Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bundle Packages = The 2009 Artist Release Strategy

The old model of one album release every two years is out. Artists spend so much time writing and recording for only a couple weeks of attention surrounding the release. It does not have to be that way. 

In the new model, weeks of anticipation should turn into months. I work closely with a great band out of Nashville, The Minor Kings, who have been in and out of the studio recording their 12-track official debut. As I have been preaching to them, it's all about BUNDLES! 

Below I've provided 5 prime examples of why bundle packages (think samples) are the new way to go:
  1. Maintain the FRESH feeling of a new release
  2. BUILD the anticipation
  3. Acquire the ATTENTION
  4. Allows for full CONSUMPTION
Bundle packages can be an extremely effective marketing strategy for artists. Yet, it will only work for artists whose entire body of work is quality material. If you are looking to be the next one-hit wonder, this should not apply. For all artists looking to make a career out of playing music, I highly recommend looking at the eventual album release as the ultimate destination and marketing the individual songs with an entirely different perspective. 

I would love to expand upon some of the examples above, but the New Year is approaching and I need to get ready for 2009!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Digital Music Startup Failures -> Lessons Learned

Over the course of the last year or two, I have seen plenty of articles hyping up innovative digital music startups like Muxtape, Qtrax & Soundpedia. All of them were relatively novel ideas that had serious potential for growth. Yet, these days you will find all three barely treading above water.

I have attached above an image of Compete's most recent traffic counts for all three startups. It's striking to see their rapid ascents and how quickly each has fallen (all in a ~year's time). Each company has it's own story behind it, and I believe there are some good lessons to be learned.

Qtrax got some great early publicity for attempting to become the first advertising-supported free peer-2-peer network. Early being the key word. They jumped the gun with announcements of completed deals with the 4 major record labels that delayed their launch. Unfortunately, consumers (and just as importantly reviewers) are not always willing to give second chances, and Qtrax has been fighting an uphill battle ever since. 

Muxtape was a huge (relatively speaking) success story for it's first few months in existence. Started by just one random dude, Justin Oulette, Muxtape allowed users to upload mp3s, and create their own playlists to share with the world.  I bet he never envisioned the onslaught of traffic that would ensue. Users quickly gravitated to its simplicity and ease of use (two components that are successful for all successful startups these days).

Unfortunately, this quick ascent led to the attention of the RIAA. The RIAA can only focus on so many things at a time, but they were not going to allow a popular "illegal" streaming site to remain afloat despite promoting music discovery and subsequent purchasing. Thus, as quickly as it went up, it came down.

Then there's Soundpedia out of Singapore. They claim to be a music discovery community. You heard of that before? Yeah, it's called MySpace for some. Last.FM for others. It's a tough space to be in with the ever-increasing digital music population.

Soundpedia's demise has been the most gradual of the bunch. They are still kicking...but barely. Soundpedia has never really been able to differentiate themselves or find their own niche in the digital music space. They had their traffic peak back in November 2007, and it's been downhil ever since. Considering they rely on advertisements for revenue, they are in serious trouble with a unique visitor count that continues to dwindle down (at ~10k in October '08).

These stories  reminded me of discussions held at the Digital Music Forum East (coming up February 25-26, 2009) this past February in New York. Multiple panelsits were talking about how difficult is was becoming to create a legal music discovery platform because either the laws just can't keep up with technology or the labels increasingly difficult demands. I agree these barriers could use some work, but I firmly believe their are solutions without pulling an Imeem and going "illegal" before settling to go the "legal" route (and royally screwing their margins in the process).

I think we got one in mind...until then...

Friday, August 15, 2008

HypeBot Shout-Out

Thanks to Bruce Houghton @ HypeBot, one of the best sources for the latest digital music news, for using my recommendation in his recent podcast

I asked Bruce to discuss Terry McBride's suggestion for a $.25 price point for digital downloads. Just because Steve Jobs & Co. created a $.99/song price, does that make it right? At what price point can we influence the X-generation to start consuming music legally? There is a better solution!

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Ultimate Batting Order...For An Album

Over the last two years, I have been helping out a phenomenal band out of Nashville, TN, The Minor Kings. With their infectious edgy-rock sounds and contagious live shows, these guys are definitely going places. Whatever IT may be, they got IT. They are currently wrapping up their official debut album. Soon enough, the rest of the world will discover what they have been missing.

I have always believed a great album is reminiscent of a World Series Champion Batting Order. There's a reason why they are World Champs. They have all the pieces in places that brought them to the ultimate stage: The superstars (the HITS), the role-players and the proper management to get the job done.

