Opposition to online streaming has been intense this summer. Songwriters, performers, and various music companies have spoken out against the meager royalties the streaming giants Spotify and Pandora dish out to musicians. Many prominent and influential artists have taken their music off Spotify. It seems that these streaming companies are in the business of fixing and maintaining their reputation against the onslaught of musicians and have little time left over for developing and improving their core competency – streaming music.

This past week, Pandora won an important court case against ASCAP, which solidly reiterates what was already written in copyright law. Spotify is an “interactive streaming service,” meaning users can skip as many songs as they like and choose what song or artist they want to listen to at any given moment. Because of this function, it almost replaces the need to own music. Musicians therefore have the right to choose to license or not to license. Pandora, on the other hand, is a “non-interactive streaming service,” and functions similarly to terrestrial radio. Like terrestrial radio, there is a compulsory license in place, requiring artists to license their music if they are associated with a PRO like ASCAP. This is why you hear about artists taking their music off Spotify, but not Pandora.

So what does this court case actually mean? Basically it removes the possibility of getting through any loopholes to take music off Pandora. If an artist wants to boycott Pandora, their only option is to remove all their music from performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC. Publishers and songwriters are not allowed not allowed to make separate, market-driven deals with Pandora if they are also a member of a collecting society. Pandora had made private copyright deals with prominent publishers like Sony, EMI, Universal, and BMG, requiring the streaming company to pay a higher royalty rate to their artists. This court decision will most likely void those deals and prevent any similar deals from happening in the future.

While most artists wouldn’t dream of taking their music off their PRO, the possibilities for direct licensing are becoming easier with new technology. In a few years, big record labels and publishing companies may have these functions in-house.

For more information on this topic, check out these two articles from Digital Music News (article 1, article 2).

With all this conflict in the streaming industry, there is little room for improvement and progression. Streaming companies are fighting rights holders and rights holders are speaking out against unfair royalties. Not to mention, the lawsuits are creating a further rift between modern artists and the copyright law, serving as a confirmation to many that copyright law is not caught up with modern society.  This battle between the law, the streaming services, and the musicians does not equate to a healthy industry. Streaming companies will stagnate if they refuse to grow with artists, and artists will lose out on opportunity if they insist on shutting streaming services down their early in the game. Surely we can move forward and find a solution together?

What are your thoughts on music streaming? Should artists be concerned about taking their music down? Does the exposure make up for the small royalties? Can this ever be a healthy industry?

Streaming service Rdio and Cumulus Media announced a partnership on Monday. This marks the second great partnership opportunity this summer for Rdio; the first being with Live Nation back in July. Being the second largest radio operator in the US with 525 station, Cumulus can offer Rdio much-needed awareness to compete with more established services like Spotify and Pandora. In exchange, Cumulus claimed a significant equity stake in Rdio’s parent company Pulser Media.

Most significantly, this deal will bring Rdio into the world of free, ad-supported streaming – a feature that has been absent from the Rdio service since its start in 2010. Currently, Rdio costs $5 per month for desktop streaming and $10 per month for phone and tablet access. While Rdio does offer a free trial, it cannot compare to the free versions of Spotify and Pandora. Cumulus boasts 1,500 sales agents around the country and will use this power to sell commercials for the new, free Rdio streaming service. The two companies will share in the advertising revenue. Rdio’s free version is expected to launch at the end of 2013 though the details of the service are still not clear.

“The biggest challenge we face is really awareness,” Mr. Larner said. The company has obviously been trying to address this concern with its partnership with Live Nation. Everyone is talking about streaming, but usually the only services that get a mention are Pandora, Spotify, and now the new iTunes Radio. With 525 stations across the US, Cumulus can promote Rdio to hundreds of thousands of music fans.

For Cumulus, the deal marks a significant step into the digital environment. In the past, they have supplied streams to Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio, but that deal was simply a “marriage of convenience,” according to Cumulus executive, Lewis Dickey. “We’re trying to be much more active in the audio ecosystem than just passively handing our streams over,” Mr. Dickey said. “That has severe limitations in terms of our ability to monetize.” Apparently, the deal with Rdio will allow Cumulus to do much more in the digital radio environment. Cumulus will certainly be creating specialized playlists for Rdio from its terrestrial radio stations.

With all the negative talk around streaming services like Spotify and Pandora this summer, it is refreshing to hear of a smaller service trying to move forward and adapt to the changing streaming environment. What are your thoughts on Rdio? Do you think partnerships are a good way forward for streaming services? Do you think streaming services be financially successful on their own?

Getting your music on college radio is a great starting point for independent musicians. It’s more accessible than normal radio stations, but still provides the added awareness and reach. Check out this interview with EricTheReDD, the former general manager of WJSC-FM (Johnson State College, Vermont).

When you open up a mailer, what are you looking for? Anything that bothers you that isn’t included frequently enough? Anything included too frequently?

First and foremost; I need an album. Some people only send maxi-singles (lead-off song with one or two extra tracks) and those always bummed us out; especially since we usually end up receiving the full album anyway and it just wastes space. A close second is the PK. I can’t count the number of times I’d receive a mailer with no PK. EPIC records was notorious for this (along with wastefully large mailer packaging). If you don’t include a PK I don’t know who the fuck you are and I don’t know why the fuck I should care. Sorry, but if you’re not going to go through the trouble of including a little bit of info about yourself then I’m not going to give a shit about whatever happens to be on that disc. I don’t have the time to go online and try to look that info up myself. It’s just not going to happen.

One thing I loved, on the other hand, was labels that sent us more than one copy of the album. ROADRUNNER, one of my absolute favorites to work with (for a multitude of reasons) would frequently send at least two copies of all their releases; one for the music vault and another to use as a give-a-way.

Is it possible to include too much in a mailer?

Yes and no… It’s too much when your PK is more than a page long. It’s too much to read and the extra paper is just going to clutter up my office and get tossed. You can also go a little overboard with extras (guitar pics, bracelets, band photo, etc) but stuff we can use for give-a-ways like that is rarely held against you. It’s just more stuff we have to keep track of. A couple things are nice but two dozen guitar pics are just going to make a mess.

Who should the package be addressed to? There are often program directors, music directors, and general managers at radio stations. Who is the best person to get a hold of for a shot at being played on air?

If it’s a local station or you know the specific DJs that may like your stuff, address it to them! Otherwise, there are almost always genre-specific sub-directors. Like I mentioned, while I was also Music Director I was also the genre-specific Hard Rock / Metal / Punk director. Anything that fit in there would go to me. Addressing it to the MUSIC DIRECTOR is perfectly valid as well; the MD will open the package and assign it to the proper genre director. The PROGRAM DIRECTOR is typically in charge of the schedule and, when applicable, the automation system that runs when DJs aren’t on the air. PD is a tedious and mind-numbing job so don’t send it to them. Their material comes from the charts, which are determined by what the DJs are playing locally, nationally, and globally.

