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Surprise! Fake Fans Don't Come To Shows

Great article at Hypebot about an artist who bit the forbidden fruit of promotion. Writer Clyde Smith investigates BAKER, who has 5+ million views on his videos but can't get more than 30 people out to a show.

Note that he's from New York:
What you will find if you go back and check the stats for videos posted one to two years ago on BAKER's YouTube channel , such as the above stats for "All I'm Gonna Say," that his primary audience has been from the Phillipines, Malaysia and India with one video, "No No [Audio]," adding Australia.
Age-related demographics indicated that top viewers were:
  • Female, 13-17 years
  • Male, 35-44 years
  • Male, 45-54 years
One video, "Wonderall," has all female groups for top demographics.
While there are some plausible explanations for the odd dominance of certain age groups, the regional sources of viewers do raise the possibility of paid YouTube views. Otherwise the fact that his audience is dominated by an Asian audience would be newsworthy and would also help explain his lack of real world audience in New York. Though if he had a strong following among those nationalities on social media, he would also be likely to have a following among students and expats from those countries in the U.S. as well.
I suspect we won't hear much about this artist two years from now.


Three Years!

Glad you're still here. My goal is for you to find some ideas that save your band either money or sanity, so I hope you've found a few useful tidbits.

2012's big posts were about challenging assumptions about the industry.

Dare You Bite The Forbidden Fruit of Promotion?
This year we saw the rise of "Sockpuppets" (paid or fake comments / reviews) as a means of promotion. Don't give in to the temptation.

Is It Time To Trash "Support Local Music"?
I forgot how much fun it was to write the first half of the post as a free form poem. I might experiment with this form in the future.

Maybe You Shouldn't Tour
Real talk about the business and logistics of touring

Will "The Hunger" Consume You?
Sometimes the need for success / money gets to be too much and the artist collapses. Sad. To prevent this, I wrote the follow up posts When Should You Quit Your Job? (Part 1) (Part 2).

Electronic and Hip Hop Better Suited to The New Music Industry
This was a stark realization. The era of the "rock band" being the most profitible model seems to be fading in favor of newer art

If you like this blog, send a link to a musician friend who could use some advice, that's the best compliment you can give me. It's all about helping my fellow musicians.

Thanks for the support everyone.


Dan Ariely's Proposal for Reducing Piracy

Behavorial economics is the study of how psychology affects people's behavior in economic situations, and Dan Ariely is one of the discipline's susperstars.

Three days after releasing his new book, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, he discovered it had already been illegally downloaded over 20,000 times. Being a scientist, his primary response was curiousity as to why people steal intellectual property.

He describes his process of understanding in this blog post:
My first insight came with a personal conversion. Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the “Information wants to be free” end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience. Maybe Information finds complete freedom too threatening, I thought, and maybe it would rather be a bit more protected. It was a very clear example of how my own views of morality are biased – as are everybody’s — based on our immediate perspective.
Somehow I don't find it hard to believe that the more time, money, and effort you've spent on your album, the less likely you'd support giving it away for free.

He continues with another gem:
Once people start seeing a particular behavior—such as illegally downloading books, music, and movies—as a very common behavior, there is a chance that this sense of social proof will translate into a new understanding of what is right and wrong. Sometimes such social shifts might be desirable—for instance, being part of an interracial couple used to be considered illegal and immoral, but now we see such couples all around us and it helps shape our understanding of social approval. However, the behaviors we most often observe and notice are ones that are outside of the legitimate domain (e.g., doping in sports, infidelity by politicians, exaggerated resumes by CEOs) and in these cases the social proof can change things for the worse.
In other words, piracy is the new speeding on the highway.

So how does he propose we attempt to solve this sticky problem?

He suspects it's about confession:
How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%?  Would they do it in order to be 4% legal?  It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.  This is where confession and amnesty can come into play.
What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely.  This is the bad news.  The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.  Importing this religious practice into civic life was effective in the Truth and Reconciliation Act in South Africa, where acknowledging the many abuses and violations of the apartheid government allowed the South Africans to forgive past sins, and start fresh.
While I applaud new ideas of anti-piracy that aren't "sue them into oblivion", I do see a few potential snags this method.

First, if there's not enough political capital to push through complete amnestry for those who admit to piracy, the actual policy that would pass could become a "temporary stay of prosecution" instead of full forgiveness. For example, Obama's pledge to not deport young immigrants for two years was described by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as "It is not immunity; it is not amnesty. It is an exercise of discretion."

A reversable immunity is a worthless immunity.

Second, this method would require pirates to register their personal information in a database. Given how closely piracy advocates align with privacy advocates, this will be a very tough sell. If you were a regular offender, would you want your name on an offical list?

As always, I must note that I DO NOT SUPPORT PIRACY. But, given that piracy has become the new speeding on the highway, I write to help your band understand how to live in the new music industry.



Practice, Record, Gig

Once again, Bob Lefsetz outlines the new music landscape.
Used to be you practiced in your parents’ garage, got gigs and eventually recorded. The recording was the icing on the cake.
Now it’s reversed.
Now you record first, and you may never ever play a gig. 
First and foremost because there’s nowhere to play.
Second, no one wants to pay.
Third, no one wants to hear you be lousy.
So today, if you want to make it, buy a Pro Tools rig and not only figure out how it works, spend endless hours perfecting your recordings (after taking endless hours to write your songs!)
This is the opposite of everything you’ve been told to do. Not only did you have to establish a live base, supposed professionals said they could hear through a demo, it didn’t need to be perfect. Now if the recording isn’t close to perfect, forget it.


Social Media Statistics Aren't Fans

Remember when we talked about how easy it is to buy 1,000 likes on Facebook and the rise of fake fans (aka Sockpuppets)?

Social media's connection to real people continues to become more and more tenuous.

Wired just covered a competition to make Twitter bots that pass as human so well that Twitter themselves can't tell the difference:
Hwang’s bots can be programmed to have different personalities at different times of the day. On midday Friday, TrazHuman is not a happy camper. 
“I feel angry and guilty about it,” says TrazHuman, an artificial intelligence and baseball fan who has been a bit of a bummer to follow these past few weeks. TrazHuman is programmed to alter emotional states between bored, angry, and excited, all the while pumping out about 100 Twitter messages per day. Not surprisingly, given his negativity, TrazHuman is near the bottom of the contest’s leaderboard.
...The contest’s winner, a business school graduate bot with a “strong interest in post-modern art theory,” racked up 14 followers and 15 re-tweets or replies from humans. The followers were worth one point each. A re-tweet or a comment was worth three points. Ecartomony scored 59.
That would be a pretty weak response for a Twitter consultant, but Hwang says that the experiment — and this his his second Socialbot Contest in two years — has proved that bots can both generate followers and conversations. “We definitely see that,” he says.
But looking through Twitter profiles of the bots, there is something else at work here. Almost none of Ecartomony’s followers are real people. They’re mostly corporate Twitter types that appear to follow just about anyone who follows them.
For more than half a century, the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence has been to create a program that is indistinguishable from a human. But the things that we do on Twitter and other social media have become so concise and so robotic that maybe it no longer takes the same effort to pass as a human.

Chasing social media numbers is a highly deceptive goal. Since the numbers are easy to track, it's easy to feel like you're "winning" if you keep seeing growth. But if the faces behind these numbers aren't committed humans, the numbers don't mean anything.

The only value of a social media follower is the Customer Lifetime Value. Investing in a real fan can net you purchases on the next show, a shirt, or even a personal recommendation for your music that results in another fan. Investing in a fake fan returns nothing more than "a possible chance to deceptively lure in a new fan".

