Rap Coalition

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hip-Hop Marketing in the Digital Era
[21 August 2009]

By Quentin B. Huff
Thanks to waning album sales, the experts say we’ve reached the end of the Record Store Era. It looks like we’ve finally come to grips with the reality that the music business is different now, in the Digital Age, compared to the industry’s business model of the past. Much of our analysis pertains to the changes in that business model, often attributed to downloading, file sharing, and e-commerce.

At the same time, technology has aided the proliferation of home studios and decreased recording costs, creating a boom in “independent” output. With this higher volume of musical traffic, how do the players in this ever-changing system market themselves and distinguish their wares from the pack? What are the marketing strategies for the Digital Age and, interestingly, how have the tools of the past been transformed in importance by our evolving technologies and methods for disseminating information?

The artist of the ‘80s might have relied on a record company’s promotional vehicles, making sure to reach his or her audience through public appearances, videos, product endorsements, and performances. Street teams were, and still can be, vital promotional avenues. Touring is still relevant—maybe more so. But the artist of the ‘80s only expected “hits” on the radio and the charts, not the “hits” we look for today on websites.

Back then, you might hear music playing in stores while you browsed. Now, music is streamed and gets embedded in blogs and MySpace pages. Music, and indeed information in general, sits at our fingertips. Our access to information through online culture impacts the ways in which we become privy to, and ultimately enjoy, music. Below, I’ve outlined some of the strategies I’ve noticed that hip-hop artists are using in order to give their work extra shine.

1. Radio on the TV
Musicians are appearing on television and in movies, either in song or in person. Well, that’s nothing new. But for our purposes, the fundamental level of significance is that hip-hop artists weren’t always so prominent in the entertainment business.

Hip-hop’s rise in profile and perceived legitimacy, from a “mainstream” point of view, has opened new opportunities and revenue streams. These days, a show like HBO’s Entourage, produced by former rapper Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, can be a rapper’s delight. Entourage follows the ups and downs of a young actor struggling to climb the Hollywood ladder to stardom while maintaining his relationships with his two closest homeboys and his older half-brother who’s also in the acting biz.

A single episode might feature a hip-hop song or two (or more) along with a cameo or extended guest spot from artists such as Mary J. Blige, Saigon, Kanye West, Bow Wow, and 50 Cent. Of course, we can’t forget Snoop Dogg. He has enhanced his career by showing up on as many TV spots as he can. For Snoop and everyone else, clips of TV shows and movie scenes play on official sites and other sites like YouTube, creating more opportunities to keep the artist in front of an audience.

In the case of Entourage, the show has done a great job of 1. featuring a mixture of “mainstream” and “underground” rap for its background music and 2. offering a wide array of music from various genres and eras. The latter, I think, is at least as important as the former, since this sort of musical integration suggests a certain amount of foresight and planning. That is, the songs are being chosen to fit the mood and pace of the scenes in which they appear.

Some rappers go beyond mere television cameos. Instead, they do entire reality shows about finding talent (P. Diddy’s band making series), reuniting with partners in rhyme (Salt ‘N’ Pepa’s foray into reality-vision), making amends and spearheading community outreach activities (T.I.‘s Road to Redemption), MC Hammer’s Hammertime, and (once again) Snoop’s Father Hood. People can say what they want about Flavor Flav, but the absurdity of his reality show career has at least made him relevant as a cultural punchline.

Artists, it’s tough to go wrong with TV promotion. It definitely keeps you away from the stigma associated with something like, say, “ringtone rap”. Personally, I think it could be a smart move to make songs that would sound good as a ringtone. Unfortunately, there’s a prevailing undercurrent of disdain for ringtones, largely due to the image of ringtone music as frivolous and utterly disposable.

Back to the screen, it’s a good idea to properly time your TV and movie events. If you’ve released a song or album, why not follow it up with a TV appearance? Play an attorney on Law & Order or just play yourself on a sitcom. On the other hand, a solid TV performance might enhance your profile prior to a release. For instance, Mos Def, before his Ecstatic album dropped, capitalized on his acting chops for an episode of FOX’s House, M.D.. Mos Def’s work on the show was a highlight in an otherwise scattershot season.

The release of The Ecstatic has seen critical acclaim, although I’ve listened to it at least seven or eight times and I’m still undecided about what I think of it. I’m pretty sure I’m a bigger fan of his earlier LPs Black on Both Sides and The New Danger (there, I said it!), but that’s not the point. The point is that Mos Def’s acting abilities didn’t hurt, and probably helped, his album promotion.

TV commercials provide artists with another marketing tool, either in voiceovers (like MC Lyte has done) or personal endorsements (like a bunch of people have done). I find these commercials to be a strange and awkwardly executed strategy, though. There’s something about a celebrity personality endorsing a random product that never sits right with me. Like, Dr. Dre’s commercial tying a well known soft drink to the good Doc’s skills as a deejay.

