Music Industry Reality Check August 27, 2016
The Fab Four played more gigs before they were famous than most bands today play in their entire career. There's your 10,000 hour rule right there. You become world class by putting your time in via hard practice, winning over audiences who don't care. That's what the Beatles had to do, play endlessly, converting those who didn't care. That's your job.
Every artist should see this movie.
It could ignite Beatlemania all over again. But it's the arc that gets to you. Four lads with no future forced to believe in themselves turn into jaded men who just can't do it the same way anymore.
That's right, they're in Germany, playing for eight hours a day and becoming disillusioned. That's what they don't tell you, the road to success will not only have potholes, but perceived dead ends, anybody who tells you they're convinced they'll make it is lying. But John would tell the other blokes living in one cramped room with a loo down the hall that they were going to the "toppermost of the poppermost" and they'd soldier on.
To the point where Brian Epstein takes notice and takes charge.
Every great act has a great manager. One who not only paves the way, but has vision. Much has been written about how Brian made bad deals, but he got the band deals, when otherwise they'd have just faded into oblivion, ended up as illustrators or blue collar laborers having a laugh at the pub regarding the reckless days of their youth.
Brian Epstein had faith. As did George Martin.
And from there, it was a rocket ship.
And we were along for the ride.
And oh what a glorious trip it was. Imagine sitting at home minding your own business and then having a mellifluous sound come out of the radio that not only woke you up, but changed your life. That's what the Beatles were, a left turn off the beaten path, one we took instantly, a journey upon which we never looked back, one which made us happy.
And then they sustained. Everybody thought it was a fad, that's why "A Hard Day's Night" had to be rushed out, before it was over. The old men didn't believe, they'd seen this thing before, as for the lads, they were clueless, they were just soldiering on, busy all day, trying to hold on.
And the performances are electrifying. From when if you couldn't get a ticket you were truly left out, your heart's desire was to be inside, where you couldn't hear but you could feel, and feeling is everything.
They were climbing the ladder, they were going for the brass ring.
And then it became meaningless.
Life is about doing what you're good at endlessly, until you die or retire.
But not if you're an artist. An artist challenges not only himself (or herself!), but the audience. You go by your gut, if you're playing it safe, you die inside.
Money was important, but proving their worth, impacting the populace, that was more important.
You see they were testing limits, and we were along for the ride.
"I Want To Hold Your Hand" sounded nothing like what was already on the radio. We blinked, and then climbed on board.
"Rubber Soul" had no singles, it was pooh-poohed and then embraced, it lasted.
And "Sgt. Pepper" was a climb beyond Everest, not only was it unexpected, not only were we unprepared, but they went there and we followed them, we'd follow the Beatles anywhere.
But by 1966 there was nowhere they wanted to go other than home and to the studio. Live gigs had lost their luster. They were disorganized dashes for cash. It was no longer about the music, but "The Beatles," and that wasn't enough.
They were cheeky. They didn't give the reporters what they always wanted.
They smoked. When you see Paul look to George for a light while John is talking to a reporter you light up inside, privy to this intimate moment, this is not stars frolicking for the camera, but real people going about their lives, just like you and me.
But they weren't.
But they were part of our lives. You've got no idea how important Beatle albums were unless you were there. Money was limited, you or your parents would buy an LP and you'd play it endlessly, till the grooves went gray, till you knew every lick by heart. So when you see the story played out on film...
It's about the music.
But pictures convey a message even more strongly when you're telling a story.
Beatlemania really happened. Gods walked the earth. They were nurtured by the system and then spread their wings and flew, more attention was paid to them than Jesus. That's right, John Lennon's statement may have irked the fuddy-duddys, but not those who truly believed.
And they were scared, of retribution, of violence, because...
It had never been done before. Not on this scale, not in this way. They were inventing it as they want along, and were working too hard to second-guess it, they were running on instinct.
But they grew, they evolved. From puppy love to adult introspection.
And they took us along with them.
This is not VH1's "Behind The Music." This isn’t even that multi-night Beatles television extravaganza of two decades past.
