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Wednesday
Sep232009

Copyright v. Culture

Updated on October 6, 2009 by Registered CommenterMichael Tiemann

In the case of the written word, I can quote a few words from the latest best-seller and know that I am legally protected by the doctrine of fair use. In the case of digital media, the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that no such fair use exists at all when it comes to sampling. In the case of the written word, it is possible to quote and rearrange concepts as a form of criticism, satire, parody, or public discourse, but the record industry claims there is no such right when it involves quoting from their music catalogs. In the case of the written word, it is possible to draw inspiration (and characters) from multiple sources and to bring those characters together in a new context to reveal new truths (or at least discussions) about the human condition, but when this is attempted with musical materials (such as Danger Mouse’s The Gray Album), the music industry demands no less than total destruction of all such works.

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Wednesday
Sep232009

Spectral Management

A few months ago, I announced I was cutting back on blogging to record a new Color Theory album. Instead, I was hired to mix three others (Exhibition by Die Brücke, The Deadliest Fairy Tales by Rain Rain, and a yet-to-be-named album for 907Britt). Since I’ve been living and breathing mixing since June, I thought I’d give my ears a rest and share my thoughts on spectral management.

Spectral management sounds like something you’d hire a firm to do, but it simply means finding a place for each instrument in the frequency spectrum. In my last mixing article, I described how to tighten the low end of the mix using a frequency analyzer. When the competing rumble and mud is removed, you’re left with tight and punchy bass. The same philosophy applies to the rest of the mix.

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Tuesday
Sep222009

What I would do with a pile of money to spend on an artist?

To generate a return for your investors, you probably need 1,000,000 people to click their mouse three times.  How hard can that be?  In fact, every artist is just three clicks (times 100,000 or so people) away from financial independence.

Here are the clicks:

Click one is the click that leads to discovery of a song or artist.

There are many ways to discover music that only require a single click; here’s one: when a receptive music consumer (one whom is open to, and an early adopter of unknown songs) clicks the ‘recommend’ button (attached to some music site or service) to obtain a recommended playlist of new songs.  

Click two is the easiest click to obtain; it’s simply the click of the play button.

Click three is the hardest click to obtain; click three is the ‘meaningful’ click. 

Meaningful clicks result in a purchase, or a share, or a placement in a personal playlist (where songs are spun until they are loved), or a recommendation to friends, or a trip to a concert, or a public spin (at a party for example), and/or meaningful clicks result in other meaningful actions…

Since most consumers can’t tell the difference between a great song and a good party (where they often hear the best new band on earth whilst drinking and dancing the night away), I would argue that in the absence of context (celebrity or radio endorsement, social group endorsement, or serious momentum to celebrity), most consumers will do nothing; they will not generate a meaningful click. 

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Monday
Sep212009

What would YOU do with freedom and a healthy budget to break a new artist?

Over the past several years, I’ve spent much more (non-billable) time than I should have trying to convince old-school label execs, independent artists, managers (both big and small) and others that the traditional rules don’t work any more in this new music business.  

When trying to “break” a new artist independently, spending a large amount of money on radio, downplaying internet marketing and direct-to-fan communication and spending a lot on expensive videos rather than producing less-expensive but more interesting/innovative videos (e.g., the now famous OK Go treadmill video) are usually bad moves.  Top-down marketing just doesn’t work any more, unless you’re a very young pop act signed to Disney/Hollywood.  As my marketing friend would say, it’s all about “pull” rather than “push” marketing.

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Monday
Sep212009

Experiment: Everyone must have a CD, even if free.

If you are a performing musician that sells CDs at your shows, please consider this:

Terry McBride of Nettwerk told this story at a recent conference:

A band he was managing was doing the usual thing of selling CDs for $15. They’d mention it once or twice from the stage, and sell about $300 per night on average.

He asked them to try a completely different approach:

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Monday
Sep212009

Why didn't In Rainbows open the music industry floogates?

This is an exclusive early post from my Juggernaut Brew blog which every day this week asks a big question of the music industry…http://juggernautbrew.blogspot.com/

Back in 2007, Radiohead exited its record deal with EMI and promptly self-released their new album In Rainbows as a ‘pay what you want’ download. This I know did not escape your attention.

The genius of the strategy was multi-layered. The move generated such a huge wave of PR that the record hardly needed a marketing budget. And ironically, the band themselves avoided the need to do the usual round of publicity appearances and interviews – an established system the band loathed. It made them look forward thinking and brave. I’m even convinced that the distribution strategy for In Rainbows had an impact on the critical reception of the album itself which garnered four & five star reviews across the board and was number one on many critical lists for that year (it was a good record but was it a great one?).

