2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

It’s interesting to me that for all the industry insider perspective I post, it’s the gear reviews that seem to get the most traction.  Comments anyone?

Happy, successful 2014 everyone!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Top 7 reasons the media did not cover your last album | CDBaby.com

shutterstock 106973525 300x240 Top 7 reasons the media did not cover your last album

Music PR mistakes you can avoid next time you approach the media

[This article was written by guest contributor Dmitri Vietze, CEO/founder of StoryAmp.com, and publicist of 16 years.]

You spent a big investment of dollars and time, took all of your learnings from rehearsals and performing on stage, absorbed everything you could from your mentors and inspirations and produced the best recording of your career. Maybe you even borrowed money from friends and friends, or maxed out your credit card to master and manufacture albums. All of your hopes and dreams were wrapped up in your last record. But for the life of you — you couldn’t get it reviewed by the press or blogs, couldn’t get it on the radio.

What happened?

As more and more artists take their careers into their own hands—skipping the old method of getting a record label deal to launch their careers—the scenario above is becoming more and more common. You’ve heard that you can now D.I.Y. your way through your career, from recording to production to release…  but in reality there are certain pieces (like publicity and touring and marketing) that require more than just yourself, if you want to be successful. You have to rely on other decision-makers, and it’s tough to know how to influence them to take action on your behalf.

Here are the top 7 reasons why the media may have not covered your release.

1. You did not have enough of a runway.

This is by far the biggest reason why musicians do not get press coverage for an album release. Most independent musicians produce a record or put it up in iTunes through a service like CD Baby and call that the release date. “I got my CDs from Discmakers on Monday, so Monday is my release date,” they think to themselves. “Now I have to market it!” or “I gotta turn on this money source and make back my debt or investment.”

They email their fan list (if they have one), they post it on their Facebook and Tumblr band page, on their website blog, and maybe their personal Facebook page as well, and they tweet about it: “Today is our release date! Please download or buy it now!” they tweet or post. Only after that they think, “OK, how do I get more fans, more people to buy? I know: the media!”

So another few days or weeks go by and they come up with a plan to get their album out to some media or blogs. They might enlist a PR person or do some research on local newspaper contacts or blogs with generic email addresses to send a pitch letter to.  But they are doomed before they even start. Why?

Media outlets generally want to cover an album release very close to the release date. Not days or weeks or months after it has come out. There is a reason the word “news” contains the word “new” in it. They do not want to be thought of as “The Olds.”

Pilots have a saying, “The runway behind you cannot help you.” When you are flying a plane, it is not a good idea to start your acceleration at the middle of the runway before take off. If you use the full length of the runway, you have more options if you have to make a last minute pivot. Give yourself enough runway. Maybe the first batch of media targets are not responding or not interested. You could use some extra time to research and target some other media outlets.

Generally speaking, it is best to start pitching (convincing) the media more than six weeks before the official release date. That means you need to plan when the music will be fully recorded, mastered, sent to manufacturing, and scheduled for release through your distributor. The best way to handle scheduling a release date and publicity campaign start date is to have finished manufactured CDs in hand before you set the release date and to ensure that you have at least six or more weeks before that release date for PR and marketing. But if you have more confidence and control in your production process, you can schedule these dates in advance. Make sure to leave two weeks for writing up your “pitch,” the convincing story you will use to try to engage the interest of journalists, editors, and producers. (You can download StoryAmp’s free 60-page e-book on how to write a good pitchhere.)

If you have a six-month-old release right now and were thinking of starting a PR campaign… don’t. You missed your chance. Spend that energy booking a tour. You might be able to score some album reviews in conjunction with some live performances in a city you’ve never performed in. If the record was recorded six months ago, but does not have a release date on iTunes or Amazon, you can still treat it as a new release, so give yourself and eight-week runway and go for it.

2. Your music doesn’t speak to your press targets.

This is a very touchy one. Most bands do not get coverage because few journalists like their music. While the barriers to entry in making a record have been removed almost completely, musicians now must nakedly face that they may make music with no validation from the outside at all. In the old model, if a record label executive believed in you, you could point to many reasons other than your music why you might not have built the fan following you had hoped for. Because at least some record label believed in you. They validated the music you made. Even worse than the fact that journalists do not like your record is that music fans do not like your music. Even if you hire the best, most experienced, hottest, most expensive publicist on the planet, you might not get any media coverage.

