Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Problem With Podcasts And Videos

For the past few months I've been wondering why I've always shied away from most of the podcasts or videos I've been confronted with. What I mean is, I'll follow a link on Facebook, Twitter or the web that I think might be interesting only to find that I have to listen to a podcast or a watch a video to get the information that I was teased about. Almost always, I will never take the time and be off to another point of the web that I can read, rather than listen or watch.

Yesterday I got to thinking about the reason for this and came up with some conclusions that may be interesting to only me, but I think might be reflective of other consumers of online information.

1) I like text better than most podcasts and videos for the same reason that consumers like digital music better than CDs - random access to information. If there's a podcast or video of someone giving me information, I have to consume almost the entire file before I can determine whether it's something that I want or not. If it's text, I can skim it in a few seconds and make a decision to read it in detail, or zero in on a portion that I find particularly interesting. It's a lot more efficient and less time consuming.

2) When is a video interesting? When it shows me how to do something instead of telling me, or the material is visual in nature to begin with. I can read something a lot faster than the time it takes to tell me how to do it. Plus, most of the time my time is wasted by the setup (about the topic, the speaker, background info, etc.) that I could just skim over if it were text.

3) When is a podcast interesting? If it's one-of-a-kind material, extremely timely, or an interview of someone seldom heard, and it enables me to perform another task while I'm listening. That's what makes radio so compelling. You hardly ever simply listen to it by itself, and that's why it's so good when driving.

I numbered these three points as an example of my premise. You can zero in on them quickly and decide whether to consume the information or not that way. If you decide you want to read, you can cherry pick just want you want in a flash. Try doing that with a video of a talking head or a podcast.

Remember this the next time you want to shoot a video. If you can't add any more information that if you just wrote it down instead, stick with text.

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, May 5, 2010

10 Sales Tips For Artists And Bands

It's really easy for an artist or band to think that the end all to their sales activities is making their CD's available via CD Baby and their songs downloadable from the iTunes store. The fact is, there's a lot more to it than that if you really want to take full advantage of the opportunity that a sale brings.

Here's an excerpt from my Music 3.0 Internet Music Guidebook that features 10 sales tips to always keep in mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) Give it away and sell it at the same time. In the Music 1.0 to 2.5 days, you used to give away a free track to sell other merchandise like the album.  Now, if you give away a track, that track actually sells more.

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

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

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, May 4, 2010

New Artist Checklist

I've posted a previous article a few months ago about SoundExchange, the company that collects and distributes royalties for online and satellite music streaming. It's something that every musician should register for if you have music that's playing online, since that's the only way you'll get paid as a performer (ASCAP, BMI and SESAC only collect for mechanical and performance royalties for songwriters, not musical performances).

They've recently posted a New Artist Checklist that's so good that it deserves reposting. Even if you've been around for a while, chances are you missed at least one of the following. Check it out.

 Register your copyrights
Copyrights to your original creative works exist as soon as you fix the sounds or words or notes to a medium (written down or recorded). But to secure additional legal rights, you must register your copyrights with the US Copyright Office. Electronic registrations can be processed much more quickly than mailed registrations. Also, sound recording and music composition recordings can be registered together, which, if you own both, is cheaper than doing them separately.

 Draft an agreement between band members
In the glow of the creative process, it’s easy to forget to put things in writing. Write out an agreement in case issues come up at a later time (and they often do). The agreement should address the rights and responsibilities of the band members including who owns what percentage of the business, what property is owned or controlled by the business (including the band name, web site, and equipment) and who funds the bands and looks after its finances. Break out the percentage of ownership rights of each track – who wrote it? How will you split royalties? Discuss what will happen if band members depart, or new members join. Again, we suggest you consult a qualified attorney, to see if and when incorporation or a formal partnership would be recommended to help protect your assets. At any stage, it’s important to have some kind of written agreement in place.

