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Mickey Mouse logic

Let me see if I’ve got this right.

A grocery store sells potatoes. Makes their living by providing a regular supply of potatoes to hungry customers. Trouble is, some of those customers use those potatoes to make potato prints of Mickey Mouse. Disney’s response is to make an agreement with grocery stores to limit the supply of potatoes to customers and possibly stop selling them altogether.

“Dear repeat potato print offenders - you continue to make infringing potato prints of Mickey Mouse and other lovable characters. Doing so steals from the creators of these lovable characters, funds terrorism, and means that these lovable characters will no longer be able to have hilarious adventures. So no more potatoes for you. Stop giving us money immediately.”

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The 3 dimensions of the music Long Tail

So we’re all familiar with The Long Tail, right? The idea that the internet facilitates a massive number of low selling, low impact products/services/entities to exist because of the very low cost of having a presence, which when combined make up a very significant chunk of the market.

In music it’s been the shift from hundreds of artists selling millions of records to millions of artists selling hundreds of records. Or downloads.

Normally, everything in the long tail is grouped together as the low-sales stuff, whether that’s things that once sold a shed-load of copies but now have very little commercial traction (back catalogue material) or artists that are producing current, vital work but selling in smaller numbers.

But I think we should separate them out. Here’s why. We’re seeing more and more ‘all you can eat’ download services becoming available. Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ service being the big talking point at the moment. And whenever one of these services comes along, there’s a lot of discussion about where the indies, the little people - us - fit into the game, with lots of indie labels and artists feeling marginalised by the deals being struck but the major labels and the content conduits.

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7 Marketing Lessons From Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers is a dear friend of mine and has long been a beacon of light for most of us in the music industry. These are highlights from talks I heard him give at Taxi’s Road Rally and at the Indie Buzz Bootcamp.

I constantly like to return to the lessons that Derek teaches and I always walk away feeling inspired.

Here are 7 wonderful lessons, which are great to revisit no matter how strong your marketing muscles are. These are all good places to start when considering your own plan of attack for marketing.

Before I dive in I want to start with how Derek got his own music career off of the ground. This speaks volumes about how he achieved his CD Baby success later in his career.  There is a huge marketing lesson in his story…

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Attending a music biz conference? Here's the REAL way to do it....

Being the cheap music-biz conference slut that I am, I’m often asked my advice for people attending a conference. Here it is:

Read the book called How to Talk to Anyone or any book about how to be a great listener.

Go there and pretend to be an extrovert for a few hours. Walk up to strangers and ask them questions. Be interested in others. Learn about what they do. What their main challenges are. What their goals are. Get their business card. Take notes.

Then follow up 2 weeks after the conference, and THEN do some business, one-on-one, in the follow-up.

They’ll remember you as incredibly nice and a fascinating conversationalist. And you’ll have their full attention 2 weeks after the conference, instead of their divided attention during it.


Music Niches: Narrow Your Net to Get More Fans

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. You can actually build a bigger fan base by appealing to fewer people. When you play it safe and try to be all things to all people … you end up being nothing to no one.

But if you specialize in a musical category that fills a need, you can stand out and create stronger bonds with fans.

Here’s one example … exists for one purpose only: It promotes and sells sounds for sleep and relaxation. According to the web site:

“The music and sounds on our MP3s have been carefully selected and mixed to produce beautifully calming soundscapes. There are no melodies to grow tired of, no changing styles, beats or rhythms — just consistently soothing sounds of nature with tranquil, slowly changing harmonies.”

On the site you can listen to a wide variety of samples and purchase MP3 downloads. Very cool concept.

The only problem with this site is it isn’t branded very well. It’s not clear who created it or who put together the music. Lesson: It’s a lot easier for fans to connect with a person than a “category of music.” Beyond that, it’s a very focused concept that definitely fills a need.

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Making MySpace Work For YOU

Every Band has a MySpace page, but very few have a MySpace STRATEGY.

A recent post by Bruce Houghton at Hypebot reminded me of a conversation I had with a Band last year on this subject:

Band: “Should we take down our MySpace page and make people go to our own website?”

Me: “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?”

Band: “Why? We get some fans there, but most aren’t real anyway.”