I don’t see how being a success or an expert in one field, such as rapping or deejaying, translates into a learned opinion about food, soft drinks, weight loss, automobiles, or any number of products we see advertised. These kinds of commercials always strike me as kind of goofy.

For Free or Not For Free
Big Quarters

2. For Free or Not For Free

I respect the Big Quarters hustle. It says the artists are confident enough in their work to expect consumers to pay for it and, more significantly, to want to pay for it. At the same time, they are asking consumers to expect a steady output of quality material to justify the price of admission.Legitimate internet access to music is great, but the problem is: what’s the best way to provide access? Artists, in hip-hop as well as other genres, have approached the question in different ways. Some allow snippets and streaming songs on their MySpace pages and official sites.Others offer free downloads.

Although it’s not a directly related to hip-hop as a genre, Radiohead’s pay-what-you-want pricing scheme for their In Rainbows album highlighted the internet’s ability to challenge the traditional business paradigm. Poet and actor Saul Williams, with the help of Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, originally marketed his The Inevitable Rise & Liberation of Niggy Tardust as a choice of five United States dollars or nothing at all. Obviously, downloaders would receive more for their five dollars than the free downloaders, but the choice was there.

Both albums garnered sales, with In Rainbows not surprisingly raking in more cash and then also selling as a special edition package and a physical in-store release. But neither strategy ended up with everyone downloading the albums for free. Somebody paid for the work, which says something important about what music lovers are willing to do to get what they want—and possibly to support an innovative effort.

An alternative strategy comes from Big Quarters, a Minnesota hip-hop duo I’ve been raving about since 2007. Big Quarters is not, however, a household name. Nevertheless, the duo (consisting of Brandon Allday and his brother Medium Zach) has been running a monthly subscription service through their website. For five dollars a month, subscribers receive five songs. In the days of old, five songs could have been an “EP” or a “maxi-single”.

I respect the Big Quarters hustle. It says the artists are confident enough in their work to expect consumers to pay for it and, more significantly, to want to pay for it. At the same time, they are asking consumers to expect a steady output of quality material to justify the price of admission.

It’s not my intention to rehash the Radiohead discussion. In fact, hip-hop artists tend to shy away from the pay-what-you-want technique. Instead, they’re often willing to give music away for free, usually in the form of mixtapes.

Now, free music isn’t a new phenomenon. Record companies have been giving away free stuff for years, setting aside album copies for promotional events, giveaways, music reviews, and the like. Free stuff doesn’t usually count in the artist’s royalty configurations. Sneaky, huh?

Mixtapes used to actually be cassette tapes. Now, you’ll find that many of them are legitimately available for download in digital formats. Mixtapes used to help rappers create interest in their skills, creating enough buzz to get a record deal and a debut album. This old function of the mixtape, to herald the arrival of new music, still exists and it’s probably more important than ever to the rapper’s promotional bag of tricks.

For some listeners, the existence of a rapper’s mixtape is the primary means of learning about new releases. A snack today (the mixtape) means a meal (the official album) somewhere down the line. If Chubb Rock and Wordsmith hadn’t put out a mixtape, A Crack in the Bridge and if Chubb Rock had done a guest verse on one of K’naan’s songs, I probably wouldn’t have heard about good ol’ Chubb Rock’s return to the recording scene.

When you think about it, mixtapes require quite a bit of effort as fans have come to expect a unique listening experience. As such, mixtapes mostly contain original production from the artist, providing more of a preview of the artist’s versatility and level of creativity than a sample of the finished product. Dude, that’s what leaks are for, right?

More and more, the mixtape itself is becoming the main event as it equals and sometimes overshadows “official” albums as the source of our listening pleasure. Not only was Lil Wayne’s mixtape hustle a defining moment in music, but rap mixtapes have earned spots on year-end “best album” lists. Lil Wayne’s Da Drought 3, Wale’s The Mixtape About Nothing, Little Brother’s Mick Boogie-assisted And Justus For All, Royce Da 5’9's Bar Exam mixtape series, and Joe Budden’s Mood Muzik mixtapes are just a few examples of mixtapes considered by fans and critics to be as good, or better, than “albums”.

Going forward, the difference between mixtapes and albums seems indistinguishable. Containing coveted guest spots, unifying concepts, and original production, mixtapes are frequently in high demand. At the start of Wale’s 2009 mixtape, Back to the Feature, in which every track contains a featured guest verse, he apologizes for taking so long to complete the project, noting that he was busy touring. That’s how much people like mixtapes. A brotha’s gotta apologize for not getting it out quickly enough.

Likewise, the buzz was so great surrounding up-and-comer QuESt’s mixtape, Broken Headphones, people were counting down the hours until its release. Love that title, by the way, for obvious reasons.

