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music-notes

I just recently finished a CD, but I haven’t yet decided where to distribute it online. I did press 100 CDs at a local disc duplicator for my release party last month, though, and I’ve sold 50-some already.  I was freaked out briefly today, however, when I put one of my lovely new CDs in the computer so I could rip the tracks to MP3s for some promotion I am planning AND ALL THE TRACKS CAME UP TRACK 1, TRACK 2… etc. Had no one noticed this? Why had I not noticed this, for goodness sake?

I know we embedded the metadata in the mastered files for each of the tracks (for hopefully licensing later) – because I made sure that I made a big deal out of this with Stevie’s good friend Garey Shelton, who did the mastering. So what did I fail to do? And OMG, I thought, are all these CDs floating around now WITHOUT THE PROPER TITLES? And what’s worse WHERE WAS MY ALBUM TITLE AND ARTIST INFORMATION??? Have I communicated yet how freaked out I was? I’m a marketing person. I know bad data when I see it. So Stevie was on the phone immediately to Garey and this is what I learned.

It turns out that, after you’ve pressed your CDs, it’s important to take one more step and upload your stuff to the Gracenote CDDB (Compact Disc Database), so that all your identifying information (album title, artist, and track titles) is available to everyone else. You can do this using third party software (Winamp or QMP), or you can just use iTunes (and an internet connection). It’s not very hard to do. Here are the steps: || Read more

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itunes

Alas, a decade is practically an eternity online, and as such, the download-to-own concept that iTunes revolutionized is already showing signs of age. The growth of subscription-based streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, and the current cultural dominance of YouTube, with its more than three billion videos viewed daily, hint that  that music consumers are now largely content to listen, rather than own. - Time Entertainment, April 28, 2013

In this two-part podcast, Jason Spitz and Kyle Bylin of Hypebot’s Upward Spiral Podcast and I discuss some of the customer needs and behaviors that drove iTunes adoption: the unbundling of the single from the CD purchase, as well as the product characteristics (seamless integration with the iPhone, ease of use, standardized pricing). It’s interesting to hear the generational differences in how we adopted (or didn’t!) iTunes to build our personal music libraries, and to note that iTunes clearly was a substitute product for pirated music, even if an imperfect one.

In the second half of our discussion, we cover the transition of customers from download to streaming and debate where the future may lie for Apple’s iTunes and the consumption of music. We discuss iTunes competitors, and what factors might determine whether Apple will continue to dominate music distribution, such as the ubiquity and seamlessness of wifi, and the deep pockets of a platform player like Google, Amazon or Apple, as compared to a software-only offering such as Spotify or Pandora.

Kyle Bylin is the founder and editor of sidewinder.fm, a music and tech think tank, and also conducts research and develop music product concepts for Live Nation Labs. Jason Spitz is an ecommerce expert helping bands, comedians, and other artists build direct-to-fan businesses. In addition to being super-knowledgeable about the music industry, Jason and Kyle are expert conversationalists, and they always pick topics that are timely and interesting.

I sure had fun talking to these guys. Please let me know what you think of our discussion in the comments below!

posted by on Live, Marketing, Music

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Solveig and Brooke

I did something important this weekend. It was important because I’m dying. Not anytime  soon, mind you, but someday I won’t be here. So, because I could - because it mattered to me - this weekend I did a few things I enjoyed doing a lot. Things on my bucket list. These were all things I’ve never done before, and I did them with people I love and respect. I

  • entertained 50 people (pictures here),
  • performed original music I had created with my life partner, Stevie,
  • opened for Amanda Palmer (@amandapalmer, yes that Amanda Palmer), and
  • kicked off the launch of the first ever Solveig & Stevie CD, Superwoman (available soon via iTune and all your favorite channels and services).

Oh, and I moved people. That is really the most important part of what I did this weekend. I made something beautiful and magical for people I love and for complete strangers alike. How do I know this? Because people haven’t stopped telling me since last Saturday. That is why I make music: to move people. I don’t need to be a star. I don’t need to be famous. I’m old (relatively), and I have three kids.  I think regularly about how best to live the rest of my life, and what kind of meaningful memories I want to leave behind when I am gone. I’ve done my time in corporate meeting rooms. I want to make people feel. I want to touch people and make them think about their own creativity. If I did that for even a few people last weekend, that makes me happy.

Yes indeed. What a night! Could the long term good vibes of the church be blessing our communion ! I’m not the least bit religious but last night was the best feeling I’ve had in a group of strangers since the sixties. – Tim Rounds

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Ann and Nancy WIlson

Last week week I watched Ann and Nancy Wilson perform an intimate and revealing concert for their hometown fans in Benroya’s S. Mark Taper concert hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. Although the show was booked a year ago for the Live at Benaroya Hall popular music series, it was made much more significant because of this week’s induction of Heart into the 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 18. Ann and Nancy are rock and roll royalty, and this concert proved just how well-deserved their fame is.

It was a sell out crowd, with Microsoft co-founder and guitarist Paul Allen in attendance, Sue Ennis (their longtime co-writer), and many, many others who have followed Heart and the Wilson sisters for decades. Stevie and I sat in the third row orchestra surrounded by adoring (and greying) fans, friends and family. The crowd was very interactive – shouting out comments and requesting songs. The familiarity and love of the audience for the two women was palpable, and they seemed equally relaxed and at home.

