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It's An Indie World After All  

It's An Indie World After All 

If there was still any doubt in your mind that you didn't need to be signed to a major label in order to succeed in the music industry, wonder no longer, as new data reveals just how much of market share indies have gained in recent years. 

Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0 

If you thought that you needed to sign with a major record label or publisher in order to have success, that’s no longer true and there’s a lot of data to prove it. No metric is more valuable in seeing this picture as market share. Indies have made great strides in this area in recent years and continue to do so. Let’s take a look: 

Record Label

Physical Product

Digital Product

Physical/Digital 

Universal

23.4%

32.4%

29.8% 

Sony

19.2%

20.2%

19.9 %

Warner

13.4%

17.7%

16.5%

Independents

44.0%

29.7%

33.8% 

The big takeaway here is how well the indies stack up against the majors. When it comes to physical product, the indies are way ahead, and when it comes to total product they are as well. 

Something similar happens with publishing. 

Record Label

2017

2018

Change

Sony

27.3%

26.0%

-1.3% 

Universal Publishing

19.5%

20.2%

0.7 %

Warner Chappell

12.0%

12.3%

0.3 %

Independents

41.2%

41.4%

0.2 %

Once again, the indies are way ahead of the major publishers and its’ not even close. 

This goes to show that everything in the music industry has been turned on its head. A decade ago and for nearly 100 years, the major labels and publishers dominated the industry. Today indies have a major share of the industry, and while no single company is as strong as a major (yet), they are as a group. 

Artists and songwriters are leery of major corporations in general, and that’s who run the major labels and publishers. They know that the majors have shareholder interests in mind more than theirs. It’s also now a safer bet to sign with a indie, since success is no longer a long shot by going down that path. 

The data was compiled by the Music & Copyright Blog.

21st Century Marketing 101: Reach is overrated  

21st Century Marketing 101: Reach is overrated

I received a timely email from Seth Godin this morning and want to share it with you. (No, Seth and I are not BFFs. I chose to be on his daily mailing list because, when it comes to marketing and a number of other topics, he "gets it!"

So I'm sharing Seth's brief words of wisdom. Enjoy!

Reach is overrated

From Seth Godin

It might be the biggest misconception in all of advertising. 

The Super Bowl has reach. 

Google has reach. 

Radio has reach. 

So? 

Why do you care if you can, for more money, reach more people? 

Why wouldn’t it make more sense to reach the right people instead? 

To pick an absurd example, you can use a giant radio telescope to beam messages to the billions or trillions of aliens that live in other solar systems. Worth it? 

I read an overview that pointed out that one of the cons of Amazon advertising was that they didn’t have the reach of Google. 

This is wrong in so many ways. 

Reach doesn’t matter, because your job isn’t to interrupt people on other planets, with other interests. Your job is to interact with people who care. 

Running an ad on the most popular podcast isn’t smart if the most popular podcast reaches people who don’t care about you. 

Perhaps it makes sense to pay extra to reach precisely the right people. It never makes sense to pay extra to reach more people.

8 Important Web Resources Designed For Musicians  

8 Important Web Resources Designed For Musicians 

As social media promotion becomes increasingly difficult for artists to to do for free, band websites have now become one the most important marketing resources you have. That said, maintaining and customizing a website can be touch trickier than social media platforms - luckily there are a number of great resources out there designed specifically to help artists do just that. 

________________________________ 

Guest post by Patrick McGuire of Soundfly's Flypaper 

With social media promotion becoming trickier and harder to do for free, band websites are more important now than ever. From selling merch with no middleman to promoting a new release and upping your SEO game, personalized music websitesare crucial in helping get the job done right. But how exactly do you “personalize” a website? Social media platforms are great for promotion because they’re so easy to use, but websites are much tricker to customize and update. 

To help you navigate the vast world of music-related website resources out there, we picked out eight of our favorite web tools that are made specifically for musicians, so you know you’re in good hands with each of them. 

