Thursday, September 25, 2014

Album Sales Hit A New Low

Album sales
The album is definitely dropping in popularity, as last week Nielsen SoundScan announced that the sales numbers reached their lowest levels since the company began tracking data in 1991.

Only 3.97 million albums were tallied, the first time that figure has fallen below the 4 million mark ever. Considering that 3 albums debuted in the top 10 and averaged only 31,000 units doesn't bode well for the format, as more and more music lovers abandon the album and move to streaming.

CD sales are down 19.2% from last year at this time, with the big retailers taking an even bigger hit. Mass merchants have fallen 23% while the big chain stores have fallen more than 25%. You can see that it's only a matter of time before there will be no longer be an album brick and mortar retail business.

With this kind of data, you'd think that artists and record labels alike would begin to change their business model and concentrate more on singles, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Artists still seem to think that it's still an album world and spend way too much time and money in that area.

But the evidence keeps on clearly pointing to the fact that consumers don't feel the need to purchase an album or even purchase music at all. And it looks like the trend will only continue.

Maybe the new Apple/U2 album format (whatever it is) will make a difference, but that's still at least 18 months away. By then, after the world becomes very comfortable with streaming, it might be too late.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ariel Hyatt On Selecting A Social Platform

Social Media Platforms
There are so many social media platforms available today that it can get overwhelming when it comes to selecting where you should spend your time. The danger is that you can be on too many platforms and dilute your energy, or you can specialize in one and miss some opportunities.

In this excerpt from my Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age book, social media PR guru Ariel Hyatt describes why Facebook might not be the best alternative, and how to determine what might be a better alternative.


"Are Likes important?
Facebook is the most frustrating platform. I read an article about the way life used to work a hundred years ago where you would have gone out of your house to the community bakery, hardware store (like my grandparents owned), or any local shop to buy your everyday needs. Then the Madison Avenue way of doing business came in the picture by advertising national brands as somehow being sexier and blew much of that model away, and we lost our way of communicating one on one as a result. Now social media brings us back around to where we started, where we only want to buy from people that we like, trust, and have positive engagement with. None of these principles are new, just the medium is.

The problem with Facebook is that it’s now placing the Madison Avenue approach on top of a community based platform, but the two are at massive odds. In the beginning there were all these people that you knew on Facebook that you might’ve lost contact with, like your school friends, teachers, babysitters, and long lost cousins. They weren’t necessarily on the other social sites, but they were on Facebook. It was all based on community and it was very personal and very much like the old community bakery or store.

Now Facebook has added a new twist in that no one will get to see your post unless you pay, and now we have a problem. We’ve been saying for years that it’s all about great content and engagement and keeping things interesting, and Facebook has come along and said, “Actually, no. If you pay us, we’ll promote something that’s not interesting to get you more eyeballs.” This is detrimental because it’s diluting the whole point of Facebook in the first place. The community is now muddled with Madison Avenue and the “buy a billboard,” or “buy an ad” mentality. I’m afraid that, just like when Madison Avenue rose in power, the people that don’t have the money to buy the ads and billboards are going to get squeezed out. That’s why I find Facebook to be a necessary evil. There’s still a huge number of active users so you need a strategy for it, but both the platform and the strategy are rapidly changing.

Do you recommend that a new client be on multiple platforms or just concentrate on one?
Just concentrate on one. I think that it’s so easy to get overwhelmed trying to do too much that some people will just shut down. Concentrate on one, and hopefully it’s not Facebook.

Which platform would you suggest?

Really it depends on that person’s capabilities. Are they visual? Then let’s do Instagram. Are they wordy? Then a blog strategy might be better. Are they ADD? Then let’s do some tweeting. Let’s find the thing that feels like it’s the most comfortable. I still struggle with pushing people to do things that they’re not comfortable with, because it’s not going to work in the long run."



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apple Will Kill Off The Beats Music Brand Sooner Or Later

There have been recent conflicting reports that Apple is about to kill off one of it’s most recent acquisitions, the Beats Music service, leaving the tech world to ponder what will eventually happen with the service over the long term. Regardless of which side of the rumors you care to listen to, it’s probably fair to say that at some future date Beats Music as a brand will be no more, although the backbone of the service will still live on.

