Thursday, June 2, 2011

Prince And Gaga Prove The New Music Business Model

By now I'm sure that everyone's heard about Lady Gaga selling 1.1 million copies of her "Born This Way" album last week. On the surface this seems like a huge number, especially for an artist these days, but there's more here than meets the eye.

First of all, the digital sales were about 660,000, but 440,000 of them came from Amazon's two day $.99 promotion. This set a one-week SoundScan record for most digital sales, and became the eighth best-selling U.S. digital album of all time. But the significant thing here is the price, 99 cents, which we'll get to in a minute.

Next in the news was the fact that Prince just ended his 19 day run playing the Forum in Los Angeles. What's significant here is that the majority of the tickets in the 18,000 seat venue were priced at only $25.

Why is that important? Because it shows a new trend in the entertainment business were price is a motivating factor in purchases.

Way back before music became the commodity that it is today, everyone felt they got a fair value when purchasing either an album or a concert ticket. The price was cheap enough that if you bought something that you didn't like, you didn't feel ripped off or filled with buyer's remorse. It was easy enough to buy the next album or a ticket to the concert without feeling it in your pocketbook too much.

Of course all this changed when Wall Street became involved in the music business after it smelled big money in the 80's. The prices for premium artist's CD's were double what consumers were used to paying for vinyl records, so if you bought one that you didn't like or only had one good song on it, you indeed felt the financial pain of a near worthless purchase.

Likewise for concerts. It was nothing for a music fan to go to several concerts a month during that era. They were cheap enough that you didn't feel like you'd have to miss lunch for the next two weeks to pay for it, and you felt comfortable about spending money to see a new unfamiliar act.

Of course that all changed when the price of tickets, concessions, parking and service charges went to the sky. Music lover's buying habits slowed to only a show or two a year instead of every month. In it's greed, the industry tried to milk every single dime from the consumer at the expense of a making them a returning customer.

With Gaga signing on for the Amazon promotion, it proves that consumers are more price conscious than ever with music, and will buy in large number if the price is right. With Prince lowering the ticket price to $25, and doing a good business in doing so, it proves that people will still show up if the price is right.

Although the numbers are unofficial, it seems that prince sold as few as 6,000 seats on some nights, but that's still enough to make money since both his and the venue's overhead was amortized over the number of dates played. Gaga still sold more than 500,000 albums at $13 to 16, despite the 99 cent promotion (although her number have steeply fallen since), once again proving that online, the more you give it away (or almost give it away), the more you sell.

It's about time that the industry learns that price is a barrier to sales. It's hard to believe they didn't know that in the first place.
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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making "Like" More Likeable

Danny Sullivan wrote an interesting post on Mashable recently about how Facebook "Likes" can help website and blog traffic. For example, Facebook says Like buttons get 3 to 5 times more clicks if:
  • Versions that show thumbnails of friends are used.
  • They allow people to add comments.
  • If they appear at both the top and bottom of articles.
  • If they appear near visual content like videos or graphics.
Facebook also stied that video site Metacafe placed a Like button above its videos, in addition to being below, as the arrows point to in this screenshot:

After doing this, use of the Like button and traffic from Facebook increased. Facebook reports that:
  • The number of daily likes more than tripled, going from an average of 2,000 likes per day to over 7,000 likes.
  • Daily referral traffic from Facebook to Metacafe doubled, going from about 60,00 to 120,000.
  • Total Facebook actions (likes, shares, comments) rose to 20,000 per day.
The "Like" button is becoming more and more important in social networking, so it's worth incorporating into all of your online presence, if possible.

Read the entire article here.
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Radio Promotion Today

Rick Goetz posted a great interview with independent radio promo guy Drew Murray on his site. The interview provides a number interesting tidbits about the state of music radio today. Here are a few excerpts.

