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The New Music Gatekeepers: Fans & Workload

It’s the most common frustration I hear uttered by independent artists and promoters: The workload.

How can I find the time to do all this social networking and guerrilla marketing stuff?

I’ve got so much on my plate already, how am I supposed to add even more to my overflowing to-do list?

I hear you. I know. And ISN’T IT WONDERFUL?

Huh? What in Jehovah’s name is so wonderful about being overburdened by all that needs to be done to succeed with music?

I have a good answer. Let me explain …

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Who owns Music Think Tank?

After a little more than a year in existence, here’s the proposed ownership structure for Music Think Tank. Please feel free to weigh in.

The goal of this structure is to attract smart music industry thinkers and writers that want to build a brand with a group of like-minded individuals.

Sometime this summer or sooner, we will announce the formal ownership structure.

Here are the proposed equity splits:

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8 reasons to release a follow-up EP

You’ve just released the album of your life. The songs are honed to perfection, the production is top notch, and you found your true voice as an artist. How can you possibly top it with your next release? I suggest you don’t even try.

Instead, follow it up with leftovers. You may call them outtakes, b-sides, or even rejects. You can come right out and admit that it’s not your best stuff. Your fans will still want it, and some will delight in what they consider hidden gems.

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Defining the Music Industry Crisis

To every problem there is already a solution whether you know it or not.

-Grenville Kleiser (1868-1953)

With this in mind, I would like to attempt to identify the main problems that have threatened to destroy the vision that was born on the streets of Tin Pan Alley. I urge readers to add to the list and help me begin this journey towards resolution.

11 of the issues that make up the current Music Industry Crisis.

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How to use iTunes to drive up your iTunes revenue

I have a friend in Brooklyn who is an accomplished artist/producer, doing astonishingly well selling his music on iTunes. Since iTunes is where the vast majority of online music is purchased I asked him if he would sit down with me and explain to me how he promotes himself exclusively from within the walls of iTunes.

I was enthralled by what he had to say. It turns out being a top seller on iTunes is not just a random thing that occurs. You must promote yourself within the walls of iTunes just like you have to promote yourself everywhere else.

My friend asked not to be named and so it is not revealed (it turns out the top indie promoters on iTunes are very competitive).

He took me on a step-by step breakdown on how to get started effectively promoting yourself on iTunes. This is a labor-intensive process but it yields fruitful results.  My friend earns hundreds of dollars a month from his iTunes sales.

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Crime and Corruption: Recognizing Unethical Practices in the Music Business

The music business has always been riddled with unspoken scandals and juicy secrets of corruption. We see topics of shortcuts, bribery, exploitation, scams, and fraud in the news frequently whether it is from the U.S. or international businesses. The music business is no different from any other business in this world; they are out to make a profit, which is the most important aspect that motivates those businesses. What drives those businesses to make profit is self-interest, which is also the factor behind all the corruption of the music business; sometimes the achievement of this profit is executed by any means possible. The following is an attempt to explain the different means of making that profit in the music business when ethical tactics are just not enough.

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Songwriters are taking it on the chin. What’s the solution?

In January copyright law (technology and music) expert Chris Castle posted a great interview with Rick Carnes the President of the Songwriter’s Guild.

Carnes speaks for the songwriters that are getting screwed in today’s tech-driven, share-don’t-care world of music and celebrity labels. Songwriters “don’t sell t-shirts, don’t play shows, and don’t have all the other income streams available to them” (as the performers do). They are getting “remixed out of culture”. As a consequence, “there are fewer and fewer original professional songwriters around every year.” “The days of the ‘stand alone’ songwriter appear to be over.” “Songwriters were the number one loser of income in the US economy in 2004”. “We (songwriters) make our money on record sales and radio airplay. Or, we USED to make our money on record sales. Illegal downloading ended that. Now we are looking for new jobs.”

