Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The 3 Elements Of An Artist's Online Promotion Strategy

If you're an artist or band it's very easy to be overwhelmed by all the options online. That's why you need a solid strategy to make sure you don't spend more time than is necessary, and really getting the promotional value you want from your online presence. My Social Media Promotion for Musicians book lays out a strategy for this, and here's an excerpt that provides an overview of the 3 elements of online promotion that should bring it all into focus if you have any confusion at all.

"There are a lot of online elements that every artist, band or brand has to be involved in these days in order to be an effective online marketer. It’s pretty easy to get confused and either not know where to begin, or throw yourself scattershot at all of them, which usually means that your efforts will be ineffective when it comes to promotion. If we just look at the major components, it looks something like this:
  • Your website
  • Your email list
  • Facebook and Google+ posts
  • Twitter
  • Music releases
  • YouTube video posts
  • Blog posts
Throw in any of the 100+ additional networks available and it’s no wonder why artists, bands and music execs become bewildered by it all. We can make things a bit simpler by separating these components so they fall into one of three categories; content, interaction and tactics. If we break all this out, it looks like this:

1. Content: the places online where you place the material that you generate, like information about your band, music, videos, or blog posts. Interaction is all the social networks where you might interact with your fans and followers. These include:
  • Your website
  • Your mailing list
  • Your blog
  • Your videos on Youtube and other video sites
  • Your music files on Soundcloud or other music hosting sites
2. Interaction: the places where you regularly communicate with your fans, followers, clients and customers. These include:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Pinterest
  • Bookmarking
  • Instagram
  • Any other social network
3. Tactics: everything required to define and refine who you are and your position in the online world. These include:
  • Branding
  • Strategy
  • Measurement
All this gets more interesting when we put into the form of a Venn chart as in Figure 2.1 and watch how the categories intersect.

Social Media Presence Venn Chart
Figure 2.1: A Venn chart of your online presence. 

As you can see, where all three category circles cross, a new element pops up - promotion. This isn’t possible without all three elements combined, which goes to show just how synergistic they all are. Use only one or two and you fall short; use all three and new possibilities for promotion arise. That’s not the strategy though, only the general overview."


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Reason Why Opening Acts Lose Money

You've signed you first major label record deal, the new album is about to drop, and now you're scheduled to be the opening act for a major headliner. What could be better? Well, it helps if you actually make some money, but that's usually not the case because touring costs are so high.

How high? This article in Billboard illustrates the costs for an opening, mid-level, and superstar act. An example of the opening act costs from the article is below.

The big takeaway is the final note. If you're not careful, you'll be on the hook to the label for much more than you think.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Smart People Listen To

Here's an interesting chart the looks at what people listen to based on their college SAT scores. Basically, if you have a really high score than you probably listen to Beethoven, if it's moderately high it's Sufjan Stevens, Counting Crows, U2 and Radiohead. If it's on the low side, then you tend to listen more to hip hop, pop and rock. One of the more surprising parts of the chart is that jazz is pretty low on the "smart scale." We always think of the genre as more cerebral, but the chart doesn't bare that out.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Pandora Teases Streaming Subscribers With A New Ad Model

Pandora image
Streaming music platform Pandora has tried a lot of things to both raise its income and increase its subscriber base, but the company is getting especially aggressive with a brand new ad model that promises an hour of ad-free music for just clicking on a banner ad. 

The new ad product, named Sponsored Listening, has a couple of big brands that are eagerly joining in the beta testing, which is initially launching only on Pandora’s mobile app. That’s a shrewd move since about 80% of its users listen on a mobile device, although the company projects a desktop version to come a few months down the line.

So far Fox and Sony Playstation have signed up for the new format, with Fox pushing its shows Gotham and Mulaney, and Sony’s campaign to launch in a few weeks. The ads will only be available to a small group of users targeted by the advertisers for now, but a full rollout to all sponsors and subscribers is expected to begin in latter half of 2015, according to the company.

