Friday, January 25, 2008

Successful Music 2.0 Promotion Trends

The music business as we know it is dying a fast death and gone are those days of pressing up and selling CDs. That's bad news for those still playing the same old music game but definitely not bad news for those artists and labels willing to ride the new wave. But all is not lost with the music industry. Emerging trends in online marketing and social media optimization has created new opportunities to market to a larger audience. Those who survive will see the need to step outside of the traditional label relationship and be more cost effective while still being able to make money and have longevity in the business. Those who fail will continue to do what they've been doing. Nevertheless, there are some hot new trends to jump start any music promotion campaign in 2008.


Viral Videos: We saw what it did for Soulja Boy. Imagine what a little creativity could do in your online promotions.

Digital Sales: It's killed CD sales but created new sales opportunities (i.e. ringtones, mobile marketing, etc). Combine your digital sales with your Myspace, Facebook, & social media marketing strategy.

Free Music: It's not completely free but funded by advertisers and sponsors. Heard of RCRD LBL or Spiral Frog? Find out how Puma & other advertisers are helping their artists promote their songs.

Online PR: Print media is always a great source of publicity but notice how magazines are shrinking in size and becoming less content & way too much ads. Besides, online PR gets your message out quicker and to a larger audience.

Blog, Blog, & Blog:
Besides being a great tool to stay in touch with your audience, blogging also helps to optimize your search engine rank.

Guerilla Marketing:
Nothing beats in your face marketing that you can't seem to avoid.

Control at the Hands of Your Audience: It worked for Radiohead when they let their fans name the price of their CD. It could work for you.

New media technologies:
Myspace, Facebook, Ning, Bebo, Joost TV, Goodstorm Mixtapes. Need I say more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Help Them, Help You

Make it simple for others to help you. There are a lot of people out there who want to help you, but often they don’t know how or they don’t have the tools or information they need to do it.

Newcomers: Make It Easy For Them To Get To Know You
In this day and age there will be a lot of people who happen upon your website without having heard your music before. It’s critical that they can find and listen to your music with just one click of their mouse. You’re a musician, after all. Your music should be front and center. Make it easy for them to love your music.

Your Audience: Give Them A Free Mp3
If you’re not on the radio, allow your audience to be your “radio.” Offer a free mp3 and encourage them to give it away, blog about it, post the link on their myspace page (and give them the html to do so). Give them something to talk about.

Industry Folks: Give Them The Information They Need

Carry business cards with all contact information, a description of your music and your web address. Make sure you have a thorough and easy to download press kit on your site. This should include music samples (preferably a free mp3), print ready photos, a brief bio, a more thorough bio, the latest and greatest news about your career, a fact sheet, song lyrics and any radio airplay or chart information.

All this information should be neatly organized and easy to find on your website.

The key here is to anticipate what others might need or want and make those things available to them so that they can easily spread the word about your music.

(HT: The Secret Life Of Kat)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Eric Hutchinson learns the power of positive blogging

How an unsigned singer-songwriter landed in the iTunes top ten on the strength of the ubiquitous gossip blogger's mention.

When Eric Hutchinson woke up on the morning of September 5th and checked his email, his overflowing inbox initially confused him. "It was like my birthday, times ten," he says. "I started reading the messages and realized that something huge had happened."

A few days earlier, a high school friend of Hutchinson’s had emailed gossip blogger Perez Hilton a link to Hutchinson's MySpace page, and the self-proclaimed "queen of all media" liked what he heard enough to post a link and some effusive commentary on his site, which receives three million unique visitors a day.

In the next 24 hours, Hutchinson had 3,000 new friend requests on his MySpace page, and 30,000 spins of the songs he posted on the site. He also saw his album break in to the iTunes top ten, entering at number nine and rising to number seven. At an LA show that night, says manager Dave Morris, "there were crowds of industry people milling around, pissed off that they couldn’t get in."

Until the Perez post, Hutchinson had been just another unsigned singer-songwriter. He had been signed to Maverick and released a live record, but when the label folded in the midst of him recording an album, he was left without a musical home. In the end, Hutchinson decided to buy back the rights to his live album and release his new music on his own. With no distribution deal, he resorted to selling the album at shows and online at and iTunes. His jazzy, soul-influenced work had begun to attract some attention, and Morris says, "buzz was definitely building around Eric."

With the Hilton post, though, the buzz increased to a roar. Hilton has championed other bands in the past, most notably rockers The Gossip and pop star Mika. But Hutchinson is the first unsigned artist to benefit from Perez’s spotlight, and the increased exposure has rocketed him out of obscurity.