If you make an excellent album and market well, social media numbers will go up as a consequence. Music is the goal, not numbers.


Nickleback is Richer Than You (Why do you play music?)

Bloomberg Businessweek delves into the Nickelback money-printing machine::
As of May 2011, the rock-star-cum-business-mogul was earning $9.7 million a year from his various ventures, according to court records filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He has a vacation home with friends in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a 20-acre farm with stables in British Columbia, and his own home recording studio. Chad Kroeger is not just a drunken rock god: He’s a kingmaker.
In an age of declining music industry profits, Chad is one of the few musicians who still lives "The Rockstar Lifestyle" as portrayed in the media. At the same time, they're one of the most maligned musicians today, especially by fellow musicians.
In 2010 skeptics set up a Facebook (FB) group that purposely misspelled the band’s name: “Can This Pickle Get More Fans Than Nickleback?” The pickle rallied about 1.5 million people in the single month it was live. Last Thanksgiving, an online petition to prevent the band from playing during halftime at a Detroit Lions game drew 50,000 signatures. In the fall, when Chicago’s teachers went on strike, a pro-union protester attacked the mayor with what was meant to be a devastating sign: “Rahm Emanuel likes Nickelback.” The mayor quickly denied the charge.

How is this possible?

It's about differing strategies and motivations towards the music industry.


Why do you play music?

Your answer to this question has profound ramifications on your band's ideal strategy.

Lets think through some answers to get an idea for how this will effect your goals.

Be Nickelback-rich?
This is the major label game.

You'll need to play music with a very wide appeal. Your live show needs to be excellent. Your image will be groomed. You're going to be a performer, not a musician.

Read my previous guide on How to Sell Out Properly for a more in-depth treatment.

Be highly regarded among the music community?
This is a different, smaller clientele than the music listening public. Be aware of the nuances and limitations of this different market.

And you should probably be practicing while reading this post, too.
Be famous?
Making amazing music is the obvious method here, but there's a million different paths to this achieving this goal. It's about attention.

If you have video or choreography skills you could build a massive following through videos like OkGo did with that sweet treadmill video. Make music so out-there that you develop a cult following like Sunn O))).. You could even join The 27 Club (not advised).

Play music and have financial security?
This would be an argument for keeping a day job. Freedom for your art and you don't have to survive on ramen alone.

Play music for a living (no day job)?
Play a lot. Probably in a few different bands to diversify your income streams and ensure that you don't over-play a market. Network. Build up savings and get your costs down (rent, car, food, etc.)

Be attractive?
Let's be real here. Some of us only play to look good. If this is all you care about, invest in good photographers and videographers as a top priority.

Go on a world tour?
Start befriending larger bands in every location you'd want to hit. Look into finding fans in each city that would be willing to host you and help promote. Get everyone in the band's schedules and business straightened out. Figure out the math to make it profitable, or at least break even. 

Disgust and assault your fans?
GG Allin, you naaaaasty.


This is only a cursory glance at all the reasons we play music. The list is effectively endless, but it's important to figure out what motivates you to keep pushing forward.

By the way, do you know why your bandmates play music?

You should.


Artists Screw Major Labels Too

It goes both ways.

There's a reason many major labels need so much control and resources. Sometimes it's the artists who totally take advantage of the deal.

As Lefsetz puts it:
That’s what you’ve got to know about artists. They’re desperate. They’ve only got one chance, one career, if they screw it up, they’re toast. Just ask Billy Squier… 
Recently, Pitchfork darlings The Death Grips recently were dropped from Epic Records after releasing their new album NO LOVE DEEP WEB for free download online, without any consent from Epic. The Death Grips even went so far as to post the legal takedown notices sent from Epic on Facebook, along with a string of vulgar taunts.

What do you think the chances are of another label offering to help pay for their next release? Considering how well-connected most labels are within the industry, it's also quite possible that burning this bridge will close quite a few doors with venues, promoters and managers as well.

"Sticking it to The Man" like The Death Grips did only increases the necessity of labels acting like "The Man".

Remember, labels are venture capitalists. The more "risky" their investments in bands, the more money they have to charge and restrict every band.


Pomplamoose, "The Future of Music", Interview at Hypebot

This is the best interview I've read all year.

Jacke Conte of Pomplamoose, a band heralded as "The Future of Music" breaks down their entire business model with Hypebot.

I'm not going to give you all the highlights, this is too good an article to ignore.
Jack Conte: Yeah. The thing that I think you should learn from Pomplamoose is not about YouTube. It's not about social media. It's not about music. It's about iterations. It's about trying a million things until something works. That's all we did. We tried a million things and something finally worked, and we were sick and tired. I literally went on three tours where I played – I mean, there were shows where I played where the bartender left. There was literally nobody in the room that I was playing for, and I was not a successful thing. It was a total flop, failure, but we just kept trying and trying and trying, a million different things, and that's what I hope everybody takes away is.
...In fact Derek Sivers, who started the company CD Baby, wrote a book and he put little episodes of the book on YouTube, and one of the episodes is called "If It's Not a Hit, Switch, " and basically his idea is try something. Is it a hit? Are people flocking to it? Are people running to your idea? Do you have value? Are you adding value to the world? Do people really want it? No? Switch, something else. Iterate. Iterate. Iterate a thousand times until you have a hit, and then you've got something. So I love that idea – if it's not a hit, switch.
Jacke brings up one of my recent talking points:
We are not one of those bands that believes that you need to post on your Facebook page every day to engage your fans. I've gone to a lot of these social media conventions and I always just kind of throw up a little bit in my mouth when people are like, "You have to post on Facebook every day, and if you don't post on Facebook every day, then there's no point in posting on Facebook at all." And that's just a giant load of steaming bullshit because when we post on Facebook after not posting on Facebook for two weeks or three weeks, and we post a picture, it's awesome. People are into it. They're excited because we have a new, cool picture, and if we were posting every single day, we'd just dilute the effectiveness of our posts. I think at some point people are going to get really sick of all of the crap in their Facebook feed.
People want to be updated when you have new content. That's really what we've found is people want to know about something when there's something to freakin' know about. If there's not something to know about, don't force it, you know? People want new content. They want to hear a new song. They want to see an awesome picture of you guys backstage, you know, stuff, things that add joy to your life.
Another great point:
You have to think that you're not a genius. You have to think that, "Well, I just worked really hard and I kept working on this song until it sounded good, and I spent hours and hours and hours tweaking and tweaking and tweaking until I really liked it." If you think you're a genius, then you're just going to fucking barf onto a piece of paper and call it art and put it out on the Internet, and then it won't be very good any more.
Go read the rest.


Are Facebook's "Promoted Posts" Good or Bad for Bands?

There's been a huge uproar about how Facebook's new Promoted Posts feature is "screwing" local bands and businesses by limiting how many fans' newsfeeds actually show status updates. Dangerous Minds described it as "a James Bond villain calmly demanding that a $365 million dollar ransom gets collected from all the Mom & Pop businesses who use Facebook."

Not quite.

Facebook has been hiding status updates for years. Facebook accomplishes this by adjusting your newsfeed according to which people, topics and events you care about. If you Like a series of DJs, Facebook will ensure DJ-related posts get seen. If you Hide Updates from all of your overly-political friends, Facebook will reduce the visibility of politics in your feed. Again, Facebook has been trying to increase user retention using data mining for years. Adjusting your newsfeed to what you find relevant is about making a better experience to the user.

