I have my own ideas but I'd like to see some group thoughts.
Basically that R.O. Has started it's own label...it is up to us to submit artists that are unsigned and we will get to the point with it where we have viable product to offer on the website and distribution. Artists do not make much money on a compilation but if that is where we start...I am hip to it.
Out of all the studios that are here, their are litterally hundreds of unsigned works floating in the balance. For one, we are our own audience right now...but that will change as exposure happens.
Do you have anything Bob that you would like to see submitted as an R.O. Project?
I have at least 11 albums (various artist) that I have marketing control over...and I would love to see some of them as an R.O release.
Like I say, I am hip to a compilation ...but it is more for an advertisement that an artist money maker. Nice thing, we pool our resources and profit sharing is something that can happen as well.
I agree that you need your pass receivers down field and open before you through the football...but R.0. is a big stadium and we need teams and players. The crowds will come.
Submission has to be an agreement with your artist, yourself and R.O.
I feel Chris wants to see this portion of R.O. become another vehicle for artist to have avalible for exposure. I would love to buy some R.O. discs myself, or better yet, do market distribution in my area of about 500,000 people.
Each area can have an R.O. representative and be responsable for a select number of CD's to certain stores and sales tracking.
Put me down for the tri-state area of NW Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.
We are selling ourselves, associated artist, and as many CD's as possible. R.O can make the difference. Involvement is key, it will not work by itself.
The project will only happen when submissions occur and can be agreed upon. The mix fest, and the mastering project is a test of cooperation. My end is running really smooth and I feel if an artist can have pressing avalible in limited quantities, the "network" of R.O.& supporters will get them out their fast. Remember, distributors do get a cut, as R.O. and the artist and other involved parties. I have finished product ready to submit. Packaged, sealed and bar coded. I hope others also want to take the oppurtunity to do their part and make this happen.
I am certain that Chris will have a thread on submissions and folks can send samples for him to pool and select as the first R.O project, be it a compilation or simply an artist that does not mind doing this....this way and seeing how the structure of R.O. will come together.
Right now...you may have sceptics, 1 year from now, people will be paying to get their project in here.. It is quite a network we have here and I would love to see it happen and do my part, (whatever it takes) to see it evolve. Plans are being put together as we speak.
Name your involvement, where you can best serve and reap the dividends in the future.
I also offer my studio services for a very discounted rate. Very discounted.
I mean in the most general sense as a topic of discussion. I also mean it on a level basic to all genres and distribution methods.
We must define the product and we must understand how our product might or might not fulfill a buyer's needs before we can even begin to go beyond throwing time, money and effort into a bottomless pit.
Most of the successful (meaning fame and/or financial success) people I've known in the music business had this in sharp focus before they ever walked into a studio to begin recording.
Great we have a dialog going on here and the more the better. We have a plan and the more we talk about it the more we will learn. I'm not sure if we should make this part of our conversation public now or later. This is a first for me so excuse me if I seem a bit naive...I am!
My better judgement tells me we should take this area of the topic (meaning do able marketing strategies) to the lounge or something......? We'd hate to give it away before we start. Angelo called me last night with some (as always) great ideas that would give us a few ways to market our members and establish RO as a label. I'm sure if we keep brain storming we're going to keep comimg up with more ideas. There are so many musicians with so many different styles to draw from within the "RO" community already that it will be easy to find quality music and recordings. The key is dividing them up into genres and putting together professional packages that we can market. That's as far as we should talk openly online for now. We need to establish a trusting board that is committed to our cause.
We have it all right here. We just need to think about it, take the blinders off and do it one step at a time.
Lets keep the ideas coming and when one clicks we will put it into the bag.
RO is going to become a label and we will grow. Anyone interested in seriously working with us email me here: email@example.com
"Success is achieved by those who try"
Bear, that's exactly the kind of thing we need to be thinking about, what are the factors that make each of us a fan or not a fan. For that matter what is a fan and how does somebody become a fan?
Who are our personal stars and why did they become our stars? Why do some other people's stars not become our stars. (I'm defining "star" as somebody who we will go out of our way and gladly pay in order to hear.)
I hope people will think real hard about what Bear just wrote.
Every artist has a direct relationship with an audience. Bear could care less if the CD was on Sony or Chris Whitley's own label. The same is true of Ricky Martin's fans. Imagine if Chris Whitley had become a soap opera star after being a child star in Latin music?
Again, what are we selling and who are we selling it to?
For as long that I can remember, the "hit" song(s) of any particular album were not my favorite. Often in the 45RPM days, the B side grabbed my attention much faster toward purchasing the album than the "hit".