CHECK OUT CMJ (COLLEGE MUSIC JOURNAL) for more info about the specific genres. It’s a great resource for getting to know how college radio works. The subscriptions are expensive but it’s a veritable who’s who in the land outside of mainstream media.

To learn more about how to get your music on college radio, check out the full interview on Hypebot.

 

Have you ever gotten your music on college radio? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Everyone wants to make it in the music industry. However, life as a musician is not an easy path. It can be extremely fulfilling to be able to make money by doing something you love, so here are some great tips to help you achieve your goals. Keep in mind that there is no easy solution. It will take hard work and dedication!

1: You Need To Have Undeniable Talent

The first thing you need in place, is a good level of talent. Without this, your music career most likely won’t be very long lived. Sure if you have a strong marketing team in place and they spin a good angle on why people should like you, you don’t have to be the most talented musician in the world to see some level of success. That said, do you really want to be that person who has more people disliking them then supporting them? My guess is you don’t, even if you are financially successful.

Talent comes before all else. Until you’ve got a good level of talent, you shouldn’t do anything to promote your music. You want people’s first impression of you to be a good one, as it’s not a easy job relaunching yourself to a group of people who have heard you but weren’t very impressed. Chances are they won’t try and listen to you the second time around, even if you tell them that you’ve improved.

As you may notice, I didn’t just put “you should be talented”. I mentioned you needundeniable talent. There are lots of levels of talent, and while you can be quite successful with a ‘good’ level of talent, if you’ve undeniable talent (combined with the other factors in this list), it’ll be hard for you not to have some sort of financial success in the music industry. In all honesty, there are a ton of talented musicians out there who make really good music that will make their target audience very happy. That said, there are a lot fewer musicians whose talent is generally undeniable. If you can get your talent to this level, you’re going to be a lot closer to your music career goals.

2: Drive And Motivation Should Be Flowing Through Your Veins

Next up, you need drive and motivation to push your music career forward. This is just as important as the above step, as without drive, your talent isn’t going to count for much.

You could be the world’s best singer, rapper, or bass player. If however you haven’t got the motivation to get your music recorded, to promote it in any way, or to generally do the things needed for a successful music career, then you might as well be talentless. Because you won’t make a success of yourself in the public eye. If you’re only interest in making good music for yourself, that’s fair enough. But I’m guessing as you read Music Think Tank, you want more then just that.

Making it in the music business takes a lot of hard work and effort on your behalf, so if you aren’t willing to invest the time needed, don’t expect to get very far at all.

Now I know someone in the comments is going to say that not everyone has a lot of time to dedicate to their music career, and I understand that. That said, do what you can. If you’ve the other factors in place and you dedicate as much time to your music as humanly possible, you can still have some level if success. It may take longer to achieve then it would for someone who has 7 hours a day to dedicate to their music and who has more disposable income. Furthermore, you might not even reach the same heights they achieve. But if you dedicate a few nights a week after you’ve finished work and put the kids to bed, as well as half a day on the weekend to what you need to do, there’s no reason you can’t make at least an additional income from your music. It is possible, but you need to put the work in. Now the question remains; Do you want it enough?

To read the full article, visit Music Think Tank.

Trent Reznor, a musician who has been known for his opposition to the major label model, has returned to Columbia Records for his upcoming album, “Hesitation Marks.” His other project, How to Destroy Angels, is also through Columbia. So why would Reznor go back to the major label model he was so against only a few years ago? The truth is that there is no right or wrong path in the music industry. There is only the path that works best for you at the time. What was right for Reznor’s last album may not be right for this album.

Reznor split with Interscope back in 2007 and founded his own record label to self-release his music through his website and social media channels in 2008. With this model, Reznor was able to have a more direct connection with his fans and keep 100% of the profits from record sales. Here’s what Reznor said regarding major labels back in 2007:

“I have been under recording contracts for 18 years and have watched the business radically mutate from one thing to something inherently very different and it gives me great pleasure to be able to finally have a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.”

In 2012, How to Destroy Angels signed with Columbia Records. This new project, with Reznor’s wife, Mariqueen Maandig, and long-time collaborator, Atticus Ross, would certainly benefit from major label promotion and marketing as well as the radio play. Apparently Reznor had a positive experience with Columbia, as he’s decided to work with them for the NIN album set to release September 3.

“It really comes down to us experimenting and trying new things to see what best serves our needs. Complete independent releasing has its great points but also comes with shortcomings.”

So what are some of the benefits and shortcomings of the independent and major label model? The independent model give the artist complete control over their career. They will keep 100% of the profit from recordings and be able to sell directly to their fans. Any marketing efforts will seem more genuine because fans will know it is coming directly from the artist. However, the independent artist is also limited by the freedom they strive for. The artist is only one person and can only get so much done in a day. They are limited by their connections and their knowledge of the industry.

The major label model provides the artist with a knowledgeable and well-connected team. The artist will be able to effectively reach international markets through the marketing efforts of the major label. In return, the artist must give up some control and a percentage of revenue. For some artists, however, getting a smaller piece of a larger pie ends up being more fitting to their situation.

“To have a team of people that are better at that [marketing and distribution] than I am worldwide…that felt like it was worth slicing the pie up monetarily. Our main agenda at the moment was to make people aware of it in the right context versus a little bit more money we might or might not make.”

“And so far it’s been pleasantly pleasant. Having people that actually kind of know what they’re talking about. Having a team, it’s been nice.”

The music industry is striving for a “new model;” a one-size-fits-all solution that would bring success to all artists. Some say that direct to fan is the way of the future, others highlight the indie label or the label alternatives provided by lifestyle companies like Red Bull and Converse, and many disregard the major labels as backwards. However, especially today with so many genres and markets for music, there is no one right path to success. What works for one artist may not work for others. Many previously outspoken musicians like Trent Reznor have realized this and have set an example for other musicians.

Musicians need to look at their career objectively and find out what they personally need to be successful. There is no right or wrong path in the music industry, there is only what works best for you.

Indiegogo has recently released a guide to monetizing your YouTube channel with crowdfunding that features 9 tips to make your campaign and your channel more successful. You don’t need to be a full-time YouTuber to take advantage of the tips in this guide. Most musicians and bands today have some form of a YouTube channel where they upload music, music videos, behind the scenes footage, and vlogs that give fans a glimpse into their lives. This guide will give you some ideas on how you can incorporate some YouTube features into your crowdfunding campaign to keep your fans engaged and excited.

1. Stretch Goals – “For example, you’re asking for $50,000 to publish a book, but you tell your contributors that, if you raise $60,000, you’ll also be able to do a concert, if you raise $70,000 you can make an album — and so on.”

2. Contributor Map – “You can…incorporate this into your project itself; for example, the top ten contributing cities will be the stops on your road tour. We’ve even seen campaigners post interactive contributor maps on their campaign pages to help leverage the global reach of their channels.”

