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6/29/11

Review: Vegan Black Metal Chef

Hat tip to Aaron for suggesting this video

This is simply too good to miss. For those of you who haven't seen it yet; enjoy.

I've been thinking about black metal lately. When I first heard black metal a few years back I couldn't stand it, which is kinda the point I suppose. Extremely aggressive, awful production (on purpose), and tremolo picking at wrist-breaking speeds, black metal prides itself on being the most extreme and evil (or KVLT) of metal genres. The songs usually follow demons/mythology/cold/evil and has music videos in "frost-bitten forests and mountains". They wear makeup, kinda like KISS, but it's called Corpse Paint so it's "eeeeevil". (Although a small percentage of these bands are actually evil, Mayhem's band members killed each other because they're insane. Idiots.)

What I find fascinating about the genre is the exaggerated portrayl of evil, ridiculous to the point where it reaches self-parody. Grown adults wearing face paint making videos in the woods while singing about warlocks sounds awfully like a high school LARPing club.

Yet, that's what is so enthralling about the genre. It offers a release of raw frustrations with the world, hence the fast, sloppy style, extreme distortion and lo-fi production values. It's punk wearing all black, announcing to the world that "I've had enough of your crap!" It's glam-rock with demons instead of spandex. It's the perfect music for unapolegetically venting frustration.

This video's juxtaposition of metal with veganism is magic. The irony of someone wearing giant spikey bracers singing about death but who won't eat meat isn't lost on the guy who made the video. This tongue-in-cheek video revels in the passionate silliness of the genre. This tofu isn't weak, it's KVLT.

The songs are unnecessarily well done, as is the recipe which is pretty close to the one I use (fish sauce is a necessity).

Well done. I'll be looking forward to future episodes.

P.S. Anyone else notice how well-decorated the house is? There's clearly an interior decorator at work in this den of evil. Is this the work of the infamous BeheMartha Stewart?

Podcast Update

First draft of Marketing 1 podcast is done, but it needs significant retooling before I release it into the inter-tubes.
I've started writing Marketing 2 and Finance. Planning on also doing Negotiation and Internet Marketing.

Any other business-y topics you'd want to hear?

6/27/11

Tear Down

We tore it all down. Everything.

Two years of blood, sweat and beers washed away. After painful deliberation, we decided to drop every song Onward We March wrote for our first EP, The Golden Vine. No more playing these songs live.

It hurt, mentally and financially,

But it had to be done.

The idea for our music was to have a concept running through all our albums (similar to Coheed & Cambria), since we're all about depth in our music. But this story was the child of our departing singer, and it felt wrong to try and raise it as our own. The lyrical style, too, was all his.

It hurt, but we realized we would have to give up all we've done so far to start fresh with our new singer.

Which is ok.

Like I mentioned in an earlier post about getting songs stolen, it's not an individual item that makes you important, it's your entire body of work. If you want long-term success in music, you have to have a legacy of great work.

Otherwise you're just a one-hit wonder.

6/23/11

The Cloud Cometh

Big things shaking in the music industry today.

Apple just announced its entry into the cloud music game with the iCloud service to compete with Amazon's music cloud, Google's cloud, and Best Buy's cloud platform.

What's is a cloud? Short version: you move your digital files to a company's distributed servers (the cloud) so that you can access your entire library anywhere (instead of only the songs you can fit on your iPod). Neat.

With Apple being the dominant digital download service, Apple's movement to cloud-based music is essentialy an edict to the music industry that "clouds are the future".

But that's not even the most interesting development.

Apple is allowing both legal AND illegal downloads on the service, no questions asked.

And the major labels like it.

Huh?

Apple thinks they've found a way to monetize music piracy by adapting the old-school royalty methods used in traditional radio. 

From Reuters:
"The $25 annual fee is collected into a pool, from which Apple takes its 30 percent cut. From there, sources say, 58 percent is set aside for labels and 12 percent for publishers. How those portions are distributed within the labels and publishers is entirely based on consumption. Apple monitors which songs users are accessing through iTunes Match, and identifies which rights-holders are then owed what portion of the pool. That same data is provided to the label or publisher to determine what portion of the cut is then owed each individual artist."

While I find the idea of artists being able to get paid for illegal downloads groovy, it's likely that in execution this system will screw indie artists and labels. Apple has already earned itself a sour reputation for not paying independant artists royalties. Ken Shipley of the indie label Numero has already chosen to refuse signing up for the iCloud service:"

Arguing in the comments section of the Hypebot article, Ken elaborates:
1. The money is shit. Actually, less than shit: .0035 cents per "match" if you've got a library of 5000 songs, .0006 of which you need to break off to the publisher. For a publisher to make $1 a track would have to be matched 1667 times.