I am a rather wierd bird that in my musical enjoyment, the lyrics oftentimes are not that important and that I go for entertainment value, soulful sounds and quality productions. For years and years I have been convinced that a percentage (abit not a huge percentage) of sales were due to recording/production/mastering quality, as I have purchased music with the quality of the production and the musicianship as the reasons for said purchases.
May I also contradict this with live bands that had a meager budget in equipment, not the best "sonics" per say but unbelievable delivery and entertainment value. One example is some of the originality of the "London Towne" track presented in the mix fest. Although not a favorite amongst folks here, the delivery and effort that went into this work is evident and the song runs through my head quite a bit, I have memorized all the tracks already..even did some sample remastering of the Mpeg to hear the harmonies better and to check the thunder and hail storm at the end. The song grabbed my attention and we all know Mpeg is not what you call "broadcast quality" and I feel that the mix varieties will also do alot for this tune.
Call it what you will and everyone here is not your "typical audience". How many thousands of hours of your career have you (we, us) spent working with artist that have not met the mainstream? When I worked regularly with Warner Bros. I think the figure was less than 5% of the productions actually received distribution!
Point being is that what we like here and what we work on could certainly go mainstream if the distribution network does not fail us. I also feel that many of the "Indie" studios are doing really good productions that need the push of top quality control in mixing and mastering (they deserve it)and a chance at exposure. Countless tens of thousands of productions are sitting as promo material, never to be pressed beyond the promo. Record pools get this music which may never get in the air.
This is a tough business and we, the engineers, producers, etc.., cannot agree universally on favorite styles of music or artists but we certainly can agree when a production is exceptional and well done.
I still buy music around the production quality and I believe others in our business are "guilty" of that as well...no wonder we don't usually listen to mainstream garbage and highly compressed boy bands and Britneyfied drivel. Give me a fine production that kicks ass, I would listen more. Patrick O'Hearn, not my favorite music but I have all his albums because of fine production quality control...it is a pleasure to listen to. Another fav. is Yello. Yes Techno. I am not a large Techno fan...but the mixes that are done by Yello are top notch...yes I have all their albums too..as well as Pink Floyd, Sheffield Labs, and many Mobile Fidelity releases.
I find myself enjoying live Jazz for this reason as well as the fine musicianship. Kenny G and Diana Krall are not my idea of Jazz, folks.
Would London Towne sell? Who Knows?
It is a magical combination of many of the elements and for many the lyrics/personal life situations coinciding at the right time makes the song work for the mainstream and distribution/exposure.
We as engineers may not be the best Jugde of what is sellable or what is not. I can gurantee you can put ANYTHING on the radio or TV Video and run it 10 times per day..and it will sell big numbers. Moneywise, this is where it's at...although I do not like the situation as it is presented.
The MTV culture makes me Ill. Call me a square or "not with the times"...But it really sux, profusely. Given the oppurtunity though (because of money)...I think I could Don a leather pair of pants and make my hair look like shit and fit right in. Be happy to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. The whole scene reeks of low class trash. Those who are in awe of these artist that are taking the awards..I am sorry. I don't get it...(unless I was bringing 8 figures in being involved) Of course, even U2...the mixes are really not that tight..still don't get it.
Don't get mad or prejudge me for this rant. This is my vantage point and I like to speak my mind about it. The secret society needs exposing.
I feel that we are on a whole different level.
The Foolishness of it all.
Now you know what that tells you. Go to a Casino with 300 dollars and if you get up to $360 (20%) you better get the hell out. Go into the Casino with 50K$ and you have a better chance at walking out with more than 60 bucks profit. You can also lose your butt.
The production has to be super. The distribution has to be there. The song is not as important to the mainstream as we think. It is about something else entirely. Money.
To sell, you have to be out there. Without that..we are satisfying our selves by what we can do..No one else will care.
Simple as that.
I'll never forget discovering that when "Thriller" became the largest selling album of all time we figured out that less than ten percent of the people who buy at least one album a month had bought it. If it had been a toothpaste, it would have been considered a miserable failure in the marketplace!
The concept of a "mass audience" for music is a myth. So is the concept of a media mogul who determines which artists are going to become pop-stars.
I'll never forget discovering that when "Thriller" became the largest selling album of all time we figured out that less than ten percent of the people who buy at least one album a month had bought it.
Curious what source that was obtained from in a World wide demographic. Granted, not everyone that buys , owns "Thriller". I would place a solid bet that everyone that buys, 50% has heard "Thriller". Still curious which poll.
If it had been a toothpaste, it would have been considered a miserable failure in the marketplace!
True, not everyone that purchases music would be interested in Michael Jackson, or possbily below ).1% of buyers of the album even know or care that Bruce Mixed it.
The concept of a "mass audience" for music is a myth.
