This site is a blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.
Posts Tagged ‘DIY Music’
Last week was marked by music catalog deals as Google added access to 5.5 musical works across 35 countries, and Universal prepared to sell off EMI assets. Also, L.A. Weekly’s annual “Music Issue” spotlighted innovative DIY artists and entrepreneurs.
Google Granted Access to Millions of Tracks
Google, Inc. signed a new licensing agreement with Armonia a Spanish/French/Italian collection of European publishers, artists and composers that will give the company’s customers the rights to listen to 5.5 million musical works in 35 countries from artists such as Lady Gaga and Rihanna. The new license will allow music fans in Europe to use Google Play and its other music-related features.
The deal’s terms are “in line with industry standards involving Google rivals like Amazon and Apple’s iTunes,” SACEM representative Catherine Kerr-Vignale reported to The Associated Press. Kerr-Vignale added that Amazon and Apple have European licensing agreements that vary by country, whereas Google has a uniform agreement that is the same in the 35 countries it will serve in Europe and also includes UK and American sections of Universal Music’s publishing library and Sony’s Latin arm.
Armonia is the pan-European organization for online licensing and comprises the Italian Society of Authors and Publishersm its French and Spanish sister organizations SACEM and SAGE and Universal Music Publishing International. New access to tracks by major artists will make it more competitive with other major digital music providers.
TechCrunch writer Darrel Etherington noted that because Google Play still features a great deal of content only available in the U.S., many outside the U.S. have had to use workarounds, like those detailed in a recent blog entry on the Geniusgeeks site.
Of course, this deal is also important to getting more royalties into creators’ hands and encouraging music fans to engage in legal online music consumption. Sami Valkonen, head of music licensing at Google said, “Licenses such as this are important in ensuring that artists and rights-holders are rewarded fairly for their creative endeavors, and digital service provides are able to bring innovative services to market for the benefit of European consumers … Armonia is a welcome development in the ongoing reform of pan-territorial licensing in Europe in helping simplify and speed up the music-licensing process, which is crucial in fostering ongoing rapid innovation by digital music service providers.”
Over Nine Industry Players Vying for EMI Assets
Major music industry companies and executives including Warner Music, Simon Fuller and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell expressed interest in buying pieces of EMI from Universal Music Group, as reported by an article on November 14 in the Financial Times. Universal has been forced into selling some EMI assets in order to satisfy the misgivings of regulators as part of the $1.9 billion deal it made to buy EMI’s recorded music division.
However, as auctions loomed, Billboard reported that John Rudolph, formerly the CEO of Bug Music as well as Lava Records founder Jason Flom will be partnering up to bid for pieces of the pie. Sources continued to report last week that UMG’s bankers were still getting signatures together for non-disclosure agreements and will likely not likely start to make deals until this coming week.
The European Commission agreement stipulates that EMI’s assets have to be sold to buyers with deep experience running and managing a music company. However, some have said that becoming a qualified buyer could be as simple as a company with money hiring a former label president to work with them.
Flom was a high-level A&R executive at Atlantic prior to founding Lava Records in the 1990s and has worked with Kid Rock, Tori Amos, Skid Row, Matchbox 20 and many others before moving onto Virgin in 2005 and eventually becoming the CEO of Capitol Records Group.
Rudolph left the large independent publisher Bug Music in 2011 when it was sold to BMG Rights Management for over $300 million. When he was CEO of Bug, he managed over 35 acquisitions, including the acquisition of the Windswept catalog and a deal with Kara DioGuardi’s Talenthouse company.
BMG Rights Management will likely also join Fuller, Flom, Rudolph, Blackwell and Warner in the EMI bidding process.
L.A. Weekly Spotlighting How to Make It in the Music Industry
L.A. Weekly’s 2012 Music Issue addresses how to make it in the music business, with a spotlight on notable DIY artists and groundbreaking executives who have learned how to make a living and find an audience in the modern industry climate.
The Issue points out that being a successful musician and music entrepreneur in 2012 means not only having deep talent, but also being willing to work hard and being able to employ innovating marketing techniques. L.A. Weekly highlighted indie artists including Stolen Babies, Jhene Aiko and Spaceships, label owner Leeor Brown and party promoter Perish Dignam as examples of those who are succeeding thanks to “passion and unique branding.”
As just one example, Philadelphia-born Perish Dignam is a party promoter who has traveled nationwide, studying industrial design, engineering and psychology. On his own since age 15, he developed a big social-media following before starting up his regular “Swoon” parties, which are much like steam-punk carnivals and feature women in bikinis with power tools, fire dancers, etc. Those music fans who show up with elaborate costumes and professional photographers are granted free admission. He funds the parties almost entirely on his own, then puts profits back into more parties to allow him total creative control. He designs all the sets, manages performances, hires staff and sells tickets.
And the EDM juggernauts the Flemming Brothers run a dance-party “enterprise,” Do Lab. Together, Jesse and Dede and Josh created the huge Do Lab movement in Southern California through multiple marketing techniques and will soon head to Egypt to tour. Youngest brother Dede said he believes the business works, because the brothers each accept responsibility for very specific aspects of creativity, development and business management. His brothers shape the vision and he takes care of the “logistics:” “We have these roles … so we can support each other.”
And as L.A. Weekly pointed out, the “DIY movement” is not a new phenomenon. Artists like Dr. Dre and others have been going their own way for decades. Dre’s album The Chronic was released 20 years ago. Before being picked up by Interscope, it was a self-funded project: “It took nontraditional sales tactics and the deep pockets of an incarcerated drug dealer to make it famous. Then as now, the do-it-yourself spirit was critical.”
Last week, the past, present and future of online music sales were front and center as a new study showed that the music industry may at long last be learning how to manage digital sales, and Digital Music News updated its artist earnings infographic to express how independent and major label artists are faring in the current climate. Also, DIY Music released a new social commerce app to help artists and labels make more money through social media channels.
Music Industry Finally Embracing Online Music
The music industry may be finally figuring out how to make money on the Internet, according a recent study conducted by accounting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers’ (PwC). The Entertainment and Media Outlook revealed that feelings about digital music within major organizations that have been resisting the transition from old business models have finally started to change.
The Outlook analyzes the current climate and predicts what could happen in the entertainment industry through 2016. It is used by thousands of media, technology and communications executives as well as by professionals within the financial services sectors and advertisers in order to inform the steps they will take in the business during the next four years.
