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Saturday
Mar222008

Ask the readers: What's important?

One of my main ideas behind setting up Music Think Tank - apart from simply to provide a community blog for some of my favourite writers and thinkers in the area of online music business - was to create a space where these people could come together and discuss - perhaps even attempt to solve - some of the biggest issues in digital and online music composition, production, promotion, distribution and consumption.

We’d like to have a go at some of the little ones along the way too. 

In order for us to do that, we need to know what the burning questions are in your mind. We’re building something in the back laboratory right now that will allow you to post your specific questions, so that we can put our minds to work and see if we can generate solutions that you can take and apply to your individual, specific circumstances.

But for now, we’re interested in hearing what your biggest concerns are. This is the big picture stuff. Is it copyright? Is it audio fidelity? Is it information overload? Getting a break?

Hit the comments, and let us know: what are The Issues That Matter?

Give us the things to think about, and we in the Think Tank will put our Thinking Caps on. 

Reader Comments (20)

Andrew,

What I love most about this post is the order you listed the elements in - "some of the biggest issues in digital and online music composition, production, promotion, distribution and consumption."

I find it odd that the focus is always on the marketing promotion and distribution, with little said about the vitality of the creative process, and how the digital realm can help or hinder this... I've blogged about it a fair bit, and will do more in the next couple of weeks.

For me the biggies are these two - how to be as unfettered as possible in getting my music out there to the audience who WANT to hear it, and secondly, how to filter what's there by anything other than just popularity and keyword-relevance; ie building filtering communities and networks who share the great stuff they find based on quality rather than hipness of spurious stylistic connection...

Really enjoying the new blog, thanks!

Steve

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Lawson

If you're a lone-wolf musician who is unable to play live shows, is it possible to still build a fan base on the Internet? The vast majority of the focus of this "new music environment" is on playing out, but some of us don't have that option. Thank you!

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Landrum

Hellu!

It would be awesome if you guys make a list of your previous blog post, sorted by subject, like 'MySpace', 'the death of the big labels', 'how to sell your music online' and 'the great sites I found for you'. You get the picture. I think that would really help since nobody has the time to search your individual blogs for tips when you have a specific question. It would be the greatest help I can think of.

And then, something for you to think of; where can i get the most out of my time when I promote my band on the internet? Myspace is a place where one can find anyone, but it's terribly inefficient to send friend requests to one person at a time, with three or four clicks for each. Plus, it's not a very fast server. Is there some other way to work at grassroot level that is more efficient? That's the big question for me, as an artist without a label or a big fanbase to back me up.

Thanks for a great site! /Oskar, Sweden

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterOskar Eriksson

Getting people to actually show up for gigs.

My band often gets hired just on the strength of our online demo cuts. We're pretty sure we're sounding good and entertaining those folks who show up. The people who're there at the gigs clap loud, buy CDs, compliment us afterwards, etc. but there are just so few of them.

We pass out flyers and invitations and lots of people say they'll be there but we still end up with small crowds.

Is it just a percentage game? Do we need more on the mailing list (well, yes, of course) but how many do we need before we finally are able to tell a club "we draw X number" and know that we can?

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterHowlin' Hobbit

The Long Tail and the new music environment caters to the aggregators of content-- iTunes, eMusic, Record Labels, etc. Musicians (I feel) are stuck, because being a single band constricts you to such a narrow focus.

Much like Steve above, how does a musician/band/artist achieve the status of 'filter' or 'opinion leader' in the new music environment? A blogger can rattle on and on about a variety of bands. A band has only themselves as the focus (sure you can write about other artists, but that's not exactly helping your cause).

The other thing I've been wrestling with lately is that various groups seem to be winning in the music business, but rarely is it the actually creators.

Distribution, both physical and digital, own the pipelines. Therefore they can dictate wholesale/server costs. Studios are still very much a necessity, and can rely on a myriad of musical acts these days to pay the bills. Music consultants (such as the ones involved with this site) stand to make a buck off of the woes of the starving artist. Publicity and Booking receives their funds, regardless of making or breaking artists. The list goes on.

How can musicians ween off the need for these vampires?

How do you raise money to make quality recordings in an age where labels are no longer giving advances or taking risks?

How do you make money from the music you presumably spend a good deal of money to create?

March 22 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Winger

For me at least, it would be a series of posts dealing with business models for artists that don't involve selling music.

