HATE YOUR LABEL, NOT SPOTYFY, Nov 10/2013
By Bob Lefsetz
Once upon a time recording was profitable.
And then MTV came along and with the advent of the new carrier medium known as the CD, revenues soared. Artists bitched that they were receiving half their royalties as the labels invested in this new format, but that got nowhere, the CD made not only the companies rich, but those who ran them. That was the switch. The Beatles, et al, stole power from the labels, but in the eighties, the labels took it back, because there was just too much money involved. And the more money, the more risk.
But recording revenues have shrunk. Streaming could bring them back. That's the dirty little secret artists are too ignorant to understand. That if everybody's paying, the overall pot grows.
But the problem with artists is they don't see the big picture.
The label is making you famous.
Once upon a time the label not only made you famous, you made a lot of money on recordings if you hit. The evisceration of this model is not the fault of either the labels or Spotify. Those who think Spotify is ruining royalty payments believe 8-tracks and cassettes should have never replaced LPs. Change happens.
And the latest change is that without the money and power of the label behind you, you probably will go unnoticed.
So maybe, despite having such a low royalty payment, that's what you've earned.
I know this is heretical. But the point is no one is preventing you from going it alone. Now, more than any time in modern recording history, you can do it for yourself. You can record cheaply, distribute and get paid. But the truth is most of the people complaining about their indie Spotify payments are known only for this. They're niche artists at best.
And no one who's a newly-minted household name is complaining.
In other words, you give to get.
You give your rights to the label in order to get a chance at fame and riches.
And this has nothing to do with Spotify, and nothing to do with the fact that the major labels have an interest in the company, along with Merlin indies.
There's a high entry price. Just like you can make your own movie and make all the money, but you'd rather be in a blockbuster where you get a huge upfront payment and a profit participation that doesn't pay out.
So if the acts want any change at all, the target is their labels.
As for indie labels, excepting giants like XL, most are worse than the majors. If they don't go bankrupt, their accounting is horrifying. That's why the majors exist to begin with.
So famously disunited artists are not joining up to establish minimum payments, like athletes. They're not lobbying for free agency. They're not improving their lot, just bitching.
If only every artist like Def Leppard, and they're not the only one with this right, refused to let their label put their catalog on digital services.
If only a case was litigated wherein streaming was seen as a license and fifty percent went to the artist.
Instead, Spotify is the punching bag. Just like Ticketmaster is in the concert sphere. Ignorant people are attacking the wrong target.
Then again, the label seems to be the only one investing in you. Managers are not coughing up serious dough, certainly not agents. It's kind of like taking VC money. He who puts down the cash takes the lion's share of the money, especially if the business/act has no traction.
Yes, sell out theatres on your own and you'll get a better deal.
It's called leverage.
Build your own and stop complaining.
How Social Media Can Help Your Career - Feb 20/2013
By Shane Tutmarc
In the last 10 years, social media has completely changed the game for the independent artist. For many it can be a confusing new world to navigate. Here are some of the things I’ve learned about using Facebook and Twitter to my advantage as an artist.
Once you have created a profile, you will need to build it up. The main reason social media marketing works so well is because it gives you the opportunity to interact with your fans. You are not just a business trying to take their money; fans can now interact with you and connect your face and personality with the name. You can easily post updates, keeping people informed about anything relevant to your music. You can also share photos, videos, or other interesting tidbits that your fans may enjoy. Customers can easily post questions or comments on your profile page, which you can directly respond to, increasing their trust that your customer service is beyond accommodating.
How to get noticed:
You now have literally a billion people at your fingertips with Facebook, so make sure everything you post is eye-catching. While it may be frustrating at first to see a picture of a cute puppy getting 95 “likes” while your post about your gig tonight gets only 2 “likes,” what you should be learning from this is that maybe you should have included the puppy pic with your post! You’ll be amazed how much more notice your posts will get if you include a visual element. Also, tag as many elements of your post that you can, include your collaborators or any other relevant tag, so that your post shows up on as many people’s news feed as possible.
How to sell product:
Treat your band page more like a personal profile than a business profile. If your posts are engaging and entertaining, then people will naturally want to follow and eventually buy product. The more personal or relevant your post is, the more interest will be generated. You never want your audience to feel like you are trying to “sell” to them. Be creative!
How to share your music/merch:
For a long time Facebook didn’t have a music player, thankfully many different apps have popped up to offer a solution. Most music player apps create an add-on Facebook page where artists can upload not only information, but also add songs (with the option for fans to listen, download and/or buy). You can also add show dates with tickets that can be bought through Facebook. The app lets you combine your Twitter feed, as well as your YouTube videos, making it the easiest way for your fans to get what they need in one place.
Developing an image:
While some artists fear social media, claiming Facebook and Twitter are “demystifying” the artist, I believe social media puts more power into the artist’s hands to create the image they’d like to present. You can share as much (or as little) as you’d like about your personal life, and share your interests with your fan base through photos or thoughts you express. You have to ask yourself “what kind of artist am I?” Unfortunately a talented musician without an image and a web presence that appeals to the public won’t get very far. It is important to take a moment and step back to think about how you would like to be perceived by others. What are you doing to portray this image to your fans?
Promoting through ads:
While I’m mostly focusing on free options, Facebook also gives you the option to buy ad space. Tagging interests to your ad will target specific people (i.e., “If you like [insert famous band] you will also like [you].”
With Twitter, the goal is not only to have the most followers, but also to get as many “retweets” as you can with each post – which helps bring new followers. But the ways to reach more followers is slightly different than Facebook. Once you add all your personal friends, start following your interests – favorite musicians, filmmakers, comedians, relevant blogs, etc.
What to share:
Twitter found a way to simplify the “status updates” feature begun by MySpace and Facebook, narrowing the length of each tweet down to 140 characters. But you can still get plenty of cache out of those few characters. Twitter is the perfect way to check in throughout the day. The post doesn’t have to be, and probably shouldn’t be, about your music every time. Retweet inspiring quotes, talk about what movies you are excited to see – bring people in by showing them you are an interesting person, and then maybe every fifth post – say something about what’s coming up with your music – be it a new album, a tour, a local show. Make sure they know that they are hearing from you and not your manager. This secures their trust and keeps your fans by your side.
Keeping the customer satisfied:
Your job is to keep your fan base happy, to keep them engaged, and to give them something that they are excited to share with their friends. To put it simply, treat them like friends – rather than simply customers and they will not only return, but also spread the word about you. This is how the power of social media and brand image can really work in your favor.
Using your creativity:
A successful artist is an artist who did the right things, the right way, and never gave up. Create value and then creatively tell people about it. Find new topics to write about that your audience is interested in, sprinkle in videos, new music and show information, and keep focused on making your site the most entertaining experience you can for your fans.
- Be creative in everything you post.
- Your main job is to keep your fan base happy and entertained.
- Always tag as many elements as possible to your post.
- Treat your followers as friends, not clients.
Shane Tutmarc is a singer/songwriter who hails from the musical hotbed of Seattle, Washington. A BMI songwriter since 2001, Shane released several indie pop albums with his group, Dolour before turning more towards roots music with The Traveling Mercies. Since moving to Nashville at the top of 2010, he’s created a strong buzz for performing solo, in addition to becoming a sought after co-writer and collaborator for many projects. For more information visit: http://www.shanetutmarc.com
Six Ways To See If Your Song Is Ready To Demo - Jan 21/2013
By Cliff Goldmacher
One of the big decisions that we, as songwriters, have to make is whether or not one of our songs is ready for a professional demo. In other words, is our song good enough to warrant spending the money and time necessary to make a high-quality recording? While our instinct may be to love all of our songs equally, the reality is that some of our songs are simply better/more commercially viable than others. The problem is deciding which songs those are. Below is a list of things you can do to help you make that decision
1. Make A Rough Recording
One of the first tests I’d suggest is to make a simple rough recording of your song. Given that there’s no Grammy award for best rough recording, this can be a bare bones guitar and vocal recorded into your smartphone for example. The reason that a rough recording is so useful is that you’re able to hear your song as a listener would. This perspective is entirely different from listening to your song as you’re playing it. I’m always surprised at how tweaks and adjustments present themselves when I sit back and listen to the rough recording - problems I never noticed while I was playing and singing the song.
2. Put It Away For A Week
After creating a song there’s often a rush of enthusiasm. This is a good thing. I certainly hope you’re pleased with what you’ve written. However, it’s still a good idea to have a short “cooling off” period of, say, a week or so, in order to make sure what you’re feeling is true love and not infatuation. After a week, go back to the song and if that same excitement is there, you’re on to something.
3. Professional Song Critique
Early in your career, getting an experienced songwriter or music publisher to give you their professional opinion can bring valuable insight into the way the industry listens to songs. If your goal is to have a song that is commercially successful, then a professional opinion can be very useful. That being said, songwriting is still an art and you should never assume that just because a professional says something that you should blindly agree with it. The music business is filled with stories about publishers and A&R reps passing on songs that went on to become huge hits. In other words, a professional critique should be taken with a large grain of salt and appreciated for what it is (industry insight) but also what it isn’t (the final word on whether your song is good or not).
4. Play It For Your Songwriting Peers
It’s especially easy when living in a music city like New York, Los Angeles or Nashville to find a group of songwriting peers to bounce ideas off of. However, organizations like the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) have chapters in many cities where you can find songwriting peers if you don’t have the luxury of living in a industry town. A songwriting group can be a good place to play your song and get outside perspective from people who understand what songwriting is about. Again, it’s important to remember that you won’t - nor do you have to - agree with everything that’s said, but there might be a helpful gem or two that can make all the difference. The risk, however, is that the wrong word or a mean-spirited comment in the early life of a song can be devastating. To that end protect yourself by making sure your group’s members are constructive in their criticism. Also, it’s a good policy to develop a thicker skin for these situations. This gets easier the more songs you write.
5. Play It For An Objective, Non-Musician Friend
It’s been my experience that fellow musicians and songwriters tend to listen to songs in a certain way often paying attention to details that only other musicians and songwriters can appreciate. This can be useful (see #4 above) but songwriters, as a rule, aren’t really music buyers. Playing your song for a trusted, non-musician friend who can tell you in more real terms (i.e. “the song feels long” or “I don’t understand the story”) whether they like the song or not can be a helpful way of seeing whether a song is working.
6. Play It Live
If you’re a live performer as well as a songwriter, you’ve got a valuable tool at your disposal. There’s nothing quite like gauging the response - or non-response - of a live audience to see whether a song is working or not. Often, the things that you thought would work while you were writing the song don’t pan out while other things you barely paid attention to go over beautifully. A word of warning though - don’t assume just because a song is working live that you’re all set. It’s still well worth your while to use some of the earlier suggestions (especially the rough recording) to make sure that when you listen to your song objectively, it’s doing what you want it to.
As a producer, it’s clear to me when a writer is confident about their song. I can tell that they’ve done the necessary work using any number of the above suggestions. This makes my job infinitely easier as my only concern becomes bringing an already finished song to a high polish as opposed to spending time and effort doing damage control. However, at the end of the day, the decision is - and should be - yours. No one else can tell you whether your song is finished and ready to be professionally recorded. In most cases, you’re the one spending the money for the demo and the one who has to be excited about pitching it, so you should be as convinced as possible that your song is ready for prime time. Hopefully, some of the tips above can help you through the decision process and maybe even improve your odds for success.
RULES By Bob Lefsetz - October 24/2012
1. No one is waiting for your album.
2. Social networking is not about driving momentary sales but creating a relationship. That's your new role. To be available and in touch with your audience each and every day. To be a land mine that someone can step on if they suddenly hear about you. Think how you discover something and immediately research it. Google is the most powerful force in music, not radio. You want to be number one in the search results and you want a plethora of information so that when someone decides to check you out they can find out your bio, personality and listen to your music. You should be thrilled that someone cares about you. Your door should be open. Making it hard to enter your front door is akin to having a retail establishment with a locked entrance. Yes, clubs utilize velvet ropes, but they have a tiny audience inside. Then again, if you believe you're only entitled to a tiny audience, have a huge cover charge and sell overpriced drinks. Which is kind of like when Bon Jovi and the Eagles go on tour. Those are dead acts. You've got to be alive. If you're not growing, you're over.
3. Keep making music.
4. Keep improving your music.
5. You can no longer have too much music. It's like saying there are too many books in the library. Your goal is to get so good that when someone checks you out, they find a lot to experience and marinate in. Don't worry about separating the wheat from the chaff, your audience will do this.
6. Playing live is no longer about faithful repetition of the hits. You're better off being like Phish than a Top Forty act playing to hard drive. Since all the money's in live, you've got to get people to come more than once. Which requires cheap tickets. Mumford & Sons has this right. Audience members feel better when they can't get into a show with cheap ducats. It's when they can't get a ticket to a show with overpriced tickets that they get angry at the act. And if your fans are angry at you, you're on the road to oblivion.
7. Don't worry if people hate you. Have an identity. The hooks of your personality are like one side of Velcro, the loops are the audience. You don't need every loop to catch on a hook to create a strong, healthy bond, just enough.
8. Don't worry about the genre of music you're playing, just whether it's good.
9. If there's no viral action on your music, you're just not good enough. Don't get mad at the audience, get mad at yourself. Either give up or get better.
10. It might be tempting to break all these rules and play the old game. Where the amount of music is minimal and it's all about marketing. But if you pursue that avenue it's like selling typewriters, like being Facebook, king of the web with an inadequate mobile strategy, like being Microsoft, making your coin on legacy objects which are fading in the rearview mirror. The turning point is now. As for mystery, the web killed that. We're all in it together. It's not about keeping people away, but letting them in. Be thrilled that anybody cares.
How to Book Your Band’s First Show - By Chris Robley - Oct 5/2012
7 tips to booking your first gig.
1. Find the right venue- Make sure you’re asking to play in venues appropriate for your genre. Oh, and aim small, and here’s why!
2. Book at least 2-4 months in advance- Booking agents are like professional jugglers. They’ve got to dangle hundreds of bands at once, pair them up, and slot them into empty dates on their venue’s calendar. That takes time, so give them plenty of it time.
3. Don’t send attachments- Do not send attachments in your booking request email. That’s a sure way to end up in the junk folder, and bookers might delete your message. Instead, leave a clear link to a place online where they can go and hear your music, read your press, etc. For more info on how to email booking agents, check out our article “Why You Don’t Need a Press Kit: How to Book Your Band in the Age of Email.”
4. Read their booking requirements- Don’t forget to check the venue’s website for their booking requirements and suggestions. What nights do they host music? How do they prefer to be contacted? Are there any stage restrictions? Finding this info out first will help you when you’re asking for a gig.
5. 2 paragraphs or less- You’ve got to state your case quickly for why you’ll put on a great show that will draw fans to their venue. Be succinct and honest. Don’t waste their time.
6. Give options- Be flexible, if possible, and provide a date-range or a few specific options for show dates.
7. Ask for help- Other bands can be your biggest allies in the booking game. Ask them for advice and try to build a bill yourself with similar acts. Then pitch that complete night to the booker. You’ll be saving them work!
Four Reasons Talent Isn’t Enough - Sep 6 / 2012
By Cliff Goldmache
It takes a combination of factors including patience, perseverance and, most importantly an undeniable work ethic to rise above the masses of songwriters all hoping to get their songs out in the world.
I’d like to begin this article by saying that I’m not a cynic. On the contrary, I’m a big believer that if your dream is to have success with your music, then, in time, you will find that success. However, there are rarely shortcuts in our line of work and being a gifted songwriter, in my experience, simply isn’t enough to guarantee success. It takes a combination of factors including patience, perseverance and, most importantly an undeniable work ethic to rise above the masses of songwriters all hoping to get their songs out in the world.
1. There are lots of talented people.
If I’ve learned anything after living in Nashville and New York City over the past almost twenty years, it’s that at a certain point, talent is the least common denominator. In the big music cities, the pool of gifted songwriters is deeper and wider than we can possibly imagine. This is a good thing. It gives us ample opportunities to learn from each other and improve, but the flip side of this is that talent is only a starting point. It’s all of the other things you do that separate you from the pack.
2. Talent is something that you’re given. It’s up to you to develop it.
There’s a reason talent is also referred to as a “gift.” The spark that makes us creative and intuitively wired is something that we don’t choose, we just get it. But just because you’ve got a gift doesn’t mean that you don’t need to develop it or spend time understanding it. That part is actually work. When you do the work, you will develop the ability to turn something that was unpredictable into something you can do consistently in order to make a living.
3. You’re running a business.
Being a talented songwriter without taking the time to understand the music business is the equivalent of a company that makes a great product that no one will ever hear about because they have no marketing department. In other words, writing the songs is just the tip of the iceberg. You need to remember that like any business, you’ve got to know the landscape, who the major players are and set specific goals along the way in order to get to the next level. I’m not saying this is easy, but I am saying it’s essential.
4. Work ethic is everything.
The dangerous myth about the music business is that it’s an exciting, creative world where people make beautiful music, go to parties, and one day they wake up and their song is on the radio. The gritty, unglamorous truth is that just like in any business, there are mundane, yet necessary, things you have to do day in and day out in order to get your music out in the world. Having a solid work ethic and a willingness to get up every day and work towards your goal will eventually get you there. It’s not always clear along the way how these little things help, but they do add up and, in the end, make all the difference. There is some glamour and excitement in the music world, but there’s a lot of uninspired work that needs to happen as well. Make sure you’re prepared to do that stuff, too.
Talent is a wonderful thing and should never be taken for granted. I’m here to remind you to enjoy your gift for the amazing thing that it is. However, this talent is only one part of a bigger set of conditions that need to be met in order for you to successfully get your songs out in the world and make a living doing it.
Four Quick Fixes for Your Songs - June 4 / 2012
As songwriters, we so often get bogged down in the micro-details of our songs (whether to use “and” or “but,” should the last note of the chorus go up or down, etc.) that we tend to overlook the big issues that can help us tighten, streamline and otherwise improve our songs in major ways. I’m going to bring up a few of the commonly overlooked issues that I see time and again in my role as songwriting consultant. Still, it’s always worth mentioning that songwriting — and songwriting success, for that matter — is a highly subjective medium and there are no “right” or “wrong” ways to do things. My reference points are simply the common traits of a large number of commercially successful songs.
1. Cut your intro in half. One of the most important things to remember if you’re writing songs for the commercial market is how very little time you have to get the listener’s attention. We, as songwriters, necessarily give our songs our full, loving and undivided attention, which is why a long, winding musical intro feels perfectly natural as a way to set the stage for the song to come. The reality, though, is that our listeners rarely give a song they’ve never heard their full attention, which is why you, as the songwriter, have to go and get it. Quickly. A short, to-the-point intro that leads directly into the verse of the song is the first step towards pulling your listener in.
2. Put more concrete details into your verses. The verses in your song are there to, more or less, tell the story. While feelings are an important part of any story, so are the actual details. In other words, give people images to hold on to so they know what your song is about. Since you’re the one writing the song, you already know the story, so it’s easy to forget that your listener doesn’t. While you’re at it, I’m a big believer in the “show ‘em, don’t tell ‘em” approach. This means if you can use an image rather than a long explanation to describe a situation, do it. Whoever wrote “a picture is worth a thousand words” had it right.
3. Your chorus should be what your song is about. In another effort to help you keep the big picture in mind while you’re writing, I’d suggest making sure that your chorus really drives the point of your song home. This is the place where your message becomes clear and memorable. Ideally, the listener should be able to start singing along after they’ve heard your chorus once or twice. Another, less delicate way of putting this is to think of your chorus as the equivalent of tying the theme of your song to a baseball bat and beating the hell out of people with it.
4. Make sure similar sections have similar structures. In general, it’s a good idea to keep similar sections in your song similar in structure. In other words, your first verse should match your second verse in number of lines and rhyme scheme and your choruses should have the same length and lyric. There are always exceptions to this approach but here’s the reasoning behind it: The simpler and clearer your song is, the more memorable it will be. Memorable is a good thing. I’m in no way suggesting not to tackle complex topics or musical themes, I’m simply saying that “complicated” and “different” don’t, in and of themselves, mean success. The real challenge is to tell your story, whatever it may be, in the simplest, most effective way possible.
At the end of the day, songwriting is art and, as in all art, there are many, many ways to create. However, sometimes guidelines can be a blessing rather than a curse. Mozart didn’t invent classical music; he simply refined it within the existing boundaries into something that is still moving and memorable over 200 years later. That sounds like a good goal to me.
Don’t Let Them Bounce! 5 Things You Can Do to Keep People Engaged on Your Site - May 25/2012
1) Don’t try and cram everything onto the homepage or major landing pages. Ask yourself this question – “If I could only have one button on my homepage what would it do?” That is the most important thing so start there. Maybe it is an email list signup, an upcoming show or a new album you want people to check out. It can’t be all three at once though. Build content around that one item. Once you are done have some friends check it out and see if maybe you can get a second item on the page to focus on. You have less than 10 seconds to catch the visitor’s attention, don’t waste it by overwhelming them with too much stuff. Something has to be number 1.
2) When a visitor comes to your site does music or video start playing automatically? If so, stop it! Have you ever walked into to a club to see a band you liked, but the mix was way too loud? You don’t know how people have their audio setup so give them a chance to get ready to play the audio or video. Often visitors are also already listening to music or have other media going. Give them a chance to stop the other music and hit play on your audio or video. They will appreciate it and bounce less.
3) Site load speed is still important! More and more people are visiting from mobile devices which means we went backwards in connectivity a bit. Your site homepage should not be more than 500kb or another way to look at it is how fast it loads. More than 3-5 seconds means you might lose them before you get them in there. If you have too many images or videos on the page that will slow down the load time. Focus on what you want to get in front of your audience and move other stuff to photo galleries and archive pages.
4) Use images and update them frequently. I know I just said to be careful with load times but you should use great images still. Pinterest and Instagram should be enough evidence that people love images. Keep up to date photos and images on your site rotating old stuff to galleries and audio/video pages. Unless your site is based on the latest neuro-psychology research it should not be a wall of text. Images quickly grab the visitor’s attention and keep them engaged. Don’t use text if you can do it with images.
5) Time to say goodbye to flash! Sorry but Apple is successfully killing flash. Tens of thousands to hundreds-of-thousands of apple devices are being activated every day in the U.S. and none of them allow flash. Hostbaby just came out with a new audio player to tackle this issue. Use it! Broken items on your site will cause people to leave. Warnings about software that does not work with their browser will make them also not come back. Flash had a good run, but we’re moving on.
Try some of these out and watch your bounce rate. See what works, experiment, and have fun with your site.
What else do you to make your website a pleasant experience for your visitors?
FINALLY, PUBLISHING ADMINISTRATION FOR THE WORLD'S SONGWRITERS - BY JEFF PRICE May 25 / 2012
Before TuneCore launched its songwriter publishing administration service, over 99% of the world’s songwriters had no way to get all the royalties they earned from the use of their songs.
It sounds bizarre, absurd and impossible. After all, what sort of screwed up industry creates a structure that generates musicians hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties, but denies them a way to collect them?
The fact is: every single time a song is streamed, downloaded or publicly performed (i.e. TV, AM/FM radio, a retail store, venue, etc.) the songwriter is—by law— required to be paid. The money is being generated, it exists, it’s being accounted for in business plans, it’s going somewhere, but just not to the people who earned it. Until TuneCore built and launched this thing , there was no pipeline for the masses to get their money.
Look at the TuneCore Artist community. Over the past few years, TuneCore artists globally sold over 600 million copies of their recordings, and, in so doing, earned over 300 million dollars. As these artists also wrote the songs that were sold, they earned another 60+ million dollars in songwriter royalties, but did not get this money! There was no un-gated scalable mechanism to do it. The only option that existed was the old school model: the artist/songwriter would have to bang on the doors of the traditional industry in the hope that the gatekeeper would pick them from the millions and millions of songwriters to get “signed” to a global publishing deal that would get them some small percent of their money.
