Sunday, June 29, 2008

It Just Got Cheaper To Sell a Song on iTunes

Tunecore Since early 2006, everyone from Keith Richards to the garage band down the street has been selling albums through iTunes and other digital music stores through TuneCore for under $30 per year. Trent Reznor famously used it to put the 36-song Ghosts I-IV on sale for a mere 38 bucks.

Now, the company has announced that it will distribute singles to seven digital music stores for a new flat rate: $10.

Anyone can use TuneCore to distribute a single song to iTunes (Australia/New Zealand, Canada, Europe, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States), AmazonMP3, eMusic, Napster, Rhapsody, LaLa, and Groupie Tunes. The company plans to add Amie Street and Shockhound to its distribution network soon.

The stores have never rejected a single TuneCore track, according to TuneCore CEO Jeff Price, although it cannot categorically guarantee that iTunes and the rest will stock a particular track. "TuneCore changes the formats for each individual store," said a Tunecore spokesman via e-mail, and its submissions "are always technically up to snuff."

Digital music stores like nothing more than to trumpet statistics about how many millions of songs their catalogs include, so they have ample motivation to sort through the submissions. According to the spokesman, "the stores do not reject selling an album based on an editorial decision."

As usual, artists who upload their music to TuneCore retain all --as in 100 percent -- of revenue and rights to their music. TuneCore takes only that initial fee of $10 per song (album pricing is still available), bringing in extra money on the side by advertising stuff like mixing and mastering services to musicians.

Many of the most innovative ideas in music came from outside the music industry, but this one came from within. Jeff Price, who runs TuneCore, formerly ran the SpinArt record label (Creeper Lagoon, Elf Power, KaitO, The Lilys, Pixies, Wedding Present and many others).

Assuming iTunes and the other stores manage to give keep up with the flow of new music coming at them, TuneCore is a dream come true for artists -- and a nightmare for traditional labels and distributors. Now that it distributes single songs for such a low flat fee, there's even less of a barrier between bands and their potential customers.

Music Marketing - Is Topspin The Answer?

I first became aware of Topspin when Ian Rogers left Yahoo Music earlier this year to become the CEO of this mysterious startup. Some of the suspense has been lifted now that Topspin has come out of stealth beta - but is this the new music marketing model that so many of us have been waiting for?

Better Marketing Or Just More Marketing?

Topspin describes itself as a technology/marketing tools software company which aims to be “platform of choice for many of the great marketing services companies already in existence”. At the moment, they are working with a select few artists such as the Dandy Warhols and Jubilee (comprising members of NIN and Queens of the Stone Age), but plan on expanding to a broader customer base when the initial bugs get ironed out.

The company is based on three core modules, the first of which seems to be a distribution channel - the other two have yet to be announced, but will probably deal with marketing, managment and promotion of music and events.

As it stands at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of difference between Topspin and other online distribution services. However, given the track record of the personnel, I would expect this to evolve into a very interesting and compelling service.

The Music Is Strong In This One

The original idea for Topspin was hatched by Peter Gotcher (Digidesign) and Shamal Ranasinghe (Real Networks, Musicmatch, Yahoo! Music). Ian Rogers is a highly experienced and innovative character too - he ran WinAmp in 1999 after having dropped out of a Computer Science PhD to tour with the Beastie Boys in 1995. He also likes skateboarding, proof of which can be seen on the latest cover of Billboard.

music marketing topspin

So what have they got? Well, Topspin bands get their own ‘digital music store’. Nothing new there - although the platform behind them is very robust. So robust, in fact, that Topspin helped out Nine Inch Nails by stepping in to provide additional bandwidth when demand for the new albums (Ghosts and The Slip) caused the NIN site to go down.

Consolidating The Future of Music Marketing

The payment structure for Topspin artists comes in a variety of flavours; there are prices for single downloads, prices for album and EP downloads, and an option to pay a flat fee for everything the band produce in a year.

However, as Ian correctly points out, online distribution is now a commodity. There are new sites springing up every day where artists can sell mp3s online. What is more important now is having a powerful marketing strategy, and this is where Topspin can set itself apart.

Although the press release on the Topspin site doesn’t give too much away, it certainly provides a glimpse of what might be in store. This space is one to watch.

Top 10 Indie Music Marketing Tools

Every week brings the launch of another online service to connect musicians and fans. Beyond spending endless hours on MySpace and Facebook, what are the best affordable online tools to communicate with fans and monetize the relationship? Here are our picks in no particular order:

1. HOST BABY - It all starts with a great web site and these guys give you the tools to build one quickly.

Sonicbids_logo 2. SONICBIDS - Easily and affordable. Create a robust emailable electronic press kit (EPK) with bio, photos, mp3's, videos and more.