When asked what he plans to do next, Hutchinson first laughs and says, "retire." Then he says, "I’m going to keep touring and work on the new album. I’ve been at this a long time, and I don’t feel like an overnight success." But, he acknowledges, "Perez changed everything."

5 Lies You'll Hear In Nashville

By Craig Bickhardt

"It's the illegal downloading"
People are hip to how much it really costs to record and manufacture a great CD (under $20,000). Yet the major record labels continue to dump ridiculous amounts of money into over-hyped acts and then over-charge consumers for their product. Why spend $17 on a CD that sounds like a collection of Clear Channel jingles ? Ask anyone in the Nashville music business if they listen to country music after work and you'll find out they hate country music. If you want a great CD look to the indie labels, which incidentally, are booming and profiting because they don't operate on bloated budgets designed to keep the suits well-fed while the artists do all the work. The Indies are mostly in it for the art. Read the blogs and the comments and you'll find that most consumers are still buying the music they love and they have no problem paying for mp3s. But they do have a problem with paying twice what they ought to pay for crappy CDs, and with the bullying practices of the RIAA.

"We're looking for something really different."
Has anyone noticed how quickly country music assimilates the latest sound into it's sea of sameness? Shania and Mutt put a banjo in a track and now you can't make a record without a banjo in it. I'm not knocking banjos, I'm criticizing producers for their lack of innovation. Most great songs in Nashville never get recorded precisely because they ARE different. Most of the best songwriters that I know have no publisher at the moment. They all write very fresh, wonderful songs. This lie pushes all my buttons.

"It isn't a conflict of interests."
Of course not. Sony publishing and Sony Records don't play favorites with each other. If a producer runs a record label, produces several acts, and owns a publishing company, he can be still be objective about songs. That's why artists like Faith Hill are shocked to discover that great songwriters also live in Massachusetts, because Faith is hearing the best songs her producer wants her to hear, right? Good work, boys.

"You have to live in town."
Intrinsically there's NO reason why anyone has to live in Nashville. Many writers are collaborating over the Internet these days, and lots a great writers such as Hugh Prestwood and Jimmy Webb NEVER lived there. Living in Nashville is fine if you like it there, and I did for a while. But now I get regular emails and comments from writers who say that Nashville is ruining their writing. They can't be spontaneous, it's all done by committee, they fear being criticized for writing anything too artistic, and they must collaborate with artists, many of whom are not songwriters, never will be songwriters, and only show up for the money.

"Don't worry, I can hear the song."

No you can't. If the demo doesn't sound exactly like what's on the radio, forget it. If I brought you guitar-vocal demos of the next Bob Dylan, you'd pass.

Songwriter Craig Bickhardt, songs have been recorded by Gary Chapman and Alison Krauss, The Judds and Martina McBride among others.

The Album is Dead...

By Mark Cuban

There once was a time when the release date of an album was exciting. For our favorite artists we knew when the last album came out and when the next album was due. If you loved the artist you bought it. If you didn't you either bought the single or you listened to the album with your friends and then decided.

As the price of records and then CDs increased year by year, spending 20 bucks for a CD became a purchase you needed to be sure of rather than a no brainer or impulse buy.

Then free became an option.
Then aggregating almost unlimited free music on a PC and then an iPod became easy.

So here we are in 2008 and the only given in the music industry is that CD sales have and will fall. And fall. And fall.

Reading last weeks billboard, something interesting popped out at me. The song Low Rider by Flo Rida sold 467,000 units in a single week. There were 27 digital singles that sold more than 100k units in that week. The obvious trend continues that people are ready, willing and able to buy singles of songs they like.

So the question arises, why don't artists serialize the release of songs ? Why not create a "season" of release of songs, much like the fall TV season and promise fans that Flo Rida is going to release a new single every week or 2 weeks for the next 10 weeks ?

Sure, its not easy to come up with a great song every 2 weeks. But isn't that exactly the same problem you have with an album ? Maybe thats not the "creative process" for certain artists. That's a problem for them.

What we do know is that music fans will spend 99c and that its easier to ask them for 99c a week than it is to get 9.99 at one time from them for 10 songs.

Serializing the release of music also allows for the marketing arms to be in constant touch with sales and radio outlets. Rather than having to initiate marketing plans and hope to reinvigorate the interest in an artist, it becomes a digital tour that never ends.

If an artist commits to release music on a weekly or bi weekly basis, then consumers can make a commitment knowing they are going to get something new and hopefully exciting for their 99c. If the commitment is strong enough its feasible that artists could sell subscriptions to their serialized releases. My guess is that consumers will feel better about subscribing to an artist and getting a song a week or every 2 than dropping 10 dollars at a time for an album.

