Addressing the disruption of media release cycles

A huge challenge for media companies today is the disruption of the release cycle created by the Web.

Records are routinely leaked before their official distribution date. The financial risk for film studios is even more devastating, as Eric Garland points out in an interview with CNET News. A carefully planned and staggered release schedule is not only a revenue driver, but can be a huge part of the emotional impact of music and film. As Garland points out, once a product hits the Web prior to it’s release date, it’s buzz is largely neutralized regardless of the quality of the work.

This raises several important questions:

Does the audience have too much power?

How does this change not only the business reality for content owners, but also the nature of the relationship between artists and fans?

What can companies do to adapt? The music business has tried for years to dig in and hold on to their old models. We have a pretty good idea how that is turning out.

As Larry Kramer says, fans demand greater access to content, have an increasing sense of entitlement, and more choices than ever, including the choice not to commit.

Artists are approaching this in different ways. Guitarist Bill Frisell recently changed record labels so that he could accelerate his release schedule. He is also selling a series of live board tapes (in MP3 and Hi-Res formats) that augment his official label releases. This is a great solution for busy jazz musicians who are continually involved in multiple projects and create amazing music every day. Their output is not easily channeled into the typical once or twice a year record release schedule. Companies like Aderra are recording shows and selling to fans in an interactive format at the venue.

These approaches work for some artists but not others.The scale of the film industry creates an entirely new dimension to this challenge.

What are your thoughts?

How can musicians, record labels, and film studios maintain control of their distribution strategies while strengthening their relationship with fans?

Join the discussion!

Danny Barnes Knows Why You’re Not Into Music Anymore…

I just had to repost this great essay by the wonderful musician Danny Barnes (who also happens to be an excellent writer)..

I encourage you to check out the rest of his blog. Each entry is a gem!

I Think I Know Why You Are Not Into Music Anymore


Bob Baker on the Realities of Making a Living as a Musician in 2011

Interesting post by Bob Baker today.

The tools and the channels have changed dramatically but artists have always been self-employed and struggled to balance the pursuit of their craft with the economic realities of survival. More of my thoughts to follow…

The Realities of Making a Living with Music in 2011 via music think tank

Is Apple Killing the Golden Subscription Goose?

I have been using Apple’s products since the 512K Macintosh. I have immense respect for the company’s user-focused product management and business models. However, once in awhile they go too far and do something stupid. Apple’s new subscription licensing policy could seriously impact subscription music services,  an important developing market. The same is true with the continued market leadership of the iPad. If media companies part ways with Apple on this, everyone loses. Maybe my next phone will be an Android after all…

Apple’s New Subscription Model Is EvilGizmodo

Rhapsody CEO Blasts Applehypebot

New Apple App Rules Could Kill Subscription Music hypebot

Rethinking Music Pts. 1 and 2 – Creativity, Commerce and Policy

Check out these two excellent podcasts in preparation for the upcoming Rethink Music conference coming up this April in Boston.

Radio Berkman #168 Rethinking Music Pt. 1
Radio Berkman #173 Rethinking Music Pt. 2 – The Portrait of the Self-Published Artist

RIP, Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart)

Captain Beefheart Dies at 69

Iconoclastic musician and painter Don Van Vliet died today after a lengthy battle with MS. Many of his recordings including Trout Mask Replica, Lick My Decals Off Baby, and Clear Spot where game-changers for me. A true original who will be missed.

Check out Van Vliet’s paintings here: Run Paint Run

The John Scofield Quartet: New Morning, The Paris Concert

Check out this  video by the great John Scofield and a killer quartet. I was very fortunate to know and study with John when I first arrived in Boston way back when. He is a wonderful person and a phenomenal jazz musician and innovator. This is a particularly good DVD with some nice extra footage.

The amazing Sid Jacobs pays tribute to Jimmy Wyble…

On April 17, 2010 a host of guitarists paid tribute to the late, great Jimmy Wyble.  Sid Jacob’s performances particularly hit me. I have the honor to share a chair in the LA Wirechoir with Sid and I am always in awe of his guitar mastery.