Again true to a point. I still say that "armpit farts" on MTV or recorded media 10 or more plays per day will produce serious numbers in the Music Biz.
So is the concept of a media mogul who determines which artists are going to become pop-stars.
Not a Media Mongul...but the team.
Public buys because it is in their face. Culture that thinks it is hip (no matter if it is) will buy because of peer to peer relationship. A damn nice looking Female is met in a bar by a 22 year old with a 50K income and said Female says...do you have So and So ...while riding in the car, going on first date...you better believe if he does not have that music..the entire catalog will be purchased by next date, researched on the web...etc.
I really do know what goes on with Promo budgets. Seen them, know that it is decided what get's on ...what does not. Why is it that you can take a certain mix you have done and play it for anyone and even if you just met them they say they would buy it now? The reason they have not is because it is not exposed to the cultural mix for the demographic targeted. Try to by a brand new 1996 Mercedes. You can't. They were all sold. Put it out there, it will sell. It is a commodity. Market the product, give samples, it will sell. How many times has Hickory Farms in the past (have not seen a Hickory farms in years) presented a sample of something and you go inside and buy said product, plus $20 or more dollars of product that has samples out there to taste?
The concept is exposure.
I have recordings that I would bet 75% acceptance. We shall never know, unless it is marketed, exposed and put where folks can purchase the product easily...with word of mouth exposure by the mainstream. No one has that level of coverage. The general public just wants acceptance and possibly to get laid. A huge percentage of crap that guy's buy in the 14 to 26 year old range is the mainstreme...girls too..but only because their "friend" will think it is cool...even if they think it stinks. Remember all the Hall and Oats that sold? I knew my dates would get all moist if I played the latest release on a date. I could have given a rats ass.
You want to make money...exposure.
I am still Hip on seeing just a few thousand sales of a product...for maximum profit..and many of those avalible. Classical recordings account for a very small percentage of record sales. Why are they being done? Buyers.
In my book the word "exposure" raises almost as quick a red-flag as the word "potential." Both are right up there with "fix it in the mix" and "check's in the mail."
Exposure is really pretty trivial. The problem is that it costs money so the real question becomes that of finding a means of AFFORDABLE AND PROFITABLE exposure. Lots of famous musicians have gone broke because they failed to find PROFITABLE exposure. Every artist that ever got ripped off went along with it because of exaggerated claims made for the value of "exposure."
Think about the relationship between advertising and publicity. Advertising is where you pay for exposure to a certain audience. Publicity is when you create an appropriate news item for a certain publication that sells advertising to a certain audience. You need serious research to make effective use of the former. The latter is almost always a lot more effective because you don't get written up at all unless you've done your homework. The thing that counts is the homework, identifying the appropriate audience and engaging them. Becoming a blip on THEIR radar as opposed to being on everybody's but lost in the noise.
Hi, Now we're getting somewhere.
I personally don't really follow parts of this this thread but I like it.
Thriller was awesome and it tells me allot about the two sides. (musicians and TOP 40 musicians).
I was playing Top 40 on the road at the time this album came out. The public loved it and so did I. It was popular because it was magical and fresh sounding. MJ and Quincy Jones were magical together. The energy that was captured at that time was truly amazing and IMO should be part of all musical training. Anyone that thinks this was easy to create, play and produce needs to give their head a shake (I'm not saying anyone on this thread is, just making a point). IMHO a song that sells to more than your friends is successful because of this: It isn't about how great a musician you are but rather how together you are as a whole (band, team, mix, production, promotion etc.). Albums like Thriller had it all and that's why it sold that many records.
The album was a gift to us all. I feel so fortunate to have experienced that album. I thankfully understood how it was produced back then because I was using allot of the same tools that contributed to it's trend setting sound. My rig consisted of the same toys like samples from the Synclavier, a triggered linn drum sync't to sequencer's running synth's blended together with a guitar and good voices all coming though a kick ass 4 way Stereo front loaded JBL system system that was balanced and clear as a bell. We could always play to 9 and never be too loud but that's another topic.
We were midi'd up the ying yang and got paid Top $ for sounding better than most of the bands in our circuit. But, oh ya... we got flack from allot of musicians saying we were selling out and playing shit AM music and even better yet... we were cheating because we used midi and sequencer's in our music and sounded to trendy. My career lasted 20 years lol, I changed with the times.
To this day allot of those players never left their basement or got out of the B and C rooms. A large percentage of them still don't know how to use a computer I'm sure and argue about DAW's ver. analog. They continuously say the music they grew up with is way better than today's crap and in general don't believe a new way a creating and selling music is coming. Just because you have the best analog studio doesn't mean shit. Just because you can play like Van Halen doesn't mean shit. Just because you have a good song doesn't mean it will sell. I think we all agree that this is a small part of the selling music. We tend to get caught up in the wrong things I think and forget what the average listener or public wants and what the trends are that sells product. IMO defining trends and using them are the key.
