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Sunday
Apr132008

Crowdsourcing for Hits - is it a Mistake?

Two weeks ago I wrote a post titled Create, Validate, Sell.  I have been wondering since - could there be a fundamental flaw in the crowdsourcing methods I described to commercially validate music?  This may not only be a problem for me, but it could be a serious problem for the record labels and festival operators that are relying upon technology that enables crowds to pick the next “idol”, artist, band or opening act.

Crowdsourcing is the practice of enabling a group (usually a large group) of people to pick a winner, a direction, a strategy, or crowdsourcing can even be used to design something (for example).  Faith in crowdsourcing rests upon research that has shown that groups can make better decisions than individuals, even when the individuals are experts.     

In 2004, James Surowiecki wrote a book titled Wisdom of Crowds.  Just about every venture investor on earth has read this book, and it has been the bible for numerous startups that have wrapped crowdsourcing into their business models.  In the music industry you can experience crowdsourcing at work by visiting OurStage, Amie Street, SliceThePie, SellaBand, TheSixtyOne and on many other sites on the Internet.  Investors that have been seduced by the potential of the efficiency and effectiveness of crowdsourcing for the next U2, have funded many of these sites.

Here’s the problem - crowdsourcing really works well when the sum of the crowd possesses more knowledge than the expert(s); after all, an expert can never know as much as one thousand people (for example).  However, when it comes to songs, ISN’T ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW in the package?  Everything - melody, harmony, tempo, pitch, octave, beat, rhythm, fullness of sound, noise, brilliance, lyrics and chord progression - is in the package.  If we are moving toward a world where people are more interested in single songs than albums or artists - what else do you need to know about a song to pick a winner?  Does the expert have all the knowledge he or she needs to make a decision?  Can the sum of the crowd possibly possess more knowledge about a song than the expert(s)?

So, I’m asking your opinion: should those investing in music/songs (like I have) rely on a small group of experts, should we use technology that enables crowds to pick the next hit single, or should we use both?

 

Wednesday
Apr092008

Has Online Radio Growth Stagnated?

From the new Edison/Arbitron study on media platforms comes this headline:

Weekly Online Radio Audience Increases from 11 percent to 13 percent of Americans In Last Year.

What that headline doesn’t say is that this number was evidently 12% in 2006. Thus the statistical fact of the matter is that online radio listening - according to these data - are utterly unchanged over the past two years.

Does that seem odd to you? It sure seems weird to me.

Online_2

Now granted, this is a specialized subset of listeners - the folks who participate with Arbitron. But still.

It’s not clear how this question was asked (What, exactly, is “online radio”? Do listeners know what we’re talking about here?). Laying out that definition might clear things up.

Whether or not the numbers are correct, the headline is abjectly misleading.

But it still puzzles me that in an environment where access to home broadband (as noted in this study) is skyrocketing, where penetration of portable music players - driven by the Internet - is increasing, where radio station streaming grows annually, where online is catching up to radio in terms of its influence on music discovery, in this environment…

…”online radio” listening remains unchanged since 2006?

If true, what does this say about the taste for “radio” online in what is otherwise a growing market for online audio?

Is “radio” what I use primarily when I choose to turn off the PC and the iPod?

Let me ask the most provocative question of all: Why should we stream our stations if the market for online radio is stagnating?

Unless it’s not.

Tuesday
Apr082008

Music Industry Trends have a Lesson for Radio

Natgeo_musicsales1Ah, how things change.

I have spent a lot of time studying the pictures in this post. The data illustrated here is not new, of course. We all know music sales are going to Hell in a proverbial handbasket.

But when you chart the data as National Geographic has done so here (from their December issue), some new insights arise which have implications for radio as well as the music business.

These charts, especially the second one, is incredibly illuminating for several reasons:

1. It shows the transitional nature of all - ALL - recorded technology that distributes music to consumers. That is, one technology shrinks as another expands, ad infinitum. Radio, too, is a technology, a very well established and popular one. The erosion we’re currently seeing in radio usage - especially among the young - is not a hiccup. It is part of a long-term trend we are only beginning to experience. The more we face competitive alternatives which substitute for radio’s core benefits, the more this trend will accelerate.

