Other Coaches

A friend who I’ve done some work with recently hipped me to Jodi Kaplan, who also provides coaching services to artists. Her work (here and here) looks really interesting, and hopefully I’ll get a chance to chat with her, think I could learn a lot from what she’s doing.

Every other person I see doing this work helps me refine exactly what I’m doing, what I’m offering, and how to be better at what I do. Being in a developing and growing field is a fun thing for sure.

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Shirky Posts

Just got hipped to Clay Shirky, courtesy of a twitter friend @activecultures (aka Bill Bragin). Reading some of his posts on his blog, and enjoying them very much. Some posts to read, along with my fave points he makes:

* “The Music Business and the Big Flip” – One of my favorite lines is this: “Most new music is bad, and the users know it. Sites that sell themselves as places for bands to find audiences are analogous to paid placement on search engines — more marketing vehicle than real filter.”

What is fascinating here (other than that if a company like that is well funded it may well be a sales target for me in my day-job) is that it is true! I’ve never understood how sites touting themselves as the best place for unknown bands to find audiences (or vice versa) can succeed by any measure (MySpace excepted). Why do fans want to sort through the chaf themselves?

The other interesting aspect of this article is Shirky’s take on Collaborative Filtering itself. CF, to be a bit geeksnotty, is generally a term of low-repute in the recommendations space. Basically, CF is like first grade math for a recommendations company. If you can do that, great, but you need much more than that to actually properly recommend anything. If you can’t do CF, you are probably in the wrong space. Anyway, Shirky applies CF to mean something very different from that definition – essentially a nested set of lightly applied human filters to replace a traditional A&R department. Great idea. And also the kind of idea that needs wide traction to succeed, and has no obvious business model (aka – it’s hard to see how anyone can get rich building the infrastructure, so hard to see who will build said infrastructure).

* Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content – One of my favorite lines here is “These systems [micropayment providers] didn’t fail because of poor implementation; they failed because the trend towards freely offered content is an epochal change, to which micropayments are a pointless response.”

Again, fascinating. Previously, I was with CalabashMusic, and one of the ideas we threw around there was the idea of variable payments and micropayments for music (this was back “in the day”, when such ideas were actually kind of “new” – although since Shirky’s article is from 2003, looks like we were behind the 8ball even then!). One of the big problems we had was that such payment schemes are logistically tough, as credit card processing fees remain no matter where you put the payment, so micropayments are rarely scalable to a large non-paypal/similarsystem-using audience. So I’ve been skeptical of micropayment sites for that reason. Shirky’s post touches a deeper resonance with me however, since “free” really is replacing paid, no matter the cost, and the issue of mental transactions and percieved value also step in to destroy micropayments.

Final point from this – “It [the ‘net] likewise makes collecting fees harder, and soliciting donations easier.” So the takeaway for artists is – put good material out there, and make it easy for people to donate to your cause – whether by tipping you, buying a ticket to a show, becoming your patron, etc.

* The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed – finally just a quick note to say that the law of unintended consequences lives! And with today’s verdict agains the Pirate Bay, we’ll see what unintended consequences pop up (1000 new pirate bay-lets?)!

Pirates

Just watched this video. Great stuff.  Very interesting questions, and they get at the core question for me – if there are cheaper and more efficient models of distribution that artists can get value from, shouldn’t we all be looking to learn from these models and adopt them? Shouldn’t we be looking for ways to increase the value for artists from these models instead of just shutting the models down?

My own personal pirate question has long been how to use the pirate networks in West Africa to distribute a release. They sell cheaper and get wider distribution than the legit channels of cassette (yes, cassette is still the widest form of music consumption in West Africa) distributors. Part of that is that they do not pay royalties or pay into artist collection societies. However, what if one could go directly to the pirates with a master copy of a new release, strike a deal with them to have them pay some amount to the artist (likely smaller than the “mandatory” rate, but much higher than $0), have them also press a bunch of cassettes for off-stage sale (also popular in West Africa, and lucrative for the artist), and then tell them “god-speed, sell the s$%t out of my album please”.

what would happen?

Ghetto Ruff wizes up

After many years, Ghetto Ruff has wized up. Many years ago, I signed them up to a digital distribution deal on Calabash Music. For many years Calabash was the only place outside of South Africa anyone could “legally” get their GREAT music. Now, only a short time after their music has “disappeared” from Calabash (Mondomix has not yet picked up the license), they have appeared on eMusic. Excellent. 3 albums up, many many more to come.

Macropayments

I just read this post by Cory Doctorow, which I think has some great ideas for musicians. He is taking some of his ideas from extensions of ideas artists have had (he mentions NIN), but I think in the greater clamor now for micropayments, it is also worth examining the idea of macropayments, as part of a general philosophy/idea about how to go about getting paid for your work. The whole post is worth reading, so click thru, but some choice pieces:

“I don’t care about making sure that everyone who gets a copy of my books pays me for them — what I care about is ensuring that the everyone who would pay me decent money for a book has the opportunity to do so.

“In an ideal world, people without a lot of discretionary income are given the electronic edition (which costs [nearly] nothing to distribute) for free. They act like the breezes that loft the dandelion seeds — they go around, telling people about the book and its merits. In this regard, they’re better than random breezes, for they undertake a directed distribution of the book, seeking to bring it to the attention of people who are likely to have a positive response to it.

“Once the book lands in the hands of someone who does have discretionary income, that person is given a multitude of opportunities to engage in a commercial transaction with the writer and her publisher.

“Taking someone’s money is expensive. It incurs transaction and bookkeeping costs and it incurs emotional and social costs. Micropayments have historically focused on eliminating the cash overheads while ignoring the intangible costs. For a writer whose career might span decades and involve hundreds of thousands of readers, these costs cannot be ignored.”

Memo to Majors: Stop Being Stupid (Chapter 3567)

The most concise analysis of how the major labels are being stupid by demanding YouTube’s latest campaign of silence is up on Mashable. The whole way you try to find ways to monetize your stuff is by figuring out what people are doing and monetizing that, not by totally killing the way people are already doing stuff and trying to make them do something else. Exhibit 1: Napster.

I just can’t believe that the labels expect consumers to sit by and wait during their monumental game of chicken with the rest of the internet world. How long will they insist on being idiots? Maybe as long as artists are stuck on the labels?

As a corrallary to that point – Memo To Artists: DIY, Don’t get stuck on a label. Control your own work on all fronts.

Tag & Title Well

As I often tell my clients, you must pay attention to your mp3 (or other digital music file format) tagging and titling. As this post mentions, tags & titles on videos are becoming more and more used by search enginges, and I think/know that search for music will also use these things. So in addition to making sure your metadata is correct (ie – your name & the song name are correctly spelled), you should also tag your music files with keywords in the comments section (and basically anywhere else in the file that is appropriate). As always with these things, don’t overdo it, and be accurate and consistent.