In reality thats exactly how I buy my music right now. I don't do it by artist. I go to iTunes and I go through the top 10 lists and listen to samples and thats how I determine what music I'm going to buy.

If there was an option when I bought a single to subscribe to an RSS feed that would send me a sample of that artists song when they released a single, I would add that RSS feed to my browser. Add a 1 click to buy, and chances are I'm going to buy a lot more music.

Is this idea so great I'm going to start a music label ? No chance. I wouldn't get in the music industry if you paid me. However, as a customer and a buyer of music , if I knew that my favorite artists were releasing music weekly, i would certainly check by every week or listen to what was in my RSS aggregator to see what new stuff they had for me.

Consumer are buying music 1 track at a time. I think people will pay 99c to get a single rather than steal it. I think people would rather steal a full album rather than pay 10 dollars or more for it.

Labels need to make the effort to get artists to deliver in a manner that realizes these perspectives.

The album is dead

Friday, January 18, 2008

Unsigned singer is making a name for herself 'The Way I Am'


This was Ingrid Michaelson's moment. It was Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007, and the Old Navy sweater commercial that featured her sweet, simple song, "The Way I Am," was hitting the airwaves. For a few days, the 30-second ads played everywhere: all of the major networks during most prime-time shows, "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno," "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" and "Late Show With David Letterman," and some of the bigger channels playing syndicated shows. Then, premiere week began.

"You couldn't get away from it," laughed Danny Buch, senior vice president of promotion and artist development at Sony BMG's RED, which at that time had just signed on to distribute Michaelson's "Girls and Boys" album. "It was on every channel!"

On Sept. 27 alone, the commercial aired during the premieres of "The Office," "Ugly Betty," "My Name Is Earl" and "Grey's Anatomy," along with a slew of other placements. By the time its run was over, it had repeatedly played across virtually every network and demographic on 14 of 15 nights through Oct. 4. In less than three weeks, the spot made more than 65 appearances in prime time, including 17 season premieres.

Not bad exposure for an unsigned artist. Michaelson, 28, lives with her parents, an older brother she is not shy about yelling at, a rabbit and a small, yappy dog in the prettiest house on a charming street on Staten Island, N.Y. The place is old and full of wonder, old wooden bookcases lined with vintage record players, sculptures her mother makes, countless books and vinyl and even an art project Michaelson made in the sixth grade.

For those who have heard her songs -- quirky pop confections full of infectious harmonies -- the home's whimsy seems perfect, as does the fact that she's sitting on her couch wearing an oversize babushka and flannel spaceship pajamas.

Michaelson has a cold. And if she's a bit rundown after her insane run of the previous 14 months, well, that's fitting, too.

Unknown by anyone but her friends and family in early July 2006, Michaelson is now in the top five at triple A radio, and starting to cross over to top 40. In the space of a year, she has gone from playing small cafes and clubs for friends and family, to selling out New York's 500-capacity Bowery Ballroom just before Christmas; tickets for a Feb. 15 gig at the city's 1,400-capacity Webster Hall are moving quickly. (Her appearance at Nectar in Fremont next Monday is sold out.)

She's a new You Oughta Know artist on VH1, with "The Way I Am" in heavy rotation, and she's beginning to sell a noteworthy amount of music -- the week leading up to Christmas was her best sales week to date, moving more than 12,000 units of "Girls and Boys," according to Nielsen SoundScan.

While it's tempting to focus on her lack of a traditional record label deal -- Michaelson holds her own master and publishing rights -- thinking of her as the poster child for The End of the Music Business is to miss the point of her story, entirely.

She may not have a regular deal, but she'd be the first to tell you she never would have made it from the Old Navy commercials to the aforementioned accomplishments without plenty of help from the traditional music business. Or at least parts of the traditional music business that are nimble enough to keep up with the speed at which artists, in the right place and time, can develop in 2008.

"All these things are happening so quickly," Michaelson says, wrapping a blanket around her legs, and her hands around a mug of vanilla tea. "I feel like I'm ready to take this to another level. And I don't even know what that means anymore. It used to mean signing to a label. And I'm still not opposed, but I'm still saying, 'Let's just see.' "

Meanwhile, she has assembled what she calls her "Frankenstein label" around her, and it includes some pretty heavy hitters from the music biz. Her manager, Lynn Grossman, is a former GM of world music label Putumayo. Her lawyer is Peter Lewit, of Davis, Shapiro, Lewit & Hayes, a firm that works with some of the biggest names in the industry.