3. CD BABY - The granddaddy of D.I.Y. music empowerment. Sell your CD's and downloads in a large community that supports indie music.

Nimbitlogosquare_2 4. NIMBIT- A one stop shop to help you sell CD's, DVD's, downloads, merch. and e-tickets with very fair commissions. Plus great tools to spread the word.

5. GYDGET - Everybody's got widgets, but these guys get it right by enabling you to grab your info, music, and video and spread it across the net. Free.

Reverbnation_logo 6. REVERBNATION - Communicate with fans, build a street team, get widgets and Facebook apps, sell stuff. Tools do do it all and most of them free.

7. TUNECORE - Affordable flat rate digital distribution to all the major download sites worldwide with no strings attached.

8. TUBEMOGUL - You made a great video for a $23.57 budget. Now what do you do with it? Simultaneously upload to 18 sites including all the biggies then track performance. Basic service is free. (Bonus: A list of viral video sites.)

Update tour dates on your website, MySace, Pure Volume,, Jambase, Pollstar, Sonicbids and more all at once plus submit tour dates to local media.

10. MOZES, BAND TXT ALERTS (tie) You could use Twitter to communicate with fans, but not everyone wants an account. Every cell can accept text messages. Mozes is free (carrier rates apply) and robust, but pays for itself with ads that could upset some. Band TXT Alerts costs a little, but takes a way the ads.

blockbusters rule, long tail overrated

A fascinating article in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review calls into question some of the now-accepted wisdom about the long tail.

A quick refresher: the long tail theory, popularized by Wired editor Chris Anderson, says that as digital distribution drives distribution costs to zero, businesses will be able to profit by stocking enormous numbers of obscure titles. These titles, which may only sell one or two copies a year, are the tail of the traditional demand curve--the "long tail."

The HBR study, by Anita Elberse, analyzes data from online music and video stores and suggests that digital distribution has actually had the opposite effect: while more titles are available than ever before, consumers are flocking in ever-greater numbers to the handful of very popular titles at the head of the demand curve.

Interestingly, consumers who buy both types of titles actually find the blockbuster titles to be more satisfying.

Why is that? Is it because the cream rises to the top, meaning that the most popular titles are necessarily some of the best? Tastemakers in the music industry would have you believe so, and at least one company, HSS, claims it can analyze songs with software to predict whether they'll be hits or not.

But I prefer an alternate theory: most people are sheep. (Not me, of course. Or you.) But seriously: a Columbia University study that I've cited before suggests that there's very little link between the objective "quality" of a song (as measured in a control group where none of the listeners could see other participants' ratings) and its popularity--the more popular a song appears to be in a particular subgroup, the more popular it becomes. The popular songs in one group had no relationship to the popular songs in another group.

Here's a nicer way of putting it: objective quality is impossible to measure, and people are driven by social inclusion--the desire to be accepted as part of a larger group, which defines itself partially by the media it consumes. This is why every indie rock fan between the ages of 25 and 35 in Seattle was listening to and talking about Outkast's "Hey Ya" when it came out. That song was unusual because it crossed over to lots of subgroups, paving the way for a humungous national blockbuster album. But in Seattle, the same thing happened for The Postal Service and the first Arcade Fire album, too. All of that music was good--there's a certain quality baseline below which something just won't become popular. But social inclusion is a huge reason why those songs and bands rose above dozens of others that were of more or less equal quality.

Given the tendency of people to flock to the big hits, Elberse recommends that producers do not change their business models to cater to the long tail. For the music industry, that means labels should continue to bet on a few releases each year, and market the heck out of any that show a glimmer of popularity. They may not sell 10 million records like they did a few years ago, but a few million-sellers per year can still support a hits-driven business, making it capable of taking chances on hundreds of smaller artists. At the same time, she recommends that retailers who want to appeal to hardcore customers--the ones who spend the most money--should stock the obscure stuff (I'd call that the Amoeba Records model), but keep costs for it as low as possible, and assume that the big hits will still draw most people into the store.

$5 Footlong & The Music Industry

“Five. Five dollar. Five dollar footlooong. “

You’ve seen the commercials and tapped your foot to the song, haven’t you? Have you sung along? If not, I am impressed as the spots has been everywhere.

In and effort to “get back to [their] heritage” [Jingle Hell], Subway has knocked the price of certain foot-long sandwiches down to a measly, paltry, all-time-low of 5 US Dollars. Notwithstanding the state of the US economy, $5 for lunch in New York City is a dream come true for many.

