SESAC Acquires Harry Fox

http://www.songwriteruniverse.com/john-josephson-sesac-2015.htm

I am really impressed with SESAC. Their acquisition of Harry Fox is a brilliant and strategical move. SESAC is currently the 3rd largest PRO in the USA but will now be in a much more powerful position by owning Harry Fox who are the largest mechanical rights organization. New methods of consuming music like streaming require complex licenses. With all the new technologies and possibilities for new ventures, the ability to quickly license music will be pivotal. SESAC will make it much simpler to get access to all the necessary rights in one place.

This brilliant acquisition comes after an equally great one last year when SESAC acquired Rumblefish. Rumblefish is one of the leading services for micro-licensing for small youtube videos and other digital media. As an independent musician, micro licensing has become one of the best ways for me to earn money and distribute my music. SESAC is looking to the future and making all the right moves. Kudos to them!

DIY Success; Thanks to Instant Record Label

Earlier it was major record labels that were responsible for the successful music career for an artist. Nowadays, because of various technological advancements, artists do not require the guidance and support of these record companies and can market their content directly to customers with the help of social media sites.

Instant Record Label has listed out some points that will help in a successful DIY career. One point is that an artist should be naturally talented and should be capable to sing and perform in a way so that they can be promoted. The content should be worth promoting. People just take up singing because they want to become famous like Beyoncé or Taylor Swift etc. They do not realize the seriousness, training and effort that these artists put in to reach where they are. Many kinds of technologies have come up that can make any non- musician also perform, but the performer should have the confidence that he/she has the ability to entertain his/her audience. People should genuinely feel like listening to your music. That self-belief is a stepping-stone to success.

An artist should be able to compose music as creativity and innovation is something that is a must do to shoot up to popularity. It is more lucrative to compose music on our own. Usually artists tend to replicate the singing of perform covers of their songs. By doing this, the originality of the singer doesn’t come out. Unless we create our own version of an existing song, the originality and creativity of an artist doesn’t come out.

We find a lot of people uploading covers of various songs on YouTube and thereby use it as a pathway to become famous. Technically, if songs have to be performed, prior permission is required to be taken and documents should be signed by the original composer of the song. It is mandatory to make sure all the legal matters are sorted before a track is posted so that it does not lead to any problems later. These days an artist gains popularity in minutes, thanks to the technological advancements rather than approaching record labels. This is a boon for the present generation and must not be misused in any way.

The Music Industry in Japan – The Controversy of the “Celibacy Clause” in AKB48

If you have followed my last article, you would probably have some basic ideas about AKB48. AKB48 is the most successful girl idol’s group in Japan with 140 members. As of March 2014, the group has sold over 30 million records. In 2013, AKB48’s total sales accounted for US$128 million.

To belong to such a successful group, all members have to follow very strict rules. One of the rules is the “celibacy clause”, which means all members are not allowed to date a boyfriend. The main purpose of this “celibacy clause” is to maintain the virginal and pure image of all group members. With such an image, they can appear to be available and accessible by their fans.

In 2013, Minami Minegishi, a 17-year-old girl of AKB 48, was discovered of bringing a boy-band member back to her hotel room and spending a night with him. As a result, the management company claimed damages of US$42,375 from Minami and her parents for breaching the “celibacy clause” in AKB48. What’s more, Minami was forced to shave her head and apologize publicly. She said, in the video, “everything I did is entirely my fault. I am so sorry.”

In the Japanese society, shaving head means the lost of freedom or the abandon of dignity. Only armies, prisoners or secondary-school male students are required to shave their heads. It is very rare for female unless they are nuns.

Minami’s apology video raised a lot of controversy in Japan or even other western countries. Some Japanese women said, “I know she wanted to say sorry, but shaving her head is too extreme.” On the other hand, some Japanese boys said, “as a Japanese idol, I think she does have to follow the rules of the group.” Nevertheless, most of the western media condemned the Japanese culture of depriving of women’s rights.