No, this is the tuning fork, resonating, getting it right.
Too many of the talking heads are superfluous. Just because you're famous now, we don't care what you think about then, the Beatles were for everybody, we owned them just as much as you. But when Whoopi Goldberg talks about being a fan, going to Shea Stadium, you marvel, these four Scousers broke the color line.
Sugarcoat it, put it in a vault, make it a curio.
But you'll be getting it wrong.
This is the story of my generation. Of being all you can be, of pushing the envelope. Not doing it for the money, but the sheer existential joy and satisfaction.
You'll be singing along to the songs.
You'll feel like a voyeur watching footage you never thought existed.
But first and foremost you'll be inspired. To pay your dues. To get it right. To do what you believe in your heart. To test the limits.
Those are the Beatle lessons.
And they still need to be learned.
Want to break through, want to make it? DO SOMETHING UNIQUE!
But the problem is these highly-educated people, with MBAs from Stanford and Harvard, can't do this. That's what separates the creative people from the grinds. Mark Cuban didn't go to Harvard, he went to Indiana. Because success is about personality, not your C.V.
Your C.V. will do you well if you want to play it safe, if you want to go work for the bank. But if you want to go off on your own, you've got to have pluck. Not only ingenuity and perseverance, but a unique idea that you can see to fruition.
Doggone it, believe in yourselves.
1. They can't make any money on it.
It's show business, not show art. The bottom line is the bottom line. Major labels don't care if you're the new Mozart Beatles, if they can't make any money on you they're not interested, now more than ever, where recordings render less cash than ever.
2. Radio doesn't want to play it.
Marketing. At this date, radio is still number one. Once again, if you deliver the album of the century, a full-length opus that can't be cut up and aired on a radio station that will generate sales, the major label won't play it. This is what the major labels know best. They've got huge radio promotion departments. Deliver something they can get airplay on and they'll take a whack at it. At many major labels the head of promotion is the most powerful person. Even if the A&R guy or the President gets you signed, if the head of promotion shrugs his or her shoulders and refuses to make an effort, you're dead in the water.
3. Major labels are most interested in Top Forty airplay.
Top Forty sells tonnage. That's where all the eyeballs are. That's where stars are built. So decry Max Martin and Dr. Luke and Katy Perry all you want, they've just calculated the percentages and gone where all the action is. Doesn't mean you have to go there too, just means if you don't want to go there, the major label probably isn't interested.
4. You refuse input.
Sure, acts had power in the seventies. The labels didn't meddle with the product. But with so much money involved today, and so much risk, the label wants the ability to get you to use a cowriter, or sing someone else's song, or redo the track with a new producer. You can earn the power to do it your way over time, then again, Clive Davis wasn't happy when Kelly Clarkson did this and let her album languish. Doesn't matter how good your album is, it's whether they decide to put the weight of the company behind it. Furthermore, the label doesn't care about albums. Oh, they want an album to sell, because of the price point, but they truly only care about singles. Tell them an album has four or even seven singles and they're thrilled. Tell them it's got no singles but tells an incredible story and their jaws will drop and refuse to release it.
5. It doesn't play overseas.
Now more than ever before in history a label wants a record with reach. Something that can be spun in Greece and China and Brazil and a bunch of countries most Americans haven't been to, never mind lack the ability to spell. Just because the makers of music are oftentimes unsophisticated, that does not mean those running the labels are. Proffering something that plays only in the U.S. is like trying to get Yahoo to buy your app that only works in Rhode Island. It's all about scale. The risk is in product creation. Make something great and it can sell everywhere.
6. It's just not good enough.
Good is subjective. You must filter it through all of the above. Most people don't have the talent, almost no one can meet the requirements. (See #3 above, the star producers know the game, and that's important.) And good is not good enough. Back in the seventies, when there were 5,000 albums a year and no national radio, never mind MTV, a label could get something "good" on a radio station and via relentless touring get traction in specific markets. Those days are through. The best of the best is available to everybody online 24/7. That's who you're competing with. Not the band down the street, but Rihanna. Oh, you think Rihanna's garbage? Well, do you look like her? Are you willing to have your songs written by committee in camps? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it? Oh, I didn't think so.