At the behest of a coworker, I have ventured to Subway multiple times in the last few weeks, and it appears that the new promotion is a success. Lunchtime is crowded. Deliveries are wrapped, packed, and sent on their way quickly all while the serving line moves along swiftly. Recently just a limited time offer, the $5 foot-longs are now here to stay, proof that Subway has connected with their customers. Their offer allows people to enjoy lunch over 2 days for an extremely low cost. Other than Chinese food, where quality might be significantly lower despite the same price, there may not be a better major chain deal out there.

What can this new campaign teach the record industry about sales and marketing?

The intersection of Subway’s campaign and the record business occurs at $5. Label heads are oblivious to this number, as well as to the positive connotation it has within millions of people. If Subway can create growth from decreasing prices but offering the same (if not bigger) meal than before, then what precludes record rEtailers and labels from figuring out a strategy to do the same? Volume at stores and priceless word of mouth (for what could appear to be a buzz inducing “stunt”) may make up the difference in sales.

For years music retailers have sold 10-12 track CD albums at anywhere from 7.99 to 19.99, marked up from 4-8 bucks wholesale. The digital revolution brought Apple and the iTunes Music Store promising 99 cent tracks and $9.99 albums. Considering these downloads come without packaging or liner notes, 99 cents has proved to be awfully expensive. Consumers continue flocking to the vibrant file-sharing sites and services, leaving both traditional brick and mortar stores and digital retailers for 100 percent free music (save for some questionable ethical costs).

Physical retail would have an extremely hard adjustment to make, considering many are getting rid of space in their stores for CDs, but built on a strong and organized foundation, they can work towards creating a music sell venture that acutally attracts new customers.

Digital retailers have more leeway when it comes to the $5 price point. Enhanced art, more personalized content, and increased interactivity can be built in to the new $5 DA (digital album). Costs such as staff brainstorming sessions and outsourced online content development is exactly where money should be spent, so if the staff is young, motivated and has a clue about the Internet, sales will skyrocket.

The hardest sell is obviously to the labels and those providing the content. The cost of marketing, recording, and promotion built in to a major label release are just too high for them to swath out a large percentage of their profit, hoping that volume will make up for it. Decreasing those built-in costs is a subject for another post, as it leads to serious trickle down issues that go back to the artist and their management teams. While I do think the major labels can do this profitably, they will not be the first to be successful.

The differences between digital and physical are night and day, so I look forward to the next online retailer who decides to take a chance, convince the suits, and build a music brand based on the elusive $5 price point.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wanna get your music in a video game?

These days new bands have many options for promoting themselves. Digital distribution and sites like MySpace can really help a band get known. If you are really lucky maybe you’ll get featured on an Apple commercial but if that isn’t an option (and for most it isn’t) how about having your music featured in a video game? Now that would be pretty dope.

Music and gaming is big business these days and getting your band’s music featured in a popular game can mean massive exposure. EA Games is one company for instance that has done well using previously unknown artists in many of their titles and those artists have gone on to great success because of it. As console and online games have grown in scope over the last 5 years the need for fresh soundtracks and scores for the games have grown along with it. Many other gaming companies are now actively searching for new musical talent to include in their games.

The popular online gaming site, Instant Action is currently holding a contest called Attack the Soundtrack in which the winner will get to have their music featured in one of the site’s popular games. Artists are invited to submit their music, via an MP3. Fans will then have an opportunity to vote for their favourites and the top vote getters will be included in the judging by a panel of music industry veterans including superstar rapper Fat Joe.

If your interested in submitting your song, you’d better hurry - all submissions must be in by June 26 2008. Check out the website here.

The Rise of The Music Phone

When it comes to finding things to do with your cell phone other than, well, making phone calls, Asia is well ahead of the pack. An analyst from wireless research company Portio recently estimated that the number of text messages sent in the Asia Pacific region annually will grow to 2,071 billion messages in 2012 (compared to 967.7 billion in 2006). Across the region, young people are viewing their mobile phones as more than communications devices. Accessorized with all manner of lucky charms and pendants, phones are vehicles for self expression. Increasingly, they’re fulfilling the role of mp3 player, too.

MTV’s Music Matters survey — a sample of 5,741 urban middle class participants aged 15-34 across China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India — found that 50% of respondents had downloaded music to their phones in the previous month. In China, this number is 68%. 11% in China said that their mobile was their primary music player, and 76% would opt to replace their mp3 player with a mobile music phone altogether. “Downloading music” does not directly translate to “downloading full tracks for listening pleasure,” and may well include a hefty amount of ringback tones and simple ringtones. But it’s a start, and it’s an obvious delivery platform for the future.