From the perspective of artist management and record labels, it is their mission to develop a unique selling point of an artist as to earn money. The most powerful selling point of AKB48 is their image of purity and innocent. Therefore, it is very normal to set the strict “celibacy clause” or other rules to maintain their virginal image in order to sustain the super-fan base. Do you think it is the appropriate and effective way to manage an artist or a girl idol’s group?

It’s Time for Music to Catch up With Now

The tech startup revolution has been going on for quite some time now, with new small companies popping up in the thousands every month. Many industries have been fully revolutionized by this tech wave, including transportation, healthcare, travel, and business. However, the music industry revolution is just in its infancy. That is because for a long time it was afraid to change. It’s a very concentrated industry, with a few big players at the top calling all the shots. Money was easy to come by for them, and the system ran smoothly, so change was naturally resisted.

Most notably, when Napster came out with an incredible new technology that opened up doors to innovation in the music consumption space with peer to peer file-sharing, the music industry’s reaction was to sue and destroy, rather than acquire and exploit. If they had been proactive and opportunistic about this new technology rather than reactive and pessimistic, the music industry might have been in a much more profitable place now.

Even after this blunder more than a decade ago, the industry has been criticized as often being behind the times. However, finally in the past few years (and possibly out of desperation), we are seeing signs that the industry is ready to get behind the tech movement, and support change. In the past two years, more than three music-focused tech/startup accelerators have begun operations, including Project Music2112 Inc, and SMASHD labs.

This will turn out to be very healthy for the music industry, as it is in transition and has been struggling to find a stable new revenue generation plan. A great way to accelerate this process is by attracting entrepreneurial skill and venture capital funding.

Here is an example of one of the new tech companies helping to revolutionize the industry:

The startup harnesses the idea of “collaborative consumption”, essentially Uber for music production. You can use the platform to find talented instrumentalists, singers, producers, and engineers from around the globe to help take your music projects to the next level. This puts more power into the hands of the creators and artists, further moving the industry downstream as technology advances. This is just one of the many new promising companies ready to make a splash in the music space.

 

The Tale of Two Hardcore Bands

With the recent release of Bring Me The Horizon’s fifth studio album That’s The Spirit (2015), and the release of The Devil Wears Prada’s (no…not the movie) Space EP (2015) it made me reflect on how vastly different these two bands have become over the years and how their two approaches have yielded different results in terms of what some people might consider commercial success (billboard ranking, and record sales).

Bring Me The Horizon (BMTH) is a UK early 2000’s band that has made a significant splash with their newest album That’s The Spirit (2015), hitting No.2 on the Billboard 200 and selling 62,000 albums in the first week. This was a huge increase from their previously released album Sempiternal (2013), which only reached No.11 on the Billboard 200 and sold 27,000 copies in its first week. However what is the real different between albums, and adding on top of that how has the band changed from previous, less successful, albums? I believe there are two key factors in this success and the first is simply because this was their first release on a major US Label (Colombia) and was issued on RCA in other global areas. I know me saying that Epitaph (BMTH’s previous label) is not a major label will upset some of my fellow Hardcore fans out there….but come on everyone we can’t argue that they hold a candle to the sheer size to Colombia and RCA (a subsidiary of Sony Music).

The second, and arguably the more influential, reason is simply because they have vastly changed their sound into a more accessible music for the mass audience. As an example of this below you will find two links: the first will be of a song off of their first album Count Your Blessings (2006), and the second will off of their newest album (Viewer discretion is advised).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWggPLXeOkU (Pray for Plagues)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBRAnuT48qo (Happy Song)

Even the song names express a significant difference in song writing and composing. They have gone from a fast paced, heavy screaming band into a more melodic rockish meld that is more pleasing to the general audience.

