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Artist Path to Market Post #2: Navigating the Hype Machine

[This is the second in my series of posts about the artist-to-fan relationship]

Ah the one hit wonder. It’s a music industry staple isn’t it? Great one-off hits have lit up the charts for as long as the charts have existed, cultivating a love-hate relationship with the public. Everyone should have a personal favourite.

Mine is ‘I Am The Beat’ by The Look, which sadly, reveals mostly nothing much but my age. It charted in the UK at number 6 in 1980 and had nice shades of The Jam and XTC. And wonder of wonders, a quick Google entry, and it is right there on YouTube. An amazing 39,152 (and steadily rising!) views, reassures me that I am not alone. It’s had 4,426 plays on (slowly rising) and was re-released as a download in May 2006. The miracle of the internet - it has opened up a world of discovery and fun for nostalgia fans at least.

Of course, no serious artist wants to be a one hit wonder, quite the opposite. Even if artists don’t seek fame, fortune, adoration & idolation, at the very least, they might quite like to have, well, a sustainable career. But with the traditional ‘Route 1’ to market – i.e. signing a label deal – undergoing something of a re-appraisal, do digital channels open up a genuine new route to a sustainable career for artists? Yes and no, too early to tell.

Click to read more ...


Real in-store CD distribution: still working for anybody?

A musician emailed me today, asking my advice on choosing a physical distributor. He was considering paying big money to one company who promised to get it on the shelves of record stores, or another who would take a big cut, or using CD Baby’s in-store distribution (

Here’s my advice to him.  Feel free to critique it.  I’m curious to hear any replies from people who have had success with real in-store distribution recently.

The big question is:

How many people are going into physical stores (shopping malls, etc) - looking for your CD - and are unable to buy it?

Are those people truly unable to buy your CD, and give up before looking online?

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How to Set and Reach Your Music Goals

The fifth term of my “Music Marketing 101” class at recently wrapped up. The twelfth and final assignment asks students to create a 12-month marketing plan they can use in the real world.

Most students do a great job with it. But it amazes me how many include goals such as:

Book a lot more live shows.”
Sell a buttload of CDs and music downloads.”

Hmm …

Let me ask you: Exactly how many is a “buttload”? How do you know when you have arrived at buttload status? And how much is “more”?

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Music artists your route to market is as easy as A, B, C...

“For all it may be a workable and pragmatic model, a teenager miming with a tennis racket in front of the mirror is hardly dreaming about running a small business with low overheads and low expectations”.

Alexis Petridis, The Guardian, from “This song was brought to you by…” April 2008.

It’s never been easy for pop musicians who are not yet popular. A few years back, a friend of mine delightedly, excitedly told me his mate’s band (UK indie hopeful’s Vega 4) had at last been signed by a label in the US - a major in fact, Capitol. What did I think about that? My response was inevitably, rather muted. “Do let him know when you congratulate him that his chances of a sustainable career in the music industry have just improved, to roughly 1%”.

Since I was The King of Music Industry Stats at the time, he couldn’t really argue. The percentage I quoted was the appropriate one – the chances of releasing a record and going to Gold sales, and therefore, being in with a shout of getting a second album with real momentum behind it. It didn’t happen for Vega 4, even though the band was unusually fortunate to get a second bite of the cherry when they signed in the UK with Columbia 18 months later. They sunk with barely a trace.

That was back in 2005/6. Fast forward just a few years, and the music industry landscape for a new band has become even more crowded, competitive and complex. With an increasing groundswell against the idea of signing with a label (at least in the traditional sense) - but a rapidly fragmenting media landscape making any other route look bewildering - what exactly is the best route to market for a new artists these days?

Two HUGE questions face you:

Click to read more ...


Inspiring quotes about making music

Do you have some quotes that inspire you, as you make your own music?

I’ve always loved those little thoughts that would inspire me to dig deeper in my songwriting, try new sounds in the studio, or listen to music in a new way.

A few years ago, I collected these quotes into a simple website:

It’s there for two reasons:

  1. inspire other musicians (you!)
  2. collect other thoughts about music

I think you’ll love this new update: I hired professional translators to translate MusicThoughts into nine languages: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese.

