Monday, May 19, 2008

"New" Music Economy Forces Bands To Do "New" Things

Rolling Stone posted an article yesterday describing how bands are making money in the "new economy" of music, where physical album sales are declining and new areas of revenue are becoming more and more necessary to stay afloat.

Of the mentioned areas (including licensing music for commercials, movies, television shows, video games and making money through touring), I found specific area targeting to be the most intriguing. The White Stripes (among other bands) have begun to commission local artists to create limited edition posters specific to the location at which the concert is being held. This creates a more personal collectable for the fan apposed to the mass produced poster that everyone and their mother owns of their favorite band. The artwork can also be used for other things including area specific singles, stickers, you name it, anything with artwork.

However, the article left a gaping hole in one of the largest (if not THE largest) revenue streams for a great number of bands. That is money from PROs (Professional Rights Organizations). These companies, for those unfamiliar, collect licensing fees from public areas (be it a bar, retail shop, sporting venue, etc) that uses music to in any way sell products. This can be through using music to create a better atmosphere or ambiance or using it directly in a television show or anything broadcasted, really. Band then get paid every time their song is played partially or fully on television, radio, or over a sound system (anywhere at any's electronically monitored these days). Bands can make multiple millions of dollars (though not that common) this way depending on how much their music is played.

Now, by licensing out their music to television shows and commercial adds, they are not only promoting themselves through exposure, but also racking up air play time as tracked by PROs, which can ultimately add up to a large sum of money. It's a win win for any band who allows their songs to be played in these forms of media as they'll be getting a licensing fee AND PRO money.

This "new" way of making money isn't exactly new, but most bands haven't been doing much of it until lately, and I'm glad their finally catching on to what many people in and out of the industry (including myself) have been saying will happen for the last five years. The record company isn't dead, it's simply evolving from selling platinum albums to creative multiple streams of revenue for bands in an age where physical album sales look to becoming not enough.

Photo by Flickr User: krzysiek_b.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Yet Another 8-Year-Old Who Sold His Soul To The Devil

Once again, YouTube has a video of a kid who is probably better at guitar than you. This time it's 8-Year-Old Yuto Miyazawa who displays his ability to mimic Eric Clapton and Black Sabbath
in this video. Wired has a little story on this kid and a lead into how if the amount of people who play Guitar Hero (over 14 million people own it, so probably +20 million have played it) actually played real guitars that music would be better off.

I've actually had this conversation with a friend of mine (who played bass in a band we were in back in the day) about if we had played our real instruments (guitar and bass) as much as we had played Rock Band over a two week period that we could have probably written an entire album...but I digress.

As you watch this video (below), you may notice the same thing I saw...this kid seems to simply be playing notes that sound dead and lifeless. Now, I know the kid is only 8 years old and is still playing some fairly difficult guitar riffs, but they sound like he's playing them with no soul, that they're just notes, which leaves me to only one conclusion: Yuto has sold his soul to the devil in order to play this well at such a young age...that or his father sold it for him in order to become the next Stage Dad/Mom.

Granted he'll be able to rip like none-other in a few years and we'll all be left sitting at our computers watching a 12 year old who can play guitar better than we could ever hope to, which will just leave us feeling empty inside...but until then, just enjoy the video and start practicing...or become a DJ.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Mother's Day Festival Guide

It's Mother's Day, and to honor all of our moms and their concern for our health and safety, the New York Times has published an article all about...this summer's festivals; lovely venues where drugs are more common than potable drinking water and at least one person dies at most events.

To be fair, I find festivals to be a pretty fun time provided you can stand being quite filthy for a whole weekend of "camping" and the smell of patchouli doesn't bother you. I can't say I'm an avid festival goer, though I've been to a few and I'll enjoy a few more.