And if by some crazy twist of fate they did get a music publisher to respond to them, they would get a 30 page form agreement loaded with more twists, hooks and hidden surprises than the plot to Lost.
So the world’s songwriter money just sits in different countries around the world remaining undistributed until it is eventually given away to other people, or, worse, used by music services without the proper licenses.
Think of it this way. You can’t have Peter living in Berlin, Germany tell a music service that he represents Joe Smith from Boise, ID when he is not in a deal with Joe Smith. And you absolutely can’t have the music service pay Peter on behalf of Joe, have Peter take a piece of Joe’s money, and then give the rest away to other people. But that’s more or less what was happening, until fate introduced me to Jamie Purpora, then SVP of Bug Music Publishing Administration—the world’s largest independent music publishing company.
Jamie’s job at Bug was to set up the pipelines to go and get the money from around the world for over 300,000 songs Bug represented; songs from Johnny Cash, Kings Of Leon, Willy Dixon, and lots more.
And Jamie schooled me big time. My God, the secrets that man knows about this side of the industry are astounding. The nooks, crannies and crevices this industry uses to filter, hide, confuse and obfuscate were created by an evil genius. In 2010, there was over $11 billion dollars funneling through this antiquated, outdated, opaque songwriter pipeline with only a handful of the world’s population understanding why and how it works.
I asked Jamie to come work for TuneCore. And after 17 years of working at Bug Music, he left to change the world for songwriters.
No more gatekeepers, no more hooks, no more secrets or hidden surprises that were known to only the “elite” few who knew how to enter and navigate the labyrinth. All could now come in and get their money more quickly and with more transparency than has ever existed before.
The results to date over the last five months:
We are now working for over 3,500 songwriters that have written over 60,000 songs.
From these first 3,500 songwriters, we have identified $1 million dollars in songwriter publishing royalties these songwrtiters have earned, but did not receive— we are putting that money into their hands.
From October – December, 2011 we collected and administered back over $3,500 in songwriter royalties.
From January – March, 2012, we collected and administered back an additional $27,000 in songwriter royalties.
From March – May, 2012 we will collect and administer back another $75,000.
I asked Jamie why and how he did this. Below is his answer:
For 17 years at Bug Music I administered over 300,000 copyrights and paid 3,000 clients every quarter (resulting in 500,000 sheets of paper and 12,000 checks per year). Because the agreements, schedules and outgoing royalties were all printed on paper it required a large staff and made it a huge task to manage on a day-to-day (or quarter-to-quarter) basis.
THE MAGIC OF MASTERING: AN INTERVIEW WITH GRAMMY-WINNING ENGINEER EVREN GOKNAR - MAY 20 /2012
For a guy who still has a long career ahead of him, Evren Göknar has built up an impressive resume.
He’s engineered sessions for artists as diverse as Tupac Shakur, Mavis Staples, Carole King, Steve Vai, and The Cult.
As a mastering engineer, he’s worked with such notable acts as Lenny Kravitz, KISS, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Good Charlotte, Mariah Carey, Iggy Pop, Heart, NWA, and the Georges Thorogood and Clinton.
In 2011, Evren was awarded a Grammy for mixing and mastering the “Gathering of Nations” album (Best Native American Music Album).
Audio mastering, the post-production process that converts a finished mix into its final deliverable form (CD, vinyl, MP3, etc.), is perhaps the most behind-the-scenes and mysterious (to us musicians) part of making a record. It involves the application of additional equalization, compression, limiting, leveling, fading, and noise reduction, and it requires an audio engineer with ears of gold to give each mix just the right processing treatment– not too much, not too little.
Evren Göknar was kind enough to answer some questions about how he works with musicians during the mastering process.
Q: How did you get into mastering?
A: I have always been a musician, which is at the heart of great engineering. I had been working as a recording engineer for about 5 years, and had attended two mastering sessions, one with Bernie Grundman for the Carole King album “Colour Of Your Dreams” (which I engineered on), the other was at a place called Pro Sonus Mastering. These sessions were compelling to me because the mastering engineers were able to handle mix issues or otherwise enhance the mixes, and help the artist and/or producer achieve a higher level of quality and fidelity in the final product.
I had also read an article in one of the trades about an engineer transitioning from recording to mastering. He expounded on similarities and differences in the vocations, and how he applied skills from recording and mixing to mastering. The third ‘ah – ha’ was when a colleague of mine began working post production. He mentioned that his projects were generally contained to a reasonable work week.
All of these things appealed to me and I began sending my resume and making calls to local mastering houses. The manager at Capitol Mastering Studios accepted my resume and called me in for an interview, which initiated the process of me being hired in the mastering department. Once there I was able to transition and apply my recording skills to mastering.
Q: What do you think makes a really good mastering engineer?
A: The fundamentals of equalization, compression, limiting and signal path are important. However, listening and noticing are the single most valuable assets that a mastering engineer must possess or develop. Both with the music, and with the client (producer, engineer, label or artist). You must be able to quickly understand musical genres, and what the fans of that genre expect to hear.
Finally, you must be able to deliver a product that satisfies or impresses the client. Meticulous attention to detail and keen musical sensibilities are paramount. A great mastering engineer must be a musician, and also understand and appreciate technical details (such as circuit design, signal paths and listening environments).
A client of mine recently said it best, “I like working with you because you have good taste in music, you pick out mix concerns early, you listen and are willing to try different approaches.”
These soft skills are the fundamentals of establishing a career in mastering.
Q: What are the biggest challenges a band faces now when they’re considering mastering their album in an age where their fans may be listening on vinyl, CD, MP3, or streaming?
A: They need a mix engineer who will not over peak limit their mixes. This way the mastering engineer can create both louder / punchier masters and also dynamic ones for the formats they desire.
They also need a mastering engineer who will address mastering their song or album for each format. Since Compact Discs have less volume and frequency limitations than vinyl the audio can be mastered louder and with greater frequency extension if so desired. A vinyl master should be more dynamic and lower in level than the CD master of the same album. This suits the sonic charm of that playback medium much better than a peak limited source file that must be turned down to create the lacquer master.
Compressed file formats such as .mp3s are usually created from the CD Master, or even better, from the high resolution files that a mastering engineer can create. This is important to pay attention to since most consumers will listen from an .mp3 or other lossy compressed file format such as AAC. How (which codec and bit rate) .mp3s or AAC files are created remains critical to the final result and some experimentation can prove beneficial. For example, I’ve been preparing some iTunes submissions for albums I’ve mastered for Apple’s “Mastered For iTunes” initiative. Their new iTunes Plus codec is impressive sounding, and raises the standard of fidelity heard on iTunes.
Q: What is the ideal session like? How should someone present files or tapes to you?
A: The ideal session starts with mixes that are well-balanced instrumentation-wise, and image-wise, and frequency-wise; genre appropriate, and not too slammed. Also, they are mixes that everyone involved with the project has approved. Then, some concept of what is expected from the final mastered album is a nice bonus. I prefer a 24 Bit file at a sampling frequency of 44.1 kHz or higher. Also, referred sessions, or sessions for repeat clients are more relaxed because those people already understand what your contribution will be, and why it is valuable. A first time client can potentially transfer some of their trepidation to the session.
Q: Do you prefer artists and producers to be closely involved in the mastering process? Or would you rather not have someone looking over your shoulder? Why?
A: Overall I prefer involvement because I enjoy meeting people and that is a big part of increasing the growth of my business. Close involvement can validate what I’m doing, and can impress discerning ears. Also, it can streamline the expectations for the album, and alleviate ‘stabbing in the dark’ for a sound.
If there are a lot of questions about what I’m doing, I normally explain that if I disclose too much about my process that I’ll need to kill them (joke). Usually they understand that they are there to benefit from my expertise, so most clients are astute enough not to hinder that. If there are time constraints, sharp deadlines, or I’m extremely busy with many albums, I prefer to work alone as it helps with time management.
Q: Without naming names, what is an example of a nightmare mastering session?
A: A nightmare session would be if the project is un-masterable due to mix issues, or if someone is obsessed about artifacts in their mix that naturally come forward in mastering. It’s also troublesome if the client is nervous about the process or the cost. I am able to nip many of these situations in the bud these days, even to the point of explaining that I shouldn’t master a project. I’ve had to ‘fire’ clients simply because I realize it is not a good fit, and we will mutually benefit, and the project will benefit by seeking other options.
Q: How do you feel about the fact that digital downloads are disconnected from production credits?
A: Hopefully production credits embedded in meta data will become more standardized in the future so that people’s playback software or mobile devices are able to access it on demand. That is a concern since credits are how a career in mastering, engineering or production is established. Ideally, the artist’s website or wikipedia will have complete credits so that the information can be accessed elsewhere if not directly from the file.
5 TIPS TO FILLING AN OUT-OF TOWN MUSIC CLUB WITH FANS - BY CHRIS ROBLEY - MAY 19 / 2012
Many musicians who draw decent hometown crowds feel a little bit stuck when it comes to touring; they don’t know how to make that leap into a wider world where,… well,… no one’s heard of their band.
Here are 5 tips to help you bring a crowd to your next out-of-town show:
[Note: These same tips can help you build a following in your own town if you're new to performing, or returning after a long hiatus.]
1. Forge relationships with bands in other cities- Opening for established acts in other towns is the best way to build your out-of-town draw. Befriend them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Repost their content. Once you’ve become chummy (and I don’t mean the ground up bait-fish, although some people might feel that way about networking) with other bands, it’s time to write them and see if you can swap gigs; you open for them in their town– they open for you in your town. For more information on gig-swapping, see our article “Touring: Friends, Favors, and Fun.”
2. Look for the smaller, quality venues- Bands that can consistently draw 300 people in their hometown are lucky if they can draw 30 people in a different market. You may be a hometown hero, but check your ego at the city limits. While you’re not entitled to play at the best club in every town, you shouldn’t have to play the crap-dive with the busted 80′s Peavy PA either. Most bigger music towns have small, intimate clubs that host quality music and treat bands professionally. Try to book yourself in those clubs. An added bonus to smaller rooms is that when you DO bring out 30-50 people, the room looks PACKED! And a tiny club that is sold out will seem way cooler than a deserted mid-sizer. For more info on this approach, check out our article “Touring Tip: How to Book Your Band So You’ll Sell Out Every Show.”
3. Advertise your show on Facebook- Facebook ads are cheap and effective if done correctly. Target these ads for people who live in or near the zip codes for the clubs you want to play, AND limit them to people who are interested in your genre of music. Depending on your approach, you can use these ads to simply get your band name out there and garner Facebook “likes,” or you can specifically advertise your events. For more information on Facebook ads, check out our article “How to Promote Your Music with Facebook Ads.” (Note: some details may’ve changed since Facebook Band Pages were updated to Timeline, but the principles still apply.)
4. Be active on blogs and forums that focus on your target market- Yes, I just said “target market,” and my copy of Radiohead’s Meeting People is Easy just self-destructed. But seriously, whether your target is professional contacts in a town (bookers, promoters, bands, etc.) or the music fans in that town who you hope will attend your show, locally-based music forums and blogs are a great way to get a conversation started. As with all things, don’t be pushy or spammy!
5. Don’t forget the usual promo stuff- We focus so much of our efforts on social media these days that it’s easy to forget the basics. Remember to send a press release about your tour-stop to the local newspapers, weeklies, and radio stations at least 6 weeks before your appearance. Offer an interview, concert tickets for giveaways, and anything else you think will help spread the promo love. Send posters to the venue and local record stores well in advance. Inquire about in-store and in-studio performance opportunities at record stores, radio stations, and on local TV news shows. Also, call everyone you know in that city and beg them to come out to your show; bribe them with promises of magic beyond their wildest imagining; let them know tardiness and absenteeism will be rewarded with dire consequences. For more information on approaching local radio stations and podcasts, check out our guide “Getting Radio Airplay.”
5 DIY TIPS FOR DRIVING TRAFFIC TO YOUR WEBSITE - BY CHRIS BOLTON - MAY 12 / 2012
You’ve just launched a beautiful, functional, sharable website and the first question you ask yourself is: “Now how am I going to get people to visit it?”
Once this question has been asked, it never stops being asked. Marketers all around the globe are all constantly asking themselves: “How can we get more eyeballs on our website? What will drive more traffic?” Well, the short answer is easy: Create something valuable and interesting, put it on your site–then tell people about it. The hard part is figuring out what is interesting to your audience and how to persuade them to check it out.
Here are 5 simple tips to get you started:
1. Post Content Regularly
Not everything on your site will appeal to everybody. Sometimes your content will flop. Heck, it might flop most of the time. But getting traffic to your site is all about “failing until you succeed.” The only way to do this is by posting content consistently. It doesn’t even need to be your own content! It just needs to be consistent. Post something on your blog every week. That blog post could be a song, a poem, a picture, a video–anything. Announce the content on your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc). Don’t be disheartened if it doesn’t send traffic the first time. Keep at it.
When something does resonate, pay attention. How do you know it worked? People will leave comments and share your content with friends. When this happens, it’s important to figure out what resonated with your audience so you can do it again. Adjust your strategy accordingly. This is a surefire method towards increased traffic.
2. Encourage Your Audience to Share and Participate
You need to tell your audience what to do. Teach them how to interact with your website. You need to be clear. Ask your audience a question in every blog post and encourage them to answer in the comments section. Show your audience where your share buttons are. Ask them to share your content on their social networks. Sometimes people just need a nudge.
3. Get Involved in Online Communities
Find communities online that share your interests and tastes. Google Blog search is a good place to start. Are you a folk musician? Search for “folk music blogs.” Are you a hip-hop artist? Search for “hip-hop blogs.” Seek out good blogs and then follow the writers on Facebook and Twitter. Join the email lists and subscribe to newsletters.
Once you have joined a community, first listen and learn, then ask questions and participate. Don’t try to drive traffic to your site right away. It will come naturally as you get more involved. Promoting yourself too quickly can turn people
4. Promote Your Site in the Real World
Believe it or not, we don’t all live and breathe online. Make sure that you promote your website in the real world. All your promotional materials should be printed with your web address. Make sure to mention your site at live events. Pass out business cards or hand bills with your web address. Also use incentives: “Visit my website this weekend and download a free copy of my latest…”
5. Get Links to Your Site
The more that people link to you, the better your website will rank in search engines. Think of “link building” as “relationship building.” As you build relationships with bloggers, fans, reporters, and like-minded artists, don’t be afraid to trade links. Give something and you will probably get something. Here are a few link-building ideas, but there are many more out there:
- Offer to do a guest post on another site that contains a link back to your own website.
- Give a blogger’s audience a 30% discount on your new album or eBook as a limited-time promotion
- Do a Facebook trade where you promote someone’s site, and in exchange, they promote yours.
- Offer a video contest and then post all the videos on your website. Contestants will undoubtedly share and link to that page.
- Weigh in on forums and in blog comments and link back to your own site when the conversation is relevant
Do you have any tips for driving traffic to your website? Tell us your ideas in the comments below.
MUSIC VS SOCIAL NETWORKING BY BOB LEFSETZ - May 1 / 2012
If you make a great record you don't have to tweet, you don't have to be on Facebook, you don't even need a website.
Over the course of the last decade the debate has flipped. From cranky oldsters complaining that they don't want to do it the new way to wet behind the ears newbies who are computer literate but are second or third rate musicians.
We can smell the hype. We know when you're working it.
Your fans don't come first, they come second. You're first.
If you don't want to respond to e-mail, that's fine.
If you don't want to stand by the merch table at the end of the show, that's perfectly o.k.
You don't have to explain the lyrics or blog.
You just have to make great music.
But that's the hardest thing of all to do.
Let's put it this way. Dane Cook became successful by spending all day on MySpace, interacting with people. But I've yet to find a single person who thinks he's funny. Try listening to his routines. They're like your high school buddy who's funny over french fries trying to play to everybody, it makes you wince.
There's a huge gap between amateur and pro.
Do you have to tweet to hit .300?
Do you have to be on Facebook to post a triple double?
Do you have to be nice to everybody in the stadium to throw a touchdown pass?
OF COURSE NOT!
Everything's upside down.
One thing Dick Clark had right, about the most people can say about music is it had a good beat and I could dance to it. We know when something impacts us, when we believe it's great. And when we find something this good, we want to get closer, we want to tell everybody we know. Come on, do you want to screw movie stars because they called you at home or because they're beautiful and in great flicks?
Social network if you must.
But it's no substitute for incredible music. At all.
RECIPE FOR SUCCESS BY BOB LEFSETZ - April 9 / 2012
You need neither talent nor skill to succeed in today's music business. If you look good enough, we can fix your voice in the studio. And we can get others to write your songs. But the more weapons in your arsenal, not only the longer your career, the greater your options.
Learn how to read music and play one instrument, if not more.
Recording comes before playing live because you don't need an audience to do it. Whether done alone on a Mac or an iPad or with your group in a studio, getting your music down "on tape" allows you and others to critique it. It's a static document from which you can learn. It's kind of like videotape in sports.
You should not see recording as a one time thing, but as an ongoing activity. To not only learn about your music, but to make you comfortable with the process.
3. DECIDE ON THE MUSIC YOU WANT TO MAKE
Do this after you start recording, after you woodshed.
There are two options. Making the music you want to make and making music that you think you can sell. They oftentimes are not the same.
4. DECIDE WHO YOU WANT TO SELL THIS MUSIC TO
If you're looking for a major label deal, you must make the kind of music labels sell. And you must know that record companies are first and foremost businesses, they are not museums. If you don't think you can make a record company a lot of money instantly, don't bother knocking on the door. Labels don't want to hear about artist development, they want instant profits, no matter what they say. Don't try to sell quantum physics to a baby. Don't try to sell work boots to a runway model. Know who your audience is.
4.A. IF YOU'RE SELLING TO A LABEL...
Make it easy for them, don't make them connect the dots. Your demo must be slick, ready to be on the radio in its present form. Sure, they might re-record or remix it, but don't count on a label to have vision.
Visual materials help. And so does an audience. But be professional. Your goal is to make the label salivate, desirous of being in business with you.
5. IF YOU'RE NOT SELLING YOUR MUSIC TO A LABEL...
And you shouldn't be doing this if you're not making Top Forty music. Oh, you can sign with an indie, but know you'll probably have trouble getting paid.
Indies are poorly capitalized. They don't have the relationships of majors. They promise a lot and deliver little.
Of course there are exceptions, but discover if the label you're interested in truly is one or you just need to make a deal to feel good about yourself, to impress your mother.
We're living in the era of control. Give up just a teensy-weensy bit of it and you might never gain success. The suits never see it your way. If you think they do, you are one or have never been in business with one.
5.A. YOU MUST BUILD AN AUDIENCE
This is where the games truly begin. Unless you're a famous actress or sleeping with the producer du jour, no one in the business wants to pay attention to you unless you've got an audience.
And the new metrics no longer count.
MySpace could be gamed and so can YouTube and Facebook. High online numbers never hurt, but no one with the money to invest in you is going to believe them on their surface. They want to show up at a gig and see it packed. In multiple cities. They want to know you've done the work.
And you might ask yourself if I'm doing all the work, what do I need them for?
And that's a very good question.
5.B. BUILDING THAT AUDIENCE
It all comes down to the music. Doesn't matter what you look like or who you know, here's where the rubber meets the road. Music is something you hear, yours has to be really damn good to connect, exceptional. It has to be so good, that if someone listens to it they want to tell everybody they know about it. Click on the random tracks in your own library, do you want to sell this stuff to everybody? Now you're getting the idea.
The more people playing, the harder it is to win.Good is not good enough.You've got to be great.
5.C. ASSUMING YOUR MUSIC IS GOOD ENOUGH
You must make it available. It's got to be buyable, streamable and listenable for free. You've got to make it easy. Don't make the mistake of thinking about money up front. Money comes last in music, especially in today's world. You don't want to sacrifice millions to make $10,000. Are you in it to be a world-beater? Then you must work for free for eons. Every dollar you do make must be reinvested. If you're not thinking big in music, you won't be.
5.D. PLAYING LIVE
You've got to. Because the days of huge recording sales are done, live is where the money is. Play anywhere and everywhere people will have you. If you're good, the audience will spread the word.
Must be available at every gig. It's a souvenir. People want to invest in you. Have everything from posters to vinyl to CDs. You're selling badges of identity.
If you've got none, and you're questioning whether to give up, do so.
Traction is an indicator of whether you're on the right track. You've got to gain a foothold and increase your audience. And you can't do this artificially. Only you know if you're going forward. If you're delusional and want to continue with no traction, that's your choice.
7. BE A LIFER
There's no cashing out in music. It isn't like Instagram selling to Facebook. If you're not planning to play forever, stop now. Because it's probably gonna take forever for people to learn who you are and embrace you. With the cacophony of information today it's harder than ever to get noticed. Sticking around counts for a lot. The longer you're in the game, the better the chance you might get lucky.
Works less than ever before. Works on a train-wreck level, like with Rebecca Black, but if you're the beneficiary of this kind of exposure, milk it for as much as you can right away, because it ain't gonna last.
The audience is sophisticated, it knows hype, and it ignores hype.
Not only does print mean almost nothing, TV isn't much better. If TV counted, all those contestants on "American Idol" and "The Voice" would be winners, but almost none of them are.
If you get a placement, enjoy it, just don't try and convince yourself you've made it.
YOU CAN MAKE IT!
But you can win the lottery too.
But the lottery requires no skill. Music requires a ton of skill as well as luck.
Keep practicing, keep innovating, keep learning, keep changing.
And know that the odds of you being successful are infinitesimal.
Because being successful is not solely about being talented and believing in yourself, but perseverance and personality. Can you play, write and sing like Elton or Gaga and still make friends with everybody you meet, so they'll want to work for you?
So much of success is psychological and personal. Are you a winner? Do you have charisma? Do people want to hang on your every word? Do girls want to sleep with you and guys want to confess to you and vice versa? If you or someone in your band doesn't have this magic amalgam of personality, chances are you're not gonna make it.
Steve Jobs inspired belief. We can deconstruct his personality flaws all day long, but he got people to work extremely hard for him. Can you inspire people to work just this hard for you?
Five Myths about Achieving Success as a Songwriter
April 2 / 2012 - By Cliff Goldmacher
1. Industry people are open to homemade, rough recordings. I get it. A song is made up of a melody and lyric and as long as you can hear those, any reasonable person ought to be able to tell whether a song is good or not, right? Well, not really. The reality is that a&r reps and publishers spend their entire day listening to music and a lot of it is beautifully recorded. Whether it’s fair or not, your homemade recording is being held up to that level of quality. The analogy I tend to use is one where you go on a blind date and, while you may be a terrific person, you don’t bother to shower. My guess is that your personality is not going to be the first thing your date will notice about you. Finally, given that you’ve only got one chance to make a first impression, a professional recording of your song (even if it’s a simple guitar or piano and vocal) will go a long way towards marking you as someone who is serious about his or her craft.
2. You’ll get “discovered” at a music conference. Music conferences provide many valuable functions, including opportunities for learning, connecting with your peers and, yes, networking with music industry professionals. Conferences are a great way to begin your relationships with the decision-makers in attendance. I say “begin” your relationships because conferences are, at best, only a couple of days and, last time I checked, no deep and lasting friendships or working relationships are ever fully realized in two days. If we’re honest with ourselves, our secret dream at a music conference is that someone will hear one of our songs and either immediately put it in a movie or bring it to their artist to record. This mindset not only places too much pressure on your interactions at these conferences but also tends to make it uncomfortable for the industry folks who are there because they end up getting mobbed or interrupted at inappropriate moments. If you look at these conferences as an opportunity to learn and begin to develop relationships with people in the industry, you’ll have a much better time and get a lot more out of them.
