Thursday, December 6, 2012

Will Low-Power FM Stations Help Local Music?

On Air image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 Blog
While radio is decidedly old school media, it's still utilized a lot more than you think. Traditional radio is listened to more than twice as much as its online counterpart, and it's still perfect for breaking news, sports, and general car-based entertainment. The problem is that the programming has regressed over the years, especially when it comes to music. Where radio was once vital with local sounds, now you have a certain sameness to the playlists across the country thanks to the homogenized bottom-line-first programming of the station groups that own most of the stations.

It's possible that might change a little, thanks to an unexpected ruling by the normally staid Federal Communications Commission. Yes, that same FCC that has been afraid to peek into the future lest they step on the toes of big broadcasting has given us at least the possibility of something to cheer about and it's called Low Power FM (LPFM).

Originally sanctioned in 2000, LPFM has a maximum of 100 watts and a broadcast radius of 3 miles, but thanks to the lobbying efforts by Big Broadcast, the application process wasn't particularly easy. In fact, only a single LPFM station has been commissioned since then, and the majority of applications were by entities speculating on the popularity of holding a license and cashing in, rather than building stations.

The new FCC ruling set out a streamlined process that limits the applicants to only those that will actually build a station, and eases some of the bandwidth restrictions that Big Radio insisted on to protect their turf. This will all take place next year when the new application process go into effect.

What are the implications of LPFM? Maybe none, maybe a lot. It's been proven that radio is only as good as it's programming and talent. An LPFM station probably won't have much of either, just like college radio (the poster child for low-power radio). That said, it's also not obligated to a corporate playlist, so it's possible to finally have a return to an open playlist like the glory days of early-FM in the 70s (how I long for those radio days). Back then, you never knew what you'd hear next, but if you liked the DJ, you knew you'd probably like what he or she played. With no big money involved, we can only hope that some experimentation will be in order with no reason to focus on the the lowest common denominator dictated by the marketing department.

While we can't expect LPFM to change the broadcast world, it would be nice if we had some local alternatives, even if their reach is only 3 miles. Hyper-local radio is target at your community. The question is, will your community listen?


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, December 5, 2012

10 Creative Rules Of Thumb

Here are some great tips on how to stay creative that that have been floating around various blogs for a while. Regardless of who created the list, it's still pretty good advice and something I wish I would refer to more often myself. Take a look:

Top 10 Creative Rules of Thumb:

1. The best way to get great ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.

2. Create ideas that are 15 minutes ahead of their time…not light years ahead.

3. Always look for a second right answer.

4. If at first you don’t succeed, take a break.

5. Write down your ideas before you forget them.

6. If everyone says you are wrong, you’re one step ahead. If everyone laughs at you, you’re two steps ahead.

7. The answer to your problem “pre-exists.” You need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.

8. When you ask a dumb question, you get a smart answer.

9. Never solve a problem from its original perspective.

10. Visualize your problem as solved before solving it.


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, December 4, 2012

Sometimes Big Promo Doesn't Work

Michael Jackson
More and more, music mass marketing is working less and less. This is especially true for television, where once upon a time, an appearance on a popular show could mean a huge jump in sales. Take for instance an appearance on Saturday Night Live, which could mean at least 100,000 in sales; sometimes even more back in the good old days of limited media. This is becoming less and less the case however, as we get further into Music 3.0 where consumer's listening, watching and buying habits are dictated by the time they spend online.

Probably the best example of how little impact television can have came recently with the airing of Spike Lee's documentary of the making of Michael Jackson's Bad. This was basically a 90 minute commercial for the re-issue of the album during prime time of one of the best television viewing nights of the year, and it sold only 11,000 albums the next week as a result.

Let's go over that again - Michael Jackson, big album, Thanksgiving evening, 11k!

The worse thing is that it was a really great program, showing another side of Michael that few have ever seen, along with much of the backstory of the making of a big-selling album. Granted,  the record is 25 years old and MJ's music isn't currently hot, but it would have been interesting to see if a similar show on Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga (or even Psy for that matter) would've done any better. Maybe a bit, but I doubt it.

Several things are changing at once here. Television is losing it's impact, and people are getting more used to subscription music instead of buying it. I bet a lot of the audience that were motivated to listen to MJ afterwards just fired up Spotify or Pandora or Grooveshark or ..........

The fact of the matter is that I think more copies of Bad might've been sold with an online marketing campaign, and it would've been a  lot cheaper.