Casey Johnston's article in ArsTechnica elaborates:
...if your news feed was an equal-opportunity space, it would be at this point nothing but offers for FarmVille produce and a thousand status updates on everyone's new babies. Should that happen, your interest in checking the service might wane. Facebook doesn't show you everything every person or brand you subscribe to says, and it's always been that way.
The only difference with Promoted Posts is that now you can increase your posts' "newsfeed importance" for really important posts, such as announcing a new album.

The article continues:
Facebook told Ars separately that the converse of this statement is also true: if a post receives few or mostly negative reactions, it is more expensive for the page owner to promote than if the post were popular on its own, and such posts don't reach as far. The goal is to make sure that even promoted posts feel relevant and interesting to read.
Making it harder for crappy posts to fill up your newsfeed is a very, very good thing.

Promoted posts provide a balance between keeping advertisers (paying customers) happy while not scaring away facebook users (data for paying customers) with cluttered newsfeeds. Considering Facebook's terrible stock performance it's a surprise the measures the company has taken to make more money aren't more obtrusive.

So what's the final verdict on promoted posts?

If you're enriching your fans, you pay less and get noticed more. If you're wasting fans' time, you pay more and get noticed less.


America's Most Popular Music Scenes

Richard Florida at The Atlantic Cities put together research  using Myspace data (from 2007, when it was at peak popularity) and breaks down some research comparing the relatively popularity of the music scenes in the US.

Los Angeles tops the list with 175,083 acts. New York is second with 115,767, and Chicago is third with 69,963. The next several locations — San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, D.C., Riverside, Seattle, and Orange County — averaged between 35,000 and 47,000 acts each. Several storied music capitals did not make the list: Detroit’s 22,445 acts put it in 23rd place, Nashville was 34th with 14,084 acts, New Orleans 35th with 13,965, and Memphis just 60th with 7,113. 
Not surprisingly, acts are highly concentrated around major population centers on the East and West Coasts — particularly the Bos-Wash Corridor and Southern California (each claim roughly 300,000 acts), as well as Northern California, Atlanta, southern Florida, and Cascadia (Seattle and Portland). Chicago, Phoenix, Dallas, and Las Vegas are the sole metros from the country’s interior that make the top 20.


Poor Uses of Social Media

Social media revolves around Permission Marketing.

As Seth Godin describes it;
Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. 
If you're not adding value to your fans' newsfeed/social media, don't be surprised when they unfollow you. 

Please, no more "what's your favorite sandwich?" posts. (Local / mid-level bands, I'm looking at you.)

These "question" posts don't accomplish or convey anything. You don't really care about any responses as long as you get likes or comments. This insincerity is passive-aggressive and manipulative.

Fans are allergic to insincerity.

Fans don't fall in love with your music because you ask them what type of bed sheets they think are the best. Fans want to know about your art and your stories. That's what connecting to fans is about. Loving a band is an identity decision. 

Likes and follows are only as valuable as the fans behind the numbers. Don't obsess over social media numbers simply because they're easy to quantify. Focus on doing what you do best, bringing art and value to your fans.

Please respect your fans' time and attention.

If you don't have anything worth reading to post, don't post.


Why I Don't Spend Time On Internet Music Startups

Every day there's a new "social" music startup that promises to revolutionize the music industry.

Every day another one goes out of business.

There's no need to pay attention to a new service until it gets too huge to ignore. A majority of these startups will be a net waste of your time.

1: Brand new social websites offer low value.

The value of a network comes from how many other people are in the network (see Metcalf's Law). As much as I'd like them to, fax machines won't die because they're ubiquitious and easy to adopt. Each additional fax machine purchased makes every other fax machine more valuable. If you're the only one with a fax machine, it's a useless piece of rubbish.

2: Startups fail all the time.

63% of IT startups fail within 4 years. If I'm going to put in substantial effort, I don't want to risk that a substantial amount of it will be worthless in a few years.

3: There are costs (time, money, sanity) to using a new service.

Setting up a website takes time. Effetively marketing a website takes even more time and effort. Given how you've got limited time, money and sanity to spend on marketing, each additional avenue of promotion will dilute the amount of marketing weight you can put into all of your marketing channels. Half-assed marketing is good for no one.
4: Go where your fans are. 

I don't play music for startup companies, I play music for fans.

Unless your fans love being early adoptors of new tech, which they may well be, there's no incentive for you to invest heavy amount of time into some "Web 2.0 Startup That Will Revolutionalize The Industry." Not only will you have to learn the new service, so will your fans.


In choosing to adopt an unproven service, you've effecticvely increased the amount of effort required to be a fan.

Which brings me back to important point number inifity of The New Music Industry:

Making your music more difficult to hear is 9/10 times a bad idea.

Sure, Beck's sheet-music-only album got a lot of press, but think of how limited the market for the item is (groups of musicians, who are willing to assemble to learn the songs). As an art piece, it's a really sweet concept and a throwback to the history of music. But will Beck have fans demanding these songs at a show? Probably not.

I'm not saying startups are a bad thing, nor do I want them to fail. I'd love for nothing more than gamechangers like Bandcamp to show up in droves. Innovation helps everyone. Avoiding startups and following only the winners is the best decision for one band, not bands in aggregate.


Coda: One glaring problem I see with many music startups is they try to attract bands AND fans at the same time. Without fans, a band is posting in oblivion and wasting time. Without bands, fans don't have much reason to add another login name and password to their list. A website would be much wiser to focus on one group first, putting all effort into growing the "artist" or "fan" network as fast as possible instead of dividing efforts between the two camps. The value of a network is how many people are involved.

The Complete Guide to Music Success

Bob Lefsetz gives you the entire process, from start to finish, in one of the most illuminating posts I've seen in years.

Read his post. It's worth your time.

My favorite part is the ending:
Nobody needs your music. They need air, food and water. And personal, physical comfort. If you want a career in music you must do your best to be necessary. And that’s got nothing to do with marketing and everything to do with the music itself, which is all based on the bedrock outlined above.


Finalizing Album and What Have You

My band, Onward We March, has finalized everything for our upcoming album release. Regular posting resumes next week.

I love our new EP. Give us a listen on Bandcamp.


Is the Album Really Dead?

I'm conflicted.

I love albums. That's how we've all grown up listening to and understanding music. It's a milestone upon which a band builds its mythology and expresses a grand vision. Albums allow for extended storytelling that couldn't fit in a single song. (Could you imagine The Wall being released as a series of singles?)

However, after I've given most albums a listen, I move the tracks I like to a genre/emotion-based playlist and move on to the next band. Very few albums get a complete repeat listen from me.

This is not uncommon.

The landscape of the music industry has irrevocably changed, and there are compelling arguments in favor of releasing singles instead of albums.

1. The number one listening platform for music among teens is YouTube.

More than radio, iTunes and CDs, YouTube is where the next generation of music obsessives (teens) get their music. It's free, streaming, and instant access to any song you could ever care to listen. With the prevalence of smart phones and 4G wireless, this a better service than CDs or MP3s for these listeners.

As Lefsetz puts it:
You want to know how they listen?
They pull up your track on YouTube. Whether in an authorized version on Vevo or a bootlegged take posted straight to YouTube. And they instantly decide whether they like it or not. And if they don’t, they forget about you. Just that fast. It’s like they’re carrying your album straight to the dumper. As if you walked into McDonald’s, sniffed and left and they threw all the food out and closed the doors. As for listening to all twelve of your tracks, are you nuts! Don’t tell me people have a short attention span, hell, they’re marathoning “Breaking Bad” as I write this. They just don’t have time for what is not exceptionally great, and if you can tell me ten albums from the last two years that are good from beginning to end, I’m all ears.
Listening has changed. It used to be entertainment options were limited. You bought little and played that which you owned. And it’s not only music, newspapers are competing with blogs, TV is competing with YouTube, everything’s changing, are you?
You’ve got to step up your game. You’ve got to focus on excellence.
The album isn't center stage on YouTube.There's no need to buy an album full of mediocre filler tracks anymore. Two clicks and you're listening to the song you want, for free. 

