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Two Kids Spend $100,000, Disappointed They're Not Famous

Over at Time's "Entrepreneuerial Insights" section, the brothers that form the band Two Lights write an op-ed about how their music career has cost them $100,00 so far and it's really hard, man.

Quoth the band,
"What meets me backstage is nothing like what I pictured. No fountains of champagne, no elegant lounges. It's just as dingy as the venue itself, with a printed sign taped to the star's dressing room door. The band is hanging out on a couch that someone obviously found on the street, and there are some catered snacks that look like they could have come from the NYU dining hall I try to avoid.
It occurs to me that if any part of me is doing this for the good life, I should let that go."
They then go on to elaborate on their expenses, ending with:
In short, the School of Rock is expensive. Then again, class can be a lot of fun, and some of the homework is pretty cool. And of course, if we do graduate — if we make it in the music business — we'll soon be earning a lot more money than even doctors and lawyers. Or so we tell ourselves...
Surprise! It's almost as if we make music for the love of it, shocking!

Lefsetz does a much better job of dissecting the article than I would.

1. If you think backstage was lavish back in the pre-Internet heyday, you were never there. Maybe in New York and L.A., but rarely there either. Just a ton of cold cuts, potato chips and beer on ice. As for who was there? A ton of hangers-on, who believed if they could just be close to the icons, they’d be cool.
2. Training. Irrelevant of whether you need music and voice lessons, complaining about the price is like me bitching how much it cost to go to college and law school. At today’s price, my college is $200k for four years. Add three years of law school on top of that and this guy is bitching about fifteen years of piano and guitar lessons for 30k? (And oh yeah, I had those too!)
3. Rehearsal. We all need an office. And if you’ve got no money, make it in your home. And if that’s too noisy, move where it’s cheap and you’ve got some space, like back to Maine. You don’t have to live in the metropolis anymore to make it. The Internet is everywhere.
3. Gear. As everyone online is saying, you spent $500 to move a piano? How’s the gas mileage on that Lamborghini? Either get an electronic keyboard or buy something used or rent. Don’t put the lifestyle in front of the success.
4. E-mail blasts. You wasted a grand. I ignore that stuff, and so does everybody else. We get hipped to quality and success by our network, we hate self-promoters/hypesters.
I could go on and on but you not only get the point, you know the story as well or better than I do.
It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.
And you don’t make it by complaining, you make it by knocking them dead. And you can do that on a Japanese guitar as well as a Les Paul. Talent is much more important than equipment. These guys are just being ripped off by an old system which is trying not to die. They’re being bitten by hucksters the same way you get ripped off on the street by the guys playing three card monte.
P.S. If you’re so damn great, why do you have only 98 Twitter followers?


Lessons From Louis CK's MIllion-Dollar DIY Experiment

For those of you who missed it, on December 10th Louis CK released a self-produced, self-financed comedy special for a $5 download on his own website. No restrictions, other than asking you "please don't pirate this."

He made a million dollars in ten days, no middlemen required.
Louis C.K. said he was shocked as he watched the orders come in -- and then began to feel guilty about the amount he'd netted.
"I've never had a million dollars all at once. I grew up pretty poor and I was like, this is not even my money," he said. "This is just a five-dollar impulse that 220,000 people had, and now I have it. And I felt uncomfortable about having that much money."
So Louis C.K. set aside $250,000 to cover the cost of the expenses of producing the special, then doled out another $250,000 in bonuses for his staffers.
He then donated $280,000 to five charities: The Fistula Foundation, The Pablove Foundation, charity: water, Kiva and Green Chimneys.
"I was going to [donate] $100,000, but it's like blackjack -- I just kept dishing it out," he told Fallon.
That leaves $220,000 left over.
"Some of that will pay my rent and will care for my childen [sic]. The rest I will do terrible, horrible things with and none of that is any of your business," Louis C.K. wrote in a statement posted on his website.
He's not the first artist to make a killing without a label, this just serves as more proof that you can make it on your own. Radiohead's In Rainbows made the band more money than they've ever made for a record even though it was a pay-what-you-want record.

1 Direct-to-fan sales mean cheaper products AND more money going to the artists.

For a large company, $1,000,000 is break-even. For a DIY artist, it's a smash hit. Rembember $18 CDs back in the 90s? Each CD you bought from a third party only returned cents to the band.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather keep my first million.

2) Fans will pay for great art from the artists they love.What with all the crap the MPAA and RIAA are throwing about to justify the Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act, you'd think people will only pay for art when they're forced to.


As the video game distribution platform Steam has shown, making legitmate purchase a better experience for consumers opens their wallets.

Piracy is a service problem.

Louis CK allowed you to download and watch his video using any platform you wanted.

He didn't even bother copy-protecting the video.

He didn't have to.


"I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'Fuck you' to this decaying business model." - Thom Yorke


Megaupload Shut Down

Wow. Megaupload, a New Zealand company, was just shut down by US officials for copyright infringement.

Last month, Universal Music Group forced a copyright take down of a music video featuring artists supporting Megaupload. UMG didn't own any of the copyrights, they just took it down because they could.
The UMG-YouTube agreement grants UMG rights to effect the removal of user-posted videos through YouTube’s Content Management System (‘CMS’), based on a number of contractually specified criteria that are not limited to the infringements of copyrights owned or controlled by UMG,” the record label states in its filing.
What that means, in case the preceding paragraph wasn’t clear enough, is that UMG has a private outside-the-DMCA agreement with YouTube that it can take down other people’s content from YouTube even when it doesn’t infringe their copyrights.
Indeed, in UMG’s 18-page filing not once does the company give any reason or even a hint why it had Megaupload’s Mega Song taken down from YouTube. At no point does UMG claim that the video infringed its copyrights and the previous claim, that the video featured one of its artists, is completely absent.
This isn't about protecting you, the artist. It's about protecting a dying business model.