Look again, and play with the language bar across the top:

If you are fluent in any of these languages, please notice that below every translated quote is a link that says, “Can you improve this translation?” Example, here:

If you can’t see the Asian fonts, this link will tell you how to fix that:

After browsing around the site for a while, if you’ve got a favorite quote that inspires your music-making, please add it to the site. I’m not trying to make this a big site of all thoughts about music - just a simple quiet place with a few of the most inspiring ones.

Feel free to bookmark or link to any you love. The URLs are permanent, so it’ll always be there for you.



A Better Way To Book Live Music

Digital technology has revolutionized the way recorded music is created, discovered, distributed and sold. The market for live music, however, has yet to undergo a true revolution.


As Andy Malloy touched on in his Music Think Tank Open posts a few weeks ago, the Internet should enable fans to proactively drive the concert business. Rather than waiting for bands to come to them, audiences should be able to bring bands to their town with a few clicks of the mouse.


The way things are


Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet. Some of the tools have changed, but live gigs are still booked the way they were 15 years ago: The artist and the venue engage in a time-consuming, inefficient exchange of primarily historical information while potential concert-goers (fans) sit on the sidelines.

Click to read more ...


Going Mobile – The Future Of Marketing For Musicians

Many experts say that the #1 way we will all communicate within the next 3-4 years will be thorough our mobile devices. It is no secret that the United States is far behind Europe and Asia in ease of use and advance technologies in the mobile realm but it is never too early to begin looking at a mobile strategy.

With that said I will be exploring how musicians can fully utilize using mobile technologies throughout 2009 but here is a primer. I saw Helen Keegan present in Reykjavik at the You Are In Control conference at Iceland Airwaves 2008 and I was wowed by her presentation.

Helen is a mobile marketing, advertising and media specialist working with a range of clients from media owners to brands and agencies to mobile technology companies. She has been working in mobile marketing for more than 8 years.

I asked her a few questions via email and she was generous enough to answer them for us here:

Click to read more ...


Everyone Is Going To Help You …. If You Know How To Ask A Response To Derek's Post

This is a great discussion and I think we all understand that Derek is not saying NOONE will EVER help you because every single one of my fellow authors on this blog are helping artists in our own way by being here…

Two types of artists: Complainers vs. Doers
His point is if you want to make it you need to be willing to help yourself first and only after that will others help you. I wrote my book based on this and this alone there are two types of artists. complainers vs. doers / negative vs. positive attitudes / builders vs. idlers / artists that are willing to takes responsibility vs. ones who are angry and entitled.

When the complainers call our office we look around at each other with dread… The conversation is demanding and negative “Can you hook me up with a booking agent if I hire you? Will I sell more albums because of you? etc…and their negativity is infectious. We want to get this type of artist OFF of the phone as soon as possible.

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Nobody’s going to help you. Does that encourage you or discourage you?

Nobody’s going to help you. It’s all up to you.

Does hearing that discourage you or motivate you?

The reason I’m asking is that a musician friend emailed me two questions last week (December 2008):

How can I find a great/major booking agent?
And how can I find an investor? I need someone to invest $500,000 into my band for radio, touring, recording, videos, PR, payola, etc.

My answer was:

Sorry, but when it comes to this stuff, I think the healthiest attitude is the most cynical one:

There are no great agents that would want to take you on unless you’re already earning $5000 a month gigging, so that their 10% cut (only $500) would be worth their time.

There are absolutely no investors that would invest in a musician now. Even solid profitable businesses with customers and employees can’t find investors these days, (December 2008), so just assume you will not.

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Art is An Energy

When talking about the changes in the industry in relation to the world of social media, I often talk about the need for injections of energy to proliferate information, knowledge, awareness of an artist or a piece of music.

The most common energy to rely on is money
- input money and hope that it ignites and spreads. Other energies include excitement (fan energy is a great one for spreading the word, and that excitement multiplies the closer the fan gets to the artist…) and shared narrative (people who relate to the stories in your songs, or to your story are likely to use it to tell their own story - whether that be a love song or something more spiritual/motivational).

But it’s really important to remember that ‘art’ and ‘creativity’ are energetic forces. There’s been a lot of talk on here of late about house concerts, and what’s vital to grasp about the house gig scene is that nobody’s in it to get rich. There are no fights with promoters over cash, no dissappointments over low bar takings, and much lower running costs…

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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?

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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.

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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?

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