 Trademark your name and logo
The US Patent and Trademark Office oversees trade and service marks. Make sure no one else owns the rights to your name and/or logo and if not, be sure to register it. It may be your only way to prevent someone from claiming he or she owned the name first, or claiming to be you later. Registrations can be made in different “classes” to cover recordings, live performances, merchandise and other classes, so make sure you cover the bases. Registration costs can add up in a hurry, but a band or artist name and brand may become one of your biggest assets, so it’s well worth it to protect it early.

 Form a company (or companies as necessary) for your label, songwriting/publishing, touring, merchandising, etc.)
It’s important to look at your work as a small business, not just a creative hobby, and to get all your legal protections in place. Forming a company, partnership, sole proprietorship or LLC and keeping separate financial records can help ensure that you’re compliant with taxes and can protect your interests. A consultation with an entertainment attorney and/or an accountant is strongly recommended.

 Pick a songwriting Performing Rights Organization and register – ASCAP, BMI or SESAC

If you’re a songwriter or publisher with a song copyright, you’re entitled to collect royalties from public performances of your musical compositions (for instance, the royalties that you are entitled to receive when the songs you wrote are played on the radio). ASCAPBMI and SESAC take care of this kind of licensing, collect fees from them and pay them to you. They all cover the same copyright, so you only need to affiliate with one. Check out their websites and see which might be best for you.

 Register with SoundExchange

If you performed on and/or own the masters of a sound recording, you can collect royalties from anyone who streams that track digitally (webcasters, satellite or Internet radio, etc). SoundExchange is the only organization designated by the US government to collect and distribute these royalties, so register now to claim your money. It’s totally free.

 Arrange for Distribution
Set up an account for digital distribution with an aggregator like IODAINgroovesTuneCoreThe Orchard or similar companies which allow you to make your music available to the public for digital downloading at popular sites like iTunes,Amazon and others. Be sure to properly enter all metadata accurately during this process since it will propagate everywhere after that. Understand the obligations, splits and commitments you make by entering into an agreement so that you know how it may limit other opportunities.

 Embed metadata about each track into each digital file.

If a music service opens your file or pops in your CD, and sees ‘Track 1’ and ‘Artist Unknown,’ you could miss out on royalties. While services and webcasters are supposed to report all the tracks they play, they’re busy, and you need to make it as easy as possible. Many millions of dollars have been earmarked for “promo only,” “self-released” and “artist unknown.” Include, at the very least, the artist or group name, copyright holder or label name, and track and album titles, and the ISRC number, if available. Most mastering software includes the ability to embed this data, and online services are available. 

 Buy/register your website address and social network domains
Start your online marketing and fan building by registering and creating your domain names. It’s common practice for vendors to buy up domains in hopes they’ll be able to jack up the price to sell them back to you when you need them, so pin down the names as soon as you can. Also, create your band’s official profiles on the various popular social networking and sharing sites such as MySpace
Facebook,TwitteriLike and YouTube.

 Check out organizations and associations which may benefit you
There are lots of groups out there doing great things for musicians. Not all of them will be right for you, but a few of them may be. Consider unions like the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which represent a wide variety of musicians and performers, at all stages in their careers. Check out what groups like The Recording Academy and musicFIRSTare doing to protect your work. There are also payment funds, including the Alliance of Artists and Recording Companies and the AFM & AFTRA Intellectual Property Rights Distribution Fund, which may have funds to offer for certain kinds of work you’ve done. Many regional and local organizations are also available, and many of these groups offer member benefits and discounts on services you may use. Educate yourself about all the associations which may be open to you, and find out what choices can help you advance your career. 

 Build your web presence

Use your site and social network profiles to sell merchandise, display a photo gallery, and dispense news updates and tour events. Keep the information fresh and interesting. Cross-link and expand your social network communications to drive fans to your website. Consider periodic email or other mass-blasts to keep your audience informed. Be authentic and consistent.