3. A publishing deal is the answer to your prayers. Being a songwriter is lonely work, which explains why we tend to crave industry recognition and approval of our material. While it’s always nice to have people in the industry appreciate what you do, it’s even better to know that you’re doing quality work and not to give away your publishing just because someone in the industry tells you they like your songs. A publishing deal is a business arrangement where you’ll be giving up part ownership in your songs (sometimes more than part and sometimes forever), so you should be very sure you know what you’ll be getting in return. There are a lot of functions that publishers perform that we, as songwriters, can take care of ourselves — not the least of which is pitching our own material. While it’s nice to have a publisher with industry relationships shopping your material, sometimes it’s better to develop those relationships yourself over time and keep ownership of your songs. Publishers provide a very valuable function in the music industry but don’t assume that having a publisher is the only way to succeed.
4. Anything of lasting value happens quickly. Being a songwriter is a game of patience and perseverance. For that first cut or movie placement, you’ll have most likely spent hundreds if not thousands of hours working on your craft. We all want success to come quickly but often, success as a songwriter is the result of reaching a critical mass of songs, pitches and networking. The key to success is sticking around, doing your work and not getting discouraged by the disappointments you’ll undoubtedly encounter along the way. Since financial success comes slowly, it’s even more important that you enjoy your day-to-day work as a songwriter, since that’s what will sustain you on your road to eventual success.
5. It’s impossible to have success as a songwriter. While the road to success as a songwriter is an unpredictable one, it’s by no means a dead end. There are things that you can — and should — be doing every day to improve your odds and to give yourself more than a fighting chance of earning income from your songs. However, the fundamentals of this approach are similar across any business and not just music. By being methodical, focused and willing to do the unromantic work that any business requires as well as the fun, exciting musical work, you’ll be amazed at just how attainable success can be.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter including his 14-part video podcast series. Cliff’s company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.
THE ADDITIONAL 10.5% SPOTIFY ROYALTY YOU ARE NOT GETTING (And it’s not really their fault) - April 1/2012
By Jeff Price At Tunecor
As the debate goes on about if streaming services are paying out enough royalties to artists, there is one thing that is not debatable: in the United States, artists and songwriters/publishers are not getting the entire amount, or any, of the additional 10.5% royalty owed to them from “interactive” streaming services like Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker, MOG, Rdio, etc. (and the music services aren’t really to blame).
The Public Performance Royalty For Streams
In regards to the Public Performance royalty for each stream, there is no government compulsory law or statutory rate. The royalty rate is negotiated directly between the music service and the entity that represents the songwriter’s right of Public Performance—this could be the songwriter himself, but, in the U.S., it is usually one of the three performing rights organizations: BMI, ASCAP or SESAC.
What’s most interesting about the streaming mechanical royalty formula is that there is a limit to what the Public Performance royalty can be.
For example, if the public performance royalty for streams is 10.5%, it would make the mechanical royalty 0%.
Here is the math:
Or, if the public performance royalty for streams is 0%, this would make the mechanical royalty 10.5%
Here is the math:
In other words, from what I can tell, there is no way the total amount a songwriter gets paid for a stream from these two rights in the U.S. can ever be more than 10.5% of the music service’s gross revenue. In order for it to exceed 10.5%, the digital music service would have to agree to pay out more than required by law (the other option is for songwriters/music publishers to be paid nothing for streaming mechanical royalties—this also is not going to happen).
Therefore, by default, no matter what the public performance royalty is, the total amount of royalties earned by the songwriter/publisher for a stream of his/her song in the U.S. via an “interactive” service like Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker, MOG, etc. is 10.5% of the music store’s gross revenue minus the cost of the royalty paid for public performance with the pot of money left over pro-rated out.
So the next question is: why aren’t songwriters are getting some, or any, of their money? This is explained in how these royalties are paid out.
How The Streaming Mechanical Royalties Are Paid Out
Unlike mechanical royalties from DOWNLOADS where the music service pays the mechanical royalties to the label and the label pays the songwriter/music publisher (see diagram below), the law states that streaming mechanical royalties must be paid DIRECLTY to the songwriter/publisher (see 2nd diagram below).
However, the streaming music services have a problem, they do not know who all the songwriters are, and therefore have no way to get the licenses and pay them their royalties. The law anticipated this and allows them to file something called a “Notice of Intent,” which basically means they are making (or have made) some effort to find the songwriter/publisher and get the license and pay the royalties. This then means songwriters /publishers cannot claim copyright infringement.
For the most part, songwriters/publishers are not getting their streaming mechanical royalties, because the two entities—the store and the songwriter/publisher—have not connected. (Songwriters/publishers can do this on their own by tracking down each streaming interactive service directly and demanding payment. This is also one of a myriad of services the TuneCore Songwriter Service provides.)
For those songwriters/publishers who are getting their streaming mechanical royalties paid to them directly, around 6% -7% of their 10.5% songwriter royalty is being split off and diverted to the U.S. performing rights organizations: BMI, ASCAP or SESAC. These organizations then take a % of the songwriter/publisher’s royalty, before passing whatever is left back to the rightful songwriter/publisher three to six months (or longer) later.
See the diagram below that shows how this happens:
Performing Rights Organizations Getting In The Middle When They Do Not Need To Be.
Now as I look at this above diagram, I’m thinking: ‘The music store is already paying the songwriter/publisher the money, so why the heck is some portion of the songwriter’s 10.5% royalty going to ASCAP, BMI or SESAC? All this does is let them take a piece of it and then hand the rest back to the songwriter months later.’
In defense of ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC, the reasons behind this come from the traditional industry where the intent was to help, not hurt, the songwriter. That is, 99% of the time, when BMI/ASCAP negotiate royalty rates, they are not really fenced in regarding what rates they can negotiate as they are around interactive streaming public performance royalties.
In addition, for those songwriters who are in “publishing deals” (as an example, songwriters who assigned ownership of a portion (or all) of their songwriter copyrights to another entity), ASCAP, BMI and SESAC will split the money they get from the music service in half and mail a check to the songwriter directly for 50% of the money and one to the publisher for the other 50%. This way, no matter if the songwriter owed money back to the publisher (or if the publisher is evil and does not account accurately to the songwriter), the songwriter still gets some piece of his/her streaming digital public performance.
Here’s a diagram illustrating this situation:
However, that’s the old industry. TuneCore’s customers have sold over 500 million units of music in the past three years and over 99% of them are not in deals where they’ve assigned ownership of their songwriter copyrights to another entity. For these artists—the new emerging music industry—ASCAP, BMI and SESAC provide no value. Instead, it takes longer to get less money.
In other words, isn’t this the way it should be:
I’m certain I’m not the first person to realize this.
My question to ASCAP, BMI and SESAC is this: if you truly exist for the benefit of the songwriter, why haven’t you created an option that allows the songwriter/publisher that controls all of their rights to get all their money directly from the streaming interactive digital service? By sticking yourself in the middle it causes the songwriter/publisher to have to wait longer to get less money.
As a solution, just have an on-line form where both the songwriter and publisher can click a button that says “For this song, I do not want BMI/ASCAP collecting and taking a piece of my songwriter royalty from interactive streaming public performances” (or you could tell the music service that your rate for that particular song is 0% so all 10.5% flows through to the songwriter/publisher).
Once that button is clicked, you will have helped the songwriter get more money, more quickly—the very reason you exist.
Perhaps I am missing some reason as to why this is not already happening, but I have not been able to find it.
And if I’m right, and ASCAP/BMI are truly in existence to get songwriters back as much money as possible as quickly as possible, then they should be leading the charge for this change; it should not come from a blog post written by me.
MUSIC INDUSTRY SURVIVAL MANUAL - By Tunecore March 15 2012
Please click the link below to see the "Music Industry Survival Manual" by Tunecore.
Doobie Brothers Longtime Drummer Mike Hossack Passed Away - March 13/2012
I grew up and am still growing up listening to the sounds of Mike Hossack and the rest of the Doobie Brothers. Thanks for being there in the good times and helping me through the rough times. You will always live on in our memories and in the classic sounds of the Doobies. Their music and Mike's contributions are a big part of my life going back to my high school days and even now and forever. Pat, John, Tom and all The Doobies have lost a big brother. Thanks Mike for sharing your talent with us.
Rest in Peace with the Lord.
Please read the whole note by clicking the link below.
Six Things To Do When Your Song Is Finished
Knowing when a song is finished is an entire article in and of itself, so I’m going to predicate these comments on the understanding that your song is, indeed, done. While having a finished song is its own victory, there’s more work to do if you’re hoping to keep your records straight, stay organized and possibly generate income with your song. By treating your songwriting like the profit-making business you’re hoping it will become, you’ll be in a position to capitalize on your opportunities as they arise.
1. Finalize Your Lyric Sheet. An accurate lyric sheet is a great place to start once your song is done. Use this lyric sheet to capture all the pertinent information about your new song. At the bottom of the page, write out the D.O.C. (date of creation), the name of the writer (or writers in the case of a co-write) and all pertinent publishing information, including the PRO (performing rights organization). This way, when it comes time to provide the necessary information to the record label or music supervisor, it’s all in one place. For example, the bottom of my lyric sheets looks like this:
©3.1.12 Cliff Goldmacher, Famous In France Music (BMI)
Next, if/when you provide this lyric sheet to a demo vocalist, make sure that every word of the song is written out. Avoid shortcuts like writing “repeat chorus.” By writing out every word exactly in the order it’s sung, you’re making the job of the vocalist that much easier. And, to that end, I’d also recommend indenting your choruses so that they’re easily distinguishable from your verses and bridge. Finally, there’s no need to double space your lyric and it should all fit on one page. This makes it easier for the eventual demo vocalist to read it on the music stand among other reasons. If you’re over one page, you can fudge a little by combining lines or using a smaller font but if you really can’t fit your entire lyric on one page, you might seriously consider editing your lyric.
2. Create The Definitive Rough Recording. Now that your song is done, you’re going to need a quick and easy recording that captures its melody, lyric and chord changes. As I’ve mentioned in my workshops, there is no Grammy for best rough recording, so a simple guitar or piano and vocal recorded directly into your smartphone or laptop is perfectly acceptable. This recording is useful for a couple of reasons. First, quite simply, it will prevent you from forgetting how your song goes. This may sound far-fetched for those of you who’ve only written a few songs, but as you begin to write more often and start to build your catalog, you’d be amazed at how quickly these little buggers can erase themselves from your memory. Secondly, this recording will serve as the reference for the demo vocalist and session musicians should you choose to bring your song to the next level.
3. Schedule A Demo. Speaking of bringing your song to the next level, it’s time to decide if this song is worth a further investment of your time and financial resources. If we’re honest with ourselves as songwriters, we have to admit that not every song we write is demo-worthy. However, if you believe that this particular song is genuinely ready for prime time, then you have to create a professional demo of the song so that you can present it to the music industry at large and be taken seriously. This is not the time to hope that music business professionals will be able to “hear through” your rough recording. Instead, I’d recommend investing the money on a professional studio recording using a trained demo singer and at least one session musician. If you’re prepared to spend the necessary time and effort learning to sing, play and record your own songs at the highest level, then by all means do this yourself. But, given the number of hours in the day, if you have to choose, I’d consider spending your time working on your songwriting and pitching your songs and leaving the recording to the folks that do it all day, every day.
4. Catalog Your Mixes. Once you’re the proud owner of a great-sounding, professionally recorded demo of your song, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got easy access to it. This way, when an opportunity presents itself, you’ll know exactly where to go and what to look for. I can’t think of anything more depressing than an artist, label or publisher asking for a copy of your song and you not being able to find it. To that end, I’d ask the demo studio for high-resolution wave file mixes of your demo with and without vocals (instrumental versions of your songs are always great to have). Then, I’d learn how to use iTunes to not only convert your .wav files to mp3 for easier emailing but also to embed the necessary metadata (song title, contact info, etc.) directly into the mp3. This can be a bit daunting at first, but remember, if you’re hoping to make money from your songwriting, then you’re running a business and knowing how to prepare your product is all part of it.
5. Create A Backup. Now that you’ve got your songs and all the accompanying information properly labeled and stored, it’s time to set up a reliable backup system. It’s essential to remember that it’s not “if” but “when” your computer hard drive — with all your rough recordings, finished demos and lyric sheets — will fail. Not only do your demos represent a significant financial investment, but your songs themselves are priceless. My motto is that if it doesn’t exist in two places, it doesn’t exist. Learn how to back up your computer to a separate drive or, to coin the current phraseology, to the cloud. Under no circumstances should you go without some kind of backup. That’s simply a recipe for a catastrophic event.
6. Pitch Your Song. I know this sounds obvious but once you’ve got a finished demo of your song, you’ve got to show it to people. It’s amazing to me — and I was equally guilty of this early in my career — how few songwriters make the effort to get their songs out there. There are a variety of reasons for this. First and foremost, it’s work. At this point, you could be selling shoes as far as you’re concerned. There is nothing romantic about having a product and figuring out who’s interested in buying it. But, as I mentioned earlier, you’re running a business and so it needs to be done. Secondly, even if you are willing, it can be a bit daunting trying to figure out who’s looking for what you’ve got. There are reputable pitch sheets such as www.SongQuarters.com and www.RowFax.com that, for a fee, provide the necessary information and there are organizations like www.Taxi.com that will do the pitching for you for a fee. Finally, there’s no substitute for getting out there and meeting the decision-makers yourself by traveling to NYC, Nashville and Los Angeles, attending music conferences and going to workshops. The opportunities are out there if you’re willing to look for them.
Writing a song is a remarkable accomplishment. Don’t ever forget that. However, once that’s done, I hope the information I’ve provided will serve as a road map for what comes next.
My Album is Finished– Now What? - February 22/2012
Ten cardboard boxes arrive in the mail containing a thousand shrink-wrapped CDs. You’re feeling pretty proud. All those precious hours writing, practicing, scrimping & saving, recording…
All for NOTHING!!!
… unless, of course, you can get other folks to take an interest in your music and actually LISTEN. But how?
The DIY Musician’s Post-Recording Checklist
When your album is finished, your work is only half done; and oftentimes, that first half is the easy part.
Radio promotion, PR, booking, web maintenance, and all the other “business” elements of a music career generally don’t come naturally to artists. But if you can learn to embrace the fact that these tasks NEED to get done in order for anyone to hear your music (and chances are that no one else is going to handle all those things FOR you), then you’ll eventually find a sense of fun and accomplishment in the non-musical chores too!
So, here goes:
1) Make sure you have 3 or 4 great band/artist photos-
Promotion goes in waves, and it’ll help “keeps things fresh” to have a few options in the band photo department. Choose your favorite two pictures to post on your website and social media profiles, to include in physical press kits (though they’re usually not required), and to make available for high-resolution download on your website’s press/media page.
Then 3-6 months later when the initial buzz from your release wears off, you can update your site with the next batch of photos (perhaps from a different location, with different outfits, different vibe, etc.). The new photos could coincide with a tour, benefit, video release, or some other newsworthy event that helps remind the press and fans about your recent album.
2) Put your press kit together-
A press kit should include your band bio, notable quotes from past reviews, contact info, and most importantly– what is happening with your band RIGHT NOW that is exciting– a copy of your new album, of course! Also, it’s up to you whether you treat this like a traditional multi-item press kit or print up one-sheets (where all the relevant info is on one sheet of paper), but you’ll need to have a “press release” mindset here. Your press kit needs to convince critics and journalists to care about you. Talk about why your music is unique and amazing without overselling it or making impossibly bold statements like “the greatest thing since Radiohead.”
Here are two articles about what makes a good press kit:
Writing an Artist Press Release 101
3) Update your websites-
Got new music? New artwork? New band photos? New… news? Show dates? New bio? Make sure to update your website and all your social media profiles.
4) Submit your album to Gracenote and AMG-
Ya know how when you put a CD in your iTunes player, it recognizes the songs? That is the work of a magical musical database called Gracenote. Click here to find out how to submit your music to Gracenote.
Ever wonder how those official-looking artist bios and album reviews end up on iTunes artist/album pages? That’d be the work of All Media Guide (formerly All Music Guide). Click here to find out how to submit your music to All Media Guide.
5) Line up distribution-
Distribute your music to all the major digital retailers (iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, etc.), stock physical copies of your album (CD or vinyl) in our warehouse and handle order fulfillment/shipping to your customers, make your album available to over 2500 brick and mortar record stores worldwide, collect money for the usage of your music on YouTube, and provide you with the tools you need to sell your music (MusicStore for Facebook app, Music Store Widget, linkmakers, and more).
6) Book a CD release party-
Now that your CDs are in your hands, it’s safe to book your album release party! Work with the venue to make this a special evening for you and your fans. You probably won’t have another night like it for the next couple years, right?
7) Mail press kits to “the media”-
Once you’ve got a firm date and a supporting bill worked out for your CD release party, let the world know! Mail your press kits to the “the media,” including weeklies, newspapers, magazines, blogs, local radio, podcasts, etc. If you’re a local band who doesn’t do much touring, focus your PR efforts on your region, letting people know about your new album and your release show.
If you’re a nationally touring act, expand your campaign accordingly. (Obviously at that point you’ll be telling the press about your new album and a whole tour, rather than just a single show).
For some advice on how to approach the media, check out this interview with former Willamette Week music editor Amy McCullough from the CD Baby DIY Musician Podcast.
Launch a DIY radio promotion campaign-
Radio is STILL important, believe it or not. But you don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a commercial radio promoter. Instead, narrow your focus and send your new CD to college, community, satellite, internet radio, and podcasts.
Here’s how to launch your own DIY radio campaign.
9) Create video content-
YouTube is fast becoming the world’s most popular music-discovery website. And videos are a great way to get your music in front of new fans. Here’s some advice on how to create and promote compelling music video content that will help you sell records.
10) Coordinate your social media and email newsletter efforts-
Check out our advice on how to promote your music on Facebook, on Twitter, on your blog, and your email newsletter to engage fans and get them excited about your new album.
11) Get your name and logo out there-
Burn your logo and band name into the memories of everyone who sees them. Make posters for your show; hang them up around town. Create artwork for online promotion; share it! Repeat, repeat, repeat.
If you can make the time commitment, touring is a great way to earn new fans, make new connections and friends, garner more press and radio attention, improve your performances, and to generate content (photos, essays, videos, etc.) for your blog and social media efforts.
Start performing regionally; as your fanbase grows, so will the ground you cover.
Click here for lots of advice on how to book, prepare, and pull-off a successful DIY tour.
I hope this list helps you organize your efforts after those CDs arrive in the mail. Did I forget anything? Let me know in the comments section below.
Are You Waiting Around to Get “Discovered?” - February 15 / 2012
Don’t feed the sharks. Be a majority stakeholder in your own career!
In the “olden days,” musicians only had to worry about 10% of their careers. It was a simpler formula for success– get good, get discovered, get signed; that was about all you COULD do. A few gatekeepers controlled ALL the outlets for production, distribution, and promotion. You had to impress one of these gatekeepers and sign your life away in order to present your music to the world. Even then, you were a carefully managed product, from your style to your sound to your artwork. Sure, someone else was worrying about this stuff FOR YOU, but they held the reins tight and kept most or all of the profit.
Over the last decade, the music industry has done a complete 180. Now 90% of your career is in your hands, and you have all the tools you need to make it happen (from affordable recording and video production technology, to simple physical and digital distribution solutions, to easy social media/blog/marketing solutions).
Major labels play the safe bets.
Record labels are no longer in the business of guessing or taking chances. They only sign artists who’ve already proven they can be successful on their own. As Alan Elliott says, “A record label used to be able to look at a tree and say, ‘That would make a great table.’ Now all they can do is take a finished table and sell it at Wal-Mart.”
You have to make a great recording– play a great show– cultivate a great image. You have to come up with a plan and make it happen, too. You have to make thousands of people want your music so much they’ll pay good money for it. You have to make things happen on your own. Even if a record label puts it in the stores for you, they still rely on YOUR hard work to make people want to buy it.
The only thing stopping you from success is yourself. This is both scary and exciting, but at least you’re in control. And while you’re proving yourself and building your career, you actually get to create, produce, and distribute your own music along the way. 30 years ago, you’d have to go swimming in a pool of sharks before you were allowed to record the first note of your best song. Today’s path to musical success requires your sweat, NOT your blood.
Sell your music on Facebook, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, CD Baby, and more!
Finding Inspiration: 6 Inspiring Tips for Creative People
February 15 / 2012
Sometimes finding inspiration can be harder than finding healthy food in a Costco. Not knowing when or where your next song, essay, or poem will come from, can make completion seem like a far-off dream.
Sometimes I wonder how I’ve ever come up with anything at all. What did I do last time? How did I get through it? When I did think of something good, where did I find the time and energy to execute? After beginning a project, how did I deal with less-than-inspiring results? At times like these, I remember a quote by radio host, Ira Glass:
“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.”
Whether you’re a beginner or not, I think it’s important to recognize how much our sense of taste influences our art. It’s possibly the most important tool we have. And the frustrating thing about having good taste is struggling to produce work that meets your own standards. Ira goes on to say that having good taste does not mean that we can make great art right off the bat. In fact, to begin with, we fail and make lots of bad art. But it’s our good taste that gets us through. We keep trying. We keep failing. Eventually, we get it right.
Here are 6 techniques that should inspire you and help you build a better relationship with your own impeccable taste.
1. Beg, Borrow, and Steal
Someone once said, “Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Moments after its utterance, this phrase was borrowed and stolen. In fact, it’s been uttered by so many artists and authors that no one knows who is the original source of the quote. Talk about irony. Well, if you’re looking for inspiration, your fellow artists and creators are a great resource. But also don’t forget to listen to the art of everyday people. Observe nature. Observe children. Don’t be afraid to use what you love and are inspired by in your own work.
2. Pay Attention to What You Like
I experience great art, movies, radio, and music all the time. What I sometimes forget to investigate is why I like it. Why did I love that movie? Why did I love that turn-of-phrase my 3-year-old nephew uttered? Why did I love the way that chord progression turned minor, or the way that actress spun on her heels? Pay attention to what moves you. Write it down. Look for trends in what you are attracted to. These can be great bits of inspiration.
3. Pay Attention to What You Don’t Like
The negative can inspire you as much as the positive. What disgusts you? What makes you angry? What do you find, ugly, annoying, or amoral? Write these things down. Ask yourself why you feel this way about these things. Sometimes the answer can be expressed in a work of art.
4. Spend Some Time Alone
Set aside time to be alone; to sit down with your notebook or take a walk. Live with your thoughts. Sleep on them. Observe the world in a meditative state. Sometimes we simply need to clear the fog in order to see what has been there all along.
5. Share Your Process
Talk about what you’re working on with your friends and colleagues. We artists like to hide our works-in-progress. We don’t want anyone too see how ugly our work is in its early stages. We also relish the surprise of unveiling a finished work. But talking about your art is often the best way for you to give structure to your ideas. Talking, after all, is composition. The more you talk about your project, the more real it becomes. Some artists will have a single confidant they share their ideas with. Other artists will tell anyone with ears about what they are working on. Just remember that telling the story of your art is often a painless way to develop your ideas and quicken your process. Heck, you may even get some useful feedback and direction.
6. Let Your Ideas Breathe
I can stare at a blank sheet for hours. I can get caught up on a single sentence for hours. Sometimes I feel like something I’m working on is totally hopeless. Then I’ll go out for a sandwich and everything falls together at a traffic light on Burnside and 23rd. The creative process involves much more than your creative mind. It involves the magical, mystical recesses of your subconscious. Sometimes you need to stop forcing things and let your subconscious take the wheel.
What inspires you to create art? How do you struggle with the burden of having impeccable taste? Join the conversation in the comments below.
Copyrights 101 Video - By TuneCore 02/03/2012
Please copy the link below and paste it in the task bar to watch the video regarding Copyrights principles.