7. Because you're good-looking and can sing and that's it.
Major labels want someone who can write, someone with a personality, someone with something more than TV competition qualities. Isn't it interesting that no one breaks out of "The Voice," and you can win "American Idol" and not end up a recording star. Because those qualities are not enough, and if everybody knowing your name were enough, Paris Hilton's recording career would be a juggernaut and Heidi Montag would be at the top of the charts.
8. You haven't demonstrated anybody is interested.
That's how you get signed today. By showing you've already got fans. YouTube views are important, but even more important is how many people show up at your show, in multiple markets. Since it's all about the money, if you're generating some and the sky's the limit, the major label is interested, despite all of the above, they want in on that action. If you're recording goose farts and your stage show resembles a rodeo and you're ugly as sin the major label doesn't care as long as people show up and buy merch and recordings.
9. Because you don't want to be on one.
Now, more than ever, you can go it alone. You don't even have to sign with an independent label, which usually loves your music but is underfunded and poor at marketing and struggles to pay royalties. Sure, some acts with traction sign with a major label. Because they want to be bigger, they want to tie themselves to the major label marketing machine. Does it work? You can decide for yourself. But you don't have to make a deal. You can get an agent and book tours and sell recordings at the gig and on iTunes and stream on Spotify without the major label touching your efforts whatsoever. But if you want major label support, you've got to play by their rules.
Stop worrying about money and just tried to be friends. Because desperation is the biggest turn-off of all. Everybody runs from it. As soon as you start complaining, people have got no time for you.
But that does not mean you sublimated your personality completely. Learned to stand up to pricks. That's who you often encounter at the pinnacle of business. Bullies who are doing their best to shove you down. And the only way you can neutralize them is to not only disagree, but amp it up just like they do. Then they respect you, they realize you know how to play the game.
And it's much more complicated.
Now that does not mean your music is good enough. But if it is, and you're stuck, the problem is you. And you have to figure out what it is and change it. And it's a painful process. But you rise through the ranks when you improve your identity and interactions, it's a magic potion that always works.
Don't bitch about Spotify payouts if you make no money selling music. The people who do will just laugh at you. Because everybody on the inside knows the pot is split up many ways, and the only way to make money is to be in the game a very long time. So you can renegotiate and make better deals.
Don't harangue people. It never works. You need favors. And by inundating and badgering you're just pissing people off.
Wanna know the dirty little secret? IT'S A BUSINESS! Want to get ahead, figure out a way for the intermediary to make money on you.
You complain that no one will book you. Venues are dying for acts that can sell out the house. Convince a promoter you'll make him money and he's all ears.
Ditto with agents and labels. Stop telling people how good you are, no one cares. They just want to know if you can make them money, preferably sooner rather than later.
And unless you're my friend, don't expect me to treat you like one. Friendship is earned, and the more successful you are the less time you have got, especially for those further down the economic food chain. The president of the label does not want to go to dinner with the wannabe, doesn't even want to listen to your record, they pay people to do that, because they just don't have enough time.
So the system is rigged against you. Welcome to the club! Everybody wants to be in entertainment, they're willing to work for free. And execs lose their jobs and agents and managers lose their acts, there is no safety net.
Wanna get ahead? Don't try to make friends with those at the top unless you can make them money right away, as stated above. Make friends with people at your level. Those who have time for you, who can do you favors.
And only ask for a favor if you've got something you can give in return. Because favors are expensive. Everybody can't deliver for everybody all the time. This is why the scions of the rich will get a hearing from the exec. Because of who their parents are. But if you're bitching about this, I feel sorry for you, because most of the people in the entertainment game are self-starters, and tons of the connected wash out early, they're not hungry enough, or talented enough, and they lack perseverance.
So don't say you put in your 10,000 hours, especially if you've never read Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers," which popularized the term. Hell, did you read his column on the topic last week?
