Supply and Demand, Not Streaming, Hurts Musicians?


Demand curve

Demand curve (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In an already controversial article, it is posited that the inability for many quality musicians to make a living in the arts is due to a supply / demand mismatch rather than digitization, streaming, or piracy. While I cannot say I endorse everything this guy is saying, from the stack of releases sitting next to me on my desk, I think he is on to something.

Record companies complain the Internet will destroy music. Musicians complain that they can’t make a living any more. The unsympathetic public, feeling the squeeze themselves, tell them to get a proper job. The problem isn’t piracy — it’s competition.

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On the Mathematics of Marketing New Music


Some recent discussions floating around the music industry include the inability of some new artists to get noticed.  If the music is weird (you know, the stuff we like here on AMN), divide the likelihood of being noticed by some weirdness factor.

You can’t just put your music out there and expect a reaction.  You need to do sales and marketing.  But with more music being produced today than ever before, how do you stand out?  One person recently quoted a statistic that less than 2% of all media publications bother listening to promo copies of albums they are sent.  While I cannot verify this number, it doesn’t seem out of the ballpark.

But let me focus on a few things I can verify.

Here at AMN we get around 80-120 promo releases per month.  Most of these are accompanied by a request for a review.  We publish about 6-10 reviews per month.  This number is what it is because only four of us write reviews on any regular basis, and all of us have day jobs.  We don’t do it for a living.

Further, finding good reviewers is difficult, and I give them tons of latitude in what they cover.  Thus, they usually pick and choose what to review, which may be from these 80-120 requests, or may be something completely different.

In addition to these promo requests, I request about 3-5 promos per months and purchase about another 10 releases or so with my own cash.  Some of those might end up getting reviewed just because I find them interesting enough to request or buy.

This massive skew between the amount of new music that is available for review and the amount of time that we (and other websites I suspect) have for writing reviews explains the quoted 2% hit rate.

This is one of the reasons I publish the AMN Picks of the Week.  This gives us the opportunity to say, “Hey, this release is pretty good, check it out” without having to review it.

I suspect some sites mainly review well-known artists to drive traffic and hits, and thereby sell more ads.  We don’t have that constraint here, as AMN is a break-even venture at best.  In a good month, profits from AMN will buy a sandwich.  A small one.

So the math looks bad.  Your odds of getting a review on AMN, as well as any other web site, are pretty small unless you’re an established name.  But don’t stop.  Don’t give up.  Some of the best releases I’ve heard over the last 10 years came from artists that I’ve never heard of who sent me an email asking for a listen.  I did, was impressed, and either published a review or included the release on a Picks of the Week, year’s best of list, etc.  I cannot guarantee when this will happen, but I can guarantee that it does.

And for the record, we listen to about 40-50% of all submissions, curve-breakers that we are.

A Creative Commons License Is The Ultimate Music Promotion Tool


Creative commons licensed
Image by Smeerch via Flickr

A musician writes success through about giving his music away.

Previously I tried to sell my music on online mp3 shops and CDs – with mixed results (it’s difficult being an unknown artist). I sold a few copies – but eventually came to a realization I would rather have my music reach more ears as the money I was making was worth far less than the joy of being able to share it with others. Soon after that, I released my latest album along with a few of my older works under a creative commons license.

My goal with art shifted to purely enjoying the process, and I didn’t even worry about promoting it, I just uploaded it. And believe it or not, that’s when the real magic started to happen.

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Atlantic Records Says Digital Sales Surpass CDs


Apparently people are buying more MP3 bits than bits encoded on a circular medium.

Since MP3s first became popular a decade ago, music industry executives have obsessed over this question: when would digital music revenue finally surpass compact disc sales?

For Atlantic Records, the label that in years past has delivered artists like Ray Charles, John Coltrane and Led Zeppelin, that time, apparently, is now.

Atlantic, a unit of Warner Music Group, says it has reached a milestone that no other major record label has hit: more than half of its music sales in the United States are now from digital products, like downloads on iTunes and ring tones for cellphones.

