Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Yesterday's big news was SpiralFrog, a company that allows free downloads in exchange for advertising. While I applaud Universal's entry into this marketplace (as I believe that ads can sustain a music model) I don't see how SpiralFrog can work- given the obstacle course a user needs to run just to listen to, nevermind keep, a song.

Neither do the folks at PCWorld:

The service, due later this year, will be offered by a company called SpiralFrog, which says it would like to sign deals with the other major music labels. Watch a 90-second ad and you can download a song; watch a two-minute one, and you can download a video; to keep them, you'll need to return to SpiralFrog's site and watch more ads. The music will be free, but not freely available, and because the music and copy protection are wrapped up in Microsoft's WMA format, the tunes won't play on the vast majority of audio players out there (read: iPods).

What kid is going to waste any time watching ads to get a song. It's WORK. Advertising works best when it's not a roadblock to the content you want. At a baseball game, do you have to watch a commercial on the big screen before every pitch? No. The ads are in the background and don't impede the experience.

Clearly those involved at this company are executives who are far removed from the reality of the current music marketplace. It's musical lipstick on an advertising pig. (apologies to pigs everywhere)

Monday, August 21, 2006

Tower Chapter 11

Another crushing blow to the world of indie music. Any label that thinks this is still about selling little silver shiny things needs to get the hell over themselves.

More later.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Return Of Sun Records

One of my favorite movies is O Brother Where Art Thou. It's a depression-era adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, and features a ton of great music. At one point in the movie Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and his fellow prison-escapees find refuge in a lonely radio station, where they record a song, which is released as a single. It's a regional hit, and the song winds up being a key component in the ultimate reunification of the Pater Familius and his estranged family.

This exemplifies the small-time home-grown model of music that existed until Elvis changed it all. Songs were recorded and released by labels like Sun Records, who had the connections to get the material promoted, usually on a regional basis. The artist would then tour regionally and make their money on performances.

This is where music is headed again. With the cost of marketing a release in the stratosphere (even for indies), labels simply cannot afford to pay unproven baby bands' recording budgets. Some even flat out refuse to give advances, and expect delivery of a finished master (while taking merchandise rights and publishing.) Blackout! is fortunate that a partner in the company owns a recording studio, so we're still able to record bands quite reasonably.

Instead of focusing on how to buy "hits", what about figuring out how to use the new (low cost) models of distribution to release moderately recorded and modestly promoted records that have a reasonable break even point?

Google Copies

Seems like everyone's getting into the personal playlist game.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Here's An Idea

According to Paidcontent, the folks over at the Home Shopping Network have enabled click-to-purchase right through the teevee.

MTV networks/ Fuse or other music networks should follow up on this. In my dream scenario:
  • Customers would register their download store preference (iTunes, Napster) at the network's website, including username and password.
  • Songs that are available for purchase would have a special icon on screen.
  • When they see the "purchase enabled" icon on the screen, the user can click a button on their remote, and that track will be added to a queue to purchase.
  • The cable network makes money from the referral fee to others, and there's a tangible conversion rate from viewership to intent to purchase to actual purchase. Very viable statistics.
This could also work with television commercials (buy the song from the Honda commecial) and TV shows (Gray's Anatomy, The OC.)

If anyone implements this idea I expect a cut. :-)
Clell Tickle: Indie Marketing Guru

This is beautiful satire, yet rings quite true.
(Funny thing is, I remember a few hardcore bands in the old days pretty much exactly doing this.)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Shhhhhh... Haystack Is Now In Beta

After almost two years grinding away in our startup sweatshop over by the Jacob Javits Center, Haystack is finally in private beta. With great pride (and a little trepidation) we switched the IP over from our dev servers at 5:42 yesterday evening.

Right now, we're in "soundcheck" beta mode- fixing bugs, polishing the chrome, and getting music content in from content partners, friends, and family. We will slowly be opening the service to the public. If you're in a band or from a label, we'd love to have you aboard. Please sign up for entry at the site. We promise that we'll let you in as soon as we can.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Haystack Update

I got a message about how I haven't said anything about Haystack for a little while. The truth is that we're a few days away from the private beta, and have several big strategic partnership announcements coming to coincide with our founder speaking at Digital Hollywood.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tower In Trouble

The LA Times (via Coolfer,) reports that Tower Records seems to be in trouble again and could be going down for the count.

Tower was the one chain that could be counted on to bring in more than just the "hit" music, and really catered to the music-loving crowd. When searching for deeper major label catalog as a buyer you could pretty much go to the tower stores and find what you were looking for. As a label, they'd always take the chance on my releases and during late 80's and 90's, really was the only chain that would take my stuff in quantity (and sell through it) without demanding an advertising quid-pro-quo.

If they truly go down (as they almost did once before,) it strengthens the remaing big players like Transworld, Best Buy and Circuit City. (I don't count Target and Wal-Mart because they don't carry much indie punk/hardcore stuff.) I can't imagine that indie label life will get any easier with them gone.

This is yet another reason why I believe that the future of emerging artists is clearly headed in the digital direction.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Warner Music Digital Revenue Up 109%

According to Paidcontent:
Warner Music Group’s FY3Q06 earnings report backs up its rep as a music company that “gets” digital. Revenue from online hit $92 million, up 109 percent from $44 million in its third fiscal quarter last year. Perhaps more important, that represents 11 percent of the company’s total revenue and digital accounted for half of the year-over-year gain. Warner continues to have a larger digital presence domestically — 74 percent of digital revenue comes from the U.S.
Although I've previously said Cordless is a flawed model of a digital record company, the parent company seems to be going in the right direction. I wonder what the breakdown for indies is? In some months, digital accounts for almost 50% of Blackout! music sales.

UPDATE- they still posted a loss though.