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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke Partners With The Enemy

Radiohead singer Thom Yorke
Our digital music world is continually evolving and both artists and record labels are constantly forced to try something new in an effort to maximize revenue, as evidenced by the latest U2 album giveaway on iTunes. Thom Yorke, the lead singer of the band Radiohead, has a very high global profile and a track record of going against established industry business practices.

That’s why his latest BitTorrent Bundle solo release, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes, is such an interesting test case. If it sells well (and it appears that way so far), many within the industry look to it as a model for what the album release of the future may look like.

Of course, BitTorrent has been widely known as a primary source of content piracy in the past, a reputation that the company hopes it can finally shrug with it’s Bundles format, which puts content owners firmly and securely in control.

A Bundle allows music artists, authors, and film makers to create a digital package that allows a combination of free and “gated” (paid) content. It’s actually a single downloadable file that can contain audio, text, graphic or video assets in any combination. Each Bundle can be unlocked via a payment, Facebook Like or Tweet or anything else the content owner chooses. 

Bundles were first introduced in May of 2013, and since then more than 120 million have been downloaded. There have only been a few high profile artists like Yorke though. Madonna released her Secretprojectrevolution movie on the platform as did Moby with his Innocents album. Of course, BitTorrent hopes that more high profile artists and groups will now consider Bundles as a distribution alternative on the heels of Yorke’s release. Read more on Forbes.

Urban Outfitters Is Now The Biggest Vinyl Retailer

Urban Outfitters image
We all know about the resurgence of vinyl in the US, but it's interesting that the demographics don't skew to the older "classic" album buyer who grew up with them. In fact, it's the younger music consumer that's pushing the format's comeback.

This is now outlined by the fact that the bastion of hipsterdom, Urban Outfitters, recently announced that it is the now the world's biggest seller of vinyl records. The company is also a main retailer for turntables as well.

Although Urban Outfitters is the largest brick and mortar retailer with 8.1% of the market, Amazon is actually the largest vinyl dealer in the US at 12.3%.

Urban Outfitters actually uses a very innovative way for stocking vinyl product. The company rents out it shelves to more than 100 vendors. The company then provides its 288 stores with an online list of inventory that they can then stock on consignment.

All that said, only 6.1 million vinyl albums were sold in total in the US in 2013, which is a drop in the bucket when it comes to the industry's bottom line. That number should be surpassed this year, as the year to date total is already at 5.9 million according to Billboard.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How Students Listen To Spotify

College student listening
Spotify did an interesting survey to discover how students listened to its network in 40 colleges across the United States. There are distinct listening trends at almost every school, but here's some of what they found.

  • Peak listening time is at 4PM for every school.
  • Virginia Polytech, University of Minnesota, University of Georgia and University of Alabama play the happiest songs.
  • Texas A&M follows musical trends more than any other school.
  • Ohio State listens to the most classical music.
  • University of Alabama listens to country music at twice the rate of other schools.
  • University of Pennsylvania, University of Florida, and University of Minnesota Twin Cities listen to the most latin music.
  • University of Washington listens to the longest, most instrumental music.
  • NYU students get an hours less sleep than everywhere else and listen to more slowcore and hipster playlists.

What does this mean? You can use the info to target a particular school or area if they tend to like the type of music you play.

You can discover more from this great study, including the most popular artists by school, by going to How Students Listen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Album Sales Hit A New Low

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ariel Hyatt On Selecting A Social Platform

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

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


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

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

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

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

Which platform would you suggest?

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



Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apple Will Kill Off The Beats Music Brand Sooner Or Later

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Twitter Launches The Buy Button

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Analyzing Apple’s U2 Mistake

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Top 5 Best Cities for Young Musicians

Austin, Texas image
Austin, Texas
Here's a great guest post from Alex Soare featuring the 5 best cities for young musicians.

What makes a city good for musicians?  Is it the amount of clubs?  The cheap rent?  The number of “Bassist Wanted” flyers on coffee shop bulletin boards?

In a word, yes.

It’s the confluence of several different factors that make a city a great place for musicians to live.  Some of it is tangible and some of it is just an indescribable vibe that makes musical folks feel at home in a place.  Whatever it is, some cities have it and some don’t.  

Just so you know, we disqualified New York and Los Angeles on account of them being overly-saturated and overly expensive.  Instead, we highlighted cities that allow you to be a slightly larger fish in a slightly smaller (and cheaper) pond.

1. Chicago, IL
If you don’t mind the rough winters, then you’ll love Chi-Town for its vibrant music scene and down-to-earth feel.  The city has the big world-class city thing New York has, but it’s decidedly more approachable for newbies, which makes it a great place for young artists to start out.

But the sheer size of the place means that there’s a scene for every genre. The hundreds of fabulous venues and the insane amount of music festivals (Lollapalooza, Pitchfork, North Coast, Blues Fest, Jazz Fest, and a full summer street festivals with live music) means there’s no shortage of opportunities to play and see live music.

