Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Upcoming Subscription War

Digital Music image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
There's no doubt that we're headed for a battle that will be nearly as epic as any in past music business history. As the world slowly but surely shifts from a download "ownership" model to a rental "access" model, the parameters that we know today regarding the online and offline music business will be redrawn. It may happen incredibly fast, or it could happen so slowly that you hardly notice it, and that's what makes how the whole thing plays out so interesting.

Let's take the big premise first, that subscription will solve the music industry's problems and restore the revenues to what they once where. The dream all along of record label execs and insiders is to have 50 million US subscribers each pay $10 a month, which would give the listeners access to all the music they can listen to. That would generate around $6 billion a year, which is okay when you compare that the total US industry revenue in 2012 was $5.35 billion. What is usually forgotten is that the entire $10 isn't going to the record labels, it's going to be split with the service provider and the publisher. I'm not sure what the split would end up being between them, but if you put it at 50%, you get $3 billion. That could end up just offsetting the decline in download and CD sales, and basically it a wash. I don't see how that restores the industry to its former glory even if it does increase a little.

The labels are smart when it comes to subscription though, and they don't want to get caught in the Apple trap again where there's one big dog distributor that controls the supply chain. That's why they're eager to make deals with any number of potential or real competitors, like Google Play, the new Beats offering, Amazon, whomever. One thing's for sure, there's going to be a lot of alternatives for listeners to choose from in the future.

And what does that mean for Apple? There's a big change a-comin', because don't forget that Apple's fortunes aren't so much tied to the software that is iTunes as much as it's a vehicle for people to buy their hardware. Thanks to the reality of music streaming, there won't be a need for any new and improved dedicated hardware like the iPod soon, thank you very much. That means they need a new plan going forward if they want to control the music world as they have.

Amazon is a little different. Their model has never been tied to hardware, although the Kindle was used to kick start the ebook market for them. That said, they don't really care what hardware you use, as long as you buy from them. That means they're a lot less vulnerable to any forthcoming change. They also have the infrastructure in place to implement a subscription service in a flash.

Google may be caught in the middle here. They want to do some big subscription things with a combination of YouTube and Google Play and can easily roll that out. The problem is that they're not good at charging end users for their services. YouTube is a huge music discovery engine, but primarily because it's free. Try charging people and watch what happens.

That leaves Spotify, Deezer, Rhapsody, Rdio, et al. Some of these will fall by the wayside, some will stick around, but most likely none will grab a larger market share than the biggies mentioned above.

So what's the answer? If I had to guess I'd say the winner will be the best bundler. When you buy a device you get the service thrown in (or least for a period of time). That would put Apple on top, but don't discout Google (who owns Motorola) or Samsung, Google or even Beats. The phone is the center of everyone's lives right now and he who owns mobile owns the music business.

All we know for sure is that two years from now the industry could look completely different. And I can't wait for that day.


Interested in the Music 3.0 archives? Buy The Music 3.0 Guide To Social Media. The best of over 800 posts.

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, March 27, 2013

Why A Metadata Standard Is Important

NARM logo image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
The Nation Association of Recording Merchandisers recently announced that they would be having a "Metadata Summit" at their upcoming Music Biz 2013 Conference in Los Angeles on May 6th and 7th. This is the first of it's kind, and is somewhat of a turning point for the industry.

Metadata, or the data about the data, in this case refers to the information about the digital audio file. This can be everything from the name of the song, the artist, it's ISRC code, the publisher and the record label. The metadata can include so much more though, from when the song was recorded and published, the producer and songwriters, and the musical genre, and much more.

The problem is that there's no standard as to exactly what metadata should be included, which means that most digital tracks are woefully inadequate when it comes to these details. Hopefully, the Metadata Summit will be a first step in the right direction.

On the surface, filling in metadata seems like a somewhat mundane task, but it can play an important part in search. For instance, if there's an artist you like and you'd like to find everything that he's been connected with, metadata can be an essential piece to search. It would be great to find other songs that he's written or produced, but unless that metadata is included, you'll have to find the info some other way. That's an opportunity missed by the artist, the publisher and record label alike.

A second reason for filling in the metadata is it can make accounting easier by clearly delineating who owns the copyright of the song and who administrates it. Getting paid is always a priority and this is one way to ensure that it actually happens. The only thing worse than not getting paid is having your royalty held up in an escrow account because it wasn't clear who should get the money.

Even if you're a indie artist you can still be diligent about metadata. As you're making an MP3, ACC or FLAC file, be sure to fill in as much of the data as you can. Two that are frequently overlooked are comments and artwork, but both can be important in search and grabbing the attention of a prospective listener. It may take a few minutes more to load the info in, but you only have to do it once, and it can be very worthwhile, especially if new standards are created and music search engines begin to utilize them more.