But even if your music is not going to be the pop hit of the year, or even come close, you might get more media coverage if you target outlets suitable for your musical genre, cultural style, or market saturation. If you work in an eclectic genre, you might be a good candidate for National Public Radio or the New York Times, but probably not for USA Today. If you are a classical artist, do not expect to be the very rare classical artist reviewed in Rolling Stone. If you appear to “crossover” within your genre of jazz or country or Latin, try to put yourself into the shoes of a total pop fan before pitching a total pop outlet. You probably are not crossover from their perspective. There is one sure way to tell: read the media’s coverage. And keep in mind that more adventurous niche outlets are generally more likely to cover adventurous niche recordings.

If you target outlets that cover music in your genre, your popularity ranking, etc., you increase your chances of getting covered. Yes, shoot for the stars. But shoot for the stars in the same galaxy as you. And have a back up plan for getting realistic media coverage for your music.

3. Your album cover was ugly.

This one is very simple: If your album cover is ugly or does not fit the style that a press outlet covers, you probably never made it into the journalists’ ears. If you are the type of person who grabs the closest pair of jeans (or Dockers) for that matter every morning for your wardrobe, you probably shouldn’t be your album cover designer. Either hire a professional who knows your genre or think about who is the coolest looking person you know and have them do it. DO not underestimate the power of your visual brand in getting attention. It is the first thing an album reviewer will see.

4. Your story is non-existent or full of clichés and hyperbole.

Journalists are storytellers. If there is no good story to tell, it’s that much harder to write about your music. A story bound to increase your readership: “Here’s another band you’ve never heard of with music that is filled with tired lyrics and stale guitar riffs. Their life as a suburban child was so rough because their parents just didn’t understand them.” Not really. If you can articulate what is compelling about you or your music, it increases your chances of coverage. Music is one of the most crowded marketplaces. You have to stand out from the crowd: musically, visually, and anecdotally.

There are many techniques you can use to get to your story: musical inspirations, lyrical origins, technical innovations, personal revelations, war stories from touring, fan interactions, and more. Read about them in detail in StoryAmp’s free e-book here.

5. You do not play live.

It may seem counterintuitive that in order to get album reviews, you need to perform on stage. However, live performance can double your chances of press coverage. In traditional press, there are more column inches dedicated to live music than to record reviews. Any concert coverage will likely mention a new album if not go into further detail. Sometimes concert coverage is paired with an album review. Or the coverage is the album review with a spotlight on the concert details. Local media outlets are more likely to cover you at all if you are playing in their town.

Furthermore, one of the biggest reasons media outlets cover an artist is because of buzz building around them. One of the biggest builders of buzz is when someone sees you play live. Touring other cities helps you build that buzz as well as gives you a reason to target many more media outlets in each concert city. You might not have gotten covered in the past because you didn’t tour.

6. You sound just like someone else; someone bigger.

Nobody likes a copy cat. If you have become super frustrated that an artist that sounds just like you always gets media coverage and you never do, you need to realize they now “own” that sound. You have to do something that makes you different; not complain about how you are the same.

There is a balance within each musical genre to demonstrate that you are a part of the genre, but that you have an individual voice within that genre. When you hear people say “I hate country music” or “I hate rap music,” generally those people do not understand which characteristics define the genre and which characteristics define the individual. You must be a master at this with your genres of choice. You must be the best at defining the genre and connecting with the tribe of people who like that sound and you must be even better at crystallizing and expressing your individual musical contribution to that scene.

Characteristics that may define your genres or individual voice include lyrics, melodies, harmonies, rhythms, timbres, instrumentation, embellishments, technical mastery, or fashion. Tweak the right variables to express your individuality within your scene. In other words, press coverage only comes after musical mastery within your scene or the larger society.

7. You didn’t follow up.

Sending your music by mail or email with no follow up is unlikely to get you coverage. There is so much “white noise” and members of the press have a narrow bottleneck of time with lots of music getting shoved through it every single day. Many journalists get hundreds of submissions per week. They cannot possibly review it all, and certainly cannot listen to it all. Which ones shall they listen to: The ones with a warm body following up, or the ones haphazardly slapped into an envelope with no return address? The ones with the shy or rude or entitled voice on the other end of the line, or the persistent, creative, clever, diplomatic one?

Finally: PhotoBlab Is Instagram for Photos+Audio | Evolver.fm

Facebook paid a billion dollars for Instagram last April possibly because Instagram was only for mobile devices. As of this week, Facebook has put Instagram on the web, and now, we’ll find out whether Mark Zuckerberg’s big investment was worth it.