Pandora currently has around 77 million users but around 3.5 million of those are paying subscribers. A subscriber pays $4.99 per month for ad-free listening, so the Sponsored Listening campaign is a way for more listeners to be exposed to the ad-free environment. For advertisers, not only do they the exposure via the banner ads, but also hope that users will associate the positive Pandora ad-free experience with their brands. Read more on Forbes.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pandora Releases Data To Musicians

Pandora AMP data image
Pandora AMP data
Pandora takes a lot of heat for the royalties that it pays, so it's trying to make up for it by launching what it calls the Artist Marketing Platform, or AMP for short, which provides extensive analytics not previously available. The service is free to any artist that Pandora plays.

The major data points that an artist can now track are:

  • which cities have the most fans that listen to the songs, which are included in an interactive heat map
  • the number of "Thumbs Up," which is Pandora's version of the Facebook Like
  • the basic demographics of the people that listen to their tracks or make playlists contain their music

About 80% of artists on Pandora don't receive terrestrial radio airplay, so this is a way for them to receive some valuable data that they wouldn't ordinarily be able to get.

Information is power in the music business, just like in any other business. By knowing where most of the fans are, an artist can better plan tours. By knowing which songs best resonate with the fans, an artist knows how to plan sets or even what musical direction to follow.

It may not be more money, but AMP is something that can valuable nonetheless.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Apple Asks Labels For Discount

Beats Music image
Artists, bands and songwriters are complaining about what they're making from streaming services, but new negotiations by Apple and the major labels might have a big bearing on future royalties.

While $10 a month seems to be the going rate for most interactive streaming services like Spotify (Pandora charges $5, but it's non-interactive), Apple thinks that's too much. The company would like to lower that to $5 per month for Beats Music, but says it can only do so with a new licensing deal with the majors.

A new economic model could go either way for artists. If subscriptions increase, as analysts (including me) predict, then artists will make more money than they are now, and some cases, a lot more. Apple thinks that a lower price would accelerate growth, but it would also mean that subscriptions would have to at least double to just stay even.

This might sound far-fetched on the surface, but the fact of the matter is that there's only around 20 million paying subscribers globally for all services at the moment, so doubling the growth seems like a no-brainer.

That said, the general thought is that we'll reach 100 million subscribes with a few years anyway, and that's with the current model of $10 per month.

Then again, apple has more than 500 million credit cards on file on their iTunes stores worldwide. It seems like they're pretty sure that they can do some steep conversion at that lower $5 price. Hard to say which is the better way to go right now, but getting the labels to give in on this is certainly going to be an uphill climb.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Twitter vs. Facebook For Artists And Bands

Twitter or Facebook image
Some recent Facebook and Twitter data have made it a little clearer which platform generally works best for most artists and bands. Here are the most recent numbers from the platforms themselves.

Monthly Active Users
Facebook - 1,317 million
Twitter - 271 million

Celebs With Biggest Followings
Shakira - 102.3 million
Cristiano/Ronaldo - 94.7 million
Eminem - 93 million

Katy Perry - 53.9 million
Justin Bieber - 52.4 million
Barack Obama - 43.4 million

Time Spent On Each Platform
Facebook - 68% mobile/32% desktop
Twitter - 86% mobile/14% desktop

But the biggest difference is the fact that Facebook drives more than 20x as much traffic as Twitter does.
Facebook - 23.4%
Twitter - 1%

There's always the people that will say that Facebook is dying, losing teens, or irrelevant, but the fact of the matter is that right now, it does a lot better job of driving traffic to websites of artists and bands that know how to use it (check out my Social Media Promotion for Musicians book to discover more about how to do this).

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 First Year Ever Without A Platinum Album

No Platinum Albums
With all the albums that have come out this year it's pretty amazing that exactly zero have been certified platinum by the RIAA. Yes, you read that right - there have been no million selling albums this year yet!