2. We're moving towards an access-based music model where owning albums is irrelevant.

Ownership isn't always best, and the music consumer is beginning to realize this.

Think about all the CDs & MP3s you have that sit around collecting dust. Other than earning "cool points" for having stacks of music lying around (guilty), is there any additional value to having piles of stuff? If it's about having access to your music, streaming beats owning. Streaming gives you an infinite collection that you can access instantly, without having to search through poorly labeled MP3s or polish scratched CDs. Streaming gives you all the access of ownership without any of the hassle.

We systematically over-value ownership for countless other knicknacks, too. The US spends $22.45 BILLION on storage space to keep all of our stuff that won't fit in our house. Everyone I know has a "crap room" that happily houses mountains of junk that "had" to be owned. How often do you dig around in your storage space / attic / crap room? Wouldn't it make more sense to skip the price tag of ownership and only pay when you actually need a Gene Simmons costume?

This is the direction businesses are heading.
Entertainment services like Spotify, Steam, and Netflix aren't alone in moving toward access-based services The software industry long since figured out the real value in Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) as a business model. Even items that traditionally were owned are moving to access-based services. Startups like car-sharing service Zipcar allow people all the benefits of having a car to get around without any of the annoying maintenance or registration.

Derek Thomson and Eric Weissmann at The Atlantic elaborate on the Millenial generation turning down ownership:
The typical new car costs $30,000 and sits in a garage or parking spot for 23 hours a day. Zipcar gives drivers access to cars they don’t have to own. Car ownership, meanwhile, has slipped down the hierarchy of status goods for many young adults. “Zipcar conducted a survey of Millennials,” Mark Norman, the company’s president and chief operating officer, told us. “And this generation said, ‘We don’t care about owning a car.’ Cars used to be what people aspired to own. Now it’s the smartphone.”
Expect access-based services to continue growing. Just don't expect people to understand how they work.

3. In an access-based marketplace, profit comes from utilization (listens) instead of album sales.

A Hypebot interview with D.A. Wallach explains how Spotify sets up it's payments:
We feel the metric of success should be based on how many people are listening to your music over a period of years, as opposed to looking at how many units are shipping in one week. People are used to seeing big numbers from a unit-based model, but that’s really front loading what is happening. Comparing iTunes sales with Spotify payments over a two month period of time is not a great way to look at things.
What we are trying to create is a system in which you earn royalties forever for good music, and the time horizon is simply different than what folks are familiar with now. One can actually think about a download sale as a down payment on all future listening that a fan will do. If you took the effective per play rate that I’ve paid for every time I’ve listened to my Dark Side of The Moon CD, it would be trivial compared to what I’d have generated if I’d done all that listening on Spotify. 
This is fascinating.

This new pay structure rewards musicians who create music with longevity over those who create one-off sales. Even if the band hasn't released new music in years, dedicated fans keep royalties flowing to the artists simply by continuing to listen. This is great news for bands making classic albums, not so much for bands relying on hype to make a splash with first week album sales.


While I don't forsee the complete demise of the album format, I suspect that they may become a niche release strategy (like prog rock concept albums) as opposed to the dominant music paradigm.

Time will tell if this is good or bad.

(For more about new music strategies, see my previous post Electronic and Hip Hop Better Suited to the New Music Industry)


Artistic Disgrace and Sockpuppets

Jonah Lehrer, previously one of my favorite science writers, has been outed for widespread journalistic fraud including plagiarism, fake quotations and misstated facts. What began in mid-June with a firing at the New Yorker due to recycling articles led to a further review of his previous work for Wired. Not surprisingly, there were countless cases of fabrication in these articles as well.

I'm disappointed, but what surprises me is not the depth of the plagiarism as much as how long it took to discover this malfeasance.

Fact checking becomes easier every year thanks to the Internet. There are swarms of motivated individuals who love nothing more than ferreting out lies. Like an immune system, these fans filter through masses of information to protect the Internet from lies and inauthenticity.

Old-school methods of deceptive push marketing don't work as well as they did before the Internet. (Rhianna's Talk That Talk album sold only 10,000 copies in the UK and spent a million dollars on a previous flopped single.) If the product (music) is crap, no one will listen. 

Still, the major label model depends on smash hits to recoup costs from all the failed albums. They're venture capitalists. There is huge financial pressure to produce a "hit". Hence, we have sockpuppets.

The eqalitarian Internet is a double-edged sword. User-created content means that the ideas that dominate the conversation can come from anyone, whether they're a real person or not. A sockpuppet is a term used to describe a fake online profile used to manipulate public opinion and is often used in groups to simulate crowd approval. While the fake customer testimonial has been around for ages, sockpuppets are a comparitively new invention that came about with online forums and user reviews.

Ever notice how some products on Amazon have nothing but five-star ratings, describing how "earth-shattering" a new book is? There's a good possibility it's either the author themselves or a pay-for-review company.Yelp ratings alone can make or break a business.  (Amazon, thankfully, now shows "verified purchase" next to reviews.)

Sockpuppets aren't just for companies though, political groups and governments have been using them for quite some time. This tool isn't going anywhere, either. Sockpuppets are cheap and effective when undetected, ensuring that it will remain a staple in the online marketing toolkit.

But as previously mentioned, fake fans don't drag friends to concerts, tab out the songs on your album, or pick up new merch.

Fake fans cost you money. Real fans make you money.

When the cash runs out, the only people left are your true fans. 

There's no replacement for making amazing, timeless music.


You Must Play Politics

To my ears, "I don't play politics" translates to one of the following:
   1) I'm not good with people and I will burn bridges.
   2) I deal with stress poorly and I will cause drama.
   3) I'm very good at politics and I play dirty.

"I don't play politics" is a red-flag statement for me.

Unless you're interacting solely with your instrument or DAW, you're dealing with politics.

Politics is the art of accomplishing your goals while keeping the most allies possible. This is a flexible statement for a reason.

Humans are composed of moods, feelings, hunches and many other idiosyncracies that color every single interaction. If you're alive, bias is inevitible.

It's never just about your raw skill. In fact, according to MIT researcher Thomas Malone, it's the groups' intrapersonal skills that determine their collective talent, not the "average" of their talent levels. This is why so many supergroups end up as a disappointment.

Imagine you're a highly regarded promoter with bands approaching you every second of every day. Would you rather give a leg up to the band you hung out with after a couple shows, or "Band #1093703"? Whether you believe this is wrong or right, this is how the world functions.

Public relations is simply politics on a wider scale.

Your political skills will play a large part in your eventual success or failure in business dealings.

Pay attention to your relationships with others.


When Should You Quit Your Job? (2 of 2)

(Part 1)

When (if) you decide to make the leap into being self employed, you'll want to be as prepared as possible. It'll be stressful adjusting to your new job now that your electric bill depends on success. A band is a startup company, and 60-70% of startups fail within six years.

Lets think through some considerations that will help you figure out when the time is right.

1) Figure out your burn rate.
Also known as your monthly expenses. This number will determine whether you're sinking or swimming in your new career. If you've got dependents, they need to be factored here in too.

