How is the Music Industry going to make money?

From the very beginning of the “Record Label” we know that a label made money by SELLING and distributing records. Plain and simple. The very minute the world went digital there has been a devestating collapse in revenue specifically in selling records. Spotify, Pandora and other streaming services are usually considered the bad guys. The industry blames them for the lost of revenue. Times magazine calculated in November 2014 that an artist’s stated payout range is $0.006 to $0.0084 per stream. Before Taylor Swift pulled her music off Spotify her chart breaking hit “Shake it off” streamed 46.3M times with only a pay out between $280k-380k. Sounds ridiculous but consider this, although an artist such as Taylor swift is making peanuts through Spotify services, there is a gain elsewhere. The terabytes of specific data being collected through Spotify is unfathomable. Spotify now knows that Sarah Smith currently lives in San Diego, CA, 25 years of age, in a happy mood and on her afternoon jog is wanting to listen to “Shake it off”. At Taylor Swift’s level of success this information is automatic but for a DIY band out of Boston now can promote, market and shape their tour around this information. If the Boston based band is getting the most streams out of Chicago at the age demographic of 18-20, performing a concert at a university in Chicago could be a very valuable show.

Which leads me to my next point. The industry’s last hope of survival is live performance. The EDM scene seems to be getting it right. Music Times calculated the Calvin Harris will walk away with $400k per gig in his New Hakkasan Deal. EDM festivals such as Tomorrowland, Electric Daisy Carnival, or Sensation bringing in hundreds of thousands of fans have shown huge strides in changing live performance. Selling albums is no longer the main focus but selling tickets at a bare minimum of $100 is top priority. In order to do this, millions of dollars needs to be invested into a production of  a live performance that is so monumental and life changing to an attendee that it could never be reproduced in any other form. On the other hand a website called Sofar is a live performance/streamed based platform shifting live shows into a more exclusive setting. Once you join the free membership, hundreds of exclusive  shows all over the world are now available to purchase tickets. Choose the city you are in and see the next show; the only catch is that you don’t know the location until the day before nor the artist you are seeing until the day of. This platform is a genius way to help people discover new artist in a social setting that can be just as impactful in their lives as a mega show but without the millions of dollars being invested into a production for one night. How amazing would it be to see one of your favorite artist perform in a living room big enough for maybe 20 people?
Until the next best thing, the way I see musicians making money in an industry as loved but taken for granted as this one, is innovating a live experiences so spectacular, big or small, that it will never be forgotten.

“Community Managing”

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And I’m back with more definitions. This week, the chosen word Community will be starring our blog! We’re constantly being bombarded by ideas and business models that pursue to establish a community or maybe make two different ones interact. Communities communicating and communities being community managed. We definitely live in a crazy world.

Community-tree

Lovely and 100% reliable Wikipedia says the word  is derived from the Old French communité, derived from the Latin communitas (com, “with/together” + munus, “gift”), and it can refer to a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values; or – probably more appropriate –  in biology, a group of interacting living organisms sharing a populated environment. It also reminds us that, in human communities, there are certain factors such as intent, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may affect the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness. Scary, isn’t it? The two definitions below can also be applied to the present scenario.

Captura de pantalla 2014-04-10 a la(s) 19.15.45So our special disrupted community has been up to a lot lately. Apparently the website is nearly ready to be up, still dealing with the hosting and last minute design changes. Once it’s up, we’ll be able to start uploading content, testing and learning more about SEO and different online marketing aspects. I’m trying to convince Tyler so that we can launch it also in spanish.. but properly done! Although it’s pretty frustrating when you stop to think how in no time, we’ll no longer be in this project 😦

foolOn the other hand it seems that I’m still back in the oldies, for I’ve been spending time translating content into spanish and spending time with my old colleague Photoshop. Although my main task has been dealing with Facebook and social media in general. Even though we probably don’t have yet many spaniards following us, we intend to grow at a local and national level. My location when that time comes, is obviously unpredictable! :S This means that all our communications must be both in spanish and english, and despite living in Valencia we’ve all been absorbed by the Berklee bubble… or community! 

