“We know that there’s no economical value in non-scarce things. Then how do musicians expect to make money out of digital music, especially now that’s it’s becoming more and more commodified and easy to have access to? Something abundant eventually becomes free at some point…You create market value by selling scarce things. Get it right asap.” – Tommy Darker
“[Big Tech] have to keep commodifying things to keep the share price up, but in doing so they have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions.” – Thom Yorke [Radiohead] as quoted by Music Tech Policy
Ubiquity drives the commoditization of music and other intellectual property, lowering value and decreasing discovery
Giving credit, or attribution, counteracts this effect and creates value
I read two posts this week which got me thinking about how these two ideas related in the worlds of both social media and independent music. One post was from Tommy Darker on Music Think Tank called “Premiumization 101 For Musicians” (from whence came the quote above) and the other was by Bob Dunn, my favorite WordPress guru, called “Make Sure Your Shared Tweets Display Your Twitter Handle“. These seem like disparate posts, but bear with me for a minute or two.
Last year I recorded a cover of an old favorite song of mine called Menta e Rosmarino (I Won’t Be Lonely) by the Italian artist, Zucchero (AKA Sugar Fornaciari). He’s a famous singer, songwriter, and guitarist in Spain and Italy. He’s less well-known here in the United States, despite his many collaborations with American artists like Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, and Randy Jackson, among others. I also hired a friend of mine, Josh Moore, to shoot a music video for my Zucchero cover. All together, I spent a few thousand dollars on making the video, including paying for time at the studio where we shot it and compensating the other people involved.
I thought it might be useful to share a walk through of my relatively cheap and easy experience securing the mechanical and synch licenses for both the audio and video files. As a writer of original music, and also because I spent my own time and money making these high quality audio and video recordings, I felt it was important to comply with the legal licensing requirements. This was not a video of me singing the song by myself with a guitar in the living room in front of my computer’s video camera. Although I thought it seemed unlikely, I didn’t want YouTube to take down my video channel because of this single cover video. Most important to me, however, I feel it’s only right to legally compensate the original artist for their work.
I had a very full day at my first SF Music Tech. I was impressed with the level of serious dialog, with the fact that women were much better represented here than at many of the tech conferences I’ve been to (35 – 40%), and, perhaps most importantly, with the mix of technology, business, and artist/creative-types represented. Many music conferences attract one type of attendee or another, but this one seems to do a really fine job of bringing them all together under one roof.
Here are my other impressions (taking into account that there was no way I could humanly attend all of the 33 sessions):
Daisy and YouTube: Important But Unrepresented
It was interesting that panel after panel talked throughout the day about YouTube as the most important platform for music discovery, especially among young people. Zoe Keating said she gets more money monthly from YouTube than Spotify. Yet many other music tech platforms are not seamlessly integrated with YouTube, and licensing is a nightmare for smaller musicians. Google was completely unrepresented at SF Music Tech as far as I could see – neither as panelists nor attendees.
Another elephant in the room was Daisy: apparently things got heated at the “How We Will Experience Music in the Future” panel, although I wasn’t there to hear it myself. Daisy went completely unmentioned in the “Music Discovery” panel (with panelists from Echo Nest, Rhapsody and Pandora). I did see two Daisy/MOG/Beats (that was what their badges said) attendees, but no official panel representation. I would think with all the press Jimmy Iovine’s been courting around Daisy and serving data to artists, they would have had someone here to talk to the tech community about this feature. Maybe I’m naïve.
[An interview with Kevin McCarthy, CEO of the Seattle-based Facebook analytics company, Likester]
S: Kevin, thanks for talking with me today. In addition to the fact that you’re my stepson (full disclosure), you’re a succesful serial entrepreneur. You’ve started a new company called Likester (definitely not to be confused with Friendster). You and I were talking about Likester, and I had a few questions about how it might be useful for musicians or labels. I understand a little about Likester – it’s basically a giant database of Facebook “Like” data and some software that helps you visualize correlations between Facebook brand “Likes”, is that correct? And the idea is that this information can be used by marketers, presumably to better target their Facebook advertising to those Facebook users who are more likely to “Like”, and thus buy, their products? Tell me more about Likester – what is the basic idea behind the tool?
K: That is correct. Likester has tracked and organized over a billion Facebook “Likes” from millions of people. The basic idea behind Likester Pro is that you can learn a lot about your customers, the customers of your competition, or the fans of any Facebook Page out there.
Agile Marketing is a term that takes its inspiration from Agile Development, a methodology “defined” in 2001 by a group of programmers in order to apply a set of alternative (and hopefully more productive) values to traditional software development. Many software development projects large and small had, by this time, become unwieldy and nightmarish processes (see the concept of Edward Yourdon’s “Death March” software project management) when Agile Development became the new trend, and eventually, the new norm in software development.
Of course, it didn’t take long before product managers and other marketing types realized that the same concepts which were helping their brethren across the cubicle pods over in developer-land could also be applied to the world of marketing. As a former software marketer, the idea of Agile Marketing fascinates me, as does the idea of applying it to the world of indie music marketing. This article outlines how Agile Marketing values can be used by indie musicians to guide and prioritize their online and social media marketing activities.
For many indie musicians, business people and marketers, the idea of the Death March resonates today. We struggle with finding time for both artistic creativity and promotion, we sift through unending and various advice on how to promote our music best on our websites and via social media, and we suffer insomnia as we attempt to master our social media content creation process – should we blog? YouTube? Vine? Pay for ads on Facebook or promoted posts?
At the risk of adding to the over-exposure of Seattle’s hometown music hero of the decade, Macklemore, I felt it important to explore this question. Paul Porter of Rap Rehab wrote an interesting blog post challenging the claim by most music publications that Macklemore is an indie DIY success story. (We had a little discussion about it on Twitter, here’s the Storify of My Dialog About Macklemore With Paul Porter.) As I interpret his post, Porter proposes that Macklemore is not DIY or indie because he worked with a distributor, Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), who
agreed to work with Macklemore because he is a talented whiterapper, an unusual characteristic that makes him stand out
identified big financial potential for Warner Music Group in Macklemore’s wider appeal to a pop audience, which is, by definition, larger than rap or hip hop
underwrote Macklemore’s airplay on pop (and not hip hop) radio stations through payola
thus fueled his meteoric rise on the charts, subsequent record sales and media exposure
And all this did not, and would not have happened, without the savvy of a major label’s distribution arm, Warner Music Group/ADA. In Mr. Porter’s eyes, this makes Macklemore less than indie, because “Indie is one that is independent; especially: an unaffiliated record or motion-picture production company.”