Copyright Basics: Exclusive Rights, Licensing Lingo, and More - Feb 3 / 2012
So you’ve written a new song. It may have the potential to be a hit, but one thing is certain: it makes sense to properly protect your song if you hope to profit from its recording and public performance. How do music copyrights work? What is required to have ownership of your song’s copyright? Why should you register it with the Library of Congress? What are some of the common music licenses that generate income for songwriters?
What is a copyright?
According to attorney Don Passman’s authoritative book, All You Need to Know About the Music Business, a copyright is a “limited duration monopoly.” When the founding fathers first established copyright in intellectual property, the term of that exclusive control was fourteen years. Since that time, copyright duration has been extended, to the point that today, once you properly register your song’s copyright, you and your heirs will have exclusive control of it for your own life, plus seventy more years.
While most songwriters or their publishers register each new song’s copyright with the Library of Congress (LOC), due to the way copyright law is written, a copyright actually exists the moment you fix your song in any tangible medium. So by recording it, writing out a lead sheet, or simply typing out the lyrics on a word processor and printing them, you have created a tangible copy and at that moment in time, your song is protected by copyright.
So why bother to register your new song with the Library of Congress? Because until such time as it is officially registered as a new work with the LOC, you have some, but not all of the various protections that copyright law provides.
The first and most important result of registering your song with the LOC is that a permanent and unequivocal date of copyright registration is established. Should your song be used without your consent, this date will be used by a court of law to affirm that the use or unauthorized adaptation occurred after you registered your song. Such unauthorized use is commonly referred to as an “infringement.”
Once your song has been registered, the full weight of copyright law can be used to protect your song, should it be used unlawfully. Penalties for using a copyrighted work without permission can be substantial, running anywhere between $750 and $30,000 for each infringed work. If a defendant willfully infringed, that is, he or she knew your song was protected by copyright, statutory damages can rise to $150,000 per infringed work.
One more benefit of registering your song is that if you have a valid LOC registration for your song and the court decides in your favor, the infringing party will likely have to pay your legal fees in addition to whatever statutory damages are required.
A copyright owner’s five exclusive rights
Once you have a song that you’ve registered with the LOC, you have the foundation to exploit your song to earn money. Song copyright owners enjoy the same five exclusive rights that any author of a novel, screenplay, painting, poem, or other intellectual work has. These include the right to exclusively:
1. Reproduce the work
2. Distribute the work
3. Perform the work in public
4. Allow a derivative work to be made
5. Display the work in public (applies mostly to visual media and artwork)
Anyone making unauthorized copies without a copyright owner’s permission, distributing unauthorized copies, using a sample without permission, or allowing performance of the work in public without proper payment of public performance royalties is in violation of one or more of these exclusive rights.
In practice, songwriters will often assign their song’s copyright to a music publisher in order to maximize the revenue opportunities. It then becomes the job of the publisher to develop as many licensed uses of your song as possible. Such uses may include cover versions of your song; placements in TV, film, and video games; use of your song in a commercial, greeting card, or on a compilation album. In exchange, the songwriter will normally share the revenue 50-50 with the publisher. Whenever your song is performed on radio or TV, it generates a public performance royalty that the three U.S. Performing Rights Organizations (PROs) – ASCAP, BMI, SESAC – monitor and then collect a royalty on the behalf of the songwriter and publisher. Each writer may only affiliate with one of the PROs.
Song vs. Master copyrights
Prior to 1972, the recording of your song was not protected by copyright, although the underlying musical ideas, usually represented by the lyrics and music that made up your song, were covered. At that time, Congress changed the law to extend copyright protection to sound recordings. This meant that for artists signed to one of the major record labels, the sound recordings they made in the studio usually became the property of the record label, based on the fact that in almost all cases, the label bankrolled these master recordings.
Record labels quickly realized these master rights represented a new stream of royalty income and began to exploit them. When you hear an original recording of a Motown classic such as “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye in a motion picture, Motown/Universal has granted a master license to the filmmaker, while the songwriter’s publishing company, in this case Stone Agate/EMI Music Publishing, granted a song license to use the music in the film. So in this way, a recording of a song has two copyrights simultaneously existing: one in the underlying song, a second in the master recording of that song.
For the DIY band that has released its own album, they can simply send in a copy of their finished album to the LOC and register both the songs and the master recordings to receive full protection. Then, if a filmmaker wishing to use their song were to contact the band, they would be in a position to request a license fee for both the song use AND the master use, assuming the budget allowed for such fees. In practice, the filmmaker might have a limited budget, but remember that if you own your song and your master recording, you actually hold two distinct copyrights.
In the world of music licensing, there are various types of music licenses, each of which is referred to by one of more common terms. It makes sense to learn these basic terms so that if you are speaking with a music publisher or anyone wishing to use one of your songs or master recordings you are starting from a common point. Here are four of the more common terms used in music licensing.
Mechanical License. This is the permission to use your song to record, manufacture, and distribute a new sound recording of your song. Even if you are recording your own song for a record label, under the terms of your contract, the label will need to secure a mechanical license before making the records and offering the song as a download. (Yes, downloads count as a record and as such, the publisher or songwriter must give advance permission to distribute or sell a song online.) Mechanicals, as they are frequently referred to, are audio-only licenses.
Synchronization License. Any use of your song in support of a visual medium is a synchronization (or synch, for short) license. When you hear a song used on a TV show or motion picture, a synch license was secured to pay the publisher for that use. Depending on the importance of the song in the context of the film or TV series, such licenses may generate tens of thousands of dollars shared by the publisher and writer.
Blanket License. Ever wonder if Queen earns a royalty when you hear “Bohemian Rhapsody” blaring over the sound system at your local bowling alley on Rock ‘n’ Bowl night? They do. The three PROs typically secure annual agreements with any business or venue that features music playback or performance as part of its operations. The cost for such blanket licenses varies depending on the size of the venue and typical audience size. For example, the blanket license fees paid by Madison Square Garden to use music during a NBA basketball game will be proportionally higher than your local bowling alley pays. But both types of venues help add to the songwriter and publisher’s revenue streams when a song is frequently played.
Master License. This is the license needed to use a master sound recording in any commercial setting. Record labels often control most masters performed by top artists as they invested the money to record them in the first place. However, more bands are deciding to take the totally independent route, which will often result in the band retaining the master rights for their sound recordings. When such a band gains enough notoriety to attract the interest of a TV or film music supervisor, they may be in a position to profit from granting a master license and a song license if they also wrote the song in question.
Three Good Reasons To Love Your Songs
The kind of love I’ve been talking about is not something that happens overnight. It comes from putting in the countless hours necessary to perfect your craft, incorporating others’ suggestions that make sense to you and ignoring the ones that don’t.
By Cliff Goldmacher - Feb 01/2012
In order to suffer the slings and arrows that are an inevitable part of trying to generate income from your songs, it’s a good idea to love them first. I’m talking about a very specific kind of love here. What I’m not talking about is the kind of desperate, dysfunctional love where your song is so dear to you that you’re crushed if someone doesn’t love the song as much as you do. The love I’m talking about is where, like a good parent, you’ve put all of your experience and effort into creating a solid, well-adjusted song-child and you feel confident putting it out in the world no matter what anyone else says. I realize this kind of confidence/love won’t come right away and seeking out constructive criticism from more experienced songwriters is a very useful part of your education. However, in the end, this is art you’re creating and the most important opinion is yours. Below are three good reasons why loving your songs can be a huge asset when it comes to getting your songs out there and furthering your career.
1. Maintaining Your Motivation. Writing songs is hard work and requires a great deal of willpower and dedication. In the best of circumstances, it’s a tall order to motivate yourself to create something from nothing. If you don’t feel good about your songs or you’re too easily discouraged by a less-than-glowing comment, it’s twice as hard to get up the courage to dig in. Regarding negative comments, you have to be thick-skinned. Very few non-songwriters can appreciate what it takes to write a song, so don’t let a thoughtless or uninformed comment discourage you or shake your belief. And, too, negative or mean-spirited critiques from seasoned, successful songwriters should be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, they’re only opinions and, as I mentioned above, it’s your opinion that matters most.
2. Pitching Your Songs. When it comes to the unromantic, soul-sucking work of pitching your songs for various opportunities, loving what you’re “selling” is a huge help. The more confident you are about your material, the easier it will be to get up every day and subject your songs (and yourself) to the whims of the music industry. If you only love your song when someone else loves it, that means you won’t believe in it if someone says it’s not for them. Our industry is full of success stories who were told “no” over and over again. What if they’d listened? Loving your songs gives you the courage to try again when your song is passed over for a given opportunity.
3. Confidence Is Contagious. Loving your songs and being confident in them works on many levels. As I mentioned above, if you love your songs, you’re more likely to want to keep making new ones. But, more importantly, confidence is something people can detect in a million small ways, from your body language in a pitch meeting to what words you choose when you’re submitting a song via email. In other words, if you love your songs, people will be able to tell and they’ll be more likely to love them, too. This explains, in large part, why your first cut is the hardest to get. It’s easier to believe in — love — your songs once you’ve gotten some outside affirmation. That being said, it really does begin with you loving your songs first.
Be patient. The kind of love I’ve been talking about is not something that happens overnight. It comes from putting in the countless hours necessary to perfect your craft, incorporating others’ suggestions that make sense to you and ignoring the ones that don’t. Once you’ve done all that, loving your songs, in a quietly confident way, will make your work — and your life — more fulfilling.
Cliff Goldmacher is a songwriter, producer, session musician, engineer, author and owner of recording studios in Nashville, TN and Sonoma, CA. Cliff’s site, http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com, is full of resources for the aspiring songwriter and his company, http://www.NashvilleStudioLive.com, provides songwriters outside of Nashville with virtual access to Nashville’s best session musicians and singers for their songwriting demos.
Bummer: All major music publishers are now suing Grooveshark (update) - January 26/2012
EMI, one of the largest music publishers in the world, is suing streaming music service Grooveshark over a discrepancy in royalty payments.
Grooveshark is different from other prominent streaming music services like Spotify, MOG and Rdio because it doesn’t have broad licensing agreements to play the majority of its music. It depends on its users to upload music that can be enjoyed by the community. If a user uploads a file that he or she doesn’t own and it gets a DMCA complaint, Grooveshark takes the file down.
To date, Universal Music Group, Sony Music and the Warner Music Group have filed a lawsuit against Grooveshark for allegedly pirating thousands of songs through its streaming service.
Now EMI is accusing Grooveshark of not paying any royalties since entering into a streaming music licensing agreement in 2009, according to a Reuters report. This means that all four of the major music companies are now tied up in legal disputes with Grooveshark for one reason or another — making the music startup’s future look mighty bleak.
Grooveshark estimates that it owes EMI about $150,000 in fees. EMI, however, says that the amount owed is much larger and that Grooveshark has “continued to exploit” its copyrighted music while ignoring demands for both accounting statements and payments. We’ve reached out to Grooveshark for comment and will update this post with any new information.
Gainesville, Fla.-based Grooveshark has over 30 million active monthly users who stream more than 15 billion songs per year, according to the company. In November, the company rolled out a new design of its online music player that includes a social layer.
Update: 11:00 a.m. PST
A Grooveshark spokesperson responded to our inquiries about the accusations by pointing out that EMI music publishing (not the record label) is the organization currently disputing the royalty payments. The spokesperson also clarified that EMI filed a formal complaint (not a full lawsuit) with the New York State Supreme Court. Here’s a copy of the full court document: EMI Entertainment World Inc v. Escape Media Group Inc, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 650013/2012 (PDF).
Official statement from Grooveshark below:
“We make regular payments to EMI. This is a contract dispute with the Publisher EMI (not the record label) that we expect to resolve.”
Social Marketing Essentials for Musicians: Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and YouTube - By Chris R Jan 26/2012
Musicians are often told that they need to be everywhere- all the time. But can you really be expected to manage an effective presence on every social network? Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr, Bebo, BuzzNet, Foursquare, Google, Last.fm, LinkedIn, MySpace, Mog, SumbleUpon, PureVolume, a hundred others and Habbo Hotel—Exhausted yet?
For musicians new to social networks and social music marketing, I recommend you test the waters first; get in the shallow end and wade around for a while. Forget about being everywhere. Just concentrate on the basics. For all you social media gurus out there, this article ain’t for you. But if you want a brief overview of how to effectively share your music and promote your music career online, here goes:
1. Start a blog-
Your website is your central “hub,” the place where you can create content that is pushed out to the social networks, or “house” content that is pulled in. For instance, your music videos will be uploaded to YouTube, but then you can use YouTube’s embed codes to share the videos on your blog. Conversely, you can write a blog post about your day in the recording studio and then share that on Facebook and Twitter. CD Baby’s sister company HostBaby can easily help you take your first important steps in the blogging world, and help you with anything after that too!
2. Use YouTube-
We all know and love YouTube, but did you know it’s quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular search engines? And music discovery is a big part of that. Now with CD Baby’s sync-licensing partnership with Rumblefish, we’re making sure you get paid for every time your music is used on YouTube. Check out The DIY Musician’s Complete Guide to Promoting Your Music on YouTube.
3. The facts about Facebook-
While some musicians find Facebook’s interface frustrating for the purposes of music marketing, if done right, the world’s most popular social network can be an important tool in your promotion efforts. Plus, with CD Baby’s MusicStore for Facebook, we’ve made it easy to sell, share, and stream your music right from your band’s Facebook page. Also, download CD Baby’s Complete Guide to Selling More Music with Facebook. It’s FREE!
4. The truth about Twitter-
… is that it’s great for music promotion, ONCE YOU GET USED TO IT! It takes time to figure Twitter out, though. And many people get frustrated or overwhelmed before they reach the point where it all clicks. The Musician’s Roadmap to Facebook and Twitter offers some great tips for getting started on Twitter. Also, this very blog has been known to post some friendly pointers once in a while.
5. What the heck is StumbleUpon? -
It’s like crack, only you get smarter and there’s no negative effect on your body. StumbleUpon is FUN! So if you create content that is fun to share, you could be a big hit in the StumbleUpon community. Check out our article on How to Use StumbleUpon to Get Exposure for Your Music.
For any social media beginners out there, I hope you found this basic checklist useful. Please check out those links and guides for the real nitty-gritty details on using Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, and StumbleUpon to spread the word about your music!
The 4-Letter Acronym That Could Kill The New Music Industry - By Jeff Price 01/19/2012
As some of you may already know, there are two bills bouncing around Capitol Hill called PIPA and SOPA that are supposed to stop websites and internet services from illegally giving away other people’s music (this also extends to film, books, software, video games etc., but I am only going to focus on the music side of things).
I adamantly believe that when an artist creates and records a song, the artist, and only the artist, should have the right to do with it what they want. If they want to sell it, they should sell it. If they want to give it away, it’s theirs to give away. No one else has the right to make those decisions for them.
As noble as this premise may sound, the reality is that the world is full of good people, bad people, and uneducated people. And, whether we like it or not, all these people have access to technology that makes a lot of my beliefs moot–what good is a belief or law if it is simply unenforceable.
To that end, Congress got lobbied hard by the RIAA to write a new law that allows its label members (note: the RIAA is the trade association for the major labels) to have a new legal weapon to go after “rogue” websites and services that give the middle finger to copyright by allowing people to get music for free from artists that do not want to give it away for free.
The problem is that the bills lobbied for were done so by the RIAA, the organization that no longer represents the music industry. The majority of today’s music is being created, distributed, bought, streamed and shared from artists outside of the RIAA label member system. The RIAA and its members are no longer the voice of the industry; they are the voice of what was, and an ever-shrinking part of what is. Congress needs to wake up to this fact.
Or said more eloquently by the Deputy Director of Future Of Music Coalition Casey Rae Hunter:
“Artists have every right to be wary when powerful entertainment conglomerates push for policies that could undermine free expression, all the while claiming to speak for creators.”
The second problem is that the bill gives the old school players the power to not only protect their copyrights (which I support), but also to kill the new music industry.
Simply stated, if the SOPA bill was signed into law in its original form, TuneCore could have been threatened to be turned off, and thus cut off the choice, freedom, and future revenue from the hundreds of thousands of TuneCore Artists that have earned over a quarter billion dollars. Fortunately, TuneCore would be able to handle the threat, but others with fewer resources may not have the same outcome (not to mention why should TuneCore have to spend its time and money to deal with another entity making frivolous claims).
And before you think I am being hyperbolic, here is a perfect example; the US is already seizing web properties through the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division. One of their targets was a hip-hop blog called Djaz1.com which they literally shut down, claiming the hip-hop blog was illegally distributing songs it did not have the right to distribute. That’s right, the government just grabbed the domain and shut the thing down.
Turns out the government had it all wrong – and a year later they finally relented, but not before irreparable damage was done.
The article on TechDirt titled: “Feds Falsely Censor Popular Blog For Over A Year, Deny All Due Process, Hide All Details…” provides a great play by play. The author summarizes it well when he says:
The Dajaz1 case became particularly interesting to us, after we saw evidence showing that the songs that ICE used in its affidavit as “evidence” of criminal copyright infringement were songs sent by representatives of the copyright holder with the request that the site publicize the works — in one case, even coming from a VP at a major music label. Even worse, about the only evidence that ICE had that these songs were infringing was the word of the “VP of Anti-Piracy Legal Affairs for the RIAA,” Carlos Linares, who was simply not in a position to know if the songs were infringing or authorized. In fact, one of the songs involved an artist not even represented by an RIAA label, and Linares clearly had absolutely no right to speak on behalf of that artist.
If this doesn’t scare the crap out of you, it should. If the original versions of the SOPA or PIPA bills passed, TuneCore, just like Djaz1.com could have been targeted.
The concept behind the bill is good—protect copyright—but the execution stinks. Congressman and Senators don’t know that the power has shifted, and they need to hear from you.
Seriously, they need to hear from you.
Take action, get involved. Call your Senator and/or Congressman and tell them what you think and why.
Or go here to learn and do more.
6 Reasons Why Email is Better than Facebook for Growing Your Fan Base
Facebook is an amazing platform for building your fan base and connecting and sharing with your audience. But Facebook should not be the only way you communicate with your fans. There are many reasons why using old fashioned email is much more effective than Facebook at growing your fan base and creating actual revenue.
Here are 6 reasons why a solid email marketing campaign is more effective than Facebook.
Warning: Email programs like Gmail, Mac Mail, Hotmail etc. are not made for sending mass emails of more than 20 or so contacts. If you use a regular email program to send mass emails, most of your emails will get marked as spam and you run the risk of getting your email address blocked completely. (There are many email marketing programs available. We recommend using ListBaby, of course)
1. Email is More Personal Than Facebook
An email inbox is simply a more personal place than Facebook. Sending a personal email message is the digital equivalent of mailing a hand written letter. While sending a Facebook message is more like putting a post-it note on your friends desk or shouting across a crowded room. People often put more thought and time into reading or composing an email message. Facebook’s ads, spam, games and gimmicks make it more informal and a less ‘serious’ form of communication.
2. Email Addresses are More Valuable Than Facebook Friends
When a fan gives you their email address, they are giving you the keys to their inbox, a place where they receive their most personal messages from friends, family and business contacts. It’s a privilege that shouldn’t be taken lightly. While it seems pretty common for someone to drop-off of Facebook for a few months or longer, it’s less likely they will abandon their email account (after all, an email address is required for almost all online transactions these days.)
The nice thing about keeping an email list of fans, is that you can save it, store it, edit it, and print it out. You’ll always have those contacts. What if Facebook goes down or your page or fan list gets erased? (Yes, it’s happened.) What if everybody hops off Facebook and joins the next trendy social network? Will you be able to find all your fans again or will you simply loose touch?
3. Email Has Less Distractions Than Facebook
Facebook is full of distractions. People log into Facebook to be entertained, to watch videos, listen to music, share pictures, read news and play games.
Your average email inbox is free of these kinds of distractions, therefore you have a much better chance of keeping the attention of your readers when you send an email.
4. Email Allows You to Design an Experience
Facebook messages are pretty bland and uniform. Sure you can insert a link or a picture, but you have little control over how the text is formatted or how pictures are displayed, You are also limited by a fairly small window to display your message.
A good email marketing program like ListBaby allows you to designer templates that can be customized with your own pictures, backgrounds, colors and fonts. You can virtually send a fully designed website with live links right into your recipients inbox.
5. Email is More Actionable
The funny thing about Facebook is that people don’t like to leave Facebook. Facebook users don’t like clicking on links that take them out of Facebook for an extended period of time. After all, this is their ‘Facebook time,’ not their ‘web surfing time.’ Facebook users would rather read about what their friends are posting and doing than get redirected to an unfamiliar website.This makes it much harder to tell your Facebook fans to go to your website to buy an MP3 or download a free eBook.
Now email is different. People don’t mind leaving their boring old inbox to check out something new and interesting. You’ll often find that a well written email newsletter will have a much better click through rate than a well-written Facebook message.
6. It’s Easier to Collect Email Addresses than Facebook Friends
Have you ever put out a signup list at an event where people could enter their Facebook URL? No? Well that’s because most people don’t know what their Facebook URL is. But chances are they DO know what their email address is. For this reason it’s very difficult to collect numerous Facebook friends at an event.
A much more reliable method is to let people sign up to an email list. This gives you access to their inbox and they don’t even need to confirm you as a friend.
Do you agree, disagree, or agree to disagree? How do you use Facebook and email to communicate with your fans? Which do you think works better?
Sync Licensing- Hidden Revenue Streams for Your Music - By Chris R 01/13/2012
Nowadays, independent artists are earning money with their music from revenue streams outside of normal sales from an album release (CD and download sales).
Over the past decade, many traditional sync licensing opportunities (film & TV, games, and commercial placements) have opened to indie musicians. Sync licensing is a lucrative and growing business, with over 10,000 music supervisors and more than 250k licensing requests sent to labels each year.
But the future for indie artists isn’t just in traditional sync opportunities; there is also money to be made from social media music licensing. With 2 billion internet users and 4 billion mobile phone users, plenty of people are looking for music to use in conjunction with their video and photo uploads, apps, presentations, and games. That opens BILLIONS of new licensing opportunities for you.
So, what is synchronization licensing?
In music industry terms, “synchronization” is the process of playing an existing composition and/or audio recording in conjunction with a moving picture of any kind: TV show, commercial, film, video game, corporate presentation, YouTube clip, etc. (Or on radio commercials with voice-over).
In order for someone to “sync” a particular composition (the song, melody, lyrics, etc.) to their new project (the show, commercial, movie, etc.), they must get permission from the publisher/songwriter and acquire what is called a “sync license.”
In return, a synchronization royalty (also called a “sync fee” or “licensing fee”) is paid to the publishers and songwriters. This process grants the new content creator the right to use the music and lyrics from an existing song in their work, but NOT the existing audio recording.
For THAT, a person wishing to sync an existing recording to their new content must acquire a “master use” license from the owner of the sound recording (usually the label). In the major label world, the publisher, the songwriter, and the owner of the master recording could all be different entities. If you’re in the independent music world, it’s likely that YOU are all three people in one.
How to earn money from licensing your music
For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume you ARE all three entities in one, and that with one breath you could grant someone permission to use both your song AND your recording in their next project; what do you do next?
Well, you’ve got to find some folks that want to pay you for sync rights, right? And there are several ways to do that:
1) Begin building direct relationships with music directors for TV and film. – This method takes a lot of hustle and networking, since you’re essentially going to have to be a salesperson for your own music.
2) Join a service or list-serv (like Taxi) that posts frequent sync opportunities. – While this approach is simpler on the networking side, it generally requires that you have the ability to quickly compose and record new songs in hopes that they will be the closest fit the music director can find.
For instance, on Monday morning you see a notice that Danny Director wants a 45 second song that sounds like Johnny Cash mixed with NIN. Got that in you somewhere? If so, you could make some decent dough.
