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Digital Royalties

Won't amount to much if you're working for a label.

Here's the number of monthly track sales a solo artist needs to make in order to be earning the equivalent to the US minimum wage. (Inforgraphic) (Spreadsheet)
The problem with making money online from music isn't piracy. Music pirates spend over twice more on music than non-pirates. Music pirates are the ones who cannot get enough music, they're the industry's number one customers. The guy who has 12 terabytes of music on his computer is the same one willing to drive eight hours to pay see his favorite act and pick up a t shirt. And they're the ones the RIAA is suing "on behalf of the artists." It's like if Apple were to start arresting people who stood in line for hours for the iPad in order "to make way for paying customers."

No, it's not piracy. Today, the problem with making money online is outdated cost structure. Back when the only was to move music was pieces of plastic, the cost-heavy structure for major labels made sense. It was essential to have access to many distribution, promotional, and retail channels. There was no other way for the music to get out. 
Now music has left the physical medium and returned to it's natural state, in the air floating into your ears. It's music, that's what it does. The only difference is that people now have access to even more music than before.
Now look back at that chart and compare what a self-released CD earns for the artist versus a major label released CD. 
If a self-released artist sells 10,000 CDs they're AMAZING.
If a major label artist sells 10,000 CDs they *might* have broken even. No royalties to the artist unless the advance was covered (it wasn't). Only one in ten major label backed albums turn a profit.
Makes you rethink what being signed means, doesn' it?


On The Efficacy of Flava Flav

Flava Flav is a fascinating case study in the psychology of fans. He's credited with popularizing the role of the hype man in rap groups, yet often gets unfairly hated on for this role because it appears "simple" and "pointless".

This is incorrect. Flava Flav had a profound effect on improving Public Enemy.

He's offering a proper introduction to the rest of the group, thus increasing the effectiveness of their message. Take a speech making class and you'll realize the importance of having a proper introduction. It's hard to start a dynamic, riveting presentation when you're introduced by Ben Stein on valium. First impressions matter and shape the rest of the all future interactions. You want the audience primed for you.

Mr. Flav was like an opening act that always brought the energy of the crowd up in a manner that fits what Public Enemy envisioned.

So people were primed to have an awesome concert experience because Flava Flav got them riled up and in a good mood. Awesome. But this gets even more interesting. It's well known that Public Enemy was a very political act and, even though Flav seemingly was less involved in this aspect than Chuck D or Professor Griff, he still served this aspect of the band. People in positive moods are significantly more persuaded by a message and less likely to critically process the message in depth.

Flava Flav gave Public Enemy's message the extra persuasive strength it needed to really resonate with their fans.

Powerful stuff.

Flava Flaaaaaaaaaaaav!

So this part is important. Before you get off stage, always make sure to hype the crowd up for the next act. Do them a favor, and when it gets returned to you, be grateful. If you have to, go up and ask them to do this before your set. You've got another band bringing you some Flava.

All the bands win when the crowd is in a crazy-excited mood.


The Salesman With A Bow Tie

(Continued from last week's post on bragging)

So now we know the most effective way to brag requires that the person we're talking to bring up the subject we want to brag about.

But how do we get people to regularly bring up the topic of our band without goading them?

I knew a salesman who wore a bow tie in an office with an (understood) dress code advocating a normal tie. And he wore that tiny, audacious little bow tie all day, every day.

I was puzzled, to say the least. If the whole point of being a salesman is to become liked and trusted, why a wear a beacon like a bow tie? It's all I could focus on when I was talking to him, like one of those 600 pound pumpkins in a stack of regular pumpkins. I don't trust giant pumpkins.

So I asked.

His explanation, "It's makes my sales easy. It's different. People notice it and, since almost no one wears them, they always ask the same question. 'How do you tie that thing?' Since I know what they're going to ask before they ask it, I have a planned conversation where I guide them into asking me questions about my products. Once they ask, it's clear sailing."

Whoa. That's deep.

So the message is wear bow ties.


It's about the idea of the bow tie. You want to have something, either physical or verbal, that people have predictable responses to so you can build a well-crafted response that is effective at promoting your band, while still not coming across as uncalled for bragging.