Its a simple concept, but bears repeating. If you earn slower than you burn, you'll burn (out).

2) Build up an emergency fund.

Since you'll be self employed now, there's no such thing as paid sick days. If you get struck with a bad case of the AxlRoseitis, you won't be pulling in any cash. What if your van breaks down the day before a tour? Or what if you have to post bail to get out of jail in Prague?

Random bad luck is inevitible.

An emergency fund is the difference between an inconvenience and a catastrophy.

At bare minimum you want at least two months worth of living expenses saved up before taking the plunge.

3) Figure out your expected income.
How much will you realistically make in the span of a month? Estimate this by seeing how much merch and music you sell, your income from shows, and any side income like teaching or session playing.

Now try estimating how much you'd make during a tour. Since you won't always be on tour, estimate your monthly expected income somewhere between the two numbers.

4) Figure out how to increase your expected income.
This is where the hustle comes in.

Yes, you can cut your monthly expenses to make it easier to start making money, but that's a temporary solution. There's a limit to how much you can cut but there's no limit on how much you can make. (shout out to Ramit Sethi's excellent money blog I Will Teach You To Be Rich)

Should you do vinyl releases? Private house shows? Festivals? Song licensing? Keep your eyes and mind open.

There's a million other considerations to make before going full time, but the hard numbers of "can I support myself and my family?" underly everything.

This post isn't intended to dissuade you from going full time, its about information. If you're going to make the leap, it helps to know where you want to land.


When Should You Quit Your Job? (1 of 2)

Musicians I talk to seem to view being a full-time musician as the be-all, end-all metric of success.

I get that. Playing music all day is a big slab of groovy in my book.

But we're defining success in the wrong way.

Defining success as having music as your only job is dangerous. Going full-time as an artist before you're financially ready will wreck both your art and your sanity. What you've effectively done is given up a low-paying stressful job with a low-paying stressful job without benefits or stability. Music is not an easy living. Unless your creativity is fired solely through desperation  making yourself miserable because you didn't plan ahead is silly. Ask anyone who has let The Hunger consume them.

Real success is about being happy with your only job being music.

Before you decide to make the leap, consider a few things.

1) Stability allows you to be more experimental with your music.
Experimenting with new sounds and styles in inherently risky. Failure is a very real prospect. Once the band establishes a "sound" and becomes full time musicians, everyone's ability to pay the bills relies on that sound. Would it be easier or more difficult to completely revamp your sound if your rent depending on success? (This is strictly conjecture, but I suspect this may be one reason why some bands peak on their first album.)

2) Growth eats cash
This is a cardinal rule of business. Even if going on tour will score you a tasty lump of cash, you have to pay expenses like van rentals, merch, promoters, and venues before you're able to earn that cash. You've got to eat and pay for places to sleep while on tour. Will you burn all your cash before you can earn it? Yes, you can use credit cards to delay paying for a month, but mistake with credit cards are expensive and eat into your profits.

3) Burnout
Working at a restaurant can kill the joy of its food with boredom. The same could be said of playing your top 3 hits for years on end. For some, music is an escape from boring reality. Changing music from an escape to an obligation can have a profound effect on how you view your music. The life of a full time musician is about hustle. If you're not naturally inclined to that lifestyle in addition to the process of creating and performing music, it'll be easy to get burned out.


Before making a big decision like this, you need to do serious soul searching into what you actually want out of your music.
   -Do you like writing and recording but hate performing?
   -Do you value stability over creativity?
   -How much am I wiling to cater to my fans?
   -Will I only be happy with a sold out stadium, or would I be happy having a few dedicated fans buying music through bandcamp?
   -Would I actually enjoy the musician lifestyle?

There are big questions.

Next week we'll talk about how to prepare.

(Part 2)

Nielson Research Confirms Radio Still Primary Source of Music Discovery

Media information giant Nielson released the results of their recent 3,000 person survey of music listening habits.

The full article is worth a read, but here are some tasty knowledge nuggets.
Radio is still the dominant way people discover music
  • 48% discover music most often through the radio
  • 10% discover music most often through friends/relatives
  • 7% discover music most often through YouTube
More teens listen to music through YouTube than through any other source
  • 64% of teens listen to music through YouTube
  • 56% of teens listen to music on the radio
  • 53% of teens listen to music through iTunes
  • 50% of teens listen to music on CD
Positive recommendations from a friend are most likely to influence purchase decisions
  • 54% are more likely to make a purchase based off a positive recommendation from a friend
  • 25% are more likely to make a purchase based off a music blog/chat rooms
  • 12% are more likely to make a purchase based off an endorsement from a brand
  • 8% of all respondents share music on social networking sites, while 6% upload music.
I was surprised that YouTube was the primary music streaming source, but I suppose I've been spoiled by Spotify. Upon reflection though, whenever I want to hear music that isn't on Spotify I immediately load up YouTube to give the band a listen.

The big takeaway from this research is the primary driver for purchasing decisions: recommendations from friends.

We are over four times as likely to purchase something recommended from friends than we are from a brand endorsement.

This isn't surprising, but it's a good reminder to where we should spend our limited time and money on marketing. Word of mouth is cheap and effective, but requires a substantial time investment. With sponsorship and ad campaigns you could spend precisely infinity dollars trying to purchase opinion with meager results. Remember Rhianna spending a cool million on a flop single or some kids who blew through $100,000 without "making it"? The internet has severely crippled the effectiveness of "he he shouts loudest wins" marketing.

Save your money for higher quality recordings, shows, and merch. Focus your marketing efforts on people and, to a lesser extent, blogs.

The game is about quality and personal connection.

Like it's always been.


Zoe Keating Releases Her Actual Pay

Add another item to the growing list of why Zoe Keating is one of my favorite artists. Hypebot discusses the numbers with her:
During a six-month period from October 2011 to February 2012, Zoe earned $84,386.86 before taxes.
Here's a breakdown of where that money came from:
Screen shot 2012-08-08 at 9.21.21 AM

A good chunk of Zoe’s support comes from her regular and super fans, who she feels remain loyal to her due to their interest in her story.

“They seem interested in my DIY-story,” Zoe told Hypebot. “Or the mechanics-of-how-I-make-music-with-a-cello-and-computer-story; or the classical-musician-gone-rogue-story; or the radiolab-Amanda Palmer-Imogen Heap-Rasputina-connection; or the I'm-a-geek-too-story, etc. The casual listeners might not know my story or anything about me.”

“Casual listeners won't [support], but they never did anyway,” Zoe added in her Google Doc. “I don't buy ALL the music I listen to either, I never did, so why should I expect every single listener to make a purchase? I think that a subset of my listeners pay for my music, and that is a-ok because... and this is the key... there are few middlemen between us.”
As an artist, you are kept afloat by the connection you have with your fans. Nourish them and they'll nourish you.


Evil Works

As does good, but it's easy to overlook that fact.

True Change requires force. Structures and habits roost upon study foundations of inertia and fear. They won't be moved except through sustained, herculean force.

Often, the only tactics that comes to mind to clear blockage are conflict-driven. You can't smooth talk a form, so getting angry at red tape at the DMV seems like the most obvious solution.

But there's a selection bias at work here.

We view our world through the lens of stories. Naturally, more memorable stories affect us more than the boring ones simply because we can recall them easier (aka cognitive fluency). .

Conflict is far more interesting than snuggling.