The research offered some major findings. According to Marcel Fenez, Global leader, Entertainment and Media, the industry has finally arrived at the “end of the digital beginning.” Companies will finally start to restructure to prepare for what is “the new normal.” The Outlook looks at challenges the music industry will face when digital is just part of “business-as-usual” and in many cases the core of entire companies. Those who are successful within the industry will reshape businesses around three ideas: an understanding of the “connected” customer through analytics while paying close attention to privacy concerns; creating new business models in order to provide more value to the customer and created more targeted advertising strategies; re-designing new organizational models and building partnerships that will help create revenue from the fact that consumers are now living and breathing online.
The Entertainment and Media Outlook also explores how copyright issues and piracy will continue to shake out in the coming years. But the study predicts that despite the need to overcome some of these obstacles, innovation will continue in the music space, and talent will become an important factor in success for musicians as well as technologists and other music business professionals. And more companies will continue to embrace – with greater confidence – that the way forward is by accepting the Digital Age.
Digital Music News Infographic Bringing Good News to DIY Artists
Digital Music News updated its 2010 infographic “How Much Do Music Artists Earn Online?” this past week to reflect data from 2012. And the news for major label artists is, not surprisingly, bleak for major label artists, who are still having a hard time making a living from many of the digital music channels. And record labels’ income is continuing to dwindle even more, even as digital sales increase. However, for DIY and indie artists, the opposite is true, as streaming payouts are steadily rising, on a percentage level, according to sales information shared by indie labels and bands who participated in the research process.
An analysis by industry attorney Steve Gordon further delved into major label artists’ lack of income from Spotify and determined that most of them do not get a cent from their Spotify streams, save rare superstars like Lady Gaga. The reason is that most artists signed to major labels are “urecouped” and owe their labels money. Because of the high production costs labels pay to get products into the marketplace, only huge artists who can sell millions of records get rid of their “unrecouped” status. So, it is not that Spotify is not paying – it is that the money earned is being used to repay debt to labels.
The infographic also showed that ringtones and download payouts have been particularly low for label-owned artists. Yet vinyl seems to be surprisingly lucrative for artists across the board if they are able to set a fair price that also takes into account production costs.
The last infographic was released in 2010, nearly two-and-a-half years ago. Like its predecessor, the 2012 infographic contrasts payouts from older products like CDs and iTunes downloads with streaming formats such as Spotify.
DIY Music Helping Artists Monetize Social Media
DIY Music released their new and improved social commerce platform geared towards musicians and record labels this past week, according to a release posted by MarketWatch. DIY Music, first launched in 2006, now gives artists the ability to build their fan base and sell products and interactive experiences online.
Using the platform, fans can listen to music, share videos and also buy music directly from a Facebook post, tweet or online ad. And artists can build highly-advanced social media storefront campaigns, search for new fans through an advanced filter and sell their music simultaneously.
The platform is compatible with Facebook’s Timeline and News Feed, Twitter, Tumblr and many other blog formats, which allows artists to reach and monetize fans through many different channels and also gives the fans the ability to share the experiences they encounter with friends without getting buried in redirects.
David Robb, CEO of DIY Media, the parent company, stated, “Our platform improves the bond between artist and fan. Bands and artists are able to give their fans a rich media experience and in turn collect clear analytics. The result is a more direct path to building a fan base and the increased capability to convert fans into buyers.”
DIY music allows artists to promote and sell songs, albums and entire catalogs through one campaign, increase engagement by directly embedding video and audio into a campaign, exchange email addresses for their mailing lists for free downloads of tracks or albums, and get important stats and analytics through the DIY dashboard to help improve future campaigns.
DIY Music is currently partnered with SoundCloud, The Orchard IRIS, BFM Digital, Audiosocket and a large array of indie artists.
Signs that music industry business models are continuing to change were prevalent this past week as record industry executives sought out money-making opportunities outside the traditional system and Spotify moved into the #2 money-making spot for major record labels. Also, analysts looked to Louis CK’s successful “DIY comic” career for valuable lessons about making it in the music business.
Unscripted Reality Television a Creative Opportunity for Executives
With the music business landscape continuing to change from the old order to the new, record industry executives have been seeking new money-making opportunities in unscripted reality television as judges, music supervisors and creative consultants on shows like American Idol, The Voice and others, according to an article on CNN.
Artists have long gone after other streams of income as digital music has made its impact on the business, decreasing their reliance on royalties, concert dates and merch sales. Major stars like Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Gwen Stefani and Queen Latifah have teamed up with cosmetic brands, and even hip-hop and rap stars like Diddy, Jay-Z and the Williams Brothers have picked up liquor brands, nightclubs and book publishing imprints. And, of course, Christina Aguilera, Paula Abdul and Britney Spears have joined up with reality shows as judges.
And now record label heads like Jimmy Iovine (Interscope), Mathew Knowles (Music World Music), Ron Fair (producer of the Pussycat Dolls/Queen Latifah/Black Eyed Peas) and Antonio “LA” Reid (LaFace Records/Island Def Jam/Epic) are now turning towards unscripted TV shows.
Iovine, who has worked with major pop and hip-hop sensations like Lady Gaga, LMFAO, Mary J. Blige and 50 Cent recently became an in-house mentor on American Idol. And Beyonce’s father Knowles, who broke Destiny’s Child and now runs his own label has been an executive producer for and appeared on the worldwide-broadcasted reality show Breaking from Above. Revered producer Fair has appeared on Keyshia Cole’s BET reality show The Way It Is and has also been a judge on the Canadia talent competition show Cover Me Canada. And Reid, who helped break P!nk, OutKast and Toni Braxton internationally joined Simon Cowell as a judge on the American version of X-Factor.
And these are only four examples. Many other behind-the-scenes music industry professionals have moved into other areas of entertainment in an attempt to continue to stay afloat when jobs that existed in the old system disappear. Before moving onto different areas of the business himself in 2003, David Geffen said, “You have to be prepared to lose for years and years and years in order to build a successful record company. That’s just a fact.” Since leaving the label system, he has continued to produce Broadway shows and major films, including War of the Worlds. And Lisa Cortes, who worked for Def Jam and Mercury for years has turned to film production, putting out Monster’s Ball and Precious.
Even corporations are adjusting. Last week, Sony began to look for takers on its New York headquarters after Sony Music Entertainment dissolved Jive and Arista into RCA in order to cut costs.