And unlike NYC, the cost of living in the Windy City is do-able.  Cool, burgeoning neighborhoods like Logan Square and Pilsen offer creative types with a budget a great pocket of the city to call home.  Plus, in these funky hoods, you’ll be surrounded by fellow artists of all media, along with great restaurants and dive bars that actually offer drinks you can afford on your minimum wage day job paycheck.  

2. New Orleans, LA
The Big Easy is a very easy city for musicians to make their home.  After all, one of the major exports of the city is its own distinctive genre.  And because of that, the city has a unique and fervent respect for music and its players – their musicians are treasured, perhaps, more than any other group.  But just because it’s famous for jazz greats doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty more going on musically.  In fact, as the birthplace of Bounce, New Orleans has a flourishing hip hop scene in addition to active Latin music and metal communities.

For cheap, fun places to live, you’re not going to do much better than the Crescent City.  When you’re not working on your craft, you’ll be walking around, slack-jawed and dazzled by the city’s amazing food, stunning architecture and frighteningly friendly vibe.  And you won’t have to break the bank to rent one half of a cool shotgun-style apartment in young, artsy neighborhoods like the Bywater.  Let’s put it this way:  it won’t take long for you to feel perfectly at home in this laid-back, creative southern city that treats its musicians like some cities treat their politicians.

3. Nashville, TN
This world-famous capital of country music has, far and away, the most flourishing music scene in the nation.  According to a report published by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the city has a whopping 7.8 jobs in the music industry for every 1000 working-age residents, and working musicians earn 156% more than the national average for musicians’ earnings. Considering that Nashville’s cost of living is 11.1% lower than the national average, it’s obvious that this is the very best financial choice for musicians.

Just make sure not to count it out if you aren’t a country crooner.  Though that’s what Nashville is most known for, the city also claims to be the very birthplace of both blues and rock ‘n roll.  Both classic genres are still alive and well-represented in today’s Nashville…as are, believe it or not, hip hop, and punk music.  When you factor in the Southern charm, the amazing venues and the high concentration of fellow musicians, it’s clear that the city is a kind of Eden for young artists.

4. Austin, TX
While it might be located smack dab in the middle of a very conservative state, Austin is known for its liberal, progressive, and artsy atmosphere embodied by the slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.”  You’ll likely be greeted with live tunes in the airport (and even in some grocery stores), proving that this city wants everyone to know just how high music is on its list of priorities.  The Texas town has been the launching pad of hundreds of successful musicians as it’s long been considered an ideal place for young artists to sharpen their chops.

The city is also home to the seminal Austin City Limits show and several annual music fests, like the world-famous South by Southwest.  And if you’re a fan of warm weather, Southern barbeque and food trucks, Austin will be your own version of heaven.  This might also be the best choice for a budding musician who can do a techy day job, as many large tech giants, as well as thriving startups, call Austin home.  

5. Portland, OR
Portland is sometimes considered Seattle’s little brother, but it certain has established itself as a culture hub in its own right.  The healthy music scene has one foot firmly planted in indie and folk rock and the other in punk, but really you can find a bit of everything.  And less established  musicians will appreciate the large number of small venues and the gigging opportunities they offer.

What also makes it an excellent starting place for young musicians is the fact that community is such a big deal here.  It’s easy for newcomers to meet new people and jump into the music scene without feeling the alienation and anonymity that sometimes comes with moving to a new city. When you get down to it, the quality of life in Portland is pretty excellent.  There’s an astounding amount of accessible nature surrounding the city and it really is as ridiculously welcoming and friendly as it’s portrayed as in Portlandia.  

Just because you can’t afford to move to NYC or LA doesn’t mean you can’t relocate to a music-centric city that will help you launch your career.  These 5 cities are positively brimming over with opportunities for budding musicians who are looking for a friendly scene and friendly rent prices, both key factors in staying afloat while navigating the waters of life as a working artist.

Author Bio:  Alex Soare is a professional opera singer as well as the founder of Art Rise, an innovative social network for artists of all media.  His own experience as a working artist looking to network with peers and find jobs is what led him to create Art Rise.  He also enjoys sharing advice and tips that help young artists succeed. For more, join Art Rise today and connect with Alex on Google+.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

6 Steps To Branding Your YouTube Channel

YouTube channel image
Branding is incredibly important for an artist or band and how to discover and develop it is something that has been touched on numerous times in this blog. Your brand can be enhanced greatly if it extends to your YouTube channel, which is something often overlooked. Here's an excerpt from my Social Media Promotion for Musicians book outlining 6 steps to branding your YouTube channel.