2. This chart obviously excludes music distributed for free - a.k.a. “illegally.” One can assume that the steady decline of CD sales is matched - and exceeded - by a stunning rise in off-the-chart downloads. That is, demand doesn’t go away, it just moves to something else. Being in the right place at the right time with the right revenue model is the key.

3. This chart shows the amount of time it generally takes for transformation to occur. For example, it took 16 years for CD sales to peak. If it takes as long for CD’s to disappear, then by 2015 the last CD will be sold. Radio’s erosion - and the revenue problems that result in part from this - is not going to stop. We need a model and a strategy that anticipates and exploits the future, not a head-in-the-sand public relations gimmick. We need to surf the trends, not fight them.

4. This chart shows the absurdity of relating the present state of the radio (yes, radio) industry to any time in its ancient history. For example, the birth of FM back in the late 60’s to 70’s lived in a technological environment which this chart clearly shows has completely disappeared. It’s like comparing the Jimmy Kimmel show to the Dean Martin Roast. Let’s compare apples to apples.

5. This chart shows that older technologies yield to newer technologies if the benefits those newer technologies provide substitute for and beat the ones they replace. CD’s are unambiguously better than tapes - they provide similar benefits, but do a better job of what they do. If I can get music in my car delivered in a radio-like experience from Microsoft or Slacker or whomever - and if it has broad enough distribution - then my radio listening will shift - assuming it’s music I’m looking for (and it may not be).

6. Growth and decline in this chart are “steady” in all cases, not “explosive.” It may be strongly steady, but it’s steady. Thus the best reflection of future momentum for any new technology in this space is the momentum among its early adopters. Not the crazy gadget freaks, but the next wave of users, the early adopters. So what does this mean for radio? Well, if the momentum for a new technology, say, HD radio, is slow at the onset it is not likely to accelerate with time. What you see is what you’ll get. Look at this chart and all the evidence is right there. Ah, you might say, but look at the slow growth of cassettes. Would that it could be 1980 again and we could be faced with the slim choices of that era.

7. It is clear that the horse has left the barn on tangible media for the music industry and all things digital are the immediate future. That means it’s inevitable that the music industry will make up the shortfall in music sales with licensing (including licensing revenue from radio) and (drumroll, please) advertising. And a world of music for free with advertising is functionally identical to music-oriented radio. That is, the competition is going to get much tougher, folks.

Enjoy these charts. There’s a lot to learn hidden in those numbers.

[Double-click to enlarge]

Natgeo_musicsales2_6

Monday
Apr072008

Never have a limit on your income

A wise man said, “Never have a limit on your income.”

Example he gave:

If you sell pens for a living and someone orders a million pens, no problem! You just place an order with your manufacturer for a million pens, get them to the customer, and celebrate.

But if you do hands-on massage for a living and a recent spot on Oprah gets you a waiting list of 10,000 people, “you’ll wish you were in the pen business.”

Point being : if you make a living only providing an in-person (hands-on) service, you are limiting your income. If you were in a “while you sleep” business, there is no limit to how much you can make.

So… what about musicians?

For the last few years, many people have suggested that the products (CDs, even downloads) are now just the free giveaways to get people to go to the show - that musicians are only in a hands-on service-provider business now.

Of course I disagree because I watch CD Baby pay more and more to musicians every month (while they sleep).

Musicians MUST NOT buy into that “only earn by performing” belief because it limits your income.

I spend a LOT of money on music, but haven’t been to a live concert in years. The recorded music has great value to me, whether MP3s, CDs, or even subscription services.

What other ways can music be a “while you sleep” income-earner for musicians? (STUPID BRAINSTORM WARNING:)

  • write songs for others to perform
  • creating commercial-use music (that businesses will use in advertising, for example)
  • getting your music into film/tv
  • paid-area access to your web-archive with all your music, even works-in-progress
  • make it easy for fans to donate
  • create a recognizable brand once, then license the name or model to others (like “Chicken Soup for the Soul”)
  • franchise your band: train multiple bands how to sound just like you, then all can go tour, while you get royalty when they do
  • creating music-education programs used by many schools
  • release your unmixed tracks for fans to remix, letting them sell the remixes on a 50/50 split

WHAT ELSE?