What's worse, it doesn't look like there will be any by the end of the year either. The two closest are Beyonce's self-titled album and Lorde's Pure Heroine, but both aren't even reached the 800,000 mark yet and their sales have slowed in recent months.

Actually, there has been one million seller - the soundtrack to Frozen has sold over 3 million, but that's a soundtrack and not a popular artist.

Back when the business was at its peak, there might have been 20 to 30 million sellers by this time just about every year (both recent releases and catalog), but those days are long gone.

On the other hand, there have been 60 platinum songs so far this year, but even that's down about 20% from last year, as the music consumer moves to streaming instead of purchase.

Yes, we're definitely in a singles era where the song is vastly more important than the album, but we're also in a very important YouTube era where a song can get 100 million views yet sell less than 10,000 copies. And today, that's considered a bit hit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Be Careful Who You Steal Song Ideas From

Led Zeppelin image
All songwriters are influenced by those who came before them. It's difficult not to borrow something from a song or artist you love and include it in your work, but when that borrowed piece becomes too blatant, then you're opening yourself up to a lawsuit, even 40 years down the line.

Take the case of Led Zeppelin's iconic "Stairway To Heaven," for instance. In 1967 Zep opened up for the band Spirit, who was out on the road in promotion of their first album (the self-titled Spirit) and playing the song "Taurus" every night. If you listen to both songs, you'll find that there's a lot of similarities in the chord changes and feel, which has caused the family of Spirit guitarist/songwriter Randy California to file a plagiarism suit against Led Zep.

It appears that the first round in the court battle has gone against Led Zep, as a judge has ruled that the trial can take place in the United States District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania. Attorneys for the band had argued that since no one from the band resided in that area, there was no basis for the trial to be held there, but the judge struck the motion to change venues down.

Led Zeppelin has been down this path before, losing a lawsuit to songwriter Willie Dixon for changing his "You Need Love" into "Whole Lotta Love." There's also a case to be made that "Dazed and Confused," "How Many More Times," "The Lemon Song," "Bring It On Home," and a few more were not as original as the world thought when they were first heard on Zep albums.

We still don't know how the lawsuit will turn out, but the moral of the story seems to be that if you're making a lot of money on a song that sounds a lot like another, be prepared to share some of the cash and the credit lest you find yourself in a courtroom somewhere.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Top 10 Vinyl Records Of 2014

Bob Marley - Legend Vinyl Record image
Bob Marley - Legend Vinyl Record
Sales of vinyl records will be up again at the end of 2014, which is no surprise to anyone in the music business. Mastering houses that cut vinyl lacquers are busier than ever, as are record pressing plants. There's even rumor of new modern equipment being built for the first time in about 30 years.

That said, a recent ICM survey found that fully 15% of vinyl buyers never listen to them. They're purchased as much as a collectible as anything. Then again, not everyone has the means to play a vinyl record either.

Here's the top 10 best selling vinyl records of 2014 so far.

1. Lazaretto - Jack White

2. AM - Arctic Monkeys

3. Morning Phase - Beck

4. Turn Blue - The Black Keys

5. Born to Die - Lana Del Rey

6. Legend - Bob Marley & The Wailers

7. Abbey Road - The Beatles

8. Pure Heroine - Lorde

9. Salad Days - Mac Demarco

10. St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Just as an aside, notice how all the album titles are either 2 or 3 syllables in length.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Today's Artist Management Uses YouTube

Artist Management
We live in a new world where promotion is no longer left solely to the record label. Now a good artist management team knows that they must be proactive online in order to increase the branding and visibility of their artists. In this excerpt from my Music 4.0: A Survival Guide For Making Music in the Internet Age book, Dan Tsurif of Mercenary Management describes some of the things that his company does for their artists when it comes to YouTube and other social media.

"What’s the most important social tool right now?
For what I’m currently doing it’s YouTube. It’s the single most important tool for a musician because you can distribute your music, monetize it, use the description to promote tour dates and merch store, and it has the social aspect so people can go and talk and share comments with their friends. For most artists, I tell them to pick just one social network and get really good at it, but if they ask me which one, I’ll tell them that YouTube is the single most important tool that an artist has at their disposal.