1. Bandzoogle 

If you’re like me and want to quickly maintain and update a solid website for your band so you can get back to making music ASAP, check out Bandzoogle. They’re a website-building platform built by and for musicians. For a low subscription fee, they offer tools to help musicians build great websites in minutes. They also give artists access to commission-free merch, ticket, and download sales through their online store feature. 

In fact, we like this service so much that we partnered with them to make a free online course called How to Create a Killer Musician Website. Check it out! 

2. Spotify Artist Insights 

Streaming platforms have long been a source of controversy because of how little they pay artists, but some offer other advantages. Spotify’s Artist Insights feature is a powerful analytics tool designed to help musicians understand who’s listening to their music the most over the platform. It tracks listener information like gender, age, location, and through what source someone discovered your music. 

How does this relate to your own website? By discovering detailed information about your listeners, you can tailor the content on your website to better reach the parts of your audience that are most engaged and likely to buy your merch, see your live shows, and check out your new releases. 

3. Bandsintown 

Bandsintown offers a set of high-powered tools aimed at helping musicians promote shows, engage fans, and upload videos. Their events widget is designed to sync up show listing information across the web, so adding it to your site will help your fans stay up to date with accurate information about your performances. Show announcements can be automated and sent out through their platform, which is also a big plus. But Bandsintown’s biggest advantage comes with their comprehensive show listing page, which shows fans which artists are playing shows near them, in case you wanted to pitch your band for a support spot! 

4. GigMailz 

GigMailz is similar to Mailchimp, but is geared towards musicians and other entertainers. For a low monthly subscription, users get services like a 45-minute design consultation, unlimited lists, and analytics. By adding the GigMailz widget to your website, you can bring new fans into the fold with show and music release updates, sales on merch, and other band happenings, with a few clicks. 

5. Songkick 

If you’re looking for an easy way to post show information in one place and have it show up all over the internet, look no further than Songkick’s Tourbox API feature. It functions through a widget that you can add to your website and across your social media accounts, as well as a mass automated updater that reaches Spotify, Shazam, Bandcamp, Pandora, Hype Machine, and loads of other sites. Fans with the Songkick app installed on their phones will receive notifications when you announce shows near their location. 

6. Bandtraq 

Bandtraq, another company formed by musicians, creates digital tools to help artists and fans alike. The musician-oriented tools they offer include a handy customizable widget that lets artists present social media feeds, videos, music, and more, all in one place. The unique Bandlink feature helps bands design smart landing pages to promote and present new releases through a single short link, which is ideal for rolling out new music over a website in a quick and easy way. 

7. SoundCloud 

You’re probably well aware of SoundCloud by now, but its widget feature is worth mentioning. Because SoundCloud is completely free and typically reliable, it’s the perfect place to host music over your site. Yes, you’ll lose some royalty money by not linking up to your Spotify or Apple Music account, but going with SoundCloud is the best option because it doesn’t force those visiting your site to sign up with yet another service. Plus, it’s essentially social media for track releases. 

8. Metablocks Widgets 

For musicians looking to integrate sophisticated retail capabilities with their sites, Metablocks is a good option. Through their widgets, you can sell music, accept email addresses, and even integrate Spotify’s Pre-Save campaigns. They’re able to link with hundreds of music retailers, and offer analytics in real-time about who’s clicking, when, and why. 

Bonus: Google Analytics 

And for a bonus, because it’s not strictly designed for musicians, Google Analytics is worth checking out if you’re obsessed with learning more about the fans who visit your website. This platform is designed to help businesses (if you sell music, then you’re a business) better understand and serve their customers, and that makes it perfect for you.

Your Network IS your Net-Worth 

Music industry veteran, Bob Lefsetz shared about the essential nature of building and nurturing a fan community in his blog this week. i can't agree more with his insight. Building, engaging, and nurturing community is central to my messages to my clients and my students. Enjoy Bob's post below.

You've got to build it from scratch. 

And you have to know each and every member and how to reach them. 

Remember the MTV era? Instant heroes who soon became zeros. The faster you make it, the faster you lose it. 

In other words, if you're depending on the label, the corporation, to bring you to the top, you're in trouble. 