3. Referral Contests – “You can use the tools provided to you in Indiegogo’s Campaign Dashboard to track which individuals are driving the most traffic and contributions to your campaign — and then reward those people accordingly. For example, you could offer a top secret perk or exclusive opportunity to the winner.”

4. Live Hangouts – “Put that ‘You’ back into YouTube by leveraging Google’s ‘Hangouts on Air’ feature that allows you to stream live on your YouTube channel. This is a good way to interact with contributors, answer their questions, perform, make special announcements, solicit feedback about your project and perks, or just have some fun.”

To see the other 5 tips, check out the article on Hypebot or download the full guide for free from Indiegogo.

Everyone in the music industry is looking for some magical solution to hit it big. Musicians are told that if they want to be successful they need to give music away for free, or focus on touring, or crowdfund their album, and many fail trying to fit these one-size strategies into their career. Karmin was successful with YouTube covers, but does that mean that everyone will be? Amanda Palmer raised a huge amount of money on Kickstarter, but does that mean that you should rush out and start a crowdfunding campaign?

The truth is that the music industry is not a one size fits all business, especially today where artists must pave their own paths. In the past, there was a more standard navigation through the industry. You needed to be signed to a label to reach your fans and the labels used standard methods such as radio and retail distribution to connect the artist with the fan. Today the internet provides nearly endless opportunities to reach and connect with fans. The internet allows niche genres to prosper and grow, and it allows amateur musicians to find their fanbase, find their voice, and grow into a professional. The name of the game is differentiation, and your strategy should reflect this.

Many artists have succeeded by going against some of the “rules” set by the music industry. Touring has received a lot of press coverage in recent years. Musicians are told that they can’t make a living from recorded music anymore and that touring is their main revenue stream. Alex Day does not tour. He makes 100% of his income from YouTube and recorded music sales. He found the solution that worked for him. He probably doesn’t make as much as the big pop stars, but he is able to live his passion and support his lifestyle with his music, something many musicians strive for.

Even if you do tour, your main revenue stream does not have to be from ticket sales. Some musicians can make more money from their merch table than they make from the actual show. You can sell anything from shirts, to posters, to keychains, and yes, even recorded music.

Music does not always need to be free. Many artists today will simply give music away for free and make their money at the live show, but that is not the only way. The internet has lowered the price of music, to a certain extent. Many people will simply download music for free or find it illegally and never pay a cent for a song. On the other hand, the internet has raised the price of music. The internet allows you to sell products targeted at your superfans, like box sets, bonus tracks, or signed albums. This was never possible, or financially viable, in the world of retail music stores.

That’s not to say that you can’t be successful by following what the industry says you should be doing. You should do something because it is the best option for you and your music, not because someone else was successful doing it.

 

Apple’s iTunes Radio is certainly late to the game, which brings to rise questions on how they will get consumers to switch from the already established online radio services. Apple needs to know what consumers really want from an online radio service and then go about providing more value while keeping the switching costs low.

Here is an interview with Jason Herskowitz, contributor to the music platform Tomahawk, and co-founder of Hatchet Industries. He discusses iTunes Radio as it compares to its established competitors including Pandora and Songza.

Much of the critical reception of iTunes Radio has consisted of balking at its similarities to Pandora. Industry pundits and market analysts are saying that Apple isn’t being
 innovative enough; it developed a “copy cat” feature, not a game-changing product. 

What was your initial reaction to iTunes Radio?

Herskowitz: This was my question, as I’m so close and tied into this market, is: how much do the “normal” people in the world know about or have brand affinity for Pandora? And if those people do, is Apple going to have something that is unique enough to get those users to switch from what they are already doing with Pandora. Those are all the things that raced through my mind when I first heard about iTunes Radio. As I got closer and started to realize that this isn’t a stand-alone app. This is actually built within the music app itself. I started to see more of the value proposition. The fact that of the mainstream users, who many are still in their iPod or iPhone music app and hitting shuffle and listening. The fact that there is radio programming within that same app, built on top of that same catalog. Is that moving the entry point far enough upstream that it’d siphon off some of those Pandora users?

Switching Costs

With that said, do you think Apple’s goal with iTunes Radio is to get Pandora users to switch or lock-in existing users to the music app?

Herskowitz: I think that most average iTunes users have used Pandora at some point or another. So I think Apple has to be thinking a little bit about switching. Because as you know and I know, and everybody else knows, the fact that all of the normal people that we know, that are not in this industry, are all generally aware of Pandora and have used it at least once and some of them very often. So I think Apple does need to think about getting those users to switch. Obviously, those that haven’t switched yet, or don’t know about Pandora yet, then great, they can get in there as well. But iTunes Radio is also going to help drive incremental download sales, which is of course, as Apple tries to extend the life of download sales as long as they can: this affords them the opportunity to do that. And of course, iTunes knows exactly how many iTunes downloads Pandora sells. Those are all numbers that they are very aware of, and they see how much sales Pandora drives, so they can think about: “If we can get upstream of Pandora…” There’s going to be benefits to them in the kind of longer play. Ultimately, I think Apple’s play is much more about the iAds platform than about being a music service for the sake of being a music service.

To read the full interview, visit Sidewinder.fm.

 

There has been a lot of hype this past week about Pandora and their unfair payments to artists. Both sides in this argument are  skewing the facts in their favor, and therefore creating mass misunderstanding, leaving consumers and other musicians with music on Pandora utterly confused.

I cannot help but make the connection to the Pandora’s Box myth. Pandora used innovation and creativity to lead the way to a redefined music industry, one where consumers had access to millions of songs anywhere, but unleashed conflict. This finger-pointing environment is not healthy for innovation and progression in the music industry. We need to try to learn all the facts, look at the situation from both sides, and find a way to move forward together. As we move forward, musicians cannot deny the value in online radio – it enables music to reach millions of consumers and potential fans – and streaming companies would not exist without the music. Along with all the bad things, Pandora’s Box also held the spirit of hope.

Here’s a quick recap of a few of the major finger-pointing events that occurred this past week:

* On Monday 6/24, David Lowery posted a piece where he showed he made $16.89 on over 1 million Pandora plays. Never mind that the song actually grossed over $1300, David wished to make his point by highlighting his songwriting revenue only. The issue gets muddled when you realize he only pointed out his songwriting share, not his publishing share as well, and that his take is only 40% of the writing, which he can’t blame Pandora for. David didn’t hide this skewing of the data, but his headline-generating writing style got respected blogs like Gizmodo and AV Club to write articles making it sound like that’s all the money he made. This forced a round of retraction articles later in the week. I can get behind the reasoning David made in the article (to stop Pandora from suing PROs to lower rates) but by obscuring the issue, he weakened the overall position.