"COMPLEXITY AND THE TEN-THOUSAND-HOUR RULE": http://nyr.kr/1d2z7EJ
You not only have to have skills, you've got to know the rules, you've got to study the game. A great hitter is useless if he doesn't know what base to run to, that he only gets three strikes, that four balls will put him on first. There's more info than ever out there on how the game works. If you wanna work in the industry you should know who all the players are, where they started out, where they're going. It's a lot of work, but everybody with a gig made this effort, it's second nature to them.
And sheer will and desire only goes so far. Sure, you've got to believe you're great, but there's a whole hell of a lot more that goes into success.
So be humble, look inside, keep adjusting your game.
Or sit on the sidelines with the rest of the losers playing the woulda, coulda, shoulda game with a chip on your shoulder
Music isn't something you see but something you feel. It's full of energy, it gets the endorphins jumping, makes you believe life is worth living. Come on, would you take a road trip without your favorite tunes? Talk radio only goes so far.
Somehow, in the last thirty years, music has become equated with money.
I'm not saying you shouldn't get paid, I'm just saying if you're not doing it because you love it, if you wouldn't do it even if you didn't get paid, quit today.
Music is not a conventional profession, it's a calling. And a responsibility. To be honest and truthful as well as credible and talented.
Opening a Show? Don't Overstay Your Welcome Onstage
"Leave 'em wanting more" is an ancient showbiz cliché, but it's a great rule for bands to live by. We all know how fun it is to be onstage; it's what a lot of us look forward to more than anything else, and you want to make it last. But if you lose perspective on what the audience is seeing and feeling, you risk hanging around too long and annoying potential fans. There's a fine line between holding the audience's attention and wearing out your welcome.
But that's not the point. The point is you want to be a successful musician, you want everybody to pay attention. If that's so, then you've got to believe you suck before you'll ever be great. You have to be willing to work where no one pays attention. Sweating hours in your bedroom, practicing leads until your fingers bleed.
I'm sick and tired of people telling me they've put in their 10,000 hours, so they should be rich and famous.
It's 10,000 hours of HARD PRACTICE!
Let me put it to you this way... If you spend 10,000 hours on the bunny slope, you're never going to win the World Cup. You've got to challenge yourself, ski the double blacks, go out when it's blowin' and snowin' as well as when it's sunny and smooth.
So you can play the riffs on the record, good for you. But can you play the riffs on the records you don't like, that aren't in your genre? Can you play the drums as well as the guitar? Jeff Beck plays without a pick, have you mastered his technique? It's only when you've got all the basics down that you can fly.
Have you written a thousand songs?
Grass roots campaigning...bars, beer joints, truck stops, casinos.
Egos don't sell....good music does.
We're entering a new era where music is not only omnipresent, it once again trumps film and TV. But the responsibility is upon you, the new generation. You've got to build it in order for them to come. You must put music ahead of money. You must respect everyone in the food chain. You must not rip anybody off.
People need things to believe in. The barrier to entry in music is minimal, providing rampant opportunities. You can deliver for them.
Forget everything you know prior to this date. About radio, labels and arena tours. That system was built for a different era. Labels were constructed for an era when there was limited distribution and recording was expensive. Now anybody can distribute and recording is cheap. Radio was the only way to hear the music. Now the music can be heard everywhere, it's free for the taking on Spotify and YouTube. TV is where you go to meet the old guard playing by the old rules. MTV barely plays any music and the networks just air what is mainstream. The mainstream has been blown apart. There will be icons in the future, but the audience will come to the musicians, not vice versa. You won't compromise, you won't give people what they want, you'll be unique and people will be drawn to you.
FORGET ABOUT MARKETING, FORGET ABOUT MONEY, FOCUS ON MUSIC AND THE REST WILL FALL IN PLACE!
Michael Phelps swam unknown in pools for over a decade before he became an overnight Olympic sensation. That's how it's gonna work in music. You're gonna be paying your dues, unheralded, until finally you break through. You're gonna be nobody, then somebody. Forget Justin Bieber, forget Greyson Chance, that isn't music, that's commerce. No different from selling hula-hoops, Furbys and pet rocks. Here today and gone tomorrow. Build to last, go for the long haul, have substance. Naysayers might state that they hate your music, but they'll begrudgingly admit you can PLAY
MTV is dead.
