Friday, June 30, 2006

Radiohead Mulls Self-Distributing Upcoming Album

In an interview with Radiohead front man Thom Yorke, his response to whether they would distribute their next album, The Eraser, he hesitantly said yes. "We have two or three options and that's one," he said. "I would love for us to drop a chemical weapon within the music industry. But I don't see it as our responsibility, either."
read more | digg story

This would be the starting gun that truly launches music business 2.0. Radiohead doesn't need the two things that record companies really provide these days- investment capital and business administration. The band can easily produce their own music and then monetize it in any number of ways before it even went out to stores. I'm sure Apple would cough up a pretty penny to get some kind of exclusive on it. Even if they didn't go for the up front bucks from anyone, the money from digital microchunks alone would be incredible. Ringtones, videos, song streams, downloads. The only thing they'd really need is an entity to handle manufacturing and shipping of records to real world stores. That's if this release wasn't the first truly digital hit.

Way to bend 'em over.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

For Anyone In NYC

The soon to be launched Haystack has teamed up with Insound for a summer concert series at Club Midway NYC. (Formerly Save The Robots, for all you old-schoolers.) Each week we'll feature some great bands, as well as a set by The Cavalier King. Come down and join us!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The BBC Gets It

SuicideGirls' newsfeed posts that the BBC has just launched a John Peel archive.

John Peel loved music in a way that others can only aspire to. It was part of him and it came out in his broadcasts, as well as the live performances on his show. Many of these performances have been documented over the years, and a lot of them are arguably some bands' finest releases. I think The Damned's session from 1979 might be their finest hour. Or Gang of Four's session. Or Siouxsie. The list goes on and on.

And it's been difficult to tackle this list. Until now. Our friends over at the BBC have archived all of the Peel Sessions and have made various clips and samples available for your listening and general perusal.
The Brits really know how to do music. For decades, weekly mags like NME and KERRANG were the written equivalent of today's blogosphere. As a kid in the early 80's, I can remember getting turned on to bands like Venom and Metallica not from the US press... but by the only trusted sources there were back then for metal. The fine tradition continues today with both publications making the digital jump to offer cool video podcasts and newsfeeds.

So hats off to the BBC for keeping the legacy of one of the world's most informed music fans alive for the future.

Monday, June 19, 2006

iTunes Movie Store Expected to Debut with $9.99 Price Point

I'm a big fan of TV shows I can watch while I'm on the treadmill, or just watch on my laptop. The whole no-commercials and immediate gratification thing makes me very happy. Plus I can hook my iPod to my TV in a pinch. But the price point is a little sticky.

$9.99 for a movie seems a bit much, as music is something that's used more frequently. Not too many people watch a movie more than once a year. While people may listen to their favorite album far more frequently.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Interesting Article On The Hype Vs Reality Of Blogs

Yes. This is about political blogs, but it also applies to music.

Why Aren't The Weakend Signed?

In my daily troll of the digital rockosphere, I noticed this post at Absolutepunk. A user posed the question "why a band this good doesn't get signed?" This is my attempt to answer.

First, the criteria is different for music listeners and labels. While I've purchased quite a few recordings based on just hearing someone's music, I've personally signed only one band from a demo. The basic difference is this... buying a record costs about ten bucks. Indulging an impulse doesn't really hurt.

Signing bands requires a pretty significant investment. That investment needs to come back so the label can record more records. In the days where "bigness" is king and the chain stores rule the retail roost, getting something heard costs alot more money than it used to.