In fact, a 2010 Wharton study confirms that
“the most powerful predictor of virality is how much anger an article evokes” [emphasis mine]. I will say it again: The most powerful predictor of what spreads online is anger. ...
...Anger has such a profound effect that one standard deviation increase in the anger rating of an article is the equivalent of spending an additional three hours as the lead story on the front page of  (Except from Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, via Barking Up The Wrong Tree
It's easier to recall famous artist meltdowns than it is to recall skillful mediation, leading us to more easily make the connection between "aggression" and "success".

Throwing a guitar at your band mates in the recording studio makes for a fantastic story, it's "emotionally loud". Sitting down with your bassist over drinks to talk about what's been bugging her lately and where her creative block came from makes for dreadfully boring reading, it's "emotionally quiet".

You can accomplish great things by being a jerk. I'll be first to admit, that sometimes you have to get aggressive to break past resistance.

But pay attention to the leaders you admire and you'll begin to pick up on their methods. Sometimes all you need to get someone to put forth their best effort is to get them to publicly commit that they'll put forward their best effort. (see my Negotiation Without Being A Jerk series for additional tactics)

Real, positive leadership power isn't about using deception and coercion to meet your ends. "Light Side" persuasive methods use soft force, so that even if the target of the message understands exactly what you're doing, they wouldn't be mad at you. The same could not be said for gaslighting, an effective but terribly manipulative method of planting false memories and instilling doubt.

As you dig deeper into management and psychology, you'll begin to see the framework that managers act within. Most are of mixed style, only rarely will you see a pure-evil or pure-good individual.

Be aware that people are naturally attracted to others like themselves.

The strategies you use will create your environment.


The Presale Ticket Scam

Justin Herring dropped some knowledge over at Hypebot about how required ticket presales can be, and often are, a raw deal for bands. Personally, whenever we hear the words "presale tickets required" it's a good sign to pass on a show.

The simple math breakdown is my favorite part:
We’ve already established that the pre-sale tickets are $14 apiece, but the door price is $17 the night of said show. If you get a walk in that mentions they’re at the venue to see your band, you get $4 out of that $17 door charge. Which is obviously more than the $1 per ticket you sold, but remember, if you don’t sell all 40, you don’t get to play. And, since the venue is so thoughtful of your band, they tell you that you have to include a tally counter and keep track of every person who comes in and mentions your band name. (Wonder if the door guy is even told to ask?)...
...After all of that is said and done I pose these questions, why aren’t venues being told this practice is uncalled for, unfair, ridiculous, and a downright scam? Out of $560 you turn in you keep $40 dollars!? You put on a four band bill all selling 40 tickets that’s $2,240 the venue is collecting, minus the whopping $160 cut to all four bands the venue is collecting a total of $2,080 for every band's hard work. Not to mention the amount they make at the bar.
If four bands tossed in $100 each to rent a venue and each sold the same 40 tickets, each band would make $460.

Once again, the math for DIY look a whole lot better than established channels.


Electronic and Hip Hop Better Suited to The New Music Industry

Electronic Dance Music (EDM), and to a lesser extent Hip Hop, are much better poised to thrive in the new music industry than traditional bands (live guitarists, drummers, vocalists, etc). Lefsetz has been talking about this phenomenon for a while but it's only been recently that the truth of his claims have become apparent.

Traditional bands have, and always will, exist. I'm not arguing that. What I am saying is that the environment for the new music industry is far more favorable towards electronic music than it is traditional bands. If we take equal amounts of each type of band, over time we'll see more electronic groups for all of the reasons listed below.


   True, the cash outlay for a decent studio setup is much larger than buying a crappy guitar and combo amp. Much larger. But electronic music doesn't need to rent out recording studios and engineers to put songs, all of that is part of the studio setup in the first place. Putting out a new single takes much less time and much much less money for electronic music than it does traditional bands.

And as unfortunate as it is to say, the less people in the band the more everyone gets paid. The same $10,000 show fee will feed a DJ and two techs a whole lot better than a five-piece band each with their own roadies. Touring is expensive and isn't always a good idea.

Low variable costs make a big difference. Profit is easier to come by for EDM and Hip Hop.

-Speed of Release
    EDM & Hip Hop artists put out many more singles than they do full-length albums. Less production time and more frequent releases keeps the artist in the fans' mind more easily.

-Cross Promotion
   Within a large majority of traditional bands, cross pollination between members of different acts through split EPs and remixes is rare (except for the Mastdon / Feist split, which was excellent).

The exact opposite is true for EDM and Hip Hop. It's hard to find a new single that doesn't either have guest artists or remixes of the track.

Cross promotion is a fantastic way to get potential fans of your music to discover that they actually like your music as you're essentially being endorsed by their current favorite artist. Hearing a new artist work with your favorite artist is even better than a friend's recommendation since it's coming from the source of your admiration. It wasn't until I heard Nas spit on the track Classic that I even considered getting into him. Cross promotion is one of many reasons groups like Doomtree are able to out-hustle and out-last many unconnected artists.

Fans are to be shared, not hoarded.

-Less Gatekeepers
   Electronic music isn't on mainstream radio yet it can sell out 30,000 person festivals. Electronic music, and to a lesser extent Hip Hop, grew up and thrives through the internet. Friends and bloggers pass music that resonates to one another, there's not radio spots or billboards hawking the newest Deadmau5 album. The movement is fan-led.

-Electronic Music Is Built Around Giving Away Music for Free
   DJs have long since known that getting your track the spins it deserves is more important that making a few extra bucks. Fame comes from people knowing and loving your work. Albums sales, like retweets or "likes", are indicators of fame, not the totality of fame. It's much easier for these acts to survive with the "music as a commodity" reality of today than it is traditional bands simply because the architecture for EDM wasn't built around album sales.

The album is marketing material for live performances now, not the primary product.

Which leads me to my next point.

-Cooler Shows
   Now I adore traditional music groups; they account for at least 80% of my listening. But Messhugah's five piece crushing metal blast couldn't compete with the spectacle of Skrillex riding a giant, smoke-spewing transformer in front of a throng of ten thousand fans dancing and drenched in the soft light of LED hula hoops.

Maybe I'm jaded from seeing so much live music, but if all a band does is stand on stage and play their album I feel ripped off. If I go to see a performance, I want to see a performer. It wasn't really until I saw an electronic music show that I began to actually appreciate the genre.



Negotiation Without Being a Jerk Vol. III

(Previously vol I, vol II)

A photographer friend got an unsolicited call from a major client, a hair care company. After a back and forth went into the info for the shoot, both parties agreed it sounded like a good fit. The photographer sent off the quote and waiting a few days.

The reply came back "We could only do it for 1/8th of what you quoted. Period."


After recovering from the shock, the friend weighed options.The friend knew that this would be an awesome, high-visibility client that would further their business. At the same time, the counter-offer was so low that death by discounting was a very real fear. Not only that, but if they accepted this offer to such a huge client, word would get out about their low photography rates among other large clients and this would permanently stunt the friend's business.

Is this deal already at an impasse?

Where would you go in this situation?


Having been reading me for a while, I'm sure you've already guessed no.

My photographer friend came back with their counter offer. "I'll do the gig for the low price plus five years of hair care products."

The company jumped on it.

They had a deal.


Negotiation is about total value, not just price. It's easy to get caught up on dollar figures since dollars are easy for anyone to understand, but money is only one of many sources of value. In this case, the hair care client didn't have the budget to pay the full amount but they did have endless amounts of shampoo and conditioner. Adding the hair care products didn't cost the company much since they produced them at cost, but for the photographer who would otherwise have to pay retail, it was a huge gain in value.

This is why we should be explicit about what we want; value is defined on a personal basis. Even with concrete items such as money, value is personal. A billionaire will value a hundred dollars much less than the musician would value a hundred dollars in the same way the billionaire would value a private concert more than the musician.

