Sorry it has taken a few extra days to get our live chat wrap-up posted up here on the blog - we’re working with some new technology to try to improve our chats and make it easier for all of you to interact with us and each other. Small steps! (I keep saying this to myself more and more often….)
Anywho, I think we had one of our best live chats with you guys last week, and we had some amazing musical talent on the show: the New Orleans-based indie rock band Big Rock Candy Mountain. Also, our tech-guru Randy Funke joined us remotely with Chris Frantz (Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club).
We talked SXSW, value alignment, marketing, touring, and answered some questions from you guys. I’ve embedded some bite-sized clips from the show below. I highly suggest you watch the full show here: http://is.gd/pIk0
Touring in new cities:
Value Alignment and Role of Labels:
How to approach SXSW:
And here’s just a taste of the musical excellence:
If you’d like more information about Big Rock Candy Mountain, you can get in touch with them in these places:
First of all, thanks to all of you who tuned into our live chat this afternoon - this week’s ‘show’ was quite a success - we really had a lot of fun with you guys! And, of course, we hope it was helpful for you on some level.
I think we saw how many different opinions there are on the ‘right’ way to do social media. Everyone has their own ideas of Twitter do’s and Twitter don’ts. But what is common between everybody’s lists is that it’s essential that you are providing value for your fans/followers and that you are engaging them on a personal level. After all, that’s what social media is about - socializing. Markets are conversations. So converse with people the way you converse with people. Don’t advertise AT them. Social media and advertising are arch enemies, they hate each other, they will fight to the death… and social media will win because it engages us in the way that we like to be engaged: by socializing. That said, here is a recorded video of the chat that took place this afternoon for your viewing (and reviewing) pleasure.
We’ll be back next week - same time, same place! In the meantime, we’ll see you back on twitter!
Andrew Orlowski has written a fascinating article over at The Register, which details how an ISP tax to cover the revenues lost to illegal downloads will destroy innovation in creative industries, specifically with regards to marketing and distribution. For those who don’t know, there has been a proposal floating around for a number of years that a good way to counter-act the effects of file sharing on the internet would be to add a surcharge to everybody’s monthly internet bill. Essentially, everybody would pay a little bit extra every month and those who choose to swap files for free will live without fear of reprisal. On the surface, it seems like a perfectly logical idea, one that incorporates some key realities about illegal file sharing, AKA:
- It happens
- It can’t be circumvented
- The vast majority of people who listen to music are fine with it
So instead of building a building a wall of sand to hold back a tsunami, the music industry would just roll with the tide. After all, changing an accepted practice means that the change would need to be 10x better than the current option, and what is 10x better than free?
To counter-act what seems to be impervious logic, Orlowski presents what he believes is a common situation for a startup in today’s Internet age:
- The founders have little to no creative talent except for latching on to trends discovered by others
- The goal of the business is to make money
Let us consider paradigm in the context of the music industry:
Folks in this position start their business, utilizing “crowdsourcing” to supply content for them to distribute at no cost. By perpetuating the idea of the Long Tail, or that the real gems are to be found in the most unlikely and under-appreciated spaces, more and more people are encouraged to produce content, thinking that they are the diamonds in the rough. More and more people join in, and the cycle of leeching content from the unwashed Internet hordes that participate in the great creative gold rush continues unabated. However, some serious problems will eventually develop. Like it or not, the vast majority of people who aspire to be successful musicians will not inspire anybody to listen to them outside of their immediate social circles, and those small groups are not homogenous enough to be meaningful to advertisers on a large scale. In addition, the sheer amount of music being created will make the worthwhile stuff much harder to find and eventually users will begin to be frustrated, moving away from using the service at all.
If you work at MySpace, then you should absolutely be blushing right now, because I’m talking about you.
So how do they solve the problem? Larger, more popular content creators must be secured in order to continue generating income, but, as Orlowski points out, there are a couple of problems with this:
A) They will probably (definitely) want money
B) They have the law on their side so we can’t just take it and hope they don’t notice
This means that the business model built on a supply of content for near zero-cost will have to be altered and companies will begin paying for content just so that they don’t lose their traffic. Music sites increasingly rely on tried-and-true big names in order to lure people back to using their platforms evidence this. This is only a temporary stop-gap measure as, ultimately, the crowd-sourced music model of sites like MySpace will fail, which is probably a good thing. There is no consistent effort being put into finding and rewarding the new flashes of raw genius, and those who are looking are having a harder and harder time finding them. This means that getting noticed in today’s landscape is only achieved by the truly determined, which is probably proof of their ability to be successful. An eventual mass realization that quality is more important than sheer quantity would lead to a revitalized creative landscape, one that might return the music industry to being profitable for those who deserve to make a profit.
Unless we implement the aforementioned ISP tax.
As Orlowski points out, without the difficulty of licensing music, then the cycle of creative malaise will only continue, and innovation and uniqueness will continue to be lost in the shuffle. Artists would no longer have to worry about how their music was being used on the internet, and there will be no reward for rising above the fray as everybody will be getting paid whether they innovate or not.
