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Bankruptcy Filing Shows Exact Numbers for Mid-Level Touring Numbers

Whoa, nice find by Hypebot:
After LA's Sunset Junction Neighborhood Alliance was denied permits and forced to cancel their event,  theyfiled for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. Included in the $900,000 of liabilities are the unpaid fees of 74 artists.  There are some surprises. $22,000 for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and $20,000 for KD Langseem fair, but $20,000 for Hanson?
Read more here: 


Negotiation Without Being a Jerk Vol. II

You're halfway through negotiating a sponsorship deal with a major guitar string company, conversation is fluid and light. Envisioning the bliss that would be free guitar strings sends a flood of warmth through your mind.

Everything feels groovy.

A buzz.

The representative reads the text and her expression darkens.

The room begins to feel colder.

"It looks like the terms we initially proposed to you are off the table. We can only offer you half price or nothing."

What do you say?


Negotiation is a delicate dance of power and persuasion. While each dancer may have an endless repertoire of moves, it is the beat they bring to the dance that colors their movements. And that beat is called the BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement).

A BATNA provides an anchor for you to determine how valuable the offer currently on the table. How attractive is the offer from the example above when:
  • You have a meeting with another guitar string company in two hours?
  • You've already got an offer for a 60% discount?
  • You don't have any other offer?
  • Your band doesn't play any guitars?
Notice the nuances of how each BATNA lead you to different strategies.

The dynamics of any interaction change depending on your other options. Getting turned down for an audition hurts much less've got three more lined up next week. Greasy diner food sounds a lot better when you haven't eaten for the last twelve hours.

So how do we use our knowledge of BATNA to improve our negotiations?


1. Getting multiple offers will give you some leverage to negotiate with. Don't hinge your entire career and happiness on one label, make sure to court a few different labels. The way the field is built is how the game is played. Look back at the example above. Even if your backup offer is something really unimpressive like 5%, this gives you guidelines to determine how good a deal is.

2. Learning to talk persuasively increases others' perception of your BATNA. Desperation is a stinky perfume. If your language conveys that you don't value yourself or that your band isn't that great, the other side of the table will pick up on these cues. It's not just the actual value of your BATNA that influences your outcome, but the perception of your BATNA. Learn to frame your conversations and issues to present your product (band) in the best light. Appearing confident makes others believe you are confident as most negotiators are not psychic, and this imbued confidence will strengthen your negotiation position. This doesn't mean be arrogant, as that usually is a bad idea, but being able to clearly and firmly articulate your position will increase the value of your BATNA, even if you don't have one.

Perception creates reality.

3. Create a list of alternatives to the main deal that you can propose should the main offer become undesirable. Unless you're working with a vending machine, there are many more ways to win than just in terms of cash. In the next installment of this series we'll get deeper into this topic.

Previous entries: (Vol 1)


Brainstorming Doesn't Work

Johan Lehrer's article in the New Yorker lays it out bluntly.
...Keith Sawyer, a psychologist at Washington University, has summarized the science: “Decades of research have consistently shown that brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool their ideas.”
This provides some interesting insight into the dynamics of group creativity. This further develops my earlier thesis describing changing social dynamics as the primary cause of "lame supergroup-itis".

But there's more nuance to this story than outright dismissal of brainstorming. One of the defining factors of brainstorming, according to it's creator, is not allowing negativity as it supposedly stifles creativity. This is wrong.
According to Nemeth, dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints. “There’s this Pollyannaish notion that the most important thing to do when working together is stay positive and get along, to not hurt anyone’s feelings,” she says. “Well, that’s just wrong. Maybe debate is going to be less pleasant, but it will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.”
Sometimes blind positivity isn't the best answer.

As the article continues, researcher Brian Uzzi studied Broadway musicals to develop a measure Q of how familiar different artists were with one another. The higher the Q, the more familiar the artists are with one another and vice versa. After running the data to analyze Q scores with relation to the success of these musicals, the results were stunning.
When the Q was low—less than 1.7 on Uzzi’s five-point scale—the musicals were likely to fail. Because the artists didn’t know one another, they struggled to work together and exchange ideas. “This wasn’t so surprising,” Uzzi says. “It takes time to develop a successful collaboration.” But, when the Q was too high (above 3.2), the work also suffered. The artists all thought in similar ways, which crushed innovation.