Sunday
Apr062008

Bus company sues maids for carpooling - sound familiar?

This post is a quote directly from the book Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky

In 2005, a French bus company, Transports Schiocchet Excursions (TSE) sued several French cleaning women who had previously used TSE for transport to their jobs in Luxembourg. The women’s crime? Carpooling. TSE asked that the women be fined and that their cars be confiscated, on the grounds that the service the women had arranged to provide for themselves - transportation - should be provided only by commercial services such as TSE. (The case was thrown out in a lower court; it is pending on appeal.)

This strategy - suing former customers for organizing themselves - is precisely the one being pursued by the music and movie industries today. Those industries used to perform a service by distributing music and moving images, but laypeople can now move music and video easily, in myriad ways that are both cheaper and more flexible than those mastered and owned by existing commercial firms, like selling CDs and DVDs in stores. Faced with radical new efficiencies, those very firms are working to make moving movies and music harder, in order to stay in business - precisely the outcome that the bus company was arguing for.

Thursday
Apr032008

Back Catalogue To The Future

For the last few days I’ve been listening to Bohemian Rhapsody and I’ve been having a lot of fun. I must have heard this song hundreds, if not thousands, of times since I’ve been alive but now I’m listening with fresh ears. Why?

Surely there can be nothing left to know about this tune. Anyone that wants to own Bohemian Rhapsody surely already does so in one format or another. If you don’t own it then you could easily go and buy a legitimate copy online in less time that it would take you to read this article. However, the more likely scenario is that if you did want it then you could go online and ‘find’ it without having to use your credit card. The problems this causes the music business are well known and oft bleated about, and particularly in terms of back catalogue as this has traditionally been a stone-cold money spinner for the industry.

Think of any classic album that is over 35 years old. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Dark Side of the Moon or Astral Weeks…any ‘classic’ album will do….

Got it?

Ok..

A completist could conceivably own this album on vinyl, tape cassette, 8-Track cartridge, common or garden CD, DAT tape, Mini-Disc, 180g re-issued vinyl, DVD, any number of enhanced or remastered CD formats (5.1 etc) and, with very few exceptions, digital download.

That’s 10 different formats in the 35 year history of that ‘classic’ record, and this in turn means that fans (old and new) can have bought it brand new and at full retail price once every 3 and a half years since it was released. This is why Mick Jagger looks so good for his age.

Formats have, of course, been driven by the availability of affordable technology and this technology in most cases has been developed and sold by different arms of the same companies that were/are the major recording companies. It wasn’t so long ago that CD players retailed for over £200 yet these days you can pick one up for less than £20. As for buying a half-decent vinyl turntable on the high street, forget about it. CD discs themselves are cheaper than they were 15 years ago, and vinyl releases are rare as hen’s teeth. Meanwhile, everyone wants an MP3 player but no-one seems prepared to pay for the music.

There are many reasons for this. There can be nothing limited, special or desirable about an individual digital release file since each ‘copy’ is a 100% accurate representation of the ‘original’. In fact the concept of a ‘copy’ is pretty much redundant; as is the need for proprietary technology to play your copy on (I’m treating DRM with the disdain it deserves). Additionally, since no-one has yet managed to crack the problem of cool or desirable packaging to accompany a digital release there really is nothing to distinguish the commercially available MP3 file from the one you can make / find for yourself. You can - and probably have - filled your new MP3 player with music that you’ve already purchased in another format, or else with music that you’ve ‘found’ on the interweb. You’ve got a £50,000 record collection on a £300 device, and that’s bad news for Mick Jagger.

Digital as the new, prevailing format has moved the goalposts to such an extent that companies now sign artists based on a slice of future touring and merchandising revenue, rather than that artist’s (continual) ability to shift (the same) units. Jay-Z is the very latest artist to do so, hot on the heels of Madonna and U2. So, where does this leave back catalogue in the digital age? Where does it leave your back catalogue?

