Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


June 29, 2007

6 Ways to Fix Online Music Radio

Kurt Hanson, publisher of the Radio and Internet Newsletter, wrote a great piece that was published in the Los Angeles Times last week. It was about webcasting and six ways the music industry can solve this whole online royalty rate hike mess that threatens to go into effect July 15.
Here are my favorite parts of the article:

Rethink your approach to peer-to-peer file sharing: Record labels in the 1930s tried to prevent radio stations from playing their LPs because they thought it would hurt sales -- after all, why would someone buy the disc if the radio was playing it for free?

As it turned out, airplay actually helped sales! The Bing Crosby records that got airplay sold a lot more copies than those that didn't. The same may be true of P2P. Remember, the music industry's best year ever coincided with P2P's strongest year ever (i.e., the year Napster was at its peak). People sampled vast quantities of music via P2P and they bought the stuff they liked on CD. It's counterintuitive but it might be true.

Quit being a jerk to your customers: Every month, the record industry causes an untold amount of pain for thousands of consumers by suing them for exposing song files via P2P services. You're causing tears, heartbreak and stress; you're taking away vacation savings and college funds. And you do it in such a way -- a slow steady stream of lawsuits every month -- that you derive virtually no worthwhile public relations value from it. You guys simply severely damage thousands of people's lives every month because you can.

Embrace your friends: Virtually all Internet radio properties today were launched by music fans -- people who love their genre (or genres) of music and want to see the musicians and labels involved succeed. They've designed Internet radio products that are, in fact, getting people excited about music again.

Regarding this whole royalty imbroglio, to quote Jack Bauer, "You're making the wrong play." Instead of asking for a royalty rate so high that it would bankrupt webcasters and shut them down, as you did in your successful case to the Copyright Royalty Board, you'd be better off offering webcasters a livable royalty rate and a plan to work together to sell more product to consumers. If you guys do, you'll be surprised how effective working together can be!

Hooray to Kurt Hanson!

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:05 AM   1 comments


June 27, 2007

Internet Radio Day of Silence

In case you aren't already aware, today is a "Day of Silence" for many Internet music radio stations. The voluntary muting is to protest a recent decision by the Copyright Royalty Board to substantially raise the royalty rates paid by online music broadcasters, effective July 15.
Here's an article from Slashdot.org that explains more:

Thousands of U.S. webcasters plan to turn off the music and go silent this Tuesday, June 26th, to draw attention to an impending royalty rate increase that, if implemented, would lead to the virtual shutdown of this country's Internet radio industry. In March, the Copyright Royalty Board announced that it would raise royalties for Internet broadcasters, moving them from a per-song rate to a per-listener rate. The increase would be made retroactive to the beginning of 2006 and would double over the next five years. Internet radio sites would be charged per performance of a song. A "performance" is defined as the streaming of one song to one listener; thus a station that has an average audience of 500 listeners racks up 500 "performances" for each song it plays.

SaveNetRadio.org is a coalition of artists, labels, listeners, and webcasters determined to persuade Congress to lower the rates before the July 15 enactment date. Visit the site to learn more about this important issue and to find out how you can help. Also, check out the many news stories being published on the subject.

This is a complicated issue, one I'm still trying to wrap my head around and comprehend. What isn't clear to me yet is how this would effect online broadcasters that play indie artists who give permission to play their songs without royalty compensation (via the Podsafe Music Network, for instance).

I'll do a little more digging. If you know something about this aspect, please leave a comment.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:10 AM   1 comments


June 25, 2007

The Hottest Music Trend Right Now

I get asked this question a lot: "What style of music is selling really well now?" or "What genre is creating the biggest buzz?"

And every time I hope and pray the person is asking for the right reason. If an artist wants to know what's hot because they're curious and want to be more aware of the overall musical landscape, fine. That's great.

But more often than not, they ask because they're looking for a quick fix way to tap into a genre that's currently popular. BIG MISTAKE!

Here's the deal: The music you create and promote should be a natural extention of who you are. If you're at the point where you're ready to record new music or put together a live act, you should already have a handle on what makes you tick musically. That's the genre you need to stick with.

Consider the incredible online buzz created by Paul Potts, who recently won Britain's Got Talent, the U.K. version of American Idol. He sings opera. That's right, opera! Watch this video of his audition, and then you tell me he should have asked what genre was most popular or more likely to "sell" on this show.


Nearly 1,700,000 people have watched this one video clip of him. Hundreds of thousands more have watched his other clips, including his winning performance in the finals.