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Sunday
Sep202009

You’re So ‘Yester-moment’

It’s no longer the flavor or the month or what used to be called 24/7 or wall-to-wall coverage. The new media cycle, at least for this nanosecond, is called “perpetual movement.”

In other words, spin or die. That’s the latest from Internet guru Michael Moritz, a Sequoia investor who backed Google, Yahoo and the Sugar Inc. blog-networks.

Quoted in a recent New York Times article, Moritz says:

“Perpetual movement is the essence of survival and prosperity online. If online media and entertainment companies don’t improve every day, they will just wind up as the newfangled version of Reader’s Digest — bankrupt.”

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Sunday
Sep202009

Artists are not inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their Art

“Artists should be compensated for their art.” is a phrase that often comes up in discussions on copyright.  It is assumed that a) Artists are inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their Art, and b) copyright is a mechanism for this compensation.

I challenge both assumptions.

Of course, what people actually say is usually “Artists should be compensated for their work”. Below I’m going to distinguish between Art and Work, because confusing the two is exactly the problem.

a) Artists are inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their work.

I agree that artists are entitled to payment FOR THEIR WORK.

WORK is labor exchanged for money. Employer and worker negotiate a fee, the labor is performed, and the worker is paid. Many artists are workers: they are waiters, baristas, truck drivers. They should be compensated for their work, and they are, which is why they work.

Some artists perform a kind of skilled labor for money. This type of pre-negotiated labor is called a commission. Commissioned work is work, and artists are compensated for it, which is why artists take commissions.

But artists are not inherently entitled to monetary compensation FOR THEIR ART.

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Monday
Sep142009

Session players for recordings. 

Session players can be a tremendous asset to the overall sound of a tune or even the entire album. When you’re a solo artist, or even a band, and you bring in a session player to play an extra part or an overdub, the professionalism and skill of the player will only support the song. Now if you are doing a recording with friends, go ahead and bring them in but if you are creating a recording to be the best it can be, don’t cut the corners of musicianship and ability.

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Sunday
Sep132009

Viral, Schmiral (‘Greatness’ Pt. 2)

Baimurat Allaberiyev – a YouTube sensation – has a major record deal but still has few teeth, literally. And those teeth are planted on the cutting edge of the latest boom-and-bust trend in the music industry: viral-video microfame.

So, let’s get real about the sobering statistics of enduring Web 2.0 success among music artists. To that end, I will explore the verities of the viral-video trend.

But first, this exploration is not meant as a discouragement. It’s simply a reality check. Like a sound check, it gets us in tune, so we can perform at our best. And, as with the old industry, the new music model presents real, if limited, opportunities for enduring success. So, as in the past, the motivation for the serious artist is the very challenge of the overwhelming game itself.

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Sunday
Sep132009

Not your average promo idea.

As soon as the band Palomine has collected video messages from every country in the world, they will officially release their new album “Attention Alpha”.

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Monday
Sep072009

Take it with a grain of salt - Dealing with the critics

We all wish that everyone would love, appreciate and understand our art, our ideas and, basically, us. It would be so much easier if they could just “get it”, wouldn’t it? There’s no reason at all for people to cruelly bash others or go on the attack and yet it happens everyday. Every day someone deals a harsh word, a negative opinion, an attack or an insult.

Now, it’s true that opinions differ and no one is going to like everyone and everything. Still, for some reason, while each of us can have very strong opinions about others, we oftentimes get hurt, offended or bothered when someone has strong opinions about us.

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Monday
Sep072009

Why is a secular artist performing at a Christian Church?

I am a performing songwriter. I write songs for self expression. My career allows me to create, and to communicate my thoughts and emotions with a lot of people in an intimate, exciting and fun way. I’ll perform just about anywhere people are willing to gather AND listen.

But I was given pause recently when I was invited to perform a concert in a Christian church. When it comes to religion, I don’t subscribe to a particular world view. I recognize man’s spiritual nature, and I’ve studied many religions, but despite all their useful teachings, I’ve never identified strongly with a singular book.

In a way, I identify with a line from Martin Landau’s character in the movie “Rounders.” In one scene, he explains to a student why he never became a Rabbi, despite family pressure and his extremely thorough and advanced knowledge of the Torah. He intimates softly, “I never saw God there.”

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Saturday
Sep052009

Unlearning

When I would speak on panels at music conferences, I’d always find it funny how all of the panelists’ opinions were completely tainted by their own self-interest.

Someone would always ask us, “What’s the future of the music business?

The guy whose company sells MP3s would say, “MP3s are the future. No DRM. Unencumbered. The public has spoken and they want MP3s.”

The guy whose company sells subscriptions would say, “Subscription services are the future. Anything, anytime, anywhere. No need to keep a huge music collection.”

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