Selling mobile music poses as many challenges as it has opportunities. Illegal downloads will continue to be an issue, and a pricing system must be worked out that makes the legal route not entirely unappealing to Chinese kids (81% of whom had downloaded music from for free in the previous month, according to the MTV survey).

This mobile trend was a topic of extensive discussion at Music Matters Asia. Rob Wells, Senior VP of Digital for Universal Music Group International, wondered whether telecommunications companies will be able to promote bands as well as experienced music retailers and labels. Motorola’s Marketing Director for North Asia, Ian Chapman-Banks, cited a favourable business model partnering with China Mobile to provide MP3s. China Mobile takes just 15% of profits, with Motorola taking a small fixed charge and everything else going to the content providers (in this case, record labels). However, consolidation within the Chinese telecoms industry may alleviate the telcos’ needs to work with content providers on such “healthy” footing in the future.

New regulations designed to promote competition amongst Chinese telcos put more pressure on China Mobile to up their profits, which seems to square better with Warner’s recent experience partnering with China Mobile. Lachie Rutherford, President of Warner Music Asia Pacific, said that for a single artist who received 6,500,000 downloads, Warner made 700,000 RMB, while China Mobile walked away with 35,000,000 RMB. It would seem then, that third party aggregators, strategists and marketers (e.g. Moto, or a broadcasting channel) will have more sway with the telcos than will individual content providers providing a single-entertainment channel (e.g. record labels).

Despite these legal, business and logistical challenges, demand is strong and growing stronger: Across Asia, 78% want the music industry to help them access more digital music, and 73% said they want telcos and music labels to work together more closely.

As usual, the brands that are likely to come up with effective new models are those that spend the most time listening to consumers. Nokia’s roll-out of an Independent Artists Club offering free mobile downloads is one of a slew of new initiatives putting the brand in the A&R man’s shoes. It’s then up to consumers to filter this new music. But if history serves, people like being told what to listen to (and watch, and eat), which is why packaged pop commodities have remained in the mainstream. Time will tell whether new user-driven music models will be sustainably successful.

What The Music Industry Could Learn From Lil Wayne’s Success

The whole music industry is abuzz this week because the third album by rapper Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, is expected to sell a million copies this week, an event that has become all too rare in recent years.

What’s incredibly interesting about this is that according to conventional wisdom, there is no way that this CD should be a hit, a wisdom that perfectly reflected in a headline in today’s New York Times: Despite Leaks Online and File Sharing, Lil Wayne’s New CD Is a Hit.

Despite? Actually, I think it’s the other way around. Because. And that the music industry could learn some things from this.

As a matter of fact, I think that there are three lessons that the record industry can learn from the success of Lil Wayne:

File Sharing is Promotion — All that we’ve been hearing for the past decade is that file-sharing is the slow poison that is killing the music industry. File-sharing, like used CDs in the 1990s and home taping in the 1980s, was killing music. Period. End of story. Which is why the RIAA has spent untold millions of dollars perse–prosecuting college students and housewives for file-sharing.

Now, here’s a case where an artist’s music was heavily traded and he is still a huge success.

How could that be possible? Because file sharing is promotion.

Like the radio, like iPod ads, like mixtapes and mix CDs and clubs and parties, file sharing is all about the human impulse to say “hey, have you heard this? Because you totally need to hear it right now.”

For every sale that might not happen because somebody did a download, it’s equally possible that someone else is turned onto and becomes a lifelong fan of that artist, and buys the next record, or goes to a concert or buys a T-Shirt and contributes to the revenue stream in a totally different way.

It’s a big world, and there is a ton of music out there, and I don’t know how many artists I’ve discovered — and then bought something from — over the years that would have never crossed my radar had someone not given me a tape or a CD or an .mp3.

Furthermore, It’s not a one-to-one relationship between downloads and purchases. The most evil RIAA assumption of all is that every single file share represents a lost purchase. What bullshit! I would argue that the vast majority of what people get through dodgy means is stuff that they had no intention of purchasing in the first place. That’s part of the point: to sample as much as music as possible, because you never know what will stick.

In the case of Lil Wayne, the fact that his files were shared obviously served far more as promotion, as people who might not otherwise have cared got caught up in his music. Whether it was the leak of this particular album, or one of his infamous mixtapes, the promotion was widespread enough that a million people — out of a potential audience of 300 million — decided to buy it.
Bootlegs Are Good — Obviously, not all bootlegs, because quality varies, but there’s never been any evidence that widespread bootlegging of an artist has ever actually hurt that artist, either critically or commercially. Usually, they are manna for hardcore fans who are going to end up buying the official releases no matter what.