However, Instagram is silent. Pictures might be worth a thousand words to some people, but for the most part, nobody can hear them. Enter PhotoBlab, from Thomas Kirk, the director of live video and visuals for the rock band Muse, who has never created an app before.

PhotoBlab is his first app, and it’s pretty darned interesting. Instead of just taking a picture of an old man cranking away on a hurdy-gurdy on the streets of Prague, you can display five images of the guy plus a minute or so of his actual hurdy-gurdy-ing, as the official Muse account did a couple months ago with its own PhotoBlab account (web version pictured above).

The PhotoBlab iOS app makes it easy to put together shareable sound/photo slideshows.

The app is simple to use, unlike this app, which has also attempted the “Instagram

for audio” maneuver. You simply take some photos (or choose them from your camera roll), record some audio to go with them, edit that audio if you want, and then share it — thankfully not only on the relatively unknown PhotoBlab, but also on Twitter, Facebook, or good old-fashioned email. You can add up to five photos.

Then you either record new audio, or select some from your voice memos — up to 10 seconds for free, or two minutes if you upgrade to the paid version for a dollar. This versatility makes PhotoBlab great for two things: documenting stuff as it happens, and sifting through photos and recordings to send something out later — a classic example of the latter would be sending out quick photo/audio montages from the airport on your way back from vacation (not to mention a lot less onerous on your friends and relatives than inviting them over for a viewing party at your house).

As with Instagram, you can then add some filters — and then you’re off to the races, sharing your “blab” publicly or privately. If you email it to yourself, you can get a web link like this (in other words, PhotoBlab is on the web too, just like the new Instagram).

It’s impossible to predict which new social networks and “life sharing” apps are going to take off, but PhotoBlab A) does something none of the current big players do, and B) is easy enough to use that people who don’t normally record sound will be able to manage it. And that can’t hurt.

via Finally: PhotoBlab Is Instagram for Photos+Audio | Evolver.fm.

Why Music Won’t Be Saved By Social Media – hypebot

By Wes Davenport (@wesdavenport) from his music marketing blog.

In a guest post for AT&T, Brian Solis drops a bomb: “Hostess baked over 400,000 likes on Facebook and yet the iconic American brand is now shut down.”

Social media gurus/ninjas/mavens hail the power of social media to radically change a business. They write e-books, produce blog posts, and use their own networks to amplify that viewpoint.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. I love social media, and I think it plays a role in any musician’s career. But that role has been grossly inflated.

Social media doesn’t single-handedly:

  • Negotiate licensing, publishing, or record deals
  • Make your live performances better
  • Enhance your studio recording sessions
  • Plot out a tour
  • Send out press pitches
  • Assemble a strong financial plan
  • Prepare you for unexpected growth

Yes, it can give you leverage on these things. Yes, it can open doors in these areas. Yes, social media is an important piece to any artist’s career.

Will social media alone be your saving grace? No.

Any single aspect of running a music-centric business is not enough to buoy the whole operation. It takes a combination of many things, including money, experience, killer music, and a healthy network.

In fact, the most underrated, least discussed aspect of music business success is money!

Financial information targeted at musicians is much less readily available than social media resources. I’m a marketer and publicist, but I want you to be aware of other elements at play in your career.

Jon Ostrow of CyberPR and MicControl is one of the most trusted voices in the arena of social media for musicians. He puts things into perspective, saying, “Social media is a conversation tool – that’s it.”

“It should be a critical component to any brand’s marketing strategy because it helps them to connect and engage with their fans, but if there is no plan to leverage that growth in conversation into something that can actually make money, all is for nothing.”

So next time you see an awesome new social media e-book for sale, buy a boring financial planning one along with it.

via Why Music Won’t Be Saved By Social Media – hypebot.

How To Make A Living In The Modern Music Business | Indie-Music.com

Buoyed by selling a chunk of his eponymous headphone line, Dr. Dre pulled in $110 million last year. His earnings were easily the most of any rapper, rocker or pop star in the world—and, according to a recent report released by Berklee College of Music, about 2,000 times what the average musician earned in 2012.

Dr. Dre made the bulk of his money on headphones, but he also raps, produces and plays the occasional concert. Amid the Great Recession, lesser-paid musicians are also learning that becoming jacks-of-all-trades is a crucial part of the modern business. The average personal gross income of the 5,371 musicians surveyed by Berklee was $55,561, of which $34,455 per person came from musical work. More than half of all respondents reported generating income from at least three different jobs.