Before the backup band came on, Ann and Nancy were interviewed by their biographer, author and journalist Charles R. Cross. His collaborative book on the sisters called Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock and Roll was released in the fall of 2012. Although some might have called the interview portion of the concert superfluous (perhaps  preferring just a standalone musical performance), I greatly enjoyed this informative window into the personal and musical history of Ann and Nancy Wilson.

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483241_430427657051034_1404560443_n

The issues faced by DIY (Do It Yourself), DTF (Direct-To-Fan), AKA indie musicians cut across both musical genre and race. Many of the sources of information for musicians today seem to come in silos delineated by genre: hip hop artists read hip hop books and blogs, and get advice primarily from hip hop industry people; jazz, rock, metal, pop and folk artists do the same. Yet we all face many of the same issues, and these sources of information repeat much of the same advice to those who want to make a career in music. When we all share our experiences, though, we see how universal it is to be a musician, no matter what type of music we make, what cultural background we are from, or what age we are.

I was reminded of this when I attended the Pacific Northwest Recording Academy’s (Grammy organization) inaugural Songwriter’s Summit this weekend at Seattle’s EMP (Experience Music Project). There were people of every age and color at the Summit, but the concerns and frustrations voiced by the attendees were nearly identical:

  • How do I make a living in this crazy business that I love, but which changes under my feet every year, every week, every day?
  • Where is the real money to be made in writing and recording music?
  • How do I write a hit song? Then, how do I write another hit song?
  • How do I rise above the noise in the music industry and get my music heard?
  • How do I register and copyright my music so I can get paid?
  • How does the byzantine world of music licensing work?
  • Is the music business still all about relationships and who you know, or is the internet the great equalizer?
  • What is a mechanical license, what does a publisher do, who is SoundExchange and why should I care?
  • (and why does Rhapsody hold 30%  of their licensing revenue from streaming plays because they cannot figure out who to pay? This amazing statistic courtesy of Jon Maples, Vice President of Rhapsody Product Management)

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Geography

Knowing how to use online analytics tools is an important skill for DIY musicians. If you can learn how to play guitar, drums, or piano with two hands, you can do this. The more information you have about your audience, the better decisions you will make about where to focus your marketing efforts. You may decide to adjust your promotional strategy, to focus more on one particular social media channel, or to create a House Party tour to a particular geographical area based on what you learn by analyzing your online presence.

There are many different free tools you can use to gather analytics information. Most are individual tools designed to look at a specific online presence, like your website, Facebook fan page or Twitter followers.  “Analytics for Musicians” by Make It In Music  gives a good overview of analytics tools for these three: Google Analytics for your website, Insights on Facebook, and Hootsuite for analyzing Twitter.

This post describes how and why you might want to check out Google Analytics to understand the activity on your band website. Even if you are a bit of a technophobe, making the effort to personally understand what’s going on with your website is enlightening and empowering. Instead of just anecdotal conversations you might have with fans after a show, or arguments with your bandmates about which website pages are most important, analytics give you real and actionable information about how people are discovering and engaging with your music and your band. You won’t be held hostage to someone else, either, like a webmaster, relying on their busy schedule and waiting for them to give you information.

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Its An Extraordinary Life

A few weeks ago I went to a seminar by best-selling author and public speaker Patrick Snow on creating a successful career as a self-published book author. I was invited by a friend of mine, Randall Broad, who wrote a memoir and is now working as a motivational speaker. At 41, Patrick makes a pretty good living (six figures of some kind) as an author, public speaker, and coach/consultant to other authors. To quote his website:

His best-selling book, Creating Your Own Destiny: How to Get Exactly What You Want Out of Life and Work, and his personal transition were also featured as a cover story in USA TODAY. Patrick’s book has been translated into numerous foreign languages and has sold more than 150,000 copies across six continents since 2001… He has coached more than 200 clients in achieving their goals of writing, publishing, and marketing their books.

As I sat listening to all this interesting stuff about self-publishing a book, surrounded by middle-aged people with big dreams – many with really interesting life stories, and all of whom want to become best-selling authors and public speakers, rake in a six-figure income and quit their day jobs - I realized that a lot of the same business ideas apply as well to DIY musicians as they do to DIY authors.

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Cirque du Soleil

The craft of stage performance is a critical part of every performing artist’s success. This weekend, I watched three excellent performances: Cirque du Soleil’s Amaluna, the emerging Seattle female music duo Lemolo, and veteran Disney and boy band performer, Justin Timberlake, on Saturday Night Live. As an artist watching these three performances, it struck me that stage skills are more important, in some ways, than musical talent. An audience is transfixed, transported and transformed by a great performance – the material is almost secondary. I learned some important things watching these performances.

“Music is the shorthand of emotion.” – Leo Tolstoy

Cirque music always fascinates me, because the musicians are creating a real-time, live soundtrack for the stage performers. Music is a critical part of the show. The vocalists are front and center from the beginning, and guitarists and drummer walk around the stage and audience during the show. They all have great costumes. The lyrics are generally not in English, or there are none, but the music is powerful nonetheless (or perhaps because of this). I could relate especially well to the Amaluna show, since the musicians are all female – and not all in their twenties. These women rocked, and they looked good doing it.

What Cirque musicians have mastered is the focus on emotion. Even without decipherable lyrics, the musicians express and amplify the stage show as they guide the unfolding story. It’s pure, emotive expression – the anchoring principle of every good performance. As performers, we must transmit something deeply emotional to the audience. The technical details matter far less than making that connection.

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Source: Abstract Wallpaper

“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.

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Zucchero (Sugar Fornaciari)

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.

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