How to make 2021 your best songwriting year yet, plus other news for indie musicians.

With the crazy world we’re living in right now, and so many distractions, finding the focus and inspiration for songwriting can be difficult.

If you’re in a part of the world under a lockdown, you might find yourself with time on your hands. But when we can’t meet up with other musicians, and we can’t get out to gigs, how can we keep our songwriting motivation?

Embrace Virtual Songwriting

The internet offers so many opportunities to find, connect and collaborate with musicians, songwriters and creatives all around the world. Once you get your head around sharing files, working in different time zones, and a bit of back and forth with communications, the creative possibilities are endless. Find out how duo Vin 90 made it work for them during the pandemic in this article from American Songwriter.

Don’t Overthink it

When you’re struggling for inspiration, it’s easy to get frustrated. Staring at a blank page, or sitting at the keyboard for hours, rarely yields a great song. In fact, research shows better songwriting comes from an empty brain. If you find you get your best ideas in the shower, or while you’re driving, then you’ll know what we mean.

Read more on how to harness idleness to boost your songwriting, in this piece from Bandzoogle.

The Story Behind The Legend

Can you believe it’s five years since the death of David Bowie? This article from American Songwriter takes an in-depth look at what inspired Bowie to write the legendary ‘Space Oddity’, and the impact it had on Bowie’s career. From the song’s structure, to it’s mythical hero and sense of loneliness and loss, there’s so much more going on than jumping on the space-race bandwagon.


Podcast Tips

If you get chance to take part in a podcast interview it can be a great way to reach new potential fans. Whether you’re interviewer or interviewee, you’ll want to be prepared before you press “record”. Get some podcast pro tips here, from CD Baby.

Wall Street Gets into Music Licensing

The world’s financial markets have spotted the money-making potential of music catalogs, and they are selling for huge sums. Rolling Stone Magazine investigates this trend, and what it means for the music business, here

Find out how you can harness of music licensing for your own songwriting career, here.

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Jazz Spotlight Podcast

I recently had the honor of being interviewed for The Jazz Spotlight’s Podcast. The podcast is a great resource for indie musicians, so I recommend you check it out.

In the interview we discuss my new book, Hack the Music Business, New Artist Model, and some great strategies for indie musicians including:

  • Today’s music business model
  • Why you should stop thinking exclusively like a musician and start thinking like a musician-entrepreneur
  • The online music business school New Artist Model and what he can do for you
  • Mistakes that are hurting musicians
  • Why you should think in terms of DIWO (Do It With Other) rather than DIY (Do It Yourself)
  • Gigs as an opportunity to create a community, promote and drive sales
  • How having an email list can get you your next gig
  • Marketing tip for musicians

You can also check out the entire podcast series in iTunes.

Earlier this year, Edison Research and Triton Digital released their Infinite Dial Report describing the trends in music, streaming, radio and digital music. They report that:

  • Mobile devices are quickly rewiring behavior, especially with young users and image sharing (Instagram and Snapchat)
  • Internet Audio is growing at a fast rate with Pandora as the #1 player in online radio by far
  • Podcasts are increasingly growing their listener bases

The smartphone either is or will shortly become the dominate way that people interact “online”. If you are trying to break new music, you need to make sure that your presentation is mobile friendly.

Smartphone Growth

This may be old news to many of you, but if you are trying to break music or gather a fan base and you are not on YouTube, you have little or no chance of success these days.  YouTube is absolutely dominating the listening/viewing habits of 12-24 year olds as you can see in this chart from Edison Research and Triton Digital.

Youtube 1

While radio remains the top source for new music discovery, YouTube was the No. 1 source for the very important young listener market aged 12 to 24 years.

Youtube 2

And finally, nearly half the audience in America is listening to online radio (Pandora mostly).

Online Radio

Last week host of Networking Musician Radio, David Vignola interviewed me about Music Power Network and the Future of Music.  Here is the audio interview along with a link to David’s site.  Great resource for indie artists.

Music Power Network provides a wide variety of music business education, tools, interviews and lots of resources for the D.I.Y. musician. The site also offers an equal wealth of information / education for producers, managers or publishers.

I did a radio show yesterday on NPR on the Future of Music along with Jeff Price from Tunecore and Tim Westergren from Pandora. You can listen to the show online here or download an MP3 of the show.

