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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Do Playlists Make It Harder To Break An Artist?

playlistsA record label would love to break an artist after one release or album, but that’s getting more and more difficult these days according to One Direction’s manager Will Bloomfield. One of the reasons is that the industry is breaking songs now, and not artists at all, almost without even realizing it. This is thanks to the “playlist dominated culture” brought about by Spotify that’s changed everyone’s view to more short term than career building.

While the playlist culture has been great for music discovery, it turns out it hasn’t been that great for artist development. Where before listeners were “consuming artists in their own eco-system” (meaning via the album), that’s all changed as streaming has now made the business more song-driven instead of artist-driven.

“Our greatest challenge is breaking artists,” he stated at an event hosted by media consultancy ID Comms. “We’re currently breaking songs in our business world and that’s much harder and it takes much longer [for a potential fan] to buy into the artists proposition, which means we have to look at the trajectory of an artist. It used to be two to three years, whereas now it’s more like four to five years.”

While Bloomfield isn’t wrong about the song vs. artist transition, the fact is that the record business in the 70s was more into long-term artist development over 4 or 5 years, and that that yielded some of our most beloved legacy artists. From Tom Petty to Earth, Wind and Fire, to Fleetwood Mac, to David Bowie, those artists became the successes they are through a slow build process that worked first with a grassroots fan base. That strategy could still work today, but the labels are much less inclined to wait through 4 or 5 albums until the hit comes. The song is still the most important asset of an artist, regardless of if it’s on the radio or a stream, but generally speaking, the faster the rise, the faster the fall, especially in the music business.

November 15, 2016

Engineer Mark Linett On Episode #135 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

Mark LinettGrammy-winning engineer Mark Linett certainly has an interesting background. From stints at the famed Sunset Sound and Warner Bros Amigo Studios, to work with Brian Wilson, Rikki Lee Jones, Los Lobos, Michael McDonald and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, he’s seen it all.

But that’s only the start. Mark owns one of the coolest studios in Los Angeles completely decked out with vintage gear (including 2 original Universal Audio consoles), as well as a mobile recording truck filled with the latest in high-tech.

He’s also been The Beach Boys archivist for over 20 years, and he’ll discuss some of the more interesting aspects of those tracks (especially “Good Vibrations”) in our talk.

On the intro I’ll look at what $1 million in a buy-on gets you on a Motley Crue tour, and the big news of Samsung buying Harmon, and Avid in potential trouble with the SEC again.

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

$1 Million Gets A Bad Tour With Motley Crue

The RaskinsI know that you’ve gone to a concert to see your favorite artist and wondered why or how the opening act was chosen. The fact of the matter is that most times, they’re not chosen at all – they buy their way onto the tour, which has become known as a “buy-on.” Whether a buy-on is worth it is debatable, but for one band that paid a cool $1 million to open up for Motley Crue on their last tour, it was enough of a bad time that now they’re suing the supergroup for $30 million in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Logan and Roger Raskin of the Manhattan group The Raskins, claim that they were harassed and sabotaged by months of hazing during their tour with Crue in 2014. Among other things, the band claims that they were forced to play short sets in mostly empty venues after Motley Crue’s management refused to open the doors for shows, the PA system was interfered with during their shows, they weren’t allowed to sell merchandise and they weren’t given dressing rooms. Worst of all, the suit claims that at a stop in Darien, Conn., Crue crew members ran out on stage in monkey masks and sprayed the Raskins “with water guns filled with urine.”

Getting harassed by the top-billed band and their crew is a right of passage that every opening act goes through at one point or another, especially if the opening act is doing well with the audience. That said, if you’re going to take someone’s money, the least you can do is deliver, which means at least opening the doors to let people into the audience. That said, it’s a fact of life that the opening act is going to get the short end of the stick PA-wise, and it’s something that happens everywhere and should be expected.

I’d love to hear Motley Crue’s side of the story here. Just for the record, the band has also toured with Tesla and Ted Nugent, but the fact of the matter is that with a buy-on, it’s buyer beware.

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 11/11/16

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of November 11th, 2016. The news was rather slow this week, probably due to the election. That said, there’s still plenty of news, especially on the record label front. Let’s get into it.

Universal Music’s streaming revenue has topped $1 billion this year already. And streaming is just getting going. The problem is, how much of that is trickling down to the artist and songwriter?

Sony Music wants the crown as the biggest. So it’s planning more acquisitions this year. Check out the executive slide show that Music Business Worldwide managed to get.

Sony’s streaming income increased as well. Not as much as Universal, but growing nonetheless.

Capitol Records celebrates its 75th anniversary. It drops a unique anniversary collection series of 75 albums by some of it’s greatest artists, including The Beatles, Sinatra, Coldplay, Katy Perry and many more.

Facebook is morphing into a next generation media company. That’s the only way left to grow, according to analyst Mark Mulligan, but there seems to be a clear vision on the way forward.

