Thursday, September 16, 2010

How Location Apps Help Touring Bands

I read a great article by Jonathan Ostrow on Mashable called "10 Ways Touring Bands Can Leverage Location Apps." In it he discusses how geolocation services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places can be extremely helpful to any band on the road.

Here are a few of the items from the article that caught my eye.

1. Discover "Hidden Gem" Venues. Tap into your location network to unearth these hidden gem venues and reap all of the benefits that the local scene has to offer. If you find a great venue, be sure to leave a tip for your followers as well.

2. Get Venue Details Ahead Of Time. Location apps offer the perfect opportunity to test the waters and leave tips about bass boominess, the lack of sound check time, or how to get a particular audience really cranked up about a show. 

3. Sleep for Cheap. Use your network to discover and suggest the best deals in every the city — those comfortable, safe and cheap spots for a good night’s rest before the next gig.

4. Emergency Instrument Repair. Each potential store or repair shop has its own specialty, so use your network to quickly find the most recommended shops and get everything fixed before it’s time for the sound check.

5. Target You Audience. Before you book the gigs, use your network to learn which venues cater directly to your genre of music and your target audience. Which venues have paid off for other bands? Your geosocial connections should point the way.

6. Drum Up Local Support. Many businesses that support local artists may be willing to post a show flyer or let you perform outside or in the lobby. Each city or town has at least one hang-out with a supportive public that might be willing to endorse upcoming events.

8. Snag Good Cheap FoodBy using a network of location-based tipsters, you can tap into that local knowledge and get fed better while on the road, without busting your budget.

9. Find Cheap Parking. There are many advertised parking lots that come at ridiculous prices, but city natives may know of some secrets — the parking space that a neighbor rents out for cheap, or an empty block that doesn’t charge. 

10. Find Auto Repair. Before you hit Google or the phone book, check your location networks for a recommendation.

There's somewhat of a backlash against geolocation services lately as some people DO NOT want others to know where they are, but I think that number is in the minority and decreasing every day. That being said, you can do some of the same things with Facebook if you have friends in the area that you're traveling, or Twitter if you know how to reach out or search.

Bottom line is that social networking apps have changed how musicians travel. Gone are the days when it was all too easy to be stuck in a town without the local knowledge to solve a problem (I have too many of those memories that I try to forget). We can all be thankful for that.
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Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating the music business.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Your Music Is Your Marketing

It's about time for another excerpt from the Music 3.0 Internet music guidebook. Here's a bit from Chapter 4 about how your music has now become your marketing.


The major marketing tool for the M30 artist is the music itself. It’s no longer the major product that the artist has to sell, although it still is a product, so has to be used differently and thought of differently as a result.
Perhaps recorded music was never the product we were led to believe it was. In the M1.0 and M1.5 days of vinyl records and CDs, the round plastic piece (the container that held the music) was the product. The artist never made money when a song was played on the radio (the songwriter always did, although the artist might soon get their due depending on the status of current legislation), and the artist only made a small percentage (10 to 15% of wholesale on average) of CD or vinyl sales. The artist made the most money on concert tickets and merchandise while touring.  There was a cost involved in the manufacturing of the the container that transported the music (physical material costs, artwork, etc.) that had to be recouped as well as the production costs of the music. But if you look at music in terms of the advertising world, you see music in a different light.
If you’re selling a soap product for instance, the production for a commercial to broadcast on television or the radio is a trivial cost. It’s the total ad buy (the agency purchasing the radio or television time for the sponsor) where most money is spent.  Even then, it’s considered part of the marketing budget of the product, which might be about 3% of total sales.
In M30, if you consider the music production costs as part of the marketing budget in the same way as a national product, it takes on a whole new meaning.
Since the music is considered the major marketing tool for an artist, it should be considered a free product, a giveaway, an enticement. Give it away on your website, place it on the Torrents for P2P, let your fans freely distribute it. It’s all OK. Since most millennial’s feel that music should be free and have lived in a culture where that’s mostly so, don’t fight it. Go with the flow! Just as it was during the last 60 years, the real money in the music business is made elsewhere anyway.
Plus, just because you’re giving it away doesn’t mean that you can’t charge for it either at the same time or sometime in the future. There are numerous cases where sales have actually decreased for an artist’s iTunes tracks when the free tracks have been eliminated.
One is Corey Smith. After 6 years, Corey’s has built his gross revenue to about $4.2 million and free music has been the basic building block of his tribe. You can buy his tracks on iTunes (he’s sold over 400,000 so far), but when his management experimented by taking the free tracks down from his website, his iTunes sales actually went down as well!  The free music allows potential fans to try Corey out. If they email and ask for a song that’s not available for free, he just emails it back to them. He’s tending his tribe!
Of course, you can charge for your music with box sets, compilations, special editions and other value-added offerings. But the initial releases for an artist on any level (except for the already-established star) must be free to build a buzz.
Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is Twitter Becoming Facebook?