Mixtapes have also revitalized the position of the deejay. Once upon a time, hip-hop culture revolved around the deejay, as the record spinner was the prime mover of the crowd. Then, as the emcee became the focus, the record spinner receded into the background. But now, mixtapes are often hosted by respected deejays such as DJ Premier, Mick Boogie, DJ Soul, DJ Green Lantern, DJ Honda, and 9th Wonder. I spend an excessive amount of time hating on trends—like the use of Auto-Tune, for instance. The reemergence of the deejay, however, is definitely a good thing.

3. Themes & Concepts
Ideally, an album should, in general, probably contain songs that work well together and leave the listener with a cohesive experience. The songs should at least speak to the artist’s vision even if they don’t display musical or conceptual unity. Lately, the concept game has helped rappers set their albums apart from the competition. I’ve already mentioned Wale’s The Mixtape About Nothing, inspired by Seinfeld and drawing upon the show’s real audio and a badass near-rap cameo from Julia Louise-Dreyfus. It’s dope.

Rhymefest’s 2008 Man in the Mirror mixtape was ahead of its time in paying homage to Michael Jackson. With offbeat samples from Jackson’s tunes and snippets of his interviews, Rhymefest made it sound like he was right there in the studio with Michael Jackson. Mixtapes honoring greats like J. Dilla and the Notorious B.I.G. gain momentum from their cohesive focal points.

Themes and concepts need not be as dramatic as a tribute to a fallen icon. Serengeti’s Dennehy deals with characters and alter egos, along the lines of The RZA’s Bobby Digital persona and Kool Keith’s Dr. Octagon. Mixtapes can also be collections of an artist’s b-side material or unreleased tracks. Another way to go is to become immersed in the fantasy you’re creating. Tanya Morgan’s Brooklynati operates in a fictional world based on the combined strengths of the group’s three male emcees hailing from Brooklyn, New York and Cincinnati, Ohio. A rap group of three male emcees rapping under a female name is gimmicky enough, but there was even a funny website, Brooklyn Nati.com, detailing the fictional city’s hotspots.

Of course, a full blown concept can succeed on a less flamboyant level. In this regard, you might consider Black Milk’s Tronic as having a theme of musical and songwriting growth. There was also a futuristic quality about its sound.

An album with a concept comes across as being more focused, more inspired, and more thought provoking than the “average” effort. Whether that’s actually true or not is up for debate. The idea that Jay-Z’s American Gangster was inspired by the feature film of the same name worked as a big selling point, especially when you compare its reviews to the mostly lukewarm reception to American Gangster‘s predecessor Kingdom Come.

4. Group Dynamics
Just as the status of the deejay has experienced a surge through mixtapes, it’s possible that hip-hop groups are also reemerging. I’d like to think Wu-Tang Clan’s 2008 reunion with 8 Diagrams is partially responsible for this, but that might be a stretch. An easier argument to make is that super-groups may be putting the group dynamic back on the musical map.

The super-group is different than a regular group or band. It’s a lineup of stellar emcees joining forces for a recording. Okay, you could probably argue that Wu-Tang Clan fits the bill. No problem. But I prefer to think of a rap super-group as a collaboration between titans. Just put three or more emcees together that would complement each other, either by being so similarly dope or by providing contrast to one another’s style. Posse cuts give me good ideas of super-groups I’d like to see. Canibus, Royce Da 5’9, and Elzhi worked well together on one of Royce’s Bar Exam 2 tracks.

Back in the day, I liked Chuck D, Ice Cube, and Big Daddy Kane on Public Enemy’s Burn Hollywood Burn. Throw MC Lyte in there with those guys, hook ‘em up with a deejay, and I’d love to hear the results. I also wouldn’t mind hearing Andre 3000, Snoop Dogg, Devon the Dude, and Scarface working together on a regular basis, and I haven’t decided who should join her, but I think Missy Elliott would bring the noise as part of a collective.

In the real world, I think eMC truly sparked a renaissance in the group, or super-group, format. With a lineup of Masta Ace, Punchline, Wordsworth, and Stricklin, their album The Show melded the talents of these four emcees into an album loosely chronicling the lives of rappers on the road. In 2009, Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5’9, Joe Budden, Joell Ortiz, and Crooked I) has emerged as the super-group to beat, while Detroit emcee-producer Black Milk joins with Sean Price and Guilty Simpson to form Random Axe. These types of collaborations raise the profile of the individual emcees, plus three or four emcees promoting a single project is better than one.

Oh, and another thing. I know this is a duo and not technically a super-group, but I’m fascinated by producer and rapper Madlib’s decision to work with rapper Guilty Simpson. Using the initials of Otis “Madlib” Jackson’s name, the two of them plan to be called “O.J. Simpson”. I don’t know. I’m fascinated to see how, or if, that’s going to fly.