Her music is promoted to radio by Right Arm Resource, a company run by industry vet Jesse Barnett that works with plenty of indies, but also, in the past year or so, major label artists including Bob Dylan, KT Tunstall and Joss Stone. Paradigm, her booking agency, also handles such clients as Coldplay and Avril Lavigne. Original Signal is listed as the label on her CDs, but it's basically a pressing and distribution deal that has grown to include some marketing.

"Effectively, Ingrid is an unsigned artist," said Lucas Mann, president of Original Signal, a new artist development company that has a distribution deal through RED. "As the music business changed, we felt it was important to provide artists with whatever opportunities they were looking for. Lynn and Ingrid had a very specific idea of what they wanted and we wanted to be able to work with them. We've come upon something that works, and it's important to look at this and the pieces of this that are working and say, 'Hey, there's a lesson here.' "

For now, Michaelson and Grossman say they are content to see how far the singer can go without a label.

Grossman says that "when this project needs anything, we'll give it to it. And if that's a label at some point, I have a feeling that will be made clear to us." In the meantime, Michaelson keeps surpassing sales levels she once assumed would mean it was time to make the jump.

"Initially I figured we'd sell about 50,000 records and we'd need a bigger team to help us get to the next level," the manager said. "Now we're at 60,000 (actually at 87,000, as of last week) and we have a really nice big team already. Right now in my head, the next target is about 250,000."

But, she's quick to add, she probably would have the same perspective then: "We've already done 250,000. Why give half away now?"

"Peter (Lewit) and Lynn and I talk about it," Michaelson said. "He's explained the options that I could get. People say you can get to a certain point without a label, but you can't get past that point. And maybe that's true. But maybe it isn't true."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Interview With Jonathan Clay, ( Singer / Songwriter / Musician )

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Jonathan went through his share of issues trying to find himself as a musician, starting and stopping on the guitar, but the last time, as he says, “I finally picked [the guitar] up and things just started to click.” Through a friend he eventually met who was studying recording technology, he finally started to record and immediately began showing off his music. This led to shows, which led to a CD, which has led him to now being able to do this full-time; a direction many musicians aspire for.


"Whole New Me" album (7 track EP) has sold over 15,000 tracks on iTunes in the last 12 months, and over 2,500 physical copies from as well as live shows.

"Back To Good" sold over 500 physical copies from within it's first week of release.

Strong internet presence with:
over 2.75 million plays and over 44,000 comments on myspace
70,000+ myspace friends
Current daily play average of over 2,000

--Placement/TV Shows--

TV Series:
MTV's "The Real World" - Season finale 2007 (After All)
MTV's "The Hills" episode 309 (Back To Good) as well as various end-of-season recaps.
MTV's "Newport Harbor" season 2, episode 8 (After All & More Than A Picture)
ABC's "Lincoln Heights" (After All)
WB's "The Home Team"

Lifetimes Movie - "My Name is Sarah"

Independent Films:
"Anderson's Cross"

Featured artist in Martin & Osa clothing stores nationwide

Q's & A's

What is the most satisfying accomplishment in your music career so far?
Probably the TV placement, and everything that has come as a result of that. I worked really hard to make that happen, and it was amazing to hear the songs I had written being broadcast on national TV.

How did the TV placement come about?
I created a strong internet presence and built a solid foundation. I got my music (and still do) to people's ears through whatever respectful means possible. People started to notice, and someone who was in charge of program music for MTV contacted my manager.

Song placement in T.V. and film has to be one of the most asked about topics on our blog. What is your advice to an artist looking to find placement for their music.
Create a solid fan base. Build your reputation and your credibility. Use the internet to get your music across the country overnight, and get creative. If you really work, it will most likely happen organically. Honestly, It takes alot of preparation and a little bit of luck.

Social Media Sites

Are there any social media sites that you think artists must be on?
Myspace is the obvious first answer to that question. Aside from that, youtube, facebook, and iLike are all extremely beneficial as well.

Which sites are you getting the best response on?


Are you playing clips or full songs on those sites?
Full songs. If people think it is quality stuff, they'll spend the money they worked for to support it. Just GET THEM OUT THERE. It will pay off later.

What are your thoughts on providing your fans with free music?
I guess my answer to the last question and this one go hand in hand. If your fans want to support your music, they're going to support it. Every artist seems to have a different take on this issue. I really just don't think that giving away a song or two hurts the artist. There are alot of underlying benefits to doing that that many people seem to overlook.

