Huge issues, such as how to compensate musicians who have content ripped off or used without permission on Goliath’s like You Tube, do not seem to be any closer to being resolved. One lawyer from a large internet file sharing site expressed her frustration that it took her client 8 years to work out a comprehensive license deal with the labels. The labels countered that with a complaint that the country’s Anti-Trust laws prohibit the labels from meeting in the same room let alone coming up with a unilateral price for licensing music and come up with a fair price for licensing; music. The result will be years of musicians losing out on mechanicals and licensing revenue.
But, like I said, the weekend was not without some optimism. Focus groups discussed new ways for musicians to make money and reach their fan groups. Several of the methods they discussed were ideas that this site previously discussed (Click Here and Here). Using new and creative ways to get your music to your fan base (USB drives, t-shirts, treasure hunts) and utilizing social media were stressed by those in the know. Creating an interactive experience with the buyer should be the ultimate goal of musicians. With all of the utilities currently available, the one on one fan/artist experience is easier to achieve.
The byproduct of the new methods of reaching and interacting with fans is the steady decline of the traditional album (Something I mentioned in last week’s post: See White Chocolate and the Soul Berries). Rolling Stone is picking up on this trend as it is reaching beyond the indies and making headway with some major artists. In Issue 1090, October 29, 2009, David Browne cited to the death of the traditional album in his article entitled “Artists Break Free of the Album”. In the article, several artists, including Billy Corgan, Modest Mouse, Sppon, Blitzen Trapper and Radiohead, are testifying to the need and the appeal of a new model for getting music to the masses. Finally catching up to the public trend (or disease, depending on how you feel) of severe Attention Deficit Disorder, the music industry is coming to the realization that if you are going to get new music out and grab the public’s attention, you better do it quickly and in a new and interesting way. EP’s are becoming the new LP’s and on-line releases, once deemed leaks, are becoming a cheaper and easier way to reach the entire world and not just the big box store customer.
The industry insiders and taste makers at CMJ were not necessarily revealing any new or earth shattering information that the informed musician did not already know. Yet, it is important to realize the significance of the simple fact that these industry and label types are finally catching on to the truth. If you really needed proof that the industry is not what it once used to be and the old model of releasing a cd, touring, sitting back and living off of royalties is dead, then hearing it from a label owner, label lawyer and label A&R executive is all you hopefully ever need.
I’m on the way to CMJ music marathon in NYC. CMJ and other similar music events are good barometers for the industry as whole. Who will be the next band? What are the labels going to do know? How has piracy effected music sales? Etc. Etc.
In the past this indie music conference and pseudo music festival has proven to be a great place to find new music talent and network with creative industry types. This year, the line up is more representative of the changing music scene: a lot of bands that are great, but that you probably haven’t heard of yet. The Antlers, Pitbull, Japanroids and Das Rascist are recognizable names to those in the know and will hopefully CMJ will take them and the hundreds of other bands to the next level.
The networking that had gone on in the past was between labels, pr firms, distributors and radio folks. This year, many of those people are looking for jobs. Perhaps CMJ will have a job fair day?
I’m looking forward to seeing if the unprecedented ease of getting music to the masses (i.e. the Internet) has truly watered down the musical talent or if it has afforded those that never would have had the opportunity to perform in the past to have their talent seen and heard. I’m obviously hoping for the latter. I’m also curious to see what pearls of wisdom the overly entrenched New York industry types plan on sharing at the various panels. My prediction this year is that a lot of the label types have new jobs with smaller (both in size and revenue) companies. So, chances are that the theme will be battling piracy and identifying new ways of getting paid for making music.
We shall see and I’ll report back after my trip.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION OF THE WEEK:
Speaking of new ways of getting music to the masses in a creative way, check out my friend Whatzisface’s newest project (click the link below). In the past hip hop artists have been found via the mixtape. Mixtapes were and still are to a large extent, full length albums without a particular theme or concept. They are given away for free usually on a burned cd or now, via myspace download. The hope is the same: someone with decision making power and a budget will listen and choose to develop the artist. Why not change it up? Why not re-invent the mixtape so that people look forward to it like a new album release? Add a concept to it. Make it funny and release it in a cool way. That’s what ‘face has done. Here is one of his latest installments in the White Chocolate and… series. Enjoy.
Man am I sick of reading, listening, and writing about that crappy economy. If you don’t know that our economy is bad then go back to your Y2K bunker and hunker down for another 4 or 5 years. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
The music industry has been hit HARD by the recession. All facets of the business have been effected. Labels, distributors, marketing companies and venues have shuttered their windows and locked their doors. Still, the concert scene has been relatively healthy. Lollapalooza and Coachella had record crowds again this past year. Madonna made a ridiculous amount of money on tour (nice move by Live Nation) as did the Boss (nice work Azoff and Ticketmaster), the Police and Metallica. CMJ was packed with a lot of promising new artists and some main stays who have some exciting new material.