5. Word of Mouth
One marketing strategy that never goes out of style: good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth. There’s nothing better than a music lover sharing a good album with someone. Doesn’t matter if you email it, Facebook it, update it on Twitter, or blog it like they do in the PopMatters media center. Some things will never change.

Quentin Huff is an attorney, writer, visual artist, and professional tennis player who lives and works in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In addition to serving as an adjunct professor at Wake Forest University School of Law, he enjoys practicing entertainment law. When he’s not busy suing people or giving other people advice on how to sue people, he writes novels, short stories, poetry, screenplays, diary entries, and essays. Quentin’s writing appears, or is forthcoming, in: Casa Poema, Pemmican Press, Switched-On Gutenberg, Defenestration, Poems Niederngasse, and The Ringing Ear, Cave Canem’s anthology of contemporary African American poetry rooted in the South. His family owns and operates Huff Art Studio, an art gallery specializing in fine art, printing, and graphic design. Quentin loves Final Fantasy videogames, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, his mother Earnestine, PopMatters, and all things Prince.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/109263-hip-hop-marketing-in-the-digital-era/

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Will Your Life Work The Way You Want It To in 2010?
By Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup For The Soul series)

It's never too early to start planning for next year, especially now that we've marked 2009 as one of recession and things may turn brighter in future months. This year carried with it uncertainty and unsettling economic news, but I say these circumstances compel us to take a deeper breath and pause to think about our lives. Are they moving in the direction we want them to be? Will you be ready to embrace 2010 when it arrives in a mere months?

When people ask me about the single most important ingredient to success, I always share the same response: realizing what's making you achieve success, and then realizing what is stifling your success. Sometimes recognizing the things that are NOT working in your life can be painful, yet more powerful to shaping the life you want. Don't try to rationalize them, make excuses for them, or hide them. This is when it's even more critical to take personal inventory and evict those excuses, rationalizations, and hidden habits that don't serve you. Let me give you some examples:

• Do you want to be active, fit, and strong? Then you have to stop making excuses about your weight, diet choices, and lack of exercise.

• Do you want to embrace Monday mornings and feel excited about going to work every day? Then you have to stop hiding your true passions and go after whatever it is you really want to be doing day in and day out.

• Do you want to lose the debt forever? Then you have to stop ignoring your spending habits and get real about a budget that will pull you out of debt and allow you to reach financial freedom.

• Do you want to feel more connected to the people in your life, such as your partner, children, friends, and colleagues? Then you have to stop complaining about your poor relationships and figure out why you don't feel as connected as you'd like to be.

Successful people do not waste time in denial (or complain or make excuses for that matter). They face situations like a warrior. It's okay to identify a problem even though you haven't a clue about solving it right away. The first step is just recognizing the issue, and then having faith that you'll figure it out with careful attention to it.

Following are the three things to do constantly in pursuit of your successes, however big or small:

1) Awareness: Life tells you things every day. Do this. Don't do that. Think about this. Try me. Forget that. We live in a world that seemingly encourages us to live on autopilot. Successful people fly manually every day and so should you. When those feedback signals come in, listen to them and use them in planning your next step.

2) Commitment: Commit to finding out why things aren't working and learn what will fix them. Once you start the process it will be much easier to continue. Nothing fruitful stems from inaction.

3) Trust: Trust that making changes to the situation will ultimately bring about the best results. Sure you might go through a bit of discomfort during the change, and some unlikely or unwanted outcomes, but in the end you will triumph!

So are you ready to admit the things that just are not working out?

Make a list of the things in your life that are working against your success and ask how the situation can be improved. If you need help organizing those "things" in your life, try using the following list of categories. I recommend reflecting on each of the these 7 areas and ask yourself, what's not working here in each one?

1. Financial Goals
2. Career/Business Goals
3. Free Time/Family Time
4. Health/Appearance Goals
5. Relationship Goals
6. Personal Growth
7. Making a Difference

Remember, by facing what is not working, you can only improve your life!

And if you don't know where to begin, just start writing. I have a set of handy worksheets for you that can help you make plans. Click here to download these free resource and start creating all that you want from your life.

© 2009 Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield is America's #1 Success Coach, co-founder of the billion-dollar Chicken Soup for the Soul brand, and a leading authority on Peak Performance. If you're ready to be more accomplished and have more fun in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessPrinciples.com.

Monday, October 12, 2009

This came in last week's Bob Lefsetz's email blast:

Just want to hip you to this week's "New Yorker", the "Money Issue".

There's so much good shit here, I almost couldn't turn out the light last night.

Start with Tad Friend's article on Nikki Finke, "Call Me — Why Hollywood Fears Nikki Finke". Not only are Ms. Finke's personality and working agenda delineated, you learn how the movie business truly operates. Stay in until Joel Silver leaks Joel Robinov's sexist comment and then says that maybe they both might have made it. Wow, such duplicity is not evidenced in the realm of ordinary households. When that executive lies to you, know that your mind is not playing tricks, it's truly an untruth. Like the President of a major label who told me the quote I read from a ubiquitous rock star in a London paper was untrue, even though, of course, it was real. Damn, if say it's so, it is!