I know this is antithetical to everything you've been taught, but the mentality of the music business exists in the twentieth century, while we're living in the twenty first. Grass roots. Credibility. Honesty. All these things are going to grow your career in today's era, and it's gonna happen slowly. You might never break through to the big time, but your fans will support you. Fans will house you, promote you and give you all their money. All they want in return is respect and access. It's the best deal in history. One e-mail, one tweet can motivate them into taking action. 

No candidate is better known than Joe Biden. But he's living in the last century, he had no mailing list, except for the one from when he ran for Vice President, and they say those mailing lists are only good for two years. 

Biden said he raised $6.3 million in his first day of fundraising, more than Bernie's first day, which netted the Vermont Senator $5.9 million. 

But the devil is in the details. Biden raised the money from 97,000 donors. Bernie raised his cash from 225,000. It's about fans, not grosses. Which is why you'll see big bands limiting ticket prices, selling tickets to fan clubs, doing everything to maintain their base which will sustain them through the thin times. 

Furthermore, Biden got $700,000 from fat cats, at a fundraiser. And in today's era, all the little people hate the big people. 

It's happening in music too, it's just that the big people don't want you to know it. The imprimatur of the label, the push at radio, these are things the true fans have no sympathy for. The labels and radio are in the hits business, the fans are in the career business, and there's so much more money in that. 

The press is behind Biden. As are the corporate donors, lobbyists and the Party. You'd think he's a winner until you look at the actual voters. This is how the Republican fat cats lost control of their party, when Trump swooped in and appealed to the little people who felt ignored. 

A big publicity campaign won't tell you who you're reaching, won't give you hardly any information at all. And today it's all about the data. Spotify will tell you where you're hot and where you're not. But even more important is the rank and file, the fans. They want to hear from you, but with so many media messages your effort gets lost and stops before it reaches them. No one catches everything, it's impossible. Even the biggest of publicity campaigns don't reach everyone. 

It's all about targets. Efficiency. 

And there's a nerd in your fanbase who will coordinate all this. Someone savvy, who'll do it for the love. 

You've got to be organized, you're managing yourself. If you're handing off responsibility to someone else, you're missing the point. Fans want you, and they can tell when it's fake. 

Of course it's a lot of hard work, but the dividends are paid in the future. 

Bernie could only raise this much money because he ran in 2016, he had an infrastructure. 

The era of the vapid instant superstar is done. It only resonates with the media and the brain dead. True fans want to feel like they belong, they want to channel their energy, they want to know they're important. 

So we've got two music businesses today. Actually three. 

One is the oldsters who made it before the internet coasting on their hits, never to have another one. 

Number two is the Spotify wonders. Propped up by the machine. Hyped. Sure, some of them will sustain, but most of them will not. Come on, you know that fans want to own the act themselves before everybody else does, they want to say they were there first, they don't want to be a number, they want to be known. They want to say they saw you in a club. That they bought a t-shirt from you at the merch table. And when you break through, they'll still support you. 

Number three is the vast majority. Those who the machine doesn't want. Those who do not rap or sing pop to an 808 beat. Their time is coming. Stop bitching about recording revenue, everybody can hear your music essentially for free, that's a good thing! You used to have to depend on radio and sales for traction, now your music is just a click away and there are so many ways to monetize, be encouraged, not discouraged. 

The media can't cope with numerous genres. It's all about winners. But in the internet era there are tons of winners. And the more different you are from the hitmakers, the greater the chances that you'll succeed. 

But it's a slower process than before. 

And you have to do most of the work yourself. 

But your fanbase will support you through thick and thin. And no one is as rabid as a fan in spreading the word, they'll drag friends to a gig, which is why you've got to be great every night even if there are only ten people in the audience, because one person today has more power than any newspaper if they believe. 

The world has become inverted. We're going from the macro to the micro. And the truth is there's plenty of money in the micro. And if you hang in there long enough, you can go macro. The machine is throwing things against the wall. You're making music containing your heart and soul, humanity emanates from the grooves, it's not for the good times, but for all time. 

The old game is dying. 