On Tuesday, Twitter rolled out a new interface that incorporates more multimedia and a few new features that are similar to what you'd find in Facebook.

The new features include embedded photos, videos and many dashboard functions, all available without the use of separate utilities like Tweetdeck or Hoostsuite. What's more, Twitter has partnered with Dailybooth, DeviantArt, Etsy, Flickr, Justin.TV, Kickstarter, Kiva, Photozou, Plixi (formerly TweetPhoto), Twitgoo, TwitPic, Twitvid, USTREAM, Vimeo, Yfrog, and YouTube to put content from the people you follow right into the middle of your tweet timeline.

Some users will see the new interface right away, but Twitter suggests that it will slowly roll out across its entire user base over the next two weeks.

So why is this update important? First of all, what Twitter is trying to do is pull users back from using 3rd party utilities so they spend more time within the app itself in order to give more viewer impressions to its advertisers. This would improve their revenue stream, which they really need. The second thing they're trying to do is pull people away from Facebook by giving the app a feel closer to what Facebook provides. Facebook is vulnerable right now because of the way they've handled privacy issues, and it wouldn't take too much of a push to make some of their disgruntled users change their allegiance.

There's some speculation that some new features will be available from a Twitter "Pro" subscription account, which would be another income stream for the company. While most casual users might not be tempted to sign up for a pro subscription, any company, artist, band or brand may be open to paying a monthly fee if it helps them communicate with their followers better, if it does come to pass.

The new features are just a few more reasons why a Twitter account is nearly a necessity for an artist or band. Used well, Twitter can be an extremely valuable social media tool for keeping in touch with your tribe in this Music 3.0 world.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Katy's Overexposed

If there's ever been evidence that the old paradigm of the music business is over, it's Katy Perry. Despite having what some are calling the "song of the summer" with her "California Gurls" and being plastered all over the media everywhere, her new Teenage Dream album managed to sell just 192,000 copies the first week out, and only a bit under 39,000 the second week. 10 years ago it would've been a couple of million.

The reason? For one thing, Katy's over-exposed as she's literally everywhere. She's in the news, she's on cover of magazines, she's on the radio; you name it, Katy's there. If you're not a huge fan, you're sick of her. But while that used to be a recipe for massive success in the days before Music 3.0 and was the way that major labels did business, today it's just a blip on the radar of a stratified audience.

Katy is a singles artist, which means she'll have no longevity after her flavor of the month passes out of favor, if her album sales are any indicator. It's true that she sold 259,000 digital downloads of her latest single "Teenage Dream," but that just doesn't bring in a lot of dough these days. It's albums that are the big moneymakers, and like Rihanna and Ke$ha, big singles sales and lots of exposure doesn't necessarily turn into the album sales that pay a label's bills.

It appears that the formula of the major labels is no longer the key to music success, even on the Katy level (although we knew that already). Maybe we are making some progress after all.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Eminem's Pivotal Royalty Battle

In March of 2009, I wrote a post on my Big Picture blog about a court battle between Eminem's FBT production company and Universal Music Group (UMG) that had huge implications for the music business.

FBT sued UMG over what amounts to the definition of ownership of a digital file. FBT claimed that UMG owed them a lot more money for each download sold because a digital file sold by iTunes or Amazon MP3 is actually a license. UMG insisted that regardless of whether it's a CD, vinyl record, or digital file, Eminem's music is part of their distribution deal.

So is it licensing or is it distribution? That's what the court had to decide.

There was a lot of money at stake here. If the court decided that selling a digital file is a licensing deal, then the record label and the artist would split the proceeds 50/50 and the artist would be entitled to about 35 cents per download. But if they decided it's distribution, then the original recording agreement would still be in force and the artist would make about 15% (more or less), or about 10 to 20 cents on every download instead.

FTB claimed that, since there's no manufacturing or packaging costs (which are covered by the record label), and only a single copy is delivered to the digital download companies, then it should be a license, since that's what occurred in licensing deals of physical product for years. UMG argued that a sale is a sale regardless of how it happens.

In the original ruling, the court sided with UMG and the whole music industry let out a huge side of relief. If the ruling had gone Eminem's way, every record label would owe their artists a huge amount of money, effectively bankrupting the music industry.

Last week, an appeals court ruled against UMG and ordered them to pay FBT a full 50% split of all royalties, instead of the 12% that they were getting before.

This ruling will be worth millions of dollars for FBT, but it could mean that the music industry will be on the hook for hundreds of millions, even a billion dollars depending on who you talk to, in back and future royalties.

If you thought that the music industry was really changing, you haven't seen anything yet. This may be the tidal wave that finally sweeps the music industry as we know it away for good.

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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