He didn't create this buzz because opera is hot and he's riding a trend. People are drawn to him because of his passion and talent. And because of his appealing story: an average Joe, who's awkward and lacks confidence, wows a nation with the power of his voice.

So, go ahead and look at the pop charts to stay informed. But when it comes to performing your own music, listen to your heart and stick with your core musical strengths.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 8:56 AM   16 comments


June 22, 2007

The Top 4 Music Sellers

Want to know where the most music is being sold? According to a survey of 40,000 people by NPD Group, here are the top four music retailers in the United States today:

1) Wal-Mart (15.8% of total U.S. music sales)
2) Best Buy (13.8%)
3) iTunes (9.8%)
4) Amazon.com (6.7%)

Note that these figures include both online and brick and mortar store sales, and both CD and download sales.

Despite their steady decline in recent years, physical CD sales still dominate with 86 percent of all music sales.

The biggest surprise with this survey is that iTunes moved up for the first time to surpass Amazon in music sales.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 1:39 PM   0 comments


June 21, 2007

Bob on NPR's 'Morning Edition' today

Hey, I wanted to share some good news. I was featured in a short radio piece today on Morning Edition, which is broadcast to more than 12 million people on 600 NPR stations across the U.S. and beyond.


You can listen to the three and a half minute segment here:
www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=11250011

It was about the recent FCC payola ruling (which I wrote about last week) and, more specifically, Clear Channel's new attempt to give more exposure to local and independent musicians. But the agreement they ask artists to make is raising a lot of questions.

Reporter Neda Ulaby used quotes from three people in this great piece, so she could only use sound bites from each of the interviews. While I take a "pro exposure" stance, don't think for a moment that I devalue the worth of an indie artist's music.

I don't think musicians should always give up everything or "play for free" just for the "exposure." You should read and be concerned about the legal agreements you enter into. But don't let these concerns scare you and keep you from taking advantage of true exposure opportunities.

I've found that a lot of independent musicians are overly paranoid about people -- and corporations -- stealing their stuff. But in reality, their biggest problem isn't copyright infringement. It's obscurity.

If Clear Channel (or any commercial radio station) is willing to give you airplay in an attempt to improve its image as a do-gooder, I think you should strongly consider it. As I mention in the NPR piece, the worse case scenario isn't really all that bad, in my opinion.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:06 AM   1 comments


June 20, 2007

Hilary Clinton & Celine Dion on Viral Marketing

Want a great lesson on how to use the Internet to create a buzz? Keep an eye on the U.S. presidential campaign over the next 18 months. During the 2004 campaign we discovered the power of bloggers. This time around it seems video content will be king.
In an effort to show her softer side, Hilary Clinton ran a lighthearted contest to pick a new campaign song. Check out this video from a couple of weeks ago (which has been viewed nearly 300,000 times).

Also take a look at the announcement video on Sen. Clinton's site, which spoofs The Sopranos finale and makes nice use of former pres Bill and Soprano Johnny Sack.

All of this lead to a big climax: the announcement of the winning song ... which turned out to be an upbeat anthem by, of all people, Canadian songstress Celine Dion.

Here's what was right with this song contest idea:

Hilary did indeed loosen up. In these clips she shows that she has a sense of humor and the ability to not take everything so seriously (something her campaign people have been desperately trying to convey).

Kudos to her for including some of the video submission clunkers and particularly the negative comments people made about the song contest -- important aspects of open and transparent, community-driven communication. Most politicians (and corporations) try too hard to control their intended message and suppress critical comments -- much to their chagrin.

The Sopranos spoof was clever, and the use of Bill, Chelsea and Johnny Sack added some smiles.

Now for the bad: Crowning Celine Dion, the queen of female power ballad sap, as the winner was a mismatch. When I think of web-savvy, forward-thinking voters ready for a change in the White House ... Celine doesn't immediately spring to mind.

Viral buzz is all about connecting with a group of people with a similar worldview. Trying to overlap Hilary-supporting Democrats with Sopranos devotees and Celine Dion fans was a stretch by anyone's imagination.

Another important aspect of today's viral buzz creation is community involvement. While I believe Hilary did welcome new song suggestions, the voting was mainly to choose an existing popular song. Had she opened it up to songwriters and solicited a brand-new campaign song, that would have added a lot more "community involvement."

So, when concocting your own online video buzz theme, make sure your concept ties in directly to your identity AND the audience you're wanting to reach.