3) Find a music manager, label, agent, angel, CEO, or dictator of a small island nation who can muscle their way into the lucrative sync opportunities FOR you.
4) Or,… combine these methods AND let CD Baby do some of the work. Through our new partnership with Rumblefish, (which we’ll be officially announcing tomorrow) we’ll be able to include your music in the database of a great digital music licensing company, making it available for use in film, TV, commercials, video games, etc.
Best of all, this new partnership will ensure that you’re paid for your music’s use on YouTube, which is quickly becoming the world’s most popular place for music discovery.
I hope this overview of sync licensing helps. More details about CD Baby’s Sync Licensing program coming soon!
The Tip Jar Effect: How to Earn More Money When You Perform - By Chris R 01/07/2012
This post, written by Scott James, originally appeared on Echoes.
Remember the Seinfeld episode where George goes to give the guy a tip at the pizza place, but the guy doesn’t see him put it in the jar and he tries to reach in and take his money back?
It’s funny because most of us can relate to it (well, hopefully not the part about reaching back into the jar!). If we’re being totally honest, when most of us give someone a tip we want them to see us doing it. We want them to feel like they’re getting hooked up and a part of us wants to be acknowledged for making a contribution.
So what does this have to do with music? Well, do you think this might relate to selling CDs and merch at your shows? Is it possible that fans who support you would like for you to see them supporting you? I think so.
So how would we facilitate this? Well, for one, if you’re playing a bar or small venue and you can position the merch table wherever you like, why not put it as close to the stage as you can? And wherever the merch table is, make sure that that’s where you are after the show.
An artist I worked with decided to put the names of all of her fans who bought her pre-sale CD packages on her website. She also had a contest for whomever purchased the most tickets to an event and serenaded the winner at the show. A little creativity goes a long way. What other ideas can you come up with to acknowledge your fans for their support?
5 Tips to Finding a Music Manager - By Chris R 01/07/2012
New Ways Musicians Can Earn Money in 2012 - By Chris R. 01/07/2011
Spending 4 Billion Dollars To Accomplish Nothing - By Jeff Price 01/06/2012
The world of making physical CDs or vinyl albums and shipping them on pallets to Walmart, is coming to an end.
The world of needing third parties to track how many times a song is played on analog AM/FM radio and analog television is just about over.
The world of having gatekeepers deciding who gets let in, is gone.
It’s over. It changed, it’s a new game. The traditional music industry is on its last breath. Soon it will be completely and utterly dead. It’s not a matter of “if,” it’s a matter of “when.”
And yet, the old music industry seems not to care. Universal and Sony are about to spend four billion dollars to buy EMI, a catalog of music and songs that loses value each and every day. Performing rights organizations like ASCAP are using their own songwriters’ money to sue, litigate and lobby to assure that their members get less so they can make more.
Is this really what it has all come down to with the old industry: Screw them all, I’m going to milk as much out of this at the expense of the artists, the consumers, and the songwriters before we go down?
They could have taken that same four billion dollars and used it to innovate, invest, change business models and educate. They could have used it to accelerate ideas and strategies that the world has never seen. They could test new models, see what works, push the failures to the side and move forward.
But they chose not to build the future of this industry. Instead, as they fly their private planes to their islands (bought off of the music created by the artist), they choose to milk the last few dollars out of what was leaving behind a smoldering pile of ruin.
The good news is, they can’t stop what’s coming. No amount of lawsuits, consolidation or lobbying can stop progress. For the first time we will have generations of artists and musicians that will not be required to give up their copyrights and control to have access. The only thing stopping success will now be the music itself, as it should be.
Income Inequality Killed The Music Business - By Bob Lefsetz 12/02/2011
I'm a smart guy. I was educated at one of America's finest colleges. I'm a member of the California Bar. But even if I struck it rich as a writer, I could never garner the millions a banker or corporate CEO does. It's impossible. It's like asking a sandlot player to bat .400 in the big leagues. It's like paying a street ball player twenty million a year. Never gonna happen.
Twenty million a year. There are bankers and CEOs who make this much each and every year. This is not U2, going on the road, raping and pillaging in stadiums for years. If U2 went out again, they'd have trouble selling tickets. Hell, they had trouble moving tickets for the last leg of their tour. They played it out, they mined the depths, they've got to let it lie fallow. Costs for the U2 360 tour were prohibitive. How much did each member of U2 end up with at the end? I'd say no way a hundred million, but let's just start there, let's go with that number. There are bankers and CEOs pulling down nearly a hundred million dollars a year. It took U2 years to achieve this goal, to make this amount. They're spent, but the bankers and CEOs are still rolling in dough. And the U2 360 tour was the biggest in history!
So you're graduating from college, playing in a band all the time you were in school, and you ask yourself, should I give music a go or get an MBA, go to work for Goldman Sachs?
Now it's no longer the seventies. Take a year or two off and you miss the bus. You've got to start now. There's only one band making mucho coin, but thousands of bankers and CEOs getting rich. Odds are better if you become a CEO.
Or you could go into tech. Mark Zuckerberg is not the only young techie worth millions. There's that guy running Groupon and the guy running Zynga, and so many of the worker bees end up making millions too, that's what all the employees at Facebook are counting on. Do you think you can make millions as an A&R guy?
1. The Labels
Used to be running a label paid well, but it was mostly about the music, the lifestyle. Then, with the advent of MTV and the CD, suddenly Tommy Mottola was far richer than the acts. And Tommy and his ilk started hanging with other rich people in the Hamptons, they felt entitled to their wealth. Such that when Napster blew a hole in the paradigm, everybody was sacrificed but the top guy. The people running the labels are still as well paid as they were before Napster, before the recession. They're keeping up with the joneses, they're in charge, everybody's expendable but them. As for those people still working at the label...they're thrilled to have a job. Glad to be slaves on the plantation.
And everything is driven by the bottom line. Hell, Warner is privately held, Sony and Universal are parts of giant corporations. Theoretically, they could invest in the future, they could leave money on the table, but they won't. The execs want that money in their pockets. And they don't really care about the label anyway, they don't own it. As long as they get paid for their multi-year contracts, they're cool.
Music is not the focus, money is. It's a change in our entire culture, why should the label heads be any different. They've fought their way to the top, the top are handsomely rewarded, usually with double digit million incomes. If the guy running some industrial firm makes this much money, shouldn't they, providing entertainment for the masses?
2. The Acts
The best and the brightest don't go into music. It just doesn't pay. The only people pursuing music as a career are the lower classes, who are struggling to get on top. As a result, they'll do whatever it takes to make it, they'll whore themselves out when they get there, it's all about the bucks.
Ergo the crazy endorsement and product deals. The acts feel they're entitled to the money. Look at all the other half as famous people, they're loaded, so the acts feel they should be loaded too. And the corporations are willing to lay cash on the acts, because the corporations have money to burn, their taxes have been lowered, check the statistics, they're sitting on huge cash reserves. The CEOs can use this cash to hang with stars. This is how the Gaddafi family got household name talent to play their shindigs. This is how that guy who made bad body armor got the biggest stars in the world to play his son's bar mitzvah. Used to be no CEO could afford it. But now, they can. And the acts see no reason not to take it. Hell, they don't want to fly commercial, they too want to vacation in St. Barth's. Music has become about the money. But the odds are low and so is the money, so you get the desperate, willing to do anything to make it, kind of like the athletes. Those NBA players are not model citizens, but they're essentially one-dimensional, it's comes down to their playing ability, their performance on the court. But we believe musicians are their music, that they're three-dimensional, that we can believe in them, but we can't.
a. Artist Development
Few of the classic acts did their best work on their first records. But labels allowed them to marinate and mature, to develop. Now the label says no, because the executive wants his money up front. There is no long term. And that's why there's no "Hotel California". Nobody peaks on their fifth album, there usually isn't even a fifth album.
b. Writing Your Own Material
This is what blew up the rock acts. This is what made us believe in them. Now, material is written by committee. If the label's gonna take a risk, it wants insurance. It doesn't want the act blowing half a million dollars on something that won't sell. So inherently, we've got less believable stuff. Sure, there will always be music, but the heyday of the music business was when the rock star was responsible for everything and was beholden to no one. Ain't that a laugh.
Sure, there was scalping decades back, but tickets were not the equivalent of a thousand bucks. Because no one had a thousand bucks to blow on a ticket. But the bankers and CEOs do. So the hoi polloi can't get a good ticket. And since the acts need to make as much money as they can, and recorded music revenue is down, the price for all tickets is heavily inflated. Therefore, people go less, they just can't afford it. And they take no risks on new acts, not at these prices. And what are the odds the new acts are good? They're just moneygrubbers like the rest of them.
Meanwhile, everybody fighting his way up the food chain is spreading disinformation, saying his hands are tied. And when finally nailed down, they utter some b.s. about just trying to feed their family. But with the money they've already made, they can feed their children's children's children.
The incentive to be an artist, to make great, lasting music, has been blown away. Used to be, a working act could have a middle class lifestyle and maybe some future performing rights income and other royalties. Now, you're either starving or fighting to hold on to what you've got so the bankers will hire you for a private. It's desperation all the time.
Back when we were all in it together, when the gap between rich and poor was smaller, it was reasonable to be a musical artist. One took a chance expressing himself. You could always give up and go to law school, find a place for yourself on the middle class spectrum. But now if you're not on your way to riches immediately, you're boxed out. Which is why parents push their kids to get into the Ivies, why teenagers are creating websites and apps. They want to get in on the ground floor. Used to be people picked up guitars. Now they flock to their computers.
But what if a label exec couldn't make millions, whether it be as a result of taxes or the demands of employees and acts. What if CEOs and bankers made this same amount. Hell, what if forty acts could make the same amount of money as a CEO or banker, and there were another hundred who were solidly middle class, and being so meant you could live comfortably and pay the bills?
Then you'd have the sixties and seventies all over again. Because this is the way it was.
The cost of our diverging economic rewards system doesn't only affect lifestyle, it affects art. There's been no great protest music in this decade, despite there being so much to protest against, because the acts don't align themselves with the oppressed proletariat, but the rich bankers and CEOs. And if you take too big a stand, there goes your endorsement deal, there goes your invitation to the party.
But if you could make enough money without the endorsements, because you just didn't need as much to survive, then the acts could play by their own rules.
Blame time and again is being put on the public, on the poor. As if the people stealing the music could afford a grand a ticket. This is just the fat cats turning the argument around. Rather than investigate why the public is fed up, they just label the public thieves and say they're doing nothing different than the bankers and CEOs. Which is paying off Congress to make things go their way. That's what SOPA's all about. If people lose a few rights along the way, what difference does it make? We've got to make our money, we've got to get our check!
Writing a Band Bio for Your Website – Create an Artist Bio That Rocks! - 11/29/2011
Describing your music project in a way that really sells can be a daunting task. It's easy to get mired in names, dates, events, musical influences and other details while neglecting the more compelling aspects of your musical story.
Your website bio needs to interest your fans and offer value to people in "the business." After all, you want those music editors to easily divine the important bits and use them to write a glowing review.
Creating a successful artist bio means carefully balancing The Facts and Your Story.
Figure out what needs to be said and say it. Using bullet points or subject headers will make it easier for someone to scan the page and grab what they need. If you want to expand information about individual band members or events etc. you can use hyperlinks to send the curious to external pages. The only rule here is be brief and get to the point. Remember, you want to keep your band bio no longer than a page.
The Facts You Need
- The players (Jon Folsom, legendary percussionist)
- Major accomplishments (We opened for [insert popular band])
- A quote or two from a notable media source. ("We love the Bratwurst Boys" – SF Guardian)
- Your contact info (Linking to a form or contact page is fine.)
- What you sound like/influences (I know this is hard, but try to be concrete. Ask a fan. Don't be too clever. Just honest. See this article for inspiration.)
- Timeline (Band was formed in 1999, etc.)
At the heart of any great bio is a story. A good story is something that both your fans and reviewers will be compelled to pass along. It's not only valuable for your bio, it's something that should always be on the tip of your tongue when someone asks you about your music.
Hint: Your story already exists. You just need to find it.
Many of your facts may be part of your story. Feel free to sprinkle them in.
Finding Your Story
A story, in its simplest form, is simply a problem and a resolution. Here's a made-up example:
"We wanted to start a bluegrass band but there were no fiddle players in our town. So, we paid for my little brother to take fiddle lessons, and a year later the Tweed Brothers were born."
Pretty simple right?
Problem: Need fiddle player
Resolution: Trained little brother to play fiddle.
What problem, issue, or conflict is at the heart of your project and how are you endeavoring to find resolution? This can be approached from many different angles. Here are a few examples:
"The Rockafellas were born out of our mutual frustration with our government's treatment of the gay and lesbian community."
"I needed a way to express my views on the universe and my music proved the perfect medium."
"I wrote these songs about a girl I secretly loved. The song writing process helped me find the courage to let her know."
"We wanted to address the juxtaposition of nature and technology and how it shapes our perceptions. We did this by creating a hybrid of folk and electronic music."
If you can describe your band's story in a sentence, then it should be a piece of cake to expand it to a paragraph. Just fill in the details.
A few things to remember:
- Don't reference old musical acts that you or your band members have been in unless they are highly notable.
- Update your bio now and again with your more recent accomplishments and reviews, lineup changes etc.
- Have at least a few people proofread your bio. Fix those spelling or grammar mistakes. Make sure it reads well out-loud.
- Use hyperlinks. Your bio should only be a page, but provide additional info for those who are curious. You can link to album reviews, tracks to listen to, other websites, former band sites, etc.
- Get right to the story. Don't stuff your first paragraph with facts without first introducing your story. This will increase the likelihood that people will keep reading to find out what happens.
- Add a photo to your bio page. A picture is worth a thousand words (or more).
Do you have a killer band bio? Are you trying to write one? Share a link in the comments below.
Related Article: How to Make An Effective Band/Artist One-Sheet
Build a Professional Band Website With HostBaby Today!
Why Everyone But The Artist And The Music Fan Is Doomed - By Jeff Price 11/22/2011
Every business built on gatekeepers eventually fails. At some point some technology comes around, making the entire old school industry obsolete.
It’s a shortsighted model based on greed, ego and false perception of invulnerability.
Take the old school music industry: it was a ticking time bomb of self-destruction waiting to go off. It began with the birth of recorded music. The “artist gatekeepers” with the infrastructure and access to place music on retail shelves decided they would not just charge a fee for the service, but would also require a transference of copyright from the creator to the gatekeeper.
For the “consumer gatekeepers,” they could have chosen to allow more music to be exposed, but they went down the same path as the artist gatekeepers.
It did not need to be this way; the artists could have been allowed to keep their copyrights, and music fans could have had access to discover more music. Try as these two sets of gatekeepers might, their control would be broken. Their over-the-top, greedy mistakes were always on a path of tearing themselves down; it was not a matter of if, it was a matter of when.
Along the way there were lies, theft, piles of money traded, and unnecessary filtering, but the artist and music fan would win. It’s evolution.
The fall came hard and fast. It used to be that as a musician, you had to go to the “artist gatekeeper,” the label, and be one of the anointed few that got the privilege of transferring ownership of what you created to the label so your CDs could end up on store shelves.
In order to get heard, and then hopefully have your music cause a reaction, you had to be one of the even luckier few chosen by the “consumer gatekeepers” to have your music played on commercial radio or MTV, or get written about in Rolling Stone.
Did they think, even a moment, that this control would ever be taken from them?
When eMusic, the first on-line digital store, launched in 1998, the boulder began to careen down the mountain. Within ten years, the entire 80-year-old traditional gatekeeper model had been destroyed.
No longer did you need an A&R person deciding an artist was of “commercial value” to be let into the system.
No longer did you have a retail store buyer subjectively deciding which CDs had enough value to be placed on their shelves.
No longer did MTV have a lock on deciding which music videos got seen.
No longer did commercial radio limit what we all heard to the 15 to 20 songs that they decided to play.
No longer was the general population limited to reading what the editors of Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Spin and others decided to write about.
In the digital world, all artists can be on infinite digital shelves with infinite inventory waiting to be discovered, heard, shared and bought. The general population of the world can decide what does and does not have value, and can share thoughts and preferences in scales never before thought imaginable, networking to one another globally, via social outlets like Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, and YouTube.
Digital radio stations now have millions of songs available to be programmed based on the listener’s preferences, likes and dislikes.
This entire old school system was based not on serving the artist, but on gatekeepers exploiting artists to let them in. And when you are a gatekeeper, when you think you are the only one with the keys to the kingdom (and only you will ever have them), you do stupid things, immoral things, and create a business where you’re simply a necessary evil.
This mentality extended beyond labels, distributors, retailers, radio stations, MTV and print magazines. It reached into every nook and cranny of the old industry, into entities like ASCAP: the gatekeepers for songwriters to get their money.
Just as it was in the old school industry, there was a time when these gatekeepers reigned supreme in what they did; they, and only they, had systems to track and collect money owed to songwriters for public performances. But then hubris crept in leading to their taking their songwriter members’ money to not only do the job they were hired to do, but also to pay the heads of these organizations exorbitant six and seven figure salaries, spend their members’ money on fleets of cars, expensive dinners, first class airplane tickets, luxury hotels, over the top decadent office space in the most expensive cities in the world (as well as many other travel and expense perks).
They were gatekeepers blocking songwriters from getting their money. Just like the major labels, they were the only ones with the infrastructure to provide the service; if you wanted your songwriter money, you had to go to them. They made their priority maintaining control, not serving. Had they kept this focus, they would now not be in trouble, they would have adapted.
The digital age has made the digital part of what ASCAP and others do a thing of the past. These organizations are not needed to track sales in iTunes or video streams in YouTube, and yet they are fighting and litigating to try to keep songwriters’ money going to themselves to stick in their pockets. They do not really give a damn that 98% of the world’s songwriters don’t get their cut of the money owed to them. There are other entities out in the world now, like TuneCore, that can get songwriters more money, more quickly, with transparency and an audit trail, and yet they fight against this efficiency.
It’s foolish, dumb and wrong.
As a member of ASCAP, we called and asked them for a list of entities that ASCAP licenses to, as well as the rates we should expect to get paid.
They called us up with two lawyers on the phone–lawyers that ASCAP is able to pay from the money it collects from songwriters – and said they could not tell us the rates or whom they were in deals with as it would “violate anti-trust laws”. What I can’t understand is how they can state this while simultaneously issuing a press release about how they entered into a licensing agreement with Netflix.
Further, how can the people that hired them not get told what rates have been negotiated on their behalf? How would anyone know if they were doing their job?
It’s frustrating, but I keep this in mind, the end is inevitable; technology has rendered these entities moot, a thing of the past. The only thing keeping them propped up is that there are artists who do not understand how much money they are owed and where it is. As this information gets out, these organizations will use songwriters’ money in an attempt to sue, legislate and litigate, to stop these same songwriters from getting more of what they earned.
There should be no gatekeepers for musicians, or for anything. It all comes down to serving the musician. This is as it should be. Then entities like TuneCore must create products or services that are of true value to artists or get the hell out of the way.
(We apologize for the length of this article, but we wanted to provide more data. You can make comments down below.)
Many blog posters have been suggesting that artists not signed to major labels do not sell music or make money. Below is a small swatch of sales information for TuneCore Artists only. It shows what they sold and what they made in July 2011, just that ONE MONTH. I have removed the artists’ names and release info out of respect for their privacy.
Over 99% of these artists are not “signed.” Also note, these are sales from July, 2011, one of the slower music sales months of the year.
As you would expect, there are a small number of artists making hundreds of thousands of dollars each month and more artists earn less as you move down the list. But for all those that may comment suggesting most are making less, my response is, you’ve got to be kidding me.
These artists, all of them, are outside of the traditional system. Some are earning hundreds of thousands and some are earning $20.
And this is bad because…?
With the music industry democratized more artists are making more money than ever before. All of this money you are seeing is going directly into these artists’ pockets; this is money they would have never ever seen before.
Now add the songwriter money on top of this money.
Someone needs to explain to me why an artist earning something vs. nothing is a bad thing, as I truly cannot understand that logic. As far as TuneCore, as I have stated over and over, it’s your music that causes it to sell. It’s up to you to decide if the services and fees TuneCore charges work for you.
No gimmicks, no games, transparency in the way we work. Arm the artists with info and let them make their own decisions.
Here’s a sample of the data (click the link below to download the full doc):
Copyrights 101 Video - By TuneCore 11/19/2011
Please copy the link below and paste it in the task bar to watch the video regarding Copyrights principles.
A Goal: Performance Royalty Accountability In 2012 - By George Howard 11/19/2011
Imagine a scenario in which the moment you create a piece of music it is: digitally fingerprinted and registered (with the Library of Congress, and your PRO). Imagine then that when that music is used in a TV show, this usage is immediately detected, and the public performance fee you are owed is immediately transferred to your bank account.
Sound too good to be true? Well, the reality is that the technology for just such a scenario described above exists. Additionally, we clearly have motivated buyers and sellers to make this happen.
However, instead of moving toward a system like the one described above — a system of transparency and accuracy — we continue to bumble through a system that really hasn’t changed in the last 100 years or so.
If we’re to have any optimism towards the business of music continuing to grow — in an era when music creators have seen their revenue from sales go from roughly $7 per sale for a full album, to fractions of pennies for a stream of the same album — we MUST push for innovation in the measuring, collecting, and paying of music usage.
I recently met, Scott Schreer, the founder of a company called TuneSat. In talking with him, my optimism that we may indeed be tilting toward not only a healthy music business, but one where songwriters can flourish, has been greatly enhanced.
This is not an ad for TuneSat. I’ve not used the service, and while, based on my limited exposure to him, Mr. Schreer certainly is a very smart and passionate individual, I simply don’t know enough about him or his company to recommend or not recommend it. I do, however, feel strongly that it’s worth your time to check out and make your decision.
Rather, TuneSat represents a tangible example of how technology might alter the economic fortunes for composers, artists, and publishers alike (anyone that has an interest in a royalty stream).
Music used in TV, at last count, accounts for $800 million of the $2 billion distributed to composers annually by the PROs in the US. Additionally, music used in TV represents something akin to what radio used to represent for artists: exposure that can lead to sales/streams of their work, ticket/merch sales, etc…
No one can deny that the goal of many musicians is to have their music used on TV. However, the vast majority of musicians are woefully under-informed about how the process works.
It’s not their fault. As stated above, it’s an old and outmoded system; one that pretty much defines byzantine.
For instance, question one: how much do you get paid when your song is played on TV? Impossible to answer. The variables are many: is it a theme song, what time of day was it aired, are there vocals on the track, is there anything else surrounding it (people talking, etc…), is it background instrumental music. Beyond these, one massive distinction is whether or not the song is what’s called a “featured registration” or a “non-featured registration.” A featured registration is essentially a song that has a band or artist associated with the track (i.e. a song that was released on a CD, available from iTunes). A non-featured registration is a work that was written specifically for the TV show or ad. This distinction becomes very important when you realize that a featured registration earns the writer six to ten times what a non-featured registration earns when it’s broadcast.
These and other weighing factors make a huge difference to the bottom line of the rights’ holders whose music is used on TV.
However, there’s yet another problem. Mr. Schreer informs me that as much as 80% of all music that’s on TV is misreported. This means that music is being broadcast on TV, and the author (or copyright holder) is not getting paid the correct amount (if anything). Typically, this misreporting occurs as a result of human error in conjunction with the byzantine classifications used by the PROs in order to calculate weightings (and thus payments).
TuneSat’s goal is to use fingerprinting in order to reduce this number. Even a fractional reduction when you’re dealing with $800 million represents tremendous value for artists.
I hope that they pull it off.
As we can see all around us (from the financial world to the Arab Spring) institutions that eschew transparency are crumbling. Technology is making it increasingly difficult to obfuscate the flow of information. As we increase transparency, we reduce transaction costs, and thus increase profitability for artists.