For some, Hollywood is too big a shift for music industry veterans, so they even turn to non-musical-competition reality TV. Mona Scott-Young – a former hip-hop dancer and former manager of Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes and Maxwell – has found great success with Love & Hip Hop on VH1. She said, “I think what’s been happening in music within the last few years and with it changing so drastically, I think that everyone has had to expand their horizons … Not just from a business model for an economical standpoint but also being able to tap into every medium and every resource that’s available in the pursuit in building their brand or even promoting their projects and their artists. So television is a very natural medium.”
Scott-Young added that the transition is not so bizarre as those watching it happen might initially believe: “There is also the thought process that a lot of the talent made for very successful film and television projects came out of music and … the television networks and film studios leveraged and capitalized on [it]. So I think the thinking was that we might as well move into these arenas ourselves and take advantage of the very same things we spent so many years building.”
Spotify Now in #2 Music Industry Revenue-Earning Spot, Behind Apple
After all the complaints that have flowed through the music industry since Spotify’s launch in the U.S. about how the streaming service brings in lackluster revenue, it has now become the #2 revenue source for major music labels, an inside source within the company told Business Insider this past week. And the #1 source is of course, Apple’s iTunes, which paid an estimated $3.2 billion to record labels in 2011.
Last month, official numbers showed that 23 million people used the service for a combination of free and paid services. However, the source said that the gap between Spotify and Apple revenues is still large: “iTunes is way up here … and everyone else is way down here.”
Still, at the 2012 SXSW conference in Austin, Spotify investor Sean Parker said, “If we [Spotify] continue growing at our current rate in terms of subscriptions and downloads, we’ll overtake iTunes in terms of contributions to the recorded music business in under two years.”
Founded in Sweden in 2006 by Daniel Ek, Spotify is raising $220 million in 2012, which would give it a $4 billion valuation. And Goldman Sachs has invested $100 million, according to the New York Times. In 2011, Spotify raised over $100 million and was valued at $1 billion.
News of Spotify’s latest fundraising efforts were first reported back in March, but investors told Business Insider they were unsure of its prospects, because Spotify does not own the content it is selling – the labels do. However, many music business experts feel that as business models continue to change within the music industry, labels will support Spotify as an alternative to iTunes, which many have felt is gaining too much control over the marketplace.
What DIY Musicians Can Learn from Comedian Louis CK
What does it take to be a successful DIY artist in today’s music business? Louis CK has an idea, according to a piece posted in the “Underwire” section of Wired. By reinventing the entertainment business with creative and successful models and focusing heavily on what his fans want, he is reshaping the way all entertainers should manage their own careers.
Louis CK’s first surprising step was to agree to work for next-to-nothing just to have total creative and business control over his FX hit Louie. His feeling was that it was more important to him to make the type of show he wanted to make (and that his most diehard fans would want him to make) than to make millions.
Then he decided to go the same experimental sales route that Radiohead went in 2007 when the band used a “pay-what-you-want” model by selling a $5 comedy video direct to fan on his website instead of shopping it to HBO or Comedy Central as a special. By selling it online without any DRM, he opened himself up to a lot of piracy … but he still sold over $1 million worth in less than two weeks.
And now, Louis CK is making another major move by selling tickets for an entire tour on his website at just $45 per seat, for all seats and in all cities. And within that price is all taxes, fees, etc.
So, which lessons can DIY musicians take from Louis CK’s business moves? There are at least five:
- Be good.And now, be even better, because with the plethora of streaming music services erupting, the music business is shifting to favor repeated listens.
- Stay in control. Louis CK teaches the lesson that it is better to keep creative control over the art you produce, no matter where you are in your career. Otherwise, they get “watered down” and your message and mission gets clouded by “competing visions.”
- Keep deals simple. Even though technology is complicating the way musicians and other artists put out their material and connect with their fans, Louis CK has proved that simple deals are still most attractive. Bundling and fees do not sell more products or tickets. Selling one unit of something for a flat price works best.
- Get rid of fees. Ticket sellers were outraged when Louis CK refused to go through Ticketmaster or any other service to sell his latest tour. But he espouses the idea, “Who cares?” He recently wrote, “Making my shows affordable has always been my goal but two things have always worked against that … High ticket charges and ticket resellers marking up the prices. Some ticket services charge more than 40 percent over the ticket price and, ironically, the lower I’ve made my ticket prices, the more scalpers have bought them up, so the more fans have paid for a lot of my tickets. By selling the tickets exclusively on my site, I’ve cut the ticket charges way down and absorbed them into the ticket price. To buy a ticket, you join nothing. Just use your credit card and buy the damn thing. Opt into the e-mail list if you want, and you’ll only get e-mails from me.” So, when musicians use a direct sales model, they are also able to collect e-mail addresses from their fans. When selling through iTunes or other platforms, they don’t get the e-mail addresses and usually, even worse, someone else does.
- Control the relationship with fans. Louis is in charge of selling his brand to his own fans. He owns everything from the TV show (which he also edits), to the live, taped special and the tour. That means he can control the messages he is sending out and build trust with his fans that will keep them coming back for more.
Sean O’Connell is the founder of Creative Allies, a company that provides creative opportunities for designers and artists. He is also the founder of Music Allies, an agency that consults on strategy, marketing, publicity and radio promotions for music festivals and independent labels and works with the Hangout Music Festival, Camp Bisco, Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, Lights All Night and many others. Sean has done almost everything in the music industry, including artist management, concert promotion, label marketing, radio and booking. He has advised record labels owned by major indie artists including Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann, Justin Timberlake and Jack Johnson. Last year Sean launched Creative Allies a platform that showcases designers and illustrators from around the world and provides opportunities for them to enter design contests to create art and merchandise for bands, films and festivals.
I got to talk to Sean recently about his history in the music business and how artists can seize opportunities that will help them maintain long-term careers. We also talked about how the music industry has evolved for indie and DIY artists in the past 15-20 years and how his companies Music Allies and Creative Allies work to provide opportunities to members of the creative community in the current industry climate.
Thanks for taking some time to talk to me, Sean. How did you get into music?
When I was 18-years old, I went off to a small college in New York State. I’d grown up listening to Canadian radio stations under the pillow as I was going to sleep. I grew up in Buffalo, New York, and we’re only about an hour and a half away from Canada. I listened to CFNY, and it was probably one of the biggest things in my life. It introduced me to so much music that wasn’t getting poured down my throat. I was always a music nut, and the younger brother of someone who was even more of a music nut.
I went to a small college, and I felt very suffocated culturally. And there was a group of kids running a radio show on the information channel – local cable access. So, if you looked at messages about what was in the cafeteria or something, you’d hear these guys’ music on Channel 10.