From Seth Godin:

When the world changes... 
It's painful, expensive, time-consuming, stressful and ultimately pointless to work overtime to preserve your dying business model. 
All the lobbying, the lawsuits, the ad campaigns and most of all, the hand-wringing, aren't going to change anything at all. In fact, instead of postponing the outcome you fear, they probably accelerate it. 
The history of media and technology is an endless series of failed rearguard actions as industry leaders attempt to solidify their positions on a bed of quicksand. 
Again and again the winners are individuals and organizations that spot opportunities in the next thing, as opposed to those that would demonize, marginalize or illegalize (is that a word?) it. Breaking systems that benefit your customers is dumb. Taking money from lobbyists to break those systems is dumber still.
This isn't the first time music companies freaked out.

The industry flipped out about the invention of radio until they (begrudgingly) realized it could actually make them more money. With all we know now about the history of radio, can you look back and think "Wow, radio sure did destroy music!" Of course not, radio drove demand for artists' products. Music is marketing for the artist.

It'll be interesting to see how much longer the old industry will attempt to fight piracy before accepting the fact that the world has changed and deciding to profit from it.

So more research has turned up the fact that Megaupload offered financial incentives for users to upload stolen music, movie, and warez. This complicates the issue because it means Megaupload was a a whole lot shadier than a simple "file sharing service". While I still see the raid as being a little over the top, there's not doubt that Megaupload wasn't into some shady business.


Is It Time To Trash "Support Local Music"?

A Fan Says Goodbye to "Local Music"

I'm sorry "Support Local Music", but I've fallen out of love with you as a phrase.

It's not me, it's you.

I've seen you with every half-hearted facebook invite, pleading for me to come join you. 

Remember the last time I followed your advice?

I drove to an unfamilar club, paid for parking and cover, and gave up a night of my weekend to see you.
I wanted to feel like I had discovered a hidden treasure of the local scene.

I wanted to have a personal connection with you as an artist.

I wanted to feel special.
Instead you manipulated me into seeing crappy shows and asking for money.

I thought what we had was meaningful.

All you've taught me is that I'm really not that interested in you. 

I'm through with you, "Support Local Music."


From personal experience, hearing someone promote a show using the phrase "Support Local Music" tends to be a good indicator that the show will be lame. It's a throwaway phrase used by people who didn't put any thought into promoting the show.

What's the value proposition with "Support Local Music"? Is proxemity reason enough to make people interested in a show? Not usually, especially after being burned by a few lame shows.

An effective value proposition talks directly to the desires of the fan. Unless someone centers their identity on being a "local music supporter", saying the reason for coming out is to "Support Local Music" is a weak value proposition.  Some people want to show off a new band they discovered to their friends Other times people come out simply because they know the band. The answers will vary greatly between different fans and bands so the exact answers you'll have to learn from experience or research.

So should we scrap using the phrase "Support Local Music?" What are some marketing concepts that you think would be more effective?

Link: Interview with Indie Genius Gabe Roth (Daptone Records)

Absolutely worth the five minutes to read.

My favorite line:
Musician Coaching:
How on earth did you just take playing around NYC with a bunch of guys living in Brooklyn into an international experience?

Firstly, we did no promotional gigs. I never played for exposure. We never played in exchange for exposure or to meet somebody. We actually do it more now than we ever did then. We played for cash and valued what we did. In this market there are too many people that are too hungry, and you can’t rely on marketing yourself. You have to rely on having something people want. We really tried to concentrate on creating demand by having something people wanted. We spent our energy thinking about how we could make the show better, not how we could get more people there, and let the people figure out how to tell their friends how good the show was.


Negotiation Without Being a Jerk Vol. I

Whether it be predicting how much merch to purchase, choosing whether to book a larger or smaller venue for your release show, or what time you tell everyone to load-in, how you manage the expectations of everyone involved can be the difference between resounding sucess and abject failure.

I'm continually reminded of how all-encompassing this concept truely is.

Managing expectations is when you EXPLICITY outline the criteria to be used to evaluate an experience and the how everyone involved wants issues handled. This is why getting written contracts are so important. A contract serves as a visual aid outlining the expectations of all parties involved so everyone is crystal clear on what exactly to do.

Until you've worked with someone a couple times, you need to be painfully clear with how you want the deal to go. Not to the point of being patronizing ("and you'll play the guitar with your hands, correct?"), but the more work you put in up-front about your requirements, the easier your life will be when money starts to change hands.

Van Halen added a now famous clause hidden deep in their contracts that the band must be served M&Ms with all the brown ones removed. They added this clause not to be capricous rockstars, but to verify that the venue thorougly read through the contract. David Lee Roth explained that a venue not matching the expectations of the contract could lead to their road crew having to deal with life-threatening safety oversights.

Last year I was going over show details for my heavy-metal band Onward We March with a venue we booked a show at, only to find out that they "didn't want any of that screaming stuff" for the show.

No. Can. Do.

Not matching expectations can ruin your credibility, stall your marketing, or even cause your band to collapse.

When people aren't sure exactly what you want/offer, they fill in the gaps with their best guesses.

Your goal with managing expectations is to minimize hearing phrases like, "Oh you guys wanted a sound check? Sorry, we don't have time for it. Didn't think you'd want one because our last band didn't care."

Be clear.