Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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Solveig Headshot Red Sweater

Last month I was fortunate enough to get a chance to visit the offices of my friend Omri Mor’s Seattle startup, ZIIBRA. What a great team of highly motivated and creative people (their office Halloween pumpkin-decorating contest was, how do I say this? Inspiringly Awesome). 

While I was there visiting, I also did an interview with their charming community manager, Mia Myklebust, about one of my favorite subjects, music marketing.

Omri founded ZIIBRA in 2011 “with the goal of helping artists turn their creative projects into full-time gigs.” ZIIBRA is a crowd funding or online patronage service that strives to harness the internet to make creating art sustainable. It caters to various types of creative “makers”, from visual artists to musicians to herbalists, perfumers and artisan food producers. 

Here’s the interview I did with Mia Mykelbust at ZIIBRA:

Solveig and Mia on Couch

Solveig Whittle has had a number of different careers from Microsoft to Marketer to Musician. Her many interests and talents have given her a unique perspective on the artistic community and how they go about making a living from their passion.

“I started out as a programmer many years ago and worked at a big company,” Whittle said. “I worked at AT&T and then I kind of got into the business side and worked as a product manager in the high tech area.”

She has now found her way back into marketing, which is really where her heart lies, while at the same time pursing a career as a musician. Her diverse background has given her the tools to start her own successful music career as well as help musicians hoping to break into the industry.

“Think about it as starting a small business,” Whittle says.

“If you’re an artist and you don’t think about it as starting a small business – you can’t fathom that – it’s going to be difficult unless you partner with somebody who can do it.”

Particular early in their careers many musicians will inevitably be doing their own marketing and promotion. Whittle says that though it’s important for artists to have a broad understanding of what going on in these areas of their business, oftentimes artists are more successful when they partner with someone they trust to work on these sides of their career.

[More…]

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Taylor Swift Time Cover

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a blog post called 8 Things Indie Musicians Can Learn From Taylor Swift’s Red Release. That post has become one of the most popular on my blog, so I thought it appropriate to do a follow-up regarding the release of Swift’s newest album, 1989. Plus, analyzing and writing about the dynamic marketing duo of Taylor Swift and Scott Borchetta is downright fun. (If I were a graphic artist I would have a picture here of Borchetta in a Batman outfit and Swift as Robin).

The release of Swift’s 2012 Red album was a remarkable success from a marketing perspective. It propelled Swift from country into the mainstream pop market and made her one of the most powerful artists in the industry with a large and loyal fan base.

This year’s 1989 album also did not disappoint. Swift topped even her own record (no pun intended) with 1.29 million copies of 1989 sold in its first week (as compared to 1.21 million copies of Red in its first week after release). While selling 80,000 more units in Week 1 doesn’t seem like a huge accomplishment, remember that overall, the music industry has shown a significant decline in sales in recent years. Until the release of 1989, 2014 looked to be the first year no single artist album would go platinum (sell over a million copies).  Sales of CDs for the first half of 2014 were down 19 percent from the year before, to 56 million, and even digital downloads declined by 14 percent in the first six months of 2014 (RIAA figures). 1989 comprised 22% of the entire US album sales the week of its release. In a declining industry, this was no small accomplishment.

As I did with my first article, it’s important to consider what the marketing goals were likely to have been for this release. In 2012, I proposed the marketing goals for Red were to expand Swift’s fan base beyond the country demographic into a broader demographic. I think the goals for 1989 were different: in this case, to maximize total net profits for the release. I mean, isn’t everyone already a Taylor Swift fan? Do we really need more Taylor Swift fans? (See Saturday night’s perceptive fake ad for Swiftamine for proof of her expanded demographic.) OK, just kidding. Sort of.

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taylor-swift-1989-album-target

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.”

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.

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Ricky Key and Wouter Kellerman

I interviewed New Age artists Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman recently about how they marketed their newest collaboration, Winds of Samsara. The album debuted in July at No. 1 on the Billboard New Age Chart, and then spent the following 12 weeks in the Top 10.

*** UPDATE December 5, 2014 – Kellerman and Kej’s album has been nominated for a Grammy! It just goes to show what can be accomplished with great music and hard work!

Ricky, Wouter and their team are a hybrid indie artist marketing model: neither the artist nor the label does 100% of the marketing. Most of the marketing strategy, however, is planned and driven by the artists and their managers, with similarities to how Macklemore (Ben Haggerty), Ryan Lewis and Zach Quillen drove the charting success of Heist in 2013.

While Ricky and Wouter are not technically 100% DIY indie artists (they signed this project with a label), they recognized from the start that the label wasn’t going to do everything needed to promote the album. The artists themselves needed to pitch in, especially with social media promotion.

I’ve seen first hand on social media how Ricky, his wife Varsha Kej, Wouter, and Wouter’s manager, Tholsi Pillay, persistently promote Winds of Samsara. All four fluidly mix the creative with business. In addition to being Wouter’s manager, Tholsi played keyboards and synth on the album, and Varsha is Ricky’s manager as well as a sitar player. 