What is your is your overall strategy and goals for your social media sites?

My overall strategy is to try to get my music to people who I think may like what I do. I try to be respectful, and I do not spam people. That does more harm than good. I also try to use the media sites for what they are, and not center my whole career around them. They are an amazing tool, but I see some artists who put soo much energy in to their myspace page's that they're not even playing shows. There is no replacement for playing a live show, and going out on tour.

Jonathan Clay- "A Little Time"

Promotion & Marketing beyond Social Media sites

What type things that you are doing to promote yourself that are making an impact?
I don't have the street team thing organized like I should, but that can be a really great way to get fans involved. Contacting music supervisors, song placement companies, etc, are all good things to do too. Get your music on iTunes (CDBaby and tunecore are both great) and play out live. Contact local news stations, and get out there.

What are some of the things that an artist on a tight budget can do to generate a buzz?
Thats really the beauty of the internet. Most of the internet-based promotional tools/sites are free. There is a general correlation between budget and marketing. The stuff that is free usually takes the most time to get results, and the stuff that is expensive can really free you up. Make sure you balance your time. Keep honing your craft, and don't lose sight of the whole reason you're promoting. It's about the music.

Fan Management

How you are collecting your fans information for your database?
On my email list, I can organize subscribers by age, gender, and state. Same with my mobile fan club. You have to be able to target specific fans and send them only pertinent information. Your fans from Texas don't want and email about your show in New York. That's just going to annoy them.

How often do you keep in touch with them?

Every day. I’m either writing back emails, hanging out after shows, or posting blogs every day.

Where do most of your signups come from?

Myspace; which leads people to; which has a link to my email list on the front page.


How is your music made available to your fans?

Physically, from the online store (paypal).
Digitally, iTunes

Which service has the most sales?


Streams of Income

Based on percentages can you list the top four streams of income from your music?
Keep in mind that they're all co-dependent, and one feeds off the other, but they would be:
physical CD sales from
live show sales and income
and film/TV licensing.

If you had to start all over again what would be the top five things you would do first to move your music career in the right direction.

Get my music recorded. Build it live locally, and build it nationally through the internet. Learn how to play out and practice. Put together a tour and hit the road.

Our readers can learn more about Jonathan Clay by visiting his website at or his myspace at:

How To Sell More Music Online

Often, when visitors click on a musician’s “Store” page it feels much like chatting with a rep after a Mary Kay party or being cornered by a friend involved in a multilevel marketing scheme.

This awkwardness can be what keeps people from buying your music. It’s so important that you walk them through the whole sales process as a friend and not as a used car salesman.

How can you do this?

1. Give them something of value.
First and foremost, pursue absolute excellence in your music. Lyrics, delivery, music, production - don’t settle. Make sure what you’re selling is the best representation of you. Make certain that you believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t, your audience won’t either.

2. Show them the value.

Tell them about the songs you’ve written. Communicate the meaning and story behind the songs. Write about the process of developing and recording the album. JJ Heller does a great job of this. She’s created a short video that chronicled the process of recording her latest album.

2007 JJ Heller's Studio Journal 1

3. Give them a taste.

Put your songs on your website (including the store page). Don’t use clips. Have confidence in the quality of your music. Music isn’t meant to be experienced in clips, so if your songs are not in regular rotation on the radio, they need to be in regular rotation on your web site.

If someone likes what they hear they’ll visit your site often to listen and once they’ve experienced your music they won’t want to be tied to their computer to listen to it. In the process, they’ll also learn more about you and feel more of a connection to you as they visit your site regularly.

Clips only communicate that you either don’t believe in your music or you don’t trust your audience.

4. Put recommendations on your store page.
Just because someone is at your store page doesn’t mean they’re really ready to buy. They may need a bit more confirmation that it’s worth their hard earned money. Get reviews from other artists, fans and industry folks and post them on the store page. Give them that extra affirmation that they’re making a good purchase.

5. Give them a money back guarantee.
Sound crazy? Maybe it is, but nothing shows people that you believe in something and are confident that you’re offering something of value more than a money back guarantee. It removes all risk on the part of your site visitors and eliminates any reason why they shouldn’t go ahead and purchase your music.