* On Wednesday 6/26, Tim Westergren had to acknowledge the growing blogstorm and post a response about how much they do indeed pay and how they are not trying to reduce rates. Tim also chooses words carefully to make Pandora appear more altruistic than they’ve been. By saying that Pandora has not advocated an 85% rate decrease, it makes it seem that they’ve not positioned for lower royalties. But what (former) Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy did do was advocate in front of Congress for the Internet Radio Fairness Act. In a summary by bill sponsor Senator Ron Wyden, the bill “would treat Internet Radio, for purposes of establishing royalty rates, in the same way that satellite and cable radio are treated.” Currently, satellite radio is paying 7.5% of revenue to royalties. Pandora has claimed they currently pay over 50% of revenue. Cutting 50% of their revenue down to 7.5% is an…85% rate decrease. While this bill may be dead, that doesn’t mean the 85% reduction is the result of an RIAA misinformation campaign.

* On Thursday 6/27, David Israelite, the President and CEO of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA), entered his opinion about the misinformation campaign by Pandora. He cited figures from both the Lowery argument and an event the NMPA held the previous year highlighting the paltry royalties the songwriters are getting. As he puts it: “By any standard, this is unacceptable.” That’s not entirely true because all this suggests is that Pandora is not paying a fair rate instead of a fair market rate, which is a different beast. By not comparing Pandora’s royalties to anything, these rates will naturally appear low. But you need an apples-to-apples comparison to know if anything is truly fair or not.

OK, so what is the truth of this argument? We need to have this so we can move forward with actual intellectual discussions that are as fair as possible to all sides.

To read the full post, visit Hypebot.

Apple announced its long anticipated online radio last month. The free version, iTunes Radio, and the ad-free paid version, iTunes Match, will be available to consumers and music fans later this year. Apple’s iAd will be supporting the free service. As a company known for innovation and market disruption, seeing a model so similar to Pandora’s is a little anticlimactic. Apple’s lack of success and interest in the advertisement market also raises some questions about their model. However, while it seems like Apple is late to the game and that their model is similar to that of the struggling Pandora, a deeper look shows some key differences on which Apple is betting their success.

Granted, many of Apple’s recent iTunes endeavors like Ping have not been wildly successful. Ping was installed on hundreds of millions of devices and was easily available to consumers, but if the product is not good, this does not matter. iTunes radio will most likely take a similar approach. Through iTunes, the iPod, and the iPad, Apple has an enormous customer base to which it can push this new service. However, in order to get people to switch from their current streaming service, there must be minimal switching costs – it must be easy to understand, intuitive, and clean.

Similar to Ping, iAd has not currently gained the traction it needs to support an online radio. In the past, iAd has had a difficult time attracting and holding on to top brands for advertisements. The service previously offered little control over where the ad was placed, costed more than rival services, and had a reach limited to Apple’s mobile products. It will be interesting to see how Apple adapts this service to support the online radio.

The radio service itself may be enough to attract the high-paying advertisers they need. The iTunes Store has gathered data on millions of consumers for years. Data on what genre of music they purchase, what bands they like best, how much money they spend on music and other recreational goods, what movies they watch, what books they download, and what apps they have downloaded and use. With this information, Apple can offer advertisers extreme consumer targeting based not only on demographics, but psychographics as well.

Other than data, Apple has good relations with more record labels. Because of the importance of the iTunes Store in today’s music economy, Apple has secured more robust licensing agreements with the majors, allowing Apple to potentially reach more people in more countries with more music than Pandora or Spotify.

As implied by the services names, iTunes Radio and iMatch will be heavily integrated with the iTunes store. Listeners will be able to purchase music heard on the radio and the music discovery mechanism will most likely be based on a mixture of listening information and data from the listener’s iTunes library preferences. Again, the huge amount of data Apple has been able to collect over the years may help them produce a more intuitive recommendation and discovery method.

To see an in-depth overview of the royalty calculations for Apple’s online radio services, check out this article from Billboard.

Of course, at this point, the potential success of Apple’s online radio is all speculation. It will be interesting to see what Apple can bring to the table in terms of innovation in this difficult market. The price for iTunes Match is currently set at $24.99 per year, as compared to Pandora’s $36.99 yearly fee.

As of May 2013, Pandora has 70.8 million users and Spotify has 24 million. What do you think about Apple’s online radio? Will it disrupt the market, or are they too late coming into the game?

Why do most music players look like spreadsheets?

Discovering music on your own requires that you listen to a song for a period of time to see if you like it. Sure, if one of your friends tells you about a track you may “discover” it through them, but you will also spend some time listening to the song before you decide if it’s for you. This is the nature of the beast. Music is a time-based phenomenon.

Unlike with videos where you can “time compress” a video into a single frame image that you can easily visually scan, with music there is no alternative format that represents the song that can be easily scanned, except for the song name. This explains why most music interfaces display playlists, with song names as text not unlike in a spreadsheet, or list of song names. These can be easily scanned, but have no direct correlation to the sound or feeling of the song itself. I have always found it odd that in this era of digital music and highly designed interfaces, that most players default to a spreadsheet of song names to present music – true of iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rdio and many others.  Spreadsheet music players.

Sure you can have a thumbnail of the album cover, but rarely do you see this on a song-by-song basis. Maybe in parts of Beatport or other DJ sites that are focused on tracks, but not generally on the web for the mass consumers of songs. And yes we have also seen many different visual interfaces like Sonorflow that let you visually traverse music genres or the linkage between bands, but these do not convey information about the songs themselves or the emotions that they convey.

What if we had a way to make a song come alive visually? This was the whole idea behind the original MTV and it was wildly successful for decades. What is the online equivalent, or even better, what can we do to push the whole boundary of music discovery and showcasing to new levels by embracing the time-based nature of music and coupling it with visual expression and a modern interface that lets you experience and interact with music in new and interesting ways. And no, I’m not talking about the waveform displays on Soundcloud.

I am working with a new company called Viinyl which is in the final testing stage for a whole new video-based version of their Music Showcasing platform that is very hot. I haven’t seen anything like Viinyl 2.0 and I think it represents a whole new way of presenting music. Viinyl amplifies the emotional content of songs visually, in a way that is enjoyable and super easy to use. This is a whole new way of showcasing music.

Viinyl is re-defining the way music and videos are experienced. In fact their video player is a new way to attract attention, engage an audience with the emotion of a song, and make money on singles and tracks. From a simple URL you can run a full screen video with interactive overlays and gather email, sell tracks and tickets, connect to your social networks and literally showcase music thru video. You can sell any digital file including music and movies, and provide relavent information directly in the context of the song including bios, links, credits, contacts, concert dates, lyrics, etc.

Here are some examples of the new Viinyl 2.0 in action:

http://hiphopdraft-ghost-in-the-machine.new.viinyl.com/
http://synthetica-mini-documentary.new.viinyl.com/
http://destination-brazil.new.viinyl.com/
http://idareyoubeta.new.viinyl.com/

The new platform supports audio file sales with fixed or flexible album pricing (minimum price and Pay What You Want) along with various free distribution options. The software is lightning fast, with just a few clicks, musicians and labels will be able to share their work independently – and hold onto all revenue generated.

The new Viinyl 2.0 LP format delivers a visual playlist, giving listeners and fans a far richer, more immersive and inviting music experience compared with the current spreadsheet format.  This new software will be available in the coming weeks.

