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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Vinyl Buyers In The UK Are Different From The US

UK vinyl buyersAlthough vinyl doesn’t contribute all that much to the bottom line of the music business, it’s still a hot trend and growing at a pretty good rate. That said, a new study in the UK has found that vinyl buyers there are distinctly different from those in the US.

The study by YouGov found that most buyers in the UK are men between the ages of 45 to 54, while in the US, most buyers were under 34. In fact, in the UK Millennial buyers weren’t able to afford vinyl even if they wanted to, while in the US, many of the same age bought the vinyl even if they didn’t own a turntable.

That said, there are buyers like that in the UK as well, as 50% who purchased an album had yet to listen to it a month later, while 41% own a turntable yet never use it, and 7% don’t own turntable.

It turns out that many vinyl buyers are reconstructing their music collections, having sold off their CDs in favor of downloads in 1998 or 99. Obviously, that format isn’t nearly as satisfying as many thought it would be at the time, so the the move to vinyl shouldn’t come as a surprise, if you can afford it.

Most vinyl buyers are avid concert goers and make it a point to support their favorite acts, according to the study. Most also condemn music piracy, although that’s less of an issue these days than in the past.

Perhaps the most depressing part of the study found that most UK vinyl record buyers are lonely, and I guess staying at home listening to your record collection attributes to that. After all, it’s not the most social of daily events, which could be why the album is in dire straights these days as more and more people gravitate to single song consumption.

Game Audio Specialist Alex Benyon On Episode #122 Of My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Alex BenyonVideo games have huge budgets these days and much of that is dedicated to audio. This week on Episode #122 of my Inner Circle Podcast we’ll talk to Alex Benyon, who’s worked in a variety of audio jobs on huge game titles like Guitar Hero Live, DJ Hero and Call of Duty.

In the intro I’ll discuss a new study that looks at vinyl buyers in the UK, who seem to be a lot different from the U.S., and what I like to call “Fix it before you mix it,” which is all the things that should be fixed before mixing begins.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

August 15, 2016

The New Hashtags Do’s And Don’ts

Hashtags Do's and Don'tsSocial media constantly evolves along with how we use it, especially for promotion. That means that the way something was used a few years ago might be different today, and that’s certainly the case with hashtags. Here are a few hashtag do’s and don’ts as they apply to promotional use today.

Do: Use hashtags on Twitter, Instagram and Vine. These networks are built for hashtags and postings and users depend on them, especially when it comes to search.

Don’t: Use them on Facebook. Most users don’t like them in this context, and they can actually do more harm than good.

Do: Choose your hashtags carefully. Just because you create one doesn’t mean that anyone will use it. If it’s not relevant to you, your music, or your brand, it’s probably not worth using.

Don’t: Over-emphasize your brand name. Not everything has to be about your brand, music, etc.

Do: Use them in your marketing materials. If you have strong hashtags associated with your brand, be sure to include them in all your marketing materials.

Don’t: Include them past their useful time. Many hashtags don’t age well, so be prepared to change them as needed.

Do: Expect them to spark online conversation. That’s what they’re there for, to improve engagement, then be able to track it.

Don’t: Expect them to do all the work. Without great content, hashtags are useless.

Do: Use the right amount in your post. 1 or 2 on Twitter and 11 (yes, that’s right) on Instagram.

Don’t: Use numbers alone or punctuation within a hashtag. A combination of numbers and letters are okay, but numbers by themselves don’t work.

Do: Check for trends or alternatives. Hashtagify.me is a good choice.

It’s been proven that hashtags work, with posts with the correct number and kinds of tags getting up to 5 times the engagement of one without. Use them and use them well.

August 12, 2016

Here’s Why You Should Always License Your Samples

De La SoulBelieve it or not, the pioneering hip-hop group De La Soul’s music from their first 6 albums have never been available digitally. It’s never been on iTunes and it’s never been on a streaming service, and it looks like it’s not going to be in the future either. The reason? In the early days of hip-hop, the band never bothered to license any of the samples it used (as many as 60 per song), and now it’s become too expensive and time consuming for the business affairs department at Warner Music to bother with.