And Lil Wayne seems to have gone into a totally completely different dimension with his mixtapes. Like Pearl Jam with their live albums, he decided to bootleg himself, and while the mixtapes are sitting in a grey legal area to be sure, they somehow simultaneously de-mythologized his studio process and made him an underground legend.

And, they were apparently pretty great. Which brings me to the final lesson . . .
Quality Makes a Difference. Apparently, Lil Wayne is pretty great. I’m sad to say that I wouldn’t know. I’m so disconnected from 21st Century hip-hop — my problem, not hip-hop’s — that I won’t make any kind of judgement on his music, but I can read any number of reviews, critics polls and see the high Metacritic score for Tha Carter III, and figure out that the music of Lil Wayne is considered higher quality than that of, say, Scarlett Johansson. (Which, sadly enough, I have heard.)

This matters. Yes, you can always hype and push and payola any artist once or twice, but not forever. You can leak and bootleg and have hit singles and do all of the other things I mentioned above, and if the goods aren’t there, nobody is going to care.
Whether or not the music industry is going to heed these lessons remains to be seen. I’m going to guess probably not — they they’ll write off Lil Wayne’s success as a fluke convergence of right place, right time, and not as a blueprint on how to try to manage other prolific, talented artists in the digital age.

Which might make this a last gasp of breath, as opposed to the beginning of figuring out a new way to do things.

Advertisers Look to Music Blogs To Push Product

Pity the music industry. Between 99-cent downloads, free - if not always legal -file-sharing services and MP3 blogs, and an increasingly fragmented audience, it’s desperately in need of a new revenue stream.

Jon Cohen and Rob Stone, two veteran music marketers, think they’ve got one: advertisers that will underwrite free downloading. They’ve put together of network of MP3 blogs including three of their own such sites -, and - and RCRD LBL, an innovative web music destination run by Peter Rojas, founder of Engadget and Gizmodo.

It’s not surprising that Cohen and Stone marry blue-chip sponsors and bloggers. As the principals of New York-based Cornerstone Promotion, a music-marketing firm, they have worked with Ford (F, Fortune 500), Nike (NKE, Fortune 500), Levi Strauss and Converse. Plus, they have street credibility to spare. They’re the founders of The Fader, a glossy magazine that puts breakthrough acts like Kanye West and the White Stripes on the cover just before the rest of the world takes notice of them.

MP3 blogs, meanwhile, have a tough time selling ads on their own. Many, of course, post songs without the permission of copyright holders. And even the biggest legit ones are too small to have much clout with big media buyers., for instance, has 93,000 unique monthly users. RCRD LBL has 125,000., an “indie” rock destination, has 15,000. The hip-hop oriented has only registered users. That’s because it doesn’t allow just anybody to join. So far only 2,500 people have qualified.

By rolling the sites into a network, Cohen and Stone can now approach advertisers with an audience of nearly 240,000. “It’s easier for our corporate clients to get their heads around this because they aren’t buying 12 different sites,” says Stone.

Zune’s Stephenson says advertisers would love such an opportunity because they can be pretty sure of whom they would reach through a sponsorship. “With the right five bands, I can cover 100 percent of my target audience,” he says.

Bands could also benefit by giving their music away. Radiohead earned a lot of good will and publicity when it allowed fans to pay what they liked to download “In Rainbows.” Thom Yorke and his anti-corporate mates might not agree to a sponsorship deal with, say, Lexus. Okay, but what if it was a hybrid Lexus?

Gydget Expands Reach With Fests & MySpace

Gydget There's a lot of hype about widgets and dozens of new companies promoting their solutions, but Gydget seems to gaining the most traction with its free multi-use widget garnering 1400+ major label and indie users. Last week Gydget expanded its presence on MySpace with FanSpace a gallery of gydgets that makes it easier for fans to find and use their widgets on the site.

Today the company announced that three of America's largest music festivals Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and All Points West and thus three of the biggest festival promoters Superfly, C3 and have adopted Gydget as a media-rich viral...

marketing solution for raising awareness and driving ticket sales across the leading social networking platforms.
“Social marketing is the cornerstone of our festival promotion,” said Kerry Black of Superfly Productions. “Bonnaroo is about the community as much as the music. Creating a festival gydget allowed us to develop a communications platform to broadcast news, video, music and more across all social networks. We looked at many solutions but chose Gydget because it allowed us the most flexibility and customization.”

Lollapalooza “We needed a technology partner to create a widget that could follow our strict branding guidelines while integrating premium content that we had already developed," said Nick Shuley of C3 Presents, producers of Lollapalooza. "By allowing us to link to RSS feeds and YouTube channels, the Gydget updates dynamically as new content is added, which helps to keep our audience current on all things Lollapalooza.