On the other hand The Devil Wears Prada (TDWP) is a band that has for the most part stayed true to their Hardcore roots, despite the changes that they have introduced into their songwriting. However TDWP has not seen the commercial success that BMTH’s newest album has accomplished, their highest ranked album was No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and sold 32,000 albums their opening week, narrowly beating BMTH’s Sempiternal album.

So do these numbers accurately represent the success of a band, and do Hardcore bands need to adapt to a new less aggressive sound in order to be considered successful?

My opinion is no, and here is my speculation as to why I think that.

While BMTH has increased its fan base, it has also alienated their original, more dedicated, fans. These “super” fans are the ones that generate a large amount of revenue for a band; be it from: VIP tickets, to live albums, to anything that may be more expensive than a normal commodity. Record sales are only a fraction of the total revenue for a band and in today’s music market you must pander to these loyalists or else you will not only be upsetting fans but also be missing out on a large amount of revenue. Also TDWP has not only developed their sound but they are also developing a brand for their band through the creation of a band symbol which has appeared on their last two albums. On top of that this band is releasing themed EP albums between their full length albums, which has resulted in happier fans because of an increase in content and has opened the possibilities of tours that incorporate these themes.

These bands, and the various organizations that influence, while focusing on the fan base, have approached it in two different ways. BMTH has cast a wide net with their music, successfully capturing a larger audience that will hopefully develop into loyal fans; while TDWP has cultivated an environment and content that increases fan loyalty and produces content that is different enough to not become stagnant (which is not uncommon in this genre). These two approaches are successful in their own right, but I do believe that the focus on building a more loyal fanbase and pandering to more loyal fans is a more stable model than just building the fanbase’s numbers.

Taylor Swifts Letter and How the Industry Responded

Taylor Swift recently wrote a letter to Apple Music protesting against the unfair use of her material for their new streaming service while not giving her a cent. Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple swayed Apples decision to not pay the artists for their three-month trial and in doing so extended her reach as an artist and kept her relevant.

Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple was a much-needed look at Apple’s ethical value as a company and honed in music as a commodity rather than an art. Apple is a company that strives for honest and innovative ways to keep up with the technologic market they are a part of. They’ve been very innovative in the past starting with iTunes and the iPod, as opposed to Microsoft media player and Zune. Apple Music is virtually indistinguishable from Spotify. Other than Apple Music now has Taylor Swifts 1989 it is relatively the same catalog. Both streaming services have around 30,000,000 songs and one of the only differentiating features is that if you have Siri on your iPhone you can tell your phone what you want to hear and Apple music will find it in it’s extensive catalog and play the song you requested.

Record labels such as XL recordings (Adele) and Domino (Arctic Monkeys) have spoken out against Apple Music’s three-month free trial saying that it would leave them crippled. While other artists in an economic race to the bottom have jumped on the chance to be featured above other artists hoping the exposure they get from Apple Music will give their careers a needed boost.   This however is a fallacy; for example One Direction charges ticket prices that border on extortion while local artists are willing to play for free. Artists must become an escort service for the wealthy to actually get anywhere. Being too easy for exposure gets an artist nowhere.

Taylor Swift said that consumers do not ask Apple for free phones why should Apple ask Taylor Swift for free music, which seems to be a false comparison because the relationship of Taylor Swift to Apple is very different then Apple to consumers. A better suggestion might have been Apple doesn’t ask any of its service providers to provide for free why should another business relationship be any different (though I would’ve just left that part out completely).

Overall I applaud Taylor Swift for maintaining her image while bringing to light some serious issues in the music industry. If she had not written this letter it probably never would’ve been reversed as a decision.

“Apple Music” on its way to success!

Right from its advent in June 2015, Apple Music has proved to be one of the best things that have happened in the music market. That they have provided a free service for the first three months i.e. till October, it has helped in pulling in a lot of consumers of music. The fact that the users have to pay and make use of this service from the next month should not be a problem as there is a lesser risk of people unsubscribing to it.