It seams like someone strongly wants me to follow the Marketing path, for I’m starting to get confused between different projects. Once again, I forgot how slow things can go when a groups communication system isn’t well structured.. or simply when too many (good intentioned) people are involved in a project with no head, just an uncontrollable tail.

To close this weeks blog, I’ll recommend everyone the TV series Community. You might actually understand some of the moments we’re experiencing right now! 🙂

Strategy: Innovation

Remember how cool the Polaroid camera was?

I fondly remember my first – oh how vivid the memories. With each fresh box of ten opportunities, I loaded that behemoth with confidence. Hordes of onlookers marveled at my ability to forego the darkroom, reviewing and enjoying the results of my framing within mere minutes of taking the picture itself. In essence, I held in my hands the future and by extension, I was the future. I had found the coolest thing – the newest, most innovative thing to hit the music photography industry for years. I was maybe nine years old at the time, but I’d say I recall quite confidently that all of my friends were after my camera!

 

So what happened? To where went the magic I’d once held in my hands? My friends all of who gravitated towards me for the machine I had – for what sudden reason had I none?

Long story short – the digital camera robbed me of my friends. Grr. The leather-jacket, slicked-hair, greased-lightning cool technology of the Polaroid didn’t sustain itself. It’s complacency as the most innovative camera at the time was the nail in its own coffin. Yes, it figured it out once. But it didn’t stay on board. Instead, the digital camera saw past the buzz of in-camera chemical processes and took a step in a new direction.

Don’t let that happen to you.

You’ve figured out how to stay afloat – but things are changing faster than ever. The way I see it, all of the technology, start-ups, ideas, consensuses, consumer moods, are drifting towards the artists – people are instinctively shortening the distance between themselves and the actual creators of the content they value. These days, the utility belt of tools you wear as an artist holds batarangs of options. But, these options won’t be the answer forever. In order to avoid becoming another polaroid camera amidst the vacillating unpredictability of the music industry, it’s imperative to be responsive and on the forefront of the doing things differently grind.

You just doubled your social media engagement by implementing an if/then trigger system, which aggregated and reposted fans’ instagram photos to Facebook based on your custom concert hashtag – effectively creating a fan-generating, artist-hosted stream of visual content effortlessly? Ballin’.

 

What’s next?

 

Buzz words are pervasive in the entertainment industry, but chances are if what you’re doing is buzzing too much, it’s not a very stable strategy. Being creative is what got us into this mess; it’s truthfully going to be the only thing keeping us in it.

Amanda Palmer earned over a million dollars on Kickstarter. That’s probably not going to ever happen again and should not be a fundamental goal in your indie-approach model. Instead, take a look at some of the newest services available to you and think about how your following might react. Compile an RSS feed and stay on top of some news sources that you find interesting. Don’t stop learning about new artists, businesses, and ideas. Filling the shoes of those who have succeeded before you is a nearly surefire way to guarantee career stagnancy.

I was devoted to my Polaroid. I showed it to all my followers on the playground. As a fan, I was committed to nurturing a viral spread through social. But if the product ceased to say anything remarkable, my friends would stop listening. You know how this metaphor relates to what you do. Best of luck!

Ya Está.

Thanks to those of you who actually do read these, I had a good time writing this semester (even if my topic of choice lends itself to being a bit vague.) I hope to keep blogging, whether it’s here or on a personal site. Feel free to send me thoughts, si quieres.

Most Cordially,

Kyle Billings

kbillings@berklee.edu

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Strategy: Inbound

Patrick…

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I’ve known this character since high school – he’s been one of my best friends of all time. We’ve been through a lot; we’ve spent entire weeks in beach cottages, occasionally leaving the brightly painted, two-room shack to go mini-golfing dressed as formally as our resources would allow. At one point in high school, we spent an entire day excused from classes with school administration defending our actions in fear of impending suspension and a noticeable blemish on our otherwise faultless school behavioral records. Patrick – like all the best artists – kept me on my toes, entertained me, and made every ounce of my participation in the friendship worth each successive moment of time spent.