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Hickman

My biggest question from my own readers and people I talk to in RL is filtering? What is the current filtering process? I continue to tell people to use the same ones as before along with some of the newer ones thus magazines, radio, blogs, etc. But there is too many to call any of them a true filtering process.

@Darren I watched Spellbox a band based in NM USA build some of their fan base using camstreams and doing 3 live web casts a week. The bandwidth was a bit low once you had more then 15 people watching the show.

@Oskar DIY isn't do it all by yourself. For an idea on doing more via Myspace check out http://www.myspace.com/chantellepaige I love how she handles her street team or to be more precise delegates to others the work.

I of course would love to hear from the think tank regarding the questions I answered. And though I participate in Sellaband.com and have looked over Slice The Pie I too would love to hear more regarding Michael's question about raising money.

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterNetvalar

How do musicians protect only the rights they want. Creative Commons is too blunt a tool and it is scary to commit a work to the (almost) public domain in perpetuity. Can I grant free licence to low-bitrate versions of music, but protect higher quality versions? Can I set a CC type licence for a limited time? And what implications will these issues have for my business as a musician.

One more while I'm limbered up:
How can online radio survive with the RIAA, PPL etc living so far in the past. If I want to set up an online stream I need to acquire licences for every territory that someone listens to the stream. That's just toilet. The internet should be a licencing territory, my licence fees (as a broadcaster) should be split based on the data from my streaming server and play-log, but attributed as a proportion rather than another fee. When will this happen? How can we make it happen?

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterRuben Kenig

What's most important to me is data. Demographics, sales figures, opinion surveys. Most of what's going on for the past 2 years is discussion -- often between brilliant minds with a lot of experience, but it's still just discussion.

This discussion is being molded by all of our assumptions and guesswork and 90% of that is wrong. Things are changing fast these days and the greatest need I see is accurate and reliable data. I could write up an article about how the music biz is dying and make a total convincing case -- I could just as easily write an article making the opposite case and "prove" that, too.

It seems like, as interesting as this discussion is, we're all flying blind right now.

March 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I subscribe to your blog and read everything you guys put out, just wanted to say thanks.. Incredibly helpful.

One thing I would like to hear more about is how to drive traffic to a bands blog.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterJake Roche

I work as part of a community group who work with bands and our key focus and my key interest is how to develop a long term sustainable income through music. With the wide range of expertise involved in this blog it would be great to see some of this knowledge and debate actually reflected in the reality of some of the artists involved. Maybe that's something that we the reader can supply in our comments and questions on the different topics for debate? I'd like to see case studies, direct connections between the ideas and the artists.

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterJ Bluevibe

I think a subject that needs some serious attention is 'What is the product?'.

The changing distribution model is currently shaking up the way people access music and musicians get it out there, but it seems inevitable that this will effect the music that is made, how it's made and why.

I think the answer to Michael's question above, how to raise and make money may increasingly be 'you can't in any significant quantities.... on your own'.

It's just a thought, but it's interesting to look at the way 2 dimensional artists operate as a possible future model for recording artists. Many graphic designers make beautiful and poignant work as part of a team or company and don't take the glory themselves. They make a living making a small part of a wider content offering.

Ruben mentioned royalties from streaming sites. I tried to get a PPL license recently for MuHead and was told that nothing existed that would be any use and my only option was to contact each label one by one. I don't mind this as it offers a good networking opportunity, but it amazes me that PPL obviously can't find a model that's worth implementing. Writers and designers don't get them because they're equally incalculable, but still maintain the copywrite.Will music writers have to let go of the idea of meaningful royalties and start looking for a share in appropriate revenue streams instead?

March 24 | Unregistered CommenterDan

I'm intrigued to see this question posed, Andrew. I'd profer that the reason why you attract so many avid eyeballs is that you point out trends that will take shape before us mere artists, and as you bring them to our attention you also introduce new strands for consideration. As a steadfast 'stay-at-home' musician, ie: with the gig trail deliberately overlooked, I'm interested in cultivating revenue streams through technology and contacts. The "biggest concerns" are naturally coming up with anything that allows food to appear on the table without recourse to Music 1.0 methods. In summary, to give you a smile on your face, you keep uncovering the vibe, and let us set our creative grey-matter on where we can take that forward with our endeavours. If you think I've missed the point, then may I introduce Plan B; Please send me Kylie's phone number.

What I would like to see here (if possible) is a "rates" / "fees" / "payments" table laying out a general idea of what kind of general revenue standards exist for score composers, studio musicians, engineers, etc. etc.