And so is radio.
The only format that means anything, Top Forty, can't sell tickets.
We're starting all over.
And if you think these Top Forty flavors of the moment are the savior of the touring industry you probably bought a ticket to see Jordin Sparks.
There is good music out there. But those in the industry looking for an instant buck don't want to support it. They want the easy way out. They want instant stardom, they want to get paid, it's like everybody's working for Smith-Corona and they're stunned that no one wants the old typewriter and are banking their economic future on the sale of bulky PCs in an era of iPads.
We watched this movie with the labels. We watched them die over the course of ten years. Is Live Nation next?
So if you're a new act, stay indie. You've got to, in order to be control of your own artistic destiny. If you can't change direction on inspiration, chances are you won't connect for more than a moment, if that.
And indie is about forgetting everybody else and focusing on your fans. If your fans are burned out on your music, you must make more, even though others have never heard it.
Albums are big statements. Hooks upon which to hang your marketing. But marketing doesn't work for anyone but the major label acts. Artist development is not about growing your audience. It's about writing, recording and playing, and finding out if someone is interested. Your music is your calling card. What the majors call marketing is luck. If you've got a buzz, someone will write about you. Their passion will shine through and you might garner some new fans, especially if the writer has a following himself. Maybe NPR will even do a story. But a passionless squib in the local paper is worthless. As are advertisements. People are only attracted when they can feel the passion and the excitement, which doesn't come from hype, but people, testifying one to another and occasionally in media. In other words, there are no shortcuts.
And if you're really good and have success, business people will come to you. Like flies to sherbet. That's when you hire a lawyer and decide who to play with. Please hire a lawyer. A bad deal can kill a career.
And a lawyer can craft a deal that allows someone to run with your music for as long as he or she generates success, otherwise you're free again.
And you don't want to be with the usual suspects. Not unless you make Top Forty music. The usual suspects only know how to do it the old way. They're all about the money, and you're all about the music. It's a bad fit. They're about instant stardom, you're about paying your dues, discovering exactly what it is you do that appeals to people.
Take a chance on someone your age. Young and tech-savvy. Someone who'll work 24/7 on your behalf. Someone who's of the same demo as your fans, who understands them.
And sure, work Facebook and Twitter and... But all of that is secondary to your music.
In other words, you're in charge of your own artist development. We live in a DIY world. If you're waiting for someone to rescue you, to make you famous, you're delusional. Yes, in the old days Warner Brothers gave five album deals to nobodies. But they really weren't nobodies. They had friends, they were connected. Which means you probably never would have gotten your chance anyway. Now, you've got a chance. Don't play with the usual suspects and kill it.
There will always be a few superstars, culture demands it. But the new era is about tons of journeymen. Your goal should be to make a living playing music. If this is not enough, give up.
WHO IS LISTENING TO RADIO NOW? THE BOOMERS ARE BACK!!!
This post from Radio-Info.com should give pause — but it won’t — to those rabid musical directors at our “public” radio stations chasing after the fabled youth market with their programming of Triple-A tripe. In it, we learn of “The American Youth Study; Radio’s Future II,” a look along with Edison Research at where the kids really are going, not where the mindless mass of suits thinks they’re going. Among the findings of the study, which looks at “the 12-24 listeners as well as the 22-34 year olds (following up on the same group from the 2000 study)” is this astounding fact: “[T]ime spent with over-the-air radio is down from 2 hours and 43 minutes (reported in Edison’s year-2000 study) to 1 hour and 24 minutes.” A second significant finding: “[A] majority of listeners want a personality along with the music.”
Jeez, kinda makes you wonder what’s going to happen to all the glorious plans of those feckless leaders who sought to woo the young’uns while simultaneously throwing the fogeys under the bus. (Recall, if you will, that the average age of the listener to public radio is 54, with 90% of them over 35.) Yet the bean counters slaver over the latest listings from the Purple People Meter of Arbitron, laying out the big bucks to be tallied alongside their commercial counterparts worshipping at the totem of Triple A.