With that being said, I wanted to show my thoughts as we build the ultimate lineup card...for an album. Imagine the album has 2-3 HIT songs, 4-5 that epitomize the unique sound, a ballad to slow it down and a dark, dark song to end it all that will leave everybody scratching their heads. Here we go:

Track 1/Lead-Off: You got to get the album off to a good start (we need baserunners!). Set the tempo. Is this a rock album? If so, make sure it rocks! The rest of the experience can be contigent upon grabbing the attention right here.

Track 2/On-Deck: Keep the tempo up. If the lead-off track didn't do the  job, this one better! We're building up to somethign good. The runs will start coming soon. Don't lose their interest.

Track 3/In-the-Hole: This one must be somebody that can get on base, essentially a track that is consistent. It doesn't need to be the hit song, but it should be indicative of the band's unique sound. 

Track 4/Clean-Up: The Star Track. The most POWERFUL guy on the team. He'll bring it all home. Everybody can rock our to this one!

Track 5: Still a "big-bopper." He's there to protect the clean-up hitter. You don't want to pass this one over, or in this case "intentionally walk" this guy. 

Track 6: The Next Hit. Do not crowd the order. Who knows, this one could be THE one, but you can't predict it until it happens. If it does, we can adjust accordingly...on the re-release.

Track 7: Slow it down. Show 'em a different side. This one is not as powerful as the "meat" of the order, but he gets the job done.

Track 8: It's hard to fill out an entire quality lineup card. If you get caught napping after the last one, he'll sneak up on you. If you have to stretch it at all, this is the place to do it.

Track 9/End-of-the-Order: The other side is tired from the last eight. They are ready to be a bittersweet kind of way. What's left? Very simple. Leave them asking the question: What just happened???

There you have it. Now, that is a quality album lineup! Can you handle it?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PluggedIn - Forget MTV, Music Videos Are Back

I've decided to start writing about certain Web 2.0/3.0 creations that catch my eye. I figured today was a good day to start when TechCrunch profiled a new music video destination. PluggedIn epitomizes the trend that we have been witnessing over the past year of emerging niche market websites.

Rewinding just a bit, everybody knows that MTV spawned a whole new generation in the early 1980's. They put two and two together and discovered the power of music videos. Everybody is attracted to music. Why not visualize it?

Nowadays, MTV has decided to move on from music videos in favor of the highest quality television such as NEXT & Parental Control. Great. 

By vacating this sector, it has opened the door for others to step in. Many people have shifted their attention online. YouTube has become a popular destination for music videos. Imeem & others have also entered the market, but none specialize in quality music video content. Enter PluggedIn.

PluggedIn is attempting to assemble the largest database of high quality music video content. They have already inked deals with 3 of the 4 major record labels, with hopes to add Warner Music very shortly. They currently boast over 10,000 videos, and as the HD-quality content becomes further relevant, they hope to live up to their niche market sales pitch.

It won't be tomorrow, but give PluggedIn a year or two, and I believe they will become a popular music destination. 

Sunday, March 30, 2008

2008 MLB Storylines & Predictions

The transition from Spring to Summer is my favorite time of year, and it's no coincidence that I also welcome the start to the Major League season right about now. I love to participate in different fantasy leagues and predict how the season will play out, but what better way to do the latter than through my newest personal medium. 

Below I have included my biggest storylines for the 2008 season: 

1) Adding MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera  to an already potent lineup makes the Tigers my odds on favorite to win it all. They possess the best lineup in the game to go along with a top 5 staff. 

2) Watch out for the Devil Rays. If not this year, they will surely be a force to reckon with in the years to come. Their young talent featuring the likes of James Shields, Scott Kazmir and Carl Crawford is undeniable. Staying in the AL East, I think the definicies in the Yankee rotation will lead to an early exit before the playoffs. 

3) The Mariners will benefit from the injuries to the Angels' Lackey and Escobar, and they will ride the best 1-2 punch in baseball, Bedard and Felix, to the AL West crown.

4) The NL West is the best division in baseball with 4 teams capable of winning the title. As much as I discredit a manager's impact in baseball, I believe the mere prescence of Joe Torre coupled with a bounce-back season for Andruw Jones and breakout candidates James Loney & Andre Ethiera will vault the Dodgers to the top.

5) The Braves have quietly built up a young and powerful lineup to go together with a veteran and proven rotation. They will reclaim the NL East crown in a heated battle with the Mets.

6) Lastly, I expect the Cubs to finally make it back to the Biggest Stage with no Bartman interference. Yet, they will fall just short of the World Series crown in 6 games to the Tigers.