2. According to Robert Kondrk at iTunes, who spent 30 minutes trying to convince us to join, the majors actually received $0. We corrected this last week. Regardless, as a label that has been sampled by, and has licensed to all four major labels, we know that none of this money is coming back to the artists. We can't even get regular statements, what makes you think they're going to spend the time to break out 15% of .0006?


3. Apple isn't calling this streaming because they don't want to pay current streaming rates. But they're also not calling it downloading because they don't want to get sacked with a mechanical every time someone puts it on a new device. As this Cloud boom popped up a year and half away from the next meeting of the Royalty Advisory board, Apple, Amazon, and Google are all operating in the wild west, setting their own rules until a proper rate can be set. The bottom line is, if Apple can put this onto 10 devices, be it a mobile or a desktop, but is not paying to replicate it, then the service has more in common with streaming than anything else.


4. No one is even talking about how this is essentially legitimizing pirated music by replacing it with perfect replica on 10 machines.
We're fine with being alone in the crowd, always have been, always will be. Our artists are paid regularly and well. If the rest of the industry wants to further marginalize itself by taking less than it's worth, they can go right ahead.

Depending on how Google, Apple and Amazon deal with rights and royalties, The Clouds could be either a boon or a burden for the independant musician,. I suspect that this new technology will be primarily a structural relocation of where fans hear music, similar to the transition from radio to casettes or from CDs to MP3 players. As an artist, I'm not counting on any additional revenue from a cloud.

But with plans for adding recommendation engines and integrating internet radio in the near future, "The Clouds" might very well be the future of the digital music industry. We may stop interacting with only our devices and instead tap into a universal music interface to access and enjoy our music.

Pay attention.

This is big.

6/16/11

What Does Enjoyment of Music Come From?

Making science accessable to a layperson is a gift. And once again, Jonah Lehrer delivers in this thought-provoking article on the psychological effects of price on perception of wine quality.

Excerpt
---
Individuals who are unaware of the price do not derive more enjoyment from more expensive wine. In a sample of more than 6,000 blind tastings, we find that the correlation between price and overall rating is small and negative, suggesting that individuals on average enjoy more expensive wines slightly less. Our results indicate that both the prices of wines and wine recommendations by experts may be poor guides for non-expert wine consumers.
...
The taste of a wine, like the taste of everything, is not merely the sum of that alcoholic liquid in the glass. It cannot be deduced by beginning with our sensations and extrapolating upwards. This is because what we experience is not what we sense. Rather, experience is what happens when our senses are interpreted by our subjective brain, which brings to the moment its entire library of personal memories, wine shop factoids and idiosyncratic desires. As the philosopher Wilfrid Sellars pointed out, there is no reasonable way to divide sensory experience into what is “given to the mind” and what is “added by the mind.”
---

Emotion depends on context.

Your music can be brilliant, but if it sounds like it was recorded in a garbage can, less people will like it.

If the show is sold out and crowded, people will tend to assume your music is better.

If someone you loathe trys getting you to listen to their favorite band, you're probably not going to like the band.

Lesson: The better you craft the emotional context that people experience your music through, the better people will pecieve your music.

Ways to do this: Genuinely engage with fans (live show, twitter, website, merch booth etc), explain stories behind your songs, build a band mythology, play with bands that fit your sound, etc.

(Previous posts on this topic here, here, and here.)

Link: Quick Guide To Timing Twitter & Facebook Posts

Hypebot points out some of the highlights from a free webinar from Hubspot. The fact that Hubspot is willing to offer free research-tested advice for increasing fan engagement is fantastic.

(From the Hypebot article's summary of the webinar)
Twitter:

•Retweets are at their highest between 2 and 5 pm and late in the week.

•Clickthroughs are more even throughout the week with lots of weekend activity. Saturdays and Sundays are actually better than Mondays and Thursdays.

•Clickthroughs also occur more evenly throughout the day than retweets though there are spikes at around 11 am and 5 pm.

•People who tweet a lot, peaking at 22 tweets a day, have more followers. That includes tweeting the same message in different forms multiple times.
 •People who tweet no more than once an hour get higher clickthroughs.

Facebook:

•Pages that post every other day have the most likes! Zarella feels that it's much easier to overdo it on Facebook than on Twitter.

•While more stories are published during the week, more are shared on weekends so weekend posts are best for encouraging sharing.

•Morning posts are shared more than afternoon posts with posts around 1 am to 3 am doing the best.

6/9/11

Andy Warhol, You Brilliant Bastard

I have a hate/fascination relationship with Andy Warhol.
His pop-art is nothing special. (A soup can? A banana? Groundbreaking.) Warhol loved the "ready-made" asthetic espoused by Duchamp, an artist known for a piece where he simply bought a urinal and turned it on its side (It's called Fountain). THESE GUYS ARE WHY PEOPLE DESPISE MODERN ART.

