NARM 2011 – Artist/Producer panel

NARM/A2IM Music Business Crash Course, produced by Rich Bengloff

Artist/Producer panel moderated by Ted Cohen with Artist Colin Hay (Compass Records, Men at Work), Producer Mike Clink (Aerosmith, Guns & Roses, Metallica, Sarah Kelly),  Garry West, co-founder of Compass Records, and DJ Nu-Mark of Jurrassic 5.

This diverse panel discusses the current state of music recording and  marketing.

Are music consumers stepping on us?

From today’s Digital Music News:

Are Music Consumers Stepping On Us?

That was the question posed on Thursday by NPD analyst Russ Crupnick at Digital Music Forum East in Manhattan.

“Consumers are flipping us the bird,” Crupnick declared while trotting through slide-after-slide of distressing data. Exhibit A? Crupnick listed a litany of concessions and pro-consumer offers from this industry over the past ten years – all of which have produced few substantive revenue returns.  These include: 

  • ubiquity
  • disaggregation
  • fragmentation
  • liberal licensing
  • disabled DRM
  • disinflation

“These are great things we’ve done for consumers, but what have they done for us?” Crupnick posed.  Well, the answer is very little, and Crupnick’s stats proved it.  Over the past 5 years alone, Crupnick noted that the population of buying music fans declined by 20 million, and per-capita spending has dropped by 40 percent.  Meanwhile, just 5 percent of US consumers are using subscription services, including free trials.  “We’re being too liberal,” the analyst continued.  “We need to demand more from consumers.”

But there’s a funny twist: among the buyers that remain, a majority are only buying CDs.  In fact, Crupnick noted that 55% of paying music fans are solely purchasing CDs, down from 80% percent in 2006.  Just last week at New Music Seminar in Los Angeles, Tommy Silverman reported that two-thirds of all album purchases are physical.

And what about the superfan, won’t that save us?  Well, Crupnick popped that balloon quickly by noting that superfans are also buying less.  But, their percentage of overall purchases is increasing as more casual fans leave the building.  “Fewer and fewer people are buying music, so the percentage of buying by uberfans increases,” Crupnick noted.
My comment:

“I can’t comprehend the logic of “demanding more from consumers.” Show me a good product manager who agrees with that reasoning.

It is hard to compete with free but that’s the reality today for any media business. Consumers have unprecedented choice and an enormous sense of entitlement. If you want to succeed in the marketplace you have to get real about that.

Also, the recording industry was a ridiculous bubble economy for over 20 years. Now it is leveling out and that is painful. The industry will be smaller in the future, more personalized, and consumer driven. 

Things will continue to shake out for awhile.

Join the discussion here

Selling the DIY Dream

The larger music business has always contained a smaller industry focused on selling the dream of success to independent musicians. In the Go-Go record label days, this involved access to decision makers and copious amounts of advice on making your music more “commercial”. Musicians hoped that  Mr. Big would hear their amazing song, fall in love with it, and next thing you know, the band is flying around in private jets.

Today’s pitch is that relentless, athletic Internet marketing will eventually build a brand and a full-time career. While many of today’s tools are powerful and can be very effective, the business models of these companies are built on selling services to musicians and are not necessarily dependent on the success of the artist.

Marketing is key to the execution of every business plan, but by no means the whole enchilada. Successful businesses create products and services that meet fundamental human needs. DIY Internet music companies are serving the need of the musician to be acknowledged and feel empowered. Are you  just as clear about your market and the needs you are addressing? People don’t buy what you do but why you do it. Without a clear vision of what makes your music extraordinary, and who you are serving, all the marketing in the world will not create a mega-successful brand.

Most pro musicians have multi-faceted careers (performing, recording, producing, writing, publishing, teaching, orchestrating, etc.) and have spent tens of thousands of hours developing their craft. If you are seriously committed to a long term career in music, I suggest studying these people as well as general business and marketing concepts. Be very realistic about circumstances that have influenced individual successes and may not scale.

Internet music marketing is powerful and exciting but it is also a huge time suck. If your marketing is not carefully aligned with a larger plan, you may simply be feeding another industry: the DIY Dream Machine.

Don’t Go For The Masses, Go Direct-To-Fan

Reblog from

Don’t Go For The Masses, Go Direct-To-Fan

Author: Kyle Bylin –
Major labels are mass marketing power giants; it’s what they do. Before the advent of the social web, they  were the only way to reach the masses. Due to their influence on commercial radio stations, big-box retail outlets, and television, much of this remains to be true. If an artist wants the general public to become familiar with their music and know the all words to their songs at the next show, then having the financial support of a major label will help them achieve this feat. 

What’s interesting though, is that despite decades of experience in breaking new artists, major labels still have no idea whether or not their mass marketing is working until the end. Online analytics, small boosts in sales, viral YouTube videos, and conversations—these all serve as little cues that something is starting to happen, but there’s no way to tell when the point of reaching critical mass been achieved.  That is, until it actually occurs. The blockbuster album.

Now, contrast this with the experience of a direct-to-fan marketing manager and an indie artist they represent. Through its easy for both parties to default into thinking like a major label, to try and reach the masses and put off the moment of understanding how successful their marketing has been until the campaign is over—that’s just not how going direct-to-fan works. From the very beginning, the direct-fan-marketer knows if their promotional efforts are working. Why? Because they must get it right in the small. An email can be sent to 100 fans and if it gets a great response rate, only then can it be mailed off to several thousands more. 
Get it right for ten people before you rush around scaling up to a thousand,”writes marketer and author Seth Godin.  “It’s far less romantic than spending money at the start, but it’s the reliable, proven way to get to scale if you care enough to do the work.” In other words, artists need to remind themselves not to go for the masses, when they can go direct, one fan at a time, slowly scaling up, until their message and their music is truly ready to be hard. After all, a failed marketing campaign is much easier to fix early on. If an artist is trying to reach the masses, then like a major label, they won’t know if they’ve failed till the end.