Well, the copy of Bohemian Rhapsody that I’ve been having so much fun with has got me thinking. Yes, it is a digital copy that came with no fancy packaging whatsoever and it was indeed ‘found’ rather than purchased - I was given it by a friend, since you ask. What is different about this zeros and ones version of Bohemian Rhapsody is that it comes in 24 different pieces, each part being a copy of one of the original 24-track studio tapes that go to make up the song.

I have been able to import these files into Logic Audio and have been mixing the song myself. I’ve been able to isolate Freddie’s voice and add my own effects, I’ve been listening to Brian May’s guitar on its own and have been messing with the volume settings. Essentially I’m making my own mix and consider it to be a massive musical jigsaw puzzle that I have to solve. Unlike traditional jigsaw puzzles I don’t need the picture on the box because my brain already knows what the picture should look like. I’m trying to make it sound like the song that is ingrained in my memory after thousands of listens - and herein lies the FUN.

Now, you may hate Queen and Bohemian Rhapsody and it’s certainly true that one man’s classic album is another man’s dinosaur tosh. For example, I don’t get Pink Floyd in the slightest but I’m willing to wager that there are thousands (if not millions) of people who would love to play with “Dark Side of the Moon” in the same way that I’m currently playing with Queen….and moreover they’d not only pay for that opportunity, I reckon they’d pay a premium.

Ok, not everyone has Logic Audio or the necessary skills to use it, but what if consumers were able to purchase a package that contained the component audio files of a song or album along with some rudimentary audio mixing software (Garageband, perhaps?) and helpful information and tutorials on mixing? Off the top of my head I can think of several albums I’d love to get my hands on.

So, how does this relate to the independent artist?

Could artists with small fanbases charge a premium for their raw files? Could giving away raw files increase your fanbase? What if a stranger on the internet makes a better job of mixing your tunes than you did? I realise I’m throwing up more questions than answers, but that’s kind of the point as I can’t think of answers to any of the questions that would involve an artist making less money or generating less interest, whatever their status.

User-generated content and online mixing tools are of course not necessarily new things, and I hear that Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails both have similar ‘premium rate’ ideas in the pipeline with their future releases, but the crucial point is that so far no clear market leading process has emerged for this - there is no ‘Killer App’ to speak of, and certainly nothing that could become the online equivalent of the CD or the 7” single and therefore sweep all before it.

I genuinely miss buying records. I stopped buying them when the industry made it too hard (impossible) for me to get what I wanted on vinyl. Since I never liked CDs I now ‘find’ my music online and buy vinyl second hand. How about something that might make me feel connected with the music and willing to start parting with my cash again?

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this.

Bismillah!

Monday
Mar312008

Create Validate Sell

Up until recently, and in a caveman sort of way, I divided the tasks of building a music business into two rock piles: a pile of things related to creating music and a pile of things related to selling music.  

In the creating music pile I accounted for iteratively improving songs based upon fan and professional feedback, and in the selling music pile I accounted for monetary feedback; you either sold music or you didn’t.  

Recently, I evolved from lumping tasks into two piles to lumping tasks into three piles.  Create and sell has become - create and validate and then sell.  In fact, the sequence has become create-validate, create-validate, create-validate, and then sell.  Thanks Steve Lawson.

While this is not information that makes the earth spin in reverse, adding a third classification column to your to-do list does cause you to perform discrete actions that you may not have taken otherwise.  

For example, when you approach validation as an essential task to be executed efficiently, as unbiased as possible, and without prejudice or lasting consequences, you end up reclassifying products or services previously lumped into another pile.

On Saturday, as I wondered about the simplest way to validate music using the criteria I just described, I ended up reclassifying the music community site Aime Street out of the interesting-way-to-barely-sell-music rock pile to the music validation pile.  For me, this action shed an entirely different light on the value Aime Street generates for artists.

AmieStreetlogo.gifAime Street is a music community site that has a unique pricing model where tracks start out as free and as popularity increases the price of a track goes up.  I only recommend sites that charge flat fees to artists and I steer clear from sites that extract percentages.  However, when I reclassified Aime Street as a music validation service instead of a place to sell music, a new recommendation emerged.

Aime Street probably isn’t going to put a lot of money into your pocket, but I have to say that Aime Street is the fastest way to validate music that I have tried to date; it’s also fun.  I would have gladly paid them a flat fee to validate songs within their community.