In a 2002 New York Times article, David Bowie said that “music itself is going to become like running water or electricity….it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what is going to happen.” Now, seven years later, the music industry has continued its rapid metamorphosis. Often referred to as an industry in crisis, coming up Where We Live, we’ll be talking with writers and innovators who say the business of making music has never been better. Ignore the closed up Virgin MegaStore in cities across the country—listening to and making music is still big business. David Kusek, author of The Future of Music: Manifestor for the Digital Music Revolution joins us to talk about the new truths that govern the music world. Also, The founders of Pandora and TuneCore chime in and we’ll be joined in-studio by WNPR’s own Anthony Fantano. From the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network.

Listen to this episode of “With A Voice Like This” where I am speaking with Jim Goodrich about the future of music.

It’s been four years since The Future of Music book came out and this radio interview starts with what has changed and what has stayed the same since the book was published. But there’s a twist. At the beginning of the show Jim asked that we not focus on the technology itself, since the book had so much more to offer than just a discussion of technology. Among other things we talk about what’s going on in China currently, the Universal Mobile Device (UMD) and of course, the Music like Water concept.

Listen to the interview here.

Download the MP3 file here.


In our (2005) book we wrote about the “Universal Mobile Device”

June 1, 2015. Our Universal Mobile Devices (UMD) are “always-on” at 8 MB/second, and we have anytime-anywhere access to music, films, games, books, news, streaming video, online banking, stock market transactions, instant messaging, e-mail, and chats. It’s a global telephone, a digital communication and data transfer device, a Global Positioning Device (GPS), a personal digital assistant, a music/images/film storage device, a recorder, a personal computer, a gaming platform . . . and much more that we haven’t even gotten around to trying yet. Still, it is only a little bit larger than a cigarette pack, its processor is one hundred times as fast as the good old Intel Centrino chip, and with over 5 terabytes of data storage, there is plenty of room for anything we want. Our UMD can project a fairly large and sharp image onto any white surface, it can set up instant secure wireless connections to other computers, beamers, monitors, screens, and printers, and it can connect to other UMDs to exchange data and files, instantly and securely.

The UMD “off-road” version is so durable that you can drive a truck over it, or leave it out in the rain for a few days. Ten days of battery power lets us forget about hunting for electric outlets everywhere we go. In short, our UMDs are irresistible, and sometimes we even struggle with ourselves to put them away.

And how much do we pay to get this device and the wireless service? Less than what a year of dial-up Internet service used to cost only ten years ago. Speaking of those days, we are so relieved to have lost all the cables, the multiple billing procedures, the restrictions on usage, the endless calls to customer service to figure out how to make it work, the non-compatibility, and all of the other burdens. Now, the pricing—and what you get for your money—is so compelling that everyone considers it a part of their basic expenses, like the phone bill, cable television, or car registrations.

Today, the basic content service comes packaged with the monthly service fee, and a content levy is imposed on the device itself. It took ten years for the device makers, software providers, and entertainment companies to agree on a voluntary compulsory licensing scheme, but now the content providers make much more money than they did before UMDs were around. In addition, their marketing costs have shrunk to one tenth of what they used to be, their delivery costs keep falling, administration and accounting is handled by smart automated software agents, and their legal budgets have been reduced to a fraction of what they used to be because there is nothing left to sue for. Finding cool new stuff rules the day. Get our attention, and let us make a connection.

Music companies, book publishers, game companies, and filmmakers are eager for us to check out their stuff, watch their films, play their games, or try their software. The more of their content we use, the more they get paid, pro rata. We still pay the same flat fee, unless we select some premium content—which we do all too often, we have to admit. It may cost only a dollar to “sit-in” on the latest recording sessions with your favorite artist, to order a copy of an issue of Twilight Zone that is not on the UMD Network, or to watch a special backstage Webcast of the Grammy awards. Our UMDs make media and entertainment content so irresistible that our cash just keeps flowing out on the network—a “dream come true” for any content provider that can get our attention.

The UMD service and its built-in tracking software allows the content providers and their agents to find out how their content is doing on the network—how many people have tried it, how many people have shared it, how many people have rated it, and who is talking about it. If we want to, we can share some, a little, or all of our data and other feedback with the UMD service, our friends, or the content providers themselves. We can also provide detailed feedback on their content and earn free UMD “points” that we can use to get free stuff. This way, some of our friends even make more money on the UMD network than they spend on getting the content! They review new bands, recommend new songs and movies to their peers, test new games, or become part of focus groups that evaluate new UMD services.