I know that these numbers vary a pretty good bit, but if there was some kind of broad stroke gauge to try and get an idea of what kind of money is paid out for what kind of work these days, I think it would be very helpful.

Too much to ask? Maybe.

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterMilton

My main concern is getting the music "out there". I've been a strong believer in the "indie" philosohpy for many years, started my own label, got into huge debt, the works!

I've done some incredible things over the years (even played with my long-time hero, Bruce Springsteen), but the business part almost killed my creativity forever.

It's hard to explain it but in Spain (my country) the rift between indie and major is so big, you wouldn't believe it. No college radio, no concert-going culture. In my hometown, population about 200,000, you can have an indie band play for 10 people or less and a major label artist play for 12,000. Absolutely nothing in between!

Anyway, I think I'm rambling...

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterJorge

As a publicist and a music manager, who works with a range of talented and pretty level-headed musicians, I'd like to discuss the issue of keeping your sanity when you work in this business.

Just in the work I do, I'm doing music biz stuff 8 to 13 hours a day. The rest of the time is spent taking care of personal things from work outs to house cleaning. It's very hard for me to take a day off or even sit for more than ten minutes in front of the TV.

Some of my artists have booked tours where every week they're playing five or six nights in a row. And driving and taking chances in a new hotel or person's house can be a risk if you're a baby act. When artists get off the road, they're also dealing with frustrations for a variety of reasons, including the fact they suddenly have to stop their energy for the live show and getting to it.

Also, some folks haven't mastered the meaning of what rejection means. Do you have no talent or is it that you're not in a place where you can make money, so you're being ignored? When should you take rejection personally and when shouldn't you? And the same thing goes for when should you take new friends--if you're suddenly succeeding personally, and when shouldn't you? How do you know who your friends are versus those who want to use you?

March 26 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Anne, I think being allergic to TV isn't a sign of fatigue, it's a sign of sanity, intelligence and good taste.

March 27 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Thanks, Justin,
You're implying now that I'm intelligent and sane! :)

Seriously, I have to admit that I love the media, and certainly we're all aware there are some intelligent shows geared to intelligent people on the "boob tube."

The reality for me is that I have a heavy workload and there are times I'm just throwing my correspondence out to my assistant, "hey, can you draft the letter with these points?" because I'm not thinking thoroughly. She shows me the letter, I do the edits, ask her to send it back to me, and then I decide if we should let it out. But it used to be that I handled every single inch of my correspondence.

Jann and I are working a number of fronts at the same time, plus we have day jobs. Mine is as a publicist, and it's also work. Recently he threw a party for my assistants and me. He mentioned the Return to Forever tour, and suddenly I popped up on his computer, and checked dates on POLLSTAR, trying to figure out where he could see them. And then I said, "oh, the night before your Ann Arbor gig, they're there. You guys can bring fliers for your gig. Oh, wait a second, you have a gig in Toledo that same night." And he's there going, "hey, no work!" I was basically scheduling and scheming in the midst of a relaxing evening.

So, here I am, knowing that taking a significant--not ten minute--break is a sane thing to do!

March 27 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Leighton

Hello Andrew!

Read almost all articles on the site during the last days.
Here are a few things that are important to us:
1. Although the www is global, there are still different conditions in different countries. I'm from Germany, and not all people beyond 40 are using it. In fact there are many households without a computer or working online connection. So if you promote music for adults that can be a limitation.
In my country, there is no college radio and the whole private radio scene is completely different. Private radio in Germany exists only 20 years. There is not such a variety as in the USA. All stations are format radio with fix playlists. Almost no chance to get played or get an interview unless you pay for it.

2. Our music style (instrumental, emotional electric guitar, big hammond b3), is not so prominent in internet blogs as dance, prog, alternative, electronica etc.
I did a search on Pop Matters and Pitchfork Media for artists with a similar style ( Santana, Peter Green, Larry Carlton) but got only poor results.
Is it possible, that certain kinds of music are not discussed on the web?

3. Online Radio.
There is a vast amount of online stations. But I can't send a Cd out to everyone. I can't even tell how many listeners a station has. Some have buy cd links to amazon, but what if your music is only on cdbaby or amazon.mp3?
How to promote my music effectively to online radios?

Just a few questions that I had, hoping to fuel the discussion.
Love your site!!

Peter Blue, Blue Star

March 31 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Blue

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