledge levels since you don't get all that much in return. As you get to the higher money pledges, the rewards always become a lot more interesting, but you want to reward those that can only afford the lower levels as well.]

4) Be honest: You'll be amazed at how helpful people really are when you talk straight with them. [Fans naturally want to help. The more honest and open you are, the more help they'll give you. If something feels funny or below board, they'll start to pull back.]

5) No tool is deus ex machina: ANY platform can work. [Don't get stuck on one platform since the name of the game is delivering your music to people, and giving them the chance to help you out by buying something occasionally. Without those last two things, the platform doesn't matter.]

Last but important, Palmer gives the best tip: Your music must be good, you must respect your fans, and pretty much without exception; YOU HAVE TO TOUR.

Another great tip from Amanda comes from a conversation she had with Techdirt in which she states just how she developed that fanbase in the first place:
"I've been tending this bamboo forest of fans for years and years, ever since leaving roadrunner records in 2009. Every person I talk to at a signing, every exchange I have online (sometimes dozens a day), every random music video or art gallery link sent to me by a fan that i curiously follow, every strange bed I've crashed on...all of that real human connecting has led to this moment, where I came back around, asking for direct help with a record. Asking EVERYBODY...And they help because...they KNOW me."
Every time I post something about Amanda Palmer I get a lot of negative comments and emails, as she can be a polarizing figure if you're not a fan. The thing is, she's done extremely well for someone who's music is rather niche.

Whether you like her or her music or not, at least take heed of her techniques. She's giving them away for free.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Look At The 7 Types Of Twitter Contests

Twitter Contest image
We all want to increase our fan engagement on social media, and a great way to do it is with contests, since it definitely tweaks the interest of your followers.

Adweek recently ran an article about the 7 types of Twitter contests that can be run, which you'll find below along with my comments on how it applies to your fanbase.

1. Photo Contests - Ask the entrants to post of photo of themselves showing a piece of your merch or a CD, or at one of your shows.

2. Most Creative Or Funny Answer Contest - Ask your followers to submit a creative or funny answer to a question that you tweet. Make sure to include a hashtag as part of the campaign.

3. Retweet To Enter Contest - All your followers have to do is retweet your contest tweet and they'll be entered to win.

4. Follow To Win Contest - This is a bit of cross-promotion across some other social networks, where you let them know that if they follow you on Twitter they're automatically entered into the contest. Please note that you can't ask someone to follow you directly on Twitter as it violates their terms and conditions.

5. First To Answer Contest - This happens really quickly, which means the contest is quick as well. It's simple - ask a question, and whoever tweets the correct answer first wins.

6. Tweet A Hashtag Contest - All the follower has to do to enter is include a hashtag that you create in a tweet.

7. Caption Contest - Ask your followers to tweet a funny or interesting caption for a photo that you tweet.

In all cases, make sure to retweet and thank each entry, then give a winner a lot of Twitter love.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Spotify Still Leads In Paid Streaming Customers

It looks like Spotify is still in the lead in terms of paying customers, if this chart from Statista is any indication.

The chart shows that Spotify has a handy lead over Apple Music at the moment, although it's yet to be seen just how many people buy into the YouTube's new Red service, which could change the balance of power here.

A couple things to keep in mind when looking at this chart.

1. There are only a bit more than 40 million paying customers for streaming at the moment, so there's a lot of room for growth.

2. The chart only looks at Western services, and doesn't include any from Asia, where people have been used to paying for music for some time.
Infographic: Spotify Ahead of the Pack in Terms of Paying Users | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista


Monday, December 7, 2015

Repost Network Founder Jeff Ponchick On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Jeff PonchickIf your music is on SoundCloud, then you probably want to know about Repost Network, a service based on the YouTube multi-channel networks that can help you get paid for your streams.

Jeff Ponchick, the founder of Repost, is my guest on the podcast this week and he'll discuss how it came about and how it all works.

On the intro I'll discuss the process of purchases fake crowds, and take a look at the latest from the lab - 3D batteries that store more juice, take less time to recharge, and are safer for the environment.

Remember that you can find the podcast at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, or either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play.


