Thursday, May 17, 2012

String Cheese Incident Takes On Ticketmaster

String Cheese Incident image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
We all hate paying convenience charges when buying concert tickets. It's hard not to feel ripped off when you're suddenly asked to pay as much as a 50% premium on the face value of your ticket. There is sometimes a way around that though; buy your tickets at the box office where sometimes those fees are waved, instead of from Ticketmaster.

That's what the jam band String Cheese Incident did recently at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles in order to supply their fans with the cheapest tickets possible. The band gave 50 friends about $20k in cash to each buy 8 tickets apiece (the maximum number allowed). The band then advertised those tickets online and sold them to fans for only the face value and the cost of shipping.

The fact of the matter is that most bands already get about 8% of the tickets that they can sell at face value or give away, but SCI wanted more and was refused, so they responded with a grass roots workaround.

But here's the thing about convenience charges, as Bob Lefsetz laid out so well in his newsletter (he's a skeptic of the situation, by the way); that's how both the venues and the promoters stay in business. With acts demanding 90+% of the gate, there's not much money left, and sometimes the superstar acts even demand some of those convenience charges as well.

While SCI could have just lowered it's guarantee in exchange for more face-value tickets, that's not the way the business is built these days. It would take the power of a Live Nation to change the current pricing policies, but we all know how unlikely that's going to happen. In the meantime, it's at least nice to see a band think about their fans a little.

You can read more about this in a New York Times article, and on the Lefsetz newsletter.
You should 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 16, 2012

Musicians Income From Branding

One of the basic tenets of Music 3.0 is that your music is your marketing, which means that you shouldn't be afraid to give it away as long as it raises your visibility and establishes your brand. Where music artists have always made the bulk of their money is from gigging and selling merchandise, and the actual music sales of an established artist is as little as 2%.

But it's easy to paint a pie-in-the-sky picture of how these revenue streams work, and I've been as guilty of this as anyone. The fact of the matter is, in order to make any of the current Music 3.0 principles work, you first need an audience. Now I cover how to establish, nurture and sustain that audience in the Music 3.0 guidebook, but it's really easy to overlook the fact that people really have to like your music, and you still have to put in a lot of work to make things happen. In other words, it's pretty difficult if a lot of people think you're mediocre; it's less difficult if a lot of people think you're great.

But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I firmly believe that almost any artist can find an audience out there if you search long enough. The problem is, it might not be large enough to sustain a career.

So let's assume that you've had at least some minimal success and developed a core audience (however large or small). How much revenue can you expect from your brand? Here's a great slideshow that the Future of Music Coalition did for their MIDEM 2012 presentation that represents a survey of 5000 musicians asked just that question.

View more presentations from midem
One of the major points that the slideshow makes is that you can't expect to make any money as a musician unless you establish your brand first, and even then you still might not make that much if you don't work it hard. Most musicians either don't know how or don't care about the brand part of their careers. If they're lucky, they latch on to an established brand (like a successful band) and ride its coattails. But if you're really interested in a long-term career, your personal brand is of utmost importance. Do it now!

You should 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 15, 2012

Covers Make Up Music Services Catalogs

Catalog Arms Race image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
These days every music service from iTunes to Spotify is trying to one up each other with a power number - the number of songs in their catalog. iTunes now claims to be up to 20 million songs, Spotify 15 million, Amazon MP3 16 million, and on and on. But as music industry consultant Mark Mulligan cites in a recent blog post (The Long Tail Eats Itself), these numbers are incredibly inflated.

It turns out that most of the songs are merely covers of popular songs. Lady Gaga, U2, Coldplay? On average about 10% of their songs are really the artist's version, the rest being covers, parodies, and duplicate cuts from remastered albums, EPs, and greatest hit compilations = filler, if you will. Many of the covers are meant to sound identical to the originals, while many are truly other artist's interpretations of the songs (which is cool), but most people just want to hear the original track.

Here are some other figures that might make you think a bit differently about the breadth of a catalog (these figures are a bit old, bit you'll get the picture):
  • eMusic claims that only 75% of their tracks have never been downloaded at least once. That's 25% that have never been downloaded, and who knows how many have only been downloaded only once.
  • Nielsen determined that just 1% of all tracks make up 80% of the sales.
What all this means is that even though you may have access to 20 million tracks, that doesn't mean that you'll want to hear them all. In fact, it probably means you'll only want to hear less than 1% of them. Still, that's probably more than you'll ever hear in your lifetime, but too much choice just means complexity of finding what you really want.