Why is mp3 so popular even though you can't hear how great the studio's gear is? Why are Bell-bottom pants a trend again? Why is short hair a trend. Why are golf courses and recreation investments becoming a trend? Is PT a trend? Will RO become a trend? The main thing is using your talent and merging it with a trend. Trends sell, find the markets.
All I know is this. As a player I realized how to make money and the songs to play that drew the crowds. I enjoyed getting paid to play music so I new exactly the tools to use to get the sound that paid those bills. I never sold out my soul but I did to crowds... I learned so much from those years of playing Top 40. One of the most valuable things I learned was how to play my part well using the tools that were part of that trend. Although I can play circles around most guitar players the ten minute guitar solo only came out if the crowd that liked it was there. We changed our songs and style for the room.
What's the trend today? What are we selling? More like. who needs music and what type of music do they need.
Why is it that a large percentage of musicians call top 40 shit?
What do you think is selling?
Well, I should come clean. The only thing that is EVER for sale in the entertainment business is the performer's relationship with their audience. The size of their audience totally defines the economics. The artist sells their audience to the label who in turn sells it to retail and to radio in order to sell the audience to their advertisers. The artist also sells their audience to the club owners and promoters who sell tickets.
At the present time music happens to only be playing a very minor role in the most successful performers' careers. For this reason those of us who really love music see little to be enthusiastic about. We simply aren't in those folk's audiences. So what can we do about it?
The thing is that only a tiny minority of people are ever in ANY given artist's audience. Most people are NOT into Ricky and Brittany so it isn't worth our while to be the slightest bit concerned about them or what the majors are doing with them. The majors did not create them, they simply sold a lot of records to their respective TV audiences. It's simply got nothing AT ALL to do with music. There is no point in following them as some kind of trend because they AREN'T a trend. The unfortunate truth is simply that most music isn't selling.
We need to get better at recruiting an audience for the music we love. It really falls on each artist's shoulders to create the relationships but what we can do collectively is to share our ideas and information about audience building. This must begin at the grass roots level where EVERY artist's audience actually begins.
We've got to figure out how to get kids exposed to exciting live music and we've got to figure out how to get live music back on the air. We've got to get most small venues to really clean up their audio acts so people can hear something besides the assault of a 120 dB. kick drum. We've got to start booking multi-genre shows and begin turning our small audiences on to each other. We must promote ourselves and fill clubs taking control back from the club owners.
Our AUDIENCE is our only power but it is also THE only power even at the highest levels of success. We have to create a lot of local scenes out of the ashes left behind by the corporate consolidation of local venues and promoters. We have to reinvent a profitable minor league in order to support the talent for another musical major league.
Time for me to come clean as well.
In the 70's, I bought so much disco (12") because I had fun in the scene and was fearful that I may never here this music again. Some was wonderful, some was (well I am not particulary fond of YMCA...but it still is a fav. amongst the 40 something crowd) not as wonderful.
In the 80's I spent so much time playing top 40 as well. Their was not a great selection for audiences to enjoy the Trombone, so I moved to ele. Bass. I also was one that when visiting a club,(not playing in it) in order to stay and have a good time..I would get with the owner and re-eq the system to kill the pain.
To answer Big trees question, It depends on THE top 40. I bought a Britney CD and I really thought the mastering was not good. I wonder how good it can sound. Proves that mastering is important to me...but not that important to her audience...I suppose. I really guess age has something to do with it. I met an old dude that use to frequent the club scene. He was a hit with all the Girls. He was handicapped, barely could walk..and use to shout; NO Problem!! He had a great attitude and fit in like a glove.
Bob is right that the audience must be found. Maybe educated. We have an audience, we must find it. I also know that if you play something to reduntancy, it will sell (If in the stores).
I have heard many groups say that they formed simply "because they were tired of hearing the "shit" on the radio". Just because I am fond of "supertramp" does not mean I am not open to some mainstream. In the early 90's I was behind the big "blues push" and saw that come forward. I then got involved with serious "Smooth Jazz" and their are hundreds of great albums out there. I love the sound. Love Keiko Matsumi, Bob James, Bony James, Larry Carlton...Worked on some of this myself. I guess it has something also to do with my age and deep appreciation for the talent. Chris, it is so possible that I have not taken the time to expose myself to the real, up to date top 40 and find the appreciation. If we could sell 10,000 cd's of any type..that would be very good for us to start.