I simply uploaded music to Aime Street and over the next 48 hours I watched as the price of the tracks rose and the recommendations rolled in.  It was hardly profitable, but it was gratifying and comforting validation.  I’m surprised that Aime Street is not growing as rapidly as some of the other music sites on the Internet; as a music fan, this site really appealed to my sensibilities.

Similarly, I am trying the site called OurStage for the same reason.  I really like the unique voting funnel that OurStage offers, but the gratification will not come as rapidly as on Aime Street.  My guess is that both of these sites will yield the detailed validation or invalidation I’m looking for ninety days from now, albeit using entirely different methods.

The bottom line: setting out to purposely seek validation is not only important; it enables you to reframe your approach to sites, services and relationships.  The saying “necessity (to validate) is the mother of invention” applies here…

Tuesday
Mar252008

Think Tank Talk Question?

Would you give exclusive rights to a download store in exchange for keeping 100% of your music revenue?

 

 

Monday
Mar242008

Capitalizing On Fan Feedback

Imagine you’re an independent DIY artist that’s just starting out. You’ve recorded some music and started promoting it online. The initial response is overwhelmingly positive. You get emails from friends and strangers saying they can’t stop listening to your tunes. People leave you MySpace comments saying your music is the best they’ve heard in years. Someone on a message board has declared your release their favorite album of the year.

Encouraged by this feedback, you decide it’s time to target bloggers, journalists, online radio stations, and other “tastemakers” in hopes of expanding your fan base. But as an unsigned artist without much of a track record, you know it will be hard to get these folks’ attention. Bloggers and DJs are inundated with new music every day from bands proclaiming how great they are. Without any significant press, tours, or other achievements to point to, you worry that you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from the pack. Maybe they’ll eventually get around to listening to what you send them, but you’re afraid you may get forgotten or ignored if you can’t prove in writing that you are special. You know your music is great, and that ultimately it will speak for itself. But before that can happen, you first have to speak for your music in a convincing way.

So how do you do it? Is there a way to leverage the listener feedback you’ve received to get more press and promotion? Could you use glowing MySpace comments and forum posts in the same way that bands traditionally use press quotes? Would writers or DJs find your supporters’ comments credible enough? Are they going to care what a bunch of no-name listeners have to say about you?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. It seems to me that exceptionally positive fan feedback should carry some weight, if organized and presented correctly… right? What do you think?

Saturday
Mar222008

Ask the readers: What's important?

One of my main ideas behind setting up Music Think Tank - apart from simply to provide a community blog for some of my favourite writers and thinkers in the area of online music business - was to create a space where these people could come together and discuss - perhaps even attempt to solve - some of the biggest issues in digital and online music composition, production, promotion, distribution and consumption.

We’d like to have a go at some of the little ones along the way too. 

In order for us to do that, we need to know what the burning questions are in your mind. We’re building something in the back laboratory right now that will allow you to post your specific questions, so that we can put our minds to work and see if we can generate solutions that you can take and apply to your individual, specific circumstances.

But for now, we’re interested in hearing what your biggest concerns are. This is the big picture stuff. Is it copyright? Is it audio fidelity? Is it information overload? Getting a break?

Hit the comments, and let us know: what are The Issues That Matter?

Give us the things to think about, and we in the Think Tank will put our Thinking Caps on. 

Wednesday
Mar192008

1,000 True Fans to Make a Living

When Seth Godin calls something the “best riff of the year,” people notice. And lots have.

I’m talking about Kevin Kelly’s blog post titled “1,000 True Fans,” which has struck a powerful nerve online. He puts his own spin on what I and many others have been saying for years about succeeding in the arts in this modern era.

This concept of attracting what Kelly calls True Fans (a diehard subset of a larger group of Lesser Fans) is very intriguing and deserves some serious consideration. Here’s an excerpt:

Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day wage” is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.

The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans. They are giving you their support directly. Maybe they come to your house concerts, or they are buying your DVDs from your website, or they order your prints from Pictopia. As much as possible you retain the full amount of their support. You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.