On not needing a song on the radio to be successful:
At Sanctuary – and Sanctuary thought of itself as a management company first and a label second – that was the mantra that was definitely drilled into us:  radio is the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself. Even at the beginning of the Digital Age – because it was 2001 when I went to go work for them – that mantra was still the basis. They used Iron Maiden as the example:  “Iron Maiden can sell out stadiums and arenas across the planet without a song on the radio.” If they do get a song on the radio, they’re that much better. And again, they were huge with touring and merchandising. The idea of not needing to have a song on the radio to be successful was drilled into my head every day for the seven years I worked at Sanctuary.
On new radio ratings technologies:
I think a lot of this is still evolving, because some of that technology has only been around for about four or five years. It only became national about two years ago. So, radio stations are still figuring out how to read the raw data. I’ll give you a prime example of an argument I had with a Hot AC station, which targets to adult women. Your typical listener might be in her car, driving to the mall. The number one single on your station this week might be P!nk’s “Perfect,” and as radio station, you are playing that song because you know it is doing great for you. But this listener gets to the mall while this song is on and turns off her car radio. The first store she goes into to buy something for her daughter is Hot Topic. So, according to this tracking technology, if it is the be all, end all for you as a radio station, you’re going to drop this particular playlist and add Metallica, because it’s getting played in Hot Topic, and therefore it’s what she’s listening to now. The main point is, you have to be able to interpret the data and what is really going on. This is what radio people will complain about, and it’s always been a problem with the technology when you break it down:  The sample size is still tiny. I don’t know the exact number, but I think that for the New York metropolitan area, which has 15 million people, there are maybe 500 people with people meters. One person could have an effect on over a million listeners.
On radio being open to independent music:
It depends. There are success stories, but mostly in the rock formats these days. It’s mostly alternative or active rock or Triple A with singer/songwriters. Those formats are definitely more open to independent music than Top 40 and Hot AC. Those two and also country are very tough if you’re not signed to a major label.
Read the rest of this great interview at
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Monday, May 30, 2011

7 YouTube Alternatives

Whenever we think of online video, we always think of Youtube, but I bet you'd be surprised to learn that there are over 50 other online video networks in the US alone. Most of them are very targeted and specialized, but there are a few that are clear competitors for Youtube's throne (although there's not much chance of them overthrowing the king anytime soon).

Here's a great article from Mashable regarding 7 Youtube alternatives that are definitely checking out.


What it is: Online video with a strong slant toward webisodes, web series, and other serial content. Blip users rarely post one-off videos — in fact, Blip encourages regular content — so quality is usually pretty high.

Features: Supports most video formats and has 1 GB of storage per user. There is a pro account for more storage and better conversion rates. Any user can sign up for an advertising account that splits ad revenue 50/50. There’s a dashboard to let you plan your web series in advance, share your videos, and use analytics. Blip also distributes through most major video platforms (including YouTube), so maximizing reach is less of a concern.

Why Use it if you’re planning on starting a series and want a suite of tools to help you create, manage and promote your work.

2. Vimeo

What it is: Vimeo is the artsy cousin of YouTube. Home to many creative-types, Vimeo users usually aim for high-quality content over fails or cat clips.

Features: It comes with the standard suite, plus the ability to create and share videos to groups or channels. There’s also a video school to help you make better videos. A pro account will let you bump up your weekly upload capacity from 500 MB to 5 GB with unlimited HD uploads.

Why Vimeo?: It’s a solid platform if you feel more serious about video as creative outlet or are just looking for a more constructive community (i.e. less trolls, more feedback).

3. Flickr

What it is: Didn’t see this one coming, right? Flickr actually lets you upload videos — just click on the Explore tab. The team still sees photo uploading as its main game, but it is also “gently” building out its video abilities. It calls videos “long photos” and limits their length to just 90 seconds.

Features: Basic users can upload two 90-second videos a month. Pro users have unlimited access. Options are a little sparse at the moment, with basically the same feature set as Flickr’s photo uploads.

Why Flickr?: It may seem restrictive, but users willing to embrace short-form video will have access to Flickr’s massive and active user base. It may not be a great option for your home video collection, but video experiments abound. Flickr’s video space is going to keep growing.