As per statistics, it is known that there are about 15 million subscribers to Apple Music and the figures may stretch. Usually, services like these become strong only after months of its existence in the market. It has been estimated that if there are more than 7 million subscribers to the service, it is bound to be doing well. The service allows its users to select music, which they can play on any device, which they play via Internet streaming and can also be played offline. This service is similar to other music streaming services but it is the added features that give it a boost over other services.

A music service is not considered to be good enough if it doesn’t have a good music catalog. Both Apple music and Spotify go hand in hand with services almost similar to each other. Apple Music claims to get songs from unsigned artists who can publish their songs through this service. There is no doubt that Spotify is doing a very good job in offering music that satisfy us but there is a possibility that Apple Music might have more content from individual artists when the heat picks up.

I think the feature “connect” is really good as the artists get to share content with their fans and the content will be exclusively for the users of connect. Song recommendations done through the siri voice commands are also acceptable and the various other tabs are quite useful in the service.

Apple Music may cater to a much wider market with the marketing activities going on in full swing.They are spending huge amounts of money on television advertisements as well as broadcasting them in major events to widen the reach. It is also been said that the iPhone 6s will have this feature pre loaded. The latest video of Apple Music starring Kerry Washington, Taraji P.Henson Mary Blige is much talked about after it was aired at the Emmy Awards. If the service has more number of users within few months, then it will eventually lead to its success.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co8ZEc76U0A

Yeezy Season 2 proves to be anything but Neutral

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Vanity Fair / Karla Otto

The synergies formed when music and fashion intersect are influencing a new form of creation and consumption. While mixing fashion and music is not a new idea, many well known artists and brands (i.e. Puma x Solange, Rihanna x Dior, etc.) have started to capitalize on creating unique experiences that bridge the two worlds together, including potential candidate for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Kanye West.

His latest project Yeezy Season 2, which he presented last week at New York Fashion Week (NYFW), was anything but neutral.  A great example of how the music industry is disrupting the fashion world, Yeezy Season 2 was inspired by North West’s Play Doh creations and featured a breath of neutral monochromatic looks, urban silhouettes and many shades of human.

yeezy-kanye-west-fashion-interview-clothes

Vanity Fair / Karla Otto

…there’s something about the way clothes fit and feel and the emotion that they give you and the details of them that I’ve been passionate about and addicted to since I was five years old.

The central “human” theme of the line, as identified by Kanye in an interview with Vanity Fair, was bought to life not only in the clothes and new song “Fade” dropped during the presentation, but also in the way the show was shared with the world. Streamed in over 40 theaters across the world, Mr. West created a unique experience that has solidified him as a force to be reckoned with in both the fashion and music industries.

While it has taken a few tries for Kanye to get this right, we can definitely learn a lot from his goal of penetrating the fashion world and diversifying his talents as an artist. We can also expect exciting things from him in the future, starting with his mission of transforming sportswear through the influence of music.

Sportswear is less than 100 years old, so we are in the middle of the expression right now for what this will say for human existence. There’s something that the Romans, they presented, that the Egyptians, they presented. With us, we have a time now that’s a mix between music, the advent of rock ’n’ roll to hip-hop, the 808 drum machine, the concept of tennis shoes or the sweatshirt. Where can that go?

Also, check out this brief clip from the presentation:

“Country 2 Country” or the country music expansion in Europe

By Luca Balbo

720x405-GettyImages-489581898

Carrie Underwood. Jo Hale/Redferns

Two days after Carrie Underwood’s live streaming show at the iTunes Festival in London, the news came. She will headline the Country 2 Country festival at The O2 Arena (London biggest venue) in 2016 . The rest of the performers will be revealed on October 6th. This is an incredible news giving the fact that Carrie Underwood has a big reservoir of fans in UK and Europe, more than the other american country singers. This is a great opportunity to promote her upcoming album “Storyteller” (To be released October 23rd) around the kingdom.