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The End of the Music Album as The Organizing Principle

It doesn’t seem that long ago since Radiohead did what was once unimaginable - release an album without being signed to a major record company. On the long march to digital ubiquity as the means of music delivery Radiohead avoided the tar pit that seems to be major label thinking and came out clear winners. Yes, they resorted later to releasing the album as a good old CD into regular retail distribution but they were pioneers and were soon followed with great success by Nine Inch Nails and to lesser success by many others. Both these bands had an understanding of what their fans wanted [price level choice, quality and special packaging] and both bands understood the power of the internet for marketing purposes and direct reach. [NB: Although I believe that the digital music file will rule the day, vinyl still has a role to play and I’ll get to that later.]

The most interesting part of this experiment [which at the time, I would argue it was] was not only that it was wildly successful but it laid the groundwork for what I have coined the end of the organizing principle. In other words I suggest that we are now seeing the end of the album-length work as the permenant work, the everlasting body of work that represents the pinnacle of an artists’ creativity. I am fully expecting to hear the howls of derision over this but bear with me.

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Artist will put a tag cloud on her back to raise money for her next album.

Coming on the heals of Bob Baker’s latest Music Think Tank post on Fan Funded Models, here’s another viable alternative to consider:

An artist from Los Angeles is offering to turn her back into a giant Tag Cloud to raise money for her next album.

Artist Grasmaand First told Music Think Tank that the tag cloud on her back will generate over $100,000 to fund her next album. $40,000 will be used for production and the remaining $60,000 will go toward promotion.

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Is a Powerplay campaign right for you?

In my previous post on, I promised to follow up with the results of my Powerplay campaigns, which target a set number of radio plays to a particular group of users. Four packages are currently offered: $20 for 100 plays, $100 for 500 plays, $200 for 1,000 plays, and $400 for 2,000 plays. Since the per-play price is the same ($0.20), I opted for the cheapest.

Powerplay results

I record electronic pop with hints of classical piano under the name Color Theory. To help determine my target demographic, I created three Powerplay campaigns, staggered over three weeks.

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iTunes and AIG? Don’t think so.

Well…what is one to make of this?

ITunes’ announcement to increase prices on many hits singles and selected classic tracks to $1.29 while possibly lowering the price on some older tracks below the current $0.99 threshold has created quite the stir in some circles.

Firstly, let me be clear…in all my many years in the music (and record) industry, I never…repeat…never understood how uniform pricing made much sense. That Springsteen, 50 cent, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson and U2 albums and singles sport the same pricing as the latest freshly-signed hopefuls, be they folk singers, new age harp players or country and western swingers really takes some effort to explain.

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Add MP3s to your Music Think Tank posts

Authors and Contributors can now add MP3’s to their posts on Music Think Tank.  If you would like to add an MP3 to your post, click here for instructions.

Please make sure you have legal permission to upload a file to enable playback and free downloading from Music Think Tank.

Anyone that wants to post news or stories (including MP3s) can do so on MTT Open.  The registration process is simple and quick.

Here’s a song to try.  The Fears by Jediah.  Playback is powered by the Yahoo Media Player.

Readers using RSS will have to click over to Music Think Tank to try it.


EMI is screwed. Utterly screwed.

An article on All Things Digital caught my eye this morning. At face value, it’s just another one of those reports about people coming and going at the top end of the major record labels. Douglas Merrill, formerly CIO of Google, then Head of Digital for EMI, has left the building.

And it’s not surprising that Merrill was unable to singlehandedly reverse the fortunes of the label. He could have had the greatest strategy in the world - but the end goal was the wrong one, so his efforts would have been to no avail regardless of what he did.

And it’s this line from the internal memo at EMI that gives the game away:

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Fan-Funding & Donation Sites: 9 Ways to Raise Money for Your Next Music Project

Are you ready to record a new album, produce a video, or take on an ambitious new music project? But you don’t have the cash on hand to make it happen now?

Do what a growing number of smart artists have done in recent years: ask your fans to contribute!

The band Marillion reportedly raised $725,000 by pre-selling its Anoraknophobia double-CD album before it was ever recorded. Jill Sobule raised more than $80,000 from about 500 fans to record her California Years album, due out in 2009.

But even lesser known artists have had success with this fan-funded business model. Take a look at what these indie acts have done to involve their fans in music fundraising:

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