And that’s become another sore point for the band, since those early albums were on the small indie Tommy Boy Records, which was eventually acquired by Warners in 2002. Since then, a revolving door of executives have been unable to deal with the clearance process of material that goes back to 1989, meaning that neither the band nor the  label has received income from anything other than the physical sales.

Out of frustration, the band gave away those first 6 albums for free for one day only on Valentines Day 2014, a move that crashed the hosting service. This action drew the wrath of Warners, but it was difficult for them to get too angry, since they weren’t about to clear the samples and release the albums anyway.

This brings up two points that every artist should be aware of. First is that you always must get clearance for a sample, because the industry is getting more litigious (see the new plagiarism lawsuit against Ed Sheeran), and you will get caught if you don’t obtain a license. You could get away with it in 1989, but we’re a long way from there now. Many attorneys use the strategy of waiting for a song to be a hit before they sue in order to get more money (don’t want to do it too soon), meaning that you could put a lot of time and work into something and not see much for your effort at the end of the day. You want to be able to enjoy a hit and the money that comes with it, and not have to give most of it away because you didn’t clear the sample for a much lower fee.

The second thing is to be sure you know what’s in your contract. If it can be acquired by another entity at a later time, you may be stuck with a team that you don’t believe in, and doesn’t believe in you either. Remember, it’s called the “music business” for a reason.

Music Industry News Roundup #7

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the music industry news roundup from the last week. There’s good news and bad news, and some things to keep an eye out for to see how they play out in the future. Let’s get into it.

Sony Music buys Ministry of Sound. MoS is known for their compilations, which don’t play well in the streaming world since all the money goes back to the original label. This should play better on a major label that already owns many of the licenses.

The National Music Publishers’ Association (NMPA) and the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) are going to war against Sony Music Entertainment. Speaking of Sony, music publishers feel that the label and publishing giant is taking the side of the streaming services instead of songwriters when it comes to the mechanical royalty rate ruling from the Copyright Royalty Board.

Can Deezer’s personal music assistant Flow differentiate it from the competition? That’s what the company is hoping, as it tries to wean users away from the free to a paid tier. It’s going to be an uphill battle though.

Giant torrent sites might disappear. Once the scourge of the music business, torrent sites like Torrentz and Kickass Torrents are gone and the future of other large torrent sites are cloudy at best. You can thank streaming for that.

Nigerian musicians a big influence on the British music scene. They used to lie and say they were from Jamaica, but no more, as Nigerians leave their mark on every corner of the British music business.

Music for apps is becoming a larger revenue stream for artists and songwriters. More app developers realize that hit music can make people play longer, but now record labels are making it easier than ever to license the music they want.

Spotify’s new Release Radar feature provides a new way to discover new music. It provides a playlist of songs from newly released albums. Discover Weekly, which looks at songs released over the last 6 months, starts the week off on Monday, while Release Radar, which only looks back to the last 2 or 3 weeks, hits the weekend on Friday.

Ringo explains why The Beatles benefited from being late to CDs, late to iTunes and late to streaming. It doesn’t matter what the format is, the band continues to sell exceptionally well.

That’s the News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.

Apple Music Now In 114 Countries, But At Different Prices

Apple Music PriceIf you want to get your music to be heard in every part of the planet, then Apple Music is currently the way to go. Apple recently announced that it has expanded its reach to 114 countries, far more than any other service at the moment.

Spotify, which Music Business Worldwide now estimates at 36 million paid subscribers, is only in 60 countries at the moment, and despite the graphic disadvantage, seems to be growing faster than Apple Music. Still, you can’t argue with the footprint that Apple Music has, as it’s now available in in prized territories like China, Turkey, Taiwan and Israel.

