Thursday, April 1, 2010

Billboard Magazine Introduces Digital Charts

It's about 5 years too late, but Billboard magazine (once the bible of the music business) has finally introduced new digital download charts ranking the top songs in 21 specific genres, compiled from data gathered by Nielsen SoundScan.

Each week Billboard will include six 15-position charts representing digital sales, with rock, country, R&B/hip-hop and Latin running each week and two other genres rotating. All charts appear on, where Billboard's charts are refreshed each Thursday.

Billboard has had a general chart for digital songs and digital albums, but dividing it into different genres  is something really needed and too long in coming.

While chart position is all well and good, the real information that everyone wants to see are the sales figures. You can get these if you pay the hefty fee and subscribe to SoundScan (but who can afford a 5 figure subscription rate these days), but for physical product at least, you can still go to the Hits Daily Double and see the new sales chart every Tuesday. Be warned, it might not be pretty on some weeks, as sales figures can be really dismal sometimes.

Maybe Hits will also give us digital sales soon as well. We can only hope.

For production news, tips and tricks, check out my Big Picture blog.

Follow me on Twitter for news and blog updates.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Unhelpful Advice

You read a lot of so-called "helpful hints" all over the web that say things like "don't suck" when referring to one of the keys that will make you successful in the music business, but I think statements like that are completely unhelpful. What sounds like moving furniture instead of music to one person may be the melody of angels to someone else, so who's to say just what is bad and what isn't?

The idea of Music 3.0 is that there are and will be many more micro-genres that cater to small but passionate believers in a very specific type of music. It might be progressive polka or it might be alien space-lounge music, but the beauty of the the online world is that there's someone out there that probably likes what you're doing and will be your fan if they can find you. Your audience may not be an army, yet. But if you keep persevering you can break through to a larger audience over time. Keep in mind that your audience, your superfans, your tribe, grows a single fan at a time regardless of where you're at in your career.

Now it never hurts if you're technically proficient on your instrument and in recording, but there are plenty of examples of somewhat sloppy players with limited technical chops that have become icons because of their passion and their ability to play within their limitations really well. For a good example, check out the DVD of the movie "It Might Get Loud" featuring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. There are a couple of short examples on my Big Picture blog from last week. The first post is called "It Might Get Loud - And It Does" (notice the anchor text, which is the topic of a previous post), and the second is "It Might Get Loud Again - Dynamically So."

The point is, do what you feel in your heart, but do it the best you can and with as much passion as you can. The audience is out there. Finding them, or them finding you, is the hard part, but that's what this blog tries to help you do.

For more on music and music production, check out my Big Picture blog.

For constant updates on the latest in Music 3.0, follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Importance Of Anchor Text

Many artists and bands (and even web designers who should know better) fail to realize the importance of Anchor Text. What is anchor text? It's the highlighted text that you use as a link to another site or page. The reason why it's important is that these words can determine your page ranking when someone does a search since they carry more weight with Google than the other text on the page.

Here's an example of bad use of anchor text (forgive the gratuitous plug):

"To read my Big Picture Blog, click here."

"Click here" doesn't mean anything in terms of search. Do you think anyone will ever search for "click here?" Well, someone might (actually 879 million searches), but where do you think you'll rank? Even if you luck out and somehow wind up on page 50, you're still so far back in the search results that it won't do you any good.

A better use of the anchor text would be:

"Click here to read my Big Picture Blog."

Big Picture Blog makes much better anchor text and will take advantage of the way Google weights copy text. You can use your band name, song title, or anything else that's relevant to get the best results, but a relevant keyword or keyword phrase is always the best. Just remember, anything is better than click here.

And I really would like for you to visit my other blog regarding music production called The Big Picture. And you can follow me on Twitter to get daily updates on posts to both blogs as well as other music items that hopefully you'll find interesting.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Audio Is The New Radio

RBR recently posted an article regarding a new study by the Pew Project For Excellence In Journalism that came to the conclusion that terrestrial broadcast radio in any form was now better categorized by the term "Audio", since so may people now spend much of their day listening other types of audio-only program, like Internet radio, music podcasts on iPods and satellite radio. This fragmentation of the "listening market" is such that whatever market power that radio had is diminishing rapidly.

Yet another study from Arbitron and Edison Research found that 24% of drivers now use their iPod, iPhone or MP3 player to supply the listening material when they're in the car, pretty much confirming the Pew study.