According to this article from Digital Music News, Maria Pallante, the US Register of Copyrights, is looking to move US law towards the full payment of performance rights.  This means that radio broadcasters, who historically have not paid for their use of the sound recording, may be required to do so in the future.  While this statement is certainly not a guarantee of action, the fact that the topic is being openly discussed by US officials represents progress for the issue.

US copyright law protects two separate copyrights – the composition and the sound recording.  Additionally, copyright law grants exclusive rights in the public performance of the composition, and of the sound recording via digital transmission.  Missing from this equation is the payment of the public performance royalties to the sound recording owner for non-digital performances.  This means that if you hear your favorite song on Pandora, both the composition and sound recording owner will be compensated, but if you hear that same song on terrestrial radio, only the composition owner receives payment for the performance.

Similar to the US, most other developed countries do not specifically grant public performance rights to sound recording owners, but the rights are assumed via neighboring rights.  This means the US is one of the few countries not paying their sound recording owners for public performances.

This illogical exclusion is perhaps one of the most frustrating and baffling aspects in US copyright law – it remains relevant in today’s society simply because it has always been.  In the past, broadcasters avoided payment to the sound recording owner (usually the record company) by arguing that their services provided free promotion.  This precedent has remained to this day despite terrestrial radio’s diminishing significance, especially regarding indie musicians.

The movement towards the full payment of sound recording owners most likely found its roots in Pandora’s recent litigation attempts to lower their public performance fees.  Pandora argued that the disconnect between the fees paid by terrestrial radios and the fees required of Pandora put them at an unfair disadvantage.

While this is most likely not the outcome Pandora litigators wanted or expected, most would agree that it is necessary for the US to drop old, irrelevant precedence and enter the modern age of copyright law.

Today, indie and DIY artists have the potential to bring in more money than ever before, but sometimes all the potential revenue sources can be overwhelming and difficult to manage.  This article describes the three most profitable revenue sources for indie musicians.

1) YouTube

Complain all you want about musicians making YouTube covers and goofy videos instead of being “serious”. The reality is many of them make a good living from this. Costs are minimal compared to professional studio time. Distribution costs are near zero. The casualness of the content also allows for more rapid creation than one might find for “official” recorded work.

Companies such as Maker Studios and Big Fra.me have grown to help these artists monetize their music with better-leveraged ad rates, production assistance, and channel cross-promotion. Once ramped up with a lot of content, successful artists in this area can clear mid-to-high five figures in revenue. Since they are often solo artists, they also don’t have to split it up much.

To find out the other two revenue streams, visit Music Think Tank.

The Most Interesting Startup in the World

  • They have no employees, only customers.
  • Strangers ride the elevator up and down, just to hear their pitch.
  • When they meet with Angels, they take equity… in their investors.
  • Their seed round was an IPO.
  • They once pivoted all the way around, just to see how it feels.
  • They mentor their mentors.
  • Their business cards say only “We’ll call you”.
  • Their lean model produces water and gold from air with no waste.

I found most of this written on a wall at the Mass Challenge accelerator in Boston.  I don’t know who started it or where it came from, but here you go.  Fun stuff.

What can you add to the story, the company, the myth…

Last week, Dave Kusek did a keynote presentation at the ADISQ conference in Montreal, Canada. He spoke about current effective marketing strategies for musicians and artists in the digital age. Business models for success. Here’s the presentation.

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Photo by yisk on Flickr

Here are a few ideas for making the most out of HootSuite and managing social media as a band.  If you are going “DIY” on your promotional campaign, things like pre-scheduling important tweets in advance of hitting the road can be a big help.

The music industry has changed so much in the past decade, and now bands, musicians, promoters, and record labels have the ability to do their own promotions online. With the myriad of social media tools available for bands, it’s not easy to get started. Luckily, HootSuite offers a complete solution that allows bands to take social media into their own hands. This blog post will share a series of insider tips and tricks for bands in the music industry, and will show you how easy it is to use HootSuite to get the most out of your social media efforts.

1) Make a List. Make a List. Rinse, and Repeat

Bevis-1Twitter lists are your friend. Use them strategically and frequently. Whenever you have an interaction with someone over Twitter, add them to your “fans” list. Follow this list closely from within your Dashboard, and tweet your fans when you’re in their town. Let them know you have a show, and that you’d love to see them there. This simple move allows you to take something as simple as a tweet, and turn it into a ticket sale, and as a bonus, you start to cultivate a meaningful relationship with your fans.

If you find that your fans list is growing significantly (good job!) then create a fans list for each of the major cities that you visit. Filter this list by Klout score, and see which of your fans in that area have the most reach. Cozy up to these people and offer them a spot on your guest list, or schedule an in-person meet up. All of a sudden, you have a brand ambassador.

These influencers are invaluable: they’ll spread the word about your amazing live show, they’ll come back next time you’re in town, and if you play your cards right, they might even bring people with them.

Read the full story at HypeBot.com

Here is an interview with the great Phil Ramone, recorded at his home in Connecticut. Phil discusses making hits, songwriting, music production, the music industry, the listening experience, working with artists, the studio, spare parts, preparation, working style and gives his advice for artists and writers. A true master, he gives us a glimpse into his thought process and how he works to get the most out of the creative process. Notice how his mind easily shifts from the artistic to the technical and back without missing a beat. We will miss you Phil.

Phil Ramone is one of the most respected and prolific music producers of all time in the recording industry. Ramone’s musical acumen, creativity and use of audio technology are unmatched among his peers. Phil played a huge role in shaping the careers and songs of both Billy Joel and Paul Simon and is going to be missed so much. Such a gentle and graceful man who filled the world with optimism and carved such a wide swath across the music business.

He won 14 Grammy Awards, including producer of the year, nonclassical, in 1981, and three for album of the year, for Mr. Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years” in 1976, Mr. Joel’s “52nd Street” in 1980, and Mr. Charles’s duets album, “Genius Loves Company,” in 2005. He also produced music for television and film, winning an Emmy Award as the sound mixer for a 1973 special on CBS, “Duke Ellington … We Love You Madly.”

Mr. Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn. His father died when he was young, and his mother worked in a department store. A classical violin prodigy, he studied at the Juilliard School but soon drifted toward jazz and pop, and apprenticed at a recording studio, J.A.C. Recording.

In 1958, he co-founded A & R Recording, a studio on West 48th Street in Manhattan, and built a reputation as a versatile engineer, working on pop fare like Lesley Gore as well as jazz by John Coltrane and Quincy Jones. He ran the sound when Marilyn Monroe cooed “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962, and three years later won his first Grammy as the engineer on Stan Getz and João Gilberto’s landmark album “Getz/Gilberto.”

As a producer, he had a particularly close association with Billy Joel and Paul Simon; the back cover of Joel’s 1977 album “The Stranger” features a photograph of Mr. Ramone posing with Mr. Joel and his band at a New York restaurant.

