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Do most fans really want anything from you other than your music?

I think this is one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves. Do most fans just want your music, or do most fans want something else from you beyond your music?

Why is this question so important? In a world where music is generating less and less revenue, it’s important to understand what fans truly want; especially if you plan to sell them something other than your music.

The following quote is from Ariel Hyatt’s last post about Twitter.
“People want personality. They want authenticity. They want a genuine look at the person behind the music.”

Personality, authenticity, a look at the person behind the music… I am trying to understand who, why, when, what, how and how-many fans (what percentage) would trouble about anything but your music, tickets or t-shirts.

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Music Blogs - Are They The New Radio?

A couple of months ago I received an email from the International Federation of Phonographic Industries (IFPI). They asked me to remove a music file (MP3) of ‘Silence’ a track from Portishead. Under the rules of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the IFPI has every right to ask me to comply with the law as it stands. To avoid litigation I complied. I then received an email from the office of the IFPI asking me if I would agree to an email interview that would be posted on their sister site,; I said yes, here it is:

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Twitter is radically changing the way musicians are building communities of supportive fans around them. Are you still resisting it?

Musicians Twitter Roadmap

By Ariel Hyatt (@CyberPR) & Laura Fitton (@Pistachio)

[Note from Music Think Tank: This is a comprehensive post on Twitter.  If you are an artist and you have not heard about or used Twitter, you shuold read this post.]

It has been over 18 months since I joined the Twitter community and since I began to really use it something has shifted for me radically. Using Twitter has directly contributed to my life in meaningful ways.

I must admit that when I first saw it, I wanted to cry.  Why would anyone care about what it is I do?  As a still recovering traditional publicist I couldn’t really understand the benefit for my artists if I was using Twitter.  After all, it’s about my clients not about me. How wrong I was…. It turns out the social web isn’t directly about you, it’s about other people: The audience that you become engaged with, and how you interact with them and with them in mind magic can happen.

Some things that happened since I joined Twitter:

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If music was sport

Just for fun, here’s a thought experiment. It illustrates that things in the world of music (and the business of music) need not necessarily be configured the way they are…

If music was treated like sport:

  • Schools would have plenty of equipment and kids would have places to play and practice
  • People who didn’t do any music at all would be considered a bit lazy by their peers
  • Professional musicians wouldn’t get asked by their parents when they were going to get a real job
  • Most people would play music and almost none of them would expect money for it
  • Every weekend, you’d get a televised battle of the bands

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Nobody knows the future.

Nobody knows the future.

That’s a hard but crucial lesson to learn.

If even ultimate insiders like Greenspan, Bernanke, and Paulson don’t know the future, then neither does Jim Cramer, your stockbroker, Nostradamus, nor you.

We have a human need for certainty that desperately yearns to believe that someone can turn our future from unknown to known.

Even if we logically understand that it’s impossible, we’re emotionally sucked back in and fooled again when someone important tells us with such conviction what the future will hold.

But nobody knows the future.

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10 Mistakes Bands and Musicians Make

Here’s a post that was posted on MTT Open!  Thanks David.

If you want to get a record deal, get people to your shows, or sell music like crazy, the answer isn’t some kind of “magic pill” website that you post your music on, blindly sending out a bunch of demos, or anything to do with having good music…although good music certainly helps — the answer is to develop a “mindset” that naturally attracts people to what you’re doing as well as an understanding of how the music business game is played.

As you develop as a person, your music career will develop with you.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true…and I’ve seen it time and time again, with thousands of acts that I’ve worked with, from garage bands, to the guys selling out arenas.  Check out these ten common music business mistakes:

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Do great songs really ever go unheard?


I am not talking about good songs, I am talking about great songs.  I know good and great are subjective, but can you point to a song that you said to yourself - “that’s one of the best songs I ever heard in my life” - and then that song went on to die on the shelf; never to be heard by more than a handful of humans again?  Does death by obscurity really happen to great songs, or does lack of traction only happen to mediocre songs?

I am doing some research.  Can you show me links to songs you think should have been certifiable hits?  Or, just comment on this post.  Thanks.


MTT Music - What's your advice? Should we launch MTT Music or scrap it?