When you're done reading about Ms. Finke, and her petty wars with Patrick Goldstein, who knew everybody took this stuff so seriously...

Oh wait, I almost forgot the most significant point!

It's not about movies.

One of Ms. Finke's favorites is "Legally Blonde".

Nikki doesn't care about movies, she cares about power.

And if you think David Geffen isn't all about power, read through to his quote. Wow. I can't tell you how many phone calls I've gotten from people wherein King David has...

So when you sit home and complain that the labels aren't about music and the movies suck, know that you're right!

Then read the story on Google.

I've got to quote this one passage, it's priceless:

"Diller was disconcerted that Page, even as they talked, stared fixedly at the screen of his P.D.A. 'It's one thing if you're in a room with twenty people and someone is using his P.D.A.,' Diller recalled. 'I said to Larry, "Is this boring?"'

'No. I'm interested. I always do this,' Page said.

'Well, you can't do this,' Diller said. 'Choose'.

'I'll do this,' Page said matter of factly, not lifting his eyes from his hand-held device.

'So I talked to Sergey,' Dillerr said. 'I left thinking that more than most people they were wildly self-possessed.' Later, Diller said, he came to think that what might be construed as rudeness was also purpose."

There's something happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear. But nobody from the old guard, nobody with money, no one whose picture appears in the society pages of the "New York Times", treats Barry Diller that way. But Larry Page of Google did.

They say that the younger generation can't focus. Bullshit. They just don't want to waste time in a world where there's more information than you can ever graze.

And then there's David Owen's article on executive compensation. Turns out the expert, Nell Minow, says regulation is the wrong strategy. It's about shareholder power, to penetrate the CEO-controlled boards.


The article about the guy who's got the market analyzed based on pi is fascinating too, and I've just started reading about Obama's economic advisers...

Pick up the physical magazine, it's the October 12th issue.

But you can read the Nikki Finke article online here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/12/091012fa_fact_friend

Whilst the public is entertained by the gossip circus, while people are anesthetized by TV, those in power rule absolutely. Read this issue of the "New Yorker" if you want to know how the game is played.

Bob Lefsetz.com

The Spotify Guys
By, Bob Lefsetz

They're Swedish!

Martin Lorentzon couldn't stop saying how much he loves L.A. Because in the winter in Stockholm, it gets light just before nine and dark again around three, and that's just too little daylight, for too little time. If only winter were a couple of months shorter, it would be tolerable.

Then again, Sweden's got better cell service. You don't get the dropouts we do in America. And the tech companies are more open.

Speaking of tech companies, Martin made a mint. After working for Alta Vista in San Francisco back in the nineties, he started a company in Sweden that...let's just say it counted data. I'm afraid most people reading this wouldn't understand it if I explained it. And there's your digital divide right there. People who like to win on intimidation and those whose educations allow them a superior vantage point, enable them to move mountains, change worlds, make tons of money.

And Martin put his millions in with Daniel Ek's and they founded Spotify. Which the labels were glad to extract an advance from, but were surprised actually launched and was successful.

Are you following their latest products? Wherein you can download 3,000 odd tracks to your laptop or mobile device? It's just like owning them. Of course, you get this privilege only if you sign up for the premium service.

And they've got software for not only iPhone, but Android and soon BlackBerry, they're the anti-Apple, they're not a closed system, they want to play with everybody.

And they just might end up dominating. If the labels will realize that streaming is inevitable and play ball.

Oh, they're playing ball so far. That breakdown that hit the Web re Spotify's costs isn't accurate, they've got special deals with the labels, but they don't go on forever, Spotify's got to prove its mettle, it has got to generate profits.

A couple of days back, Martin Lorentzon e-mailed me, he was in town, did I want to get together?

Normally, I say no. It's a one way street. You demonstrate your wares hoping that I'll help you out. But Spotify is revolutionary. I was intrigued. But I wasn't sure of the agenda.

So I showed up at the Mondrian today to find a well-dressed man of forty, voluble, polite and excited. Not a passive manipulator, but someone intent on ingratiating himself.

And after catching up, hearing a bit of history, Martin's iPhone rang. I could see it in big block letters. It was Daniel Ek. He was coming down.


Where to begin?

Spotify employs P2P software, that's why it's so damn good. It takes 2-5 seconds to ramp up each and every song, which has reduced bit rate during that window, but usually that's a relatively dead window and the listener isn't paying close attention anyway. Yes, there are tricks. Only seventy five percent of the song is downloaded, an algorithm provides the remaining twenty five percent. This is how they all do it, it's de rigueur. And the files don't only come from Spotify's servers, bits and pieces come from other users with the software installed on their computers. Net effect? It feels like you own the track. Usability is equal to iTunes. You can fast forward, rewind, there's no lag time.