This is truly our best hope. As the barriers of entry for broadcasters come down, and an increasing amount of music is streamed, rights holders have an opportunity to make up in volume what they are losing in margin, but only if we increase accuracy in collection, reporting, and payment.
Here Comes The Songwriter Revolution - By Jeff Price 11/18/2011
An artist’s copyrights should be respected. The choice to charge or give away his or her creations should be up to the artist, and the artist alone.
When you cut through all the press releases and rhetoric of the RIAA, it boils down to getting the legally required licenses and paying the people (or entities) that control the copyrights to the songs and recordings. I could not agree more.
One of the many problems I have with the RIAA is not their supporting this fundamental principle, but their tactics and blatant disregard for anyone who is not one of their members. Suing grandma and college students is probably not the best idea. Pretending the world has not changed and everything should stay the same makes no sense. In addition, in many cases their positions and actions stifle revenue while slowing the growth and consumption of music. But what gets me most upset is this:
The RIAA wraps itself in a flag of respecting and paying copyright holders, both principles I adamantly agree with. However, as they sue, lobby, and legislate to assure the rightful copyright holders get paid, the members that make up the RIAA knowingly take hundreds of millions of dollars of other people’s copyright money.
Here’s how they do it:
Each time a song is downloaded, streamed, or publicly performed, the songwriter is owed a separate royalty. In 2009, of the more than €7.152 billion earned globally by songwriters (about $10 billion U.S.), 95% of the songwriters did not get their cut because: (a) the places that had their money didn’t know whose it was, or (b) the places that had the money DID know whose it was, but made it impossible for the rightful owner (earner?) to collect it. When the rightful owner does not pick up this money, it’s given to Sony, Warner Bros, Universal, EMI and others based on their market share. These leading music companies, and the entities that give the money to them, know full well this is not their money, but they take it anyway.
Is it deliberate? No. When the old industry created a byzantine labyrinth loaded with archaic, and now out-of-date rules, they had no idea of what the future would bring. They certainly didn’t predict it would legally funnel them hundreds of millions of dollars of other peoples’ copyright money. But this is the end result, and they are abundantly aware of it. Sadly, there is absolutely no legal reason for them to change the system (and since when did morals count?).
Why are the world’s songwriters not in an uproar? Two reasons: (1) Knowledge. Copyright rules and laws are complex and boring. Many do not know they earned money, let alone know that it’s just sitting out there in the world waiting for them to collect. (2) Lack of transparency. No one tells songwriters the complete story; where their money is, how it flows, and, most importantly, how much they should expect to be paid each and every time their song is downloaded or streamed anywhere in the world.
There are no more excuses for this.
In the old music industry, lack of transparency came from literally not knowing. For example, you could know how many CDs you shipped, but you could not know how many of them sold. In today’s digital music industry, the only reason you don’t know something is because someone is choosing not to tell you—I can assure you they have the information.
So, songwriters are kept in the dark, rates are not disclosed, roadblocks are created to stop people from being able to get to their money, condescending “experts” pat the artist on the head and tell him or her to just focus on writing music and don’t worry yourself with this confusing “business” part of the industry. The end result: songwriters’ pockets are picked without their even knowing.
As just one example, in addition to the $200 million dollars TuneCore customers earned from the sale of the recording of their songs, there is another separate $50 million or so dollars they earned but did not get.
At some point something’s got to give—you can’t expect to take 95% of the world’s songwriters’ money and not have someone finally do something about it.
On Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011, the change will come…
CD Replacement Revenue - By Bob Lefsetz 11/17/2011
So I'm reading about the police clearing Zuccotti Park and I'm thinking we already had our protest in the music industry. And the public won.
Back before MTV reared its dominant head, we could count on the acts to keep the labels in line. Tom Petty famously filed for bankruptcy rather than be treated like chattel, have his contract transferred from ABC to MCA and then have his album used to break the price barrier. Yes, MCA wanted to sell Petty's album for a dollar more. But Tom stood his ground.
Maybe that's why Tom's still standing, still has a viable career today. His fans believe he's on their side.
Whereas major label acts are no longer on their fans' side, they're ripping them off at every turn, they align their interests with the labels, with other fat cat rights holders, the public is the enemy. Oh, you'll get lip service, as they pile into the limo and jump on the private plane, but if you think today's name stars are in it with their fans, you probably believe racism has been eviscerated from our country, you're delusional.
Actually, that's part of Lady Gaga's success. Sure, you might point to the fashion, the overbaked videos, but really it's her posturing as being on the side of her "Little Monsters", the alienated audience paying attention, that has cemented her place in the firmament. Yes, with most artists you get homogeneity, their goal is to play to everybody, alienating no one in the process. Isn't it interesting that the biggest new star takes the exact opposite position?
The turning point was MTV in concert with the introduction of the CD. Not only was the CD a huge jump in price for the consumer, the acts did not share in this upside, they settled for a reduced royalty, under the rubric that money was needed to grow this new technology. Ain't that a laugh.
So, suddenly acts and rights holders are rolling in dough. MTV builds stars overnight and you've got to buy an overpriced CD to hear the music. Furthermore, the economy was roaring, there were a few extra shekels around.
And then came Napster.
Actually, before Napster came Sillerman, the rollup of the concert industry. Which resulted in insanely high concert prices. Want an enemy? Look at Bob Sillerman, not Ticketmaster. And then look at the acts. Who saw shrinking recorded music revenue and decided to take it out on the public, their fans, by raising ticket prices.
So what you've got is a runaway train, with rights holders and acts in cahoots, and suddenly they ran out of track. Suddenly, the public could not only acquire only the song they wanted via P2P, they didn't even have to pay for it.
But everybody forgot what came before. The aforementioned overpriced CD and unreasonably high ticket prices. It was as if the rights holders and acts believed they were entitled to inflated incomes. Instead of seeing MTV and CDs as an evanescent bonus, they became an entitlement. And try taking away an entitlement, isn't that what the debate is all about in Washington?
All of this change was brought about by the public.
Which is why when you pooh-pooh Occupy Wall Street, you're missing the point. Whose side are you on? The bankers were overpaid because of a destruction of regulation and oversight and a thin layer of people got rich, and they used their lobbying power, their money, to institute lower taxes. And you wonder why the rank and file are pissed off?
The rights holders have done a good job of labeling the public as ungrateful thieves. But is this an accurate description? Almost definitely not. The public was fed up with past practices and angry because they could not acquire music the way they wanted to.
The way you succeed in business is by staying one step ahead of the customer, knowing where the puck is going, not where it's been. Streaming services are an example of this. Most people say they don't want to stream...they've got so many complaints. But they'll end up loving these services that are one step ahead of them.
And what do artists and rights holders say? WE CAN'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY! Let's give the public less than what they want. Let's force people to overpay for what they do buy. The end result of which is a vast underground economy where tracks are traded/acquired absolutely for free.
Now the movie business has learned nothing from the music industry's travails. Filmmakers still believe they can corral the public into doing what they want them to.
And it's not only hit artists who are on the wrong side of the line. Wannabes are complaining more about Spotify payments than stars. Wannabes want the old edifice to remain. As if they too can become royalty.
But the monarchy has been torn down, democracy reigns. The old system is dead.
I'm not saying there's no money left in music. I'm just saying that forcing people to overpay for tracks, especially requiring them to buy them in a bundle, is absolutely history. We live in a mix and match world. You just can't stop it.
As for exorbitant ticket prices, all it does is ensure that no one takes a risk.
But it's worse. You can't get a good ticket because the act is taking money from American Express and there are pre-sales and all kinds of shenanigans making it hard to be a fan. All of which are bad for the business.
We're in the process of a wrenching transition. And it all happened online. Malcolm Gladwell said you can't have a revolution with soft ties, but music fans executed one without ever meeting face to face.
The war is over. The price of recorded music has deflated.
And this is good.
This allows more people to listen to more music. Recorded music used to be for the rich. Most people could only afford a few CDs a year. Now you can listen to everything, for free. And there's nothing the rights holders can do about this.
Don’t Believe Facebook, Spotify’s The Only Open Graph Music App Winning.
Article at TechCrunch 11/10/2011
Facebook today released some stats trying to show the success of several of the Open Graph music applications launched at f8. Most of the stats were in percentages, though, which can give a rosy impression of what is actually fairly little growth. For example, it cites that Rdio has seen a “30x increase in new user registrations from Facebook” In reality, the app itself now has grown by just 200 users to reach a tiny 4,000 daily Facebook-logged in users.
While Facebook may want it to appear that all its music partners are succeeding, it’s actually a winner-takes-all scenario with Spotify far in the lead with 2.4 million daily active users. Here we’ll look at AppData‘s stats on the absolute growth of these music apps in terms of daily and monthly Facebook-logged in users. They show that Earbits, MOG, and Rdio all have a DAU of 10,000 or less.
To give you some context, the top 100 Facebook apps and games have over 500,000 DAU and over 3 million MAU. Spotify is the 21st largest app by DAU, while MOG is tied for #1356th. Facebook’s right about one thing. Several music apps that provide services other than personal listening are doing quite well. RootMusic’s BandPage has 1.4 million DAU, ReverbNation’s Band Profile has 690,000 DAU, and Vevo for Artists has 250,000 DAU.
Spotify – Daily active users are up 1.33 million to 2.4 million, and Spotify monthly active users are up 3.98 million to 7.4 million. Facebook listed Spotify as growing by 4 million new Facebook users. The app is becoming a habit for many, with 32% of monthly users engaging with it each day. Spotify’s overwhelming presence in the Ticker is drowning out the rest of the apps and making it seem like you’re on it with the cool kids, or you’re listening alone in the corner.
Earbits – Starting from zero, Earbits now has 1,000 DAU and 10,000 MAU. Considering the potential audience and how much Spotify has grown, these numbers are not impressive. Stickyness, or the DAU divided by MAU that indicates whether or not users are consistently coming back , is 10% which is at least better than most of the other music apps.
MOG – As of f8, MOG had 3,000 DAU and 32,000 MAU. It has clawed its way up 7,000 DAU to 10,000 and 137,000 MAU to 170,0000. Stickyness is the lowest of any the apps we sample, at 5.8%. MOG could have become a serious contender, but was slow to gets its Facebook integration humming immediately allowing Spotify to surge ahead. Facebook’s quote of it 246 percent growth is misleading.
Rdio – Strong out the gates, Rdio was the only app other than Spotify that I saw in my Ticker right after f8. It spiked from 3,848 DAU to 8,000 in the first two days after f8. However, it has since fallen all the way back to 4,000 DAU, an increase of less than 200 users, and only spiking as high as 6,000 DAU on weekends. MAU is up from 23,800 to 60,000, but just 6.6% of users return each day. This is a much more grim assessment than Facebook saying Rdio has had a “30x increase in new user registrations from Facebook”.
Unless it has significant growth of non-Facebook users, Rdio could be out of the race. Even if it does, Rdio is missing out on the Facebook virality bonanza aiding Spotify.
The massive growth of Spotify and the meager increases of the other apps reflect a peer pressure effect. Before the Facebook integration, users might have explored the different apps and found the one with the content library and features that best suited them. Now it’s hard to rationalize using MOG or Rdio while constantly bombarded with Ticker stories showing that your friends are all on Spotify.
While social services can provide an outlet for self-expression, they can also lead users to be implicitly bullied into conformity by the actions of their friends.
It's So Hard To Get Noticed - By Bob Lefsetz 11/10/2011
Once upon a time, centuries ago, when we all lived in little villages, you had your fame. You were the blacksmith, the singer, the storyteller. You had a defined role and if you did it well, you received accolades, everybody in your hamlet knew who you were. As far as worldwide fame goes, most people had barely been to the next town, the concept of spreading your ideas far and wide didn't even cross your mind.
And then came modern transportation and media and suddenly, you could reach everybody.
This was a thrill. Not only for the performer, but the audience. Instead of being restricted to the talent in your local burg, you could be exposed to others, with a different voice, a different viewpoint, in many cases with superior talent.
And by time we hit the era of network television, there were very few slots, and if you made it through, you'd truly made it. That was the goal, to make it.
Artists want to be heard by as many people as possible. If someone tells you they're satisfied with a tiny audience, they're lying. Art is expression. It foments understanding. You're filling a hole inside yourself and the satisfaction comes when you realize you're filling the same hole in others. And no matter how many holes you fill, you still feel empty, it's the artistic temperament.
And then the filter was tightened even more, during the MTV era. It was harder to make it, harder to get your video on television, but if you did, you were instantly nationally famous. You achieved that goal of mass exposure overnight.
But now that's impossible. Unless you stab or shoot someone, commit a crime. If you do something outrageous, there are Websites devoted to exposing you, never mind YouTube. But shy of that, it's nigh near impossible to reach everybody.
And this has got all artists scratching their heads.
At some point in the future, there will be a generation that does not remember MTV, CDs and albums. Sans history, they'll utilize the building blocks of the day to construct an edifice that satisfies them. But now, everyone is playing so hard, and other than Adele, no one reaches critical mass. There's a new number one album every week. Coldplay sells almost half a million records last week and barely 100,000 this week. Most people just don't care. And it's not a reflection upon the music so much as a statement on attention, it's hard to get everybody's.
And this is causing changes in the art itself. Many play the Top Forty game in order to gain notice. They'll sell their souls, work with cowriters and producers to deliver what the system wants as opposed to what they want. Others are so demoralized, they stop writing new material all together.
If you're starting out, keep writing. You can make it far, but it's gonna take a long time to gain that attention.
If you've already made it, you've got to change your perspective. You've got to do it for yourself, you've got to realize most people only want to hear the hits.
But it's so hard. Because once upon a time seemingly everybody was interested in everything you did.
Now, almost no one cares.
More Winner Takes All - By Bob Lefsetz 11/09/2011
The goal of the rights holders is to create competition. They believe leverage is greatest when you can play one retailer off another. This is true, but it's a complete misunderstanding of the digital landscape.
Please read this article:
"Don't Believe Facebook, Spotify's The Only Open Graph Music App Winning": http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/08/music-app-stats/
At the end of last week, stats were revealed showing that MOG was the fastest growing music service on Facebook:
The only problem was, the numbers were in percentages.
And when you go from one to two, that's a 100% increase. Whereas when you go from 1000 to 1100, that's only a 10% increase.
The devil is in the details. And the story, as told in the TechCrunch article linked first, is that Spotify is killing its competitors on Facebook.
Spotify has 2.4 million daily users and 7.4 million monthly users.
MOG has 10,000 daily users and 170,000 monthly users.
Rdio has 4,000 daily users and 60,000 monthly users, but just 6.6% of its users return each day, as opposed to 32% at Spotify.
So what did we learn here?
1. There's an early mover advantage. It pays to be first. Spotify pioneered free streaming of millions of tracks and built up a critical mass that cannot be undercut by me-too products. Spotify won this war, it can only lose if someone comes up with something better. In other words, Bing can't compete with Google unless it's superior by a huge margin, which it is not. Most of Bing's market share has been purchased, by deals with Yahoo and mobile carriers. And Bing has hemorrhaged billions and profitability is nowhere on the horizon. It's not only record labels that are ignorant, even Steve Ballmer couldn't see that only one site wins online. Sure, scraps are left for iconoclasts, but those scraps don't generate huge profits.
2. Network effects. Once everybody starts using something, it makes it damn near impossible for a competitor to enter the market and win. There's word of mouth, everybody wants to play with the cool people. But most importantly, this is where social comes in. When other systems are incompatible, everybody gravitates to the winner, because that's where everybody is.
3. Online is not like brick and mortar. All shops are right next door to each other, a click away, online. You might have overpaid for convenience at your local record shop, not wanting to drive further, but this is not an issue online. Notice that Spotify, MOG and Rdio don't differentiate on catalog, they've all got essentially the same tracks. And functionality is good enough with Spotify that no competitor can win on that basis. We saw this with Palm, supposedly functionality was a bit better than the iPhone. Didn't make a difference, Apple had already won. As for Android... It has triumphed because of costs. The software is free and so are some of the handsets. Apple might be able to stop the juggernaut with lawsuits, but if not, this is Windows versus Mac. But in online music services...you can't get any cheaper than free! It's impossible to compete on price!
4. Facebook trumpets the percentage increases of Spotify's competitors because just like the record labels, it wants competition, if one company wins, it has the leverage. If Spotify gets big enough, it dictates to Facebook.
5. Spotify has traction. So much of what gets hyped online is a fad, like turntable.fm. Heard anybody talk about that lately? You must separate the fads from those with sticking power. But just because a site is a winner today, that does not mean it will be a winner tomorrow. Either Apple has an all you can eat streaming service in the wings or it's going to lose out in music. Purchase is in decline. Because it's hard to rationalize paying for a little when you can get a lot for free. As for the sunset of all you can eat for free, cheapies won't gravitate to purchase, they'll just keep their money off the table. Either people will pay for mobile access or music will end up being baked into other services and will feel like free.
These are tectonic changes. And when they happen, they create instant winners and instant losers. The computer triumphed and the typewriter died. AOL burst open the online world but didn't change fast enough, was married to a dialup walled garden for too long, and the World Wide Web and cable/DSL killed it. Just because you win today, that does not mean you win tomorrow.
Moore's Law tells us that computing power doubles every two years. This increased power allows unforeseen innovation the same way broadband adoption ultimately begat YouTube. The more innovation enabled by technology, the more the old world is shaken up. Sure, you can make music the same old way, but how it reaches the marketplace and what the compensation is is totally up for grabs.
That's fact. And you can't argue with facts.
You can lament the passing of the past, or try to ride the new wave into the future.
And it's just like surfing. It's easier to watch from the beach. Catching a wave ain't that easy and riding it in can be even more difficult. But you can't win unless you wade into the water.
Music is no longer separate from the online world, it's fully integrated. To think you can keep people from mashing up music with other media is to believe you can stop people from having sex. Your best bet is to try to figure out where it's all going and instead of complaining, ride along.
It doesn't matter what Spotify pays. The power has shifted from the creator to the consumer. If every rights holder pulled his music from Spotify the service might die, but the public would remember it, the same way it remembered Napster after it was shut down. You lead the public, you don't take away from people. If you take away, people get pissed, no matter what your rationalization. They no longer believe you're on their side, they steal and negatively impact your business.
If you're planning a music distribution site, know that only one wins, there's only one iTunes and one Spotify. If those odds appeal to you, go for it.
If you do compete, you can't be a little bit better than the winner, you've got to be a lot better. Otherwise, people won't switch.
The rights holders believe that's what they've got, the rights, that they hold the ultimate trump card. Didn't work so well in the P2P world and there's a whole generation of musicians who've grown up tech-savvy and oppose restrictions, they see the benefit of sharing. This speaks negatively to those playing by old rules.
We're gonna continue to have winners and losers. Many of these companies will appear to rise out of nowhere. People laughed at Amazon, Facebook went from nothing to everything. Facebook could kill MySpace because MySpace was an inferior product. Spotify is not lame, you can only improve on it a little, that's not enough to differentiate yourself. So, to all the other streaming services...good luck!
We Live In An On Demand World - By Bob Lefsetz 11/08/2011
Stop trying to save music radio. It's done, kaput, it's just a matter of when.
Because we live in an on demand world. One of choice and instant satiation of desires. Talk radio will survive because it's live, but music radio will fail to the point of irrelevancy.
The problem is everyone making decisions, wielding power, is a baby boomer or older, who remembers the days of great radio, of waiting for weeks for the new movie to come to your town, of knowing the album cuts because it was all you could afford. Whereas the foregoing is meaningless to youngsters, they never lived through that era and the one they know now is better.
You lobbied for more music on MTV for years, don't you get it, that would have been the death of the outlet! Music video is an on demand item, just fire up YouTube. Do you really think people are going to sit in front of the television and wait?
Now it's about steering, about interactivity. Everything is available online all the time, how do you get people to pay attention?
Speaking of attention, pay none of it to established superstars and corporations. They're part of the old game and won't survive, not in their present forms, except as museum artifacts. You have to play by the new rules.
First and foremost, the window is forever. Used to be you were selling the product, now you're selling yourself. What I mean by this is don't organize your career around deadlines and marketing campaigns. Something great lies in wait for the listener to discover it online. You read in traditional media about new releases which come out and instantly tank. You want to drop land mines, that people will discover when ready. And not everything you have to do is great, as long as enough of it is, as long as you can separate the wheat from the chaff.
In other words, to avoid the blowback from the Lou Reed project, in three months Metallica should release an album with Rick Springfield or Mary J. Blige or some other artist we don't suspect. We'll forgiver "Lulu" if it's a sidestep, we won't forgive it if it's the main thing. In other words, experimentation is back. Instead of focusing on getting very little right, throw a lot against the wall, focus on making music as opposed to selling it. You really can't sell it anymore, that's in the hands of the listeners.
If Jim Ladd wanted to matter in the future, he'd establish a playlist of favorites, every week, on a Website. Sure, he'd take a hit in pay, assuming he could get a new radio gig, but if you keep going back to the well, eventually it goes dry. Jim's forte is picking the tracks, the delivery is superfluous. So he should take that essence and make it available, constantly, world wide, as the Web is, and continually update it.
Continuity. That's important online. Nothing frustrates as much as going back to a site that has not changed. Maybe your rhythm is once a week instead of once a day, but if you don't train the audience to come back, it won't.
So on demand killed music on MTV and it also killed the disc business. If you can hear whatever you want whenever you want online, why go to the store to buy overpriced discs with a ton of music you don't like? Don't see P2P acquisition as theft, see it as evidence of demand! Which is presently being satiated by Spotify. There's no reason to steal if everything is available legitimately.
This is why the movie studios are screwed. They think they can avoid day and date delivery in the home. That makes me laugh. People want to see it right away, and if you require them to leave the house and overpay, they'll just steal it online. This is demand. Eventually they'll fulfill it. After bitching like the music industry did for a decade.
Don't see it as a destruction of the old way, as evisceration of capital, but clearing the deck for a new model.
Sure, it was great getting paid ten bucks for a disc (then again, how much of that was returned to the artist...), but most people never heard the music contained therein. Now everybody can hear it. And this creates a race to quality, great for the listener, bad for every creator other than the star. The long tail was a myth. With everything available, more people gravitate to that which is great and the rest is ignored, or has little impact.
You've got to change your thinking. You've got to put yourself in the shoes of the listener. How do you fulfill demand?
Of course, there's the issue of creating demand. That comes down to quality and filters. And right now the process is inefficient, but it will tighten up.
If you speak to anybody with influence in the old music industry, they'll testify about radio, its power. Laugh at this. This is like championing the power of buggy whips after the first automobile hit the road.
They used to talk about the power of MTV. In retrospect, that paradigm died overnight.
The same thing is happening with radio.
Radio is an inefficient way to connect great music with listeners. And that's why it's dying, supplanted by new systems.
What exactly should I find in a publishing contract? From a Numubu's Article 11/06/2011
The Publisher will first ask you to assign your rights to him in exclusivity so he can collect them; this assignment will be for the royalties generated by the works written during the term of the contract; this assignment can be for an undetermined or determined period; if for a determined period, you might want the rights assigned to be re-assigned back to the artist after the term.
The contract will also state that you have to write to many titles in a given period and that you have to make yourself available at reasonable times; the contract will state that there are no guarantees that particular royalties will be recovered.
If the Publisher also undertook to promote your works and your catalogue, the contract will state that there are no guarantees that the promotion work will give any results. However, even if not held to an obligation of result, the Publisher is bound to use his best efforts in order to favour the artist’s interests; there will be a default on the Publisher’s side if no efforts whatsoever are used in promoting and developing the artist’s works and catalogue.