Thanks everyone.  I think we are going to reinvent this section.  Thanks for the feedback.

With the SquareSpace platform, we were able to put MTT Music together in under two hours.

Music Think Tank is looking for your suggestions and feedback…
Here’s the concept:

  • MTT Music is a place to get practically unfiltered, community feedback.
  • One song is featured per day.  
  • Only studio-quality songs will be posted.
  • Artists should be asking for honest advice and feedback.
  • Click here to read the Guidelines Page.

Question:  Will MTT Music be helpful to artists, or is this going to be something that gets overwhelmed by artists and underutilized by those that can give proper advice?  

The concept is purposely vague.  We are hoping to get some feedback on direction.  No, we don’t have a revenue model…


A publishing and distribution deal from the same company - is it smart?

As an independent label, is it better to have a distribution and a publishing deal on the same major label?  Or is it better to have a different publisher to your major partner [label]?

I was asked this question by someone funding a small label.  Does anyone have any thoughts on this?


Great New Posts on MTT Open

There are some great new posts on Music Think Tank (MTT) Open

Note:  We are also looking for more posts that relate to music creation and production.  New Contributors - Click here to register.

Consumer or Music Lover: You Decide
By Kyle Bylin
When Trent Reznor developed and adapted a new model to deliver Ghosts I-IV to his audience he reframed what it meant to be in the music business. Understanding that free was inescapable and multipliable formats were inevitable, he established six points of participation for fans. By catering to the resurgence of vinyl and allowing interaction with multi-track files he went on to challenge market abundance with scarcity by increasing the level of personalization and authenticity. Thus making the purchase, Better Than Free for his core fans.  Read the post.

Has the over reliance upon Digital Audio Workstations (Gods) ended the era of acts that can fill stadiums?
By Bruce Warila (a repost from 2007)
In this post, I am submitting the argument that the spread of digital audio workstations can be correlated to the complete drop-off of new artists that have the ability to sell out stadiums.  I am also suggesting that the reliance upon engineer/producers using DAWs have made artists a bit lazy, and/or that this crutch has enabled artists to focus on things that are less important than making great songs.  Read the post.

Shifting the needle on new digital music services
There are some fundamental service elements still to play with – price, product and customer experience are still up for grabs in developing something a bit special. But with labels gatekeeping price and savvy service providers unwilling to subsidise music, i think price can almost be ruled out as a differentiator.  Read the post.

The Wearing of Hats
Michael’s question is: with the status of the Music Industry, is there a middle ground between the following mindsets: one being a casual style of living, irresponsibly bouncing from moments of extreme focus to days or weeks of broader scoped work, or two, is this the new model based upon being an independent, entrepreneurial creative who is able to organize, create, and mold to the quickly changing industry?  Read the post.


An industry with a great future behind it

I read a great article today about Sister Ray Records in London. It was my favourite record store in the capital. Or at least - I thought it was. In fact, Sister Ray was not my favourite record shop because I liked Sister Ray. It was my favourite record shop because it fitted a romantic, nostalgic notion about London independent record shops.

And that ‘nostalgic’ bit is kind of weird, because I didn’t grow up in London, but in a suburb about 13,000 miles away at the bottom of the planet. And I’m not nostalgic about Jim’s Record Spot in Panmure, even if that was where I bought my first album with my own money (David Bowie’s ‘Scary Monsters’, since you ask - but it was a toss-up between that and Donna Summer’s ‘The Wanderer’).

London independent record shops mean something. And to me, Sister Ray encapsulated that. Fine. But it’s not a great way to continue to do business. As Brett points out in his article - when you actually look at it on its own merits, and take all that nostalgia stuff away, Sister Ray was dark, overpriced and staffed by people who’d rather you’d just go away. And that might have been fine once. It just isn’t now. There’s no room for any of that. Things have changed.

But that’s symptomatic of a wider problem, rather than a misreading of the times by a single record store.

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Is your album a starting line or a finish line?

People often asked, “How much does the average artist on CD Baby sell?”

Others would take the numbers on the “about” page and divide them: $85 million paid out to 250,000 available albums = $340 earnings per album. Now we know how much the “average” album sells!