AEG Live, one of the largest promoters in the world uses Gydget to drive awareness and ticket sales for their concert tours and festivals. They have used Gydget to promote the Stagecoach Festival and this summer’s highly anticipated All Points West Festival. “The All Points West Festival is all about connecting the fans to the music,” said Glenn Miller, Internet Marketing Manager at AEG Live. “We felt the most integrated way to engage the community with our festival was through a branded widget. Gydget works closely with AEG Live to meet our changing needs and customize the widget to make it easy to provide content to festival fans 24/7. We all win when the fans feel they are a part of the marketing force and endorse the event with their friends."

ReverbNation Adds Twitter Support

Reverbnation_logo_2FACEBOOK STATUS NEXT

ReverbNation, a growing online marketing and promotions platform for music has added Twitter to its artist profile pages. Member artists can import and display their Twitter posts, keeping fans informed of daily activities and can create new "Twits" directly from their ReverbNation account. A similar integration with the popular "Status" feature on Facebook is coming soon.

Artists don’t always have a new album or tour to talk about,” said Lou Plaia, V.P. of Artist Services at “Twitter gives them a way to keep the fans engaged in...

between the big stuff - maintaining the share of mind that they have painstakingly acquired, and keeping the fans warmed up for when the album finally drops.”

FROM THE PRESS RELEASE: About the company

ReverbNation provides the innovative marketing solutions that musicians need to compete, cooperate, and differentiate in an increasingly noisy online environment. Unlike typical “closed” communities, artists use ReverbNation as their home base for approaching marketing and promotion across the Internet as a whole- be it via social networks, blogs, email, IM, or the artist’s homepage.

Tools like TunePaks, FanReach, TuneWidget, and Street Team Manager give the artist the power to spread their music and information virtually anywhere. Real-time stats then provide a 360-degree view of how the music is spreading, who is listening, and which fans are actually passing it on to their friends and posting it on their pages. ReverbNation empowers Artists to take the music to the people, no matter where they spend their time online.

iTunes Soars Past 5 Billion Downloads

Itunes Apple today announced that is has sold more than five billion downloads on iTunes. The online store remains the #1 music retailer in the US* and claims a catalog of over eight million songs. Customers are also renting and purchasing over 50,000 movies daily, making iTunes the world's most popular online movie store according to Apple.

* Based on data from market research firm the NPD Group's MusicWatch survey that captures consumer reported past week unit purchases and counts one CD representing 12 tracks, excluding wireless transactions. The iTunes Store became the largest music retailer in the US based on the amount of music sold during January and February 2008.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

T-Pain Launches Nappy Boy Digital

Producer and artist T-Pain steps launched what he says will be a full service, independent Tpainrecord label , Nappy Boy Digital. The label provides an outlet for T-Pain to release tracks without "the constraints of the traditional major label machine".

T-Pain collaborator Tay Dizm is the first artist on the newly formed label. The debut single, "Beam Me Up," was produced by Atlanta hit-maker Bangladesh and features T-Pain and Florida rapper Rick Ross. iTunes began an exclusive on May 20th and a web-wide release begins at the end of June.

"Nappy Boy Digital is a dream come true for me. I'm excited about bringing music by new artists to people fresh out of the studio," said T-Pain commenting on the venture. "My life and career so far has been about breaking barriers and this label allows me to continue that by delivering hit songs in real time, no red tape, just good music. You'll hear us in the clubs and on radio too, but you can discover our tracks where people spend most of their time, online. I'm very proud to be out front on an idea like this."

Julia Kadarusman, a spokesperson for the label answered a few questions about the new venture:

Q: Is T-Pain releasing his own music via the new label or is he still tied to a major?
A: T-Pain remains a Konvict/Jive Records (Sony BMG) recording artist.

Q: Will there also be a physical product release and if so via what distributor?
A: Physical product is ultimately expected, but the distributor is TBD and will be announced at the time of the first physical product release.

Q: Who is your digital distributor?
A: Nappy Boy Digital is handling digital distribution

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

TuneCore: Get yourself on iTunes for $30

The bad old days

Good enough for Reznor's Ghosts

Industrial goth rocker Trent Reznor isn't usually mentioned in the same sentence with artists like Over the Rhine and Steven Delopoulos, but all three have something in common: in the last year, the bands ditched record labels altogether. Instead, they're part of a bold new experiment that could let artists hang onto more rights, make more money, and go directly to fans. It's possible through a startup called TuneCore that let all three bands get their music into digital stores like eMusic and iTunes... for just $30 a year. All royalties—and all rights—remain with the artists.

