Archive for the ‘News’ Category
During a recent Twitter exchange regarding the Taylor Swift/Spotify/streaming debate, I was labeled as having “become a professional problem identifier.” I was exhorted to instead “Be a problem solver.”
— Steve Rennie (@renmanmb) November 12, 2014
Many more knowledgeable and successful than I have certainly already waded into the fray. Even Dave Grohl! Why bother to add my perspective? Because every time I hear the argument that musicians should just “get over it,” or “stop complaining about streaming” I realize that many of us are not on the same page. We don’t even agree what the problem really is. I subscribe to the philosophy that solutions are built on consensus and common understanding, not on forcing a solution that doesn’t fit, or a model that only benefits one or two key players in the industry at the expense of the others.
It seems to me that there are a lot of things that get all confused up in this debate, and the refrain I keep hearing that musicians should just shut up and “focus on making great music” ignores the reality of how screwed up the music industry is and how hard it is – even if you’re a great musician with great material – to make a living at music.
I’m not a famous musician, or a tech entrepreneur, or someone with years of experience managing bands or running a record label. I’m just a musician, an anonymous musician who, like most of the musicians I know, doesn’t make a fulltime living as a recording artist. Oh, and fifteen years ago I was the VP of marketing at a startup whose product was distributed software as a service, bringing Microsoft Office to corporate desktops as, essentially, a streaming product. I do care more about the long term future of musicians and the music industry than going public with my music tech company and cashing out (something I also know a bit about). And I am an engineer by training. I have a sensitive radar for arguments that don’t square with my version of reality.
I don’t frequently post my own press releases on this website. I prefer to interview and feature artists other than myself. I have a few amazing musicians whom I met through NARAS (the Recording Academy) on deck in the coming weeks with some very successful music marketing and social media stories to tell – so hang in there. It’s also the middle of Grammy season, and believe me, I will have a follow-up post to my Grammy submission experience from last year.
But in the meanwhile, as those other musicians finish laboriously typing their detailed and informative interview answers, I’m making an exception and promoting some of my own recent achievements as an artist. Plus, this post isn’t just about me. It’s all about indie musicians collaborating to make things happen, and it features my good friend and musical collaborator, Elizabeth Butler, whom I have written about before on this blog. As you know, I’m not just a marketer and blogger, I’m a musician. I try to live by my own advice, which includes tooting my own horn once in a while. So bear with me, here’s a bit of self-promotion.
October 20, 2014
Do you have to be 19 and able to twerk in a bikini to receive recognition as a female musician these days?
Solveig Whittle and Elizabeth Butler are proof that you don’t. These two indie female songwriter-musicians from Seattle, Washington and Houston, Texas, were notified recently that they both have songs and albums up For Consideration in the 57th Grammys and nominated for the 2014 Hollywood Music in Media Awards (HMMAs). The Grammys will be awarded in February of next year, but the HMMAs will be awarded sooner, on November 4th, 2014 at the Fonda Theater in Los Angeles.
The two women have been strategizing for months and working together to promote their music in an industry in which it is notoriously hard to stand out – and one that also tends to favor younger artists. They remain undaunted, however, and now their musical and co-promotional partnership has created some very visible results, such as their Grammy and HMMA nominations.
Like many indie musicians, Whittle and Butler have been hobbyist musicians their whole lives. Only within the last few years, however, have they gotten serious about putting resources and time into pushing their individual music careers forward. By sharing information with each other and honing both their musical and promotional skills, they have proved that collaboration is the new route to success in the music business.
I have to say, I love the song, “Chandelier” by the female Australian singer, Sia Furler (known simply as Sia). I’ve embedded the Vevo music video at the bottom of this post. It’s a beautiful, simple but visually compelling video, although you won’t see Sia’s face in the video, just her doppleganger.
You may not have heard “Chandelier” yet. Being a female vocalist, as well as a mother, I listen in the car to a lot of current pop music. In the Female-Vocalist-Fall-Back-to-School-Pop-Hit lineup, “Chandelier” is up against some heavy contenders, like Taylor Swifts newest, “Shake It Off” and Katy Perry’s inane “This is How We Do.” Not to mention the octave-defying Christina Aguilera-sound-alike, Ariana Grande, whose numerous collaborations this summer with every female hip hop artist in America (she’s moved on from Iggy Azalea to Nicki Minaj) dominate the airwaves.
I think “Chandelier” it’s going to be a huge hit, and one by a non-American artist who has been relatively unknown until now, at least here in the US. I wanted to pick it apart and get to know this Sia Furler person. Her music seemed, well… different.
In doing a little research, I uncovered some remarkable things that I thought were relevant to a lot of indie artists like me, especially those of us who are NOT Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, or Ariana Grande’s age:
Welcome to my weekly podcast. I talk about music, music marketing, and the music business where I do some of my best thinking – while walking my dog.