C2C_2016_1060x363_01-01-with-flash

Country 2 Country, created in 2013, has become the largest country festival in Europe. Last year 50,000 fans attended the event at the O2 Arena. This is an incredible audience comparing to the other little country events around Europe.

Uk and Ireland are the best gates to introduce country music in Europe. Indeed, besides the fact that the language is facilitating the process, there are a lot of people already involved in folk music (Irish, Scottish, Gaelic, ..) and this is making them closer and more sensible to american country music.

in 2012, Carrie Underwood’s album “Blown Away” reached the #11 position in UK charts. Last year, Brad Paisley’s “Moonshine in the Trunk” reached the #34 position. And finally, Luke Bryan’s last album “Kill the Lights” got to the 47th position this year. We can see that country superstars can find their way in the very competitive UK music market despite poor and insufficient local appearances and promotion.

It’s important to mention that Norway and Sweden are also attractive markets for country singers. Country Music is relatively successful in those areas. Country 2 Country festival was exported to Oslo and Stockholm this year featuring Luke Bryan and Lady Antebellum and Brad Paisley did a proper tour in those cities two years ago.

We cannot talk about country music invasion but we can’t deny that its european presence is improving thanks to internet and streaming platforms. Country remains a very particular style associated to deep american roots and therefore it cannot be easily successful among the other genres in Europe but there are more people than we think that could be superfans and involved in that expanding style. There is an opportunity for the country music industry to generate income in selling records and touring if they think properly of a new way to promote it by analyzing the european’s sociology and behavior. It’s a matter of making the marketing and A&R choices. There is potential.

C2C website

Carrie Underwood’s news 

The Music Industry in Japan – Why do Japanese still consume physical music?

As an Asian student, I would like to grasp this opportunity to introduce some interesting phenomenon about the music industry in Asia, mainly Japan, Hong Kong, China and Korea. The first industry I am going to talk about is the Japanese music industry.

According to the 2014 IFPI statistics, Japanese music industry is still the second largest music industry in the world, accounting for US$2,628 million. Interestingly, 78% of the industry revenue comes from the physical album sales. Under the global trend of digitalization, record labels still rely heavily on CD sales as their main source of revenue. However, why Japanese consumers still stick to buy CDs instead of streaming or downloading music?

  1. Japanese purchase albums not mainly for the CD, but for the “souvenirs” inside the album

When Japanese fans purchase an album, they do not mainly buy for the CD itself, but also other souvenirs attached to it. For example, if you buy an album of AKB48, a famous Japanese idol girl group with 140 members, you will find there are a “handshaking ticket”, “voting ticket” and the photos of their idols tied in with the album.

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In order to shake hand with their beloved idols, a lot of die-heart fans will purchase a large amount of CDs to get as many “handshaking tickets” as possible. Also, every year, AKB48 organizes a competition to select the most famous member. The winning member will have more chances to perform and have a better career prospect. In order to vote for their favorite member, fans will also purchase lots of CDs to get the “voting tickets”. With a lot of physical souvenirs attached in an album, it is very difficult to ask a Japanese consumer shift to consume digital music.

  1. The number of albums bought reflects the loyalty to their idols

Another reason for Japanese fans to buy albums is to show their support to their favorite idols. There is a “collection” culture among Japanese. Usually when a Japanese idol releases a new album, they will release various versions for the same album, such as normal, deluxe, etc. Therefore, fans will buy all of the versions of the same album in order to collect the whole series. Most importantly, in some of the subcultures, the number of CDs that a person bought reflects his own loyalty to the idols. With the motivations to collect and to show off in front of their peers, Japanese fans are willing to spend a lot of money to buy physical albums.

AKB48 FAN

A Japanese fan purchased boxes of albums

The above are my own observations in the Japanese music industry. I think some of their operation models are pretty successful and can definitely create the incentives for consumers to buy physical albums. Do you all think other music industry can also adopt the above strategies in order to boost the sales of physical music?