So, then I met a mentor who taught me what it took to start a college radio station. And we raised $100,000 and started a station. I never went home for summers again. I just stayed and built studios. But I felt there still wasn’t enough stuff to do in town. So, I started a club on Wednesday nights called “The Freak Show,” which was at a sports bar. We completely made it over. And we packed 500 kids in at $5 per head every Wednesday.
I’ve always had an intuition for what other kids and other music fans gravitated towards. And I really never looked back. That time at school, being at a small college allowed me to get funding for local musicians and get a key to the recording studio at the college. Although I suck at engineering, I was the guy with the key, so we’d spend all night just making records for everybody. I eventually decided to go out on my own, move back to Buffalo and start a concert promotion company while managing some bands.
Which bands did you manage?
I managed a band called Johny Vegas. They didn’t go down the record label path, but we figured out how to sell 20,000 CDs each year and fill up clubs from Boston to Detroit. We’d built up a really good following. I quickly went from not knowing anyone in Buffalo – because I was only a kid the last time I’d been in Buffalo and didn’t have access to people at the clubs – to having success booking a lot of bands. Pretty quickly I was booking ten shows per month. And I got an opportunity booking a club called Nietzsche’s. When I was growing up, I had always wanted to get into that place. Then, all of a sudden I had two venues, the first and then a club called Network that Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills had opened. And then quickly grabbed a third, which was a 3,500-seat venue called Melody Fair. By the age of 24, I had an amazing business running three of the most important music venues in a city that had a huge music legacy.
I had my fingers in a lot of different aspects of the industry. But I was essentially a self-made guy. And I was managing two bands and running a record label for one, marketing for three venues, putting on lots of concerts with huge risk. Because I was only 24, I wasn’t really good at saving money. But I was good at spending it. It became a very risky business, and I started gravitating to a couple folks who were at Righteous Babe. At the time, Ani DiFranco was really taking off. And I really wanted to focus on something. Within my first year, we had Ani DiFranco a Top 10 hit. I was working with them on radio promotion and other marketing.
Well, and clearly Ani DiFranco invented DIY. That was the first time I heard of someone saying, “I’m going to do this on my own.” And at the time, I was at a major label thinking, “What? I don’t understand.” What was it that drove her to be a DIY pioneer?
First and foremost, it has everything to do with her. There is a lot of great music out there. But there is very little great music that just connects. She would open her mouth and sing stuff that related to so many people. It was powerful and emotional. It’s 20-years later, and I’ve seen very little that’s like it. Her music was clearly her drive and why she’s on this planet. She was always an incredibly reserved person socially. But on stage, she really opened up and talked about what was going on in her life, how she perceived the world around her and barriers that were put up and the ones she thought could be easily broken down. It was powerful.
At the same time, there was a guy named Scott Fisher, who is still Ani’s manager and is amazing. He started as a carpenter, and had gone to law school in order to offer services to defend defendants on death row. So, they shared a lot of values. And he saw how things were starting up for her and came in and said, “I think this could be done better.” He was a very system-oriented guy. It was fantastic, and incredibly refreshing for me, because I had built a lot of my own systems. And we all just decided we didn’t care how the major labels were doing it. We were in Buffalo, New York, and we were having a great time. Clearly, no one was going to starve, because she was already selling 1,000 tickets.
Her success was also informed by it all being about her home town. All her packaging reflected that. Living Clip is a great example. That booklet has a certain sheen on the cover and there was certain kind of binding. Ani wanted the box a certain way. And it was really important to her that the visual identity and the quality of her recordings went all the way to the packaging. But we had a huge restriction, because we made a pledge that everything was going to be done in Buffalo. I think that particular album was done by four suppliers. And the volume of orders was so great that we were trucking things from the printing company, to the book-binding company, to the company that did the laminates for the CD, etc. It was a wild experience. And I don’t know what the exact numbers were, but it was a ridiculous cost per unit. No one at a major label would’ve ever done that. And we did it this way all because of these self-imposed values. We wanted to help our local economy. We wanted to not just be residents, but be a part of the community.
And I think that ties back into what you’re currently doing. Ani DiFranco was just a bullet point in your experience list.
My experience with Ani DiFranco still informs everything I do today. And she’s actually one of the first investors in this new company I have. I remember at one point in my career going back and asking them how merch was doing at one point. And they said that one t-shirt they had was selling through the roof. And it was a t-shirt that just said, “Ani Fucking DiFranco.”
It was a shirt that was being worn all over Italy on her tour. One of the crew members bought it and brought it back, and they bootlegged the bootleg. And it became the #1 selling piece of merch. I’ve heard this story over and over. But that really sticks with me, because we have – whether we’re working with bands, brands or pop culture items – traditionally taken merch design from the top, down. It’s always been some illustrator or graphic designer who is determining the look and feel. And the truth is, it doesn’t necessarily translate. In all fairness to Ani, there are a lot of young women who are at these shows. And I will look at them and think, “Why is there a 40-year old guy in an office at RBR designing these t-shirts?” That was a very informing part of the business and in a lot of ways led me to what I do with Creative Allies.
Where did you go after Righteous Babe?
I wanted to try some other things and get out of Buffalo for a while. I moved to Boston and did marketing and promotion for RYKODISC and was excited to work at a label that was so important to me when I was a kid and when I was building the college radio station. And that really expanded my network. I got to have a lot of success with older artists and different genres, and built a lot of confidence and started to believe I could make a big difference.
After that, RYKODISC was sold to a major corporation, and I started to feel like I was working for people who didn’t have the same values, were letting the idea of catalog fade away and treated people terribly. So, I decided to leave and go into independent radio promotion for a few months. I loved the guy I worked for, but hated the job and the idea that radio promotion and that world was 32 records a week going on a list, trying to get feedback from everybody, etc. There was really no creativity in it.
I was a marketing guy despite the fact I’d had a lot of success doing record promotion for some of the best indie labels in the ‘90s. But that was creative, because I didn’t have the resources and the budget. I had a voice and a direct line to the president of each company and to the artists themselves. As an indie record promoter, I was just a call jockey.
In that position, you’re a telemarketer – no question.
Yeah. It was at that point that I moved back to Boston. And I joined a startup that was three guys who had just received a $3 million raise from Sonicblue to create products called “music tellers,” which were ATM-like devices to plug your Real MP3 player into and get music quickly. There were not a lot of ways to get music and not a lot of people with high bandwidth or a lot of digital music storage, and CD burners were not very sophisticated. This particular business was obviously short-sighted because obviously very shortly, technology went into overdrive. But the idea was to increase customer satisfaction and create a cloud music environment.
