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Knowing what’s good for you…

I’ve been incredibly busy and stressed of late. I tend to deal with it pretty well as a rule, but the lack of sleep, added to the travel and poor diet, has resulted in me being pretty wiped at all times for the last week or so.

So at the beginning of this week I committed to being in bed by 10pm for three consecutive nights, gorged on vegetables, and went out for a couple of long runs. Result? Bags of energy and feeling like a new man.

It’s so important when you’re working on several projects to manage your time effectively, but most of us (me included) never seem to schedule in time for “self-maintenance”. Schedule an hour of your day to looking after yourself (swimming, running, tai-chi, meditation, press-ups or all of the above) and your productivity and energy levels will sky-rocket.

News in brief –

– I wrote and produced a documentary about Prince, a childhood hero of mine, a few weeks ago for an ace internet radio station. You can download it here. Nudge me if the link has expired and I’ll upload it again.

– I’ve been working with Milen from MTR Design and Marc from The Undercard to get a new Pollen website up and running. It’ll be going live within about 24 hours, I hope. So keep checking back to www.pollenhq.com to see the utterly brilliant site they’ve put together. It’s been a genuine pleasure working with both of them and I can’t recommend them highly enough.

– I’ve decided to make my blog a bit more attractive by using some of my photos in it. They won’t necessarily relate to the blog (this week features a shot I took in Lyon when I was there doing a gig a few years ago), but they should make it a bit more colourful around here….

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2008 bands cardiff interesting media music Music Industry roland technology

Ikutaro Kakehashi


I’ve just met Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland Instruments and the man who “invented” MIDI (he initiated discussions between electronic music manufacturers to develop a universal communication method). For anyone who’s ever been involved in music production you’ll know what a massive influence Roland and MIDI have had on technology over the past few decades.

Mr Kakehashi’s a kind of foreboding looking character but, at nearly 80 years old, he’s an impressively forward thinking, charming, charismatic and witty guy. I was priveleged to be invited to his receiving of a honorary professorship at Glamorgan University’s creative industries school, which is sponsored by Roland. It’s an impressive site (and sight!) which should hopefully push forward the future of the creative industries and music in Wales.

I was pretty spell-bound by Kakehashi’s hour long “lecture” about music technology that he interspersed with slides and videos. It was fascinating to hear what he had to say about his past (orphaned at 2yrs old in Osaka, hospitalised for four years as a young man), his business (setting up his own electronics store in 1954, designing Hammond organs, cajoling the defiantly anti-electronic Oscar Peterson to appear on one of his adverts) and the future of music technology. This was the area where he had the most passion. He talked at length about Roland’s audio visual products and how he sees this as a big area for the future. Especially with much of the technology being instinctive and easy to use. Full audio-visual sets from us musicians, without the need for world-class VJs may not be too far away….

Anyway, suffice to say that it was a very interesting afternoon and after his lecture i was lucky enough to swap a few words with the man himself and get given a copy of his book. Not a bad buffet afterwards, either!

Categories
2008 bands cardiff interesting media music Music Industry roland technology

Ikutaro Kakehashi


I’ve just met Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland Instruments and the man who “invented” MIDI (he initiated discussions between electronic music manufacturers to develop a universal communication method). For anyone who’s ever been involved in music production you’ll know what a massive influence Roland and MIDI have had on technology over the past few decades.

Mr Kakehashi’s a kind of foreboding looking character but, at nearly 80 years old, he’s an impressively forward thinking, charming, charismatic and witty guy. I was priveleged to be invited to his receiving of a honorary professorship at Glamorgan University’s creative industries school, which is sponsored by Roland. It’s an impressive site (and sight!) which should hopefully push forward the future of the creative industries and music in Wales.

I was pretty spell-bound by Kakehashi’s hour long “lecture” about music technology that he interspersed with slides and videos. It was fascinating to hear what he had to say about his past (orphaned at 2yrs old in Osaka, hospitalised for four years as a young man), his business (setting up his own electronics store in 1954, designing Hammond organs, cajoling the defiantly anti-electronic Oscar Peterson to appear on one of his adverts) and the future of music technology. This was the area where he had the most passion. He talked at length about Roland’s audio visual products and how he sees this as a big area for the future. Especially with much of the technology being instinctive and easy to use. Full audio-visual sets from us musicians, without the need for world-class VJs may not be too far away….