Here's a short list of criteria I ask myself when it comes to rock bands:
  1. Do they have good music? Yes. It's the first question but not the last. This is often followed by "will enough other people think so too?"
  2. Can they cut it live? Nothing worse than pieces of wood who can't play on the stage.
  3. Is the frontperson charismatic? I'm not talking incredibly handsome or sexy. It's that eye-magnet quality that makes people want to watch.
  4. What's the work ethic? If the band hasn't played any out of state shows before putting out a record, there's a huge signal that they're going to do more of the same. Waiting for a label to come in on their white horse and save the day with tour support before you hit the road is bad news. Get a van. Book and play some shows. It's an investment in making your band and if you can't do it, why should someone else?
  5. Are they in it for the right reasons? Third rate rockstars looking to "make it" before they hit their mid-20's are trouble. Those who don't couple their hunger to play Madison Square Garden with a genuine love for the lifestyle are going to wind up angry and embittered. If you don't find joy in sleeping in shitty kids houses, waking up with another unwashed band member spooning you, living on $5 a day, or driving all night to a gig with 10 attendees, then stay the fuck home and get a job.
  6. Do they have a business infrastructure? Can the band get to shows on time? Many small indies play manager and even booking agent for alot of their bands. In reality, having to do that detracts from the labels core mission of trying to convince Transworld to bring in more records to support a few Warped Tour dates.
  7. Do they make friends easily? Wallflowers don't really cut it. You gotta be in the mix to create relationships with other bands. Many big tours that "break" smaller acts happen becuase of friendships between bands not some back room powerplay.
Anyone have additions to this list?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Chains: The New Mom and Pops?

One of our newer bands on the label, Grace Gale, has been perpetually touring since the release of their album. Each subsequent tour gets better and better. But to be honest, given the amount of traffic I see to their media pages, and the amount of merchandise they are selling at shows- getting their records into stores is still quite a bitch.

I could take some potshots at our distributor, but I won't. Mainly becuase I think the situation has to do with the subtle shifts in the marketplace over the last few years.

Formerly my bread and butter, it seems that a great deal of "indie" type stores don't pay as much attention to punk, hardcore, or metal anymore. Sure, there's still Vintage Vinyl and Generation Records, but there's also more like Waterloo. The bulk of their customer base has shifted from the "kids" to an older demographic, who prefer Matador over Trustkill.

As an indie label that has a history of punk and hardcore, I've come to the horrible revelation that mall stores like Hot Topic, TWEC, and Best Buy are more important to sales than my beloved indie retailers.

It makes total sense really: punk, like Hip Hop (or hair metal) in the previous decades, is a more commercially viable form of music, and expanded from it's niche. The kids begin to understand the worth of the artists based on their real or artificially created "bigness." Major chains started bringing in the bigger sellers and the trickle-down titles from labels like Epitaph and Victory. Those labels start really supporting the major chains, and the fans started abandoning the underground. Kids who are fans become conditioned that they can get the music at the local mall, so they don't go out of their way to go to the indies. The customers that remain, are part of the High Fidelity set (like me) that have a romantic connection to that way of life.

My idealogical side cringes at this. Punk is not as easy as buying it at a mall, it's something you work for becuase it's your life, and is certainly not something you do to be popular. Moreover, I feel punk is about supporting the DIY community of retail who supported you.

Alas, I'm a realist. Digital distribution is only about 10% of music sales for a label and you can't sustain a business on those kind of numbers. While I'll support the indies till the day I drop, to continue making records for bands like Grace Gale, Blackout! needs to put records where the kids buy their music, not where I wish they would buy their music. This means that to achieve what we need to do, the label needs to overcome another barrier to entry: having the means to pay thousands of dollars in price and positioning programs to just get the records in the door.


(Would love the cats from Suburban Home and any other label folks to chime in on this.)

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Little Experiment

Wahoo! I finally just got approved for an Ether number! If you notice the right side of the page, I have a fancy new link that allows anyone out there who's interested, to call me and talk bidness at a very reasonable rate. Wanna start a label? Are you in a band and need advice on where to go? Confused about digital strategy for your music? No problem. Don't panic. I am here to help and welcome the opportunity to talk with you.

Whaddaya think?

update: the interface is a little cumbersome and the emailing doesn't work all that well. Many thanks to the "beta testers" out there. I'll continue to suss this out over the weekend and see how it goes.

The VH1 Rock Honors

Anyone else catch that VH1 Honors thing? I began watching just as Godsmack started their Judas Priest medely. One thing that comes to mind is that: A large portion of newer bands can't play live anywhere near as well as the old ones. The bands that grow up on ProTools and autotune simply do not cut it as well as the ones that had to perform instead of hire an expensive producer to slice n dice their performances into a radio-friendly mix.

While I'm not really a fan of this band: The Def Leppard cover of T-Rex (with Brian May guesting on guitar) was pretty top notch. The All American Rejects cover of Def Leppard was pretty dismal, mostly becuase of a weak vocal performance.