You're in charge of the new game. But you must use the new game paradigm. And that starts with ones and twos, fans. Know who they are and activate them, it's the only way to win in the music game today. 

If you want to sell perfume and have a clothing line that's a different path. 

But if you're a musician, your time has come. 

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Songwriters Urge Users To #CancelSpotify 

#cancelspotify A growing group of songwriters are taking to social media to urge users to #cancelspotify in protest of the streamer's decision to challenge a US Copyright Royalty Board decision to raise streaming payments to songwriters 44% over the next 5 years. 

Yesterday dozens of top songwriters called out Spotify in an an open letter that urged the streamer to reverse course: "Now, we can see the real reason for your songwriter outreach. You have used us and tried to divide us but we stand together." 

While #cancelspotify is far from trending on Twitter, the campaign does appear to be gathering some momentum.

What do you think?

 

Kobalt Is Now A Next Generation Major Label In The Making 

Guest post by: Mark Mulligan

"Kobalt has been the poster child for the changing of the guard in the music business," writes MIDiA analyst Mark Mulligan. But it's on a path to become much more as "next-generation label... plotting a course to becoming a next generation-major." 

__________________________________ 

By Mark Mulligan of MIDiA from his Music Industry blog 

News has emerged of Kobalt potentially looking to raise an additional $100 million of investment, following a 2017 round of $89 million and a 2015 $60-million round led by Google Ventures. Kobalt has been the poster child for the changing of the guard in the music business, helping set the industry agenda by pursuing a creators-first strategy while. 

Building an impressive roster of songwriters and artists at a scale that would have most indies salivating. But it does not have its sights set on being the leading player of the indie sector, instead playing for the big game: Kobalt is the next major label waiting to happen. 

So, what makes Kobalt so different? In some respects, nothing. Most of what Kobalt is doing has been done before, and there are others plotting a similar path right now (e.g. BMG, United Masters, Hitco). What matters is how it is executing, how well backed it is and the scale of its ambitions: 

Moving beyond masters: In the old model, artists signed away their rights in perpetuity to record labels, with nine out of ten of them permanently in debt to the label not yet having paid off their advances. The new model (i.e. label services) pursued by the likes of Kobalt, reframes the artist-label relationship, turning it one more akin to that of agency-client. In this rebalanced model artists retain long-term ownership of their copyrights and in return share responsibility of costs with their label. This approach, coupled with transparent royalty reporting, lower admin costs and continual tech innovation has enabled Kobalt to build a next-generation label business. 


Laser focus on frontline: In a label services business the entire focus is on frontline, as there isn’t any catalogue. An artist signed to such a label therefore knows that they have undivided attention. That’s the upside; the downside is that the label does not have the benefit of a highly-profitable bank of catalogue to act as the investment fund for frontline. This means that a label like Kobalt often cannot afford the same scale of marketing as a major one, which helps explain why Kobalt is looking for another $100 million. However, there is a crucial benefit of being compelled to spend carefully. 


Superstar niches: In the old model, labels would (and often still do) carpet-bomb TV, radio, print and digital with massive campaigns designed to create global, superstar brands. Now, labels can target more precisely and be selective about what channels they use. Kobalt’s business is based around making its roster superstars within their respective niches, finding a tightly-defined audience and the artists they engage with. The traditional superstar model sees an artist like a Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran or a Taylor Swift being a mass media brand with recognition across geographies and demographics. The new superstar can fly under the radar while simultaneously being hugely successful. Take the example of Kobalt’s Lauv, an artist tailor-made for the ‘Spotify-core’ generation that hardly registers as a global brand, yet has two billion audio streams, half a billion YouTube views and 26 million monthly listeners on Spotify. By contrast, heavily-backed Stormzy has just three million monthly Spotify listeners. 


