Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Answer To The Worst Sales Week Ever?

Paul Resnikoff's great newsletter Digital Music News recently reported that the week of May 31st was the worst sales week ever in the United States for both physical and digital albums with 4, 978, 000 units sold TOTAL! Keep in mind, back in the 80's and 90's a single artist could sell this number in a week, but now it's the entire industry.

Now we're not just talking about just physical CD sales here - we talking about CD's AND digital sales combined. While I don't believe that this number truly represents the total of all sales (there still are a lot of private sales that aren't counted), it does represent one fact - the music business is in deep trouble.

I think it's too easy to focus on the fact that the CD is now old technology and the consumer wants to move on. It's too easy to say that it's a singles world these days and no one wants a package of songs. It's too easy to say that marketing is now so fragmented (as is the audience) that the consumer can no longer be easily reached.

It is fair to say that people consume more music than ever before, they just don't pay for it like they used to. There's little incentive to at this point.

But music has always been given away for free from the earliest days of radio. The product was free, but you couldn't get it whenever you wanted. You had to wait until a song was played and that's why you bought the record/CD/cassette - to have the personal ability to access that music any time you want. Either you endured the anticipation of waiting to hear it for free, or you laid your money down to own it.

So if there's no anticipation left in music in these days of instant access, what else is there?

Let's assume that the industry was vibrant today, full of new and exciting acts creating music that the audience couldn't get enough of. Sure, sales would be up, but would that solve the problem?

Probably not. We have to think outside the box to develop a new product - something that can't be accessed as randomly, yet provides a greater value to the fans. Perhaps it isn't a single music product anymore. Perhaps it's a bundle - concert tickets and a CD/download, merchandise and music.

Whatever the product, it must be more than we have to offer today. That ship has sailed and it ain't coming back.

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, June 9, 2010

Who Controls The Music Industry?

Sometimes you just have to wonder exactly who's in control of the music business. It used to be that the record labels owned their business, but as the years past, they let it get away from them. This fully manifested itself in the era I call Music 2.5 although it really began back in the late eighties. Music 2.5 (M2.5 for short) really began in 2003 with the advent of iTunes when digital downloads could now be monetized. That being said, many major medias companies were still living in the past then, as many are today.

Here's an excerpt from my Music 3.0 Internet Music guidebook about the real power behind the throne of major media. Yes, I know Steve Jobs has a huge say in the music industry today, but the excerpt is about the unseen hand that guides what we hear on radio and television, which was a lot more important in the last era of music (Music 2.5) than in our Music 3.0 era that we now live in.
Although it may not be readily apparent, Wall Street and Madison Avenue indirectly control the M2.5 music industry through their tremendous influence on the financial bottom line of record labels, record stores, radio and television. If you’re owned by a publicly traded conglomerate (as all major labels, radio and television stations are), then you’re in the business of selling stock, not servicing the consumer. What that means is that nothing matters more than quarterly earnings. In order to keep those earnings as high as possible, Wall Street turns to Madison Avenue to devise the best marketing strategy to keep the profits high. Madison Avenue (in the form of the major advertising agencies) can bring in the big ad dollars, but only under certain content conditions (like programming tailored around the advertising), and the process repeats itself over and over. The advertising industry (Madison Avenue) therefore drives the music cycle in the U.S. and not the music industry.

In M2.5, it’s all about passing focus group tests, which has separated listeners into the distinct demographic groups that advertisers are able to tell stock analysts they have micro-marketed their products to. As a result, radio, television and live performances are no longer about aggregating and entertaining large audiences, but just a group of market niches. The bright side to this is that there's one heck of an opportunity opening up for folks who don't get hung up in trying to sell advertising.

Wall Street and Madison Avenue have tried to redefine what music means to people, but most people are voting with their wallets by refusing to buy any new recordings. The view of the vast majority of consumers is that very few new recordings are worth buying compared to a couple decades ago, and this has become the dilemma of the industry. You have to sell product to survive, but it’s impossible to develop that product while trying to please your corporate masters. It might work when selling soap or clothing or any other consumer product, but a creative endeavor like music just doesn’t work that way. It’s too personal both to the artist and the consumer to be a mass-market product.

In Music 2.5 (as well as now) you'll find:
1) Wall Street and Madison Avenue control the media
2) Record labels needs to keep stock price and quarterly profits high
3) Radio and television only play what appeals to advertisers
4) Consumers divided into demographic groups
5) Music becomes devalued

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, June 8, 2010

80% Of Concerts Don't Sell Out

While the income from record sales has always been OK for top-selling artists, the real money has always been made on the road. In fact, most music industry insiders generally acknowledge that between 90 to 95% of an artist's income has been generated on the road. That's why the revelation that 80% of the shows the concert promoter Live Nation puts on don't sell out. What's more, 40% of all tickets are now going unsold!