One of your goals when negotiating should be to figure out if the other side has anything that costs the other party nothing but has a huge value to you, and vice versa. Big wins like this are not only excellent bargaining chips but they allow you much more flexibility in your bargaining process.

Value is personal.


Music Industry News- June 2012

-Guitars are on the verge of getting much, much cooler.
3D printers are getting cheaper and more ubiquitous. No longer will you need a C&C or full workshop to make custom guitars, anyone with a few grand will be able to become a quality custom guitar maker. Check out this New Zealand professor who makes hollow, mesh guitars full of scarab beetles and butterfly designs. (Extra cool note, his guitars are using a material that is much stronger than traditional woods os they're durable too!)

The Pirate Bay already has downloads for object files to be printed. Once someone specs out a fender or a gibson, if they haven't already, the artists / makers are going to create some wild and crazy designs. I for one welcome our coming super-wild guitar overlords.

This is gonna create some copyright headaches though. Count on it.

-Songza is fantastic. Pandora continues to lose its edge.
New-ish internet radio service Songza got 1.15 million new downloads since releasing it's iOS app for iPhone and iPad. Pandora stock is down to $11 from $17 from its IPO a little over a year ago.

For me, Songza blows Pandora out of the water. Instead of Pandora's auto-generated playlists, Songza offers up human-curated playlists served up through an intuitive "concierge" menu that helps select playlists based on mood, genre, and time of day.

The difference between the two services is night and day.

Songza has better song choices with better playlists. Songza has a significantly higher hit-to-miss ratio than Pandora in terms of the percentage of artists I favorite over the total number of artists I hear on the station total. The human touch to Songza playlists makes all the difference. (Spotify just announced a free radio app for iOs, but the song selection algorithm is much weaker than Pandora or Songza)

My current "music discovery stack" on my phone is Songza for guided discovery and Spotify for targeted discovery. Pandora I only use to listen to stand up comedy radio. iTunes I'll use sparingly for releases that are essential to purchase, such as bands like Intronaut whose label Century Media left Spotify. This leads to my next point.

-Spotify pullouts
This is my primary method of listening to and developing fandom for new bands. For bands fans are crazy about, this leads fans to buy the digital album instead of stream it. But Spotify pullouts disincentivize new artist discovery on the label. While they get the increased revenue for one band, the label loses

-Where's my swear words Spotify?
When I search for Killer Mike on my phone it defaults to to the clean version of his album R.A.P. Music! Getting every other word removed is no way to experience an album.

I can't blame the label for making this the default version of the album though. This strikes me as a method of price discrimination similar to the delayed Spotify release as an incentive to buy the actual download. It's a smart business move actually, especially for rap where abrasive lyrics as an intergal part of the art.

But come oooooon man!

(Edit: If I search for the album itself and not the artist I can still find the dirty version. Phew. My point on it being a useful method of getting true fans to buy the digital download still holds. Censored albums won't fly with this musician.)


Link: Is Stealing Music Really the Problem?

Jay Frank lays down some serious knowledge:
Despite the economic number that David Lowery quoted of the number of professional musicians falling by 25%, if you took “album releases” as an indicator, it seems like the number of pros has increased. In a decade, we’ve gone from about 30,000 albums being released to over 77,000 last year. And that’s just albums going thru legit channels. The problem, as noted by Chris Muratore of Nielsen on the previously noted New Music Seminar panel, is that 94% of those releases sold less than 1,000 units. Indicators that I have examined showed those low sales aren’t because of people stealing them. They come from too many releases causing most people to not even realize they are out.

For example, 80s rocker Lita Ford has a new album that came out yesterday. As of this writing, it’s the 91st most popular new release on Rdio. How many of you have the patience or time to sift thru the other 90 releases to get to #91? Let alone decide to even put in the effort to steal it? Whether you were going to listen to it or not, I’d be willing to bet that almost everyone reading this found out that Lita Ford had new music from this paragraph. Stealing it is even further down their priority list.
So while all these independent artists argue thievery, do you know who’s winning? Major labels. This week, of the top 100 tracks on Spotify, only 6% are on independent labels. Major labels have figured out that the game is about exposure and awareness, two things that they are actually quite good at. It’s not about royalty rates, thievery, or even quality of music. It’s all about how I get people to know I exist. Major labels aren’t ignoring file traders, but they have moved past how much of their day they concern themselves with it. Instead, they focus on putting energy behind making music that the public wants and marketing the shit out of it so it rises above everyone else. While you’ve spent the last few years claiming the major labels are “dinosaurs” who are going to be “out of business”, they’ve actually become stronger behemoths who are more progressive than you realize.
Definitely worth the read.


Piracy Still Isn't Going Anywhere

Emily White, an intern at NPR, wrote the article "I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With", explaining she has 11,000+ songs in her iTunes library by has only paid for 15 CDs in her life. While she states that seh supports bands through concert tickets and t-shirts, she admits that her generation probably won't be buying

This triggered a thoughtful, well-written post from David Lowery at The Trichordist. In it, he talks about the heavy burden that artist friends of his had to bear due to financial hardship, eventually leading to their suicides. Wow, heavy stuff.

He then goes on to clearly explain the immorality of piracy quite well, although the extended metaphor for the internet as a neighborhood that is built around theft fell a little flat with me.

While I agree that piracy is immoral. I don't think the morality angle will make much of a dent in people's behavior. It's preaching to the choir. Saying something is immoral doesn't make people any less likely to do it, especially if the systematic structures in place make it easier to be immoral than moral. 

For many people, piracy doesn't feel like a crime and so their moral intuition doesn't interpret the behavior that way. The band doesn't have "less MP3s" to parcel out to fans, so it's simple for someone to rationalize "It's only a couple cents the band isn't getting."  Even when we know with certainty that driving above the speed limit increases traffic deaths, virtually everyone speeds at least a little. "Because come on!", people rationalize, "I'm just going a few over and I'm already late for the concert!"

Think about how much easier to click "download all" than it is to:
   -Decide how much you actually want to hear the band.
   -Look at your music budget and determine if you've got the $9.99 for the album.
   -Weigh the moral implications of how much the download hurts the band / label.

Most people won't spend too much time on a band. There's an infinite number of songs to listen to on the internet and a casual fan won't spend too long with one before moving on to find a band that better connects with them. Only medium to strong fans will go through the purchase process.
Yes, it's a bummer.

But piracy isn't going anywhere.

The icecaps have already melted on planet music.

Adapt to the new planet or fail.



Will "The Hunger" Consume You?

I've yet to meet an artist who was immune to The Hunger. It strikes artists young and old, established and amatuer.

This is about The Hunger for success and recognition we feel when we're at the end of our ropes.

It will consume you if you don't manage it.

The Hunger manifests itself in different ways among different artists. Some turn the urge inward, others lash outward. I've seen it through:
Watching a talented artist give into despairation and repress their innate artistic nature is a sad march. Some give up art altogether, others

Some artists will go out of their way to denigrate others and put down new musicians. Everyone began out crappy and it's only through sustained effort that we become good. But bitter artists can serve up steaming bowls of negativity chili nonstop until new artists are full of negativity themselves.

We all know someone who deals with chemicals instead of their stress. What a waste.

-Starting a Predatory Business
This one I find especially irritating. Washed out musicians starting "pay to play" promotional companies or bogus "managers" who skim small bands without doing any work are all too common. They tend to like the phrase "exposure". Yes, it is clearly a sustainable business model to take advantage of inexperienced artists since that is one market that will never disappear. But that doesn't make taking advantage of others right.