6. Put a video on your store page.

Make one last personal connection with your audience on your store page. Create a short and simple video thanking them for supporting your music and assuring them of the security and ease of your checkout process. Encourage them to contact you if they have any questions. Just be sure to communicate that info in a very laid back, friendly way.
"Hi, I just wanted to say thanks so much for supporting my music. I’m so proud of this album I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it as much as I’ve enjoyed making it. I’ve tried to make this online store as easy as possible, but please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email if you have any questions. Even if you don’t have questions I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email anytime at Thanks again and enjoy the music!"
7. Give them variety
There is nothing more boring than a musician’s store with one or two items. Give your audience some variety. Create and sell items from Cafepress. Package your music in different ways:

* Combine with another artist to offer a combo sale
* Sell Singles via iTunes AND your store (
* Sell show ticket/cd packs
* Sell autographed gift packs
* Sell merch/cd gift packs
* Write a “Behind the Songs” book and package that with a CD
* Sell a live/acoustic version

Another way to add variety is to offer any of the above packages for a limited time. You could also offer a discount sale on any item for a limited time.
Your Ultimate Goal

Your ultimate goal is to remove all risk and any barriers so that your visitor’s experience is as simple and pleasant as possible.

(HT: The Secret Life Of Kat) - Share Your Music

A new music site has been all over Digg and the blogosphere. The site is called iJigg. It’s essentially an audio version of YouTube.

You can upload a song or multiple songs and your fans can listen to it via a nice flash interface. They can even add your song to their blog, MySpace page, Facebook profile or website.

This is a great alternative for getting your music out there for fans to promote without actually giving away the mp3 for free (although I recommend that as well).

I think that the viral nature of allowing and providing a means for fans to share your music is vital to an independent artists success. iJigg could be an excellent tool in your promotional toolkit.

(HT: The Secret Life Of Kat)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Earning Your Living with Film & TV Placement

Sony BMG trades cards for downloaded tunes

By David Lieberman, USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Jan. 15 becomes the last major record company to sell downloads without copy restrictions — but only to buyers who first visit a retail store.

The No. 2 record company after Universal Music will sell plastic cards, called Platinum MusicPass, for individual albums for a suggested price of $12.99. Buyers enter a code from the card at new Sony BMG (SNE) site to download that card's album.

"The bigger picture is to make our music available in many different formats, through many different channels, in many different ways," says Thomas Hesse, president of Sony BMG's global digital business and U.S. sales.

Best Buy (BBY), Target (TGT) and Fred's (FRED) stores will be first to sell them. By Jan. 31, they'll be in Winn-Dixie, Coconuts, FYE, Spec's and Wherehouse. Like gift cards, MusicPass cards are activated at the store.

Sony BMG initially will offer cards for 37 albums by performers including Alicia Keys, Avril Lavigne, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Brown, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Jennifer Lopez and Santana.
FIND MORE STORIES IN: Sony | Music | CDS | BMG | Thomas Hesse | Musicpass

Buyers also can download a digital booklet like those with CDs and material such as bonus tracks and videos.

For a suggested $19.99, Sony BMG also will offer cards for Kenny Chesney's album Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates and Celine Dion's Taking Chances that let users download a second album by the same artist.

"I'm excited that Taking Chances will be included in the launch of these new cards, and I hope that my fans will see it as a great Valentine's Day present," Dion said in an e-mail.

The cards come as music sales continue to fall. Sales of 584.9 million albums or their digital equivalents last year were off 9.5% from 2006, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The outlook remains cloudy as retailers cut space for CDs, and online piracy continues.

Other record companies have already thrown in the towel and sell music without copy restrictions online, where sales were up 45% last year. Lifting copy limits lets fans listen to their songs on any PC or player. Warner Music (WMG) joined the bandwagon in December with a deal to sell on Amazon's MP3 service.

While conventional download services, such as iTunes, (AAPL) make impulse music buying easier than the cards, Sony BMG feels "strongly that there's a group that will enjoy carrying the imagery of an artist they love around with them, or sharing it with their friends," Hesse says. Cards allow one download, though they have a provision for a backup.

He says that Sony BMG would like other music companies to offer album cards. It also expects to sell MusicPass cards in additional stores and possibly at concert venues.

Read our post on How to get your own "Download Cards"

Things you can learn from the music business (as it falls apart)

By Seth Godin
The first rule is so important, it’s rule 0:
0. The new thing is never as good as the old thing, at least right now.
Soon, the new thing will be better than the old thing will be. But if you wait until then, it’s going to be too late. Feel free to wax nostalgic about the old thing, but don’t fool yourself into believing it’s going to be here forever. It won’t.

1. Past performance is no guarantee of future success

Every single industry changes and, eventually, fades. Just because you made money doing something a certain way yesterday, there’s no reason to believe you’ll succeed at it tomorrow.