The Publishing contract should contain a clause by which the Publisher gives the artist a recoupable, non-refundable advance. Ideally, this advance can only be recouped from the Artist’s share of the royalties collected by the Publisher. And ideally the contract should state that if the advance is not reimbursed by the end of the term, the Publisher will waive it.
Most Publishing contracts contain a clause by which the Publisher can “sub-assign” your works. As an example, Publishers working on different territories often enter into agreements amongst themselves by which each other assigns each other’s catalogue to the other. It would be advisable that your contract state that such a “sub-Publishing” be authorized bu the author. However, when offering a Publishing contract, the Publisher will often tell you that he or she already has a “sub-Publisher” and will even use this fact as an additional incentive to convince you to sign. In all cases, always ask your Publisher who the subs are.
Publishing contracts should be very clear concerning the Publisher’s obligations - don’t hesitate to ask for particular langage to be inserted in the contract if you want particular activities to be done. Most Publishing contracts do not state obligations for the Publisher; this does not mean that there are none, it means that if a dispute happens, the only obligations will be those recognized in the industry. If you want to evidence these obligations in court, you might need an expert witness from the industry, often another Publisher, who will be reluctant to help you in a case against one of their colleagues.
Occupy EMI/Sony/Universal/Warner Brothers - By Bob Lefsetz 11/01/2011
The inefficiency is you.
What private equity does is find businesses, invest in them, and then overpay the executives to help them eradicate inefficiencies in the system, so both can get richer. The executives are beholden to the stakeholders, not those working for them. This is why you've worked so hard and lost your job. You could be replaced, by a computer, or a worker in Asia.
The inefficiency in music is the artist. Few of them break even and those that do make tons of money, most of which historically has not flowed to the company.
Let's start at the beginning. You want to get signed by a label. You think the employees love music, that they want to help you succeed.
The employees love money. Don't blame them. Our whole country has undergone a philosophical change. It's a race to the top. If underlings are sacrificed in the process, so be it. The label employees want to buy a house by the Park and vacation in a warm climate after traveling there by private jet. The bankers do it, why shouldn't they?
So they only want to sign you if they see the potential for a huge return. A HUGE return. If you can make them a couple of bucks, they don't care. It's a matter of opportunity cost, their cash is better deployed elsewhere.
And since they've got so much money on the line, the executives running these labels want insurance. That insurance comes in the form of favored cowriters and producers. They don't want you doing your own thing, it's too risky. And they don't want what isn't easy to sell. If you don't make Top Forty music, they just don't care.
Used to be the labels could achieve success by ripping you off. There was just that much money in recorded music. CDs sold for an inflated price and they were the only way the public could own the music. And people had to buy an album to hear the hit. Furthermore, the acts paid for recording costs and the labels owned the result, adding to their underlying value. A label is worth nothing without its copyrights.
But then came Napster.
Someone had to sacrifice.
And it certainly wasn't going to be the executives.
They trimmed underlings, then they went for you, the acts. They wanted more. They didn't want to share in the decline, they wanted a piece of all your income, because they built you. And people have been lining up to take this deal, out of ignorance, out of a desire to become rich, even though so few ultimately do.
The problem is you. The act. You want someone to do it for you. And the only people who can do so will screw you. This is like a desperate person borrowing from the Mafia, the organization owns you for life, even if you repay the debt.
Why would you do this?
What is happening in the music business is no different from what is happening in the rest of the country. Hell, Warner is owned by private equity. And EMI may be soon. As for Universal and Sony, their parents would unload the operations in an instant if they could. There's just no one to buy.
These are the people you want to get in bed with?
You're like the worker who gets his union decertified, works ten hours a day at a feverish pace and then sees his job shipped overseas. At some point, you've got to say NO MAS. You've got to see that the odds are stacked against you.
hen you've got poor old Pete Townshend, railing that Apple has a responsibility to develop new talent. He's lost in the sixties. That's like saying Goldman Sachs has a responsibility to rebuild America, after raping and pillaging. The game has changed.
But technology does not only benefit private equity. It benefits you too. You can do it on your own. The public was intelligent enough to realize the labels were ripping them off, how come the artists can't see the same thing? The fight against free music is the label's, not the act's. Recorded music revenue was always just a piece of the pie, but the game has changed. Now the biggest issue is getting people to hear your music, not pay for it. Why can't acts understand this?
You're going to get no revolution from titans working at the major label or Live Nation. Live Nation's a public company, beholden to the shareholders. The executives are rewarded for making the stock rise, not for playing fair and nurturing artists. You wanna know why Live Nation does little in the club business? IT DOESN'T PAY!
It's just that simple.
And the company believes if you can ever make it, you're gonna need them, their deep pockets and expertise.
The game is stacked against you. Please realize this.
It's the responsibility of the acts to do it for themselves, with new people. It's the only way out.
If you don't save yourself, nobody will.
Music For Nothing And The Fans For Free - By Bob Lefsetz 10/25/2011
When you employ a freemium model, a small percentage of your customers will generate a significant part of your revenue. This is why you must offer expensive tickets and merchandise for these diehard fans.
Please read this article by Hany Nada on allthingsd:
This is why Bon Jovi can sell platinum tickets for exorbitant rates that include the chair you're sitting in. There's a demand for them.
This is the essence of Kickstarter. Your diehard fans will cough up enough money for you to record your album, just don't expect the masses to care when it's finally done.
This is a completely different paradigm from the old days, when everybody paid the same price for the album and the concert ticket. Now that the music is free, people will still buy it, if you give them a reason to. That's one of the movers behind vinyl. It makes a great souvenir for a hard core fan. Oldsters have been going on forever about the visuals, they are correct. The music is free, what it's packaged in is not. Stop decrying the theft of MP3s and wrap them in something your hard core fans want.
We're Selling Creativity - By Bob Lefsetz 10/16/2011
And that can't be learned in school.
I want you to read this story by Michael Ellsberg from Sunday's "New York Times":
Entitled "Will Dropouts Save America?", it says what I already know, college is bullshit.
Oh, I learned a bit in college, but almost none of it was in the classroom. When I go to the east coast, where they care about such things, I can whip out the name of my alma mater, but Middlebury did its best to strip away my creativity, wanted me to be like them, part of the establishment, the great fabric of this country.
What a bunch of b.s.
In order to make it in music you've got to conjure up ideas out of thin air. Not only as an artist, but as a businessman too. You've got to throw out the baby with the bathwater and start over. That's the story of all new musical movements, from jazz to the Beatles/British Invasion to hip-hop. Sure, there's nothing wrong with stealing a bit from the past, but if you're burdened by it, if you're playing the game, we don't care. We want something new, something different, something titillating, something exciting.
Once upon a time the music industry was a renegade business. With less money involved, it was more about the art. Now it's about the money.
I don't know why a youngster would want to work at a label. Where they tell you how to do it and micro-manage because there's so much money involved. All of the winners in Ellsberg's research talk about being comfortable with failure. Even though failure is rampant at record labels, everybody hates it, from the execs to the acts. Which is why they make you rewrite and cowrite and rerecord... By time they're done, they've stripped away the essence, what made your material great to begin with.
As for the touring industry, it hasn't been a hotbed of creativity since the heydays of Bill Graham and Frank Barsalona. The fan comes last. And the fan knows it. Except for in the burgeoning electronic/dance world where it's about creating an event, where it's all about the experience... Do you think Electric Daisy would continue to succeed if it was only the music, with overpriced, lousy food? No, if you don't treat the fan right in the dance world, you're toast. And isn't it interesting that all the kingpins of dance/electronica are not the usual suspects. They don't work for Live Nation or AEG.
So, first and foremost, question authority. Don't do it a certain way because that's the way it's always been done, that's the way everybody else does it. You'll never get ahead being like everybody else.
And if you want to succeed in the new music world, don't go to work for an established company, unless you're using it as a platform, a place to gain experience and then go off on your own. If you're planning on moving up the ladder, you're a joke, because the ladder is calcified and is a highway to hell, and not like that great AC/DC song.
And speaking of AC/DC... They won't put their music on iTunes. Because they're stuck in the past. Could this have something to do with the failure of their second go-round in America to sell out? If you put the money first, you can almost never win.
Then again, to put their songs on iTunes would be a risk.
To put your music on Spotify is a risk.
It's the great unknown.
If you're not willing to take chances, you'll never make it.
You need to be in the game. And now, more than ever, we're not sure what the game is. There's an old structure, but it's working for almost no one, a handful of executives and a few acts. Do you really want to perpetuate that?
If you're not an entrepreneur in music, you don't count, I'm laughing.
Managers are inherently entrepreneurs. They take something and make it happen. That's what you hire a manager for. If you're starting out, don't go to work for a firm, start your own, because if you can't find your own talent, you'll never win.
You can learn everything you need to know about the music business by surfing the Web, listening to the radio, watching a bit of TV and reading a few books. Immerse yourself in the culture. Absorb influences. They tried to codify the industry, streamline it and remove the risk. The result is the major labels are fading and we've yet to see the rolled up concert promotion company known as Live Nation turn consistently profitable. You want to follow these guys?
One hit can change the world. Not only for listeners, but those who make it and sell it. And with new media, you can break instantly. That's the story of Rebecca Black's "Friday", not how good it was, but that everybody knew about it with none of the traditional hype...hell, radio wouldn't even play it!
You just can't win if you play the game.
Destroy the game. Undermine it. That's how punk wounded rock and hip-hop killed it. Everybody in rock became too complacent.
Everything's up for grabs if you'd just stop listening to people tell you how to do it. Opportunity is huge. If you're willing to listen to your heart, march to the beat of your own drummer.
Coaching - By Bob Lefsetz 10/05/2011
We're just not helping the wannabes.
There are endless conferences, usually sponsored by governments, most of them generating profits to the promoters, that will agree to expose your music, that will tell you how to make it in business, but none of them criticize the music itself. Oh, there's an occasional listening panel, but players don't utilize them to get better, they utilize them to get noticed. You see today's wannabes are perfectly formed, they're incredibly great, their only problem is the gatekeepers and the great unwashed don't know it yet. They believe their real stumbling block is exposure, and they'll beat you down trying to get it. If you criticize their material they don't want to hear it, they argue, tell you just don't get it and after insulting you move on to another mark they hope to convince.
Which is why you just can't get honest feedback in the music business. A label won't reject you by telling you your material is substandard, it will say it's not signing anybody right now, or that you're just not a proper fit, fearful of deflating the player, they're dishonest. No one likes delivering bad news, but it's hard to gain quality if there's no positive feedback.
I just finished reading an article about coaching in the October 3rd "New Yorker". I'd missed it, but a reader pointed me to it and it's a winner. The author is a surgeon, who reached a peak and then stopped there, like an artist with a bunch of hits who never had another one. He wanted to get better? How?
He employed a coach. Who focused on the little things. Like how the surgeon draped the patient. Sure, it was right for the doctor, but how about the surgical assistant? John Wooden famously started his charges at UCLA by teaching them how to put on their socks. Blisters cost playing time. But kids also need to learn that the difference between winning and losing at the elite level is not the macro issues, but the micro.
Turns out Julliard students practice at least five hours a day. And they focus on the fundamentals. Imagine telling a wannabe that he's got to forgo texting, forgo social networking and practice. You'd get howls. He'd tell you he's furthering his career! But when you start with little, you rarely gain much. You must have a broad foundation to be great. The wannabe believes the audience just hasn't heard his music, the real story is people hear it and reject it, don't make it go viral, because it's just not good enough.
"Elite performers, researchers say, must engage in 'deliberate practice' - sustained, mindful efforts to develop the full range of abilities that success requires. You have to work at what you're not good at."
Mmm... One could argue that the best rappers would not be those who solely knew how to rhyme, but those who also knew how to play an instrument, create beats and work the board. Knowing all these components, you can reach a point of unconscious doing, a confidence that allows you to glow. But that's a lot of hard work. Anathema to multiple generations exposed to instant stardom on TV. They don't want just to work hard, they want opportunity.
As for the coaching you get on televised singing programs, to the degree it's any good, it's so narrow as to be barely more than worthless. The best singers don't make the best recording artists. It's more than that. But these coaches don't reference these other qualities, there's only so much you can accomplish in a sixteen week season.
As for record labels... There can be nurturing, but it's within such narrow confines as to stifle the art form. Record companies only want what they can sell, instantly. They don't want to inspire you to grow and be different, that's horrifying to them. They want the same thing over and over again.
And then there are the superstars who peak and are done. Because they now believe they know it all, they believe everything they do is great, they're no longer hungry, they won't listen to anybody.
That's the secret to Rick Rubin's success. He inspires superstars.
But we've got one Rick Rubin and a bunch of yes-men.
And this article goes on to say that expertise in the art form is not a requirement to be a great coach. Bela Karolyi couldn't perform any of the routines, but he was a fantastic gymnastics coach. The old saw that you must play in order to hear a hit is b.s. The outside observer may not be able to create a hit himself, but he can inspire someone else to make one, and knows what works and what does not.
So we need a system, kind of like sports, that instills fundamentals and teaches kids to grow. This is the secret to Adele's success, her training. She's trouncing everybody else on the chart, even Lady Gaga, who's got more press. Because the Adele album is just more musical, it affects you in a way that can barely be verbalized, it touches your heart.
Can we change the culture of popular music in a nation that gives all participants a trophy? Wow. That's why America's lunch is eaten by foreigners, they're willing to work, too many of our children are not. But we could inspire them.
Not that all superstars need to listen to their label or manager... The wrong coach hurts more than no coach.
But we can all become better. Not by saying we're inadequate or not good, but by trying to gain that little bit extra, that separates those who gather notice from those who do not.
The problem we have in popular music is not a plethora of unrecognized greatness, but a dearth thereof. Adele demonstrates the public is interested in popular music and will pay for it if it believes it's great. But too much of what's out there is not, or is good...and good just isn't good enough.
Kind of like the Republicans, who famously had a decades-long plan to achieve their present success, someone who was willing to coach inspired youngsters to greatness could reap huge rewards in the future. But it's hard to find someone to dedicate the time and money when we live in an instant reward culture. The businessmen are as bad as the wannabe artists. They want to be overpaid today, the biggest goal is to cash out. A great artist never cashes out, he's a lifer.
You've got to be open to help and you've got to find people who can give it without turning your stomach, causing you to run away.
Steve Jobs's style was less than perfect, but Apple's success was based on his inspiration of his troops, all of whom had great expertise before he hired them. That's how you run a company. That's how you create great products. Apple was a laughingstock in the nineties and it's the most valuable company in America now... It took a long time.
It takes a long time in art too.
I Think You Can Do Better - By Bob Lefsetz 09/25/2011
So George Harrison shows up with his song for "Sgt. Pepper" and George Martin is disappointed.
We live in a culture where everybody gets a trophy, praise is heaped upon unworthy citizens except when they're excoriated, when the assembled multitude says what they've done is shite.
It's hard to be popular. With notoriety comes hate. People are jealous. It's human nature. They want to drag you down into the hole they're in. It takes all your strength to keep on keepin' on as the arrows fly. The biggest risk is to take a chance. So many are fearful of negative feedback they don't even take a chance. But you're bad before you're good. And the only compass is deep inside.
And once you've made it, you're lucky if you've got a trusted confidante, who wants what you do to be better, who inspires you, because he wants you to be your best self, all you can be, as opposed to lining his own pockets.
Today's artists have lost faith with the businessmen. When they tell them to cowrite or that they don't hear a single the artists wince, because there's no underlying trust, and too often the businessman has a better lifestyle than the musician. It's topsy-turvy to the way it should be. Everything flows from the music. You need to make it about the music.
So George Martin is disappointed with Harrison's song. Instead of saying nothing, because it doesn't really matter, because "Sgt. Pepper" will sell millions no matter what, Martin motivates Harrison. He says that "Pepper" is going to be a fantastic album and that George can do better.
This is the work of a coach. This is the work of the great A&R men of the past. This is the work of Rick Rubin. How do you gain a level of trust to the point where you can inspire an artist to do his best work?
An artist knows when his work is substandard. Because the song is his baby, he needs to sell it with bravura, needs to defend it, but deep inside he knows. You've got to touch this space to inspire him to do better.
Conversely, an artist knows when he does his best work. When he's achieved nirvana. Never back down in this situation, because the only direction you can go from the top is the bottom. You must stand your ground. But not everything you do is at this level, in fact, it's quite rare.
John inspired Paul and vice versa. They wanted to top each other, they wanted acceptance and admiration. We all do. But how do you coax these from another?
First by showing faith. Without faith, you've got nothing. The artist knows when you're on his side, the artist knows when you believe he's great. And when he hears you're disappointed and inside he knows he's under-delivered he wants to make it right, it's human nature.
Somehow our society has become one of no, especially in the arts. There's too much money on the line. It's too expensive to make a movie, a stiff single will hurt your momentum, marketing trumps creativity. Whereas great songs are written when nothing else is in mind.
In Silicon Valley it's a badge of honor to fail. Executives are embraced because they've lived through the mistakes, they know what to look out for next time. We've got to inspire our artists to take risks. But we've also got to inspire them to do their best work.
The culture of mainstream music is bankrupt. The money trumps everything. The executives are all about lifestyle, they want the income of a banker, and too many of the acts do too. We're going to have to wipe away the old to make way for the new. That's one thing that's great about the economic decline after Napster, it's weeded out those in music for the wrong reasons. Now if you're not a fan, not a believer, you're not in it, because the rewards are just too slim. Sure, some oldsters are hanging on by a thread, but they're dying off too.
So expand your mind and your sound. And surround yourself with people who are good sounding boards, who put your art above everything else.
We all want to do our best work. But sometimes we need context, we need parameters, that's what a great producer does.
George Harrison came back with "Within You Without You".
George Harrison trusted George Martin. He listened to him. George Martin was a great producer.
New Rules - By Bob Lefsetz 09/20/2011
1. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you make.
You build your own audience. There’s an established niche for every genre. From folk to metal. Don’t worry about playing to everybody, just play to somebody.
The last thirty years, the MTV era, has been about giving people what they want, which is just like what they’re already consuming. Major labels and major media, most especially radio, had control of a narrow sieve and if you didn’t fit, you couldn’t play. That is not true today. Those powers mean ever less. You can reach your audience easily online. You’ve just got to start.
2. You’ve got to be good.
This is about practice. We’re in a music era, not a marketing era. Ignore those who tweet and Facebook their goings-on instead of focusing on the music. It’d be like Steve Jobs selling Dell. It wouldn’t blow up overnight. Even better, Ferrari selling Smart cars. A great marketer is nothing without a great product, focus on the product.
Play for three or four hours a day. Take lessons. Play in your garage before you play in public.
3. Learn how to use Pro Tools/Logic.
You record yourself before pros want to work with you, before you can afford them. Technology is part of the music-making process. Knowing how to lay down the sound improves the end product. And once you know how the stuff works, you can tell professionals what you want in their terms, playing on their level. There’s no excuse for walking into a studio and being abused by pros who say they know better.
4. Fans are your best friends.
This is the essence of pay to play. Instead of bitching that the club owner won’t let you play unless you bring fans, bring those fans and generate so much cash that the booker will be dying to have you back. It’s your responsibility to make it, not someone else’s. The days of limited exposure that pay dividends are over. If you play a gig without bringing your own fans there’ll be no one there, or those who are just don’t care.
5. Fans start with friends.
Your friends are your street team. Don’t enable them until your music is ready, until they can turn someone on without losing credibility. You build from those you know, not those you don’t.
6. Play live as much as you can without losing money.
If people aren’t coming, stop playing out live and retool your act. Once they’re showing up, spread to new markets, trade gigs with those successful in other territories. Other bands are not your competition, but your friends.
7. Have something to sell at gigs.
People want to support you, they want souvenirs. They buy CDs and vinyl not to play, but to embody their belief in you, to evidence their identity. If you’re small, have only a few items for sale, otherwise people are turned off. Every time you tour a market again, have a new item for sale, a new patch, a new sticker. Don’t think so much about making money as enabling fans to spread the word.
8. Social networking is for fans.
Twitter and Facebook are irrelevant until you get traction. They’re rallying points for those who already believe. Once you’ve got fans, feed them information about gigs and goings-on. Once you’ve got a plethora of true believers, tweet and post about your inner life. No one cares until you approach stardom.
9. Stardom is on your own terms.
No chart can define stardom. Don’t compare your career with others. Don’t lose your path. The first goal is giving up your day job. Your second goal is earning enough money to buy a house. Your third goal is being able to take enough time off to be creative, to rekindle your muse.
You need ‘em once you’ve got traction. Quality is key. And quality must improve as your career grows. New fans at the advent will overlook your failings. But once you gain a name your music must be more polished and be able to close those who barely care, who are only doing a drive-by. If your music isn’t good enough at any point in the ascent, stop playing live and go back to practicing and writing.
11. You want an album for the gig.
Ironically, albums are most important when you’re starting out. Maybe it’s just an EP, four songs, but people want something they can bite into, can familiarize themselves with. Sure, start with one track, but then you’ve got nothing to sell at the gig. A great MP3 posted online, for free, so it can be traded, can rocket you into the stratosphere almost immediately, if it’s that good. But that’s a huge if. If your music is truly that great, and most isn’t, make that your calling card, maybe you don’t even have to play live at first, like Toronto’s Weeknd. But most people don’t emerge fully-formed, you’ve got to build more slowly, more gradually. Chances are you don’t even know where you’re going at first, you’ve got to find your way.
12. Once you’ve gained huge success, release a steady stream of music.
The music stokes the fire of the enterprise. It’s the kindling, not the log. You’re nothing without the music, which is why you should constantly satiate fans with new stuff. That keeps your touring numbers up, that allows you to sell merch. Taking a year or two off to record an album causes you to lose momentum. Sure, it might deliver a payday, but that paradigm is fading with the death of physical product and the replacement of MP3s with streaming.
Your fans will post clips. Imperfections work for you. Amateurishness is in your favor. Same with traded live shows. This is fan business, which you must enable. Allow photos, recording and videotaping. This is your marketing. And don’t deliver authorized live shows, whether video or audio, until you have haters. That’s when you know you’ve truly made it, when you have vocal haters. These haters can be pointed to the high quality live stuff to be proven wrong. They won’t admit it, but it seeps in, it helps, like those clips of Lady Gaga alone at the piano.
14. Don’t sell out to anyone unless you’re in it for the short haul.
Major labels are about feeding a fading Top Forty market and those working there when you sign will be different from those employed even a year or two down the line. You don’t want to be beholden to anyone, because only you know the music and you must forge your own path.
We’re entering a new era where music is not only omnipresent, it once again trumps film and TV. But the responsibility is upon you, the younger generation. You’ve got to build it in order for them to come. You must put music ahead of money. You must respect everyone in the food chain. You must not rip anybody off.
People need things to believe in. The barrier to entry in music is minimal, providing rampant opportunities. You can deliver for them.
Forget everything you know prior to this date. About radio, labels and arena tours. That system was built for a different era. Labels were constructed for an era when there was limited distribution and recording was expensive. Now anybody can distribute and recording is cheap. Radio was the only way to hear the music. Now the music can be heard everywhere, it’s free for the taking on Spotify and YouTube. TV is where you go to meet the old guard playing by the old rules. MTV barely plays any music and the networks just air what is mainstream. The mainstream has been blown apart. There will be icons in the future, but the audience will come to the musicians, not vice versa. You won’t compromise, you won’t give people what they want, you’ll be unique and people will be drawn to you.
FORGET ABOUT MARKETING, FORGET ABOUT MONEY, FOCUS ON MUSIC AND THE REST WILL FALL IN PLACE!
Michael Phelps swam unknown in pools for over a decade before he became an overnight Olympic sensation. That’s how it’s gonna work in music. You’re gonna be paying your dues, unheralded, until finally you break through. You’re gonna be nobody, then somebody. Forget Justin Bieber, forget Greyson Chance, that isn’t music, that’s commerce. No different from selling hula-hoops, Furbys and pet rocks. Here today and gone tomorrow. Build to last, go for the long haul, have substance. Naysayers might state that they hate your music, but they’ll begrudgingly admit you can PLAY!
