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How You Can Contribute To MusicThinkTank

Anyone can join the discussion and contribute relevant articles to Music Think Tank.  Begin by signing up and then logging in to publish your posts directly to MTT Open. Please make sure that your posts are in the proper format before posting (see previous posts) and that there are minimal errors such as grammar or spelling. Popular articles are occasionally moved to the front of the site. Contributors own and operate this blog (more info).

Thursday
Nov112010

Michael Laskow of Taxi: Marketing + Entrepreneurial Skills = Music Business Success

I normally write articles and tips for musicians to help them with their online marketing, PR and community building.  But there is another topic I feel deeply passionate about:  Helping the next generation who want to make it in the music business understands what it takes to achieve that dream.

To succeed in service to musicians you must have great entrepreneurial instincts and it’s advice from one of the most successful people serving artists today: Michael Laskow, the founder of Taxi.

 As I type this I am flying back from the 13th annual Taxi Road Rally and I feel full of hope for what lies ahead of us all in the music business.

Why?

Because Taxi members are a unique group of artists who work TOGETHER to help each other get ahead. This was evident in every corner of the hotel, which was filled with artists networking, jamming, socializing and getting mentored by an outstanding group of industry professionals committed to helping them including Ralph Murphy, Steven Memel, Bob Baker, John & Joann Brahaeny, Debra Russell, Dude Mclean, Jay Frank, Carla Lynne Hall, Gilli Moon, and dozens more.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov102010

Learning From Facebook Ad Failures

As with most folks who work in the tech business, I think it’s important to celebrate failures — they often teach us more than success. As such, I wanted to share a few Facebook Ads campaigns I experimented with and why they didn’t work.

The question I wanted to answer after the almost-too-easy success with the All Smiles campaign was “How easy is it to convert fans of related (but not directly tied) artists from Facebook Ads?

Answer: Not easy.

I set out to target three groups of fans with free downloads from A B & The Sea: Jukebox The Ghost (with whom they were touring), Katy Perry (whose song they covered), and Beach Boys (to whom they sound most similar). I set up Facebook ads driving to dedicated landing pages (eg - http://abandthesea.net/jukebox/) with unique Topspin widgets on each so I could track conversion data at a granular level. Here’s how each campaign broke down:

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Tuesday
Nov092010

Management In The Music Industry

Peter Drucker stated, “Long-range planning is necessary precisely because we cannot forecast[1].” According to this statement, planning is essential to any enterprise so that the right decisions can be made when the environment changes. Music enterprises must be able to strategize and plan in order to create value for its customers. Strategizing and planning allows the enterprise to create its goals in its mission and vision for all levels of the hierarchy to strive for.

For example, Motown Records’ mission statement was, when it was first created, to “unite and bring people together through music[2].” A mission statement, as being part of planning, was created for Motown Records so that all artists, publishers, employees, and presidents of Motown Records would make decisions based on “uniting and bringing people together.” Knowledge of the goals and direction of the enterprise are necessary to know throughout the entire enterprise so that everyone knows what decisions are to be made and which are the right ones[3].  Motown Records brought value to its customers that shared the same ideal in music: the desire to unite people. Planning the mission and vision statement encompasses all decision-making for music enterprises. After knowing the enterprise’s plan, any employee or superior would have to ask, “Does this decision align with our core values and work towards our vision as a music enterprise?” Customers will value an enterprise that is consistent with its plan to create that value for its customers.

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Monday
Nov082010

Bands, Social Is Not Just About Sharing It Is Also About Commerce – CommerceSocial

Bands, Artists, Labels, Management Companies… it’s time to move beyond a single stand alone online store and bring your online store to where your fans are hanging out; Facebook, MySpace, Blogs, Websites. Don’t just post your new CD on your Facebook Wall and link your fans back to a typical online store. Post your new CD on your Facebook Wall, MySpace Page, Blog or official website and let your fans buy it right there without even leaving. Let your fans share your new CD as a Wall post with all their friends, while including the ability to buy your CD in every single one of those Wall posts.

STOP, think about what I just said… every single Wall post by all your fans could be a store with the ability to buy your CD. What could that mean for sales?

It is time to bring your commerce to the world of social. CommerceSocial is a new tool that is extremely easy to setup and lets your CD spread virally through the social networks.

Here is how it works: Imagine that the next time you post a product on your F

Click to read more ...

Friday
Nov052010

How to Write Engaging Newsletters - Ariel’s Greeting, Guts, & Getting!

Are you still not sending newsletters? A new study proves you should be….

Boston based research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey has recently completed a study that all musicians should know about.

Here are the important highlights:

 “Three-quarters of web users are likely to share content with friends and family, and nearly half do so at least once a week. But while much social networking content is built around such shared items, most people still prefer to use email to pass along items of interest.”

The study goes on to say: “Overall, 86% of survey respondents said they used email to share content, while just 49% said they used Facebook. Broken down by age, the preference for email is more pronounced, as users get older. And only the youngest group polled, those ages 18 to 24, reverses the trend, with 76% sharing via Facebook, compared with 70% via email.”

So, if your audience is older than 24 you better be thinking about your newsletter strategy now!

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Nov042010

Why is Music Cheaper Now? It's as Simple as Supply and Demand

About a month ago a blog post titled “Why Your Art is Cheaper Than a Latte” appeared on the Digital Music News blog.  In it, the post focused on the singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, and the reaction he and his label had to the declining price of music (CD or digital).  I’ll talk about Mr Stevens’ reaction later on here, but first discus why music has gotten cheaper these days.

Remember that economics 101 class you took back in college and the whole supply and demand graph?  I know, it was boring, but it can explain this reality.  If you never took economics, I’ll explain what I mean (I used to teach the class).  To refresh any memory, I put what the supply and demand graph looks like below.

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov032010

Browser Audio Recording Gives the Web a Voice

Mozilla, which makes the FireFox browser you might be reading this with, has a way to let regular webpages record audio and video and play them back with only a few lines of simple code rather than the more complicated Flash technology usually required for in-browser recording today.

This might sound like a wonky technical detail, but ultimately, it has big implications for people in general and music fans in particular.

Once web browsers can literally hear what you’re listening to (and see you, assuming you’ve given them permission, of course), they’ll be able to identify music playing in other programs or in the cafe where you’re sitting; record karaoke or more advanced audio projects directly onto the web; let you hear what your favorite artists are recording; and other fun stuff developers have yet to dream up.

For now, we must surrender the fantasy of ranting, finally, with our own actual voices, into the comments sections of columns with which we disagree — if only due to the early stage of this technology. Mozilla released an early, Mac-only, FireFox 3.5-only version of the Add-On on Thursday, which it’s calling Rainbow on Thursday, apparently so-named because it pairs so nicely with the term “cloud computing.”

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov022010

An Argument Against Fan Funding

Anyone can make a record for next to nothing these days. Almost any other hobby is more expensive: photography, mountain biking, even video gaming. When a teenager singing into a webcam gets exponentially more views on YouTube than your latest “professional” video, the answer isn’t more money.

You’re just not there yet.

(hey, don’t feel bad - I’m not either)

Tracking at Abbey Road Studios won’t get you there. Hiring T-Bone Burnett to mix your album won’t get you there. A full-day mastering session with Bob Ludwig won’t get you there. 10,000 pressed CDs with 18-page inserts won’t get you there. A $5,000 promotion budget won’t get you there either.

No matter how much money you throw at your project, we’re all limited by a stubborn principle called free market pricing. People are only willing to pay what a product is worth to them, not what it costs to produce. The intrinsic value of music is in free fall, and people won’t pay for it if they’re just not that into you.

So why are musicians flocking to fan funding (also known as “crowdfunding”) sites like Kickstarter, Sellaband, Slicethepie, PledgeMusic, and artistShare in droves?

My guess is that they figure “why not give it a shot”? Well, I’ll tell you why not, and offer a better option.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov012010

New in MTT Open: Hyperlinks, Pay to Play, Face the Interface, and Are You Really Selling Music?

Are You Really Selling Music? Nate Talbot poses a simple, yet powerful question: What am I selling? The post tells the story of Ray Kroc who helped McDonald’s become one of the largest fast food chains in the world. According to Kroc, he was in the real estate business because every McDonald’s was located in a high traffic area. The point that Nate is trying to make is: YOU are the product. Artists connect with fans through their music and their stories

“Music is more than a series of notes that someone enjoys hearing. Music, unlike any other medium, is something that consumers make personal.” (Read on )

Click to read more ...

Monday
Nov012010

How Well Do You Know Your Fans?

It is common knowledge that establishing, building upon and maintaining a fan base is one of, if not the most important goal of any emerging artist who is looking to use their music to forge a sustainable career.

But in order to make sure that your efforts are maximized and your fan base grows properly, it is important that you understand that not all fans are equal.

‘Fan’ is a metric of measurement of a persons dedication to your music.

While everyone likes to say they are a HUGE fan, the reality is a little different: your fan base will range from the mildly engaged Listeners to the overly-dedicated Superfans. 

Although creating legitimate and valuable relationships with fans is important, it is also extremely time consuming, especially as your fan base begins to grow. Therefore it is crucial that you understand who your fans are, in terms of dedication, so that as you invest more and more time into establishing and maintaining relationships with fans, you continue to see an increasingly beneficial return in terms of on and offline influence, engagement and sales (both music and ticket sales included).

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Friday
Oct292010

What Is A Brand?

One of the things that an artist or band hears a lot these days is the need to promote “your brand” in order to get ahead in the Music 3.0 era that we all now live in. That’s all well and good, but it’s hard to promote your brand unless you’re 100% sure of what a brand is. So what exactly is a brand? Here’s a quote from the Music 3.0 Internet music guidebook that describes it perfectly:

A brand is a promise of quality and consistency. No matter where in the world you go for a McDonald’s hamburger, you know what to expect. No matter what product you purchase from Apple, you can expect sleek high-tech design and an easy to understand user interface. Brand management is protecting the image of the brand and carefully selecting how to best exploit it.

For an artist, that means a consistency of persona, and usually a consistency of sound. Regardless of what genre of music the artist delves into, the feel is the same and you can tell it’s the artist at first listen. Madonna has changed directions many times during her career but her brand has been consistent. Her persona remained the same even as she changed to and from the “Material Girl.” The Beatles tried a wide variety of directions but you never once questioned who you were listening to. It was always fresh and exciting, but distinctly them.

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Thursday
Oct282010

Andrew Dubber To Record Album In Delhi With Street Kids

Andrew Dubber, a music industry commentator and founder of Music Think Tank, has ventured to Delhi. He is working with a group called Music Basti; it is a youth-run charity. It organizes music workshops in homes for street children. Professional musicians, many of whom are successful recording artists, run the music workshops.

In partnership with Music Basti, Dubber intends to record an album of songs featuring the street children and release it online. He wants to do this to simply try and raise money for the charity. All proceeds from the album sales will go to the group to support their work. He hopes that it brings their cause to a wider audience too. The album once recorded and mixed down, will be released through Bandcamp. It will be available for free and as a pay-what-you-think-it’s worth.

Dubber intends to use various forms of online media to build a story, create meaning, and connect the cause and music to people on a deeper level.

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Wednesday
Oct272010

What Artists Should Know About SoundOut

You know your song is great, but is it a hit? Will it inspire listeners to share it with their friends, hand over their email address, or maybe even open their wallets? You need feedback from average music fans who have nothing to lose by being honest.

SoundOut compares your song to 50,000 others from both major labels and indies. They promise to tell you how good your track is with guaranteed 95% accuracy (I’m still trying to wrap my brain around what that means). Starting at $40, they compile the results of 80 reviews into an easy-to-read PDF report. Top rated artists are considered for additional publishing and promotional opportunities.

The head of business development invited me to try out the service for free with three 24-hour “Express Reports” (a $150 value). I used the feedback from my Jango focus group to select the best and worst tracks I recorded for my last album, along with my personal favorite, an 8-minute progressive house epic. You can download all three of my PDF reports here.

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Tuesday
Oct262010

MySpace Still Rules Google Search Results for Music Acts

Given that it’s pretty much dormant (and we never did much with it in the first place), I’m always surprised to see our MySpace page show up as one of the top three results whenever I do a vanity Google search for my band. I was curious to see the Google rank for the MySpace pages of well-known artists and conducted a quick search experiment last week. It wasn’t exhaustive — I just started with some of the bigger “indie rock” names of the past decade and threw in a handful of classic rock acts as well. Also, for band names of more than one word, I didn’t put quote marks around the full name, I just typed the band name and hit return, figuring that’s what most people would do when conducting a search.

For most of the acts, the Google Music Search player appears at the top of the results (no surprise there). And in almost every case, the band’s MySpace page was one of the top five search results. Of the 10 other artists I conducted searches for, Led Zeppelin was the only one where a MySpace page wasn’t one of the top 10 search results. Facebook only made two top-10 appearances (one of which was a search for my own band), though it was in the 11th or 12th spot for several acts. Last.fm made a surprisingly strong appearance and was a top-10 result for almost every artist.

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