Thursday, March 16, 2006

Freedom's Just Another Word For Nothing Left To Lose

It's clear to me that we're somewhere in a valley between two markets.
Music Business 1.0 is screaming downhill, with the CD monkey
relentlessly perched upon it's back. In this old model, results were
quantifiable on a unit basis via Soundscan. The commodity of Music
Business 2.0 is liquid. Music ebbs and flows through a digital pipeline
according to demand.

Every time there's a new P2P innovation, the industry shudders and
prepares another set of lawsuits. The kids, doing their best
impersonation of Montgomery Burns, touch their fingertips together and
breathe a collective "excellent" under their breath. Soon after, there's
a deluge of blogs and board posts decrying the labels and how
music is going to, at long last, be free.

Why exactly is it that the very people who sing a sad song about paying
for music are the same pie eyed consumer drones who need to be force fed their music through MTV2 videos and big ads in Alternative Press? Sure, with Protools and Photoshop it's cheaper overall to make a CD. But to become well known and get the machine started, even the basics
cost money. How much money? Here are some sample costs, and by no means
a complete list:

$5000- $10,000 in studio and mastering costs
$5000 on print and web ads
$2000 on postage to send out promos
$400 on posters
$1000- $2000 per month for a publicist
$1000- $2000 per month for retail promotion personnel
$1 or $2 allocated for each CD for positioning programs at retail.
...and don't forget tour support, IF you can even FIND an agent.

If this is indeed the case, who will foot the bill for the "brand ubiquity" the marketplace demands ? Certainly not artists, who usually cannot rub two nickels together. It's not Rupert Murdoch, whose MySpace bills hundreds of millions of dollars as the middleman pimping free tracks from hundreds of thousands of willing artists.

My impulse is that it will still be some form of label- that acts more like a venture capital marketing fund. Where a corporation throws down money in exchange for a big chunk of the entire business of the band. This isn't that far fetched. Labels like Vagrant already manage many of their acts, and Victory takes merchandising and publishing from theirs. Plus we've already seen these kinds of alternative deals happen with Korn and Bowie bonds.

If this is the case, the consumer wins. But the future might not be all that bright for the bands looking to get a leg up to start their business. They will have less latitude in negotiating deals, because all the investment houses (nee labels) will need to monetize all other aspects of an artists career in order to make their investment worthwhile.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Back To The Future

Another competitor to and Pandora has emerged in the form of Snaptune. According to the fine folks over at Techcrunch:
With a little user configuration, Snaptune will automatically downloads songs and other content directly from an FM radio to your computer, and add meta data from Amazon and other sources.
Forgive me. But I cannot see the point of this. FM radio? Who the hell listens to FM radio to find exciting new music? Who wants to record a shitty radio transmission? Don't these guys read any industry statistics? Hint: It's certainly not the same folks who can figure out how to connect their PC to the radio...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Punks Not As Dead As I Thought

Punknews has posted on riots at the British Invasion 2k6 festival in San Bernadino. Nazis vs. ARA skins and punks, cops with tear gas, and a stabbing. Given my feeling on the yesterdays example of the Disney-fication of punk, why do I not really feel all that happy about this? But I guess that's the powderkeg you get when you mix old school skinhead bands with dubious right wing politics and a fiesty bunch of leftys.

More at The San Bernadino Sun.

Update: Some footage from YouTube. ("Yah Dude. Trash the place dude.") Take your frustrations out on a restaurant where people who had nothing to do with your bullshit are employed.

Everyone needs to get laid. Really.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Punk Is Dead (Again)

The service for the death of punk will be held at CBGB's, 8pm tonight.
Closed casket. Do not send flowers.

Friday, March 03, 2006

I Wonder If You Can Get The Hawthorne Heights Record On This?

From a blog feed I just read:
A new program has been released that takes internet radio streams from Shoutcast and records them as MP3's. But it doesn't stop there - it also seperates each song, titles them (track name & artist), then it locates the album art - and it has a link to buy the album at Amazon (isn't that sweet).

I don't really feel right about advertising this software, so I'm going to let make you search for this if you want the link or the name. But one things for sure: No matter what the actions the RIAA (lawsuits) or the government (i.e. the ridiculous broadcast flag) take, people are going to continue to get music via the web, for free. Programmers and P2P kids are waaaaay ahead of anything the biz can do to stop them. Nobody can turn the clock back to 1995 and restructure the way labels handle things.

Sure, Real fans who want better quality than a 128k .mp3 will still buy CD's. Fans who want to hold and cuddle a booklet or a collectible will still buy CD's and vinyl. Everyone else is going to rip it. There is no way to hold this back.

Here are some ideas:
  • Eliminate DRM for existing digital files and adapt an industry-wide model like Emusic, where people can download a shitload of files for a cheap price.
  • Build this nominal monthly subscription fee into service providers like one of the many fine-print bullshit surchages for telephone service. If everyone in the US who had broadband internet paid a buck a month extra, couldn't we monetize this whole thing and the perception of "music for free" would still be there? (Yeah, yeah I know this raises issues with other digital content sources, but so what. This is a blog, not an MBA thesis.)
  • Get someone else to foot the bill.
Anyone else out there have ideas on how to stop the dam from breaking?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Proper Care And Feeding Of A MySpace Page

The other day in the office my co-workers and I were discussing the effectiveness of MySpace to create a real fan base for a band, as opposed to just hodepodge of useless faces with no loyalty. My opinion that it really depends on how you use it. To create real value, the MySpace (or web) page must be sticky.

As an example of a compelling MS page, my collegue introduced Vaeda. They're a top unsigned band with over 250,000 listens. Their page pretty much sums up what a band can do to create a great fan-centric online experience.

What's so special?

1. The overall look is clean and legible.
Yep. Someone in this band or their crew has a sense of design. Key points when designing a page if you're all thumbs or have no skills is keeping it simple. Don’t go font crazy. Make sure that you can read the thing. This is made way easier if you use one of the Myspace editing programs. Colorblind or colorstupid? Check this nifty web color picker.

2. The information is updated regularly.
These guys keep their tour dates current and seem to update their blog on a regular basis.

3. Offer some really cool add-on interactive and viral tools.
  • MP3’s and ringtones for sale
  • radio request link tool
  • pre-made style sheets with ready-to-paste HTML
  • banners with ready-to-paste HTML
  • “fan of the week” spotlight
  • incentive for referrals of friends
  • use of YouTube video to supply show footage
  • “exclusive” myspace only content
The final point is that randomly adding a bunch of friends is really a bad idea. Making the most of your current online friends and have THEM evangelize your band, and giving them the tools to work with under their own power, is really key.

By no means is Myspace the final means to an end at this stage of the game. Monetizing 499,000 profile views requires an investment and business experience. These are fundamental blocks to keep perpetuating content, distribution of CDs (for as long as that stays around), the band on the road, and manage other publicity. All MySpace can really do is help an artist reach the most advanced "demo" stage it can be.

But that will be the topic of a future entry...

If any reader has additions to the above, please post in comments.