...The best Broadway shows were produced by networks with an intermediate level of social intimacy. The ideal level of Q—which Uzzi and his colleague Jarrett Spiro called the “bliss point”—emerged as being between 2.4 and 2.6. A show produced by a team whose Q was within this range was three times more likely to be a commercial success than a musical produced by a team with a score below 1.4 or above 3.2.
If these results were to hold true across the creative spectrum, they could explain countless musical phenomena.
  • Could this be why so many "legendary" acts tend to flame out after producing their masterpiece instead of producing two masterpieces many years apart?
  • Is this at fault for the sophomore slump?
  • Is there an optimal creative lifetime for a band?  I suspect yes.
Profound food for thought.

Is it time to reevaluate some of your band's procedures?


How Can Classical Music Make A Comeback?

Classical music is in crisis.

With the hit of the recession, donations to orchestras and symphonies took a nose dive.

The Philedelphia Orchestra declared bankcrupty. The Honolulu Symphony, Syracuse Symphony, and Louisville Orchestra foldedThe Dallas Symphony, The San Francisco Opera, and The Colorado Symphony are all having massivie financial problems.

But it's not like people aren't going to concerts anymore. Worldwide, as of 2010 the value of the music industry was $168 billion dollars, up $32 billion from 2005. I consistently blow a hole in my monthly budget with concert tickets and I have no intention of changing this. If you're a music junkie I'm guessing you can say the same as well.

The real issue isn't the lack of financing for orchestras, it's the disconnect between concert-goers and the symphony business.

When is the last time you went to a classical concert?

When are you planning to go next?

Personally, I adore string quartets. I'm such a sucker for cellos that I almost always immediately like a band with one. But I don't have any desire to hear anything from the Dallas Symphony. The "Symphony Experience" of being a fanicly dressed statue has no appeal to me. It's a crappy school field trip that costs up to six times the price of a normal concert ticket. As callous as it may be to say this, should the organization fold I'd feel only a slight "meh".

It's surprising how artists, who live off of their creativity, can be too stubborn to change their presentation when it's clear the market isn't interested in their current offerings.

In times of crisis, it's the artists who unleash their creativity on their business who prosper.

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment realized the conventions of classical concerts weren't attractive to their fans, so they went on a pub crawl.

Maggie Faultless, joint leader of the orchestra, elaborates on their Night Shift concert series:
...I'd like to think that some people will feel that we have broken down some conventions and after this they might like to try other performances of classical music, but this isn't about enticing people into the concert-hall to hear an 80-piece OAE in concert, this is about empowerment. Audiences want to have a bit more ownership of what they're listening to. The best performances involve a three-way relationship - the music (ie what's on the page) the audience and the performers. The performers react not only to the written notes but to each other and most importantly, to the audience. But all too often in today's concerts, the third part of that equation is forgotten. Often when we're performing you can't even see beyond the first couple of rows, let alone to the back of a thousand-seat hall.
This idea is utterly fantastic. If the Dallas Symphony were to pull off something like this I'd be all over it.

Other ideas that have sprung up from clever musicians are lie-down concerts of Bach (bring a bean bag!), drive-by Handel, and my favorite, baby-sitting for concert attendees. These are more than just "stunts" to be discarded, they're a targeted response to customers' needs.

Creativity isn't just for your art, it's for your business as well.

Are you making it easier or harder for your customers to throw dollars at you?


Link: How to Be Effective on Twitter

The Atlantic just put out a great piece outlining research on how to reach the most people with twitter.
"The Twitter ecosystem values learning about new content," the study notes -- so new info, it seems, is new info, regardless of who provides it. And sharing your own work conveys excitement about that work -- which means that self-promotion, rather than being a Twitter turn-off, can actually be an added value.
 ...This may seem like overthinking it; spontaneity, after all, is a big part of Twitter's charm. Still, it's also worth noting that, in the study's sample, respondents considered only 36 percent of the tweets on display worth reading -- and another 39 percent barely worth the effort. "These results," the authors note, "highlight the need for better awareness and presentation of valued content."


Piracy Will Never Go Away

Piracy will never go away.

The sooner we accept this, the better off we'll be.

File-sharing methods are developed by those on the bleeding edge of technology. Those who would legislate file-sharing are just discovering text messages. Until politicans stay up until 3am every night buried face-down in code, the pirates will continue to be in the lead. Lockpickers rejoyce at the release of a new "unpickable" lock. Woohoo, a new puzzle! It's the Red Queen from through the looking glass; everyone has to keep running just to stay in the same place.