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Mark Dresser on Telematics


Bassist Dresser discusses the possibilities of Telematics:

In 2004 I left New York to accept a teaching position at the music department at UC San Diego. I was able to stay in close contact with my community of friends and colleagues in New York through email and cell phone. I made a point to come to New York to perform as much as possible and through filesharing of sheet music and sound files, a lot of the musical preparation that, in an earlier day, might be the sole domain of the live rehearsal could be done at a distance. I certainly missed the casual gig, at which one could perform new music with new colleagues. In the not-so-distant future this may not be the case because of telematic performance. Through the development of telematic music there is the opportunity to regain access to local scene dynamics, not only in New York but also to scenes worldwide.

Telematics generally refers to the interface of computers, communication and performance. It has a modern history of about 20 years. Due to the dedicated work of pioneers, generosity of friends and colleagues and support from a university that is invested in the potentials of technology, I have been able to collaborate, rehearse and perform with other musicians in multiple locations.

Peter Gabriel: An Old Rocker Gets Digital


The New York Times writes about how Peter Gabriel is embracing the Internet rather than cowering in fear of it.

While major record companies have spent heavily on the Internet with relatively little to show, Mr. Gabriel and his partners started OD2 on a tight budget, built it into a digital delivery platform that retailers like Virgin used on their Web sites, and sold it in 2004 for $40.5 million.

“When most labels were banging their heads, he got it and saw the liberating value of Internet distribution to artists, and that’s what excited him,” says Mr. Grimsdale, a partner at Eden Ventures, of Mr. Gabriel. “He has a very good sense technologically of what’s going to work.”

OD2’s success also catapulted Mr. Gabriel, after decades as a top-selling artist, into a second career as a powerful player in the emerging online music industry, a move that once seemed more outlandish than the costumes he wore in the early 1970s as a singer for the rock group Genesis.

But Mr. Gabriel, the son of an inventor, keeps devising new ways for musicians and record labels to use the Web to control their work and to make — not lose — money.

His two newest Internet ventures — We7, an advertising-driven music site, and TheFilter.com, which offers personally tailored multimedia recommendations — have received strong financial backing and positive user reviews in early tests.

Zappa Plays Zappa Tries Out Some Innovative Ideas


The future of music entails musicians taking advantage of the Internet, not being fearful of it. Zappa Plays Zappa is on tour this fall and has announced some very cool ideas.

Hand-picked intimate venues
Every attendee will be able to get a free MP3 concert download within a week of performance;
Hagstrom guitar giveaway at every show
Submit your song requests for each show

Their goal here seems to be to attract their 400-500 most rapid fans in each metropolitan area, (probably) charge them a lot, but treat them well otherwise.

Tough Times Call for Tougher Music


An article explores the shifting focus of new music.

“New music is gorgeous again,” writes Scott Speck, co-author of “Classical Music for Dummies,” in the current issue of Symphony Magazine. A new wave of composers who make only nice waves is rising, and these composers have history on their side. When times get tough, as in America during the Great Depression and the Second World War, music gets soft. The times, surveys say, are once again tough, and they’re likely to stay that way. A sustained period of stylistic regression is thus a possibility.

Dave Douglas Releases Live Sets Virtually in Real Time


Dave Douglas is doing something I really like and expect to see a lot more of in the future from other artists. That is, releasing live recordings within hours of their performance.

Sure, you still have to buy them, but these “real time” live albums seem to be all the rage. It’s great for the artist, who can get his material out to a wide audience and maybe make a few bucks, and it is great for the fan, who can experience the shows they missed.

Scott Amendola has announced he’s doing the same, and the folks at Open Ears Music post whole shows of top-notch improv. And it’s free, not just in style but also in price.

These examples are only scratching the surface. The next generation of musicians will have the ability to record and release virtually every performance of their entire careers. Will the plethora of options make one’s ongoing search for great music easier or more difficult?

Time will tell.