Bar Owners Fighting BMI Over High Fees

Live Music Killed Off image
Bar owners across the country are getting more up in arms at what they claim is BMI's "take-it-or-leave-it" fee structure and canceling music events as a result, according to an article in phillymag.com.

Every public establishment, whether it's a bar, coffee house or restaurant, has to pay the performing rights organizations (BMI, ASCAP and SESAC) if they want to have music playing, whether it's live, radio, or a jukebox.

The problem is, according to many bar and club owners, that BMI imposes what seems like a random fee that could rise at any time without a cap. If they don't pay, then BMI's deep pocket attorneys take the owner in court, which most bar and club owners just can't afford.

The bars are fighting back though, thanks to their local beverage associations. The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and; Tavern Association, The Food and Beverage Association of San Diego, and the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association have all teamed up to create the Fairness In Music Licensing Coalition, which hopes to change the way this portion of the copyright law is implemented.

Right now BMI charges on the number of people that will fit into the club, but if that isn't available they use the establishment's square footage, which almost always doesn't represent the number of people that the place holds.

No one argues that the songwriters and publishers shouldn't be paid, by the way. It's just how they're being charged that's at issue.

The big problem here is that everyone loses when a venue stops having live music, so this is something that both sides should work diligently to sort out.

Friday, December 4, 2015

As Always, Female Buyers Still Fuel Pop Music Sales

Music Buyer Data image
What do Adele, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith have in common? Most of the buyers of their albums are female, according to an article by Hannah Karp in the Wall Street Journal based on data from a number of market research firms.

While this info is probably no surprise to music execs who’ve inherently known this for decades, the new-found ability to have a greater understanding of an artist’s fans syncs more with the conventional industry wisdom than previously thought.

Take Adele, for instance. First of all, she’s an artist that goes completely against the grain of what the music business currently considers a pop star. She’s a full-figured women who has a relatively small social media footprint and no bombastic big-production stage show, yet she’s been crushing sales records by doing it the old fashioned way - with great songs and performances.

If you look closely at the demographic profile of her fans though, the sales records begin to make perfect sense.

According to the article, a Nielsen study funded by Sony Music found that 62% of Adele’s fans are female, between the ages of 25 and 44 years old, and have children. In other words, they’re soccer moms. What’s more, a majority of them work in the health care industry, drink light beer and Aquafina water, and are 80% more likely than average to read Parents magazine, for whatever that’s worth. To take it a step further, 28% of her fans are in the 50+ age bracket, according to music consumer research company Music Watch. Read more on Forbes.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Evolution Of Online Video

The evolution of video
Believe it or not, online video is only about 10 years old, and as we all know, it's come a long way in that time.

Just about everyone has posted a video and many are actually making money doing so. And online video cuts across all age demographics, so even though younger Americans are more prolific, the 50+ year-olds watch more video online than ever before.

Here's a great infographic from SwitcherStudio that shows just how much things have changed since YouTube was created 10 years ago.

Online Video Evolution infographic


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Design Your Album Artwork With The TAD App

TAD app
One of the problems that many artists and bands have is that they're good at creating music, but not so much when it comes to creating the artwork that goes along with it. That shouldn't be a problem any longer though, thanks to the new TAD (Thumbnail Art Design) app, which makes great looking artwork a snap.

TAD allows you to choose from a variety of album cover templates, add photos, logos and text from a large selection of fonts, then add frames, filters and other artwork elements to give your album cover the artistic feel that you're looking for.

You can then export the result at a variety of resolutions to fit whatever platform you're using (iTunes, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, etc.) up to a max of 3000 x 3000 pixels. You also get unlimited exports with no watermarks, making TAD one of the best go-to graphic tools an artist can have.

TAD is currently available for free from the iTunes App Store until December 14th, after which it will be $1.99, which is still a bargain. It's designed for iPhone and iPad and requires iOS 7.0 or later.



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Can You Copyright Silence?

Detweiler Soundcloud InfringementD.J. Detweiler has been pushing SoundCloud's copyright buttons for the last few years with satirical "flutedrop" remixes of popular songs using a simple recorder (the instrument, not the machine).

The group has taken the pursuit to a new level by posting a version of John Cage's "4:33," which is Cage's conceptual piece that's nothing but 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence.