Jeff Price, who heads TuneCore, says that "the music industry changed" when the service went live, but can a small Brooklyn outfit running on rented virtual servers really remake the music biz? Let's take a look... and then upload an original Ars composition to see how well the system works.

Distribution blues

Back in the day, it just didn't matter how big you were; as a musician, you weren't going to distribute your own record. It simply wasn't possible to get the records, tapes, or discs onto retail shelves without a label making it happen, and of course no exhaustive online stores existed. Unless you were content selling your music from the trunk of your car after gigs, a label was a necessity.

Jeff Price, who heads TuneCore, notes that the record labels' primary role became distribution (though they also do marketing). When the digital revolution arrived, though, it "disintermediated" the labels; it cut out the middleman.

Suddenly, without the need for massive infrastructure and with the presence of unlimited "shelf space" for music, artists could get themselves into the new stores without needing a label, but they still needed someone to help with the mundane details that surrounded loading music into a store like iTunes, stuff like contracts, signatures, renewals, payment processing, properly-formatted music files, and album art produced to each store's specifications. In other words, artists needed an administrator but not necessarily a full-blown label.

And the digital stores want a middleman, too; none of them really want to deal with a million artists directly, artists who can't properly submit XML-formatted album data and AAC files at the right bitrate.

Enter TuneCore. The company competes with aggregators (companies like The Orchard) and with traditional record labels, but its model is quite different. While the other entities generally want to control the rights to master recordings and take a cut of the proceeds, TuneCore ditches this model in favor of flat-fee payments.

Jeff Price

TuneCore charges $19.98 a year to store an uploaded album from any artist. It charges an additional $0.99 per song on that album, along with a $0.99 charge for each music store that it submits to (iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, and Rhapsody, among others); these are one-time charges. That's it.

Twenty years ago, an artist with an acoustic guitar and a four-track demo would need to find a label to get her album on the shelves at Tower Records. Getting that contract was a long and painful process for the few who could navigate it; for most, it never led to anything, and that four-track demo was heard only by friends, family, and patrons of the local coffee shop.

Today, an artist can stock her music on the digital equivalent of Tower Records for a few bucks (the real Tower Records went out of business years ago, its business model rendered increasingly obsolete by digital downloads on the one hand and cheap physical discs from stores like Amazon, Best Buy, and Target on the other).

This shift in the economics of distribution is what leads Price to tell Ars that "the music industry changed" on the day that TuneCore went live. Any person on the planet "can have access to worldwide distribution; there are no filters," he says, and he says it with energy. This is a man who relishes what he does, and he's thrilled with his chance to upset the industry apple cart.

Price summed up his excitement about the new model in a recent Huffington Post piece on the democratization of the music business, saying, "I took to the emerging digital sector the way Bush took to weapons of mass destruction." But Bush's excitement about WMDs turned up little in the Iraqi sands; Price is hoping for more success.

Continue reading @ ars technica

Lisa Loeb On Free Music, AmieSt, 360's & Much More

Lisa_loeb_1_2 Lisa Loeb, Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, actress, and television producer, spoke to Laurence Trifon for Hypebot recently at Digital NARM. The now indie artist is embracing the digital space to market her music, and understands the challenges ahead.

There has been some debate among at Digital NARM about free music, and the trade-off between its promotional value and its potential to cannibalize music sales.

LOEB: It’s a fine line. When I was a kid we traded mixed tapes. And even now people give me entire CDs that they’ve burned that I might enjoy...

and if I like them I buy them because I know that’s the responsible thing to do. But I’m still up in the air about free music. It’s an interesting balance. I don’t really know the answer.

HYPEBOT: During the "Digital Copyright Crossfire" panel, Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild expressed that piracy has really hurt songwriters’ ability to make a living. What are your thoughts on how file-sharing has affected musicians?

Lisa_loeb LOEB: It’s terrible for songwriters who aren't also performers. When people share music for free, at least the artist brand is developed. If a bunch of fans get free Radiohead songs, Radiohead the brand is getting bigger and bigger. But if a Christina Aguilera song that someone else wrote is being passed around for free, the songwriter has totally been cut out of the puzzle. Songwriters don’t usually get advances. For them, royalties is where they make their money. That’s it.