I am afraid I sounded so utterly cynical in earlier post but to speak what I feel (and see)& what others around me feel and say as well is one area I wanted to bring forward. Frankly if the production is good, the product is avalible...we have a shot.
I have also said in other threads that this industry changes so much that to be on the forfront...you simply have to be there. Not many know the formula. What works today may be obsolete in 6 months but having quality product will sell.
Let's give it our best shot and keep on plugging away. It is all of our dreams to get something huge happening, I am greatful to be surrounded by those who also want this. With perserverance...it will happen. (Got my Techno machine warmed up too and a kick ass Femail vocalist ready to wail)
One item is the club scene. Many possibilities there. Rock. I have a deep appreciation for Rock. We all do. Rock and Roll, slightly toward the metal side too. Smooth Jazz. Chris, you can produce anything, what do you want to produce?
Jazz sells. Maybe not huge numbers but sells nevertheless.
I am ready to get busy myself. This week I will compile some discs of everything I got and get them in the mail. (Projects waiting to be heard)
I will also be willing to accept works to check out, remaster, etc and we can have viable work ready to go.
I formally ask that anyone who wishes to send me demo material, I will be happy to work with them.
Chris, what would you think of having a CD submission situation going on where members could send CD's in to You, Me, Bob..whoever to really check out and see what could go "R.O."?
That sounds good. Will it go "R.O.". I like the sound of that....
IO have heard some good things from the downloads. I feel we really enjoy hearing what other studio's are doing and if their artist are open to this...let's go for it.
The key now is to have the music ready to go and avalible to put out there. We can talk about as much as we want to..but I am hip to doing something soon.
I appreciate everyones points in this discussion and I apologize if I ruffled some feathers but since it is being done the way it is, we can do something huge together as a team. I have no doubt that the experience will be awesome.
I may drop some bux this week on some billboard material and see what is happening again. I hope I will not be waisting my money.
The Radio and Records site offers a lot of free information about what's happening as does the Gavin site.
There is a major difference between successful top 40 and successful original music. (duhh)
In top 40 you are hitchhiking with a currently successful artist's audience. That word "artist" really means "brand name." A successful top-40 band has a "brand" that is somewhere between a star's brand and being generic where folks like the music but could care less who's playing it.
In the case of original material, you are finding your own audience and creating a new star brand. The very cheapest way to do this is to hitchhike with a disk jockey's audience or some live scene's audience. When that isn't available, it becomes the art of creating your own live scene. There is also the expensive way but if Warners and Universal can only average selling 800 units per new title in that manner, WE certainly don't want to go THERE!
The difference between the two is that there is a six-month to several year lag between when you do something with original material and there is any effect in the market. The only ways that you can move faster than this are not profitable although occasionally useful for the majors to take a loss doing. This is why the only thing worth focusing on is each artist's fan base and where THEY seem to be headed.
Let me go into the nature of generic vs. star/branded entertainment.
People will not generally pay for generic music. This is critical to understand, people are not willing to pay for or go out of their way to experience generic entertainment. When the club, the DJ, the station, the label or the web site becomes the "brand" attracting an audience, the artist can not make anything. By the same token if clubs, stations, labels and web-sites are dependent on a musical star's audience and that star has the power to withhold services until they are adequately compensated, clubs, stations, labels and web-sites stand to make a lot less money. This is why there is a propaganda barrage coming from dot-coms and broadcasters about "unfair record labels" and compulsory music licensing. This is really a direct assault on all artists' livelihood as opposed to one on the the major labels as their newspeak would have one believe. Ugly stuff and an amazing amount of young artists are swallowing it in their frustration over corporate dominance of music.
Anyhow, lets talk about what tools we can create to help artists grow an audience to sell records to.
Incidentally, in the current market there are a lot of what we call "turntable hits" that are getting massive airplay but not selling big at all.
-In the country chart, the "Oh Brother" soundtrack has been sitting on number one for several months with virtually NO airplay.
-The number one music format station in San Francisco for six months last year was classical yet classical sales in the region were in the toilet relative to even a couple years ago.
-there are rappers selling millions of units out on the streets with no airplay and obviously no retail reporting.
This isn't about air-play at all, it's about the top management of the majors not having a clue and the writers at Salon and WebNoise having even less of one!
Up to a certain size audience an artist can definitely do much better sticking with an indi. Just the management overhead necessary to relate to a major's sales force is cripplingly expensive. Attempting to buy a major label sized fanbase using major label funds is a BIG gamble compared to working within the smaller budgets of an indi. label.
Where many artists get screwed is that their managers bring in a major too early in their development. Often this is about seeking that huge advance that, needless to say, the manager and/or lawyer is skimming 15 or 20 percent off the top of.