 Get health and equipment insurance

You want to be able to rock on for years to come, so don’t take any risks. When you’re on the road or at gigs, equipment can disappear, so find affordable but adequate insurance. In addition to private companies, some labor unions and organizations, offer health plans, but do your research to find the right plan for you. Check out the Health Insurance Navigation Tool (HINT) program—a good place to start looking, and get some free advice.

 Build your team and assign responsibilities (merchandi
sing, bookings, social media, accounting, licensing, publicity, email management, etc.)
Build your business by having the right helpers in place. Assign those tasks to the person or group best suited to them. Many online enhancements or replacements for hired help are available (SonicBidsCDBabyTopSpin,ReverbNationRumblefishFanBridgeNimbit and others) which allow artists to take on many of these tasks themselves.

 Create great music! 

There is no substitute for creative productivity. This is what artists do. So create often and let your audience know what you’ve been up to. It’ll take a lot of work, but before you know it, you could be living the dream. 

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, May 3, 2010

Ariel Hyatt's "Music Success In Nine Weeks"

I was fortunate to finally meet Ariel Hyatt at the ASCAP Expo a couple of weeks ago, something that I had looked forward to for some time. Ariel is founder of Ariel Publicity, a PR firm that specializes in the music business (especially helping bands) and one of the few centered exclusively on online public relations (she calls it "Cyber PR").

A few months ago when I began asking around for recommendations for a PR agency for a client of mine, two people who I respect enormously, Derek Sivers (founder of CD Baby) and Bruce Houghton (founder of the influential music blog Hypebot), both told me she was the best in the business. Now that I've met her, I totally believe it.

Ariel and I spoke for about 45 minutes about the music business, social networking, and the steps that bands need to take to make their presence felt online. To say that I was impressed is an understatement. She's one of the few people in the business that totally gets it, but even better, knows how to use what she knows to help those that can't do it for themselves.

After the conference, I eagerly read Ariel's book, "Music Success In Nine Weeks," and totally loved it. It's loaded with information about navigating the online space, but it's also a workbook that takes you by the hand and shows you how to do your own PR (both online and traditional), establish and build your email list, get the most out of your website, how to set up a successful blog, and generally focus yourself and your energy to make sure you're aiming in the right direction to attain your musical goals. It's very well written and a quick and easy read.

How good is this book? I figured that I would just skim through the book since I already know a good bit about how the social media world works, but I couldn't put it down and wound up learning a lot myself since the book covers so much more than social media. Her information is concise, to the point, and easy to grasp, no matter if you're a social media veteran or just dipping your toe into the online waters for the first time.

The title is not hype. If you want music success in a relatively short time, read this book (and read Music 3.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age too). If you don't have the time or inclination to do it yourself, hire Ariel's company. At the very least, check out her archive website and sign up for her email newsletter. I guarantee you will learn a lot.

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, May 2, 2010

Music Industry Looking Up A Bit

Go to any music industry conference or trade show and about all you'll hear is doom and gloom about the current state of the business. Of course, the pundits are correct in their assessment that things aren't like they once were - sales have declined about 54% since 2000. But in some areas, things are actually looking up according to the latest report by the IFPI (International Federation of Phonogram Producers), which represents the the music industry world-wide.

So what's on the rise?

1) Performance royalties on recordings were up 7.6 percent to $785 million in 2009.

2) Digital music sales have risen by 9.2 percent to $4.307 billion, which now account for 25.3 percent of all worldwide music sales.

3) The rate of decline on physical product (like the CD) has declined, slipping only 12.7 percent in 2009, which was down from the 15% drop in 2008.

4) 13 countries actually had gains in 2009, including Australia (up by 4.3%), Sweden (11.9%!!), the UK (1.9%), and South Korea (10.4%).

On a side note, the British Phonograph Industry's (BPI - the UK version of the RIAA) released their 2009 numbers as well, and while they're in the ballpark with the IFPI's figures, they are a bit different.

In the UK, digital sales are growing by a rate of 48%, the decline of the CD sales is 14%, and digital music revenues are 21% of the total sales.

The RIAA has not yet released the music sales figures for the United States, although that should be any time now.

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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