Anyway, suffice to say that it was a very interesting afternoon and after his lecture i was lucky enough to swap a few words with the man himself and get given a copy of his book. Not a bad buffet afterwards, either!

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bands business creative demos entrepreneur facebook free future media music Music Industry startup

1000 True Fans

Just a couple of quick things for you, as I’ve got a backlog of things I’d like to tell you all about but they’re building up and I never have enough time to blog as it is!

Those of you that read my last blog about Chris Anderson may know of his seminal work “The Long Tail” – the business model of supplying niche products, rather than targeting the obvious products that sell in huge amounts* – which, while really just a re-explaining of already-understood concepts within business practice, has described how a lot of people are making money off the back of the internet.

Anyway, I digress. Kevin Kelly‘s latest blog argues that as a musician/artist/whatever that The Long Tail makes life difficult, but that if you’re clever you only need 1000 “true fans” to make a living. It’s a really interesting read for anyone wondering if they’ll be able to survive in the creative industries. It all kind of depends on your definition of a “true fans”, and whether an artist can generate enough “product” to in turn generate enough sales to keep those particular fans spending on you. It’s easy enough to get 1000 “friends” on Myspace, but as a singer-songwriter who’s only just releasing his first album, would you be able to create box-sets, DVDs and online subscriptions? Or would albums, singles and t-shirts be enough. It’s a question that each individual needs to answer themselves, but I think it’s a very important one to ask. Read the article and get thinking. It should give you a much better understanding of what exactly you have to do to live off your passion.

Also, if you’ve ever worked for, or been involved with a major label you should check out this article from FT.com. It starkly lays out how the music industry as we know it is changing (as highlighted in my last entry), and A+R men are under massive pressure to deliver the goods with a fraction of the budget. As I’ve told many of my clients and friends over the last few years – even if you get signed by a major, the chances of being unceremoniously dropped like a hot potato within a year or two are huge. To the label you are a gamble, and until you go platinum your costs will be subsidised by the likes of U2, Coldplay and the like. And until you make up, as in EMI’s case, one of the just 3 percent of artists that generate a profit (yep, only three percent!) then you’ll be a liability and prime for the chop.

So maybe it’s time to work on those 1000 “true fans” yourself and cut out the desire to sign to an unweildy and outdated major…

* This is a gross simplification, but if you know anything about marketing you’ll be able to relate to it as a different aspect of the Pareto Principle. I’ve actually just found a better description from The Long Tail website that reads: “The theory of the Long Tail is that our culture and economy is increasingly shifting away from a focus on a relatively small number of “hits” (mainstream products and markets) at the head of the demand curve and toward a huge number of niches in the tail. As the costs of production and distribution fall, especially online, there is now less need to lump products and consumers into one-size-fits-all containers. In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly-targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare.”


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creative entrepreneur Entrepreneurship future music Music Industry web 2.0

The future of the music industry

A great article/interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead and David Byrne (formerly of Talking Heads and all round world-music-dabbler extraordinaire).

I’ll let the article speak for itself. It’s fascinating reading from two guys I really, really admire for their innovative approaches to their business and their art.

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creative entrepreneur Entrepreneurship future music Music Industry web 2.0

The future of the music industry

A great article/interview with Thom Yorke of Radiohead and David Byrne (formerly of Talking Heads and all round world-music-dabbler extraordinaire).

I’ll let the article speak for itself. It’s fascinating reading from two guys I really, really admire for their innovative approaches to their business and their art.

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bands business entrepreneur Entrepreneurship music

Music Links

Here’s a whole host of music links and info that I’ve copied over from my old blog. I haven’t had chance to check that all the links still work, but hopefully they do. Drop me a line if you find any dead links.

– – – – –

The Independent Music Supplement

On the 3rd February The Independent published a supplement all about the independent music industry. I’ve listed links below to all the articles as they make very good reading:

The Mercury Prize: Behind The Scenes

UK Urban Music Underground

Downloading Music: How will it affect the charts?