The Hunger is a scary beast to confront.

Thankfully, there are ways to help:
-Side Projects
   Creativity comes from assembling disparate sources of inspiration. Take a break from anything that remotely resembles your current project to work on an entirely new skill set. If you're a singer songwriter, start working on a standup comedy routine. If you're a painter, start learning how to breakdance. Everything is connected to the creative mind. Sometimes all you need is the right spark to jump start your main project.

-Structured Hiatus
   You're pushing too hard to allow your mind to wander and make the connections needed to make great music. Choose an exact period of time, say a month, where you don't even so much as look at your instrument. Having to wait for your deadline to get back to your instrument will make you value it more.
If you're as addicted to music as I suspect, you'll soon begin longing to play again and with that renewed passion comes ideas.

-Change Teams
   Some people are toxic to the creative process.

Is someone saying "no" to every new idea? Too much negativity and stonewalling could be choking creativity.

Saying "yes" to everything is just as fatal. Hearing "no" shows us what people value and without this feedback, we can't refine our art. Sometime we need negativity.

You can't run without balance.
Sometimes it sucks kicking someone off the team, but being stuck unproductive and unhappy is even worse.

-Change Strategies
  If you're not getting the results you want, it's counter productive to keep doing the same thing.

-Stop Working For Free / Cheap
   If you've got lots of work but are still struggling, maybe you'er not charging enough. Of course you'll have less customers, but you'll also have more money and time to focus on doing more fulfilling work. The one fatal pricing error is pricing yourself too low to keep making art.

-Day Job
   As romantic as becoming a full time artist right away is, being able to pay rent will severly impact your art whether you like it or not. Having at least one steady source of income gives you much more freedom to explore your art without having to worry about profitability before creativity.
I'll be posting more on this topic soon.

-Find a Positive Mentor / Peer Group
   We become those around us.

If you're surrounded by naysayers, sloths, or haters you're probably one as well.

Scour craigslist, forums, blogs, and friends for meetup groups for artists like you. If there isn't one, start one. Plan on once-a-month coffee / bar meetups, promote a little to attract initial attendees, and trim out negative individuals from the group. Having positive support from peers will keep the negative energy from metastasizing into The Hunger.
This is only a start for such a huge topic.

What are some ways you've seen The Hunger manifest itself, either in yourself or others?


The One Fatal Pricing Error

It's no secret that every artist wants to be able to make a living of their art.

Yet it's also no secret that many developing artists are reluctant to raise prices, especially since the idea of fan backlash like this can be terrifying for an artist to even imagine.

Let's talk about Price-o-phobia.

Price-o-phobia a highly prevalent, ambition-killing fear of raising prices that prevents people from getting paid what they are actually worth. Artists are highly succeptable since, unlike a hot dog stand at a state fair, there's no easy guideline for what the generally acceptable price would be for their work.

The first step is figuring out the underlying causes of our Price-o-phobia.

There's a tangle of roots often feeding this fear:
   -"I only spent X on materials, there's no way I would charge someone more than 2X!"
   -"If I raise prices, I might not sell every piece. It's safer to keep prices low so I'll move pieces."
   -"It's not that great. I can't charge that much."
   -"It's vulgar to raise prices for my work. I couldn't do that to my fans!"
   -'What if my fans rebel and I lose everything I've worked for?"

These are quite common fears amongst artists and musicians alike. Some fears are productive, like being afraid to jump off a thirty story building into a pit of rusty spikes. Other fears, like being afraid to eat food, are clearly counter productive. Price-o-phobia falls into the latter category.

Let's unpack some of these fears.

"I only spent X on materials, there's no way I would charge someone more than 2X!"
   Materials aren't the only consideration. Your time and musical talent have value that is just as real as the materials involved. Lawyers and doctors charge for their time and effort because what they do requires special skills that not many possess. As an artist, you should be no different.

"If I raise prices, I might not sell every piece. It's safer to keep prices low so I'll move pieces."
   Everybody loves a deal. Sure, I'd love Kobe ribeye steak for $5 too, but prices like that would cause the restaurant to go out of business in months if not weeks. Now nobody gets steaks anymore. Not. Cool.

"It's not that great. I can't charge that much."
   a) Sometimes modesty is a virture. Sometimes modesty is a vice. If you're regularly selling pieces, chances are you might be too modest to support yourself.
   b) If it's actually not that great, stop reading right now and go practice.

"It's vulgar to raise prices for my work. My fans are my friends!"
   Your fans want more art than they want a deal. If that's not true, they're not fans. (Remember, I'm assuming you've got an extraordinary product. If you don't have that, then you should be practicing instead of reading this.)

'What if my fans rebel and I lose everything I've worked for?"
  Let's dig deep into this one.

In December 2010, Jack White caught flak from fans for selling his limited edition vinyl on eBay. As the prices rose to eventually reach $510, fans became outraged at this price saying it was "exploitation".

At what price is it exploitive for a fan to pay for a work of art?

Or better yet, how do we know the true value of art?

Jack White explains:
"We sell a Wanda Jackson split record for 10 bucks, the eBay flipper turns around and sells it for 300," he explained. "If 300 is what it's worth, then why doesn't Third Man Records sell it for 300? If we sell them for more, the artist gets more, the flipper gets nothing. We're not in the business of making flippers a living. We're in the business of giving fans what they want." 
Is this exploitation?

Let's put it another way: If someone loves your art so much they're willing to give you $500 for it, should you let them?

If you actually care about becoming a self-sufficent artist, the answer is clear.

The songs we associate with our first drive in our first car (Groove Armada - Superstylin') or an amazing road trip with friends (Snoop Dogg - Ain't Nuthin but A G Thang), they're the memories that define our lives. Music is a link to our history and our identity.

Creating music is creating love for our fans.

It's your duty to allow your fans to return the favor.

Fans want to support you! If your lucky, some of your fans may have connections that help you book better clubs or tour with bigger bands. Fanastic! Most fans, however, are normal people who just dig your art. Buying art is the one way anyone can help support their favorite artist. When we buy from our favorite artist, we actively say "I love your vision so much that the world is a better place because of your creations. Let me help you on your quest!"

Some fans will complain when you raise prices and that's perfectly ok. You shouldn't always listen to your fans. In fact, fans that care only about price aren't really fans at all.(Provided you're not raising the price waaaaay outside of traditional market value, such as raising prices on a t shirt from $10 to $80. That's a little silly.)

As of May 2012, Jack White's new solo album Blunderbuss hit number on on the Billboard 200. The man makes great art, is it any surprise fans still love his work?

The one fatal pricing error is pricing yourself too low to continue making art.

In order to be a full-time artist, your prices must be high enough to support yourself comfortably. Anything less is unsustainable in the long term. Even if you're moving a million paintings, if you're not capable of keeping the electricity bills paid there's a good chance you'll eventually burn out on art altogether. Ramen every night should be a choice, not the choice.
The only way to get paid what people truly feel your art is worth is to start out high and negotiate price down. If you do price too high, you can always adjust downwards as needed. But fans will never say "Hey, I really liked your show last night. Here's an extra forty bucks because it was worth that." No, they walk away thinking "Wow, what a deal!"

Think about all your sales for last year. What if you had charged as little as 5% more? For an artist, this is an easy task since you set the prices, but you'd have to be really lucky at a traditional job to get a raise of 5% in today's market.

In either case, you won't get a raise if you don't ask.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make brilliant art. Getting paid what you're worth is vital to this mission.