The estate of MJ no doubt made some big dollars from the network, but the show just proved that we're in a state of evolution in all media. Hang on for ride!


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, December 3, 2012

5 Aspects Of The New Music Reality

Reality Check image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
During lunch with a friend today, he passed some scenarios by me for breaking a new act. One of the things he said seems to be what's now seems to be accepted industry knowledge, although I believe the logic is faulty.

"We're going to do vinyl and digital downloads but skip the CD. They're done." After discussing for a while what he was going to charge for the items, I told him my feelings on the matter.

1) Hoping to make money on any kind of music isn't living in reality, especially for a new artist that no one knows. That business model is dead and gone, even for all but the 1% (or less) of established artists.

2) Give your music away. That's what it's worth to most consumers - zero, nada - especially if they're not your fans. Music always has been a promotional tool for the artist, and the record label made most of the money anyway. Once you get over the idea that you can make money from the sale of your music, your mind will be free for other possibilities that can be monetized.

3) CD's aren't dead yet. They're a collectible, the same as a shirt or hat, and that's how they should be should be thought of. The fact is that they're not the be-all, end-all to monetizing your brand, and they really never were. Remember that there were 248 million CDs sold in the US last year that were counted (many sold at concerts don't hit Soundscan), so there still is a demand. You just have to adjust your thinking on the type of product it is.

4) But you can charge for a collectible. A collectible is a memento of a moment in time, and people will pay to relive that through an item that they'll buy. But you can't charge too much.

One of the problems with most bands and artists is that they price their swag way too high. Who pays $10 dollars for a CD these days? Who's willing to pay $20 for a T-shirt? Even legacy artists with a really great brand and nicely designed merch can have a problem at $35, which has become the norm at a concert.

Find out your costs, including tax, shipping, the commission you give to the swag salesman, and everything else that might be hidden, and mark it up by 20% - 25% to build in some margin. Especially if you're just starting out, think of these items as promotional. The fact that you might get someone to cover your costs by buying your merch, and even make a little as a result, is a bonus. You can charge more later once you develop a rabid following that wants everything ever connected to you, and you've proven that the market will bear the higher price.

If you're audience wants CD's (some still do, believe it or not), pull a Radiohead and let people pay what they want for them, or set the price extremely low so you can at least cover your costs. Once again, it's promotion. I'd rather people pay at least something because that way they've made a commitment to listening to it. A CD given away for free will most likely hit the garbage before it ever hits their ears.

As far as digital downloads, give them away for free on your website, and charge for them on iTunesAmazon and all of the streaming networks too. Study after study has found that downloads sell better when they're available for free, as weird as that sounds.

5) Don't buy inventory. The days of order 500 or 1000 of anything are over. Get just enough to have a few on hand (like 10 or so), and order anything else on a as-needed basis. For CDs, you can order from 1 to 100,000 for a fixed fee of $1.75 from For all other merch, you can do the same at or

We're living in the age of Music 3.0. It's time to take advantage of it.


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, December 2, 2012

7 Ways To Optimize Video For Facebook

Facebook Video image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Although people love posts with pictures on Facebook, posts with videos receive far fewer Likes or comments. Here are 7 quick tips  from Jackie Cohen at AllFacebook on how to optimize your videos just for Facebook. I've adapted them a bit more for artists and bands.

1. Limit the video footage to 5 minutes or less (way less). The shorter the video, the more plays you'll get. A long video can scare off people who might ordinarily check it out.

2. Create a good thumbnail image for your video. A good thumbnail is like a good cover of a book. It helps get an impulse "buy."

3. Create a catchy or unique title. Just like with a book or magazine article, the title can sell the product.

4. Check out the keywords for similar videos. For example, if your song has a drum solo, you might want to check out what keywords other videos other songs with drum solos use as well.

5. Allow people to share your work. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many artists actually limit the sharing of their video. Let them embed your video on their blog and website if they want. That's how you go viral.

6. Encourage people to rate and review your video. Don't directly ask for a Like, since that's against Facebook's terms of service, but you can ask for comments or a rating.

7. Upload to other video sharing sites. Use OneLoad to post your video on all relevant video sites. It's the quickest and easiest way to do it, and you'd be surprised the number of people who might find it that wouldn't otherwise.

Keep the above tips in mind the next time you post a video on Facebook. They don't take much time but can make a big difference in the number of views that it ultimately receives.

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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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