The music business had a spectacular run alongside the baby boomers. Starting with the Beatles and Dylan, they just kept minting money. The co-incidence of expanding purchasing power of teens along with the birth of rock, the invention of the transistor and changing social mores meant a long, long growth curve.

As a result, the music business built huge systems. They created top-heavy organizations, dedicated superstores, a loss-leader touring industry, extraordinarily high profit margins, MTV and more. It was a well-greased system, but the key question: why did it deserve to last forever?

It didn’t. Yours doesn’t either.

2. Copy protection in a digital age is a pipe dream

If the product you make becomes digital, expect that the product you make will be copied.

There’s a paradox in the music business that is mirrored in many industries: you want ubiquity, not obscurity, yet digital distribution devalues your core product.

Remember, the music business is the one that got in trouble for bribing disk jockeys to play their music on the radio. They are the ones that spent millions to make (free) videos for MTV. And yet once the transmission became digital, they understood that there’s not a lot of reason to buy a digital version (via a cumbersome expensive process) when the digital version is free (and easier).

Most items of value derive that value from scarcity. Digital changes that, and you can derive value from ubiquity now.

The solution isn’t to somehow try to become obscure, to get your song off the (digital) radio. The solution is to change your business.

You used to sell plastic and vinyl. Now, you can sell interactivity and souvenirs.

3. Interactivity can’t be copied

Products that are digital and also include interaction thrive on centralization and do better and better as the market grows in size (consider Facebook or Basecamp).

Music is social. Music is current and everchanging. And most of all, music requires musicians. The winners in the music business of tomorrow are individuals and organizations that create communities, connect people, spread ideas and act as the hub of the wheel... indispensable and well-compensated.

4. Permission is the asset of the future
For generations, businesses had no idea who their end users were. No ability to reach through the record store and figure out who was buying that Rolling Stones album, no way to know who bought this book or that vase.

Today, of course, permission is an asset to be earned. The ability (not the right, but the privilege) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who want to get them. For ten years, the music business has been steadfastly avoiding this opportunity.

It’s interesting though, because many musicians have NOT been avoiding it. Many musicians have understood that all they need to make a (very good) living is to have 10,000 fans. 10,000 people who look forward to the next record, who are willing to trek out to the next concert. Add 7 fans a day and you’re done in 5 years. Set for life. A life making music for your fans, not finding fans for your music.

The opportunity of digital distribution is this:

When you can distribute something digitally, for free, it will spread (if it’s good). If it spreads, you can use it as a vehicle to allow people to come back to you and register, to sign up, to give you permission to interact and to keep them in the loop.

Many authors (I’m on that list) have managed to build an entire career around this idea. So have management consultants and yes, insurance salespeople. Not by viewing the spread of digital artifacts as an inconvenient tactic, but as the core of their new businesses.

5. A frightened consumer is not a happy consumer.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but here goes: suing people is like going to war. If you’re going to go to war with tens of thousands of your customers every year, don’t be surprised if they start treating you like the enemy.

6. This is a big one: The best time to change your business model is while you still have momentum.
It’s not so easy for an unknown artist to start from scratch and build a career self-publishing. Not so easy for her to find fans, one at a time, and build an audience. Very, very easy for a record label or a top artist to do so. So, the time to jump was yesterday. Too late. Okay, how about today?

The sooner you do it, the more assets and momentum you have to put to work.

7. Remember the Bob Dylan rule: It’s not just a record, it’s a movement.

Bob and his handlers have a long track record of finding movements. Anti-war movements, sure, but also rock movies, the Grateful Dead, SACDs, Christian rock and Apple fanboys. What Bob has done (and I think he’s done it sincerely, not as a calculated maneuver) is seek out groups that want to be connected and he works to become the connecting the point.

By being open to choices of format, to points of view, to moments in time, Bob Dylan never said, “I make vinyl records that cost money to listen to.” He understands at some level that music is often the soundtrack for something else.

I think the same thing can be true for chefs and churches and charities and politicians and makers of medical devices. People pay a premium for a story, every time.

8. Don’t panic when the new business model isn’t as ‘clean’ as the old one.
It’s not easy to give up the idea of manufacturing CDs with a 90% gross margin and switching to a blended model of concerts and souvenirs, of communities and greeting cards and special events and what feels like gimmicks. I know.

Get over it. It’s the only option if you want to stay in this business. You’re just not going to sell a lot of CDs in five years, are you?

If there’s a business here, first few in will find it, the rest lose everything.

9. Read the writing on the wall.
Hey, guys, I’m not in the music business and even I’ve been writing about this for years. I even started a record label five years ago to make the point. Industries don’t die by surprise. It’s not like you didn’t know it was coming. It's not like you didn't know who to call (or hire).

This isn’t about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free, on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen.

The last person to leave the current record business won’t be the smartest and he won’t be the most successful, either. Getting out first and staking out the new territory almost always pays off.

10. Don’t abandon the Long Tail.
Everyone in the hit business thinks they understand the secret: just make hits. After all, if you do the math, it shows that if you just made hits, you’d be in fat city.

Of course, the harder you try to just make hits, the less likely you are to make any hits at all. Movies, records, books... the blockbusters always seem to be surprises. Surprise hit cookbooks, even.

Instead, in an age when it’s cheaper than ever to design something, to make something, to bring something to market, the smart strategy is to have a dumb strategy. Keep your costs low and go with your instincts, even when everyone says you’re wrong. Do a great job, not a perfect one. Bring things to market, the right market, and let them find their audience.

Stick to the knitting has never been more wrong. Instead, find products your customers want. Don’t underestimate them. They’re more catholic in their tastes than you give them credit for.

11. Understand the power of digital
Try to imagine something like this happening ten years ago: An eleven-year-old kid wakes up on a Saturday morning, gets his allowance, then, standing in his pajamas, buys a Bon Jovi song for a buck.

Compare this to hassling for a ride, driving to the mall, finding the album in question, finding the $14 to pay for it and then driving home.

You may believe that your business doesn’t lend itself to digital transactions. Many do. If you’ve got a business that doesn’t thrive on digital, it might not grow as fast as you like... Maybe you need to find a business that does thrive on digital.

12. Celebrity is underrated
The music business has always created celebrities. And each celebrity has profited for decades from that fame. Frank Sinatra is dead and he's still profiting. Elvis is still alive and he's certainly still profiting.

The music business has done a poor job of leveraging that celebrity and catching the value it creates. Many businesses now have the power to create their own micro-celebrities. These individuals capture attention and generate trust, two critical elements in growing profits.

13. Value is created when you go from many to few, and vice versa

The music business has thousands of labels and tens of thousands of copyright holders. It's a mess.

And there's just one iTunes music store. Consolidation pays.

At the same time, there are other industries where there are just a few major players and the way to profit is to create splinters and niches.

13. Whenever possible, sell subscriptions

Few businesses can successfully sell subscriptions (magazines being the very best example), but when you can, the whole world changes. HBO, for example, is able to spend its money making shows for its viewers rather than working to find viewers for every show.

The biggest opportunity for the music business is to combine permission with subscription. The possibilities are endless. And I know it's hard to believe, but the good old days are yet to happen.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Finding Fans on Facebook: Using Facebook’s new ‘pages’ feature to reach your fanbase

Facebook has long been associated with the heavy rotation college crowd, those on-the-go, party going, paper writing teens and twenty-somethings who have enough time to spend in front of a computer socializing and are eager to absorb as much new cultural opportunities as possible.

Add to that a user-base that is growing two to three times faster than MySpace’s current database of young people, bands, and businesses and it makes sense that you might be considering branching out to a new social network to boost your fanbase.

Facebook Pages

The Facebook Pages feature is its long awaited answer to MySpace’s long standing custom profile options. Giving people the power to load up any number of new and exciting features, businesses, bands, and politicians can now broadcast everything that makes them different to the world on a custom built, easy to create and easier to navigate profile space.

Applications integrate easily to allow the addition of video, music, and flash content for your fans while the ability to have fans sign up directly on your page to join your fanbase makes them feel more involved than simply being your “friend.”

The Pages feature allows you to post updates that your fans will see on their login screen as well. The best part is that Facebook is an open source platform, meaning that millions of programmers and companies have access to dev kits to build custom applications that integrate easily into the Pages feature. If you cannot find what you want to promote your band, simply hire someone to make it. Companies, bands, and new websites have exploded with new fans and users simply by creating an easy to use application that millions of Facebook accounts soon adopted.

Why Facebook’s Pages Feature is More Advanced than Current MySpace Technologies

MySpace may be the standard, but it is also a bit of a mess. The coding is loose and slow to load at times. The artist pages look the same as they did four years ago and the number of options to customize are severely limited. While Facebook may be a fairly straightforward interface, it is that basic interface that makes many people flock to it.

Not only is the demographic slightly older - with more disposable income - Facebook has the resources needed to reach fans, their friends, and anyone who visits their friends’ pages. For everyone that listens to a song or reads a post on your Page, a chain reaction of social news stories are posted on peoples’ own pages that will lead new fans to your page. It’s the perfect way to both interact with existing fans and find new ones