It was a great experience for me. And it was pretty amazing to watch $3 million get burned that quickly.
And it’s better when it’s not your $3 million.
It was a great time, and I did learn a lot while I was there. Then RYKODISC separated from Palm, and they asked me to come back. But it just wasn’t the same. Around that time, it was really clear there was a huge opportunity to create a company to fill a huge gap for musicians and for music festivals, something I was incredibly excited about. I had really been this genre-free music fan, who actually had a lucrative career promoting fringe artists to radio. But I felt like I didn’t relate to radio stations’ programming and the concept of caging everyone into a box. And there was this European model emerging for music festivals where you could go to one and hear everything from blue grass to heavy metal. And I liked it all. And I saw that there were other people like me out there.
So, I started Music Allies. Our first clients were Ani DiFranco and Bonnaroo. Ten years later, we provide those resources and marketing expertise and strategic vision for a lot of independent music companies, but especially the ones that are owned by recording artists. During our ten years, we’ve launched labels for Martin Sexton, Ani DiFranco, Aimee Mann. I even helped Justin Timberlake launch Tenman Records. That all came out of referrals.
We don’t market Music Allies. We just do our job well and clients call us. We don’t look at how other record labels are doing it. And in this troubling time and in a fragmented world, when recording artists can really monetize their recorded music, we really decided to stick with our small family of labels: Jack Johnson’s Brushfire Records; Ani’s Righteous Babe Records and a handful of other artists. We’re not growing that part of our business or trying to solve the big questions on how to make a good middle class living if not become a superstar in this new music world. The big reason is that our work with brands and festivals has really blown up.
From your perspective, what do you think aspiring artists should be doing to be a part of these festivals?
Be great and be honest with the connection that you’re making. If there ever were magic bullets, there are less of them now. You got to hustle and make your own destiny. There are fewer guys with ponytails in suits that are going to walk into your life and make you a star.
But my biggest piece of advice is team up with someone passionate to work with you and that doesn’t mean someone from the music business. When you look at a lot of people I’ve worked with and look at who their managers are, they started as enthusiastic young people who didn’t have training in the music business, but just saw that they could really do something. Scot was that for Ani. David Sonenberg, who manages the Black Eyed Peas and others, was in his early 20s when Meatloaf came around, and that’s how he got started. I think that part is huge.
And that’s pretty consistent. Almost any time you’re doing something great and it’s really translating, don’t envision the superstar that comes around or the music mogul. Be really good at identifying the cache of fans that want to be more than fans. They don’t all have to be managers. They can also be social masters. I think that’s a first step.
To be candid, without an audience and without having built a following outside your hometown, I don’t think there is a place for you at these major music festivals. That’s not what their program is. Many of these bands that play festivals have done really well for themselves. But I would say half the people at the festivals are discovering that band for the first time. Festivals can be a good place for musical discovery, but festivals don’t have to do that with completely unknown bands. We’re all following our own path. Even with well-known artists, you may not have heard them before. If you’re walking into a tent with 5000 people that all love this band, you’re still walking in for the first time. That’s a really powerful thing.
And which qualities do you think some of these career artists have that so many others don’t?
First of all, they have an incredible work ethic. G. Love is a great example. He’s been doing it for over 20 years. He has a great career and has had some of the biggest moments in his career just in the last few years. It hasn’t been because of hit songs. It’s been because he is genuinely concerned about connecting with people – and not just in music. If you do an interview with him, he’ll remember it. He loves meeting his fans and knows where they came from. He’s eager to get up in the morning and do work with radio stations or whatever the case may be. He really cares. I think that’s a big part: Do you have that work ethic?
The other part is there isn’t one moment where it’s all going to happen and you’re going is going to sail from there. The artists I’ve worked with are on the road. For a lifetime. If you are an up and coming band, do you have what it takes to spend time a lifetime on the road? That’s a hard question. Being on the road when life happens is hard: parents being ill; friends getting sick; having a family. You deal with all that, and you have to deal with it in a very different way when you are on tour. And I don’t think that ever stops.
To have a career, bands need to have that touring base because they’re not living off royalties. The ASCAP and BMI checks that are coming in are not that big. You have to ask yourself if you can visualize yourself in this place. And I think that question is a hard question and maybe even an unfair question to ask young artists, because I know I couldn’t visualize that stuff 15 years ago.
The other part is, you build a team around you, and you don’t sweat the small stuff, but you make sure you sweat the person who is in charge of the small stuff. You need to pay attention to details, whether about your packaging, your fan relationships, etc. All the clients I have really care about all those details.
That’s a great segue to move into talking about this newest endeavor you have going on with your company. Why did you feel that there was a need to create this platform where artists and musicians could connect?
I’ve been a passionate advocate for musicians for a lifetime. My biggest joy is that I’ve been able to be involved during the creative process. I’ve been able to be at musicians’ homes when they’re making music or backstage, or in recording studios when albums are being made.
I’ve also always been a passionate advocate for all creative people, so the newest aspect of my business is really a natural extension. I’ve been involved in the process of visual arts for years. When I moved to the South and got out of entertainment hubs like New York, Boston, L.A. and San Francisco I realized that creative people didn’t have access to creative opportunities. As I discussed many of the surreal and creative moments I’ve had in my career, they would always say, “Wow.” They weren’t struck by the celebrity of it all, they were attracted to the creative opportunity. Most creative people are stuck, at best, designing restaurant menus, retail advertisements and health insurance brochures. You realize how massive the illustrator and design community is and how many people have this talent. The number of people that went to college for it and then actually got a career out of it is a fraction. Those people who actually have a career out of it very rarely have the opportunity to collaborate and design for music or anything in pop culture.
I’ll hear people say, “If only I could design a poster for a festival,” or “If only I could design a shirt for Justin Timberlake” – whatever the case may be. And for me, there was that moment of “what if? This seems to be a great business.” The other part is that as much as I’ve been a passionate advocate for artists for a lifetime, my creative brush is marketing. I love marketing. It comes naturally to me, and I see angles that other people don’t. I think that’s something I’m good at and I enjoy. And it gets my mind going. It’s fantastic. I probably get a buzz off marketing similar to how a musician gets a buzz off writing a song. It’s a very creative process for me. So, in knowing there’s this opportunity to open up creative opportunities for designers, it became really obvious to me that marketing is so fragmented.
You’ve now done marketing campaigns for a lot of big names. And I’ve always thought collaborative marketing started with Mountain Dew reaching out to designers 10-15 years ago and saying, “You should redesign our bottle.” Do you find that level of interaction within the creative community contributes to building a brand, and do you have any examples of that?