Me: “True, but…”


Most Artists think of MySpace as a ‘home base’ for their online activity.  The problem is that a MySpace page is akin to a rental unit within a huge apartment complex.  Sure, living in this rental complex means that ‘friends’ drop by all the time, which is fun when they bring chips and beer and are really into your music, but less fun when they bring con artists and viagra salesmen (although, admittedly it depends on your goals).  Its a very noisy place, MySpace, and attracting the wrong crowd some of the time is par for the course.

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Should the New Law of Music Absorption alter your music business decisions?

Music absorption is the process that occurs between music discovery and the (self) conversion of an average music consumer into an active fan.

I believe the music absorption process is radically different now than it was just two years ago, and understanding how this process has changed should impact your approach to succeeding in the music industry.

The New Law of Music Absorption
Consumers are rapidly accumulating vast libraries of songs from around the globe at unprecedented rates. As a consequence, the speed (the time) that it takes the average consumer to absorb new music is increasing proportionately.

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10 Websites That Are Ruining Things For My Band

Depending on whether you choose to believe it or not, according to many people this is the most exciting time in the history of the entire world for independent musicians like me. It’s Punk Rock with iPods for a Download Generation that deserves a Positive Brand Experience and as such it’s all there for the taking, depending on what you chose to define ‘it’ as.


Given that we’re a talented band that writes great songs and have full control over everything we do, ‘it’ could be anything we chose it to be. Since we’re also lazy and entirely unambitious, the ‘it’ bar doesn’t even need to be set all that high. With a degree of effort and organisation, I could be running the operation of a reasonably successful country/folk band using only the interweb and my brain.


Except I’m not likely to, not really, and I’ve come to realise that this is largely my fault.


I have plenty of time to market this band, plenty of time to network with tastemakers and seek new fans and plenty of time to promote, promote, promote. Lack of time is not the issue here. Unlike a lot of people, I’m lucky enough to be able to earn a few bob and still have a lot of time on my hands.


In fact, I have plenty of time for anything I chose to set my mind to but, unfortunately, and in a nutshell, I’m very easily distracted by the one thing that’s meant to make things easier: The Internet distracts the bejesus out of me.


I’m told the first step towards resolving a problem is to recognize that there is a problem, so the good news for me is that the above admission means I’m already well on my way to a full recovery. The next step is to a take a look at the problem – to let the dog see the rabbit – and to give some thought as to what can be done.


This list, then, represents the crack–cocaine of the internet as far as I’m concerned. These are the websites and interweb doohickeys that are ruining things for me. If I can just stop wasting my time on them, who knows where we’ll be in a year from now.


…and I will stop.


I will stop, I really will…

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The ugly man behind the curtain in music publicity...

This is a post that I have been working on for a few months… I have been hesitating to publish it because it exposes the ugly man behind the curtain in music publicity.

40,000 CDs come out every year and that means hundreds of thousands of CDs will be mailed out for review consideration.

Where does all of this product go?  This is part of the dirty and taboo subject that no one ever talked about.  No one until now that is.  Randall Roberts of The LA Weekly recently took a bold step by writing an article that exposes the truth about what happens to the thousands of promo CDs that get mailed to music journalists like him. It’s called:

“Gravy Train? With so much music available at the click of a mouse, do tastemakers really need hard copies anymore? Is it worth the waste?”

“Often, nudge-nudge, wink-wink, the so-called “tastemakers” do just that. Of course, finding anybody in the music business to actually talk about this vast and ever-fluctuating underground economy is tough. Ask a publicist what he does with unwanted promos and there’s usually an awkward pause, as though you’d just asked after his porno collection. Few are willing to go on the record regarding their income stream for fear of being blacklisted, audited, or, Bono forbid, sued by Universal, which views every CD it sends out to tastemakers to be its property in perpetuity, long after the disc has languished in a crate somewhere.”

I spoke to Roberts at length while he was writing this piece and I was not quoted in this article but I think it is an extremely eye opening subject for those of you interested in the subject of getting national (or any) publicity and what you are up against on the other side.

As a recovering traditional music publicist and the owner of a digital PR firm, I meet with people at all levels of the music industry.  And they are all mystified and unhappy with their publicity situation: They want more than they have and when they hire a publicist they are left feeling unsatisfied.  I have heard complaints from all levels of artists, about all types of PR firms from the crème de la crème firms who handle household names to the smaller firms that work with emerging artists.