4. Veoh

What it is: On the flip side, Veoh lets you upload enormously long videos. The site, much like a YouTube for long-form videos, actually doesn’t have a size restriction for uploading. It’s become a space for full-length films and short clips alike.

Features: Unlimited upload capacity and a smart UI make it easy and relatively quick to load huge files. While it may not have the same audience as YouTube, the lack of restrictions has attracted some top-quality videos and shows.

Why Veoh?: If you’re feeling hamstrung by size restrictions but still want a quality platform, Veoh is your best bet.

5. Viddler

What it is: Billed as a way to build your brand, Viddler is more geared to companies and corporations than homemade video.

Features: With the business focus comes business tools — Viddler lets users access analytics, customize their video players, distribute to iTunes, place comments within the video and even monetize with Viddler’s adworks tool.

Why Viddler?: If you’re a brand looking to up your video content, Viddler provides a stable starter kit with an array of support features.

6. DailyMotion

What it is: Organized more like a content aggregator, DailyMotion offers videos of varying length organized by category. There’s plenty of user-made videos, but professional, quality clips are more prominently featured.

Features: The site supports the most common video formats but restricts storage capacity to less than 150 MB and less than 20 minutes per video. The emphasis is on community, with the ability to add other users in a contact list and send feedback. Most high-powered features, like HD uploads, are locked behind pro accounts.

Why DailyMotion?: It’s not the most intuitive site for uploaders, but it’s easy for curious viewers to browse. If you can manage the backend, there’s a good chance your video will reach new eyes.

7. yfrog

What it is: Finally, the dark horse. Yfrog is better known as a photo-sharing site for Twitter, but it also has the capacity for video, with a healthy and growing selection.

Features: You can upload short videos and post to Twitter all from one place. You can also see what videos (or photos) your network has posted using the site. There isn’t much of a search function, instead relying on news feed-style postings as your friends upload videos.

Why yfrog?: Don’t care about video hosting? Want a more personal take on online video? Yfrog lets you get your videos up and out through your social network faster than any of the sites above. There may be fewer features, but it’s really about uniting your own social community around video.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

5 Things You Should Know About Cloud Music Services

Now that both Amazon and Google have launched their cloud music services, we're just waiting for Apple to complete the triumvirate with their imminent launch. In case you're not clear, a cloud music service (sometimes called a "music locker") stores your music on an online server then delivers it to any of your music playback devices. Before you choose a service though, here are a few facts you should know.

1. Why is a cloud music service so cool? Because you won't fill up half your hard drive with only music if it's stored online for one thing. You'll be able to access your music from any device that connects to the Internet, so you're not restricted to only the device that has your music loaded on it.

2. You have to manually upload your music on both Google Music and Amazon Cloud Drive. Because both Google and Amazon didn't get permission from the record labels, for right now at least you have to manually upload your entire library if you want access to it. That could take hours and hours depending upon how large the library and the speed of your Internet connection.

3. But you won't need to upload everything on Apple's service. That's the whole key about doing a deal with the record labels; if the service sees that you've already paid for a song or sees the song on your hard drive, it automatically loads a copy into your storage locker without you having to upload it. That means that you're uploading time can theoretically be a few minutes instead of hours and hours.

4. Apple also has a strategic advantage by doing the deals with the labels. If and when Amazon and/or Google decide that they really should have these deals in place, it's going to cost them a lot more to get the deal done. Apple has already set the deal precedent with their label agreements so they won't be getting better for the other two as a result. Any additional costs will get passed on the to consumer, so the Apple service may end up being cheaper than the other two in the long run.

5. Apple's service has another cool feature. Reportedly it pre-caches of a portion of the each song in your library on your player so that as soon as you choose a song, it instantly plays without having to wait to communicate with the cloud first unlike the other services.

The Apple announcement regarding the release of their cloud service is supposed to be any day now, and until that time, we won't have a real head-to-head comparison of services to look at. That said, cloud music is here to stay and it's just a matter of time before it becomes widely adopted.
Help support this blog. Any purchases made through our Amazon links help support this website with no cost to you.

You should follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for daily discussion of music, recording, and production tips and tricks.


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