Like I've said above, it's ALL about finding PROFITABLE exposure. Neither massive air play or a major label relationship are worth a damn to an artist who hasn't managed to get themselves into the position to profit from them.
Simply math. Just like Bob pointed out, it has to do with all the mouths being fed and the hands ran out.
The below figures are for comparison purposes and not to be taken verbatum.
Signing to artist. $1,000,000
Out of this you have artist salary
Payola (yes..it is a federal crime, seems to go unnoticed)
.....And many other expenses not listed
500,000 CD are sold, the Artist are lucky to see 40 cents per unit...The million must be repaid.
Paid for studio time, accounts payable is complete. (let's put this figure at 10 grand for practical purposes)
Pressing. Paid for. 50,000 pieces, $40K
Promotion...etc... Gigs are paying for it. Lot of sweat.
Distrubution...runs around 30 to 35% of your CD.
Ok roughly on 50,000 CD's at 15 bux a pop you make 6 dollars per unit vs 35 cents.
50K X 6= $300,000.00 Covers your expenses quite nicely. You may have after taxes and expenses as much as $100,000.00 free and clear to split between band members.
Label 500,000X 35 cents 175,000.00. Well now you have enough to cover about 10% of the million after taxes...you have 90% to go!!!
As soon as you think you are in the black, the label hits you with more charges. You may never get paid by riding their train. Nothing is free.
Indie is the only way to go IMHO.
At Motown we outsold all but two of the majors in the singles market for several years. The majors fought us and won by offering artists contracts that appeared to be so generous that we couldn't hope to match them and remain profitable. Of course this was because most of us didn't understand Hollywood royalty math where 20 percent of wholesale could actually turn out to mean less income than the four percent of retail our artists got paid. This was compounded by advances that made signing with a major extremely profitable for artists' managers and lawyers. Ultimately these guys took over the management of majors and then sold them at an enormous profit to their current owners.
The advantage that majors still offer is leverage with radio and retail. They can exchange favors in access to their biggest stars for favors in exposure to their younger artists. Provided the artist can capitalize on such exposure, they can earn a lot more TOTAL income behind major label exposure even though they may earn a lot less directly from record sales. This is the big "if" and many artists have discovered that it cost them more to be "number one" than they could earn from being "number one." I think the smartest thing an artist can do is to stick with indis until it is obvious that they could do a lot better overall on a major label. If they are running their business sensiblly, they should expect to turn down a number of major label offers before the right situation materializes.
I've been amazed by how little has changed in the music industry over the years, especially the things many people insist must be completely different.
The one revolution we do have is right here under our fingers as we type. We have the unprecedented oppertunity to TEACH each other what we know about our industry and how it works around the world.
We're really in some heavy territory with this thread. I'm almost scared enough to run back to Harvey's place and find out what's the best kick mic for under $200. But instead I'll let you know what I think about Bob's original question: "What is it exactly that we are selling anyways?"
Of course Bob's idea is right -- the commodity for sale is the experience between artist and fan. Like every other product on the market, that experience is branded by the artist's deliberate and accidental publicity. For most bands, the branding experience seems to end at divining some obscure genre niche and locating some outfits.
All the really successful artists that I know are people who have figured out exactly what kind of a relationship they are going to have with their audience, thus how they will build their brand, and thus what sort of experience they're providing. This knowledge informs performance, songwriting, and everything else. So the question, "what are we really selling?" is one that every artist has to ask for themselves if they're interested in selling anything at all.
I think the huge difference between entertainment and most other businesses is the necessity of branding and the necessity of control over availability and peoples' experiences to ensure the experience to the fan will be extraordinary.
The most precious thing EACH of us owns is our leisure time and as we grow older it becomes geometrically more precious. This is why branding is critical. Nobody is interested in taking a chance on entertainment unless it's free and there's nothing better to do.
We each have a wide variety of leisure activities to choose from and our choice is frequently made based on how extraordinary EACH opportunity is. We will often go see somebody from out of town over seeing somebody "local" every time EVEN when we consider the local act to be better than the act from out of town.
So let me add on that what we are selling is an EXTRAORDINARY experience between an artist and their fans. We can sell generic music to advertisers, elevator manufacturers and film producers but fans will ONLY buy brand-name music.
You are right!
The idea of a branded product got off the ground around a hundred years ago as a tool for consumer confidence. People could be sure that they could eat "Brand X Potted Meat" without dying of food poisoning, rather than taking their chances with the local generic. That idea took a while to evolve into "Backstreet Boys never fail to get the girls screaming!", as it first required the total commodification of artistic production.
Everyone interested in this topic, Bill Roberts and I will be meeting tomorrow (Sunday, Sep. 16) at 5pm EST in the IRC DALnet chat channel - Recording.org
If you are using a pc, you can get your free chat client from http://www.mirc.co… If someone has a good recommendation for mac IRC chat clients, please post it here.