But that's on your desktop. What about your mobile?

Well, that's a bit different. You see then Spotify depends on the network. Which is why they've limited sign-ups in the nations they've already launched in. They want the streaming experience to be perfect on your mobile device, after all, you're depending on it, their servers and their wallets cannot be strained.

But if you want to pay, you can get Spotify instantly.

And in order to use the mobile app, you've got to pay.

And when you do pay, you can download the aforementioned 3,000 tracks to your hard drive too, which truly is like owning them. Of course, if you stop paying, you don't own them. But if you start paying again, they return magically.

Daniel was focused on the rental issue. Needing to make purchase available too. I think that's bullshit. You can't listen to the hoi polloi. In America we rented movies on videotape, bought them on DVD and are now renting them again via Netflix and Redbox. Who says America is anti-rental? It's all about the user experience. And the Spotify user experience is so good, that you don't need to own once you've got it.

But what about Apple?

Martin and Daniel wonder too. Why exactly did Apple approve their app? They gave it a 50/50 shot. But Cupertino said yes. Was it because Apple was worried about the backlash or Apple just doesn't care that much about music. Better to take thirty percent of apps than the small margin in music. Then again, since the Spotify app is free, there's no gross to skim from. Then again, you can't stream music in the background on an iPhone. If you go to write an e-mail, you lose Spotify. Whereas you can listen to your iTunes library while you surf on your iPhone. All of which begs the question, will Apple compete? Will Apple suddenly roll out a streaming service? The guys at Spotify DON'T KNOW!

But someone will. Streaming is going to rule. It's just a matter of when.

So when do we get Spotify in the U.S?

At the end of this year or the beginning of next.

Oh, I get it. These guys are in way over their heads. They can't get it together. They promise, but don't deliver.

Absolutely wrong. They could launch tomorrow, they just don't have all the rights. You see a certain company doesn't believe in free. So, they won't let Spotify launch with the European model. But, without the free element, is Spotify doomed to fail?

Believe me, Spotify wants people to pay. They want to integrate so many desirable elements into the paid model that you'll want to pay. Being able to see what stars are spinning, what your friends are listening to. Yes, merging social networking elements with music, something absent from iTunes. But you can only convince people to pay if they get to try the service out. And so far, other than a handful of the connected, no one in America has Spotify, few even know what it is!

Daniel felt this was a problem. He had to convince the community, the artists and executives. I laughed. This is like MTV. Once you see it, once it launches here, word will spread like fire, people WILL WANT THEIR SPOTIFY!

Daniel feels he could have 50 million users almost instantly. But it's too soon. He doesn't want to risk messing with usability and doesn't want to burn through the company's cash that fast. Yes, it costs to stream, not only server power, but licensing fees. Also, he wants to tweak the service. They showed me some unreleased elements, but they've got tons more. They want to build it so you will come.

What a radical change from those in the music industry, and from those in tech a decade ago.

Ten years ago, the techies were arrogant. They wanted to rip off the music industry's wares. The Spotify guys are different. They want everybody to make money. But they want the time and support to make it happen. Honestly, they're not exactly sure of the business model, they're figuring it out. They want most people to pay, they want different tiers, but the customer is king, you've got to serve the customer. Which the music business has not done in eons.

These are not charlatans. These are not guys in it for the fame.

They are in it for the money. But shouldn't the music industry love them for this, feeling the same way?

They're smart. They know tech. They don't intimidate physically, they make their moves via their intelligence, which flummoxes the music industry. An industry that likes to bully and rip partners off.

But is that paradigm truly sustainable? In an era where the customer is savvy enough to steal whatever he wants? If you think free availability of music can be eradicated, you don't know dick about computers. The only answer is a better mousetrap. Spotify is the first step.

Most people bore me. It's all about them. They want to tell me how great they are, why I should endorse what they're selling. But I was positively riveted for two hours. I felt like I was at ground zero of the music industry. Right there at the source. Better than meeting Bob Dylan, who doesn't talk much anyway. Better than hanging with the rock stars of yore who feel they're entitled, never mind the underschooled and inexperienced nitwits of today. As for dealing with the label people, other rights holders, it reminds me of the sixties, there's a huge generation gap. My eyes roll back in my head, I just can't waste the time. But today, in the lobby of the Mondrian Hotel, I was excited. These guys want to deliver more music to more people and get them to pay for it! And the service is so good, it is worth paying for.

So I don't want to hear one naysayer. You can still sell tracks at iTunes as a hedge, you can even sell CDs. But streaming is the answer and these guys are the cutting edge. They wanted the conversation to be off the record, but I insisted it couldn't be, word has to GET OUT!