  -Talking to a coworker who wasn't aware you were in a band.
       Coworker: "Hey man, how're you doing today?"
       You: "Meh, alright. I've got a little writer's block is all, but I just got my TPS report in on time so I'm happy about that."
       Coworker: "Writer's block? About what?"
       You: "Well, my album..."
They asked, which gives you permission to brag. Score.

It could be something simple as when you open your wallet to show your ID at a bar, having a guitar pick placed precariously so it falls out on the bar counter. Neat!

UPDATE: This just happened to me. There's a chain around Dallas that touts itself as a "good 'ol hometown diner", the kind of place where you envision every waitress is named Flo. Awesome, love it.

Anyways. I'm idling while my friend gets his wisdom teeth eviscerated so I'm studying my copy of Tour Smart coated in sticky notes.

As the waitress brings my waffle, "Hey guy, so what are you studying?"
"Eh, we're going on tour this summer and I'm kinda scared about how complex this whole thing is, so I'm studying this."
"Oooh, sounds tough. So you're in a band? What type of music do you play?"
"Heavy metal."
"I love metal! Metallica is my soul!"

Whoa. Flo knows how to party.

Me: "Right on, that's awesome! Here, let me give you my card. We've got our album coming out this summer, and I think you might like it!"


 NOTE: The trick is in the subtlety of your delivery. If you go overboard, like have a guitar tattooed on your face, it'll be too obvious that you're fishing for comments. That's exactly the same as a badly executed brag. Don't be a wanker who brings an acoustic guitar to a small house party. You want it to seem as if you've just casually mentioned something band-related without harping on it. Remember, if the other people believes they were the one who asked, you'll have a good brag.


How To Brag Without Coming Off Like A Wanker

Now this is a brilliant post from the BPS Research Blog.

Quick Version: We've all met that one person whose sole purpose in life is showing off their new car, job promotion, paternity test etc. Not only is it annoying, but it's counterproductive. Repulsing the people you're trying to convince to like your work is not a sustainable strategy.

The alternative of avoiding self-promotion is also not an option. Remember, the most visible reap the most rewards. Playing only to your fifteen cats and extensive porcelain doll collection won't have you selling out stadiums. (Might get some YouTube hits though.)

So what is it that makes one brag effective and the other off-putting?

For a brag to be effective, the person receiving the brag must have brought up the topic.
If someone asks you, "Hey, how's that friend peanut butter and banana sandwich?" and you reply, "Good, which reminds me about our album due out next Spring which will feature...." That's off-putting. They wanna know about that sammich.

If someone asks you, "Hey, how's your band doing?", you've got free reign to fire away with your best elevator pitch. They want to know about your band, so let em have it.

Now this is good stuff. But how do we take advantage of this?

Check out next week for the answer. I'm excited to share this with you.

It's good.

Real good.

By the way, if you've just started reading I'd love to talk with you! Leave me a comment, follow me, shoot me an angry email, whatever! Conversations make us smart.


Musicians Are Planets (Total Art)

When I visited La Pedrera in Barcelona, I came upon an idea that Gaudi built into his architecture: the idea of Total Art.

Total Art was the idea that every single detail related to a work was to tie to together and enhance the experience, blending seamlessly into real life.The architecture of Gaudi was the perfect example of this; his houses were built not only for grand aesthetics but for functionality (the weird-looking door handles are designed to fit a right hand perfectly). We live in his art.

This is exactly what today's music must now be.

Your band is a planet. When people come to your show, it's your duty to take them into your total art and really become a part of your music.

Do you make music people listen to when you're lonely? Then colonize that planet, own it.
Do you make music to beat up your best friend? You'd better be able to get your audience angry!
Do you make music to wiggle butts? Shake yours.

But your planet is bigger than just live shows and your music.

-What language do you speak to visitors to your planet? (humble? bubbly? aloof? giggly?)
-What type of artwork and aesthetics let a visitor know they're on your planet? (skulls? flowers? emus? huge butts?)
-What's the weather like? (moody? dancy? frigid? sweaty?)

Create a planet worth visiting. Create somewhere for your fans to get swallowed up in when they're tired of Earth. Create total art.