Out of all the festivals (and tour announcements as well) mentioned in the article, I'd have to say I'm most curious to see how Rothbury goes. It seems that in years past, Bonnaroo and Coachella were the dominant festivals people made a point of traveling to. However, with a more 'eclectic' line-up every year at Bonnaroo, with headliners this year including Pearl Jam, Metallica, Jack Johnson, Panic, Kanye West, and Chris Rock, the more hard-core festival-goers are looking for a less main stream place with bands that will feel more at home with 150,00 'screaming' hippies (I don't remember seeing a lot of Hippies...hell, ANY hippies the last time I saw Metallica).

This leaves room for Rothbury. Though it still has quite a wide range of genres represented by it's headliners (DMG, Panic, John Mayer, 311, Phil Lesh & Friends, Primus, Thievery Corporation, Snoop Dogg, and Modest Mouse), it seems like it is a combination that will go well together and isn't forced, like Bonnaroo's.

And with ticket prices going up each year (I remember when I though $120 was a lot for a ticket), people can't afford to go to every festival or even 2 or 3 like they may have been doing in the past, which makes picking where you spend your inebriated weekend even more important as you'll likely only be going to one festival.

However, there are a great deal more events going on this summer than just the three I mentioned, so go check out the NYTimes article and see where you might like to head this summer. Who knows, maybe your mom will even want to go with you...but probably not.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sweet, I've Got A New ZiT!

If you're one of the millions of people who purchased Grand Theft Auto IV (or have ever played a GTA game ever) over the last week and a half, then you've probably noticed that there is lots of music inside of this game. This has generally been the case with GTA games as you've been able to choose radio stations to listen to while driving vehicles around the city.

This is a great feature of the game, but it's always been a pain in the butt if you wanted to find a song's title that was playing (as long as it wasn't on the soundtrack). That is, until now. In GTA IV you now have the ability to instantly get the artist and track of any song playing by using your in-game cell phone to text a request to a service called "ZiT." Once you've completed this task, you can then log into your newly created Rockstar Social Club profile to have a 30 second clip of every song you've "ZiTed" as well as an option to add it to an playlist for purchase later.

This is the first time that any video game has incorporated a way to purchase music from the game without leaving the game (sort-of, you do have to eventually go onto the internet to get the music) and is quite the leap forward for the music and gaming industry; not to mention it works great with the GTA franchise, known for good music with GTA IV having over 200 tracks on 16 stations, all for purchase on the Amazon MP3 store. By allowing such song information and purchasing power almost instantly, GTA and Rockstar Games have made life for the musically-curious significantly easier while offering a new way to purchase music that isn't offensive, in your face, over-priced, or just a bad idea (which is so often the case).

I recently tried this out with a song I had ashamedly forgotten about, Queen's "One Vision," however, after over 24 hours, I'm still waiting for the song to appear on my Rockstar Social Club profile. Granted this doesn't particularly make it impossible for me to purchase the song (I could just go onto iTunes or Amazon MP3 store and just purchase the song), but it makes it less convenient, something that is a coveted milestone in any service. However, I'm going to give Rockstar the benefit of the doubt since the Social Club launched the same day as the game and I suppose it still has a few kinks left to work out.

I think this is a great idea and a fabulous example of cross-platform collaboration for entertainment and sales benefit. A type of symbiotic relationship between the music industry and the gaming industry that has the potential to become a gaming staple and a somewhat profitable (if not simply a large single percentage portion of sales) part of the music industry. I can promise you will be seeing this type of "one-click" type sales of music in games in the future as the industries and fans alike both seem to be pretty excited about the new way to discover and purchase music.

Photo by Flickr user: dryxedryxe.
More on the music of GTA IV:
GTA Simplifies Song Purchasing
Music from GTA IV Rewiew
Webb Alert's Take
Reggaeton Gets 'Grand Theft' Push

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Driving Concerts Into The Electronic Interactive

Now, being lazy is no longer an excuse not to see Matt Nathanson, or any other band. Thanks to Deep Rock Drive, you can now see concerts right on your laptop, most of them for free.

Trying to mesh the "excitement of live shows with the interactivity of online vigeogames," the new site hopes you'll log in and interact electronically with the band through shout outs and EmotApplauses like kiss-blown lips and lighters.