I wanted to hear more about how this marketing dynamo planned and executed their marketing, and what has gone into debuting and maintaining Winds of Samsara’s Billboard chart status over the past weeks and months. I also wanted to know what kind of promotional team they have behind them (distributor, PR, etc.)

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Love and Fire A Dangeroous Combination

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?

Grammy AwardSolveig 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.

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Sia performing photo by Kris Krug

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.

One even might ask: Where is Miley Cyrus’ back-to-school twerking video? Oh, yeah, Niki Minaj beat her to it. Or was it Taylor Swift who was twerking?

Anyway.

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:

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Aury Moore Kickstarter

PatreonIn this 12 minute episode of Walking The Dog, I discuss crowdfunding and other new ways indie artists can support themselves besides selling merchandise or touring.PatreonI have written about a local Seattle artist, Aury Moore, and her successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $20K to fund her 2012 CD “Here I Am”. I am always interested in case studies of artists who have raised amounts like this via crowdfunding, because they are so much greater than the average.

Hypebot published an article today entitled “#Fangagement: Artists Crowdsourcing Opinion Part 10: Mark de Clive-Lowe” which included some great tips from Mark (a musician who also raised $20K on Kickstarter) on being realistic in your funding goals based on average donation rates, numbers of fans, and average social media engagement rates. Mark researched the stats, and found evidence that the the engagement number on social media is 3%. Many social media experts also echo Mark’s findings that only 3% of fans, followers, and those who have Liked a Facebook page are likely to participate in a social media campaign of any type. It’s important to keep this and other numbers in mind so you don’t overstretch or understretch your funding goals.

The Hypebot article also mentions Patreon, a new, fast-growing platform for sustaining indie artist careers created by Jack Conte (Pomplamoose). It’s kind of like Kickstarter, but ongoing, and may be a new model for artists to sustain a career in music while still leaving them time to focus on creating art – not just focusing on the business 100% of the time.

The Seattle ukulele songstress I mentioned, Molly Lewis, is actually up to over $2000 per original song in pledges on Patreon. Worth checking out!

Finally, I wrap with a mention of a new platform for musicians to pay small fees for feedback from music industry influencers call Fluence. Fluence is a San Francisco-based music startup that is still running very much under the radar, but you might try it out if you are an artist fairly new to the music industry and are looking for professional feedback and connections with industry folks. Hypebot also wrote about Fluence in February 2014. I have written recently on this blog that I feel it is very important for musicians at every level to get professional feedback on their music and live performance. Fluence offers this opportunity for feedback without having to travel or spend hundreds to thousands of dollars to perform in showcases or pay consultants or coaches.

Please let me know what you think of my podcast, the subjects mentioned, and any experience you’ve had with any of the platforms mentioned. Share so we can all benefit from your knowledge!

 

posted by on Interviews, Marketing, Music, News, Social Media

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1 Gift From Johnny (1)

A few months ago, I came across a free ebook for download called Music Marketing on Twitter by a guy named Johnny Dwinell from Daredevil Productions in Nashville, TN. I’ve downloaded and purchased quite a few social media and marketing books in the past two years, and frankly, the quality can vary quite widely. I was impressed with the substantive and practical social media advice offered in Johnny’s ebook, and I thought it would be interesting to find out more about Johnny and what he’s up to over at Daredevil with his partner, Kelly Schoenfeld.

[Just in case you were wondering, I received no compensation from Johnny or Kelly or anyone else for writing this post. I’ve been approached lately with several offers to post “sponsored content.” I turn them down. If I write that I like something, you should know that it’s because I actually like it.]

Q1: I notice that on your website you list your services as artist development, demo recording, songwriting, and before/after recordings. It seems from your blog that you are moving from being primarily a recording and production studio to branching out into doing social media management and campaigns for artists. Can you talk a little about the history of your company and how your service offerings are evolving? What brought you and the agency to start providing social media management for artists?

Kelly Schoenfeld Johnny DwinellJD: Good Observation, Solveig! Yes, we are in the midst of adding a market development component to our thriving artistic development business. The impetus for this marketing arm was sheer pragmatism. We were very blessed to work with amazingly talented and hard working indie artists who deserve to be heard. The problem was that once we delivered the record – something we inevitably were all very proud of – the artist would walk out the studio door and the project would die right there; they didn’t know how to market it. We felt that artists really need to focus on being artists, and if we could find ways to help them market their records, they would return for a 2nd record with us which would, in turn, increase our sales.

The problem was that once we delivered the record, the artist would walk out the studio door and the project would die right there.

So phase 1 is to create and perfect an online marketing pipeline that is effective at moving units. Phase 2 is to become a proper indie record label where we can sign, develop, record any artist we like knowing that we can recoup the costs through our marketing efforts.

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MusicBizAssoc

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.

 

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Walking The Dog Episide 2

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!