A GREAT READ FOR THE SERIOUS!
Sounds simple. But most people don't heed this advice.
Practicing the piano for ten years does not make you creative. It just allows you to replicate what's been done before. But writing something new?
People put in the effort and wonder why they're not famous. The world is filled with journeymen, skilled at their jobs, just check out the band in the lounge, frequently those cats can play. But they're not famous. Because to be famous you've got to make jaws drop, people have to forgo other activities to see you, people have to want to tell others about you.
In order to succeed, you've got to innovate. In such a way that a large percentage of the public cares.
There's always someone who is breaking so many rules that few can get into their music. You know, the lead can't sing, but that's intentional, why be like the guys on Top Forty radio? And the time changes are there to demonstrate they've got chops, not just anybody can play this music. And the noise represents anger... Why is it so many unlistenable acts can write a complete thesis on why their music sounds like it does but you don't want to listen to it?
Conversely, there are those who insist on playing by the rules, taking the easy way out. You might make it, but it's going to have little to do with your talent. It's gonna be about your relationships and your marketing, and your spot in the firmament is always at risk, someone may steal your thunder, whereas nobody's gonna steal Springsteen's thunder.
Bruce's way out was the live show. In an era where bands were four or five pieces, the E Street Band was huge. And they were honed and practiced. To the point when you saw them live, you were blown away, even if you didn't know the material.
This is the essence of Phish. With a few additional elements. A sense of humor, a willingness to take risks, the choice to not do it the same damn way each and every night.
Then there's Elton John. A nobody one day, everywhere the next. That was the power of "Your Song". Furthermore, when you bought the album you found out Elton wasn't a one hit wonder, and that NOTHING ELSE ON THE RECORD SOUNDED LIKE YOUR SONG!
You never know when the audience will get it. I keep talking about seeing Prince at Flippers Roller Disco. I liked "Dirty Mind", but I had no idea this guy took his music this seriously, that he was this good a guitar player, this good a performer. I went home and played the album incessantly, and am still testifying about this show DECADES later!
It's an incredible challenge. To employ a classic art form, pop music, but come up with something new. But it's this new thing that excites us, that not only makes our blood boil but makes us tell everyone. Kind of like "District 9". My inbox is filled with fans. People saying it was their favorite movie of 2009. The establishment didn't get it, they'd rather fawn over "Avatar", but "District 9" got inside your system and affected you much more than James Cameron's opus. "District 9" had allegory, had humanity, felt real even though it was science fiction, the film could not be denied.
Too much of today's music can be denied.
You can play it for a friend and he can ignore it.
But you could not ignore Jimi Hendrix... Nothing else sounded like "Are You Experienced"!
"Like A Rolling Stone"? Like nothing else on the radio.
And my go-to track from this decade, Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". It sounded like a late night gin-soaked romp, you heard it once and needed to hear it again and again.
We're in the era of marketing. Because it's so damn easy. You can just go online and tell your story. And isn't it interesting that as more people are selling, fewer albums are moving...both sales-wise and emotionally. (Album Sales Plummet To Lowest Total In Decades: http://bit.ly/92jZnd)
The key is not to find a way to get your music in front of people. The key is to create music so good that it builds its own audience. You've just go to put the track online and people find you!
This is so hard. It not only requires perspiration, it demands INSPIRATION! And inspiration comes in a flash after tons of hard work. It's not about coming up with a track in service of your image, that's the Pussycat Dolls, which have the lasting power of a popsicle. It's about having a song so good that people need to play it not caring what you look like.
The basic tools have been denied. No one wants to work on songwriting craft, they'd rather come up with something alternative and different. But Hendrix was a very good songwriter. And as out there as Dylan was on record, his songs went on to be hits for numerous people. Hendrix did a great job with "All Along The Watchtower". And Rod Stewart did a great take of Jimi's "Angel".