SoundCloud removed Detweiler's piece on the basis of copyright infringement (see the graphic on the left), not because of the silence, but because of a mashup of a Justin Bieber song within the piece.

That said, Cage's piece was a performance piece only and never recorded, mostly to bring up the question, "Can you copyright silence?"

If Cage's piece is nothing but silence, is it even possible to copy it in the first place?

Had Detweiler just placed a silent recording online and retitled it something other than "4:33," SoundCloud might not have taken it down, but would the recording then still be infringing on Cage's copyright?

I don't know the answer here, but it does bring up yet another deep philosophical question - "Can total silence be music, and if so, how much of it equals a song, or at least enough to earn a copyright?"

What do you think?

Monday, November 30, 2015

International ISRC Agency Announces A New US Country Code

ISRC Code image
Believe it or not, the IRSC code has run out of numbers for the US. Not to worry though, as the International ISRC Agency has come to the rescue with a new country code that will add an additional block of numbers to save the day.

ISRC codes are used to identify different recordings from one another either on a CD, vinyl record or upload to a digital service, and each starts off with a country code. The early ones that used code "US" ran out of numbers long ago, so "QM" was instituted as a replacement for all new codes in the US.

Now that's run out of numbers as well, so the Agency has now introduced "QZ" as the latest country code for the United States.

That being said, the Agency points out in a bulletin that the new country code should be used carefully and the following should be kept in mind:

  • ISRCs that have already been assigned to recordings must not be changed 
  • Existing registrants should continue to use the "US" or "QM" codes that have already been allocated to them 
  • New users who are notified that their registrant code is to be used with the ‘QZ’ country code should never to use it with ‘US’ or ‘QM’ since that would result in ISRCs being generated that are a duplicate of previously assigned codes. 

So basically, don't use the new code unless you've been told to do so.

Friday, November 27, 2015

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  • Module 1: “In Your Face” Interest Creation Mix Tricks including16 tips on balance, panning, automation, EQ and compression that add some amazing interest to any mix.
  • Module 2: Mondo Effects Mixing Tricks, including 18 mixing tips about creating great reverb and delay effects that either jump out or blend seamlessly into the track.
  • Module 3:Interesting Instrument Mixing Tricks, including 23 mixing tips that specifically cover guitar, bass, and keyboards, which includes how to get the famous Elton John piano sound, or a bass sound that pops through small speakers.
  • Module 4:  Wicked Cool Drum And Percussion Mixing Tricks, including 28 tips for getting killer drum and percussion sounds.
  • Module 5: Bad-Ass Lead And Background Vocal Mixing Tricks, including 16 tips to make that lead and background vocal either pop out of a mix, or blend in just right.
---> Lifetime 24/7 access

---> Q&A webinars and forums

---> Plus a Bonus Module consisting of all the editing tricks that the top mixers use to prep their tracks for mixing.

---> And I'll throw in my Mixing Engineer's Checklist eBook if you order today.

Find out more about the 101 Mixing Tricks online coaching program at 101mixtricks.com.

Order now because at midnight tonight, the price goes back to $297 forever!

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Reality Of The Music Industry Holiday Shutdown

Happy Thanksgiving and Thanks For Reading
Thanksgiving is a time for family gatherings and banquets, but it also marks the beginning of a time of year that those in the business of music either love or hate - the Holiday Shutdown.

The Holiday Shutdown is the toughest time of the year to do business because the execs that can green light a project begin their extended vacations, so they're rarely in the office. It begins on Thanksgiving week (some leaving on Monday rather than Wednesday), and really continues until about the second week in January. Oh, they'll be back in the office between now and then, but they're usually so backed up with work that if you're not on the top of the pile you'll be pushed to next year.

One of the reasons why record execs leave is that the release schedules for the year and even into the first quarter of next year are set in stone. The Christmas releases are out by now, and while there may be a record that might drop in the first week of December, it's a rarity. It's a slow season work-wise, so why stick around?

On the other hand, agents and managers are still working as they line up fill-in dates for the end of the year and work on tours for the new year, merch vendors are still working because it's a prime time of the year for retail sales, and publishers are still getting payments and working on synch licenses for television shows and movies (although many of the producers have also left unless they're still in production).