"There are a number of areas that are available on your channel that enables you to emphasize your own design or brand. Let’s look at them:

1. The Channel Art: The channel art is the banner at the top of the page where you can display a customized graphic. YouTube suggests this graphic be 2560 x1440 pixels so that it works on all types of televisions, tablets, smartphones and computers, but what YouTube will show on most computer browsers is 1546 x 423. This is known as the “safe area” and is where you should place any critical graphics information since anything outside that area might not show up on a device with a smaller screen. The graphic can be up to 2MB and in either a JPG or PNG format. The Channel Art upload section is accessed by clicking on the pen icon on the top right of graphics box. You can access a template for the channel art, as well as a design tutorial, by clicking on “How to create channel art” at the bottom of the upload pop up box.
TIP: Your channel art should be attractive and consistent with your brand, but don’t be afraid to also feature any of the personalities, characters or content of the channel.
2. The Channel Description: You access your channel description from the About tab underneath your channel name. After the About box pops up, select the pen icon on the upper right to edit. From here you can enter or edit the description. Be sure to include all the information about your channel in the description, such as what to expect from the video content as well as who’s involved (like the members of a band).

3. Website and Social Media Links: The website and social medial links are accessed in the same manner as above; through the pen icon on the top right of the box. Here you can add links to websites, blogs and social networks. The first weblink you entered will appear on the lower right side above your channel art, as will the social network icons. The others will appear in the About box. 

4. Channel Icon or Avatar: The avatar is either a picture of you, your band, or product that appears on the upper left of your channel page. The avatar can be up to 800 x 800 (you’re able to crop it) and 1MB in size, although the smaller the file size the better, since it will load faster. The picture is stored with your Google+ account, and you can also access any pictures stored there to use as your avatar.

5. Featured Video/Trailer: Another thing that you can do is feature a particular video or trailer at the top of the page when someone who is unsubscribed visits your channel. Simply select the pen icon on the top right of the box, select a video, then hit save. You can see what both subscribers and non-subscribers see by toggling Unsubscribed trailer and Subscriber view next to the edit icon.

6. Playlists: YouTube allows you to create multiple playlists, which can have a great influence in how your fans consume your content. If you have a fair number of videos, you might want to create different playlists for different parts of your fan base, since each may have a different desire of what to watch. While your superfans will want to see everything you upload, your casual fans may be more selective. You can select the order and layout of these playlists, or create a new one, by selecting the edit icon on the top right of the playlist box."
To read additional excerpts from Social Media Promotion for Musicians and my other books, go to the excerpts

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Social Network Info You Can Use For Promotion

Social Media image
Social media is constantly changing and evolving, and the stats that worked last year can be enormously out of date only 6 months later. That said, here's some of the latest social information of 2014 gathered by Digital Insights, and how it can be useful to bands and artists.
  • 75% of engagement on a Facebook post happens within the first 5 hours. Don't post too many close together or too far apart for maximum engagement.
  • The most common reason to unlike something on Facebook is an uninteresting post. Make sure your content is always informative and relevant. Don't just post for the sake of posting.
  • 53% of interaction between a Google+ user and a brand is positive. You've discovered and established your brand already, right?
  • 22% of adults visit Google+ once a month. It's not as big as Facebook, but it still has over 540 million monthly users, so it's worth being on.
  • 44% of users on Twitter have never sent a tweet. That doesn't mean that they don't read what you're tweeting though, so don't worry if the engagement seems lower than other networks.
  • 84% of women and 50% of men stay active on Pinterest. It's a great network to be on if your audience is there. Poll them to find out.
  • 23% of teens consider Instagram their favorite social network. Once again, it's a great network to be on if your audience is there.
  • Weekends are the most popular time to send Vines. This is contrary to most other networks, where during the week sees more activity.
  • 40% of YouTube traffic comes from mobile. Make sure that your videos look good on mobile devices.
  • Marketers using blogs generate 67% more leads. Blogs are a great way to build and engage an audience if you're willing to spend the time and do it on a consistent basis.
Information is power, so use the above info to help expand and engage your audience. You can also find out some powerful ways to use social media with my Social Media Promotion for Musicians book.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Rdio Goes Free

Rdio image
With Spotify, Pandora, Apple and Google threatening to run away with the streaming music market, some of the smaller services have been forced to make changes in order to keep up. Rdio, which was created by the makers of Skype four years ago, announced recently that it would change from an all-subscription model to a freemium model in order to entice more customers to give the service a try.

No one knows for sure how many users Rdio actually has, but the service is currently available in 60 countries and it's generally admired for its clean design. Its new freemium service will be available in 20 countries to start, and gradually roll out to the others over time.

One of the more interesting things about Rdio is that it's now partially owned by Cumulus Media, which operates 460 radio stations in 89 markets. Advertising for the new Rdio free service will be handled by the Cumulus sales staff, and the service may be allowed to use some of the Cumulus programming in the future.

Rdio's freemium service allows a new user to try the various stations available for free, and for the $9.95 Unlimited package provides additional playlists and add-free playback. With so much music now available for free online, it's no longer possible to be a pay-only service and attract new customers, and Rdio saw the writing on wall that it must be either free (at least partially) or die.


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