P.S. Let me make this perfectly clear. If you've got the premium service, you're not reliant upon a wireless connection to listen to music. You can download a little over 3,000 tracks to your mobile permanently (as long as you continue to pay, of course). So if you're in a dead zone, or camping in Timbuktu, you can listen to your music - as long as you can keep the battery of your mobile charged! (No, your music doesn't disappear if you run out of juice, the songs remain, but without power, you've got to bang on rocks, you've got to make your own music!)

P.P.S. Please read Chris Anderson's "Free". The guy's been beaten up so heavily regarding the Long Tail that his new book has been ignored. But check it out. Primarily because it explains the concept of "freemium" upon which Spotify is based. I'll reference the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemium But Anderson does a much better job of explaining it. Giving numerous examples. As for being afraid of the future, free's been around for eons, Anderson makes this clear. Stop being afraid of losing what you've got and start figuring out how you can make it in the future by reaching so many more people!

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Secret to Making Money Playing Live Music
From: www.LiveMusicMachine.com (a cool new website/app for booking artists)

The simple secret to making money playing live music is:

1. Create exciting market worthy music products, both recorded and live
2. Expose your music through every possible avenue at your disposal, both terrestrial and digital
3. Focus more of your time on selling live music interactions to your fans than to night clubs.

Unfortunately, most artists think that making it onto the club circuit will pave the way to financial security and, eventually, that almighty record deal. This is not true. However, until artists truly understand their position in today’s music marketplace, clubs will still be able make them think they have all of the leverage and thereby the upper hand in booking matters. By working smarter not harder, artists can change this perception and build a large moneymaking base from their fans and eventually from clubs who will pay them for live music interactions. Here’s how.

Fans are desperate for more personal interaction with the artists they love. Because booking has been an intimidating task for most fans and something they have never really known how to do, the average person has never booked an artist. On the artist side, most fail to realize that the best source of live music bookings for them is their own fan base.

When a fan wants to book an artist for a house party, private concert or other type of special event, which most booking agents generally don’t want to deal with, they rarely know how to go about doing it. More than likely, cost is not the same determining factor for a fan that it is for clubs. When a fan is booking an artist they love, their priority factor is that they are looking to make a personal connection with an artist and they are willing to pay well for that connection. They get to deal with the artist directly, an exciting factor in and of itself and they control their own event. The price point will usually be much higher for a fan than a club because a fan is buying from emotion whereas a club wants to fills its room with the best talent it can find for the cheapest price so it can sell tickets and alcohol.

Sometimes playing for free makes a lot of sense. Find artists with large followings and sell yourself to them as a free opening act. Go to restaurants and bars with moderate to large client bases that don’t have live music and offer to play for free as long as you can sell some merchandise. Remember, the more you play out live, the tighter your live music product becomes. If friends are have parties, offer to play for free. A party is always better with live music and it makes you seem cool and provides great exposure. Slowly you will lock in a base of “True Fans.” These are the people most likely to pay you money for a a live performance or a CD. Go to malls and offer to play for free. Pass out flyers for future paid gigs and sell merchandise. Talk to high schools and offer to play for free but make sure that you will help the school with something that’s important to them, like raising money for band instruments or team sports.

It is extremely important that you put your music everywhere you can for free. Give free downloads of your music away on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and on any other website that people into music are exposed to. Give away a new download frequently, say at least once or twice a month. Figure out which music blogs talk about your kind of music (use Echonest.com’s Promobot to find the right blogs) , email them, but even better, talk to them and tell them they can give your music away for free. If you are an emerging artist with no real base, the more you give away your music for free, the better chance you have of converting people into true believers. Also, you will have a greater opportunity to be booked and to sell CD’s, downloads, ringtones, or other digital products like a mini EP with photos, artwork and lyric sheets. Look at giving away music for free as extremely cost effective way to advertise yourself to the world.

Most bands are not organized enough to get booked through their MySpace page or from anywhere else on the Internet. Most of the time your page is so cluttered that people wouldn’t know who or how to contact you so they can book you. When they play live, a truly great band will work whatever room they are in to connect with as many of their fans as possible. Your fans may ask you for a card so they can book you. Chances are even if you give them one or you exchange numbers, they won’t ever call you because they probably lost your card or your piece of paper and you will almost never return their email on MySpace anyway.

So here you are. You have a good music product, you are continuously exposing it to as many people as you can and you still aren’t reaping the benefits of more bookings. What can you do to increase the possibility of your being booked more often from this group of people who really would like to book you? Well you should sign up for LiveMusicMachine.Com, the first booking tool on the Internet that, if used properly, can definitely increase your opportunity to get booked.

