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Google Trends on Music Think Tank

I just added multiple Google Trends as clickable links on the left side of Music Think Tank. Any time you want to review a current music industry trend, just click a link.

Each graph generated by Google Trends demonstrates two trends:

  • The upper trend line demonstrates global keyword search trends (the number of times a word or phrase is entered into the Google search box).
  • The lower trend line demonstrates occurrences of each word or phrase on blogs and websites around the world.

All the data in graphs produced by Google Trends is normalized. For most of the graphs below, the number 1 represents the average across a time span. Read more about Google’s graphing methods.

I decided to put all these graphs into one post, because it’s the best way to get the big picture.  Graphs are shown below each title.

There are some interesting trends to note. What do you think? What other trends should we link to?

Click to read more ...



It’s a new year and a clear slate is in front of all of us. The turning of the calendar from 2008 to 2009 is an ideal time to set your goals. I see a marked difference between artists who set finite goals and those who do not.

Think of goal setting as if you were driving in a foreign place - You wouldn’t get where you expect to go without a clear set of directions. Goal setting is like drawing a map for yourself.

This article is designed to assist you in creating a personal roadmap for achieving what you would like with your musical career this year, whether you consider music your hobby or you are making a living out of it full-time.

Many studies have proven that long-term perspective is the most accurate single predictor of upward social and economic mobility in America. And it has been proven that people who have goals written down are much more likely to achieve them.

Click to read more ...


Cyber Fluff Freedom

One of the best online music resources to emerge in the last couple of years has to be The Hype Machine. For the uninitiated, The Hype Machine is an aggregator of MP3 music blogs that allows punters to search for blogs and websites that have both written about a particular band and also made an MP3 available ‘for evaluation purposes’.

Type in the name of a band and it returns a list that you can plough through and listen to right there on the page, or alternatively follow the links to the original sites and read more. Think of it like a Google that returns nothing but music and reviews, and to understand how comprehensive the service is, how deep it digs into the lonely corners of the internet, you can even find reviews on and music by Friends of the Stars.

A statement such as ‘it’s an aggregator of Mp3 music blogs’ would have made absolutely zero sense as little as 5 years ago, so we’re very much not in Kansas anymore, and it hasn’t taken long for savvy folk to cotton on to the fact that blogs are a great way of reachinga wider audience.

Click to read more ...


Who is really behind the curtain?

This is a piece I wrote that just ran this week on KCRW.

The big end of the year news report on the record business is - the  
song remains the same.  The RIAA, or Recording Industry of America has  
finally agreed to abandon its strategy of suing fans that illegally  
download or share music.  They have a Plan B.  Plan B is getting the  
Internet Service Providers, or ISPs to enforce their rights.

After 5 years of meteoric declines in revenue, with thousands of  
employees affected in all areas of the record businesses, the  
industry’s big shift in strategy is to go from filing lawsuits against  
downloaders, to filing objections with ISPs, who then are supposed to  
file grievances with the consumer. Sounds like the record industry has  
just created a new bureaucracy and the attorneys who run the RIAA  
bought themselves another 5 years of job security.

Are we really moving the ball forward here?

Click to read more ...


Fan-Driven-Private-Concerts - the next big thing?

On Music Think Tank Open, contributor Andy Malloy has written a couple of posts about Fan-Driven-Private-Concerts. In the first post, Andy talks about the model. In the second post, he covers justification for the model and the marketplace opportunity.

Fan-Driven-Private-Concerts seems like a great idea to me.  Could this be one of the next big things (revenue opportunity) that all artists should be looking at right now?

What works?  What's needed?  How can the vision be refined?  Would you like to have all of the dates on your calendar filled by fans staging private concerts?

Artists considering this model should also be reading Steve Lawson's blog.


Want To Be A Great Musician? Act Like A Great Engineer

In his classic book Reality Check, Guy Kawasaki summarizes the advice of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak on how to be a great engineer:

1. Don’t waver
2. See things in gray-scale
3. Work alone
4. Trust your instincts

When I read this the other week, my first thought was that this is also great advice for musicians as they navigate the creative process.

Don’t Waver
I know some very talented musicians who, despite writing and recording constantly, really struggle to complete any of the projects they start. They have a wealth of talent but little work to show for it.

Click to read more ...


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.”

Click to read more ...


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.

Click to read more ...


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…

Click to read more ...


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.

Click to read more ...


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.

Click to read more ...


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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