There are a number of reasons for the recent dive in concert attendance:

1) The high ticket prices - Some say it's because of the high guarantees demanded by greedy artists while others blame it on the promoter and others blame the secondary ticket market (the legal scalpers), but whatever the reason, concert tickets are way too high. Once upon a time consumers would go to a couple of shows a month or more, but with prices for even the cheap seats now in the stratosphere, not many can afford it. In fact, most concert-goers now attend only a couple a year at most and reserve those times for special occasions.

2) It's the service charges - Everybody hates the extra charges, especially when they add up to abut 1/3rd the face value of the ticket. Let's face it, any industry that charges a "convenience fee" because you printed your own ticket at home deserves to die, or at least have the offending company die a painful death. Add in a hefty parking fee and some overpriced beverages and you've just spent the month's rent on 2 1/2 hours of temporary happiness (at least you better hope so).

3) It's the economy - Regardless of the ticket prices, if you don't have a job or are just getting by, there are a lot of other things to spend your money on rather than concert tickets.

4) Over-saturated artists - How many classic artists are doing a "final tour" for more than a second time? How many major artists have visited the same territories in the last year. The thrill is gone if you've seen the show more than once, especially if it's been recently. We've heard of major artists giving 2 for 1 or $10 and $15 per ticket deals recently, a trend that threatens to continue (good for the consumer, as long as he holds out until just before the show).

Once again this year, LiveNation is repeating its "no service fee June" by eliminating all service fees, but that's not going to solve the problem. Until we get some reasonable pricing back in the business, it will continue to suffer.

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, June 7, 2010

Finding Keywords With Google Suggest

Here's a great way to use Google's suggestion feature to find keywords. Google Suggest is the phrases that appear below the Google search box as you type.

As you see on graphic on the left, I typed in the beginning of the title of one of my books, The Studio Musician's Handbook. Underneath it came up 10 suggestions all having to do with studio musicians. Now these may not be exactly on the mark with the title of the book, but they do indicate recent searches with "studio musicians" in the phrase.

If I use a few of these phrases as my keyword metadata, I'm more likely to have anyone that's interested in anything about studio musicians find my book. This is because Google now gives a certain amount of weight to keyword diversity, as well as keyword density (if anything, diversity is even more important).

You can use this the same way by typing in your name or the name of your band and take a look at the suggestions. These will probably make better keyword phrases than anything you can come up with.

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, June 6, 2010

7 Ways Near Field Communicate Could Change Our Lives

I ran across a great article on the other day about the 6 ways that Near Field Communications (NFC) can change our lives. What is NFC? It's a short-range wireless communication technology that almost all major electronics and software companies will be using in the future if all goes to plan.

NFC allows a device like your cell phone to automatically collect data from another device at close range. Although the original article only stated 6 uses for NFC, I've added a 7th. I was first turned onto this technology well over a year ago when I interviewed KenRadio's Ken Rutkowski for my Music 3.0 Internet Music Guidebook, and Ken contributed the last application regarding music. So here's a brief outline of the 7 ways that NFC might change our daily lives in the near future. For more details, read the full article on Mashable.

1) Contactless Payment - Imagine just paying for something without the usual hand your credit card to the vendor, swipe it, sign the receipt, etc. NFC allows secure transactions using what amounts to a digital wallet. No need for a third party to be involved.

2) Transportation - Use your cell phone to automatically pay for your airline, bus or train tickets. In fact, your phone will be your ticket.

3) Health Care - Talk about electronic medical records, you can have your complete history on you and have it easily transmitted to any health care professional in a flash. No more confusion about medications or which leg to operate on.

4) Ease Of Use - Forget the idea of Bluetooth "pairing," just touch the devices together and they'll be automatically connected.

5) Smart Objects - Objects with embedded NFC tags will be able to transmit informational data to your phone as you pass. Image being in a supermarket and being alerted to a sale on an item as you walk down the isle.

6) Social Media - Imagine a Foursquare where you couldn't cheat. You walk into a restaurant and the NFC tag will send a message to a Foursquare-like social media app that will alert all your friends to your presence, collect points, etc.

7) Exchange playlists - Want to know what music your friends are listening too and what's in their libraries? Image being at a party where all your NFC friends automatically exchange their playlists with you.

These are just some of the applications of NFC. Let's see if it has more of an impact than Bluetooth.

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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