Again, this all dovetails with the indie message I’ve been hammering home for years. You don’t have to be a household name to be successful. Thousands of musicians, authors, artists, photographers, filmmakers, bloggers and more make a nice living serving their unique slice of the population. I proudly count myself among their ranks.

These self-empowered creatives work outside the traditional structure and usually make smart use of the Internet to bypass middleman roadblocks and take their craft directly to the end user: the fan. Reach enough fans in this manner and serve them well … and you will eventually have a solid list of True Fans — people who will reward you often with their time, attention and money.

Read Kelly’s entire blog post and the reaction to it around the Net. Then get busy building your fan base … and serving them well!

 

Saturday
Mar152008

Save The Earth Use BitTorrent

A recent article in Harpers (via Nicholas Carr) describes a data center that Google is building that will use enough energy to power 82,000 homes a year.  Information Week also reports that data centers worldwide will consume the combined output of fourteen nuclear or coal-fired power plants this year.

What if BitTorrent was repositioned as earth saving technology, and every time someone purchased a digital media file they had the opportunity to buy a locally “recycled” file instead of one that was sent from an energy intensive data center located 3,000 miles away?  And, what if recycling everyone’s “spent” media files could save enough energy to power 1,000,000 homes a year?

In the scenario above, recycling is a codeword for file sharing.  Language is powerful.  Sharing is a negative word in the media industry, but recycling gives sharing an entirely new meaning.  It would be hard to justify putting an end to file sharing - if sharing/recycling was found to be a highly efficient method for conserving a significant portion of the energy required to deliver digital media.

greenbrick530.jpg

The consumption of digital media and cloud computing is exploding.  You have to wonder if the far-flung, hub and spoke model that large data centers are founded upon is hugely inefficient compared to obtaining a song or a movie from your friends in the neighborhood?  My guess and investors are betting that BitTorrent is more efficient.

BitTorrent may not be ideal for streaming; however if waiting ten minutes saves energy, the benefit should outweigh the inconvenience.

When companies, organizations and governments clamp down on file sharing, whose interests are being served?  Are they protecting copyright holders, or are they protecting the billions of dollars that have been poured into the hub and spoke model for owning and delivering media files?  It makes me wonder; there are legal and legitimate ways to use BitTorrent.  

Think about this: BitTorrent is a disruptive technology; it enables just about anyone to be a media company without the burden of running a huge data center.  The next time some entity clamps down on media sharing, politely remind them that they could be contributing to global warming☺

For the record, I am a rights holder.  At this point, I believe file sharing will help the music industry more than it hurts.  I also believe that every artist should be so lucky to have his or her music wildly shared around the globe.  MP3 players are the new radio, BitTorrent is a broadcaster; if an artist is not on the “radio”, he or she will remain unknown.  

What do you think?  Conserve energy and get on the new “radio” - it all sounds like a win-win to me.  (Note: The GreenBrick advertisement above is something I invented for this post.)       

Thursday
Mar132008

The Blanket License Debate

Ahead of the actual discussion led by Jim Griffin at SXSW Friday, Wired has posted and overview of a notion that has been whispered about in the hallowed halls of the major labels for years…a fee imposed on ISPs that provided end users with an “all you can eat” music service.  Read Music Industry Proposes a Piracy Surcharge on ISPs for additional details, but the idea is pretty basic.  All ISPs would put a fixed amount (for example, $5 per month per subscriber) into a pool, and that pool is then divided up between the various rights-holders (performers, songwriters, labels and publishers).  An independent third party would be responsible for dividing the pie according “popularity”.

I’ve been a proponent of figuring out the details on such a model since the early days of Napster, but such a notion was blasphemous back then and is only starting to gain some interest now that its clear the toothpaste can’t easily be put back into the tube.

There are unquestionably a multitude of issues that would need to be worked out…would this require Federal regulation of ISPs in the U.S.?  What is are the global impacts and requirements?  What technology would be agreed upon to determine the exact content of the traded bits & bytes?  What privacy issues would arise from the implementation of such technology?  What about the technology itself?  What are the development and deployment costs?  What about advertising and marketing plans/committments in a world where “street date” ends up being whichever day the music leaks?  And what about the enormous hurdle of getting all of those stake-holders to agree on the raw dollars, the allocations, the methodologies and a manageable audit pathway?