In this 22 minute episode, I discuss the Music Biz Association’s 2014 Metadata Summit on Tuesday May 6 I attended in LA, part of the larger three day Music Biz 2014 Summit. The Music Biz Association, formerly known as NARM and its sub-organization, digitalmusic.org, is “a non-profit membership organization that advances and promotes music commerce — a community committed to the full spectrum of monetization models in the industry” (from their website.) I have written about the importance of standardizing music metadata as a critical component in ensuring artist compensation in the new music industry where digital will eventually dominate.
It’s interesting to note that the board of the Music Biz Association is composed of representatives of all the major players in the music industry, and this list is evolving to encompass players other than the big labels: Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Amazon, Microsoft, Spotify, YouTube (ie. Google), iTunes, as well as players like The Orchard and INGrooves. As music moves to a self-published model, I hope to see more representation in associations such as Music Biz for indie artists, too. Right now the industry is dominated by these big players (“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss”), but the future of music is a much flatter structure, where streaming micropayments, and thus metadata, will play an even larger role.
Look for a long form blog post later on this website about my experiences at Music Biz 2014, and a larger discussion about music metadata.
Also of note this week is the speculation around the purchase of Beats by Apple, as streaming players being a slow consolidation that (in my opinion) makes for a more rational and sustainable financial structure for streaming music services, as I predicted many months ago. This would be the largest acquisition ever made by Apple, if it goes through.
Finally, I discuss the significance of the incredible success of the soundtrack to Disney’s movie, Frozen. At the MetaData Summit, I sat next to Disney’s finance group, there to hear about the latest advances in metadata standardization. Why do they care? Because the Frozen soundtrack has been on the Billboard 200 13 times, it knocked Beyonce off the charts, and it has sold 2.6 million copies (58% digital – but that means 42% digital). As pointed out in this article on NPR’s blog, “Well Into Spring, ‘Frozen’ Soundtrack Keeps The Charts Cool,” Frozen‘s soundtrack has made a lot of money for Disney in a variety of different ways. Perhaps the difficulties of tracking all the various ways in which songs make money for Disney in the new music model, where digital plays come from a myriad of sources, will motivate a behemoth like Disney to put pressure on the industry to standardize music metadata more quickly, and streamline the monetization process further.
Most every morning I walk my dog. That’s where I do a lot of my thinking about my own music and social media, about music marketing and about what’s happening with music and technology in general. I thought you all might want to come along and hear what was on my mind this Friday morning.
The subject of today’s podcast is gear. What is the role of gear in your music career? Have you recently purchased some new gear and has it made a big difference in your recording or live performance?
In this 5 minute episode I talk about my own experience and also my observations from watching Stevie produce local bands. I didn’t admit it in the podcast, but I’m not immune to the siren song of gear. I’m like a kid in a candy shop at Guitar Center. In fact, I purchased the JamMan Looper/Sampler pictured above in October of last year. I haven’t yet figured out how to use it.
It often seems that musicians are more willing to purchase expensive musical gear than to spend the same amount of money on music lessons, professional performance coaching, song critiques, marketing, or legal services. In my mind, expensive gear is a social signal – but what it signals to others is not necessarily what I think many musicians believe it signals.
I’d love to hear your experience and your opinion on this issue in the comments section below. I’d also love your feedback on this format!
I recently made friends via Twitter with musician Eric John Kaiser, a native Parisian who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Like many who make a living full time from music, Eric is a busy person, juggling several different sources of income, as you will read below.
Eric has managed to successfully carve out a niche for himself in the Portland musical ecosystem playing “French music” several days a week. I thought it would be helpful for other musicians to read some of the smart and practical things he does to find, classify and promote his local and regional gigs. I also feel it is worth highlighting how Eric does business as a musician: he treats bookers and the other musicians he works with respectfully, fairly and professionally.
Question 1: Tell our readers a little about yourself: your music, where you are from, and how you ended up in Portland.
EJK: I’m a professional singer-songwriter originally from Paris, France, now based in Portland, Oregon, USA. After doing over 350 gigs in France and several records, in the summer of 2006, I followed a girl from Portland whom I met in Paris. Now I tour mainly on the West Coast, Idaho and Montana, in Louisiana and in Quebec and some parts of Canada. I also go back to France to tour once a year. I have released, at this point, three full length albums and three EPs. It’s been a great musical adventure so far.
Over time, I’ve learned that I needed to be flexible and be able to play solo gigs, as a duo with my accordion player or play with my full band.
I like to profile indie DIY musicians in an effort to distill practical music marketing lessons that the rest of us can learn from. My fellow Seattleite, Seth Jackson, has been doing this on his website, HowToRunABand, for much longer than I have. Like me, he’s a musician, blogger, and music marketer (as well as a techie – website designer and software developer), and he’s been a role model for me for almost two years now.
Seth and I met in early 2012, when I was just beginning my journey as a music marketer. I was present at the first In Real Life (vs. social media) meeting between Seth and Brian Thompson at a Hard Rock Seattle music marketing panel discussion. Two peas in a pod, eh?
Seth has a new podcast series on his website called Work Hard, Rock Harder (WHRH), where he interviews other musicians who make a living fulltime via their musical talents.
Seth is now up to interview #37. I thought it was time to check in with him and see what this WHRH thing was all about. || Read more