As for the actual finishes, I have posted my predictions (records included) for each team:

American League
Red Sox (96-66)
Yanks (92-70)
D-Rays (82-80)
B-Jays (80-82)
Orioles (68-94)

Tigers (101-61)
*Indians (94-68)
White Sox (81-81)
Twins (80-82)
Royals (74-88)

Mariners (91-71)
Angels (88-74)
Rangers (71-91)
Athletics (66-96)

Wild Card: Indians

ALCS: Tigers over Red Sox

National League
Braves (94-68)
*Mets (93-69)
Phillies (89-73)
Nationals (70-92)
Marlins (65-97)

Cubs (96-66)
Brewers (87-75)
Reds (83-79)
Astros (77-85)
Pirates (71-91)
Cardinals (70-92)

Dodgers (94-68)
Rockies (91-71)
Diamondbacks (91-71)
Padres (87-75)
Giants (68-94)

Wild Card: Mets

NLCS: Cubs over Braves

Worlds Series: Tigers over Cubs (in 6)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anderson & Arrington on Rose: The Impact of Modern Day Pirates

I'm not much of a Charlie Rose buff, but when he invites two individuals who I admire tremendously onto his show, I have to pay attention. Earlier this month, Chris Anderson and Michael Arrington joined him for a broadcast on 'the future of technology and the internet.' For those who aren't familiar with those two, Anderson is the author of a phenomenal business book, The Long Tail (which happens to be heavily focused on the music industry), while Arrington is the head-hancho at TechCrunch, a blog about Web 2.0 startups and one of my first destinations every morning.

Rose started off with Anderson, and reiterated how TIME Magazine deemed him 1 of the 100 people shaping the world. Anderson explained how technology is changing the world of ideas. As he was developing his projects, he gave up IP concerns and benefited by receiving tremendous amounts of feedback in return. Anderson addressed what he believed as two additional economies that are often overlooked by the monetary economy: the attention and reputation economies. He believes the attention economy is crucial because 'time equals money' and it dictates how we spend our limited time. The reputation economy is defined by word of mouth and manifested through mediums such as ebay's rankings and what we link to.

I agreed with almost every point Anderson made in The Long Tail related to the state of the music industry, and it was no different when he made mention of it towards the end of his segment. As he explains, musicians "don't make money selling product...[they] make money selling performance!" He argues:
Considering the cost of distributing a digital track is essentially zero, why not use the product as marketing for performance...spread the undifferentiated [album] to stimulate demand for the really scarce thing of seeing the band [in person]

When it was Mike Arrington's turn, he discussed his obsession with his current job of evaluating the latest internet startups. Here's a quote that summarizes his take:
I love to cover [the Googles of the future]. They're either 20 years old or they just left high paying consulting job...whatever it is, they have an itch they have to scratch...they start a company...I love it! I think they're modern day pirates. They want to destroy existing companies and rip them apart...and they have this crazy view on the utility of risk...they're gamblers
As a lawyer in his previous profession, Arrington had become infatuated with entrepreneurs and their seemingly crazy ideas. As he tells Charlie Rose, he cannot wait for myspace or facebook or (fill in the blank) to have their "google moment," when they turn themselves into a monster source of wealth. Since he started TechCrunch in 2005, his website has quickly become one of the most trusted and reliable sources for daily information on the 'modern-day-pirates' of the web world.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Enough Talking, Let's Start Writing

So I have been meaning to start a blog for quite some time now, but it wasn't until my return from New York last week that I felt the need to execute on that inclination. Digital Media Wire hosted their bi-annual Digital Music Forum (this one on the East Coast) with over 70 speakers and 500 attendees. Talk about information overload. I have never felt more mentally exhausted in my life. While running around New York City for three straight days, I heard from and spoke with the founders of mega-digital-music-brands such as, iLike, last.FM, and AmieStreet. Although the trip put a significant dent into my pocket, it was everything I could have asked for and more.

Over the last year, I have become heavily intrigued by the power of the internet and Web 2.0's interactivity. When I coupled my passion for music and my infatuation with digitized content, I began to research the digital music space. What I found was very encouraging. Although many believe the music industry is in ‘chaos’, the truth is music is thriving like never before. The accessibility channels are as great as ever and music consumption is at all-time highs.

Once the likes of MySpace and Facebook discovered we could all be ‘friends’, it was only a matter of time before other we used our 'friends' as trusted resources. As UK writer Jemima Kiss recently wrote, if Web 2.0 was about interaction, Web 3.0 could well be personalization and recommendation. Heck, if that's the case, we’re already in the alpha stages of Web 3.0 as the whole world is getting acquainted with 2.0. Evidenced by the successes of Pandora and last.FM, combining music and recommendations is one of the most useful resources of Web 2.0.

An industry in the midst of chaos is prime for new opportunities. Moving forward, the digital music future looks very bright, and I am excited to be a part of it. In the words of former EMI executive, Ted Cohen's opening Conference remarks, "it's not too's only the beginning!"