Which leads to my surprise about the rather unorganized and lackluster roster for the premier music conference, South By Southwest. In the past independent artists and freshly signed artists flocked to Austin for the opportunity to strut their stuff in front of the industry big wigs and peers. This year the industry big wigs may not be able to afford the air fare and hotel prices (which surprisingly have not gone down). So the result seems to be a scaled back festival.
Not to fear. Rather than bash blog about SXSW and complain from a far, I am going to take Obama’s lead and do something about it. I have taken it upon myself (with the help of Catharsis NYC, Big Like Giants, Music Dealers and my colleague Brian Troglia) to provide SXSW with an amazing showcase featuring artists that are both brand new, on the cusp and already established.
I give you the first annual (hopefully) Lawyer 4 Independent Musicians Showcase!!!! On March 21, 2009 from Noon to 6pm at Momo’s on 6th Street we will be showcasing amazing music and demonstrating how important a good legal team is t the success of a musician (but mostly amazing music). Already confirmed are: Whatsizface, French Horn Rebellion, Hey Champ, DJ White Shadow, Fat Lip, and Kidz in the Hall, with several more surprises in the works. Its free (obviously) and will be sponsored by L4M, Stahl Cowen and Music Dealers (read more about them below). So if you are coming to SXSW, you have to come to this showcase.
Let me know your thoughts about this year’s SXSW or if you need more details about the L4M showcase.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION OF THE WEEK: MusicDealers.com
The future of music licensing can be found at this site. Its a must for any independent band or artist. You sign up for free and submit your music for licensing opportunities that Music Dealers finds for you. Its non-exclusive so you don’t have to worry about signing over ownership of your music. Brilliant, check it out.
I am heading east next week to take part in the madness that is the CMJ Music Marathon. New York’s music scene is always great, but during this five day stretch there is no better place in the world to see and hear some of today’s best independent music. For us on the business side of the music scene it also a great opportunity to network, schmooze and drop names without trying to hurt one’s toes.
Last year at this time the word was that the major labels were in serious trouble. That obviously played out to be accurate. While the labels are definitely hurting, I have noticed that they are no longer the slow moving mass that they once were. Sure there is still the old guard pulling the stings of the A&R and creative departments at the majors, but I think it has finally registered that making money off of physical record sales is just not going to buy the CEO his 2nd jet anytime soon.
360 deals are being pushed hard by some labels and industry giants (eg. Madonna and Jay-z with Live Nation). Companies are taking a piece of everything an artist touches from album sales to touring to merchandise. In return the artist is promised national and international marketing and promotion by a label who still has the connections and manpower to launch such a campaign. I am still not sure if this model can be mutually beneficial. Judging by the insistence of some labels to only use 360 deals, I have a feeling they tend to skew in favor of the labels a bit more than the artist. Just a hunch though.
If a band is looking for a more traditional deal, they are still available. A one and five deal (one album with the option for five more) is still commonplace with many of the lables who are still around. These are typically too long of a time period and too onerous on the artist (transfer of ownership your music is the norm), but have been around for so long that they have become the “industry standard”. In the past a label would convince an artist that a long term recording agreement was the way to go and would sweeten the deal with a phat or fat advance. Not so much these days.
Bottom line, an indpendent band that kills it at CMJ next week will probably get an offer from one of the many lurking label execs present at its showcase. Whichever type of deal is offered, rest assured there will be a teeny tiny advance attached. Labels do not have any money. Its gone. The days of six figure advances and seven figure recording budgets are history. The labels’ belt has gotten tighter just like every industry in America. On top of that, we are in the final quarter of the year so any coin that the labels had has most likely been committed to an earlier project.
So what’s my point? Don’t wait for a killer deal. It just isn’t going to happen. Musicians should definitely listen to any offer and be courteous while doing so. Then they should think about this: can they do the same thing the label is offering on their own? If the answer is yes, and a band can forge strong relationships with strategic management companies, booking agents, merchandise companies and lawyers, they may not need a label. If a band can do all of that, they definitely do not want to give up ownership of their music or have someones hands in their pocket during a performance, at the merchandise tent and at the record store.
Lots to think about. Perhaps we should wait to think about it all until after next week when we have completed the music marathon.
SHAMELESS PLUG(S) OF THE WEEK:
Toki is getting well deserved press. Click her wicked cool necklace above for more info.
You may have already seen this, but I think its awesome: