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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).


LSD is great. Don’t let the Internet cure it.

There was a time when LSD could propel an artist to fame and fortune.  Prior to today’s Internet culture which calls for everyone to share everything and anything, the only sights and sounds music fans ever experienced from the likes of Mick Jagger and Jim Morrison were LSD driven. I am talking about Lead Singer Disease (LSD) of course.  LSD was the look, the sound, the swagger and the distinctive persona that each lead singer carved out and manicured, and due to the lack of today’s personal broadcast technology, it was the only personality that music fans ever experienced.  Then came the Internet.  The Internet cures LSD and that’s probably not a good thing.

Personally, I want my lead singers to be freaking super heroes.  I have zero interest in knowing that you put blueberries in your Cheerios, or that you are flat out broke.  I don’t even want to know that you are a regular human.  Give me LSD over feel good videos, cameo shots, home interviews, cat holding, dog petting, bike riding, smiles, friends, family, or anything that makes you look close to normal.  You drive a rocket ship, eat steel and shit nails, divine songs, date models, burn money, wear a cape, sleep naked, and when you blow your nose…a melody comes out.  And, you are not an asshole. 

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Structuring an E-mail Newsletter for Your Fans [Free Template]

One of the most valuable assets you will obtain during your music career is a healthy list of fan e-mail addresses. Unlike posting status updates on social networks, which tend to get lost in the mess of everyone’s news feeds, sending an e-mail to a fan is a direct channel of communication. A fan that opts into receiving your e-mail newsletter usually means that he or she wants to hear from you, and is interested in you and your music.

Since you are communicating directly to your fans, it is important that you get it right from the beginning. One big element of developing a newsletter strategy is the overall look, feel, and presentation of your newsletter. Is your newsletter just simple, plain text at the moment? If it is, consider livening up your newsletter a bit with this free HTML template download.

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The Artist 2.0 Manifesto

Insofar as the nature of the transmission and dissemination of art and media has been irrevocably altered in the past 10+ years, it may also follow that the nature of the artist can and must evolve. Despite the best efforts of the Music Industry and the Entertainment Industry at large, the internet has uncorked the bottle, and the genie has been emancipated. The pigeons are no longer content to stay snug in their holes. We now live in a world where walls are being toppled, both physical and metaphysical. It is quite possible, in point of fact, that many of the aforementioned walls never even existed. Perhaps recent events have lifted the veil in front of our eyes, so that we may finally see that the walls were never there to begin with.

In our former life, the Music Industry would tell us what we liked, and we would dutifully hand over our shekels in exchange for their Product. When they sensed a disturbance in The Force, every so often they would allow an Alternative Product to emerge, only to quickly co-opt it for maximum profit.

The Artist, at the time, was a commodity, tightly controlled and groomed for maximum profitability. A Formula was instituted, and only occasionally tweaked until maximum profitability was summarily achieved. If maximum profitability was not quickly achieved after a few tweaks of the Formula, the Artist was quickly jettisoned, to be immediately replaced by a younger, fresher version. However, if the Formula proved successful, it would be milked for all it was worth over a period of many years, until the artist either self-destructed in a magical blaze of fire or was, once again, jettisoned.

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Top 7 Reasons Why Artists Strongly Resist Social Media

It happened a few weeks ago in Australia.  I was standing at the opening cocktail reception for APRA’s Song Summit Music Conference overlooking Darling Harbor in Sydney, and I was chatting with a perfect stranger (who it turns out is a very famous Australian musician with quite a few top 10 hits in Oz).  Noting my foreign accent he asks “What brings you here?” “I teach artists about online marketing and social media.”  I answer sheepishly, because this news is not always met with elated enthusiasm.

Him: Really?

Me: Yes.

Him: You know one thing I have noticed about Social Media and marketing…

Me: What is that?

Him: I noticed that you don’t really have to be a great artist or well respected by your musician peers to succeed now a days – you just have to be really good at marketing and you get more success than you ever would have in the past.