Absolutely. One, it’s usually under 40% and sometimes as little as 20% of submissions that come from fans of the brand or band. What we’ve spent the last year doing is building this amazing design community of over 20,000 illustrators. And they come to us for creative opportunity. They may have never heard of your band or your festival. But the biggest fulfillment for them and what enriches their soul is the creative outlet.
We know that not everyone who participates in Creative Allies is a designer, which is a pretty small subset of a band’s fan base anyway. They’re all connected in a very social world. All of a sudden you have 200 designs, and you have immediately 50,000 wall posts that go up all over the country showing those designs.
With some much music, getting awareness for a new release is hard. Doesn’t it blow you away sometimes when you think, “I had no idea Beastie Boys released a record.” Everybody is inundated with busy lives and they don’t have any idea which albums are coming out. And the way media cycles work, five, six or seven weeks go by after that record comes out, and it’s kind of gone. It’s a huge challenge for our business. One of reason for the demise of music sales is not hard drive access, streaming or copyright infringement. It’s that we all live in the moment. By the time this phone call is over and one day from now, you and I will have had so many moments.
It was described best to me by Eric Garland of Big Champagne. He was asked after Michael Jackson’s death if there would ever be another, and he said, “It’s not that there will never be another triple or quadruple threat – dancer, singer, choreographer, musician. It’s just simply that when he was big, there were three channels where you could perceive somebody doing live music. And at any given point he was on two of them.” We’re just so impossibly fragmented now. It’s too hard to keep track of everything.
Exactly. So, you can row upstream, which I find a lot of musicians do, for example by saying they need to do a radio campaign because that’s what they grew up on. For us, the content itself creates a viral watershed moment. Images start getting shared.
Then of course, we’re adding ammunition for the bands themselves: Facebook; Twitter feeds. Then you have the re-Tweets, the Facebook postings, etc. There is a very viral aspect to this.
I interview people for my blog because I feel like the, “Hey, Ma. Look at me” concept is very real. You’re more likely to share my blog if you’re a part of it than if you aren’t, and I’m sure the same thing goes for artwork.
Are you offering this service to developing musicians as well?
We’re about to. We curate all our contests. Right now, the value proposition is to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime design opportunity. We haven’t opened it up to young bands. But we’ve done tons of testing. We can put an unknown band up there and get as many designs that as good quality as I will with any superstar.
That’s something we know for a fact. So far, the key to our success has been to not overload our designers. We don’t want to put too many opportunities up. We are slowly opening up that channel to younger bands. The first thing we did was a program with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus and the Warped tour. We did a merchandising makeover programs for one of the bands that won the Warped tour contest. Designs came in from all over the world, and the band walked away with posters, t-shirts and a lot of other awesome products.
We did a similar opportunity with ReverbNation. We received 8,000 submissions per month. We hand-picked young bands to get designs. We know there’s demand there. We are going to launch a new version our band makeover program soon. Not only will bands get designs, but they will also get the ability to get an entire merchandising line, which means serious cash. And we’re getting an entire creative team around them.
The other thing we’re excited about is that around Christmas time, we’re going to launch a way to insert our platform into your Facebook page or your band’s website. We can create an opportunity for bands to come in at a really low cost and use the engine. They won’t get all the viral aspects of it. It will be for their fans, and some of our better designers will see those opportunities as a better value. And they can upgrade if they want more of the social networking. But a lot of young bands come to us because they need artwork. And the truth is, most of the bigger bands, festivals, etc. don’t just come to us because they need artwork. They come to us because it’s an amazing social marketing play.
To learn more about Sean O’Connell and the work he does, visit the Creative Allies website.
David Krinsky is Head of Label Relations and Business Development at the online music subscription service Rhapsody, which now has more than 750,000 subscribers. A long-time music fan, David got his start on the retail side of the music industry, working at Tower Records and then eventually moving onto BMG Distribution. An interest in the internet as it was first taking shape revealed to him the real opportunity it presented for people to get information about smaller and developing bands that music magazines or zines might miss, and he learned web programming and helped BMG start to develop its online presence, which led to a position on the BMG online team. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s he helped build an internet presence for a variety of music companies, including GetMusic.com and RollingStone.com and RealNetworks eventually landing in his current role at Rhapsody.
I got to sit down recently with David and discuss how he got involved in the internet music industry, what sets Rhapsody apart from other music services and how DIY artists can get their music heard and get more fans in the rapidly-growing online space.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, David. First of all, how did you get into the music industry?
It’s been a slow evolution. I’ve always been interested in music. If you really want to go all the way back to the beginning, my first music job was as a clerk at Tower Records about 17 years ago, which I still consider to be one of the most fun jobs I ever had. I’m still really sad that Tower is not around anymore. After that, I stayed in the same retail vein working for BMG Distribution for a couple years. Organically at the same time, I became interested in the internet and realized companies were starting to set up websites, and it was a great way to find out information about bands that weren’t necessarily being covered in magazines or zines or were part of things that were happening overseas. I started to learn how to do web programming and started to do some web work on the side for BMG. Back in the mid to late 90s, they didn’t have a lot online yet.
Because I had built up some music experience, but also had an interest in the internet and was watching the space very closely, I got invited to join the BMG online team. That’s at the point where my career pivoted from being just music, retail and marketing to being internet specific. I’ve actually been in an internet-specific vein ever since then, moving from BMG online to GetMusic.com, which was at first a BMG project but then became a joint venture with Universal. It’s basically a music content and marketing site. I went around to a few different sites, but the next big stop after GetMusic was RollingStone.com, where I worked for a couple years. I wasn’t working on the editorial side, but I was working overseeing content and label relations on the operational side, because the magazine only really handled at that point the original content. I was in charge of getting video, audio, original performances, which I had also done a little bit at GetMusic.
And that was your introduction to content wrangling?
I actually started to do some original content work for GetMusic in 1999, some of it boiling down to me interviewing bands while I held a video camera. I can’t even imagine who would’ve been watching those interviews, because I don’t know who would’ve had the bandwidth to watch it at that point, even just as a tiny square that was just basically a talking head. Obviously doing that work at RollingStone.com was doing it on a much larger scale, interfacing with a magazine and understanding the complexities of a big, multi-platform system where people could get into what you were doing from print, web and email and diversifying my understanding of different ways to reach a consumer and different ways to get content out there. When RealNetworks took over operation of Rolling Stone I ended up migrating over from being Rolling Stone-specific to being matrixed in the RealNetworks’ organization across music properties, ultimately landing on the Rhapsody side of the fence, where I’ve pretty much been ever since. I’m still largely working more on the content promotion and the strategic marketing side of things, but I moved over into the business development side of my role about three or four years ago.