Record Store Day is expanding to Black Friday. New releases coming from Jimi Hendrix, Run-DMC, Bob Dylan and South Park.

Vevo let users turn music videos into GIFs. YouTube’s biggest competitor rolls out a new feature. I don’t think that anyone will particularly care.

The iPod launched 15 years ago last week. Boy, it changed a lot and here’s how.

9 things we learned about the future of the music business. Don’t know if I agree with them all, but they’re worth considering.

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

November 10, 2016

Understanding Your Fanbase

Understanding Your FanbaseYour place in our current music world is totally dependent upon the development, care, and feeding of your fanbase, and this excerpt from my Music 4.1 Internet Music Guidebook will help you better understand your audience so you can grow it.

First of all, understand that your core fans or “tribe” is only a piece of your total audience. Your audience can actually be broken down into the following two categories:

your casual fans and your core fans.

Your total audience, or your fans, is fervent about a particular small niche of music that’s usually a subcategory of a larger genre, which means that they love speed metal (as opposed to the much larger metal or hard-rock genres), bluegrass (as compared to the larger country-music genre), or alien marching bands (as opposed to either of the larger alien-music or marching-band genres).

If you’re an artist in a particular niche, your audience will automatically gravitate toward you, but still might not be your fans. This includes casual fans, occasional listeners, and people who like what you’re doing yet aren’t particularly passionate about it.

Although this part of your audience can’t be ignored, it’s probably not a good idea to expend all your energy on it. They’re aware of you and will probably give you a try with every release, unless they’re disappointed too many times in a row. They can be turned into passionate fans though. One “hit” song or album, a change in image, or a change in general perception, and they become the passionate critical mass needed for the breakout that turns a respected artist into a true star.

In Music 4.1, your most important core audience contains your most passionate fans, or your “tribe.” They’ll buy whatever you have to sell, work for free, recruit other fans, and basically do anything you ask. All they want is access to and communication with the artist, which is the basis of Music 4.1.

In the end, every fanbase has the same characteristics:

  • Your audience consists of your casual fans and your core fans
  • Fans may like an artist but may not be particularly passionate
  • Your core fans (true fans, uber-fans, super fans, tribe) are very passionate about everything you do
  • Most of your energy should be directed towards your core fans

Understanding exactly who makes up your audience will help you grow it.

You can read more from Music 4.1: A Survival Guide For Making Music In The Internet Age and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

November 9, 2016

Why Does A Big Arms Dealer Own A Piece Of Pandora?

Lockheed-Martin invests in PandoraIt’s safe to say that if you’re involved in music, the last thing you think about is making war. That’s why it comes as a great surprise to discover that the world’s largest arms dealer, Lockheed-Martin, owns 184,000 shares of Pandora worth almost $2 million. To be sure, this is a drop in the bucket for both companies, but it’s still a curiosity.

According to Music Business WorldwideLockheed Investment Management Co, the investment arm of the company, routinely invests in tech companies that it feels might make a future breakthrough. At some point, Pandora looked like it fit into that category, although these days the company is more follower than leader. You also have to wonder what the synergy is between the two companies, since a music streaming company is about as far away from selling state-of-the-art arms systems to large countries like the United States, Germany and Japan, just to name a few, than you can get.

It’s also interesting that Lockheed sold 4,000 shares of Pandora at the end of September, which the company reported in an SEC disclosure at the beginning of November, which is how MBW discovered the investment.

According to Crunchbase, Pandora raised $64 million of funding before it went public in 2011, so Lockheed’s $2 million is small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. And of course, when you look at it from Pandora’s standpoint, when you need money to stay in business or grow, you don’t necessarily care where it comes from. It’s also unknown if the company’s investment came before or after Pandora went public.

The investment seems at odds with both Lockheed’s propose in life, and music in general, though. Music, and the people associated with it, has always been more about peace, love and understanding than blowing everything to bits with weapons and making money from it.

November 8, 2016

ProMusicDB Founder Christy Crowl On Episode #134 Of My Inner Circle Podcast

Christy CrowlIf you’re lucky enough to have worked on a variety of music projects, you’re no doubt aware that many times you don’t receive the necessary credit. Even worse, sometimes everything from IMDB to Wikipedia gets your credits wrong. Something has to be done to make sure that the information is correct and thorough.

That’s why ProMusicDB is such a revelation. Finally there’s one place to make sure that the info so important to a musician, engineer or producer is recorded and available for everyone to see, and founder Christy Crowl is on the podcast this week to give us the details.

Christy has suffered through this herself, having a career as a conductor, musical director, singer, songwriter, and keyboard player for Mannheim Steamroller, and many times not receiving credit for some of the many projects she’s worked on. ProMusicDB.com can be the answer though, and Christy will tell us why.

