Bandwidth/Features, Sync Ops, Merch and Touring $$$

27Aug09

I knew there was something different about the Bandwidth Conference today when I walked into the library of the University Club and there in the chambers were a group of industry folks enjoying a game of name your favorite album within six degrees of New Jersey.  Dr. Dog, Ween, and the Velvet Underground came up quite a bit.  Mixing in the audience were artists like The Sippy Cups, distributors like E1, portals like imeem, labels like UMG Canada, and A&R execs like the Elevation Group. Icebreaker was led by David Katznelson of Birdman Recording Group who hosts similar monthly mixers, stop by 9/17  7-9pm at the Mariposa Hunter’s Point Yacht Club, details at www.musicatecnomica.com.

THE VALUE OF A FEATURE
Next there were a choice of sessions.  First up on my list was Adam Rabinovitz, VP Marketing, IODA on digital music marketing.   For if you want to get your music online, the path is via Tunecore, CD Baby, INgrooves, and of course IODA.  But with 60,000 artists and time to champion only 10-30, beyond the one sheet, IODA is only taking artists with a library of content, a volume of work who are engaging with fans and potential fans, who have a formulated fan marketing plan that shows an understanding of the digital space, and a compelling story, enthusiasm, to pitch the programmers to get featured. Adam shared the success story of the Shanghai Restoration Project:  “In 7/05, IODA secured a two week free track feature (Babylon of the Orient ) on MSN music for the Shanghai Restoration Project. A brand manager for France’s Kenzo Parfums discovered the song and emailed the artist Dave Liang.  His responsiveness resulted in a $50,00 sync license and led to a growing interest abroad which caught the attention of the iTunes programmers and lead to the coveted iTunes feature.  Meg the #1 pop artist in Japan discovered Liang as the iTunes Japan single of the week and hired him as her producer.  China Records hired him to remix their tracks.  And Sandisk shipped 3mm with song bundled on it.  In just 3.5 years, Liang has sold in the high six figures.”  The moral of the story is features lead to revenue opportunities, they’re worth pursuing.  Liang spent less than 10% on PR/marketing, he hired a publicist, experimented with one physical album on Amazon, and engaged IODA to promote tracks on the blogs (MOG, Stereogum, BrooklynVegan, Pitchfork, Idolator), podcasts, CNET’s MP3.com.  (IODA’s Promonet has 20,000 promotional tracks, 400 distribution partners/stores e.g. www.thinkindie.com)  But had significantly more success with YouTube videos linked to iTunes/Amazon shopping carts.  IODA has deals with Spotify and Rhapsody – “clearly the industry is moving toward access and away from ownership – don’t need all these things on my hard drive.”  Adam went on to discuss how all genres are not created equal.  Jazz and Blues are climbing internationally as well as domestically but you’re going to be more challenged pitching the cornered obscure listening audience of ShoeGaze DreamPop than Electronica Hip Hop World Music.  For successful genre promotion look to Last.fm and Pandora for their hearty subgenres, create playlists that include peer groups, remix with popular tracks, if possible cross-promote with other genres, tune into hypemachine to find out where in the world shoegazers are listening (e.g. Japan), RSS to google reader, Brain Zisk’s Collecta.  iTunes is a poor discovery tool, eMusic might be better.  Noone is happy with the numbers from MySpace, not a lot of money from the free streams, much more success with YouTube shortcodes for a call to action to buy ringtones, although market for ringtones falling off.  IODA likes using Thumbplay for shortcodes, works with all the carriers.  Hard to generate sales without a feature.  If band is touring, programmers are going to listen more.  Its hard to market a band who is not touring.  With video everywhere, the live experience is becoming more relevant.  Need to lower expectations for non-touring band who doesn’t want to talk to fans – selling new records via long tail.  Trend toward releasing vinyl with digital downloads, consumers might even be willing to pay $1 more for digital download but not $5, right now free, Tricycle Records doing this with all albums.  iTunes bundles tracks over 10 minutes with albums, affects classical most, but is fastest growing genre, classical consumers no longer afraid of digital, perhaps moving from a 30 to a 60 second sample.