“I always thought of Phil Ramone as the most talented guy in my band,” Mr. Joel said in a statement on Saturday. “He was the guy that no one ever, ever saw onstage. He was with me as long as any of the musicians I ever played with — longer than most. So much of my music was shaped by him and brought to fruition by him.”

Acknowledged as one of the top creative music producers, Ramone has also played an integral role in pioneering many of the technological developments in the music industry over the years. He ardently supported the use of the compact disc, digital video disc, hi-definition recording and surround sound.

Ramone’s impeccable list of credits includes collaborations with artists such as: Burt Bacharach, Bono, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Ray Charles, Chicago, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Quincy Jones, BB King, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Liza Minnelli, Sinead O’Connor, Pavarotti, Peter/Paul and Mary, Andre Previn, Carly Simon, Frank Sinatra, Phoebe Snow, Rod Stewart, and Stevie Wonder.

Marcus Taylor, founder of Venture Harbour, has compiled words of advice from 30 entrepreneurial leaders in the music industry.  Here are some of our favorites.

Focus on what works now

Benji Rogers “We are no longer subject to what was, only to what works. We can honor what came before us, but at the same time we have to be constantly aware of how fast this new generation moves. The new does not have to be scary and it’s allot less risky than it ever was. It just looks radically different than it ever did and we have to embrace that. Yesterdays fans are not coming back and so we should simply stop trying to find them.”
– Benji Rogers, CEO, Pledge Music

You don’t need investment

David Dufresne “If you launch a startup and think the only way to grow is by getting outside investment from venture capitalist or angel investors, you’re like a band that thinks they need to get signed by a major to have a chance at success. Focus on on building a product or service that has real value for the users and they will pay for it.”
– David Dufresne, CEO, Bandzoogle

Don’t Ask, Don’t Get

Steve RennieYou don’t ask, you don’t get, and you don’t learn.
– Steve Rennie, Manager of Incubus, Founder of Renman Music & Business

Check out the full blog post for more.

Alex Day has proudly made his way in the music industry without the support of a major label by building his fanbase online.  Here he recounts a hilarious meeting with an A&R person and why he left the meeting unsatisfied.

He doesn’t tour either and doesn’t see the need to:

Typically I make around £3500 a month from YouTube (I’m on a network so they can sell the ad space higher) and at least £10,000 a month from music and merch sales. I’ve also done other projects – I co-created a card game with my cousin which we sell online, I have a business called Lifescouts I launched this year – which add a bit of extra cash to the pot also.

Read a full case study at TechDirt.com

The Atlantic published this awesome map, which plots the geographical origins of indie bands who played at SXSW last week.  The data is not perfect in the sense that it does not include unofficial showcases but it puts Austin in the lead, trailed by New York and Los Angeles.  Nashville and London just about tie for fourth place.

SXSW reflects the dual geographies of independent music. On the one hand, large well-established music scenes and centers like New York, L.A., London, and Nashville have the most acts. On the other, smaller college towns do very well in musical acts on a per capita basis. These college towns have two things going for them: They are magnets for musical talent and have lots of young people who enjoy and support live music. These two factors underpin their flourishing music scenes which have given rise to critically acclaimed indie bands.

Map by MPI's Zara Matheson

Map by MPI’s Zara Matheson

See the full story and how this year’s data compares to 2012 at The Atlantic Cities

musicbizrecapHere’s a recap of some of the key trends and topics that marked the music business in 2012.  As we move forward, it’s good to look back, especially amidst the music industry’s chaotic, shifting paradigms.

As the music industry’s traditional structures continue to fall away, new models are building upon unsteady foundations.  Some of the new companies that stepped onto the playing field in previous years fought in 2012 to stay in the game.  Major music companies merged and reorganized while digital startups gained more and more attention.  Digital Music News reported that 1 in every 43 venture capital dollars was spent on music related businesses last year.1  One example, The Echonest, a music data and analysis company, popped up from under the radar and secured over $17 million in funding.  With success stories from Amanda Palmer, Kickstarter pushed funding into uncharted territory, creating viable new streams of capital for musicians.  Here are ten examples of trends and events that marked the music industry in 2012 and that will continue to have an impact on the months and years to come.

Check out the full story at The Berklee Music Business Journal

Casandra Govor of the music and tech think tank, Sidewinder.fm, shares her reactions to the 2011 UK PRS report “Adding Up the Music Industry”.  In a time when the live music sector represents an increasingly important revenue stream for musicians, it is important to examine the causes and contexts behind the statistics.

florenceThe downward trend is blamed on the decrease in stadium tours, arguably caused by the lack of ‘giant’ acts (like the Rolling Stones, Take That, or Coldplay) touring and downsizing of medium-major artists and bands gigs. Although statistically it might be correct, I believe this approach is slightly simplistic. The way PRS is formulating the issue, it almost sounds like it was “bad luck” that it happened that no major artist toured intensively in 2010. Had this been the only issue, it’s hard to believe there was no such similar year in recent history.

Gover offers her own analysis of the PRS report as well as the current state of the live touring industry.  The full story is also available on Hypebot.

Check out an interview I recently did with DeliRadio about the current and future landscape of the music industry.

“If you look at the history of the music business, there have been many radical periods where technology has come in and shaken things up and everyone was very concerned about that. And they had to endure the change and music kept evolving. I believe that’s just continuing to happen, and that the decline of the record business is part of that process.”

Read the full interview at blog.DeliRadio.com

While the recorded music business continues to suffer, the live touring business is holding up rather well, propelled in the short term by legacy acts, but moving forward with smaller bands and festivals well poised to fill the shoes of the legendary bands as they retire. Here are some excerpts from a great piece by Dean Budnick with the Hollywood Reporter.

We’re at a fascinating crossroads. The modern touring rock industry emerged in the late ’60s, during the heyday of such venues as Bill Graham’s Fillmore East and West in New York and San Francisco, respectively, Jack Boyle’s The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., and Don Law’s Tea Party in Boston. Rock music didn’t move into arenas until the early ’70s, a development that prompted Graham to close his clubs, announcing his decision via a letter to the Village Voice that decried “the unreasonable and totally destructive inflation of the live concert scene.”

So how are the smartest people in the industry preparing for the next big shift?

“We need fresh acts to appeal to new generations,” says Michael Rapino, president and CEO of Live Nation, the world’s dominant tour promoter. “The Rolling Stones was an epic tour, but it’s not a long-term business.” Rapino suggests that this process already is in motion, as six of the top 10 Live Nation tours of 2012 were by artists whose first hit was in the 2000s, including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Jason Aldean, Drake, Rascal Flatts and Nickelback. “The beauty of this industry is there are always new acts to win our hearts.”

Chip Hooper, worldwide head of music at Paradigm, echoes this sentiment: “Today you’re talking about one group of bands, but what is contemporary and what is heritage just keeps changing as time goes marching on. If you took a snapshot of today, yeah, there’ll be some older artists who won’t be touring in a couple years, but then there’ll be new older artists because younger artists are getting older.”