(thanks buddy. this one goes out to you)

AHEM! There’s a big lesson to take in here! As an artist, you need to be like my good friend Patrick.

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I’ve said it before. Seth Godin has said it before. We know it by now – you’ve got to be something special! You’ve got to have that charm and that little something that can’t be found anywhere else. Patrick has that. He’s incontrovertibly been and will always be that guy. In addition to his unmistakably characteristic personality, he has yet another integral factor of success. He’s got the right kind of actual, physical, not-even-figurative presence.

Keep in mind; I’m not necessarily saying he was always around. That’s actually a mistake many artists make – overdoing it (Yes, there’s a possibility that posting a link to your latest “Work In Progress” on Soundcloud and urging me to forward it to my entire network more than once in an hour could be considered too much.) In fact, Patrick was usually late to arrive and would consistently get himself lost during group outings – requiring that my friends and I take the time to find him whenever he got distracted and wandered off. Instead, he had presence in that I always knew where to find him, he was always there when I needed him, and he was always wholeheartedly down for whatever adventure happened to be on the agenda for the day.

You see; Patrick remains (to this day) rather conveniently unlicensed and thus legally precluded from operating a motor vehicle. This means that whenever a friend or I wanted to see him, we knew where we could find him – his house.

Here’s where some of the teachings lie. As an artist, you should be just like him; be consistently available, always be energetic and excited for even the most mundane trips to CVS for allergy medication, and bring that characteristic personality only when I come to you – when you know it’s what I know I’m getting myself into.

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In marketing terms, this is called your inbound strategy. It’s to be coordinated with your outbound efforts (which include your overt, publicly promotional actions – more on this some day) to contribute to something called Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC. Successfully integrated one’s inbound and outbound communications is like giving a body to a voice. It’s means that behind the shouts of publicity, there’s a stable foundation to back it up. It (most concretely) means that when people are looking for your music, your bio, your pictures, for you, they can do so easily. Seeing as we’re all living and breathing the Internet – yup – this pretty much means social media.

You’ll hear from some people these days how important it is to be “on social media.” Some of these will stress how you should be ubiquitous (everywhere) online so people can find you; I don’t really consider that true. You just need to be where you’re expected to be. This depends a lot on your particular situation, but your portfolio of online personas could include anything from an instagram account to a reddit account. I don’t doubt that you have the clarity to know your fans well enough to know where they hang out online!

While you’re racking your brain – here’s a few tips.

Buy the Domain Name Already.

If you haven’t already…

Even if it’s just for posting songs with a nice Ken Burns slideshow of pictures, YouTube is great to be available on.

Do you have a nice e-mail address?

Do your fans use Pinterest? Be on Pinterest.

Learn to use hootsuite.

MySpace integrates well with a lot of other services these days – give it a thought, but it’s not too necessary. 

——–

What you say about yourself isn’t nearly as important as what people say about you. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep quiet and let the dialogue flow. Although content is king, your posts are mini forums for conversation – not a dumping ground or an obligation.

———

One last thing. Respond to people.

Why Twitter is Necessary in Today’s Music Industry

Twitter

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… a completely irrelevant thought that sounds like a diary entry!  Yes, that’s Twitter to the common eye.  Believe me, for the longest time I thought that Twitter was the one of the lamest things to ever hit the music industry.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Why?

Well for one, I always thought that Facebook was a more varied version of it.  Why should you be limited to 140 characters to post, not have thumbnail displayed photo previews, why not have extra pages like downloads or band pages, and why not just freakin’ have some privacy?  I mean, what ever happened to the mysterious rock star?  The icon that was either so DIY or so busy that the only time you could see them and hear them talk was that magical hour and a half on stage?  That was a rock and roll icon to me.  They were a mystery until you had to go out to their live show.