Anyone who needs help setting up or connecting with Mirc can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks, looking forward to seeing you there! :cool:
I disagree with a couple points.
First, WE PREDATE the "branding" of products, they are copying US. We need to look to our own experience and not that of other industries. WE are the experts and must never lose sight of that fact.
Second, production has ONLY become generic because it is cheaper. These recordings are not selling by word of mouth because they aren't good enough to. There is a huge opportunity for originality here, a huge one. The challenge is moving past "me-too" recordings while fulfilling what the audience needs from the music.
I also think about the impact that the cultural environment has upon these issues: the originality/quality of the work and the artist-audience relationship. Obviously we have to foster a musical environment that makes stronger relationships and consequently 'better' music.
As an example of a particularly fruitful creative environment, consider Jamaica in the 60s-70s. The connection between the studios, the musicians, the sound systems, and the people were so tight that the musical results were unprecedented. I would guess that when you look around you in Nashville right now you're not feeling that?
But I would argue that there _are_ places where that connection is strong again and in those scenes there is some remarkable stuff happening. The underground electronic world in NYC comes to mind. The rock is there somewhere -- it's just not on the radar.
Sorry if I'm taking the thread all over the place. It just seems to touch upon so many interconnected issues.
With my 'music fan' head on and not my 'realist who knows how the industry functions' one I can say that I listen to music that has an ideology.
I'm not that interested in pop music, I want to listen to people that have a certain amount of belief in what they write. I wouldn't read a book by someone who had someone else write and edit it. I wouldn't like a painting created by a faceless and nameless hack which had a man-made, marketed and targeted signature on it. I won't tolerate this from the music I buy.
I'm not talking about protest singers but people with integrity, talent and opinions, from Joni Mitchell to Radiohead to NWA.
Imagine all those who has "killer" projects...that ran out of funds to get pressed up?
I asked a door to door salesman selling goods.."Do you make any money Man?"
His exact reply was this:
"I have damn good products, competitive prices, and on site service. I accept tips as well, both from the learning nature and financial nature. If you knock on 40 doors, you will get 2 or 3 that will buy. If you drive around looking, you are not knocking. My day is not complete until I have knocked on 200 doors. My week is not complete until I have followed up on last weeks delivered orders"
This is the difference between having something, and selling something.
Bear.. When I was with Warner Bros, their was a computer that spit out the tracking figures. Possibly a subscription service for the industry insiders. It would be very nice to set up a network like this on our own. Any thoughts to as if their is a nice web site doing this? How many tracking companies out there? It has been a while since I was regular, taking to Chuck, that had several artist he was tracking. I would be keen to have another look at this..
I still find it rather depressing that the per-unit royalty the artist receives from a major label hasn't changed much at all over the past 20 years. (Forgive me if I missed a few dates or figures here--it's been awhile since I left Hollywood.)
In 1980, we had $7.98 LPs which cost what? Maybe $1.25 to press & print?
When the CD came out, the price went up to $10.98/11.98 because the discs cost $5 to press and the early pressing plants had terrible yields.
In 1990, the pressing cost had gone down to $0.90 plus maybe another $0.40 for printing and they raised the price to $13.98/14.98 At this point I owned a retail store and the one-stops charged me about $1 less than the big chains were retailing CDs for. No profit there for me.
Now the production cost is under $1 (complete) and the retails have gone up again, yet the poor sonofabitch that actually made the music is still getting the same per unit.
SOMEbody's getting the bulk of that money--it's not the average retailer and it's not the artist.
If any of you have been to an acoustic (bluegrass/folk/etc) festival lately you would see an interesting alternative that seems to be thriving in its own right. The successful artists take newcomers under their wing and there are numerous small-midsize labels making enough to keep the doors open for years (or decades.)
IMO the total merchandising package is what the big brands (labes & artists) have that keeps them in it.
It's the per unit PERCENTAGE that hasn't changed much. I can also assure you that Garth Brooks, Elton John and Michael Jackson are earning figures undreamt of 20 years ago. Of course that polarization is part of the problem.
There is a category of artist called "superstar." What that means is an artist whose sales are such a sure thing that a label can use the amount of product they'll make available to a given retailer as leverage to get prompt payment and exposure for lesser artists. It is not uncommon for labels to break even or even lose money on superstars.
As for the average retailer, in case you haven't noticed there are fewer of them than there are major record labels. At this point most:
1. charge full list price
2. charge an extra buck per unit back to the label for prominent exposure no matter if it sells or not
3. charge tens of thousands of dollars for a month's exposure in listening stations
4. pay less than half of what they charge for CDs.