Problem is: the numbers are right but the answer is wrong, because it groups together two completely different types of approaches to an album release, giving an inaccurate average for your type.

For some artists, releasing an album is like the starting line in a race. The gun goes off! They work it! They spend hours a day pushing, promoting, selling, striving. For the next few months, they never stop. Reaching new people by any means necessary, whether playing live for strangers in strange venues many times a week, or joining new communities online.

For those types, I’d say the average income (through my one little store) was $5000. (And 50 of them earned over $100,000 each.)

But for many artists, releasing an album is like the finish line in a race. They’ve always wanted to make a record. They did it. It’s done. They give some for free to friends and family, and glow in the compliments. They might do a record release concert and make a website, but in terms of effort spent, they’re done. (Sometimes from satisfaction, but sometimes from entitlement: “Now that my brilliant album is done the world will recognize my genius!”)

For those types, I’d say the average income was $20.

The people who would ask about the average were usually artists trying to predict how well they would sell on CD Baby.

Because 50% of all sales on CD Baby were returning customers just browsing for new music, it was possible to sell a few albums without doing anything at all.

But the important thing is it’s up to you which kind of approach you want to take.

Is your album a starting line or a finish line?

Eco-touring - survival is the mother of invention (or something)

Not sure how I missed this first time round but Geoff Hickman (aka DeadBeatGeoff) was recently interviewed on BBC 5 live about the whole idea of Sustainable, or ‘Green’, touring. Here’s the piece from the radio:

It’s something that’s been getting a lot of interest of late, largely thanks to Radiohead’s attempts to do the low-carbon eco-tour thing (read their road manager’s thoughts here).

But as usual, the Radiohead stuff is a massive red-herring. Very very few musicians are in a position to think about their own lighting show (unless it’s an Orbital-style torches-mounted-on-your-head approach). No, the situation with Televox, the band Geoff manages, is way more pertinent. They are a small club-level band, trying to play some shows and build an audience. They’re not wondering whether to air-freight or charter a plane for their 35 tonnes of back-line and lights. They’re trying to work out if they can get an amp on a train or notLobelia with the touring gear - Europe 2007

This all piqued my interest because Lobelia and I did such a tour last year. Back then, I still owned a car, and was used to loading up my car with my bass-friendly PA, a pile of instruments, whoever else I was working with and driving to the gig. (even at this stage, I’m one step down from the ‘need to hire a van’ stage, but we’ll get back to that). But for our tour, we wanted to do it all on the train - I’d done a two week tour like that on my own back in Oct 2006, and we wanted to get Interail (UK)/ Eurail (US) passes and use trains all over the continent.

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Social Media, Blogs and Music: Some Philosophical Thoughts

These days the music marketing world is all abuzz with phrases such as - Social Media, Social Advertising, Facebook Ads, Mass Media Networking Advertising…..etc, etc.. In recent months I have been a panelist at the L I S A seminar in Portland and the Hawaii MusicTech Conference in Honolulu. L.I.S.A., which is an acronym for Lessons In Social Advertising, was aimed at marketers and advertisers who [for some reason] don’t understand social networks or haven’t yet worked out how to advertise effectively to them. It focused on topics such as ‘What is social advertising?’ and ‘How do you get young people to recommend your brand?’ The Hawaii MusicTech panel was presented by the Northwest Chapter of NARAS [The Grammy Org] of which I am a Board Director, and we discussed how musicians could effectively use social networks such as Facebook and MySpace to reach an audience and communicate with them.

Two sides of the table as it were. One group wants to advertise, or push, their messages to a mass audience, while the other wants to create a network of like-minded people who hopefully will pull content such as free MP3s and then “evangelize” on behalf of the musicians by spreading messages by electronic word of mouth. With no hint of schizophrenia I happily migrate between both camps. What follows here is an attempt to share my thinking with bands or musicians on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to embracing the many social networking sites that are available to them.

To understand and embrace social networking is to place the idea that says “technology makes this possible” to one side and embrace the idea of the basic human need to stay in touch with other like-minded people at all times. As Clay Shirky says “The desire to be part of a group that shares, cooperates, or acts in concert is a basic human instinct.” Think about rock concerts for a minute…..

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