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The Long Fail: the cost of digital distribution

Digital distribution as well as promotion has undoubtedly been the best thing that could have happened to music fans as well as musicians. Even bigger content owners are finally seeing the opportunities (instead of the threats) that come  with the technical change of delivering ‘media’ over the last ten years. It is now easier than ever for artists to connect to their fans and delivering the music to them, gatekeepers have been eliminated and (in theory) artists can reach out to millions of music fans out there through the internet. So far, so good.

Everyone who works in music knows that there are various new challenges that have developed through new digital delivery methods and those challenges can make it difficult to monetize digital music. I won’t be going into the issue of file sharing (there are enough people out there who have something to say about that) but I want to explore a common misunderstanding about digital media: “digital distribution is free” (or at least very cheap). It is not at the moment.

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Heard Brilliance Recently?

I’m a lover of music and marketing, just like the next guy - but I really think the consumers have it right and the industry is still drinking koolaid - 

The big issues of the day are not Music. They are the economy, the environment and global relationships. 99 % of music doesn’t address these issues - we’re using music to distract ourselves, not unlike television in the 80s. No wonder we’re not connecting.  What exactly should we be connecting to?  Inspiration is not just a good hook, coupled with a strong manager, funding for a tour and a file on itunes. It’s about seeping deep into the emotional language of what matters and afixing onto a heart. And becoming imperative in that hearts’ life.  In ecological terms, it’s mutualism - the song lives in your body, and you derive great pleasure from it. Win win.  

Blog away, but the real fact that is that music is just not inspiring people right now. Not in any significant way. And though there will always be music, there won’t always be inspiration. :)

Imagine if your entire financial well being was determined soley on finding the single, one, exceptional talent. 

Wait for it, wait for it.  

The problem is, we’re all too driven by the idea of brilliance, without the source of it. Nowadays, all the marketing in the world can’t put the industry back together again.


Are people asking themselves questions about you?

Questions need answers.

Don’t underestimate the power of curiosity. Once you get people to start asking questions, they need to know the answers.

In the book Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert did an experiment:

  1. he handed out a short quiz on common-life topics
  2. before taking the quiz, everyone was asked whether they would prefer a candy bar at the end, or to know the answers
  3. everyone chose to receive the candy bar
  4. then they took the quiz
  5. after the quiz was done, they were given the choice again: candy bar, or know the answers?
  6. everyone chose to know the answers, instead (giving up the free candy bar)

Conclusion of the experiment : once people have asked themselves a question, they can’t stand not-knowing the answer.

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Who says what now?

Cory Doctorow. He’s from the EFF and he’s here to help. Agree? Y/N
Image via Wikimedia Commons under a CC Licence

Yesterday, I sort of took Jupiter Research analyst Mark Mulligan to task about some fairly sloppy thinking. I did it on a blog of mine that almost nobody reads (sort of a scrapbook of things I note as interesting in passing), rather than in a major public forum like Music Think Tank, or on my own New Music Strategies site - because actually, it didn’t seem that important.

I wasn’t out to start anything - just kinda making notes.

Mulligan himself has painted the feedback he got as something of a firestorm, and has offered to host the raging debate he expects to ensue online at his personal blog. That’s fine. I recommend that strategy to you. Pick a fight, and then make sure you’re the destination where that dispute takes place.

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The KamaSutra of Music Marketing

When was the last time you thought about music promotion and making love at the same time? Been a while? Well, by the time you finish reading this column, you may do it more often. (Thinking about the combination, that is. How often you “do it” is up to you :-)

This whole idea started when I ran across an article by Desiree Gullan called “The Kama Sutra of Marketing.” (In case you don’t know, the Kuma Sutra is an ancient Indian text widely considered to be the first manual on love and human sexuality.)

It reminded me of an analogy I’ve often used: Marketing is a lot like dating.

But most self-promoting musicians don’t think of it that way. And because of that, they struggle to get noticed, connect with fans, and make more money.

So, here are some valuable lessons from the Kama Sutra you can apply to your music marketing efforts:

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