Still, it remains an open question as to whether today’s concertgoers will continue to follow a singles artist like Rihanna into her dotage and whether they will pony up for the ever-escalating price for a live-concert experience. “As concertgoers age and inflation increases the price of nearly everything, ticket prices will rise in conjunction,” says industry analyst Dan Greenhaus, chief global strategist at BTIG. “When Coldplay play Madison Square Garden with a crowd averaging 50 years old rather than 30 years old, the higher-income-earning crowd will part with more money. The transition from The Eagles and CSN to Bon Jovi and U2 to Coldplay and Foo Fighters might be difficult for some interested parties — but the transition will occur.”

The answer might be to think smaller, says Tom Windish of The Windish Agency, which reps more than 500 acts including Foster the People, Gotye and 20 of the performers at the 2012 Coachella festival. “If I was a promoter, I would be analyzing which markets could use a 2,000- to 5,000-capacity venue and what obstacles are in the way to creating one,” Windish says. “As an agent, there are many cities where there is just not a suitable venue for a band who can sell this number of tickets. It takes time to open a venue of this size for many cities, and it can’t happen soon enough.”

So will all this work? Perhaps a more pointed question is: Can the live music industry survive the coming generational shift? Will young people show the same passion for live music as their elders — and do they have the income to support their habit? Tentative signs point to yes, based on festival attendance as well as the rising popularity of such performers as Mumford and Sons, Zac Brown Band, Bassnectar, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Vampire Weekend. At its core, the live entertainment industry is built on a certain ineffable, unquantifiable connection between fan and band, which is also why those legacy acts might not be leaving the stage anytime soon.

Read more from the Hollywood Reporter.

Here is a presentation developed for clothing manufacturer Carhartt as they try and capitalize on the popularity of their products with the youth market. Interesting trends and stats posted by students from Parsons The New School for Design.  “By identifying the forces at play in the world of music and the behaviors that are driving those forces, one can identify particular patterns that support current trends. By looking forward to what the future of music may encompass, this presentation aims to provide Carhartt, with valuable insight that will help the brand as a whole, cater to the future of urban millenials.”

Here is a fantastic compilation of posts and articles from 2012 about managing startups from  Professor at Harvard Business School who studies lean startups, entrepreneurship, platforms, and network effects (Twitter: @teisenmann).  This is so much information and wisdom here for anyone starting a new venture or trying to make their startup successful.

As Tom says “The generosity of the startup community is amazing, and these insights are invaluable to those of us who teach and coach aspiring entrepreneurs.”  Dig in, there is a lot to digest:

Lean Startup

Business Models
Customer Discovery and Validation

Marketing: Demand Generation and Optimization

Sales and Sales Management
Viral Marketing
PR Strategy

Branding/Naming a Startup

Product Management/Product Design

Business Development

  • John O’Farrell of a16z describes how quality trumps quantity and clarity regarding mutual objectives is crucial in doing business development deals, using Opsware’s transformative distribution agreement with Cisco as a case study.
Scaling

Funding Strategy

Founding Process
  • My colleague Noam Wasserman published his book, The Founder’s Dilemmas, that describes tradeoffs that founders confront when deciding when/with whom to found, how to split equity, how to divide roles, etc.
  • Blake Masters’ summary of Peter Thiel’s Stanford CS183 lecture on the importance on early founding decisions.
  • Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures on questions that co-founders must address ASAP and the concept of the “minimum viable team,” i.e., the smallest set of skills needed to get traction in an early-stage startup.
Company Culture, Organizational Structure, Recruiting and Other HR Issues
Board Management

Startup Failure

Exiting By Selling Your Company

The Startup Mindset and Coping with Startup Pressures

Management Advice, Not Elsewhere Classified
Career Advice (Especially for MBAs)

Startup Hubs

  • Brad Feld of Foundry Group and TechStars has published the book Startup Communities, a guide to building an entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Tools for Entrepreneurs

  • Beyond Steve Blank’s Startup Owner’s Manual, a book he co-authored with Bob Dorf, here is a list of the fantastic resources Steve has made available to the startup community — mostly for free.
 Original post is here.  Thank’s for compiling and sharing this Tom.

The music business has been utterly transformed by technology. New music apps such as Pandora, Spotify, Soundcloud, Shazam and Songza among hundreds of others are driving new music revenue and employment opportunities for technically oriented musicians.

Olivia Leonardi over at Online Computer Science Degree has written an article about the intersection of music and software development and describing the rich past of the impact of technology, specifically software on the music business.  It is excerpted here.  Lets go people, tool up for careers in the music industry of the future!

Computer Science and Music Technology

You’re a heavy-duty programming dude or computer grrl, but you also love music.  Is there any way to reconcile these two interests?  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that computers and technology play a major role in the 21st century music scene. Audio sequencers, MIDI and associated laptops are standard operating equipment for performers like PrinceKraftwerk, OK Go, international deejay Paul Van Dyk or electronic music pioneer Thomas Dolby. Indeed, popular music today – from indie rock to hip-hop to house – would not be the same without innovations in computer science and technology. The following article is an exploration of the pioneering inventions and innovations in music technology that, through the use of computers, continue to define the musical experience of today.

Making Music in the 20th Century

1930 marks the year that the technological roots of modern popular music were formed. In that fateful year the world welcomed its first drum machine while the revolutionary electric guitar took the music scene by storm. Although the drum machine wouldn’t find its way into popular music for another 40 years, the electric guitar was seen as a brilliant invention and one immediately adopted by the jazz community and early blues artists. Perhaps more importantly, however, was that these two innovations inspired and challenged others to experiment with electric instruments and to test how technology could continue to enhance the musical experience. In the years following, the legendary Les Paul would lay down the first multi-track recording in 1947 and in ‘58 Link Wray, unsatisfied with the sound his amplifier was producing, would think to jam pencils into it to distort the sound of the guitar in the track “Rumble” – a technique The Kinks pushed into the mainstream with “You Really Got Me” in 1964.

Then, in 1966, producer George Martin was faced with a dilemma. The Beatles had recorded multiple takes of a John Lennon penned song called “Strawberry Fields Forever.” John had finally settled on not one, but two takes of the song that he liked best. The problem: the two takes, numbers 7 and 26, were recorded in different keys and played at different tempos. Without the technological innovations available today, Martin ingeniously solved the problem by mechanically slowing one take while speeding up the other, then spliced the two takes together to produce one of the most celebrated popular music recordings in history.

Enter Computer Technology

Computer technology has since incorporated innovations such as Martin’s and made them a routine part of music recording. Without major advancements in computer technology, however, such would not be the case. Once monolithic, the late 1970s and early 80s saw the size of computers greatly diminish while major improvements were being made in processing power. Personal computers were made accessible for the first time in history and, watching closely, the music industry quickly responded. As the Beatles were walking Abbey Road and the Rolling Stones were licking their way to chart toping heights, brilliant innovations on old technologies would surface simultaneously that – from sampling to the drum machine to the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) – gave rise to whole new genres like hip-hop and electronic music while altering the trajectory of popular music itself. The following is a brief run-through of some of those major developments in computer technology.