Apple actually gave us a hint that Beats Music wasn’t exactly a priority when it wasn’t included in the new iOS 8, and was only referred to in passing during the recent iPhone 6 introduction event last week. This was quite curious for a product that seemed to be right in the sweet spot of event.

Actually, retiring the Beats Music brand would strengthen the theory that the acquisition of Beats Electronics/Music was more about getting Jimmy Iovine on board than anything, although the company also got an extremely savvy digital music exec in Ian Rogers, who was CEO of Beats Music and is now in charge of iTunes Radio. There may be more to the acquisition than that simple supposition however.

The Apple sources have been pretty emphatic that regardless of what happens to Beats Music, the company was is not about to abandon the interactive streaming business. That said, Apple has a bit of a conundrum on its hands in that it still wants users to buy songs on iTunes, and it no doubt has promised ongoing support for this to the various record labels as well. Read more on Forbes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Twitter Launches The Buy Button

Twitter buy button image
Twitter is such a huge platform for many artists, but except for the social currency involved, you wouldn't exactly call it a sales platform. There have been ways in the past to sell things with Shopify, but the sales method was a workaround at best. Now Twitter is trying out a new "buy" button that allows fans to purchase merch, music and tickets from within a tweet.

Although not rolled out to all users yet, the service has a number of artists, brands and charities taking part initially. These include Brad Paisley, Eminem, Panic at the Disco, Wiz Khalifa, Ryan Adams, Soundgarden, Home Depot, Burberry, GLAAD, and Global Citizen.

Twitter has partnered with Fancy, Gumroad, Music Today and Stripe, which have long histories of direct-to-fan commerce, to act as fulfillment centers, but others will eventually follow as the service rolls out more fully by the end of the year.

There's no word on how much Twitter will take from each sale, but there's not doubt it's an income stream that the service really needs. That said, artists with large followings will also be happy at the new opportunity to offer their wares as well.

Lest you might think that Twitter will now turn into sales-only platform, remember that Twitter etiquette still applies, so everyone expects excessive sales hype to be self-regulating.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Analyzing Apple’s U2 Mistake

U2 in concert image
By now everyone is familiar with the blowback received from the ill-fated U2 album giveaway on iTunes. Apple and the band thought that giving a free album to all iTunes users would be heralded as a huge win, only to find that many of them objected to the album being forced on them, even when it’s by a legendary superstar group like U2. Let’s analyze what’s going on here.

1. People want pull, not push. By and large users of any platform hate to have info pushed to them. Yes, there are exceptions like email and text notifications, but by and large, we hate being shouted at, even if it’s being done electronically. A better strategy in this situation might have been to say, “Here’s the new U2 album. Take it if you want it.” While that wouldn’t have amounted to the same ability to say that it was the biggest album release of all time, it would have alleviated the feeling that people were getting an unwanted musical virus planted on their phone or computer.

2. Downloads are over. When the entire world (except Japan, which is still stuck in the CD world thanks to oppressive laws) is turning to streaming music wholeheartedly, why would Apple hold on to this vestige of the past by thinking that anyone wanted to download an album’s worth of files? Oh, that’s right, the company has this vested interest in downloads by virtue of the fact that the music side of iTunes is still a huge business that features a billion downloads a year. The fact of the matter though is that the company and band could have looked a lot hipper by providing a free 90 day Beats Music account that included a proprietary playlist of the album along, and used the iTunes downloads as a secondary offering.

3. The band isn’t as cool anymore. Let’s face it, they’re all in their 50s, and while they’ve done an admirable job staying relevant far beyond the life span of most artists, to a great number of younger people it’s just, “Who is U2 and why are they sending me their spam music files?” The fact that the song that’s featured in the ad (“The Miracle of Joey Ramone”) is about another dinosaur rocker (although well-deserving) doesn’t help the cause either. Read more on Forbes.


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