Radio has already lost its influence on the record business so this is no surprise at all. Once upon a time, radio was the be-all end-all when it came to making a record a hit, but that power is mostly gone as a video on YouTube, a key blog post, or a high iTunes charting are more likely to help you break out than airplay on a station in Cincinnati. Of course, in the 50's through the 90's, all it took was one station to start the ball rolling, but those days are over for so many reasons.

The point is, there was a formula for making a hit in the "old days - do whatever you had to in order to get radio airplay. Record labels paid for it either directly or indirectly (through indie promoters), but that's how it was done.

Today the formula is different. You can't rely on radio so you start out small with your passionate fans (your "tribe") and build the tribe gradually, expanding it by a combination of great music releases, gigs in front of live people (as opposed to virtually), social media management and hard street work (in fact, this has never changed, except for the social media part). You may never attain the type of success that the old formula of radio brought, bit it will sustain for as long as you choose to keep the flame alive.

Check out my Big Picture blog and follow me on Twitter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The New Release Schedule

Here's an excerpt from my Music 3.0 Internet Music Guidebook, about how the release schedule has changed and will continue to do so. But there are definite advantages to the latest timing in your releases. Read on.
"M30 requires new thinking regarding song releases. If we go back to the 50’s, vinyl singles had a notoriously fast turnaround despite the labor intensive manufacturing required to actually make a vinyl record. At that time, it was not uncommon to have a single (with a song on each side) on the streets within days of recording (or even writing) the song! Of course, the quick turnaround was helped by the fact that the song was usually recorded in a few hours since there was little or no overdubbing, so it was literally possible to record a song on Monday and have it on the radio on Wednesday of the same week. Perhaps the last time a record turnaround happened this quickly was the 1970 release of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s Ohio documenting the Kent State shootings.
When the emphasis on releases turned from singles to albums, the length of time between releases increased accordingly, which was natural considering that more songs were being recorded. During the M1.0 (Music 1.0) days there was a limitation on just how many songs could actually be recorded for an album since it was a limitation of the vinyl itself. 23 minutes per side was the goal to get the loudest and highest fidelity record. Any more and it became more difficult to fit the extra time without having the overall level of the record decrease as the noise floor increased. As a result, artists were confined to about 45 to 50 minutes per album (or less), but consumers didn’t seem to mind since they still felt they were getting value if they liked the songs.
The time limitation lifted with the introduction of the CD in M1.5 (Music 1.5). When first released, the CD had a maximum playing time of 74 minutes (the number rumored to be chosen because it could fit the entire movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) which was later increased to a full 80 minutes. No longer saddled with the vinyl album’s built-in time limitation, artists were able to stretch out and add more and longer songs to each album release. This soon proved to be a double-edged sword, since it now took longer to finish each release because of the inclusion of all those extra songs.
But more songs doesn’t necessarily make for a better record and actually proved to even backfire in the face of the artist’s popularity. While 40 to 45 minutes was a time bite easily digestible for a listener, 60 to 70 was not. The extra songs were not only little appreciated but even worse, thought of as mere filler. The consumer began to think (sometimes rightfully so) that the songs were there just for the sake of being there and began to feel ripped off.
Over the years the time between releases gradually lengthened to the point where a superstar act might take several years between releases. While this might’ve worked in M1.5 and 2.0, that strategy can never work in M30 as the tribe has an insatiable appetite for product, and what’s worse, the tribe can actually dissipate if the product does not come at regular intervals - the shorter the better.
And with CD sales way down, the album format itself seems to be going the way of the vinyl single of the 50’s and 60’s. Consumers in M30 buy just the songs they want - they buy singles. Which brings about a new philosophy regarding record making and their releases.
In M30, artists will record fewer songs but have more frequent releases. It’s better to release two songs every 6, 8 or 12 weeks than to wait a year for one release of 10 songs. This benefits the artist in a few ways:
  • The artist keeps their tribe happy with a constant supply of new music. New music keeps the tribe interested and keeps the buzz and dialog going. 
  • The artist gains increased exposure for every song. In a 10 song album release, it’s easy for a fan, reviewer or radio programmer to focus on just one or two songs while the others fall in priority. When releases are in twos, each song gets equal attention and has the ability to live and die on its own merits. 
  • The album still can still be compiled after all the songs have been individually released. At the end of the year, or at the end of the artist’s creative cycle, the songs are then put into an album that can be released in any format. The advantage is that the album has much advanced exposure and publicity thanks to numerous single releases. Plus it can be treated as a marketing event to the artist’s advantage.
Make no mistake, the album format is not dead in M30, but the emphasis has shifted to the individual song."
For some additional excerpts from the book, visit my website.


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