-Bob

YouTube music video promotionJoin the YouTube revolution. Read How to Use Video to Promote Your Music Online. Learn how to create, promote and profit from your own low-cost music videos.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:21 PM   2 comments


June 19, 2007

How to Make Money With Your Music

One of the biggest indie music career obstacles I hear about is a lack of cash flow. Well, in my latest podcast you'll get some frank and perhaps surprising advice on the subject from Derek Sivers of CD Baby and Jeremy Morrison of the indie label Cooking Vinyl.
This episode features a short audio excerpt from a panel I participated in at the East Coast Music Awards called "DIY for Profit." It was a good one.

Note: You can download the MP3 audio of the entire panel (a full hour and 12 minutes long) as a free bonus when you purchase the new edition of the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook.

Please go check out this and other episodes of my Artist Empowerment Radio podcast now.

-Bob

how to make money as an indie musicianIn How to Make a Living as a Full-Time Indie Musician, I interview indie music success story John Taglieri on what it takes to support yourself and live the independent music dream.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:00 PM   1 comments


June 18, 2007

How to Make a Name for Yourself as an Artist

What can you learn from a guy who's been wearing a nametag 24/7 for more than 2,400 days straight? A lot when that guy is Scott Ginsberg (who just got some great national media exposure when he appeared on ABC's 20/20 last Friday night). Watch as Scott and I explore what it takes to stand out in a crowd:


If you like that, watch this other cool video clip I did with Scott at the same venue.

-Bob

YouTube music video promotionJoin the YouTube revolution. Read How to Use Video to Promote Your Music Online. Learn how to create, promote and profit from your own low-cost music videos.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:11 AM   0 comments


June 14, 2007

BurnLounge Burning Out?

People have been telling me about BurnLounge.com for years. And I've always resisted getting involved or even writing about the service. Something about the multilevel business model never sat well with me.


Here's part of an article from Digital Media Wire (one of many news stories making the rounds online):

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a complaint in a California federal court against BurnLounge, alleging the digital music store is in fact an illegal pyramid scheme.

New York-based BurnLounge charges users between $30 and over $400 a year for subscriptions to its service, which allows them to create their own digital music stores.

But the FTC said the company provides payments mainly for recruiting new participants, rather than on the retail sale of products -- which the FTC alleges would result in most participants losing money.

I know this is a hot issue, depending on which side of the fence you sit. So I don't want to get side-tracked debated the pros and cons of BurnLounge. Just read up on it and make your own decision.

-Bob

Promote Your Music on MySpace
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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:34 AM   11 comments


June 13, 2007

Movies & Music: 48 Hour Style

For the third year in a row, I participated in the 48-Hour Film Project. It's an annual adrenaline rush where teams of filmmakers pull a genre out of a hat and are then given a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue they must incorporate into a short film. Then the clock starts and everyone has 48 hours to write, shoot and edit a 5- to 7-minute film.

This year I formed a team with my old pal Lee Mueller. We co-wrote the plot and script. He did all the camera work and editing, and I directed. We had a fabulous cast and crew. It screened last night in St. Louis and got a great response from the audience.

Check out the YouTube version below. And keep your ears peeled for a great original song written and sung by Matt Logan, who took our crazy plot line and crafted the perfect song for the soundtrack. (Matt also did the voice of the doll and appears as the guitar player on the back of the truck.)

Here are the details we had to work with:

Genre: Road movie
Character: Ryan Coccinelle, entomologist (an insect expert)
Prop: A doll
Line of dialogue: "Don't look now, we may have trouble."


This was one of those awesome group efforts that everyone who participated will remember for years to come. Want to get involved? The 48-Hour Film Project takes place in cities across the U.S. and around the world. Check the web site for upcoming cities and dates.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:53 AM   2 comments


June 12, 2007

Is Payola Settlement Good for Indies?

I guess I must have been sleeping in March when news broke that four major radio companies -- Clear Channel, CBS Radio, Entercom and Citadel -- agreed to pay a $12.5 million payola settlement with the FCC.

Jonathan Adelstein, an FCC Commissioner and amateur musician, has been credited with working out the settlements. "I love music and I want radio to sound fresh, dynamic and real," he said. "But payola gets in the way of authenticity because money drives the music, not its quality."

Another FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, said pay-for-play "cheats radio listeners and will not be tolerated." Radio, he said, is "supposed to be our pipeline to exciting, local undiscovered acts -- not more nationalized pablum from big media companies."

Wow. Is this really a government bureaucracy talking? I'm floored!

Here's an interesting side note: In a separate deal with the American Association of Independent Music, the stations pledged to give 4,200 hours of free airtime to independent and local artists.