WORKING UP THE NUMBERS
Next up was Corey Denis, VP Marketing for reapandsow.  She talked about the data available from setting up profiles on Yelp, Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, Myspace, FB…and feeding them into FriendFeed.  Talked about using a trackable bit.ly link for ticket sales and bandcamp or promonet.  Speaker favorites are rockdex and bandmetrics.  Nextbigsound and BigChampagne were audience favorites.  Push out to Mediabase, AOL Radio, Y!, Streetpulse, imeem, Slacker, Pandora.  MySpace doesn’t give any data to bands – should sell data in aggregate if issues with the privacy laws. Zip codes are valuable for target marketing online and for booking tours.  Live music is more important than ever to drive $$$. Use trackable bit.ly links.  Used to need numbers for one sheet to send to retailers.  Can’t get numbers from radio.  With this data can tell a different story:  800 avatars attended concert in Second Life – will get attention of digital retailer.  Can’t get featured in iTunes without a compelling story.  iTunes has 40 genres x 12 genre features/week.   Define your strategy:  is it to get an iTunes feature, a sync license, 50,000 in sales.   Services like mailchimp and icontact tell you how many email opens.  Learn where your fans are.  500 in a zip code with an email open rate of 80% can help you land a gig.  Fanmail Tier 1 with white list statusC-  do an A/B subject line test to top 10% on list to see which subject line has better open rate and use it on the remaining 80%.    Open rate should be no less than 15% when fans opt-in.  (contrast to direct mail open rate of 5%)  If less than 15%, doing something wrong – need to communicate regularly, send something at least once a month.  Have a pipeline of content ready to feed fans.  Offer a free track for updating info.  Plan for a 12-16 week campaign.  A bit.ly CTR of 5-10% shows you have action going on.  Touch fans via lobby polls – how you heard about the show.

INDIE LABEL POV
Back in the Main Hall, everyone was lounging on overstuffed green leather sofas as the Josh Rosenfeld of Barsuk Records gave his overview of the market:  105,000 tracks came out last year, there is going to be a shake out of labels and bands.  Take time to have a relationship with the programmers at iTunes.  Last.fm, imeem accelerating a process for which the infrastructure has not caught up with yet.  Artists need to recognize than fans are supporting them.

ARTIST POV
Then Bob Mould, Mike Relm and Ian Rogers, Topspin took the stage and the audience squrimed around with a demured hush – clearly there were many excited fans in the room.  Mike Relm’s work similar to that of Eclectic Method and Girl Talk creating VJ mashups (except on Adobe Premiere) was discovered on YouTube by Blue Man Group who engaged him as the opening act for their tour.  Bob Mould long-time artist now splits time between parallel careers as VJ Blowoff and live performances.  Quoting Jeff Jarvis – we are moving from mass market to mass niches.  In the 70s the labels would spend 3-4 albums building up artist, but with the deregulation of the FCC, very large radio concerns developed that started to dictate to the labels, now all you ned is one big hit, no need for the album when a la carte singles are available.  So you need to instill value to fan base, fans want to support the artist like patrons of the arts.  People will pay for connection to the artist. Topspin as a model.  (Then Ian quoted some clever things said at Midem and NARM). Bob – started blogging as a way to overcome writer’s block, discipline of watering the plant everyday.  Turned comments off.  Now don’t blog as much.  FB closing door on personal blogs.  No longer feel the need to broadcast everything.  If there’s a performance on Saturday will email blast on Tuesday, FB blast on Wednesday, tweet it out on Thursday, and text on Friday.  Reads 150 music blogs a week, curator catering to niche culture, fans post photos from Blowoff parties on FB.  Artists have a right to their privacy – its a personal choice.  Also don’t like when people tweet at concerts.  Need to be in the moment with the artist.  It’s distracting even if tweeting about how great the concert is.  Ian – all artists are different, need to be authentic.  Mike on the other hand has a close relationship with fans, reads comments, responds, sees why one video has 100,000 views when another has only 20,000, spends 25% of time talking to fans, creating derivative works, asserting fair use, not monetizing videos, only received one takedown notice on YouTube, more studios approaching Mike with work.  Ian – hardcore fans paid $$$ for Beastie Boy’s Paul’s Boutique  with Director’s Commentary..just for fun sent a 7″ to everyone that bought the deluxe editions.

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