These questions are just a handful that represent the tip of the iceberg.  And while plenty of folks at the labels that I’ve discussed this with have balked, myself and plenty of others believe that resources put into figuring this out will prove to be well allocated, and with the right solution will more than outweigh the current resources being put into anti-piracy (both technology due diligence and legal fees).  In fact, should this become a reality it only makes it easier for many new music business models to gain traction.  But make no mistake about it…the notion sounds interesting but the necessary legwork and underlying platform are enormous tasks to undertake, and likely years before they could be reasonably implemented.

Feasible? Folly?  What do YOU think?

Thursday
Mar132008

9 Mistakes To Avoid When Recording Your Own Album

Before you can begin to think about marketing yourselves online you’ll first of all need to take care of the music. If, like me, you’re making that music at home then you’ll be aware of the many benefits this arrangement brings - you have the freedom to try whatever you like, you don’t have one eye on the clock and you never have to get the last bus home.

The flipside is that you are on your own and, to put this gently, there will be no-one there to keep an eye on you. You are entirely free to lead yourself down any number of blind alleys before you grab the wrong end of the stick and beat yourself up with it. Recording at home requires patience, discipline and good planning……and all at the same time…and from musicians.

What could possibly go wrong?

Since the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, here are the 9 mistakes we made in homemaking our debut record that I’m keen to avoid as we begin our second. I’m fairly certain I’m not the only person in the world who learned his good habits the hard way so if you think I’ve missed anything important please feel free to add some tips of your own. I’d also very much like to hear your tales of self-inflicted recording calamity!

OK, off we go..

1: That Odd Buzzing Noise Will Come Out In The Mix

..and one day there will be free jetpacks for us all. No matter how good you think that last take was, if your singer kicked the mikestand halfway through or the small change was rubbing against the keys in your pockets, then you need to think about starting that take again.

2: If You Are Having Drums, You Might Want To Record Them First

You may think you’ve nailed that guitar part to that click track but there are two people who won’t share your confidence. The first person is the drummer and he will till you all about this when he comes to play along to the song. The second is the person who will spend weeks going through the all the component drum audio files, making miniscule adjustments to the placement of a kick beat here and a high hat there. When I say weeks, I mean WEEKS…easily enough weeks to fill a month or two.

3: “Hey, Shall We Tune-up?”

This one sounds teeth-grindingly obvious, doesn’t it. Oh yes, so obvious in fact that you’d never believe anyone could make such a stupid, stupid error.

*cough*

Moving on, then…

4: Effects Breed Like Rabbits

It might not sound the way you hear it in your head but if you cave in now and add that tiny bit of distortion - just to make yourself feel better about everything - then imagine how great you’ll be feeling when you come to the mix and you can’t get rid of it. Record EVERYTHING dry.

5: “You Sound Like You’ve Got A Cold…”

If you didn’t have a cold when you recorded the vocals for the other 9 tracks, why do you want to do record the vocal for this one now?

6: Clean Out Yer Ears

If you’ve listened back to that rough mix more than 10 times today then it’s probably time to go out, meet your pals and get drunk. Additionally, when you all come back from the your night out your friends will probably be in the mood for some ELO or possibly some Fu Manchu. That track without vocals and that piano part littered with cack-handed mistakes will be waiting patiently for you tomorrow - it ain’t going nowhere.

7: Less Is More

These days home studios can be augmented with a dazzling array of plugins that enable you to have thousands and thousands of different sounds and instruments at your fingertips. You are limited only by your imagination, but remember that this cuts both ways.

8: Organise, Label & File

At some stage, when you’ve recorded your last vocal or overdub, you’ll want to think about mixing your album. When this point comes it is waaay too late and entirely pointless to have the bright idea of giving audio files sensible names and putting them into folders that, say, represent the names of the different songs they come from.

9: Back-Up

Death, Taxes and At-That-Crucial-Point computer malfunction. They come to us all in the end. Back-up your work daily, weekly or even monthly….but make sure you do it.

Now, go and make a great record!