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A Note From The Editor: Seeking New Authors, Spam Problems, And The Hit Song Contest

Afternoon all,

Hope everything is well; I have a few things I wanted to bring to your attention. 

Since the beginning, Music Think Tank as served as a platform and sounding board for a collective of some of the leading thinkers and change makers in the tech and music industries.  At present, I am looking to expand the author base and scope of the blog just a little bit wider, in hopes of bringing in even more great content. If you have something great that you’ve seen or have written recently, maybe even a big idea you’ve been kicking around, please get in touch. I would be interested in featuring your insights. As standing editor, my standards are indefinitely high, but I’d love to hear what you have in mind.

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How Are We Gonna Pay These Musicians?

With the increasing ability for people to access, blog, manipulate, send and receive digital content such as music, many people have been trying to figure out how musicians can actually earn money in 2010. From the excellent work of The Cynical Musician it appears that the various new digital tools, while solving the artist’s problem of promotion and distribution, have not in fact leveled the playing field at all in terms of revenue. 

Conveniently enough, however, many countries are overhauling their copyright law to modernize and take into account these new technologies. I’ll explore here the idea that while these new tools are currently subject to the same power relationships as have always existed, there are options available to update the law in a way that could create a more fair system.

A case study
As a case study I’ll use three categories of songs of varying levels of commercial potential, with examples of each from the band Blur. Examples are from the 1990s, a “simpler time” when promotion and distribution was firmly out of the hands of artists themselves.

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Last Week On Music Think Tank


Russell Rains of St Edwards on 4 Cases You Need to Know About and How They Affect The Music Industry, Part 1

In May, I traveled to Arhuus, Denmark where I attended and spoke at The SPOT Festival. On the first day, the welcome luncheon speech was delivered by Russell Rains, who is the Program Director for the Digital Media Management MBA program at St. Edwards University, (the only university that offers MBAs in this discipline).

At the top of his talk, Russell mentioned something that made me sit up in my seat: “Everyone in the music industry is watching these four cases very carefully.”  I’m not, I thought to myself, and neither are the hundreds of artists who I speak to globally and represent at Ariel Publicity.  In fact, I had not really heard a lot about these 4 cases more than in brief mentions.  So I fired up my trusty flip cam and taped his talk.

Russell was more than generous to co-contribute to this piece by providing a little more insight on why you my dear independent community of artists should care.

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Savor Your Music: The Effect of Abundance in Culture

Thus far, we have explored the paradoxes of choice overload in culture through the analytic lenses of the record store and web, coming to the conclusion that “paradise of music” that we had initially envisioned—may not exist.  As counterintuitive as it may be, the findings in my previous two essays point to the idea that more music is less.  That as the number of cultural options goes up, the amount of satisfaction that a fan derives out of any given choice will be lessened as a result; it may even cause them to opt out of the decision making process all together.  We also found that, in culture, the effect of overwhelming choice has the potential to cause fans to opt for the same old songs as a way to avoid facing unlimited options online and off, to rely on filters like Pandora rather than on themselves, and to become more passive participants in their cultural lives.   

Such insights are quite disheartening and run contrary to the long held beliefs of many, including the viewpoints that Chris Anderson expressed in his book The Long Tail.  The focus of this essay turns our attention away from our discussion of choice overload and the effects that it has on fans when they are purchasing music and brings us to the to the topic of how overwhelming choice may distress fans when they are enjoying the music that they already own.  Within the context of the iPod, we will try to discover whether or not storing thousands of songs in our pockets has forced us—as fans—to increase the amount of effort that we put into making a decision about what we want to hear and if the consequence of having unlimited options, causes us to enjoy any given song less.   