These songs had verses, and choruses. "All Along The Watchtower" had lyrics that could not be written by Justin Bieber. "Angel" had an innovative intro and changes that hacks would not even risk.
Don't throw out the verse, chorus, bridge paradigm. Refigure them in such a way that your music is still appealing, even though it's slightly different. And great vocals never hurt.
That was the Beatles' genius.
That is your challenge.
We're in a fallow period in mainstream music. No, I don't want to talk about jazz or klezmer, or hear about the obscure person who makes a living playing music most people don't care about that.
Kids would rather spend their time in the world of technology. It's easier. A great idea triumphs. Come on, you don't know a teenager with an Internet idea? Tell that kid to sit down at the piano and bang out a winning tune. Can't be done. Because music is more than conception.
In other words, conception comes after tons of practice. Only after paying your dues, learning everybody else's music, becoming completely comfortable with the territory can you achieve moments of insight, that allow you to create brilliant work almost instantly. Yup, it's just that simple. But the preparation's hell.
And the reason music doesn't drive the culture is the public doesn't believe it's vital. Come on, if you want to know what's going on do you play a record or surf the Web? Used to be the artists were uncompromised, searching for truth, now they're completely sold out, looking for endorsements from the same corporations the public abhors.
Now I'm doing it again. I'm getting too deep.
I'm just saying EVERYBODY knows a hit song when he hears one. And if you can write one, you've got a momentary flash of notoriety. If you can write a few, you've got a career.
If you can't write any, you're a nobody, complaining that no one will pay attention.
Shitty sports teams have shitty attendance.
Meanwhile, the athletes on those teams have years of dedication and practice invested in order to suck. Do you really think just because you pick up an instrument and want to be famous you should be?
We live in an overwhelming world filled with over-zealous marketers trying to sell us mediocre wares. But if we find one good thing, we tell everybody we know about it, we want others to share in the joy.
There I am, repeating myself again.
But you don't want to believe that. You want to believe it's about getting an MBA, or having a spiffy business plan, or Daddy's Money.
It's about the music. Now more than ever.
"Businesses should concentrate on their customers' needs, not on specific products."
"Marketing Myopia" (1960)
Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School
What does the music customer want?
1. To easily be able to hear all recorded music
Now I'm not saying such ability should be free, but this does not undermine the desire.
If you read about a record, if a friend mentions a tune, you should be able to instantly click and sample it. On your desktop, laptop and hand-held device. Not jut a thirty second sample, but the whole thing.
The public hates thirty second samples. They project an image of withholding as opposed to honest, fair dealing. It's like the music industry is a carny attraction behind a curtain that you must pay for, with very little advance knowledge, before you partake.
The best delivery of the ability to hear music is Spotify. Which has been delayed in its American introduction because certain rights holders don't believe in giving anything away for free.
Spotify is a music app, with a full catalog.
LaLa's not bad, it's just that you have to go to Google first, you've got to click a bit.
Rhapsody and Napster provide the end result, with very poor functionality, certainly compared to Spotify. They seem to live in a land where the lessons of Apple are hidden, that usability and functionality are key. Apple has also proven that people will pay premium prices for this usability and functionality. Oh, here's where you tell me it's impossible to compete with free. Well, Apple is competing with a plethora of computers a third the price, yet is extremely profitable and valuable. So, rather than decry theft, the question becomes how can one make a profit by delivering exactly what the public wants?
And just a note. The more access to music people have, the more they consume, the more tickets and merch they buy.
2. A fair shot at a good concert ticket
The number one complaint is not high prices, the big bitch is you just don't get a chance at a good seat. People know the value of a front row seat, they're willing to pay for it, just give them a shot at it.
Sure, it works for the act to make a deal with AmEx, to have a fan club, to put so many layers of sale between the act and the customer that people are turned off instead of turned on, pissed instead of happy.
Yes,happy. People may say the movie is lousy, but most concertgoers are thrilled to be able to attend the event, they fully enjoy it. But, how do they get in?
Until all tickets are available at one time (how many credit cards and fan club memberships do you have to get to be a regular concertgoer, this works against the industry instead of for it), and are priced according to their desirability, fans will be unhappy.