Live Music’s Renaissance

Domino Records: Home of Franz Ferdinand & Arctic Monkeys

The Independent Music Revolution: Are they catching up with the majors?

The Musician’s Union

Being a member of the Musician’s Union is a must for anyone serious about making or performing music. Much of the content on their advice pages is protected and only accessible by MU members, but the following links will take you direct to their free documents:

Gig Checklist

Specimen Letter to Promoter of gig

Get It In Writing! – Factfile (contractual advice)

Musician Union recommended Rates for live musicians

Own or run a venue? – Read this then got to this page…

Other useful links

PRS and MCPS – The PRS collects and distributes licence fees for the public performance and broadcast of musical works. The MCPS collects and distributes ‘mechanical’ royalties generated from the recording of music onto many different formats. This income is distributed to their members – writers and publishers of music.

PPL – PPL is a music industry organisation collecting and distributing airplay and public performance royalties in the UK

Are you an agent? Need to find one? Look here!

Are you a manager? You should check this out…

Tons of music industry resources.

The Unsigned Guide. Does what it says on the tin.

Music Industry Jobs listings

Music Tank – A UK music business network

Studentbands.co.uk : A site for young, unsigned bands.

Article summarising the changing face of the industry

Arctic Monkeys obey new laws of the jungleBy Tom Findlay and Rob Wood – Published: January 26 2006 19:40 – www.ft.com

In its first week, Arctic Monkeys debut album has outsold the entire rest of the top 20 album chart combined. While this success is great for British music and the crucial independent music sector that feeds it, it comes beneath a veil of media hype.

Much of the success has been attached to the power of the internet, a tool this band was canny enough to make good use of. Using the US MySpace.com community site, the band gave away free MP3s of their tracks to a blossoming online fanbase; the very same people who ran to the shops to grab the album this week.

While the internet was part of the marketing tools used by Arctic Monkeys, it was relentless gigging that built up a loyal local following. Using old-fashioned glue and paper as much as the web, the band postered themselves around their home town of Sheffield and beyond.Like thousands of other bands, the Monkeys gave away tracks online a reward to their fans and a promotional device for newcomers to hear what all the fuss was about.

The net enabled the band to converse with fans beyond South Yorkshire and gain a reach that would have been impossible 10 years ago, when loading a van and driving up and down the M1 was the only, cash-sapping, alternative. By the time the Monkeys played their first gig in London, they had sold out a 1,600-capacity venue without a high-profile release. This would never have happened if the band were not as good as they are, but it was the net that gave them the means to establish a rapport with fans on a colossal scale.

So talent shines through in the end. A combination of the right band and smart use of the internet can be the spark which sets things ablaze. The beauty of online promotion is that it is cheap, fast and measurable. It is more cost-effective than the manufacture of promotional CDs and the use of radio plugging, and the results can be seen as the online hits clock up. It took Oasis at least twice as long an incubation period before they went sky high.

Giving away your product might defy the rules of economics, but in the world of the internet-savvy fan it is a gesture on which dividends will be paid when the album is available to buy. It is also a way to road-test songs where the most downloaded tracks become the obvious choice for the next single.

The huge, cranky major labels have been slow to make sense of how the internet is changing the consumption of music. The profits from the million copies that the Arctic Monkeys album will undoubtedly soon sell will largely be enjoyed by the independent label, Domino Recordings. The do-it-yourself use of online promotion gives artists more power. Rather than be enslaved to the whims of major-label Artist & Repertoire men, bands can increase their fanbase online and choose who to sign with and when, if at all. If the majors had embraced digital music distribution seven years ago, that power shift might not have happened.

We believe the future of online music lies in taking the exciting parts of community sites and joining them with retail. As experience with the band Groove Armada shows, you can tour outside of major record markets in places such as Argentina or Brazil and hear 20,000 fans sing your songs despite record sales of only the odd thousand. Audiences such as these will largely have been turned on to such music from illegal peer-to-peer networks. We do not advocate piracy but believe that recordlabels would benefit from using online promotion creatively by, for instance, giving away singles or live tracks to generate demand for albums.