Read the rest @ Hypebot

Music News: 6-4-08


> Bertlesmann is intensifying talks with Sony about selling its share of the Sony BMG label partnership. (NY Times)

> Retail giant f.y.e. is testing f.y.e. Tunes Filling Station mp3 download kiosks. (Fye Tunes)

> Tech journal ARS takes a look at Tunecore and the democratization of the music business. (here)

> EMI sells Christian music destination to Spinnaker Media. (paidContent)

> Tori Amos will go indie with her new release. (Billboard)

> The world's first Blu-ray music album is released in Norway. (DMW)

Spiralfrog > SpiralFrog adds EMI as its second major. Universal was first. (AP)

> EMI Music Publishing has extended its long-term relationship with Grammy Award winning songwriter and performer Ben Harper.

> imeem is adding short audio ads between some songs. (Ad Supported Music Central)


> EMI joins Universal in offering its catalog of recordings free via ad supported Qtrax. (press release) EMI also signed a deal with ad supported SpiralFrog. (FMQB)

> Yahoo is being sued by an Indian music company for copyright infringement. (PC World)

> Boston's Newbury Comics chain is selling $100,000 a month in vinyl records. (Boston Globe)

> Wolfgang's Vault has added download sales from its rare concert archives. (Reuters)

> Radiohead's catalog is up on iTunes both as albums and single tracks, something the band said it would never do. (MacWorld)

> Peter Gabriel launches personalized media reccomendation service The Filter. (AP)

> A look at a variety of products designed to offer improve music sound quality online and off. (USA Today)

Quote of the Week

".. Are you ready to climb up and take control?"

"Then make great music. Respect your audience. Give people the tools to spread the word, never rip them off. Know that growth will be slow. But that the edifice you're building is solid, that it will pay dividends like the old record company pension plan, but now the beneficiary will be you, not the fat cats." - Bob Lefsetz

FanDoodle Pays Fans To Sell Music

Fandoodle_2 enables fans to distribute downloads for artists and labels and get paid for it. Unlike the Burnlounge pyramid scheme, which I understand finally went out of business, FanDoodle is straight forward and artist friendly.

Once music has been uploaded, fans place banner code or text links in their emails, websites, MySpace or Facebook pages, blogs, or forums. When someone purchases a download, the fan keeps 20%. While the ability to distribute downloads is not new, the ability to...

instantly distribute them in partnership with their fans is. Potentially, an artist or label can sell music through thousands of distribution points rather than just a handful. It's $9.95 for set-up and artists receive 60% of sales. Fans and FanDoodle split the remaining 40%. Not a bargain but comparable to what most indie acts receive after iTunes and a distributor take their cut.

INDUSTRY READERS: FanDoodle is interested in exploring partnerships with companies related to the media industry, in particular those that deal with musical Artists. Please contact with inquiries.

Source: Hypebot Spreads To Major Sites

Last_fm "IN-A-BOX" BRINGS LAST.FM TO OTHER MAJOR WEB PROPERTIES has announced "In A Box" a new initiative that gives partners sites access to the company's personalized streaming radio services without leaving the host sites. " In a Box" will be available via Bebo,, Break Media, CBS Television Stations, CBS Affiliates, eMusic, Frengo, Gigya, iGoogle, Live Nation, Meebo,, Netvibes, Ning, Pageflakes, Photobucket, Piczo, Six Apart, Stardoll, and

The service is dubbed " in a Box" because...

it is a complete and easy to implement "soundtrack for the Web" experience for users featuring millions of tracks from’s catalog.

Martin Stiksel, co-founder, said, "This deal brings the experience to scores of sites and potentially hundreds of millions of additional users. We’ve seen over the years how our offsite community—which experiences through third-party widgets and applications—has grown massively, to more than 19 million additional users. With this new initiative we aim to take that growth to the next level by enabling new partners and their users to engage as effortlessly as possible with our unparalleled music services."

Barak Obama's Victory Soundtrack


Scott Thill at Wired's Listening Post deserves 100% of the credit for this great soundtrack for a great moment inspired by Barak Obama clinching the Democratic nomination for President and the candidate's love of old school funk.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Rock pioneer Bo Diddley dies at age 79

Legendary singer passes away from heart failure at his home in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Bo Diddley, a founding father of rock ’n’ roll whose distinctive “shave and a haircut, two bits” rhythm and innovative guitar effects inspired legions of other musicians, died Monday after months of ill health. He was 79.

Diddley died of heart failure at his home in Archer, Fla., spokeswoman Susan Clary said. He had suffered a heart attack in August, three months after suffering a stroke while touring in Iowa. Doctors said the stroke affected his ability to speak, and he had returned to Florida to continue rehabilitation.

The legendary singer and performer, known for his homemade square guitar, dark glasses and black hat, was an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award in 1999 at the Grammy Awards. In recent years he also played for the elder President Bush and President Clinton.