What do you guys think? Is an ISP tax a good thing? Or will it just destroy innovation in the music industry?
Further reading: Michael Arrington’s great article on Techcrunch.
We spend a lot of time here on the blog talking about what it takes to successfully apply proven business and technological practice to music in order to further an artist’s career. It cannot be denied that the rules of more mercenary disciplines like business and marketing have an important role in achieving success, but it is important to remember the “why” behind all of the “how” we talk about here at Artists House.
Which brings me to the clip below, which features Dr. Jerry Goolsby of Loyola University’s Music Industry Studies program discussing the basic ideals that are required for success in the music industry.
As trite as it may seem, it all begins with passion and conviction. Without these two things an artist isn’t an artist, and while success won’t be impossible to achieve, it will be much harder to attain, even with all the business and technology savvy in the world. My colleague AG has talked extensively in previous posts about “creating meaning” through methods of connecting to a fan base, which is vital. The best way to start doing that is to make sure what you are connecting over something you believe in yourself.
Make sure the art you make “creates meaning” for you because, when it is all said and done, you are your first and last customer.
Last week I was introduced to a website that is creating something that I have been attempting to plot out for a long time. Bandbox.com is a web-based music company that has created an embed-able store widget for websites that allows artists to sell their music at whatever price they choose and returns 100% of the band’s earnings to them. I know. You’re incredulous. Read on and I will explain how it works.
Obviously, the company isn’t a charity. Bandbox makes its money by embedding small advertisements in the bottom of the store widget. The artists do not have control over the content of these ads, which is a negative, but retaining 100% of the profits from the digital sales mitigates that, in my opinion. In addition, the widget allows to distribute physical media, which Bandbox manufactures, for a small transaction fee.
Bandbox is in the early phases of gaining some traction at the moment, with their most prominent artists being country artist Taylor Swift and Christian singer/songwriter Amy Grant. The market in recent years has been flooded with embed-able digital music widgets, including most notably the one created by former Napster founder Shawn Fanning and his company SnoCap that formed a deal with Myspace.com and then failed to capture the purchasing dollars of that audience. While this isn’t a unique story in the direct to consumer digital music widget market, Bandbox’s payment structure is compelling enough that it seems to have a leg up on its competition.
Right now the company is still in its private beta phase and appears to be limiting the types of sites which the widget can be embedded into. Those who are interested can get in on the beta by heading to the website, entering their band’s name, email address, and blogger/xanga/myspace etc. url. They should send a confirmation email within a few minutes, and deliver the goods a few days later.
I was directed to this company by one of our loyal readers, Marcus Melton. You can find his design work and opinions at the following websites:
Thanks to Marcus! If you have a great website you think I should be talking about, hit me up via the Artist House Music profile on the Facebook.
Paul Boutin’s article in WIRED magazine this month suggests that blogging in the age of Twitter and other such services is antiquated and pointless. The “blogosphere”, he says, has become overly saturated with cut-rate journalists and underground marketing campaigns that have effectively drowned out the authentic voices that originally defined the movement. Utilizing services like Facebook, Flickr, and Twitter, where you can specifically tailor your audience to what you provide, thus getting more return for your effort, is a far more effective use of your time and energy. Plus you won’t have to deal with the legions of hecklers out there trolling around just looking for things to hate.
There just might be some truth to what Boutin is saying. Notable bloggers like Jason Calicanis have abandoned their blogs and (in some cases) Twitter feeds all together, retreating to the safety of email lists, sending out their opinions in a much more private, direct way to those who genuinely want to hear/read them. The connection, Jason says, is far more direct and meaningful.
Trends tend to move in a cyclical fashion and it certainly holds that what is once on top has to spend some time on the bottom before coming back around again. This may be the case with blogging. I know that, in my personal experience, the connections I have formed through Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr feeds are targeted to those people who have specifically made an effort to follow what I do. The other beauty of these systems is the brevity which they require (I am sure some of you are agreeing with them by this point in my post), as Paul artfully demonstrates in this Twitter-style summation of his point:
“Kill yr blog. 2004 over. Google won’t find you. Too much cruft from HuffPo, NYT. Commenters are tards. C u on Facebook?”
By cutting down the number of people I am disseminating my information to I am, effectively, using a rifle, not a shotgun and choosing quality over quantity. My blog is becoming almost ancillary, providing a place for my readership to go when they want to look a little bit deeper into something I have linked to or talked about on one of my feeds, rather than being at the center of my web presence. Who knows, maybe I too will start sending out a weekly email update specifically tailored to a niche community of loyal readers.
What do you guys think? Is blogging dead or dying? Is this the natural trend cycle taking running its reactionary course or is there something to this idea of direct connections with a smaller audience being more meaningful?
NOTE: Boutin’s article originally appeared in the November Issue of WIRED under the title “Kill Your Blog.” They changed it online. I am also aware of the irony of posting about this subject on a blog.