So don't overlook that metadata. Your fans want it, it will help them find you, and help you get paid.

Interested in the Music 3.0 archives? Buy The Music 3.0 Guide To Social Media. The best of over 800 posts.

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, March 26, 2013

6 Tips For Better Google+ Hangouts

Hangouts On Air image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Google+ has a unique feature called Hangouts On Air that's like a video conference with 9 other people except for the fact that you can broadcast it to the world simultaneously on YouTube, your blog or website as well. It's a great way to connect with fans and clients for either a chat or for an intimate concert. That said, your Hangout will be a failure unless you use some basic broadcast techniques so that you actually look good on camera. Follow these tips and your Hangout partners will thank you.

1. Pay attention to the lighting. Unless you're using a video camera with a larger lens, built-in computer and web cameras have a small sensor that need more light than you think is necessary. For best results, make sure that most of the light comes from in front of you at about a 45 degree angle off to one side, and from slightly above your head. Avoid any lights behind you that can be seen by the camera.

2. Pay attention to the audio. The closer the mic is to you, the better you'll sound and the less ambient noise will be broadcast. Of course, great audio gear always helps, but you'd be surprised what even cheap gear can sound like if used properly.

3. Use headphones. An echo can occur when your playback is loud enough to leak into your microphone, which can be very distracting to the others on the Hangout. If you must listen loudly, use a set of headphones or earbuds to hear what's going on.

4. Pay attention to what you wear. Because webcams are fairly inexpensive devices, they don't respond like larger cameras do, which means they have some quirks that you must work around. Therefore, try to wear solid colors, since any patterns on your clothing will be distracting. Also, lighter colors work better than dark, since dark requires more light.

5. Look at the camera. This can be tough because we all want to look at who we're speaking with and the camera is never ideally located. Just remember that when it's your time to speak, avoid the temptation of looking at the other Hangout attendees and look directly into your camera instead. They'll feel your eye contact and your connection will be deeper as a result.

6. Pay attention to your position. If you're too far away, then people can't see your eyes and you lose any connection with them. The correct distance is when they can see your shoulders in the frame.

Just follow these quick tips and you'll find that you'll have much better results on your next Hangout.


Interested in the Music 3.0 archives? Buy The Music 3.0 Guide To Social Media. The best of over 800 posts.

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

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tweaking Your Website's Contact Page

Contact Us image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Believe it or not, many artists create a fantastic website and forget to include what may be the most important section of all - the contact page. After all, how can you take advantage of any prospective opportunities if people can't easily connect with you? What if a promoter wants to book you? Or if a record company exec wants to hear more? Or if a fan wants another piece of merch? None of that will happen unless they have your contact info.

Here are a number of items to consider when adding your contact info to your site:

1. Be sure that the contact section is easy to find. Don't bury it deep in a menu. Try to keep it as a top-level link that will be available on every page.

2. Include multiple ways to contact you, not just an email address. Some people are more comfortable on the phone, so include a phone number. Phone numbers also have the added advantage in that they tend to make people feel secure that you're actually reachable and will respond. If you don't want someone calling your cell, get a Google Voice number that will ring all your numbers, and that you'll be able to screen. Also include a snail mail address in case someone (like a fan) wants to send you something. You don't want to give out your home address, so open up a post office box just for this purpose.

3. Make the contact info prominent on the page. Make it the primary object of the page, not buried in graphics or other none-related text.

4. If you're looking for bookings, have a dedicated booking page that has all of your contact info there as well. You can check out this post for more on what to include in a booking page.

Remember that the more options you provide, the more likely you'll have someone connect or buy something from you, and the more secure they'll feel about doing it.


Interested in the Music 3.0 archives? Buy The Music 3.0 Guide To Social Media. The best of over 800 posts.

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

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Look At Facebook's Graph Search

Graph Search request image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
One of the things that's always bothered Facebook users is limited the search ability, both within the network and outside of it too. That prompted the development of the new Graph Search, the search tool that Facebook is slowly rolling out that allows you to do much more precise searches, and even employs Bing to search for things on the web.

While now it's pretty easy to find friends via the Facebook search, soon you'll be able to find things like:
  • public posts
  • people
  • pages
  • events
  • applications
  • groups
  • places
  • check-ins of users and friends
  • objects with location information attached.
Users can also filter results and search only a user's News Feed.

Unfortunately Graph Search isn't available to everyone at the moment, and if you do a search you'll be greeted with a prompt like the graphic on the left that asks you to sign up to be alerted when it's available. That said, it looks like it will be a useful tool whenever it's finally rolled out. Check out this video that shows just what it will do.


Interested in the Music 3.0 archives? Buy The Music 3.0 Guide To Social Media. The best of over 800 posts.

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


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