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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?