Sampling

Sampling allows musicians to borrow snippets of past tracks and even entire recordings and incorporate them into original creations. Using synthesizer technology, artists can also alter the tone of the sample by speeding up or slowing down the track; later iterations of samplers would actually come in the form of synthesizers as synths became more sophisticated and were able to adopt sampling technology.

The first sampler – the Mellatron – appeared in the late 60s and early 70s and was a tape replay keyboard that stored recordings on analog tape. Although its genius was widely recognized, it was soon improved upon with the emergence of the memory-based digital sampler. Developed by a trio of computer scientists and software engineers, the first digital sampler – the EMS Musys system – ran on two mini computers (PDP-8s), giving birth to the first digital music studio. As musicians began realizing the need and benefit of sound synthesis for sampling purposes, sampling synthesizers soon emerged. Surfacing in the late 70s, these sampling synthesizers would enable the use of percussion samples and techniques such as the crossfade and “time stretching” and are credited with advancing hip-hop away from the drum machine sound of its youth.

Today, sampling technology is either software-based or appears as part of the music workstation.

Digital Drum Machine

Beginning with the Rythmicon – the father of all drum machines, first produced in 1930 – the drum machine has had a strong impact on music through the years. The first “modern” drum machine – in the form of a programmable drum machine — emerged in the 70s with the Roland CR-78 machine and a few year later, the legendary Roland TR-808 (1980) and Roland TR-909 (1984). Both machines are icons of the early hip-hop, underground dance and techno genres. Indeed, Marvin Gaye’s classic “Sexual Healing” wouldn’t be the same without use of the Roland TR-909.

Digital drum machines, otherwise known as drum computers, also figure heavily in the development of pop music in the 80s. Starting with the Linn LM-1, digital samples of drum sounds and drum sound synthesis were both used with increasing frequency, appearing in works from the soundtrack ofScarface to Prince.

In music today the physical drum machine is a rare sight, whose use was rendered obsolete by MIDI and digital music workstations.

Digital Synthesizer

The digital synthesizer produces a stream of numbers at a certain rate that is then converted to analog form, allowing speakers to produce sound. Synthesizer aided music is some of the most identifiable of the 70s and 80s. No only did the Beatles and Rolling Stones utilize its capacity to produce unique and spacy sounds, but a whole new genre arose from its use: synthpop. Today, the synthesizer is a major element of the music workstation.

    • Forms of Sound Synthesis
    • Additive Synthesis
    • Subtractive Synthesis
    • FM Synthesis
    • Phase Distortion Synthesis
    • Granular Synthesis
    • Physical Modelling Synthesis
    • Sample-Based Synthesis
    • Analysis/Resynthesis

Sequencers

Of all music technology, the sequencer has arguably benefited the most from computer science, giving birth to the very genre termed “computer music.” In modern days, a sequencer is a piece of music software that can record, edit, and play back music. The first digital sequencer emerged in 1971 from Electronic Music Studios while the first microcomputer based digital sequencer, the MC-8 Microcomposer or “computer music composer”, appeared in 1977 using a keypad to enter notes in numeric codes.

As the personal computer’s capabilities progressed, software sequencers soon emerged. The New England Digital ABLE (1973) computer and its brother the Synclavier 1 (1977) are two of the most notable with the latter being used by such artists as Michael Jackson. These two advancements were also two of the first iterations of the modern music workstations. In the current day and age, however, most sequencing is done via software through the use of MIDI.

Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI)

The development of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) was a remarkable innovation in the history of music. The MIDI made it possible for anyone with a computer, a modicum of talent and a measure of determination to become his or her own performer and producer. MIDI originated as a means to link keyboards with synthesizers, but has since evolved to become a computer software application used to edit all aspects of music recordings. MIDI allows for the interaction of many different instruments at once through a central transceiver that the instruments are plugged into. With their memory, processing power and interactivity, computers became the central brain that all electronic instruments were connected to. From this point on, the computer became irreplaceable in music production. Sequencing software was developed to piece together the disparate musical elements received on the computer through MIDI connections in addition to the development of software synthesizers, drum machines and samplers (often coalesced into one program).

Prior to MIDI, the recording process required a sound booth, session musicians, mixers and other expensive features. Since the development of MIDI, a single musician can sing, play accompaniment and mix multiple tracks together to produce a polished, sophisticated recording using only a computer, a mike and digital recording software.

From Olivia Leonardi at Online Computer Science Degree.

Side note – this is the 30 year anniversary of MIDI.  I will be writing more about that in the weeks ahead.

Music_Evolution_lowres1

Music is a much smaller and less significant part of many people’s lives than 10-20 years ago.  There is more competition for our attention and the value of music has declined precipitously. This graphic shows the rise of digital against physical music, and the overall impact of piracy, widespread distribution and digital media on the music industry. The sad story is that overall the music business is shrinking. That is a fact that we all have to face.  The silver lining in all of this may be on the horizon, but it cannot come soon enough for me. We have to do something to reverse the trend.

Courtesy Daily Infographic.

After 30 years, the inventors of MIDI are being recognized by the Recording Industry with a pair of Grammy awards. My friends Dave Smith and Ikutaroo Kakehashi are both receiving the awards during this year’s ceremony for the creation of the Musical Instrument Digital Interface.  These guys were the true pioneers who set MIDI in motion and made it possible for millions of people to enjoy music creation by employing synthesizers, computers and music software.

It’s been almost 30 years since MIDI was first demonstrated at the winter NAMM show, 1983. Marking the anniversary, The Recording Academy is giving a coveted Technical Grammy to the two people most associated with its creation – so-called “father of MIDI” Dave Smith (then founder of Sequential Circuits, now Dave Smith Instruments) and Roland founder and engineer Ikutaro Kakehashi.

My memory is a little fuzzy about the first public demo of MIDI in 1983, but I remember being there and getting inspired.  It was an amazing demonstration of collaboration between a little company and a big one.  The thing about MIDI that I think is so fantastic and unusual in a historical perspective is how the standard was widely embraced by all parties without a dominant player forcing it down everyone else’s throats.  When you look at other standards (Ethernet, WIFI, SCSI, etc.) they generally came from a market leading company licensing and dictating terms.  MIDI was the anthesis of that.  We we all part of a tiny market looking to increase our businesses and revenues and MIDI was a way to create interoperability on a shoestring with little financial or technical risk.  That was the brilliance and simplicity of the idea.  As a result, all boats were lifted.

EDM is really just short for “Event Driven Marketing”.

At last week’s Billboard  Futuresound conference in San Francisco, Deadmau5 aka “Joel Zimmerman” gave a candid interview which you can listen to here.  He talked freely about his career, the current EDM scene and where things are heading.