This is an encouraging development. During my two trips to Nova Scotia I was impressed by the way the Canadian government supports homegrown talent and requires radio stations to play a certain percentage of Canadian artists. It looks like some version of that principle is coming to the U.S.

What do you think? Is it the dawn of a new day for radio? Or just a Band-Aid to temporarily fix a broken system?

-Bob

Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook
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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:46 PM   4 comments


June 11, 2007

Music Marketing in the Digital Age

A recent article on the Digital Media Wire site offered a short list of tips for promoting music in the digital age. Here are my four favorites:


  • Utilize MySpace and other web sites to their full potential and don't be afraid to give your music away for free. If one million people listen to your songs online, don't see it as you just lost $1 million in potential sales. See it as you just got radio play in 100 markets.

  • You have to learn new ways of viral marketing, including widgets and blog search engines. And don't be afraid to experiment with putting your music in new places and contexts.

  • Look at what the most progressive record labels are doing with their artists, like Canadian Nettwerk and Barenaked Ladies, and try to copy it.

  • Good music is still good music. Content is still king. True talent will prevail somehow. You just have to keep an open mind about it.
Solid ideas to keep in mind as you find your place on the digital music frontier!

-Bob

Guerrilla Music Marketing HandbookWanna create a music buzz online? Check out my special report 50 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Music on the Internet.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 1:40 PM   0 comments


June 08, 2007

Co-Create With Your Fans

Are your music fans active partners with you in creating your music and promotion? If not, they should be.

In chapter 5 of the new Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook I write about the importance of co-creating with your fans. It's a new, interactive world ... so you'd better embrace it. Gone are the days when consumers were passive absorbers of marketing messages. More and more they're becoming hands-on participants.

Case in point:



Last week I asked subscribers to my Buzz Factor ezine to send me photos, video and/or audio of them endorsing my books. Something more concrete than the traditional text-only "I love Bob's book." -Jane Doe.

Steve Dockendorf took the idea and ran with it. First, he sent me the photo above. Then he recorded a simple video and posted it on YouTube at
www.youtube.com/watch?v=7moUCE56oKU
(Be sure to turn up the volume to hear it.)

Watch it and see how he cleverly plugs his own music and web site and asks for listener feedback. Also note that, by promoting my books, he gets a bonus boost of exposure from me talking about him!

Here's another one -- a digital pic of Scott Macmillan enjoying my Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook:



Scott is a renowned instrumentalist, composer and conductor from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Since he took the trouble to pose for this picture and send it, you can bet I'll plug his web site as well.

See how this co-creation thing works? Make this same kind of offer to your fans.

And, if you'd like to see your image and link on these pages, send me your best digital photos or a link to a video of you saying something nice about my books and ideas.

So ... get out there and co-create!

-Bob

Guerrilla Music Marketing HandbookWanna create a music buzz online? Check out my special report 50 Ways to Promote and Sell Your Music on the Internet.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:49 AM   2 comments


June 06, 2007

The Power of Face to Face

I was reminded of a powerful principle this past weekend. A principle you can use to further your music career.

I spent five action-packed days in New York City cramming an insane amount of activity into a short time frame. I attended and spoke at PMA's Publishing University, walked the endless aisles of booths at Book Expo America, and spent more than eight hours giving two indie music publicity workshops with PR dynamo Ariel Hyatt.

Yes, it was tiring. And yes, just thinking about airports and shuttle buses and luggage makes me cringe. But the people aspect of all this frenzy made it all worth it. (Check out my Flickr page to see some of the highlights.)

I hope you feel the same way about connecting in person with your fans and music business friends. Face to face interaction is vital!

For several years, my primary connection to the public was online. I spent hours on my computer at home spreading my words and ideas across the Internet. I still do. And that approach was proven to be very effective.

But it will never beat speaking with real, live human beings in person. I traveled more in the past year than I did in the previous five years combined (thanks in large part to the encouragement of my girlfriend, Pooki). And the experiences have been invaluable.

If you attended last weekend's publicity workshop, you know what I mean. We all learned more from each other in a live group setting then we ever could have through any high-tech "virtual" setting. Meeting people I had only known before through email was priceless.

So, make the effort to attend music conferences and workshops. Spend face time with your fans. Introduce yourself to people at networking functions. You know the drill.

Nothing is on the schedule at the moment, but keep an eye on my travel and speaking schedule. Hopefully, I'll get to meet you in person soon at an event near you.

Happy travels!

-Bob

Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook
Check out the revised and updated edition of Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook, with four new chapters on Internet music promotion. Get more details here.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:13 PM   1 comments