First, let's get this straight: I do not condone piracy. Artists create beauty and should be compensated for their work. Period.

But piracy is an economic reality. Neil Young goes as far as to say "Piracy is the new radio." We can either learn to leverage this for our gain to build our fanbase or we can thrash helplessly against the relentless tide and hurt paying customers with DRM. The only way to stop piracy would be total draconian lockdowns on freedom of all information which would hurt both consumers and content creators.

Even now, the systems in place to protect content are only for the benefit labels big enough to afford lobbyists. Universal has been using YouTube's Content ID system to issue takedown notices for copyright infringment on crochet lesson videos without music and shutting down youtube channels for unaffiliated independent bands.  Independant artists, however, are unable to use the same system to protect their own works.

 Zoe Keating:
"I actually signed up for Content ID to track all the videos that ALREADY have my music in them. For a very brief window when my account became active (2 days) I was able to use the Content Management interface to search for and claim the audio of videos. I managed to claim the audio for about 20 videos before that feature was disabled on my account. I was told that claiming videos is not a feature that is supposed to be active for sound recording copyright holders and it was a "bug" that I was allowed to do it." 
The landscape of the music industry have irrevocably changed. The old school method of paying $1,000,000 to generate a hit single is being undercut by increased customer choices for music and dratmatically reduced fixed costs.

Remember how the Motion Picture Association of America reacted to the invention of the VCR?
"I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home along." - Jack Valenti, MPAA Cheif.
As much as it hurt the typewriter industry, the development of word processors was a net posititve for society. (Can I get an amen for splecheck spellcheck?) Technology marches on, whether you like it or not.

Piracy will never go away.

The sooner we accept this, the better off we'll be.

The tech industry's solution is software-as-service, where users pay a monthly subscription fee to use this software through the web. Customers love it because you don't ever have to deal with technical crap and you can get to your data though any computer / tabelt / mobile. Businesses love it because it's reliable, costs nothing to distribute to more customers, and provides a stable monthly income stream. (Great blog post by Patrick at Kalzumeus software on why he's giving up desktop applications for web applications.)

The solution for the music industry is streaming, where users pay a monthly subscription fee to listen to anything, anytime. (Here's my strategy for streaming.)

Streaming is new and still getting the kinks worked out, but now that the services exists, they're not going away. Music streaming services may become the next equivalent to Cable TV.

David Lefsetz elaborates:
Do you think you’re paying when you watch sports on ESPN? YOU ARE! Approximately five bucks a month, whether you watch it or not. The key is to make music listening feel free, even if it’s not. We’re on that road, but too many musicians want to kill it, because it’s a nascent business. It’s like killing the iPod because it didn’t work on Windows and there was no iTunes Store. It’s like doubling down on Kodak because you don’t own a digital camera and who’d want to shoot pictures each and every day other than a professional?

We finally have the tool for success, the way out, streaming services, but you want to kill them. You’d probably eat a cookie today rather than forgo it and have twenty tomorrow.

Killing piracy kills the music business. It cuts down on listener experimentation and innovation. Who’s gonna make something that radio won’t play if there’s no free listening and sharing online?
The industry isn't based around getting signed anymore. As DIY musicians, there's no simple formula for success; everyone is figuring it out as they go.  It's not that the goal posts have moved, it's that the goal posts have been taken off the field. The freedom from labels is as liberating as it is scary.

But piracy is an economic reality. We can either learn to leverage this for our gain to build our fanbase or we can thrash helplessly against the relentless tide.

Update: There's a new BitTorrent service called Triblr that is designed to continue functioning even when a BitTorrent tracker is shut down.
"Like many other BitTorrent clients, Tribler has a search box at the top of the application. However, the search results that appear when users type in a keyword don’t come from a central index. Instead, they come directly from other peers." 
"Downloading a torrent is also totally decentralized. When a user clicks on one of the search results, the meta-data is pulled in from another peer and the download starts immediately. Tribler is based on the standard BitTorrent protocol and uses regular BitTorrent trackers to communicate with other peers. But, it can also continue downloading when a central tracker goes down."
So hackers/technologists become craftier in response to crackdowns. No surprise there. Piracy isn't going anywhere, so build your band's business models to accomidate this.