Unfortunately, I got slapped in the face with reality when I found out that this is 2012, and the Backstreet Boys are way past the Backstreet Men phase, making me one old bastard for the times.  It came time that I had to embrace this fancy new technology of the youth, and I fumbled for a while until I figured out it’s pure gold in today’s industry

You could say I have no clue what the @#$% I'm doing.

You could say I have no clue what the @#$% I’m doing.

1)  Twitter maintains your relevance in every day.  We live in a generation of instant-gratification.  If you can’t appease your blood thirsty shirt-ripping music-pillaging hounds of fans, you can sure bet they’re going to go and feast on the next target they see since you’re clearly not putting out.  Before you know it, your fans forget about who you are just because you’re not updating them on a day to day basis.  You’d be surprised how true it is.

2) You can create a short statement swift to the point that’ll be immediately received by all.  While 140 characters seems constricting, it actually aids you, the reader, or your fans.  How often will your fans stop what they’re doing to read that giant Shakespearean essay you posted on Facebook?  Most likely, they’ll just skip through it; in fact they probably won’t even see it.  Twitter guarantees your tweets will appear in the streams of your followers (Unless they’re following an insane amount of tweeters), whereas Facebook posts actually have never reached more than an average of 15% of their fans.

Don't worry, we're not "liking" your photo of breakfast because we hate you, we just don't give a shit about you enough to show up in our feed.

Don’t worry, it’s not that we’re not “liking” your photo of breakfast because we hate you, we just don’t give a shit about you enough to have you show up in our feed.

3)  Searching buzzes on Twitter is more effective than using Google.  Please re-read that so you don’t assume I just said Twitter is better than Google for information.  I said searching for buzzes: do you know how many people tweet about the silliest things you can’t find on Google?  When Facebook was down, Google wasn’t telling me anything.  But all I had to do was search “Facebook” on Twitter; and I’ll tell you, Twitter exploded about it.  It’s not that Google fails or anything of the sort, it’s just that the way the search engine is configured, Twitter sifts through much less  and more relevant information to produce its Tweet results as opposed to Google.

4) In addition to #3, you can create the buzz yourself.  Trends and re-tweets are very helpful in that the fans do some of the promotion for you.  Let’s say you’ve got 900 followers, and one of them re-tweets your post to their 300 separate followers.  You’ve opened your chances of getting seen from 1/3 more of your own followers, and from one fan.  It’s extremely helpful, not to mention if your fan base is loyal enough, you can even trend your product locally for everyone to see on their home page.  Remember, this is ALL free.

So, to wrap this up, I found that Twitter isn’t the enemy.  It’s helped me keep up very closely with the DIY bands that I really like without having to go through an intense effort to get updates from them.  At the same time, it’s helped me stay in contact with a lot of people.  Of course there’s people on Twitter that tweet 100% bull-shit or re-tweet philosophy because they think they’re the next Confucious to their 2 followers.  Stuff like that exists on every platform: there’s really no escaping that one person eventually, but hey, you can always un-follow them.  Personal Twitters can be great when you want to establish that artist-to-fan relationship.

Oh dang!  Eric had eggs for breakfast again! BIG @#!$#ING SURPRISE.

Oh dang! Eric had eggs for breakfast again! BIG @#!$#ING SURPRISE.

So start now: You don’t even need to start tweeting or anything of the sort.  It’s just very helpful to get your domain set so that you can use it any time in the future.  Just remember that it just could be that helpful edge you get down the road.  And hey, as far as that mysterious rockstar thing goes, most professional Twitters of the big stars aren’t even running their Twitters: it’s usually just a social media promotions guy taking control of it.

If you haven’t noticed yet, I’ve always signed off with my name, so don’t think this is some advertising, it’s just habitual.  Til next time

– @NishadGeorge