One of the things that most artists and bands aren’t aware of though, is that Apple Music utilizes variable pricing from country to country. This means that while subscribers in the U.S. pay $9.99 per month, Israeli subscribers pay about $5.20 and Russian subscribers around $3. That means that if most of your streams come from a low paying territory, you’ll be paid a lower royalty as a result.

The variable pricing is a result of a “what the market will bear” that Apple also uses for iTunes, which proved to be successful in the past.

In the last few years Spotify has also launched in a number of other countries as well, adding Italy, Poland, Portugal, Mexico, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Estonia, Latvia, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Chile, Cyprus and Czech Republic to the list. The company expects to launch in Russia and Japan later this year. Spotify also utilizes variable pricing, but most of the time the price is actually higher than the U.S. For instance, Australians pay $11.25 while Swedes pay the equivalent of $15.22. Poles only pay $6.62 however.

What this shows is that streaming is expanding both territorially, and revenue-wise, which can only be good for artists, bands, labels and songwriters everywhere. The problem is that the variable pricing makes it a lot more difficult to determine just how much an average stream is worth, something that will haunt us all for some time.

TV Dialog Editor Don Murrey On My Latest Inner Circle Podcast

Inner Circle PodcastNot many people know what a dialog editor on a major network television show does, but this weeks’ guest tells us all about it. Don Murrey has spent the last 20 years cutting dialog for a host of network shows and currently works on The Flash on the CW. On the podcast, he describe exactly what he does, the tools he uses, how he receives and delivers the show, and why dialog editing is one of the most important aspects of post that is so frequently overlooked.

In the intro I’ll discuss whether an artist really needs a label anymore and some alternatives that even some stars have used, as well as the 5 ways that music production has changed over the years.

You can listen to it at bobbyoinnercircle.com, or via iTunesStitcher, Mixcloud or Google Play.

Goodbye MP3, We Hardly Knew Ya

Goodbye MP3When it comes to technology, the music business has always been about convenience. It’s ultimately never about the sound or even a lower cost, it’s always comes down to what’s easiest to use. Still, it’s surprising to see the MP3 file format (or the “download” as many know it) accelerating so quickly towards the end of its useful service life.

From the beginning of the modern music business, consumers have quickly gravitated to the latest technology that made it easier for them get their music fix. Going way back to the 1880s, the business consisted of distributing sheet music that the family musician would use to play the latest songs in the living room. When the player piano was introduced, piano rolls became the must-have product.

The Victrola brought the 78 RPM shellac record in the early 1900s, which was soon replaced by the much more durable 33 1/3rd RPM vinyl record that could hold more than twice as much music. But vinyl records weren’t portable, so in the 1960s 8 track tapes became a big hit for taking your music with you in your car. Cassettes were more convenient however, since they were smaller and operated more like a record album, having two sides. They also provided the ability to fast forward and reverse to quickly find the song you wanted, features not available on the 8 track.

The CD was a revelation, not so much for the digital audio it provided, but for its random access ability that let the user easily select a track with no rewinding or forwarding. This is where the music industry got greedy and included a “technology charge” on every CD, jacking the price up far higher than need be, which eventually caused a consumer backlash after the newness of the format wore off.

That dovetailed into the rise of personal computers and the internet, and the ability to share music was high on the list things that the average computer user craved. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Institute developed the MP3 file format in 1993, but it wasn’t until 1997 when it finally took off thanks to the advent of the Winamp player and popularized by MP3.com website.

An MP3 file “let the air out of the tire” of a standard digital CD file, making it about 10 times smaller in size. As a result, music files could then be easily transferred over the low bandwidth online connections of the times (remember, we’re talking the old 32kbd modem days). Not only that, a user’s favorite songs could be ripped from a CD then freely shared with friends without having to pay those sky-high CD prices. Before you knew it, the revolution had arrived as piracy ran rampant, sales waned and record stores closed.