Deep tech connections: The recent WMG / Spotify spat illustrates the tensions that can exist between labels and tech companies. Kobalt has long focused on building close relationships with tech companies, including but not limited to streaming services. This positioning comes easier to a company that arguably owes more to its technology roots than it does its music roots. The early backing of Google Ventures plays a role too, though with some negative connotations; some rights holders fear that this in fact reflects Google using Kobalt as a proxy for a broader ambition of disrupting the traditional copyright regime. 
A highly structured organisation: One of the key differences between many independent labels and the majors is that the latter have a much more structured organizational set up, with large teams of deep specialisation. This is the benefit of having large-scale revenues, but it is also a manifestation of ideology. Most independents focus their teams around the creative end of the equation, putting the music first and business second. Major labels, while still having music at their core, are publicly-traded companies first, with corporate structures and a legal obligation on management to maximise shareholder value. Kobalt has undoubtedly created an organisational structure to rival that of the majors. 

Earned Fandom 

Kobalt is a next-generation label and it is plotting a course to becoming a next generation-major. That success will not be reflected in having the rosters of household names that characterise the traditional major model, but instead an ever-changing portfolio of niche superstars. The question is whether the current majors can respond effectively; they have already made big changes, including label services, JV deals, higher royalty rates, etc. 

Perhaps the most fundamental move they need to make, however, is to understand what a superstar artist looks like in the era of fragmented fandom. The way in which streaming services deliver music based on use behaviours and preferences inherently means that artists have narrower reach because they are not being pushed to audiences that are relevant. This shifts us from the era of macro hits to micro hits ie songs that feel like number one hits to the individual listener because they so closely match their tastes. This is what hits mean when delivered on an engagement basis rather than a reach basis. Quality over quantity. 

Majors can still make their artists look huge on traditional platforms, which still command large, if rapidly aging audiences. But what matters most is engagement, not reach. It is a choice between bought fandom and earned fandom. In the old model you could build a career on bought fandom. Now if you do not earn your fandom, your career will burn bright but fast, and then be gone.

Finding Your Passion  

If you struggle with the question, "What are you passionate about?" you're in much better (and much bigger) company than you probably realize. 

When I was younger, I thought I was passionate about a lot of things – music, movies, faith, girls, Star Trek... 

But in reality what I was truly passionate about was just feelingpassionate. Once the flame died, on to the next fire I'd move. 

It's tempting to rely on Hollywood's romantic formula for defining what it means to be passionate about something (or someone).  

And because I did this for so long, even now, when I am alone with my thoughts considering the question, "What am I passionate about?", I can still struggle to provide an answer. 

Because the Hollywood formula is both backwards and incomplete. 

"Dear world, offer me something I’m passionate about and I’ll show up with all of my energy, effort and care!" 

Where's the commitment? It's easy to show up, but without commitment it's equally as easy to walk away. Because nothing is good enough to earn your passion before you do it. Perhaps, in concept, it’s worthy, but as soon as you closely examine the details, the benefits... and the pitfalls, it’s easy to decide it’s better to wait for a better offer. Or if you already jumped in with both feet, once your feet begin to ache (or wonder) to run off after something else. 

Passion and commitment are inseparable. 

But what if you reverse and complete the formula? 

"Dear world, offer me a chance to contribute, and I’ll commit to work on it, with focus, and once I begin to make progress, I’ll become passionate about it!" 

Committed activity – before passion – measures our craft and calling in terms of contribution, not in a romanticized notion of perfection. Passion comes from feeling needed, from approaching mastery, from doing work that matters. 

To find your passion, commit yourself to doing work that matters. Contribute to the best interest of someone and something else. And feel the rush of being needed, wanted, and trusted. 

But I Don't Know How! 

But I don't know how!

Four words that never enter a child's mind before attempting, well... anything!

At least that's how it is with my young daughters. Oh, they can do anything,,, EVERYTHING... at least in their mind's eye. 

And then, in time, they do it before my eyes.

And the joy this brings... inspires me to be better.

Do they fail along the way? All the time! Does it matter to them? Maybe. But it rarely stops them from trying.

What about you?

This thing in your mind's eye? Do you know how to make it happen?

It doesn't really matter, does it?

Because we know that what matters...

is trying,

and failing,

and learning,

and growing.

It's not that you don't know how to do this thing in your mind's eye.

It's that you simply don't know how, YET.

But you will.

And when you do...

The joy YOU bring will inspire the rest of us to be better too.