It would be great if there was some metadata attached to the song that could sort this mess out, i.e. "original version," "cover," "greatest hits package," etc. Don't hold your breath on that one.

You should 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 14, 2012

Will The Major Labels Jump On EDM?

Electronic Dance Music (or EDM) has grown to maybe the biggest underground musical movement ever with virtually zero publicity. When a DJ can play before 50,000 people (and do so regularly), that's definitely a music trend in the making. It's even more interesting when the rest of the world doesn't take notice.

By all indications that's changing though, as EDM has gradually come out from the underground with Grammy show appearances and top 10 hits by David Guetta and Deadmau5. The rest of the world is now aware of what a force in music EDM has become, which means the end of the innocence is soon at hand.

We hear through the LA music grapevine that the major labels are getting ready for an EDM feeding frenzy, beginning at the first annual EDM Biz Conference in Las Vegas on June 5 through 7. Yes, you can be sure that what was once a pure scene will soon be corrupted with Guetta, Paul Van Dyk, Paul Oakenfold wanna-be's and soundalikes signing first, then an influx of pretty boy DJs who look better on camera than the groundbreakers. In fact, don't be surprised if we even see a "producer for the producer" scenario arise as the new superstar celeb DJs are a lot better looking than they are at creating.

Why am I so cynical? Because we've been down this road before over and over, all the way back to the big band crooners, to the beginning of rock n roll, to the British Invasion, to grunge, to hip hop. Every time a trend arises, the majors jump on trying to cash in, then proceed to burn it out. There's no reason to believe that history won't repeat itself again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

You should 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 13, 2012

10 Tips For Posting On Your Facebook Fan Page

Facebook Post Targeting image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Facebook Post Targeting Example
Let's face it, you have a Facebook fan page for one reason - to connect with your fans. While I don't believe that there's a one-size-fits-all formula for how this is done, there are some suggestions on how to get not only the best fan engagement, but also to improve your "Edgerank."

What is Edgerank? It's a news feed formula that Facebook has created to determine which stories are the most relevant. The more popular the story, the more likely it will show up on people's news feed. What that means is you have to optimize your content in order to make sure that it will have a high relevancy, and as a result be seen by more people. It's sort of like organic SEO, but just for Facebook.

Here are 10 tips optimizing your Facebook content.

1. Don't Automate Your Status Updates. Automated content sometimes doesn't make it into users news feeds, and the same message across all social networks can result in a lower fan engagement (I'm guilty of this myself).

2. Show That Your Human. How? Thank you fans for their replies, and post things that are more personal occasionally.

3. Post More Photos And Videos. Photos and videos perform well on Facebook and are favorites of the news feed algorithm, but they also grab people's attention a lot more than text.

4. Put Your Fans In Charge Occasionally. Ask your fans questions. Let them decide which song will be the next single, or which video they like best, or the album cover artwork. They like to be involved and the news feed algorithm likes it as well.

5. Target Your Status Updates. If you have fans all over the world, most don't need to know about a local or regional gig or release. Target the appropriate posts as tightly as you can to the area necessary to get the word out (check out the post targeting example on the left).

6. Ask Questions. Posts that include a call to action get much better engagement than those that don't.

7. Watch You Post Frequency And Timing. Don't overwhelm you fans with too many posts. One or two a day seem to be the best frequency. I've written a lot about timing your posts in the past, and all studies prove that it's important.

8. Have A Consistent Voice. It's important that the voice remains relatively the same in all posts so the fans don't get confused and concentrate on the voice more than the message.

9. Diversify Your Content. A combination of how-to's, artist or band trivia, breaking news, polls, fill-in-the-blanks, photos and videos, or third party content keeps it interesting.

10. Track The Performance Of Your Posts. Watch for trends and feedback/comments from your fans and adjust your posts as needed.

Just to be clear, the tips in this post are from an article by Ekatrina Walter of Intel's Social Media Center for Excellence. I've modified it a bit for the music space, but the points are still hers.

I know that your thinking that this is yet one more thing to consider when posting, but if you're doing it right, it shouldn't take much extra time. Just keep the 10 tips in the forefront of your mind when composing your Facebook post, and the rest should take care of itself.

You should 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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