If you desire to appeal solely to your fans, by allowing them to get tickets and requiring them to line up and show ID to get in...this is not a terrible strategy. You're satiating the hard core, while pissing off the public. Then again, most of the public is willing to shrug and say they just don't care that much about going to this show.
What's the number one thing a fan wants?
To be able to go backstage.
Not everyone can provide this, but don't decry platinum packages that allow this, for this is exactly what the public wants.
If you want to make people happy, make yourself available. That could be as simple as a response on a message board or as complicated as going out on a date with a contest winner.
But this is what people want. Think about how you can deliver it.
4. Music that they want to play again and again
Note, this does not mean music that is given a thumbs-up in radio callout research, when a listener hears a short snippet. After all, we've established above that thirty seconds is not enough. If a listener does not get the urge to immediately replay your music, you're not going to have success. That could be playing a three minute ditty again and again, or a complete album again and again. The form is unimportant, it's about the desire.
5. More music by their favorite artists
Shorten the time between releases, deliver more material. Fans want outtakes, rehearsal tapes, live tapes...almost anything and everything. Sure, this is different from what the casual fan or the uninitiated person wants, but these are two different markets, and you make the lion's share of your money from your hard core fans.
Don't think about how you can placate radio, think about how you can placate fans.
This is as simple as a live album of the studio album a month after the original drop date. YouTube broadcasts of live shows. Downloadable content from your Website. You can never have too much for a fan. And don't forget, fans are your number one evangelists, they're the ones who spread the word.
6. More information
Where you are, who you're recording with, the process.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one does this better than John Mayer. And in the process he sacrifices not a whit of credibility or charisma. Somehow, the public feels as if it's in his back pocket and knows him, even though they realize the odds of in-person contact are slim to none.
7. Fewer commercials
Whether it be radio, television or a streaming music service, the public is fed up with commercials. And unlike forty years ago, people have options. Extended runs of commercials are abuse, never forget this.
8. A final concert ticket price
People hate being pecked to death by ducks, which is the equivalent of buying concert tickets today. It's not so much about the cost, as the feeling of being screwed by hidden charges that make no sense. Print at home fee?
Come on. That's inane. I'm using my own paper and ink.
We know it's all about profits. But why can't it be buried in a final price?
9. A belief that the acts are in it for the music, not the money
It's hard to sell an art form if people think it's just a means to an end, a good lifestyle. People won't respect it. People don't respect towels, they don't respect toilet paper. Sure, they're necessary products, the companies that purvey them make a profit, but it's not art.
Art generates profits in a wholly different way than traditional industries. Look at fine art. The canvas may have been produced for essentially nothing, the cost of materials. But only a few years later, it can sell for millions.
Stop calculating how to get to millions of revenue in a spreadsheet by maximizing this and that. Just create something rawly desirable, then the revenue will come. A great hit is more powerful than any marketing campaign.
People don't need music, but they want it. When it's great. When it speaks to them. When it's seen as integral to their lives.
In today's connected world, the customer sees himself as equal to the purveyor. Think of the wrath inflicted upon Wall Street. That's how much people hate the music industry, and that's a problem. Yup, fat cats who screwed us for far too long who want to continue to screw us! You've overpaid for one good track on an overpriced CD, you've overpaid for a shitty seat, but you'd better not steal our product, we're entitled to our income! Huh? Don't make excuses, try and rationalize your behavior, just look how stupid it appears to your customer, without whom you've got nothing.
Record labels want to sell physical recorded product. Or individual tracks. Or albums.
Concert promoters want to sell food and drink.
None of these speak to the underlying needs and desires of the consumer.
The consumer wants music. It doesn't matter what form it's rendered in, as long as the end result pours into one's ears. People are not locked into vinyl or CDs, tracks or albums, they just want the listening experience.
As do they want the experience of hearing live music. Sure, they'll buy food and drink if they're at the show, but those are incidental. How can you make the show so desirable that people will willingly come and not care about parting with their dollars for extras?