5. can return any unsold CDs in the U.S. for full credit.
I'm afraid I can't feel very sorry for retail. They've been earning by far the lion's share since the CD came out while taking almost no risk at all compared to the labels and artists.
Salon, by the way, is owned by Lycos, a corporation that stands to profit handsomely from legislated minimal royalties for artists, composers and labels. The Internet industry is offering ALL artists, composers and labels LOWER COMBINED royalties than they have already agreed to pay to codec software developers. Think about this the next time you read one of Salon's "reports" about record label abuses.
Originally posted by Bob Olhsson:
As for the average retailer, in case you haven't noticed there are fewer of them than there are major record labels. At this point most:
1. charge full list price
2. charge an extra buck per unit back to the label for prominent exposure no matter if it sells or not
3. charge tens of thousands of dollars for a month's exposure in listening stations
4. pay less than half of what they charge for CDs.
5. can return any unsold CDs in the U.S. for full credit.
I'm afraid I can't feel very sorry for retail.
If it's any consolation guys, it's the same over here. The labels spend huge amounts of money on acts that chart once (or twice if thy're lucky) before disappearing into the bargain bin.
Why? I suppose because they think that singles are the way to go, a way of getting the punters to buy albums which is where the money is made.
I'm not sure that this is true anymore. Maybe it's me getting older but I can't remember the last time I bought a single or took any notice of the top 40. I don't know anybody else who cares about singles either yet this is where the money goes.
The record companies have created this 'here today, gone tomorrow' enviroment where artists don't get a chance. Labels drop acts faster than hot potatos if they don't bring home the bacon off their first or second release. This never used to be the case. There is no time to grow and groom talent which has helped to create this horrible disposable pop shit I keep hearing.
The labels wanted this, they've got it but I get the feeling that if people are presented with a way of bypassing the major labels, now more than ever before, they will. Legally or illegally. Hell, the technology is already here and the industry reaction to the whole Napster thing speaks volumes. They're scared.
Well said there Rog. It makes me wonder about their survival.
I personally am working on concept albums. Bands like Pink Floyd, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Supertramp, Tull, etc. seem to be a style that is long over due. I grew up with these albums so I'm bias but I think I'm not alone here. I also really like Top 40 and believe I understand why it sells, I think it's because it doesn't make you think. For years I've heard "musician" complain about Pop but the public/clubs, bars, disco's, muzac eat it up. I think Pop is successful because no one wants to "think deep" when you want to talk or have fun with a group of people. One takes you on a journey, the other adds ambience or a care free kind of feel.
I started out saying "I WILL NEVER PLAY TOP 40". Glad I didn't stay with that mindset. Playing clubs for 20 years gave me a reality check that is hard to explain. In general I think most musicians forget about the audience but if they want to stay true to their art they have too. Maybe that's why so much music sound homogenized.
How to write or play for a particular application or venue is something we're doing to survive but it's also cheapening us all.
Maybe new markets are going to open up that alow idies to sell there work to specific markets. I'm just speculating but I think once the internet speeds up (interent 2) we're going to see a large demand for original music. This is why I wonder about the survival of the majors.
I think the music that is already out there is gone for good; napster etc.(no return :( ) but the new stuff (once figured out) will have digital watermarks that will hopefully begin a new era for all of us.
What is it exactly that we are selling? The psychology of music and what it can do. Maybe we're getting alot smarter and need to look at music from a different angle.
Large corporations tend to do everything "right" so that middle-management's ass is solidly covered and then throw it all up against the wall to see what sticks. It isn't remotely profitable and eventually the companies go under. Today's "majors" are no more than consolidations of successful indi labels from the past 50 years. Almost all of the real innovation has come from Indis.
There are a couple big "gotchas" in the area of a singles-based record business.
The first is that compulsory mechanical licensing means that more successful, better financed artists can "cover" your song leaving you with all of the development expense but none of the income unless you own the music publishing.
It's also why I find the proposed changes to the copyright laws creating compulsory licensing of recordings chilling. If any major can "cover" your recording with an on-demand delivery system, THEY get several dollars while the artist gets a dime on the financially critical EARLY direct sales where an artist or small label ought to be earning the lions' share.
The second is that achieving a high profile for a single costs just as much as achieving one for an album yet the income is significantly less.
One client of mine is getting around this by selling autographed singles for $15 along side plain ones for $4.98. It's a very creative solution and they've sold a lot of them not to mention tee-shirts and videos. They intend to follow this up with a full length CD.
Bob Olhsson wrote: Wow, this twenty-year-old thread just showed up in my email. It's more relevant than ever too!
Hi Bob, please share what you mean?