What does your job as Head of Label Relations and Business Development at Rhapsody entail?
I wear two hats that are complementary in some ways but also strangely divergent in others. I’m responsible one-half the time for the business side of label relationships – creating the deals that get label content into the Rhapsody system, both from a basic standpoint and from the standpoint of how we use it. So, when we made the service available on the mobile platform, that was something we had to make sure was within the rights of our deals. We had to get everything in line there. I make sure we have enough content in our system and that our users can access it. On the other hand, the other half of the role is managing the actual relationships with the labels, working on marketing opportunities, making sure that beyond the core deal itself we get in as much content as we can and promote it and do outreach and let fans know about opportunities. We also help our editorial team to create original content for our users, whether that’s interviews or some of the other special features we do within the service. That’s who I oversee, along with a small team that is scattered across the country.
From an outsider’s perspective, there have been all these talks with Pandora and Spotify coming and going. And it seems that Rhapsody is out there continuing to offer more streaming music and growing very quietly into a very reliable service. The last few times I was on it, it didn’t miss, even when I tried to stump it with some obscure queries.
I think that’s the byproduct of really having been so early in the space and having had a lot more time to pick up the licenses. A lot of people now try to shortcut and do a couple different deals that grab all the content. We actually wound up going and getting hundreds of individual label deals. I think we have more individual label deals than anyone other than perhaps iTunes. Because of that, you see us having catalogues you don’t find in a lot of other services, like Discord and Warp Records. Some of these labels have migrated from different back ends to newer back ends, and not all the content has made it with them. And because we’ve been around for so long, we have some titles from different labels that I know they don’t have the ability to redeliver to anyone else, because it got lost somewhere along the way, and we just happen to have it from back in the day. Our longevity has really been one of the things that’s benefited our catalogue and in turn what users can get from us. We want people to find what they’re looking for, and all this gives us a good leg up to actually deliver on that.
I know there’s concern from people that are very ensconced in the way music is bought and sold about the shift over to streaming and not really owning anything. They wonder what it really is going to mean when everything is on demand. What are you seeing in that space, and how soon are we at a reality where people won’t need to own music?
I think we try to be aggressive in the space by doing a lot of the portable device integrations. We’ve done a lot of things in the past few years with SanDisk, Philips and others. It’s really been our pivot to mobile in the last year or so where we’ve really been able to give people an experience through mobile that actually excels beyond the ownership experience. When you own tracks, the only way you have them with you is if you put them on your device and load them up in a way where you can access them. It’s a very manual process that at the end of the day still only leaves you with what you’ve specifically purchased for yourself. Our catalogue is infinitely bigger than what people can grab for themselves, even if they’re using P2P. We make it effortless for them to listen to that music on their PCs, home audio devices, through certain TVs and set-top boxes as well. But it’s really the ability to take your smartphone – your Android phone, iPhone, Blackberry and now even Windows Mobile – and log into our catalogue and access any track. If I tell you right now about a band I’m obsessed with, you can go and listen to those tracks on your phone and take them with you as well. That’s not something you can do with tracks you own; you can’t expand on them openly. We’re finally being able to deliver a superior experience to ownership. I think the ease of the use, particularly with the combination of our new website and the enhancements we continue to make to our mobile phone apps make the whole experience easy, seamless. Our catalogue and the way we’re allowing people to access it is really what the users want. It’s something you can’t duplicate with owned content. You can only do it with a long-term and more robust library.
We’ve also optimized the format of that music based on the device you’re using to listen to it. If you’re on your mobile phone, you’re going to get it at a different bit rate than if you’ve downloaded it or are listening to it at home. On the other hand, if you’ve purchased the track in a certain format or quality, that’s what you’re going to get no matter where you are, for better or for worse.
Do you think the music in a cloud services that Google and Apple are working on will catch on?
It’s so hard to say, because there’s so much conjecture about what Apple and Google are going to come out with, and no one knows what the effect and value is going to be. It does seem to be centered around purchased content, your existing library or some combination of the two, which does give you more flexibility than you have now. But it’s not going to be as much flexibility as what we offer. I think, not knowing what they’re going to have in detail, the only thing we can say is that in a sense we’re not particularly anxious about those companies entering the space, because at a bare minimum they’re still going to educate people about accessing through the cloud, freeing people from the notion that their content can only live in one particular place and that where it lives is the anchor. I think helping people understand that there’s more flexibility than they currently enjoy is a positive. Because we can offer people a broad and flexible catalogue, I think it’s easier for us to take that education they may provide to some people and explain the value of what we’re providing. So, ultimately, it’s hard to say what will happen without knowing what Google and Apple will come out with, but the education alone should be helpful for us.
You implied there’s a certain amount of editorial space, and you’re working with labels in a promotional capacity. Does any of that extend to developing artists? Are you making space for the currently massive DIY movement?
Absolutely. It is hard because there is so much content coming to the space. We ingest thousands and thousands of tracks every day of the week. It’s a crowded space, but one of the things that sets us apart from other services is that we do have a full-time editorial team that is writing about albums and artists and creating associations and maintaining the hundreds of genres we have. If you want to make things really easy and just look at pop artists, you can do that. But we also have detailed sub-genres and sub-sub genres like shoegaze and Italian pop – all kinds of really niche categories that help people find exactly what they’re looking for.
Is that information available in front of the pay wall or behind the pay wall?
Through our website you can see any of the editorial content, including the genre and sub-genre breakdown and editorial content. So, you can see the original pieces, album descriptions or recommendations on each album and artist. It’s really only the content playback that’s behind the pay wall. Everything is geared towards you listening to whatever track you start with, whether it’s music you looked for or a track we presented to you on our home page or that you saw in an email. We want to take you from that first track to more content in one way or another. The editorial team is really dedicated to giving people next places to go to after they’ve listened to a track, album or artist. That’s what helps people get deeper into the catalogue and explore a lot more things that aren’t just Britney Spears or Rihanna top-of-the-chart-type artists. If you look, you’ll actually find we have a more diverse Top 100 artist list than many other services. There’s a lot more catalogue and a lot more indie. At the same time, we have done some analysis to show that the Top 100 artists represent less of our activity than virtually any other way of accessing music. The Top 100 means more to iTunes and P2P than it does to us. Our editorial and interface is optimized to getting people deeper in the system, and that in turn gives more opportunities for smaller, developing and niche artists to be discovered and listened to. A lot of the different editorial genre features help with that. We do new music indie reviews where we’ll do ten new releases for a week or two-week period. It takes people beyond the most obvious release in whatever that sub-category is and gives them a deeper look. I think it helps expose a lot of artists and releases that might not get a look in other places.