On the intro we’ll look at the fact that download sales are at their lowest in 10 years and dropping fast, and how new acoustic materials are coming to market to help our world become just a little more quiet.

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

Neil Young Gives In And Puts Music Back On Streaming Services

Neil YoungNeil Young pulled his music off of every streaming service in 2015 because of the poor sound quality in favor of his own Pono service, but in a reversal, now he’s back. Although last May his music was made available on Tidal, now it can be found on both Spotify and Apple Music.

Pono was Young’s idea for a high-resolution streaming service complete with it’s own player, but the timing, as well as expectations for demand, were off. By the time it launched, music lovers had abandoned music players like the iPod for streaming, so putting an expensive, oddly shaped device in the pants pocket was out of the question, regardless how it sounded.

While Neil Young has always used the argument that his fans wouldn’t stand for the lower quality sound and expected more from him, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and his entry back on the various streaming services is an admission to that premise.

This is another example of how fans care more about convenience than anything else. Although improvements in sound quality have frequently come with new delivery technologies that the music industry has adopted, that’s never been the reason why most people would buy or use the product, although for many it was a happy coincidence. It’s been improved ease of use that’s always won the day, and streaming has been the best example of that ever.

Although the sound quality isn’t up to par with vinyl and CDs, the fact that you can access literally millions of songs almost anywhere anytime is a far more attractive feature to most users. That said, the streaming quality is getting better, and high-quality tiers from both Deezer and Tidal are available for anyone who cares enough.

I predict that by the end of 2017, one or more of the mainstream streaming services will also make the move to high-resolution, which may put the quality issue to bed for good (unless you’re an audiophile, of course).

[Photo: Andy Roo]

Music Industry News Roundup For The Week Of 11/4/16

Music Industry News Roundup Here’s the Music Industry News Roundup for the week of November 4rth, 2016. We’re coming to the end of the year, and as a result, starting to see a number of year-end stories. And it looks like the piracy argument will never die. Check it out.

YouTube Red is a bomb. It only managed to sign up 1.5 million subscribers in its first year, a pitifully small number.

On the other hand, Apple Music is coming on strong. Mostly because its users have more disposable income and trust the iOS environment.

The rumor is that Apple Music will soon be cheaper. Inside sources say that it will decrease to $8 a month by the holiday season.

Do A&R people follow online metrics of artists? Not as much as you might think, it turns out. When it comes right down to it, a real show with a real audience is a much better indicator of how good you are than an edited video.

Make way for the new hybrid record labels. Irving Azoff started the trend on the high end, but now there are indie labels attempting to do the same thing and build a label around today’s technology and mindset.

Pirated CDs are showing up on Amazon. The industry brings the pirated music issue up again, but the fact of the matter is that streaming has won, and this is a drop in the bucket revenue-wise.

Speaking of piracy, Facebook has banned several music sharing groups. That’s such an easy thing to do. Piracy may not be that big of a deal these days, but it’s still best to cut it off when you can.

YouTube makes a deal with GEMA. Good news for artists, labels and songwriters to get paid for their video views in Germany.

There’s a reason why tech companies are importing music execs. They just don’t know how to deal with artists and creatives, it seems. Whether this idea will work is yet to be seen.

The highest paid women artists – Forbes knows. And it’s exactly who expect them to be, but the amount they made last year is still staggering.

And finally, for the first time in long time, NPR has seen a large ratings increase. Politics may have something to do with it, but the state of radio in general is deteriorating as streaming takes over and the ad revenue dries up.

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

November 3, 2016

The Chart That Tells The Music Business Story

music businessRarely does one chart say so much about how an industry goes as does this one from Fortune. It’s the revenue generated by the recorded music business over the last 40+ years, and it shows the staggering loses that it suffered with the onset of digital music, as well as how the industry has responded to the incorporation of each new music delivery technology.

As you can see, back in the late 70s the industry was fairly healthy in that vinyl sales where at their highest, supported by the first somewhat portable format (in your car, at least), the 8 track tape.

As we get into the 80s the CD takes over, bolstered at least for a time by cassette sales, and it reaches a peak around 2001. This peak is far beyond what the industry had seen before, or since, by almost a factor of 2. Much of this had to do with the fact that the prices for its products were also the highest they’d ever been.

In around 2007 we see that downloads peak in revenue, but the industry is still mostly supported by CD sales, even though they’re declining at a rapid pace, a reaction by consumers to the high prices.

By the end of 2015 CDs are still selling, but at only a fraction of their previous peak, while streaming is increasing at a rapid rate.

If we were to look at an extended chart at the end of 2016, we’ll see that streaming has an even greater growth than what’s seen here, with the general health of the music business revenue-wise beginning to return.

While it’s unlikely that the industry will see anything like the halcyon days of 1999-2001 again (unless a new hit physical format is created), at least it’s growing again. For the first time in a long time, there’s optimism in the air, although you wouldn’t know it from this chart.

Music Industry Revenue