Superheavy - By Bob Lefsetz 09/07/2011
Please copy and paste the link below to watch the video
Sales this week: 7,399
Weeks on chart: 3
Percentage drop: -40.1
1. Mick Jagger doesn't know who his audience is.
I'm not saying he doesn't have an idea who might buy this album, it's just that he doesn't have a personal relationship with them, he has no line of communication, HE DOESN'T HAVE THEIR E-MAIL ADDRESSES!
That's your number one promotion job, finding out exactly who your audience is. So you can make them aware of your new work and infect them and get them to spread the word. This is the most efficient marketing system. It's direct to fan. And it's incumbent upon all acts to do this
2. If you want sales make Top Forty music.
You can get around this if you're the Dave Matthews Band, if you know who your audience is as per #1 above. If not, you're gonna sell bupkes.
3. If you're gonna make Top Forty music, work with Dr. Luke or Max Martin, the producer/writer du jour.
You might think the Top Forty game is simple, but it's not. The winners in the field have not only worked in it for years, they've studied it, they know what works, they've put in the time. Respect them for it.
4. If you don't make Top Forty music, you must go on the road.
That's where you build careers today, that's where you maintain them. But if you're doing something new, you've got to break all the rules. People don't expect the solo band member to replicate the group hits, they expect to be disappointed. So they don't want to go, they certainly don't want to overpay. So you've got to underplay and undercharge as an investment in your career. And you've got to over-deliver, so when you come back again, soon, patrons will bring their friends, so you can build. It's a lot of hard work, something that's anathema to the superstars going solo.
5. TV can sell music.
If you're on the show and the track is perceived to be good. Ergo the success of "Moves Like Jagger" and the failure of the Steven Tyler track.
A guest shot is almost meaningless. What you're selling here is your connection with the viewer, who sees you every week. They feel like they know you. They'll buy the track in solidarity if they believe it's great. Tyler's track was a joke, a boring, perfunctory exercise. Today you've got to be better than great to succeed. J. Lo delivered a track better than what she'd done in years, so her fans bought it, but no one else did, because J. Lo's a great dancer, can be a good actress, but she's a no-talent musical artist.
6. You have to ask yourself if you're a musician or a star.
Mick Jagger is certainly a star. But no one thinks he's a musician. Most people believe he hasn't done anything great since the sixties. You can no longer coast, unless you're going on the road and playing those ancient hits. You've got to prove it every day.
7. Mainstream publicity reaches the mainstream.
And the mainstream is last, they're the followers, not the chance-takers. The movers and shakers, the early adopters who'll spread the word, ignore the mainstream press. Better to reach a few fanatical bloggers than the "New York Times".
8. Everything above is known to everybody under thirty. But it's all a secret to everybody over thirty, especially those who've had success in the past.
Artists don't realize that today your past history gives you a foot in the door and nothing more. Youngsters know it's all about the grass roots, building community online, or playing the overly-promoted Top Forty game.
It's fine if you want to give up. But if you want to make new music and have it get traction today you must obey the above rules. And the music must be great. But that's no guarantee everybody's going to pay attention. This is where your history hurts you, people expect your new material to be crap. If it's great, you have to wait for the hype to die down and for the music to percolate in society. Traction will be slow and small. This album may not ever blow up. It may be the one after or the one after that.
You're starting all over.
Genious Is Love - By Bob Lefsetz 08/26/2011
So I’m watching the George Harrison special and I’m staggered to learn he grew up in a house without electricity. But it was worse. Heat was one stove, fired by coal, could that have contributed to his cancer?
And then they go to Hamburg, where Klaus Voormann talks about seeing the Beatles on the Reeperbahn. Egads, you wouldn’t even go there. A tourist trap with neon lights that reminds you of nothing so much as a sideshow, a rip-off. This is where the band played eight hours a night, in between strippers.
Sound like a road to success? Do you think between sets the boys were contemplating the top of the pops? No, they were just stayin’ alive, having a bit of fun, trying to elude a dreary future in Liverpool.
Talk about your 10,000 hours. There were no hard drives back then. You played live. And if you weren’t at least moderately good, you couldn’t get the gig. Over time you learn not only how to play, but perform, and they’re not the same. I’ve never seen anybody work the crowd like Paul McCartney. I’d say it’s in his DNA, but the point is it’s not. He learned it. Through experience. In Hamburg.
I just got through listening to Malcolm Gladwell on Radiolab. I’ll give you the link. It’s fascinating to see how far Gladwell has come himself. Now he’s completely comfortable on stage, he owns it, he’s not trying to convince you, you feel privileged to be in attendance.
And Gladwell’s talking about the 10,000 hours it takes to become world class at any cognitive skill. But then he goes further. He talks about love. That genius is love, not ability. Do you love what you do so much that you can’t stop talking about it, can’t stop practicing, can’t stop innovating?
Gladwell uses the example of Wayne Gretzky. Who cried when hockey games ended on TV when he was only two. Who invented shots no one had even contemplated. But I was thinking of Elton John. Elton loves music. I’ll never forget reading that they used to open up Tower Records just for him, he’d buy a hundred albums. Elton’s still singling out new talent. He trumpeted Ryan Adams…
And then there’s Steve Jobs. He loved computers, he loved technology. He may have been unjustly fired from Apple, but he didn’t take his money and go home, he began again, with NeXT. Funny how today’s culture is different. I’m gonna create an app or a Website, sell it and retire! The geniuses never retire, their insides won’t let them.
And when you see a genius at work, you feel something. Those Apple keynotes, you could see that Jobs himself was thrilled, the excitement was contagious.
And I’m sure you’ve been at a show where the performer was so into it you’ll never forget it. When they weren’t playing for you so much as themselves, enraptured by the music.
Do you know those people who can’t stop talking about something, whether it be music or cars or computers? They’re the ones to look out for, they’re the ones who are going to make it.
And these people are rarely sour grapes. Because money is not what they’re after. They’d do it for free. And they might like tweeting and Facebooking, all the social networking chozzerai, but nowhere near as much as playing.
You know the cliche, "Do what you love and the money will follow." That’s hogwash. Making money is its own skill. You can love what you’re doing and be broke. But you won’t be unhappy.
Loving what you do is not enough to succeed. It’s just a beginning, it’s an ongoing force. It keeps you going when the spotlight’s gone, when everybody else tells you to give up.
But it also drives you to innovate, to do it different.
Doing the same thing over and over for 10,000 hours won’t make you a genius. It’s just a jumping off point, a foundation. It’s like being a painter. The great abstract expressionists knew how to draw, they jettisoned that to go into a new realm. They understood context, history. Sure, anybody can drip paint on a canvas, but could you think of it?
The New Music Problem - By Bob Lefsetz 08/17/2011
We want to know what to listen to.
Once upon a time, labels, radio and press performed this function. They drove us to the best of what was available, which wasn’t very much. The tunes were professionally recorded, sometimes boring or repetitive, but the scene was easily digestible, you could know every record available, you could find the gems.
Now we’re confronted by chaos.
The labels say to leave it to them. But unlike decades ago, labels don’t come close to signing the best of the best, they just sign what sells.
And what sells is what’s on the radio. And what’s on the radio is dance music.
So if you’re into dance music, laced with a bit of hip-hop, you’re living in aural nirvana. The system has become incredibly refined, tune into the Top Forty station and you’ll be plugged right in.
But naysayers are plentiful. In an era where more people are making more music in more genres, and it’s literally freely available, many reject the lowest common denominator cynicism of the labels and radio. They want music that touches their souls.
Touching souls. That’s a fascinating concept. A study was done to discover what generated online virality. It turns out facts barely matter, we want to share emotion. Music does this best, but we’re doing a bad job of sharing our tastes.
The problem is we’ve only got time for great. Overloaded with input, we graze for superiority in a sea of mediocrity, and it’s nigh near impossible to find.
There are tireless self-promoters, telling us to listen to their stuff.
There are fans whose taste is so eclectic, nobody could identify.
And now that everyone’s got a voice online, press is irrelevant.
What is the way out?
Matching listeners with superior tunes.
Note, this is different from any time in modern history. There were tons of mediocre tunes on the radio in the sixties and seventies. Video sold crap in the eighties. But there was a limited universe, it worked. You bought the second-rate album, played it ad infinitum and went to see the band live because you didn’t know any better.
Purveyors believe we still don’t know any better.
But we do.
The techie solution is data. This is the flaw of Pandora. Data has about as good a chance of delivering what we want to hear as a computer has of finding us a mate. Or to make it even crazier, dating sites have found out people don’t know what they’re looking for, they say they want tall blondes but they keep clicking on the profiles of short brunettes.
I didn’t make that up. That’s true. The breakthrough in online dating is showing you what you click on, not what you say you want.
But although I do know people who’ve gotten hitched after meeting on dating sites, most people are frustrated, they don’t find Mr. or Ms. Right. Why do you expect a computer to deliver the right song?
So it’s clear that recommendations will have to come from human beings.
But the dirty little secret is that recommendations can’t be tuneouts.
Contemplate this. You can only forward MP3s and links of songs that not only you like, but that you guarantee the recipient will like. That’s the mark of a great connector, he knows what you need.
But since so many people are recommending less than perfect tracks, we end up tuning out all recommendations.
But upping the recommendation game also pisses off the musicians. What we’re saying is that most players don’t get to play. That we’re not interested. There are fewer slots than there are in the NFL or NBA. At any given time there’s not a hundred tracks worthy of attention. Actually, there are barely any mass appeal tracks.
And what we’re looking for is mass appeal.
This is another secret. We want music to bring us together. We want to listen to what other people are listening to. Maybe not everybody, but the other metalheads, country addicts… And if we decide to cross genres, we want to hear guaranteed good stuff.
The more stuff there is, the less we’re interesting in hearing.
We won’t sit through an entire YouTube clip if it doesn’t grab us immediately. And we won’t sit through your song either.
Don’t shoot the messenger. Yes, it may take us a few listens to get your song, but no one is going to put in that time anymore.
The way out of our dilemma is for musicians and tastemakers to collectively recommend only the best of the best. Not the best of the week, or the best of the month, but stuff so good you want to hear it all the way through and play it again.
We live in a land of winners and losers.
Yes, there are endless niches.
But only a few will win.
Most songs on iTunes go unbought.
Most songs on Spotify go unplayed.
And no matter how much you promote them, we still won’t listen. Because we only have time for that which is incredible.
It’s demoralizing, I know.
But when I hear something that great, I want to tell everybody. And so do you.
But it’s so hard to find greatness amidst the cacophony.
That’s the music business challenge of today. Delivering greatness to those who want to hear it.
So far, no one’s taken up the challenge.
Bon Jovi Without Richie - By Bob Lefsetz 08/14/2011
If Sambora doesn’t matter, why not go out as a solo, as Jon Bon Jovi with unknown players and keep all the money?
I know, I know, the show must go on, but really?
It’s one thing if someone’s paying $3 a ticket. You’re all in it together. But at these prices, people expect the real thing. This is like buying a Mercedes Benz and finding out it’s a Chevy under the hood. You’re pissed!
This is different from Journey going out with a new lead singer. That’s a celebration of the songs, people still believe in Bon Jovi, they want to reconnect with their youth, and without Richie "Wanted Dead Or Alive" is just not the same. Captain Phil died on "The Deadliest Catch", we accept it and the show goes on, but rehab is not like death, it’s actually supposed to prevent death.
If one of your kids was in the hospital would you still go on the road Jon?
And don’t tell me about all the support people you’d be letting down. Most of them have been sucking at the tit quite profitably for years, and if you’re such a fan of the little guys, do one solo benefit show for them in New Jersey and charge up the yin-yang, your fans will pay for that.
I like your pay what you want restaurant
But going on the road without Richie is like Tyler going on the road without Joe Perry, D.O.A.
Have you got no sense of history, no sense of loyalty?
And I realize they call it "Bon Jovi", and that’s your name, and you’ve got a leg up. But Don Henley can’t sell the tickets the Eagles do and do we really want to see an Eagles show without Frey?
Once upon a time bands were beholden to their fans.
Now they’re beholden to their bank accounts.
Performers are just as greedy and vapid as bankers. That’s why the business is dying, not because of P2P theft and the Internet.
I wasn’t planning to go anyway, but I was offended upon reading the news and my inbox is filling up with naysayers.
And, I LOVE "Wanted Dead Or Alive". All those TV shows with Richie and you doing the number acoustically? Those are etched in my brain. That’s why I give you a pass, that’s why I still listen.
You cannot do it without your family.
And you may not pay him what you make, but Richie is a blood brother.
Cancel the dates, wait for him.
10 ways musicians can earn more money this year.
1. Alternative performances and house concerts- Fill in those blank calendar dates while touring. Check out SlowBizz.com or Concerts In Your Home.
2. Sell your CDs on consignment at unusual retail locations- Ask your favorite coffee shop, barber shop, salon, restaurant, toy store, or boutique to play your music on their stereo. Then let them sell your disc at the counter and give them some of the dough.
3. Affiliate programs- You’re already sending your fans to Amazon and iTunes to purchase your music. Why not earn a little extra money for it? Check out the Amazon affiliate program and the iTunes affiliate program.
4. Offer unique merch- Have you ever wondered if your merch sales would increase if you sold leather bracelets, pink panties, or throwing stars with your band logo on them? Test it out! This might be the year to order a small quantity of that crazy merch item you’ve always dreamed of to see if it sells.
5. Sell “Direct to Fan”- Use CD Baby’s MusicStore for Facebook and Music Store Widget to sell and share music directly.
6. Digital archives- Diehard fans want to collect everything! Like Fugazi, Phish, and other famous band with cult followings, give your fans the opportunity to download every show, video, album, and single.
7. Crowdfunding- They’ve been around for a few years now, but RocketHub and Kickstarter are still generating big revenue for artists who need funds in order to launch creative projects, record albums, etc.
8. Live Streams- Perform live and stream it on a service like Ustream or Justin.tv. Ask fans to subscribe or donate!
9. Recording studio open house- If you have the budget to rent a studio for an extra hour or two during one of the days you’re recording, allow fans to pay for a behind-the-scenes experience where they can see where the magic happens, hear tracks from the upcoming release while it’s still “in the works,” and smell the smells!
10. Compose songs for fans- Offer, for a fee, to write a short song or musical dedication for a fan. Record it quickly on an acoustic guitar or piano, and collect your mone
Why It’s No Longer Possible To Simply Be A Musician
Make a demo; send it to record labels; if you’re talented enough– get signed. Do you think this sounds like a good music business plan?
To younger folks just entering the music industry, that may seem like the biggest load of rubbish you’ve ever heard. Previously, however, this was the only business plan most musicians had.
Before the whole peer-to-peer sharing thing, musicians didn’t have to worry much about the business side of things. They only had one job: to be the best musician they could possibly be. They would spend all their time creating tunes, writing lyrics, and practicing live performances. They would record demos and send them to multiple record labels hoping they would get signed and be the next big thing. In terms of promoting themselves, that’s as far as it would go.
As I’m sure you’re aware, these days are long gone!
Being More Than A Musician
It’s no longer possible to simply be a musician. You now have to be a proven artist before a record label will even consider signing your act.
So what is the solution for the modern day musician? Simple: learn how to handle the music business yourself. Did I say simple? Please, ignore that part…
While it may not be ideal for everyone, if you want to get your music career moving as fast as possible, you will need to do more than just make music. Among other things, you will need to learn how to create products that people want to buy, how to promote your music to the right audience, how to get your own live gigs, how to make money from these gigs, how to get radio play, and how to collect royalties from any gigs and radio plays. This may sound like a lot of work to you, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Learning all these things will mean you don’t have to rely on other people as much to get your music career moving.
Getting Help With The Business Side Of The Music Industry
Although record labels are unlikely to help you during the early stages of your career, that doesn’t mean that you can’t enlist the help of others. If you want some extra input or assistance, there are two paths you can take:
- Seek out a manager, or
- Take a music business course (or hire a consultant).
If you’ve got your act together creatively and professionally, I’d recommend getting a manager on board. The exact role of the manager will depend on your agreement with them and how much you want them to get involved in your music career. You may only want them to help get you shows and decide which promotional opportunities you should take part. Or you can have them read over contracts, run errands for you during tour, or anything else that will help your music career.
Whatever role your manager takes on, it’s best to agree to the terms prior to them working for you. Not making things crystal clear can cause a conflicts of interest, bad feelings, and lead to legal problems down the line.
If you’re still finding your feet in terms of you music, it may be better to enroll in a music business course or hire a consultant. These instructional opportunities will teach you the business side of things and allow you to take your career in your own hands while still honing your talents. By the time you’re ready to really push your music, you will have the knowledge to do so.
5 Tips On Finding A Manager
If you decide to go down the manager route, the next step is actually FINDING this person. Don’t just hire the first person who says they’re a manager, though. You need to make sure that person is right for you. Here are some things you need to think about when searching for a manager:
1. Make Sure They Are Enthusiastic About Your Music.
When hiring a manager, you want them to really believe in what you do. There’s nothing worse that having a manager that’s just doing it for the money, it’ll only make you feel like they don’t really want to be there. And what will happen if they start working with another act they DO really like? All their focus and attention will go to them, that’s what. Don’t hire anyone that’s not also a fan of your music, it won’t work out well.
2. You Can Find Managers On Online Forums.
One way you can go about finding a manager is by advertising yourself on music forums or in relevant magazines. Forums are often filled with music fanatics and people who already work within the industry. If you have the talent and can give people a reason to want to work with you, you are sure to get some interest.
3. What About Your Friends?
If you don’t want to work with someone completely new, why not get one of your friends to become your manager? You may have a friend that’s just as excited by your music and the music industry as you, but has no musical talent of their own. This may be how they break into the music industry.
While they may need to learn the business side of things themselves (And maybe even take a few courses on their own to speed up this process), it can work out well in the long run.
4. Make Sure You Keep Things Official.
If you decide to hire a friend as your manager, you need to remember that this is now a business arrangement. There should be no more verbal contracts; you need to get every business-related decision down in writing. Keep paperwork, have deadlines, and set goals. If they aren’t pulling their weight and are taking advantage of your friendship, find a new manager.
5. Measure The Success Of Your Manager.
The role of the manager at this stage should be to help move your music forward faster than you could by yourself. Because of this, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much impact they are making on your career. Are they getting you more shows? Are they helping out with promotion? Are they chipping in?
You really do want a go-getter as a manager. You shouldn’t always have to tell them what you want doing. They should go out there and help push you forward without being told to do so. After all, the more money you make, the more money they make.
If you don’t see any real results or benefits after a few months of hiring them, you may want to consider getting a new manager. Also, set the the terms for a “trial period,” after which either party can back out with no hard feelings.
If it was your plan just to make good music and let the promotion take care of itself, it’s time to rethink things. To make it in the current music industry, you need to be more than a good singer or a pretty face. You need to have business know-how, and you need to take action. Getting a manager or taking a music business course will make things a lot easier for you, but essentially you will still have a lot of work to do. But guess what? That work can be fun! This is the industry you want to be in, so you should be willing to do whatever it takes. If you want to make it as a musician, you’ll need to accept that, at least for now, you have to do more than just perform your mu
You can download a FREE sample of Cliff’s eBook “The Songwriter’s Guide To Recording Professional Demos” by going to http://www.EducatedSongwriter.com/ebook.
Outside of the United States this same problem exists for other reasons (you can read more on that here), but in the U.S., the issues causing this are:
-U.S. Copyright Law For Streams
-How The Streaming Mechanical Royalties Are Paid Out
-Performance Rights Organizations Are In The Middle When They Do Not Need To Be
U.S. Copyright Law For Streams
In the United States, each and every time a song is streamed via an “interactive” music service like Spotify, Rhapsody, Slacker, MOG, Rdio, etc. (be it your recording of the song or a version covered by someone else), the person who wrote the song is required to be paid separate songwriter royalties.
The royalties paid by the music service to the songwriter are for two of the songwriter’s six copyrights:
- The right of Reproduction
- The right of Public Performance
(You can see all six copyrights you get the moment you write down or record your song here)
In the United States, the government created something called a “Compulsory” license for the right of Reproduction. This means that if the government’s set of rules (laws) are followed, the license cannot be denied by the person who wrote the song; thus the license is “Compulsory.”
The royalties paid for each streaming Reproduction are called “Streaming Mechanical Royalties;” this rate is set by the U.S. Government.
The Streaming Mechanical Royalty Rate Set By The U.S. Government
The “Streaming Mechanical Royalty” rate set by the U.S. Government is called the “Statutory Rate.”
The current “statutory mechanical royalty rate” for a stream of a song in the United States is determined by a ridiculously complicated set of formulas based on 10.5% of the music service’s gross revenue, minus the cost of the royalty paid for public performance. Multiple formulas are run using the 10.5% of gross revenue minus the cost of the royalty paid for public performance as the starting point. These formulas then get compared to one another and the highest one is picked. This “winning” formula sets the streaming “mechanical royalty” rate for this one particular monthly royalty pay period. Each time mechanical royalties are calculated (which under the law is every month), the stores re-run the formulas and do it all over again.
Below is a diagram that shows how the rate is calculated, but stated more simply, the streaming mechanical royalty rate in the U.S. is more or less 10.5% of the music service’s “Gross Revenue” minus the cost of the paid public performance royalty. This creates the “Total Mechanical Royalty Pot For This Time Period.”
To determine how much each stream gets paid from the “Total Mechanical Royalty Pot For This Time Period,” the music service counts the “Number Of Times All The Songs In Its Service Were Streamed In This Time Period” and divides that number by the “Total Mechanical Royalty Pot of Money For This Time Period.”
The end result is “The Royalty Owed to the Songwriter Each Time His/Her Song Is Streamed At the Music Service” (this applies to someone covering the songwriter’s song as well).
And now in blazing, eye-popping graphics, you can see the formula: (Click Link Below)
1. Instill confidence-
Should the visitor trust you? Will you deliver on your promises? Is your product worth a darn?
Strange as it may sound, most people will answer these questions for themselves after being exposed to your website’s design—for 3 seconds!
That’s right; visitors will judge your quality and trustworthiness based on a brief visual impression, so make sure your website sings in perfect pitch right from the get-go. Your web design should look pro!
2. Convey an emotion-
Beyond simple quality and trust, visitors are looking for something more—something they might not even be able to put their fingers on, but they know it when they see it.
It’s an emotion. A feeling. An un-tangible resonance that gives them faith in their connection with YOU!
Make sure your website conveys (at a glance) your personality, your aesthetic, and your mission.
3. Broadcast your name or brand-
When we’re driving, we hate to have to pull over to ask directions. On the internet, we like to know when we’re on the right path too!
So make sure your name or brand is big and bold (and above the fold). Not simply to broadcast your name, but to give visitors the reassurance that they’ve arrived in the right place.
4. Have a clear call to action-
Calls-to-action (“buy now,” “download the new song now for free,” “join my mailing list,” etc.) aren’t just for your own benefit. New visitors to a website like to know what they should do to enter the full experience you provide.
A clear call to action helps them know where to start. It’s like GO! on the Monopoly board.
5. Visually guide the visitor -
Similarly, visitors don’t want to have to guess at things or “flow” through your content in the wrong direction. Be sure that your design emphasizes a particular route through the site.
For instance, once they’ve seen your name at the top and have gotten a good glimpse at your call to action, what do you want visitors to see next? Your blog? Your mission-statement? Your videos? Your press quotes?
The answer will depend upon your goals, of course, but whatever it is— be sure you guide the visitors’ eyes to that section.
Also, be sure the navigation bar is highly visible and that pages are named clearly; no weird names like “little shop of horrors” for your music store page!
By Cliff Goldmacher