You’ve worked with a lot of different apps that have been music and internet related. And you’ve worked peripherally if not directly with a lot of artists that have succeeded. Do you have any insight as to what has made people successful in music either on the executive or the musician side?
On the musician side, I think a lot of it comes down to knowing how to connect with your fans. I don’t think it’s necessarily being on Twitter or Facebook every five minutes, but you should be on those outlets or sending out band emails enough. You need to engaged enough so the fan can perceive a sense of connection with the artist. I think giving the fan a lot of easy ways to connect with you will make them more likely to do it. Make it easy for them to follow you on Twitter, friend you on Facebook, sign up for your mailing list. I know that even I get frustrated when I’m interested in a band and I figure, “I’d love to see them if they ever come through town,” but there’s no mailing list or anything else. I may not remember to go check back on them again. The easier you make it, the more likely you’re going to be able to make a connection. I think you also need to make it easy for fans to know where they can find you, whether that’s in a live setting or listening to different services. There might be a couple tracks on MySpace, but then what? Let people know they can listen to your whole record on Rhapsody before they go out and buy it if that’s something they want to do. You need to let people know the different outlets where you can be found.
So, I think making it easy for the fan to find you and making them feel a sense of connection are very important on the musician side. You need to know there are a lot of different tools at your disposal. All an artist has to do is sign up and get a release out through TuneCore or CDBaby, and, just like that, their release is available in iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody and all these other different services. Each of those services is potentially another way to be discovered.
On more of the business side of music, it’s really about trying to be aware of different trends and knowing what’s working in the business today but also trying to keep your eye on what might work tomorrow, because it is such a quickly-changing space. You need to have a love for music, because it is a difficult space to work in right now. Having it be something you’re passionate about helps the drive. And you need to use that drive to be a really hard worker. To really be effective in the music business today, you need to be willing to put in nights, weekends or extra hours in some way or another to get stuff done and get ahead. It can be daunting, but if you love of music is driving you forward, it makes it easier.
To learn more about David Krinksy and what Rhapsody is doing for subscribers and artists, please visit the Rhapsody website. You can also follow David on Twitter.
Tom Silverman responds after returning from MIDEM:
If you missed parts 1-3 check out the interview that started here
Parts 1-3 were discussed here and mentioned on:
It occurred to me that part of the reason I may have been misunderstood by some in last week’s MusicianCoaching interview is that many people may have missed the third installment that I wrote on January 20th in response to so many people wanting to know who the few artists that broke the obscurity line in 2008 were.
In that response I mentioned that there are other indicators to the escape from obscurity besides album sales including concert ticket sales and singles sales and there are certainly others such as being featured on a huge TV show.
When the flamers came to the party, I had already donned my asbestos suit. Their outrage at the analytical results that I uncovered is not surprising but shooting the messenger does not invalidate the message. In fact, I felt the same way that they did when I first began delving into the numbers. I thought there would be many more than 225 artists out of 1515 albums that sold over 10,000 and I was sure that nearly half would be DIY artists. The fact that almost none of the 225 artist breaking 10,000 albums for the first time in 2008 did it themselves was hard for me to believe but it is true nonetheless.
What upset me most about the reaction to the data was that some thought I was being pessimistic on the future of the music business or at least the DIY artist part of it. That could not be further from the truth.
Dave Lory and I brought back the New Music Seminar again out of dedication to the artist community and a belief that music and artists should be able to rise to their maximum potential regardless of gatekeepers or investors. That was the original promise of the web and I still believe it is possible. On Tuesday, February 2nd, in Los Angeles, the architects of the next music business will convene at the Henry Fonda Theater to discuss new ways and even some old ways that artist can break through. Daniel Ek, founder of Spotify, the streaming service that has taken parts of Europe by storm will talk about what Spotify will be doing to help artists get exposed. Michael Doernberg from ReverbNation, Derek Sivers founder of CDBaby, Ian Rogers of Topspin, Bruce Houghton of Hypebot, Christina Calio of Microsoft, Alexandra Patsavas of Chop Shop, Producer Rodney Jerkins, Jason Bentley of KCRW, Kevin Lyman of the Warped Tour, Corey Smith manager Martin Winsch, the ever popular Martin Atkins of TourSmart, Justin Tranter of Semi Precious Weapons and many more will all be trying to come up with solutions to artists trying to build manage and monetize a fan base in this new era.
The record business has an inflation-adjusted value equal to that of the late 60’s and it is still dropping. Anyone getting in the music business now is clearly not doing it for money. Anyone getting into the music business now is doing it for passion and that is the right reason. Labels have always invested in artists and still do, although they invest much more cautiously due to the compromised risk/reward ratio that currently exists and that reduction in new artist investment has certainly contributed to the reduction in new artists breaking out of obscurity. At the New Music Seminar, we hope to uncover new business models that enable music labels to increase their investment in new artists and give more artists opportunity.
I am more than optimistic. I know that within five years that number will no longer be 12 DIY artists a year breaking through but 50 or 100. The overall number of new artists breaking out of obscurity will be over 500. I believe that we are on the cusp of a golden age of music. We finally have come to understand that it was never about records, it was about the passion of the artist and the passion of the fans for music and their favorite artists. Finding new ways to track fan passion for artists and empower those fans to spread their passion are some of the tools that NMS will explore with cutting edge technologies.
What unites us all is our love for music and artists a quality that even Shakespeare mourned the lack of. In the Merchant of Venice he wrote.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.
How can you not embrace anyone who loves music and shows passion for the business of music? I love what TuneCore has done for artists and the paradigm shift it has contributed to and I adore Jeff Price’s passion. Anyone who has seen Lefsetz veins pop out when he is speaking knows that passion is at the core of his being and whether you agree with him or not, you gotta love him.
There are no bad guys. There are just artists and fans. Artists have to learn to serve fans better and the rest of us have to learn to serve artists better. And we will. You can count on it.
If you will be in the L.A. Area or willing to travel to the L.A. area you should check out the New Music Seminar on February 1st and 2nd. Readers of MusicianCoaching.com can get a two for one discount by going to www.newmusicseminar.biz. and entering the code “nmsla2”.