Although the decline of the music business over the past decade has been well-chronicled, the Berklee report reveals that the industry is no longer in a free-fall in terms of employment–the percentage of respondents who reported a decrease in income was roughly the same as the percentage who reported an increase. Industry watchers are optimistic about job prospects for those looking to make a career in music.

“I’m very bullish about it,” says Peter Spellman, director of Berklee’s Career Development Center and author of Indie Business Power. “Where I sit … it makes me very hopeful for our musicians here and what they can do. But it does require a certain amount of business savvy and marketing savvy, in combination with your musical savvy, to succeed.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is a bit more guarded, projecting a 10% increase in the number of music jobs in the U.S. through 2020, compared to 14% across the broader economy. But the BLS pegs average hourly wages at $22.39 for musicians, 50% more than the countrywide average of $16.27. And Berklee’s study reveals many music jobs where salaries top out in the six-figure range, some in fields that didn’t exist in the old music world.

Read More: http://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2013/01/23/how-to-make-a-living-in-the-modern-music-business/

via How To Make A Living In The Modern Music Business | Indie-Music.com.

Sandra Aistars: On Empowering Artists

With last weekend’s Oscars, the annual ritual of red carpets, statuettes and acceptance speeches has come to an end. Awards Season is a celebration of the accomplishments of the individual members of organizations such as The Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, the Directors Guild, the Recording Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The glitter and glamour of the Oscars celebration, however, is far removed from the less familiar reality of most artists, creators and innovators in the U.S.

Two reports issued this month shine a spotlight on the degree to which creative work is exploited without creators’ permission. The USC Annenberg Innovation Lab released the second installment to its Advertising Transparency Report, showing that major online ad networks are still servicing pirate websites devoted almost entirely to infringing music and movies. The report also reveals that ads for major brands appear on such sites regularly. If you want to send the CEO’s of those brands a message that their financial support of these criminal enterprises is unacceptable, you can do so on the Copyright Alliance website.

Although according to the Annenberg report, several ad networks, including Google’s, show signs of reducing the number of ads placed on pirate sites after being identified in the initial report last month, a separate report released last week indicates that Google places those same sites at the top of its search rankings six months after the company announced that the worst infringing sites would be demoted to lower rankings. Even sites which Google acknowledges have been the subject of more than 100,000 infringement notices remain at the top of returned results, a problem exacerbated by the search engine’s autofill function.

It is not surprising that the companies (and their surrogates), whose business model largely consists of monetizing the stolen intellectual property of creators, are also proselytizing the virtues of “reforming” copyright. And of course it would be just these websites, ad networks, and search engines that would profit most from the types of “reforms” they suggest.

So as Awards Season now draws to a close, take a moment to consider why protection for creative works matters.

A copyright belongs to the artist from the time a work is created and recorded in some form, regardless of whether she has registered it or taken any formal action. Copyright empowers the artist. It may be the only asset the artist has in a negotiation with an online distributor or a traditional media company. It opens the door for a business deal. If you weaken copyright, you undercut the creator’s initial bargaining position, diminish the incentives for innovation and threaten the viability of large segments of the creative class.

Copyright also ensures the creator’s freedom of choice is protected. It enables her to choose how she shares her work. She can use a work in multiple ways simultaneously. She can license the use of the work commercially to support herself and new projects, while at the same time making the work available for free to a cause she believes in. She can also choose not to license her work for uses she doesn’t agree with. Limiting the creator’s freedom to choose how and when to share her work, would enslave her creatively.

Finally, copyright is about freedom. It is core to protecting freedom of expression. But it also gives authors the freedom to thrive. Copyright is a unique form of property because, unlike inherited wealth, it springs from an artist’s own imagination, hard work and talent. Under the right conditions a creator can use its protections to launch a career or build a business, regardless of the economic circumstances she came from. That fact should entitle copyright to more protection than other forms of property, not less.

The need for strong copyright protections might not be the first subject that you consider enjoying the glitz and glamour of awards shows. But the reality is that most of the thousands of creative individuals we represent at the Copyright Alliance will never be asked “who are you wearing” on a red carpet. Yet protection for their creative work is a very real concern for them. If you care about creative culture in your community, empower artists, respect their property and freedom of choice, and don’t allow parasitic businesses to exploit them.

via Sandra Aistars: On Empowering Artists.