On top of that, many of Warhol's pieces weren't made by Warhol. He had work-for-hire artists produce his art at The Factory. This started the awful trend towards art factories.

$38,400,000
But,

Warhol was a genius of marketing.


The most expensive work of the week was a four-panel self-portrait from 1963-4, which hit the block at Christie's. Warhol himself had arranged the four crisply silkscreened canvases in various shades of blue. Moreover, the image had been made in a photo-booth; a ready-made format that affirms Warhol's place as the heir to Marcel Duchamp. Only three bidders went for the work, but two of them were fervent. After a 15-minute duel, an anonymous buyer on the phone with Brett Gorvy, Christie's Head of Contemporary Art, prevailed over a client of Philippe S├ęgalot, a French-born New York-based dealer, and secured the work for $38.4m, the highest price ever paid at auction for a portrait by the artist.

Let that sink in.

He made a self-portrait in a photo booth and silkscreened it blue.

It's worth $38.4 million dollars.

But the real nugget of wisdom in the story is this; The market for high-end art is small (most of us don't have a couple million to throw around), but dedicated. One of the collectors, Mr. Mugrabi, owns over 800 Warhol pieces. At a price range of millions of dollars per painting, this guy is both rich and a HUGE fan of Warhol.

There's nothing more important to your band than your super fans.

The average fan will only drive up the value of your art so far, but it's the super fans who stretch the high-end of what your work is worth. Deluxe edition of your album? They have it. Limited tour T shirt? They have it. Signed drumstick sold on ebay? They want it.

And these super fans signal to the rest of the world that yes, there is something very special about this artist/band. Remember the Fan Velocity concept I introduced?

Super fans are your disciples. Make them happy and they'll stretch the value of your work beyond anything a marketing campaign could ever do.

6/3/11

Link: The Lefsetz' Letter

The Lefsetz Letter

Lefsetz is the best music analyst there is. Read his dissection of the music industry and you'll instantly feel smarter.

I'll be posting links to his stuff regularly in the near future simply because his articles bear re-reading.

6/2/11

Music Sales Are Up!

:Cue record scratch:

Music sales are finally up again.

Yep, that's right. The "inevitiable music apocalypse" was another false alarm. Overall music sales are up 1.6%, digital album sales were up 16.8%, and digital track sales were up 9.6% but there's two real juicy bits of data within these numbers.

Point One: Vinyl album sales were up 37% from 2010.

Vinyl, as in the giant plastic discs that most teengers have never actually heard.

Do all these music lovers actually own a vinyl player? Probably less than you'd imagine.

It's all about the artifact, the actual collectable experience it offers the fan. Most vinyl editions of the album feature large-scale artwork and, more importantly, limited copies. It's this scarcity that transforms the music from a cheap commodity that can easily be distributed at no extra cost (mp3) to a much more profitable good. You can't pirate a limited edition copy of your favorite album any more than you can pirate a T shirt. This is econimics/business at its simplest.

I'm calling it now: expect vinyl albums to become a more prominent and important feature of bands' income streams in the future. Likely this will be more for collectable reasons than actually hearing the audio (most vinyl albums come with free digital download now).

Point Two: Record Store Day was a smashing success.

"2011 saw the most successful Record Store Day in the event’s four-year history. Album sales at independent record stores increased over 39% the week of Record Store Day (April 16) from the prior week – an increase of 180,000 units – and 12.7% compared to 2010."

I love the idea behind Record Store Day since it is a great solution to a parallel problem that charities face daily.

There's no shortage of people who want to help out the world whether it be helping cure cancer or as simple as supporting a local arts community. But it's difficult to mobilze and allocate this goodwill. Each step of the process of finding volunteers all the way to completing a task increases the complexity of the operation, and increases the chances of a volunteer giving up, essentially wasting the goodwill.

To put it more simply, assume you want to "Support Local Music". Where are the venues? Where do I hear about events? Do I have to actively watch a bunch of websites to find out when something might interest me? What kind of support do they want/need? Will the events I go to suck? <== Big one.

And so on.

Each "complexity" requires more effort from the people wishing to help, increasing the chance that she decides her time would be better spent watching Good Eats reruns. (I'm guity of this one forty times over)

What works so well for Record Store Day is how it simplifys the process for "Support Local Music". It's a national event that builds awareness of these record stores with the help of large local acts who release limited-edition vinyl/cds/merch. (This last year Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips hand-delivered copies of their new album to Good Records!) Cookouts, body-painting, and of course live music all centered around celebrating local record stores. How do you "Support Local Music?" This entire event tells you how to do it.

Rule #456138 of marketing: "The easier you make it for someone to buy, the more sales you'll get."