TuneTribe, the online digital music store, allows unsigned artists to sell their music without a record deal. Suddenly the traditional idea that record companies will always need to exist to market bands and manage their publishing and copyright royalties becomes more wobbly. Sites such as ours can use a laptop to record a band*s live performance and make it available as an album within hours, something that would take months for the corporate machinery of the majors.

Record labels will undoubtedly adapt to change. As long as physical formats are sold, artists will need the clout of established record labels to shift units in large volumes. But with the effectiveness of online promotion and distribution set to grow, new ways to sell music are opening up. Bands with talent like the Arctic Monkeys can blossom into great acts, while their fan base can grow rapidly with access to the tunes they love at their fingertips.

Tom Findlay is half of dance act Groove Armada and a founder of TuneTribe.com. Rob Wood is a music consultant, journalist and head of content at TuneTribe.com

An article on the same subject:

This article from The Guardian also highlights the DIY nature of the music industry at the moment.

How one man sold 2000 CDs just using the internet to promote himself – from the very useful site Getsigned.com – note that this article is from 2001. Just be careful as a lot of the articles are old. That doesn’t mean the info in them is completely irrelevant though…

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bands business demos entrepreneur Entrepreneurship music

Neil’s guide to sending out great demos

In the year or two since I wrote this guide a lot of things have changed, most notably the ability of everyone to send and receive high quality MP3s via email. And obviously everyone has their music on Myspace. In light of that I’ll get round to updating this guide soon, but in the meantime I think much of it is still relevant, especially as I know a lot of A+R people who still only want to hear demos on CD etc.

Anyway, here’s the original article, copied from my old blog:

– – – –
As an A&R guy I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of demos. Probably thousands. And the vast majority have had major problems. I’m not talking about the music. That’s another thing entirely and warrants a whole boook itself.

What I’m talking about is making your demo stand out from the pile and making it easy for someone to get in touch with you once they listen to it.

Firstly, and most importantly, put your contact on the CD itself. There’s one thing that will be guaranteed is that the CD will be separated from the case and they will probably never see each other again. Imagine your phone number or email is on the case which is lost down the back of the label’s stereo and there are no contacts on the CD itself. How are they going to get in touch with you to offer you a deal? They may not even know the name of your band if it’s on a blank CD.

Secondly – make sure it stands out. Whether you record it to bright pink CDs, or have a big picture of a snail on it just make sure it can be found amongst the pile. When you send a polite email or give them a courtesy call a few weeks later to check they got it ok, or whether they’ve checked it out the first thing they’ll say to you is “Which one is it? What does it look like?”. The pile on the A&R man’s desk could be hundreds deep. Now imagine saying “Erm, it’s on a silver disk, with erm, some writing on it, in a white case”. That probably accounts for 80 percent of the demos he or she receives. It only has to be slightly different (a band portrait is fine) but it has to have some distinguishing marks.

Thirdly – The follow up. In most cases your CD won’t get listened to without a bit of a nudge. As an A&R man, this is my preferred method of receiving a friendly reminder. A week after you send it, send a polite email to say “Hi, I’m X from X. I sent you a CD recently. It looked like etc. I hope you like it. I’ll drop you a mail in a week or so to see what you think.” Then a week later drop them a reminder “Hi, it’s X again. Just checking to see what you thought of my CD”. Even after 2 weeks and 2 emails there’s a chance you may still hear nothing. Don’t be afraid to phone a week later. You’re perfectly entitled to follow it up. If you do, just be aware that these guys are very busy. Just be polite and respectful. Don’t hassle them. If this doesn’t get a response then let it go, you’ll just have to wait for them to get round to listening to it and hopefully respond. Hassling them won’t make them view you in a good light. At the end of the day they’re probably as disorganised as most A&R men so it’ll just take time. If they do their job properly they’ll listen to it eventually. And they may just give you some feedback. But don’t count on it!

Thanks to everyone who attended “The Gathering” at The Pop Factory, who inspired me to write this little piece. Good luck to you all!