This is also the time of year where bands may still be negotiating for a New Years Eve gig, which may be the best paying, but the worst gig of year, as the audience tries too hard to have the good time they think they're supposed to have.

With all that being said, it's a good time of year to get your marketing in order for 2016, since there's bound to be some downtime in whatever sector of the business that you're involved it. We'll review that more in an upcoming post, but in the meantime, have a great Thanksgiving and don't eat too much turkey!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

This Is The Revenue From A Single Taylor Swift Concert

Taylor Swift
If you ever wondered where the money goes when an A-list artist gives a concert, the Tampa Bay Times laid it out pretty well.

Most of the time the income and expenses for a concert are hidden, but in this case the venue (Raymond James Stadium) is publicly owned and operated so most of the data is readily available.

This is financially what happened during a Halloween concert given at the venue by Taylor Swift:
  • The show was a sellout at 56,987. Swift received 100% of the ticket sales, which initially amounted to almost $4 million, including a $2.75 million guarantee.
  • But there's some intrigue here, as at the last minute Swift's production company became the concert promoter, which means she may see even more money in the end since the final income from tickets was actually more like $5.8 million.
  • $843,947 of that was split between the Tampa Bay Sports Authority and Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team.
  • Merchandise sales brought in $40,784 (which sounds low to me).
  • Food and drink sales amounted to another $244,626.
  • Parking is always a big money maker at concerts and this one was no exception at $127,798.
So the concert brought in about $6.2 million and Taylor Swift kept over $4 million of it, which just goes to show how much money is generated by an A-list artist on the road.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Google's Removal Of Pirate Links Soars

Take down notice image
If you're a content creator, then you may know how it feels when someone steals your content and passes it off as their own.

There is something that you can do about it online though. You can appeal to Google to delete the links to the pirated content via what's known as a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Takedown Notice.

Google has been flooded with these requests lately to the tune of 1,500 per minute (25 per second, or 2 million a year), so it's happening more and more these days.

Over the last month alone, Google received notices from more than 5,600 different copyright holders targeting more than 65 million links spanning more than 68,000 domain names.

Amazingly, Google does respond in a timely manner and most links are removed quickly, although duplicate requests are common, which can slow things up.

Prior to actually removing the link, Google will downrank the URL in its search results, which is one of the main reasons that pirated content via torrent sites doesn't show up as high as it used to.

This applies not only to Google searches, but Blogger posts and YouTube posts as well, so be careful when you post something. If you don't have the rights, it could cost you your search engine ranking. On the other hand, if you feel that your content has been infringed, start here first.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gigmor's David Baird On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

David Baird of Gigmor
David Baird of Gigmor
If you ever wanted to replace a player in a band or find a band to join, you know how difficult the process can be. Finding players of the same interests and proficiency levels really complicate things.

David Baird had the same problem when he moved to Los Angles (just about the last place you'd think that would happen), so the savvy technologist built a new platform called Gigmor that allows not only players to connect with each other, but bands and artists with venues as well.

On this week's podcast David will tell us how Gigmor got started and how to get the most from this innovative website.

In the intro, I'll talk about the implications of Pandora buying some of the assets of the Rdio streaming service, and the hi-res music logo that the RIAA just introduced that seems to cause more confusion than it solves.

Remember that you can find the podcast at BobbyOInnerCircle.com, or either on iTunes, Stitcher and now on Mixcloud and Google Play.

Adele Foregoes Streaming In A Last Dash For Cash

Adele live
Adele’s new album 25 was released last week and, as many predicted, it won’t be on any streaming services, as she and her record label make what might be the last attempt at some serious money from physical product before the format disappears.

That Adele should even be in this position speaks well of her music and her generally older fanbase, as the music deeply motivates fans to acquire her music at any cost (just like Taylor Swift and her last album 1989).

Although the songs from 25 won’t be on any of the major streaming services at least initially, you can be sure that by latter today it will be spread all over YouTube by zealous fans posting audio-only and lyric videos. Of course, these will be joined by official Adele videos, so at least some of her music will still be available on the largest streaming network currently available, especially now that YouTube Red and Music have launched.

While it’s easy to see why Adele (or her management or label) chose to forego streaming, the decision only postpones the inevitable. It might take 90 days or more before 25 appears on Spotify or Apple Music, but rest-assured it will be there eventually. 


The real question is how much sales might have been hurt had the decision been made to go the streaming route the day of the release of the physical album. In fact, it’s likely that the songs from 25 would have racked up some massive numbers on the various streaming services and might have even caused some new fans to register, which would have been a win for entire music business. Read more on Forbes.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Google+ Revamping Again

Google+ Collections
Google+ Collections
It looks like Google+ is giving it another shot, revamping the current service to better reflect what its users were requesting.

And what did they want? The most asked-for features were Communities and Collections, which the service is now emphasizing, making it easier for people to share their passions.

It looks like Communities is indeed going to be popular, with an average of 1.2 million new joins per day. Collections is still so new that most users haven't gotten their arms around it yet (see the graphic on the left to see what it looks like).

The new G+ has streamlined other functions too, making it easier to post, search and connect as well.

The new UI change can be a shock to users, so it's possible to toggle back to the "classic" design, although it will be eventually phased out.

To get started with the new Google+, just click on the "Let's go" prompt when you first log in.

Let me know if you think this is a good idea and if you'll use it more now.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Pros And Cons Of Pandora’s Rdio Acquisition

Pandora acquires parts of Rdio
The music streaming wars just became a bit more interesting early this week when Pandora agreed to acquire some critical assets of the Rdio streaming service out of bankruptcy for a reported $75 million. This will the second strategic acquisition that Pandora has pulled off recently, following its $450 million purchase of Ticketfly a few months ago.

On the surface this seems like it could be a huge positive for the company, but there are also a few potential land mines that come with the deal. Let’s look at the pros and cons.

Pro: On-Demand Infrastructure Can Provide Growth
Pandora is acquiring Rdio’s streaming technology (as well as some of its staff), which could be key to its global expansion. Right now the service is only available in the United States, and to a lesser degree, Australia and New Zealand.

A real problem for Pandora until now has been its ability to expand beyond those territories, mostly due to the company not being able to come to a suitable agreement with the licensing organizations in various countries (which all seem to favor on-demand streaming).

The company is now more more likely to be able to grow, as having Rdio’s on-demand streaming infrastructure available as an integral part of the service not only makes for a more attractive package for the consumer, but may make it easier to gain approval to operate in other countries.

Pro: The Public Prefer’s On-Demand
Give Pandora credit, as it saw the writing on the wall that on-demand streaming would eventually become a clear winner with consumers over the radio-like non-interactive service that it currently provides.

This was blatantly evident with Apple’s recent entry into the market with it’s on-demand Apple Music after only offering the Pandora competitor Apple Radio previously. You could see the trend in user numbers as well, as on-demand Spotify’s numbers continue to grow while Pandora’s have been relatively stagnant.

Con: On-Demand Licensing Costs Are Considerable
While that on-demand infrastructure is important, Pandora didn’t inherit any of Rdio’s roughly 1 million customers in deal, mainly because it’s not buying the Rdio business itself. Maybe more importantly, it didn’t get any of its licenses with the record labels, which were non-transferable. That means that the company will need to negotiate these deals, which can be both costly and time-consuming. Read more on Forbes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

YouTube Debuts Its "Music" App

YouTube Music app
Don't look now but YouTube just launched another music app. This one is fittingly titled YouTube Music and is an audio-only version of its recently launched YouTube Red service.

YouTube Music is free to download, and there's a free, ad-supported tier, but you unleash its power if you become a YouTube Red subscriber for $9.99 per month.

The experience is optimized for music and allows you to search for a particular song from its 30 million licensed tracks. The key here is that when you search in the app, you'll only get music-related results.

It should be noted that the app doesn't replicate Google Play Music (which is included if you sign up for Red) as it doesn't allow you to create a playlist. What it does instead is create a playlist for you based on what you've listened to before as well as some songs that it thinks you'll like.

Of course, its ad-free if you've signed up for Red, but it's yet to be seen if that will be enough to attract new users.

If you're using either YouTube Red or YouTube Music, let us know what you think. Is it worth the money?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The RIAA Introduces A Hi-Res Music Logo And Some Confusion To Go With It

Hi-Res Music logo
While the number of streaming sites that feature hi-res audio is still limited (Tidal and Deezer come to mind), there are plenty of download sites that will happily sell you some very hi-res files for a premium price.

That said, it looks like the RIAA (the major label's lobbying organization) is trying to get serious about hi-res music with the introduction of an official hi-res logo (seen on the left). It's asking distributors to display the logo so music consumers will have no confusion over what kind of fidelity to expect, but it may end causing more confusion than it alleviates.

Interestingly, the RIAA defines high resolution music as "lossless audio capable of reproducing the spectrum of sound from recordings which have been mastered from better than CD quality (48kHz/20bit or higher) music sources which represent what the artists, producers, and engineer's originally intended."

Take notice the 48kHz/20 bit (it's not a misprint). This is a significant difference from what many online services (including Apple's Mastered For iTunes program) call "hi-res," which is 44.1kHz/24 bit.

There's virtually no recording done at 20 bit these days and that's been the case for about 10 years, so why not just make the standard 24 bit, which is what virtually everyone records at anyway? Also, why not just go and make 96kHz the true lower limit of hi-res, like in the real world?

This new logo and definition is bound to cause some confusion in the marketplace where there was little before. This just goes to show how behind the times the powers that be actually are.

According to the press release, "Retailers who have adopted the Hi-Res MUSIC logo include Acoustic Sounds Super HiRez, Blue Coast Music, HDtracks, IsoMike Recordings, ClassicsOnline HD*LL , PonoMusic, and ProStudioMasters. In addition to these digital music retailers, the logo also features on advertising and promotional materials of both independent and major record labels."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Apple Music Now Available For Android, But Will Anyone Care?

Apple Music For Android
Apple is finally letting the other half of the world in on Apple Music. A few days ago the company announced that the streaming service is now available to Android smartphone users. This now puts the service within reach of about 52 percent of the market  (that's about 1.2 billion users, according to Google) that couldn’t previously experience the streaming music app when it was relegated only to the iOS platform. The real question is, how many of those Android users are really interested in trying Apple Music?

Actually Apple Music Android can still be considered in beta, with two of its features, the family membership plan and Apple Connect videos, currently not available. Other than that, the app is same as what’s found in the iOS version. It’s currently available in over 100 countries, except for China, where the largest group of Android users happen to live.

A Look Inside The Numbers
On the surface, this looks to be a good move for increasing user numbers for the streaming service. Apple Music currently has 6.5 million paying subscribers a little more than 4 months after its launch. That’s good enough for second place behind Spotify’s 20 million paying customers, and that’s with being available to less than half of the available audience.

That said, the 6.5 million number may be deceiving, since many of those may have forgotten to turn off their subscriptions at the end of the three month trial period. This means that we won’t know the true number of iOS subscribers for some time yet.

The user number still may not get a huge bounce even with the release of the Android version though, since the new version won’t have the marketing momentum of the original launch. This may result in far fewer opt-ins to the 90 day trial period than might have otherwise been possible with a day and date launch on both platforms. Read more on Forbes.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Guess The Music Celeb Dropping His Album Via Lyft

Bieber Takes A Ride image
Music celebrities will use just about any social edge they can get these days, and it doesn't matter what the platform is.

In May I posted about Britney Spears using Uber to launch her "Pretty Girls" single, complete with a vehicle wrapped in custom Britney graphics.

Not to be outdone, Justin Bieber is making his new album available for early purchase via the Lyft app. Fans can purchase it for $5 from November 12th to 19th. If you buy it via the app, you get the download link at the end of the ride and a $5 credit towards your next Lyft ride (which makes the album essentially free).

And that's not all, the Biebs is also surprising random people by showing up as a passenger in the front seat of some of their rides.

Okay, so this might seem a bit over the top, but it just goes to show how hard even the top 0.1% of music celebs work at keeping in the social forefront and staying in the public eye.

If A-list acts like Justin Bieber and Britney Spears are using all the tools at their disposal, it shows the need to keep up with the latest in social media to make sure that you continue to reach your audience.

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