Terry Carter documented the concert and you can follow the link to both of Sid’s performances here:

Sid Jacobs from the Jimmy Wyble Tribute

Jimmy was an extraordinary musician and human being who deeply touched everyone who knew him. The memorial concert was heartfelt, drawing stellar musicians from all over the country to pay tribute to this wonderful man. Thank you Jimmy!

Enjoy Sid Jacobs’ Gershwin medley below…

Career Tracks: Chi McClean, Part 3

Photo by Andrew Keller

Chi McClean is an independent singer-songwriter currently touring in support of his 2009 release, Something Out There.
In Part 3 of our conversation Chi discusses music publishing, endorsements, branding, and his next release.
How are you handling your music publishing?
CM: I set up McClean Music Publishing. I received my first BMI check a few months ago and it (the importance of publishing) really hit home for me. The more I know, the less I know (about publishing). It’s a labyrinth. I went to a Music Row Magazine awards festival at BMI in Nashville. I also met with Stage Three Music Publishing. (Songwriting ) is huge business down there.
At a certain point whether it’s managers, booking agents, or publishing, it’s about bandwidth and how much you can realistically tackle in a meaningful way. You’re not doing yourself any good if you’re spread too thin. 
What’s the timeline on your new record?
CM: I hope to have it out by the holidays. I think it’s going to be more focused on the songs. We were talking earlier about what people react to. I think it will be a simple, honest record. I’ve found my voice a bit more. There are some good songs here. 
You have endorsements with Taylor Guitars and Elixir Strings. How did you put that together and how have the endorsements worked for you?
CM: Whether I had an endorsement or not, I love my Taylor. (I’ve been playing them) since 1999. I’ve been playing a lot of alternate tunings. On stage it’s a pain to retune in-between songs.  So, I put together a kit. You have to have a press kit, a calendar, an album out,  and show that you’ve got something going on and you’re serious. (Taylor) has been really helpful, not only with guitars but with career advice. Taylor is very well networked. They’ve got Dave Matthews, Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz, Leo Kotke, and Doyle Dykes Signature models. Through them (Taylor Guitars) I got an introduction to the Elixir Strings artist program.
Do you do clinics for them?
CM: I don’t. I’d be delighted to. They’ve been so supportive to me. I give them a shout out whenever I can. I don’t really have to do anything. At gigs people come up to me, “What kind of guitar are you playing? What are those strings?” “Well, it’s funny you should ask…” (laughs). It just sounds really good.
Whatever you’re doing, it comes back to being in the relationship business. I just think it’s really important to try and stay in touch. Simple things, wish somebody a Happy Birthday… I once saw a quote, something like, “They’re not going to remember your music. They’re not going to remember anything about you except how you made them feel.” 
What are your thoughts on the ‘1,000 true fans’ theory? Can you make a living off a dedicated segment of the Long Tail?
CM: I think you can do it but it’s hard. You have to control your expenses at home and be out on the road. If you build that network of places to stay you can make a go of it. 1,000 people is nothing to shake a stick at. If you have 1,000 people you can really communicate with, who will respond to your emails and come to your shows, that’s powerful. I think it’s manageable. You have to control your expenses carefully. I’ve been looking into crowdsourcing. As an independent musician you have to get really creative. 
How do think about your brand?
CM: It’s tricky. I come from a marketing background but my focus has been on the music and getting out there. Keyboardist/singer Dave Yaden has been telling me I need to dress like a rock star and walk like a rock star to the point where the first thing that goes through someone’s mind when they see you on the street is, “What band is that guy in?” If you’re a lawyer you wear a suit. If you’re a baseball player, you wear a uniform. There’s a certain look. If you’re a musician, that’s your job. That really stuck with me. Figure out who you are and go for it. Like my music, I just want to be honest and who I am, but in this day and age everything is so competitive, you have to develop a brand that goes beyond your music. It’s a whole marketing package.
I was fortunate enough to work with the Art Director from the last company who did all my packaging design and developed a logo for me. It’s important to think about what you’re saying with your CD cover, your posters, your emails.
What’s your long range plan?
CM: To keep this sustainable. Make records, keep playing. The plan is to develop a plan (laughs)…
You can find out more about Chi McClean and his music at: www.chimcclean.com