“For many of us, the iPod rekindled our dormant passion for music,” Steven Levy writes in The Perfect Thing.  “It made us want to hear more songs, it encouraged us to go out and find new bands to love, it offered a new ways to organize music and take it with us.”  As well, the iPod released fans from the constraints of Top 40 radio playlists and, for the first time, gave them complete control over their musical experiences.  Prior iterations, such as the Walkman, only allowed fans to play one album at a time, whereas the iPod granted fans the ability to play any song, from any album, at any time.  With the social epidemic of file-sharing that occurred alongside the advent of the iPod, the barriers of music consumption fell and the act of collecting music evolved.  Those who were born digital, among everyone else, gained access to a plethora of music online and could easily download the thousands of songs required to fill the storage capacity of any iPod.  Soon, even fans who previously expressed little interest in the act collecting music, downloaded massive collections of their own, and now, rather than burning single copies of CDs to give to friends, fans either loaded up their iPod full of music or copied and pasted their entire collections to their hard drive.  These common practices and newfound social behaviors had the effect of greatly multiplying the number of music choices that many fans faced and left them with the responsibility navigating collections that expanded far beyond their capabilities of doing so—with any measure of certainty.

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10 Free Google Tools to Manage Your Music Career

Google is constantly developing nifty applications and technologies to enhance the way we communicate and work online.  Because Google survives on advertising revenues these products are all offered at the amazingly low low price of  FREE.  As a musician in a rather competitive market, it’s important to know and use tools that increase the efficiency of your marketing, managing, and networking efforts.  The goal is less time pulling your hair out in front of the computer screen and more time making beautiful music!

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How Man Overboard Made Their Record Leak Turn Into A Good Thing

If you read my blog, you know that we believe the way record companies handle leaks is one of the many holdovers of a bunch of Luddites refusing to adapt to the times. We write constantly about their refusal to figure out a way to take a leak and turn it into a good thing. As circumstance would have it, I had the chance to put my money where my mouth is when one of the groups I manage, Man Overboard, had their record leak 28 days before the intended release date. After the jump we will discuss how we made this become another thing that won us both new fans and the loyalty of the ones we already had. 

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Last Week On Music Think Tank


Frustration, Jealousy and the Often Forgotten- Consistency

You’re in music.  You are frustrated with the Industry and on days where you are honest enough to admit it you are jealous of several of the seemingly talentless hacks that sit atop the pop charts.  Here are some of the conclusions I have come to about my career path in and out of music.

Sometime in the last year or so I was aimlessly flipping through 400 channels of nothing on when I noticed a familiar face on TV.  My old band mate from college Gabe Roth was playing on one of the late night shows with the band he founded - Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.  After playing together in college Gabe simply never stopped.  He maxed his credit cards and borrowed money from friends and did anything and everything he could to always be playing.  Although he is most proud of the work he does with his own projects he was recently awarded a Grammy for engineering and doing arrangement on the Amy Winehouse Record “Back to Black”.  Gabe is not one of the talentless I referred to in the opening paragraph by any stretch of the imagination.

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Investing in Artists: Consider a Promotionless To Popular Strategy First

When people search for information about investing in the music industry, about investing in artists, and when they are looking for information on 360 deals, my blog posts often appear within the search results.  As a consequence, at least once a month, someone calls me about investing in the music industry or about investing in artists.  Although this post speaks to artists, I plan to use this post and the accompanying comments as a tool to make my conversations on this topic more efficient.

One Billion True Fans - It Won’t Happen.
Even with overlap, at one thousand fans per artist, one million artists cannot acquire one billion true fans.  All the music lovers in the world are never going to accept and process billions of artist-initiated emails, status updates and text messages.  Pushy self-promotion doesn’t scale.  If everyone is doing it, nobody is going to do it effectively; the same applies to fundraising; fans are going to tune these messages out.  Collectively, artists and their managers are running the risk of appearing like financial planners at a cookout…occasionally invited, but often avoided.  Moreover, the sum of all the effort and capital invested in music promotion generates such a negative return, that it makes investing heavily in time travel machines appear outright attractive.  Perhaps it’s time to consider jumping off of, or avoiding altogether, the self-promotion bandwagon.

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