This sounds like a pretty cool idea, including being able to choose different audio mixes and camera angles, but from the looks of it, this type of interactive media can never replace a real concert from both the fan's and band's perspective.

As a fan, the sound is now only as good as A) your speakers and B) your bandwidth. If either of those are anything but pristine, then all the interactivity in the world isn't going to make it for a good concert-going experience. Just because they might actually play the song you request doesn't make up for a 56k tin-sounding show. And even if you do have a T3 line, laptop speakers aren't going to cut it either.

From a band's point of view, having a live crowd is incredibly exhilarating and can be a huge factor into feeding into the band's energy. Unless they are streaming an actual concert at a real venue, then this just becomes a studio session at a TV station. If I were playing at one of these sessions, the 40 big screens displaying the shout outs and EmotApplause wouldn't really be enough. Maybe some sort of applause or yelling that simulated a real crowd could come one, directly affected by the amount of positive or negative feedback generated from the mentioned interactions.

However, with that said, this looks to be a viable type of media and concert substitute for possibly sold out show or one too far away to attend. I'm pretty sure I'll be checking out the Matt Nathanson show, free thanks to a Pepsi sponsorship, though I don't know much about many of the other acts (check out the line-up here).

More Info:
Wired's Take
The Plugg's Tak

Monday, May 5, 2008

I Am Iron Man...According to Marvel Films

If you're one of the $100.7m worth of people who saw Iron Man this weekend, you may have joined me in your extreme satisfaction with John Favreau and his new movie. However, what is possibly even better is this coming sumer in the Dark Knight and the announcement that Iron Man 2 (and I've also heard 3), along with Captain America and Thor will be gracing the Silver Screen in the coming years.

I'm anxious to see how S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, according to the movie) is portrayed in Iron Man 2 (you DID stay for the teaser with Samuel L Jackson as Nick Furry after the credits, right?) and if any S.H.I.E.L.D. specific movies will be created. But until then, let's just enjoy what will be coming later this summer w/a Dark Knight.

More Information:
InfoAddict: Iron Man Sequel

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coldplay Has Hot Track...For Free!!

It seems as though every band who has released a free single or album over the past year (Trent Reznor, Radiohead, and now Coldplay) are laughing these days...all the way to the bank. For both Reznor and Radiohead, each experiment with free music was a huge success in many ways, not just selling music (yea, people still paid for the music even though it was free including yours truly as I'm one of the few people who still prefer a physical album copy to a digital only version...weird, I know).

Bands releasing free music have seen tremendous increases in website traffic, often times causing sites to temporarily crash due to such a huge onslaught of traffic. They have also increased exposure to people who may not have purchased songs, including radio listeners as Coldplay's "Violet Hill" managed to creep up into the top 40 on BBC radio reaching an estimated 33 million listeners across Europe. Undoubtedly this was due in part because people were able to download the song and then wanted to hear it on the radio.

So what seems to be the result of offering free music is a large amount of sales (in the album, concert tickets, etc), increased exposure, not to mention that this is generally considered the best thing a band can do by its fans only causing them to be even bigger supporters of said band. Seems like a win win win (option #5) situation for the band, fans, and label.

The true test for this type of outlet, as MG Siegler points out, is if this will actually work for small bands who don't have the kind of exposure that Radiohead, Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), and Coldplay have. However, if you've been paying close attention, a great deal of bands have been doing this for quite some time through places such as myspace, personal websites, Napster/Kazaa (pre-Metalica/RIAA shutdown), and various other digital forms of socialness.

So the question is have these bands actually benefited from being able to free expose themselves to the masses? Yes and no. Yes in that people can access them and No in that any schmo can upload his/her song and clutter the already extremely over-populated world of "indie" music with not that many great ways to distinguish the good from the bad.

However, big picture in tact, we'll most definitely be seeing more free music from major bands, as well as small unknown bands, in the near and hopefully distant future.

More on Coldplay's Single:
Coldplay's Play: Free for All?
MG Siegler at VentureBeat
Chris Picks
Stereogum's Take