After several feeble attempts to open up an online music store by the major labels, Apple came to rescue with iTunes in 2003, the first large scale way to monetize digital music, a move that the majors rue till this day. [Read more on Forbes…]

iHeartRadio Needs $6 Billion To Pay Back Loans

iheartradioThe largest radio station ownership group is in big financial trouble. iHeartRadio, which owns over 850 terrestrial radio stations, is struggling as it’s projected to lose more than $80 million this year and has threatened bankruptcy. That has spooked the investors that loaned the company more than $6 billion, and now they want their money.

Actually, the company is more than $21 billion in debt, and it’s been that way for more than 8 years since it changed it’s name from Clear Channel. At that time, the company made a big push into Internet radio by aggregating programming from all of its terrestrial stations, although that seems like a moot point since from a music perspective it’s all pretty much the same.

Clear Channel has often been blamed for the demise of the healthy radio business as it scooped up stations across the country, laid off DJs and newsroom employees, and automated the stations with a homogenized brand of pop music and news designed to sell ads more than please listeners. In the process, local radio was decimated as most of the programming came from a central office in San Antonio.

The fact of the matter is that radio is currently in big trouble, and one of the reasons is because of station groups like iHeartRadio have squeezed the originality out of it. Listenership is dropping like a rock as people tune in to Spotify or Apple Music to be entertained instead, which will continue to increase as cars become more connected.

Take AM radio, for instance. Even during prime time (drive-time), it’s not uncommon to hear free public service announcements because the ad slot couldn’t be sold. FM fares a little better, but advertising rates have dropped in recent years, which is a prime reason why iHeartRadio is in trouble.

This is another case of greed in the entertainment business, where private equity investors take over an industry with the express intent of squeezing as much profit from it as possible. It’s actually nice to see that backfire for once, as iHeartRadio will undoubtedly be broken up and sold for pennies on the dollar if it enters bankruptcy, or the investors get their way in court. Sadly, that probably won’t change radio in the foreseeable future.

Music Industry News Roundup #6

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the music industry news roundup from the last week. Warner Music was in the spotlight, as was Sony/ATV publishing, but Spotify and YouTube couldn’t stay out of the news if they tried.

Warner Music signs with Vevo. Warners is the last of the big 3 major labels to do a deal with Vevo, but it finally happened, mostly because of Vevo’s “reboot” with a a redesigned logo and interface, new user profiles with social components, and a personalized video player offering recommendations.

Warners also partners with Vadio. Vadio’s curation platform, ChannelMaker, allows its clients to curate music video channels from a library of videos, and WMG is the first major to sign on.

How millennials act online. If your target demographic is millennials, then you’ll want to check out this infographic that shows when they’re most likely to buy and what content types they prefer, among other things.

Political campaigns and music licensing. Curious about what music a campaign can legally use? This is a great overview of the many possibilities (it’s not as cut and dried as you might think).

BuzzAngle’s mid-year music report.  Music has changed a lot from last year to this year, and you can check out just how much in this report.

Google’s report defends YouTube. The major labels are at war with the platform, so Google put out his report to defend itself. As with everything, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Spotify is starting to beat YouTube. When it comes to streaming music, people are beginning to prefer Spotify over Youtube, a trend that looks to continue. Remember, throughout history, convenience always wins in the music industry, and Spotify is way more convenient to use.

YouTube multi-channel networks were once hot, now they’re not. Disney-owned Maker Studios, home to PewDiePie, laid off staff last week, and the executive brain drain continues. YouTube once seemed unbeatable, but now seems very vulnerable.

Sony/ATV publishing gets permission from the EU to complete the Michael Jackson buyout. The speculation is that this won’t be good for songwriters in the long run. Also, expect it to change its name to simply Sony Publishing, as the company becomes a closer rival to Universal.

That’s the News Roundup of what went on in the music industry last week. Let’s see what next week brings.