LiveMusicMachine has a music booking widget that you can put anywhere on the Internet to get booked, including from your MySpace page, your Facebook fan artist page and even directly from your YouTube videos. The LiveMusicMachine widget has a calendar, with 3 views (List, Availability Calendar and Tour Map) that automatically updates everywhere you embed it on the Net when you make changes on your booking page. Anyone who clicks on the “Book Us” button on your widget, immediately sees all of the information they will need to book you -- your price, availability, distance you are willing to travel and requirements that must be met before you can be booked. If they click the submit an offer link, they first have to put up a credit card and pay a $10 fee before the artist gets the formal offer. Any email you get from LiveMusicMachine will be an offer for an actual paid date. If you accept the offer, you also pay a $10 fee and the booking is set. LiveMusicMachine provides hosts and artists with all the tools they need to see their booking through to success. The artist keeps the entire performance fee. LiveMusicMachine takes no commission.

Promotion! Promotion! Promotion! Wherever you put your band info, including CD’s, flyers, promo materials, ads, signage on stage, YouTube videos and your various profile pages, you should always promote your band website and, along side of it, the fact that you can be booked directly from LiveMusicMachine. The more exposure people have to where they can book you for a live performance, the more opportunities for booking will come your way. It’s only a matter of time before a fan reaches out and submits an offer to book you and, more than likely, for more money than you will ever get from a club. Besides, your future as an artist ultimately lies in the hands and hearts of your fans. If you can emotionally bond with them as an artist, you can pretty much sell your “true fans” almost anything.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Pitching Songs And Market Research

If you write songs in the hope that you will get them recorded by artists who might actually sell some CDs or downloads, or get airplay (all of which can make you money), then the first step you need to take is to do some market research. This is the business of songwriting we are dealing with, not songwriting itself. I am going to give you some tips for beginning to develop your understanding of the market you are trying to break into it.

Bear in mind that, because you are pitching your songs to industry pros, it doesn’t matter much what the listeners think of your songs. That might sound weird, since they are the ultimate consumers, but you are once removed from them. You need to impress and wow the trend setters, not the trend followers. Doesn’t matter if you write country or hip hop, you can’t be writing songs that should have been on the radio last year and sell them this year.

Let’s assume you know what genre your songs fit into. Unhappily (for songwriters) genres are moving targets these days, so even that step means staying in touch with the current labels. For instance, the reality is that Motown R&B hits don’t have much in common with what is currently called R&B. But if you’ve got that base covered, let’s move to the next step.

•Look at the charts. Pitching songs requires knowing what songs and what kind of songs within the genre are getting airplay. In pop, ballads work for some artists but typically the hits tend to be uptempo. Does that still hold? And what tempo is uptempo?

•What vibes are popular? Are the songs within that genre downbeat or positive? What values do they promote—street rioting or family values?

•Are the newer artists following the trends or breaking new ground?

•Identify the singers who sings songs that you like. Do they cover a variety of styles or promote one style? Are the lyrics in your face or subtle? Are the themes personal or universal.

The intent here is to find out how you will fit into something that is alive and ongoing. The music business is alive and vital. It might not be as profitable as it was, and there are certainly new business models, but it has always been in flux. Think of it as a merry go round. You have to watch it a bit before you successfully jump on board.

That is step one. Once you’ve got this information, the next step is going to be pitching it. We’ve talked before about tip sheets and collecting this sort of information, but the key point is getting the information. If you don’t have the money for tip sheets or to join up with organizations that can help with placements, you are not up the proverbial creek without a paddle. Google is your friend. With a little creative effort you can find ways to get songs to artists you’ve identified in step one. So pick an artist and:

•Find their producers

•Find their management company

•Find their record label

These are the key players in determining what gets on a CD. So go to the web sites. Often you will find songwriter friendly submission links, or instructions on how to get your material to them. You might find an email address or mailing address. Now is the time to move slowly, however. Don’t email a gigabyte of mp3s. Don’t just mail a CD. Use the contact information to send a short note about yourself and ask for permission to submit material for a specific artist. Keep the note concise—no one cares where you went to school—and friendly. Make sure the language is good English. This isn’t time for text messaging. You are supposed to be a lyricist and that means understanding that while “Yo” might work well in a hip hop tune, it still is not English. No, that doesn’t mean that good English produces good songs—just good impressions. And initially, that is the entire point. The rule here: Make it easy for them to say yes.

If you are invited to submit music, you will need your demo and a typed lyric sheet. Make sure your contact information is everywhere—in your email, on your lyric sheet, on the CD… Folks don’t mean to be careless with your email address, but they are busy and you are not that important yet. Make things easy for them. So this rule is: Make it hard for them to lose you in the shuffle.

Even if you’ve done your homework and gotten permission, odds are you will never hear anything back. That isn’t necessary a reflection on your music or your research. It might be bad timing, the person is no longer connected with the act, or any number of things. In this industry, few people bother to say no—they just ignore you.

So you move on to the next one. And that is probably always a good rule. Move on to the next one and work with the willing.

About the Author
Ed Teja

Ed Teja is a musician, composer, and book author who writes, arranges, and performs a variety of music.