Do you recommend that your clients post more than just their music videos?
Absolutely. Typically the record label owns the masters to their songs, so the artists won’t make anything from posting them, and the label will want to do that anyway. That shouldn’t stop them from making their own videos. I tell them not to just focus on music but to put out videos on everything that you can. You can make a guitar lesson, show come cool backstage antics or webisodes, or even a rehearsal video. People love that. It’s very interesting for fans to see. That’s what we have a video team for.

What’s the one type of video that fans relate to the most?
Our most popular videos are webisodes of the artists on tour. Recently we had one with Black Label Society where a videographer followed them everywhere on the tour, and every day we’d put up a new tour recap. That was wildly popular.

We had one with Alternative Press Magazine for Black Veil Brides where they followed them around on the Warped Tour. It was a similar concept, but those had the most impact because it gave the fans a chance to see what the band members were like off stage, then see the transformation to going on stage and performing, so they could see what’s it’s really like to be in a touring band. Especially now that it’s so easy to pick up a guitar and get into music, they want to know what it takes to get to be a professional touring musician. They get access to that world and learn that it’s not all just parties and girls.

Do you do anything special for video SEO?
Proper tags and descriptions are wildly important. I see a lot of companies spending thousands of dollars for search engine optimization, and I agree to a point that you need that boost, but so much could be done just on your own with YouTube by properly tagging and using the descriptions. You should be tagging similar artists, having full lyrics in the descriptions, as well as the name of the director if it’s a music video. Just these little things that people can do have a huge impact on the visibility of the video. 

How much are your bands involved in social media? How much do you do?

It depends on the band. It might be 10 to 50% of the time, depending upon who we’re working with. We might give them a class on how to do something, but most acts do most of it themselves. For the personalized things it’s always the band members, but if they don’t know what they’re doing then we’ll show them the ropes. We can try to put ourselves in the head of the band members and maybe post like they would, but nothing beats the actual member doing it."

To read additional excerpts from Music 4.0 and my other books, go the excerpts page at


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Vevo Launches Original Music Shows

Vevo logo
It's all the rage for cable networks to invest in their own show productions these days, and now that idea is now being adopted by online networks as well.

You're probably at least peripherally aware of Vevo, the massive online music network that's owned by Universal Music Group, Sony Music, Google, and Abu Dhabi Media. The channel is where the major music labels place their artist's official music videos, and that's how most people are aware of it, since if you watch a video, you've noticed the name.

Vevo has been trying hard to do original programming though, and since about 2009 has produced over 2,000 episodes of various shows that cover music performances, interviews and news. The shows are mostly only a few minutes in length, but they've amassed over a billion views, according to Vevo. And all of those eyeballs really add up, since between the preroll ads and branded content, original programming is responsible for around a third of the network's revenue.

All that said, there hasn't been a Vevo original show that can be considered a hit. That's why the company is trying especially hard to give 3 new shows a much higher profile than before. A.K.A is the channel's first foray into animation, where musicians like Iggy Azalea tell the stories of how they received their stage names. Day Off With shows fans what artists do in their spare time, and Vevo DSCVR (pronounced "discover") introduces new acts with interviews and performances.

All of the episodes of the new shows are between 2 and 4 minutes to stay in the "snackable" range of what the normal viewer prefers. That said, Vevo has tried other show lengths as well, starting with an hour long variety show launched in March called The Collective aimed at the Latino audience.

This is a great time to be a content creator of any type, as there's finally the money and vision to try things that would have been called crazy only a few years ago. The problem is that we're all inundated with so much information that you have to wonder how any new show can break out. That said, Vevo has some deep pockets and a lot of viewers, all they need are the shows that viewers want to watch.

Here's an example of the previously mentioned A.K.A episode with Iggy Azalea.



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