No longer are we tethered to our computer, the LAN connection, or the power plug. UMDs have become as commonplace as cell phones were a decade ago. Gone are the days of having to worry about where to get cool ring tones, how to turn the cell phone into a real gaming device, or where to watch our favorite soccer game.
The UMD comes fully licensed, and we can do whatever we want with it because most ways of using it are simply already included in the price of the device and related service fees. “Fair use” rules and, as customers, we really like the sense of empowerment. If we want access to special content, we simply use the various premium billing options that bill our UMD accounts, deduct directly from our electronic bank accounts, or use any of the cyber-cash services that we can subscribe to.

So what about the prices? It’s 2015, and we’re paying $59 a month to get all the basic content on the network for free, plus of course, thousands of minutes of free voice and videophone calls. Stream it, download it, listen to or view it on demand, transfer it, share it—whatever we want, anytime, anywhere. Peer-to-peer has taken on an entirely new meaning, and it smells like roses to the content providers and media companies.

Best of all, the sheer amount of content on the network is more than we could ever consume: more than five million music tracks from almost any record label, producer, or lately, directly from the artist. In addition, there are more than one million books; two hundred thousand movies, television shows, and video clips; twenty thousand games, and thousands of software packages. And we are talking about the good stuff here, not just back catalog and “archives.” These offerings are instantly available, instantly archived, bookmarkable, searchable with our content agents, and cross-referenced with our network buddies and friends. The only thing we are really missing is the time to try it all!


Sounds an awful lot like an iPhone or Blackberry Bold to me. The only thing really missing is the processor power and storage, and then some agreement about global content licenses and a little clearer thinking on the part of copyright owners and we’ll be there.

2,015 is only 6 years away. You know what, I think we are going to get there way before that.

Forrester predicts the number of MP3-capable phones will grow from around 50 million to 240 million, or 75 percent of the US, by 2013. That pales in comparison to the mobile revolution that is occurring in Europe, Asia, Latin America. Basically the entire rest of the world. This is the future of music.

Sales of digital music in Latin America jumped over 50 percent according to the IFPI, more than twice the global average increase. Most of the sales in the region are dominated by downloads to wireless phones or embedded music on the devices.

The mobile platform will bring huge catalogs of music to our pockets coupled with, tickets, social networking and commerce. This is going to completely change that we interact with music. My iPhone with Shazam, Pandora and Twitter is already amazing. I can’t wait.

Many people have asked me to explain the current status of royalty payments for online music.

A thorough discussion of this past year’s agreement on mechanical royalties was produced by my friends at the Future of Music Coalition.

There is also a good summary on the meeting of the Copyright Royalty Board this past fall here.

The royalties that songwriters receive from CD sales and digital downloads will remain the same, the same for both media and the same as the current rate: 9.1 cents per song. The rate for ringtones will increase to 24 cents a song, above even the 15 cents songwriters and publishers lobbied for.

However there is still great unease with the direction that things are headed on the part of online webcasting and streaming music services as they look into the reality of making payments at these levels. Pandora, NPR and others seeking a new structure want rates to be set as a percentage of total revenue, similar to how royalties are assessed for satellite radio or subscription music services. At the very least, they want a system that will favor webcasters big and small.

Webcasters are required to pay an escalating fee to copyright owners every time they play a song for a listener. This year, for instance, Web radio stations are supposed to pay 14 hundredths of a penny ($.0014) per song streamed, per listener; site operators figure that will cost them about 2.1 cents per user, per hour. That is a figure that most webcasters simply cannot afford to pay, since most sites are advertising supported and do not generate enough revenue to pay the license fees and operate their businesses. Read more from All things Digital here.

We will see what happens in the next month or so as things come to a head.

Music Like Water…Reigning Down

Review from Michael Stevens

On the way back from Indy Friday, I switched the iPod over
to the podcast
, The Future of Music : Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution by
Dave Kusek, Gerd Leonhard. I only made it through the first hour or so
but let me recommend this title to all librarians who want a glimpse of
what the future of music and content dlelivery might be! The more I
think about it, the more I discuss it with my colleague Joe Sipocz (who
gets stuff like this) and the more I read articles like this one about
Yahoo! Music: — and how music services might meet folks’ needs.

Then, I discover this:
A music server for the whole house, most cool! To take it further,
then, Kusek and Leonard propose by 2015 a huge jukebox of all
music..available anytime and virtually anywhere as an inexpensive
monthly subscription… music flows to ear phones, receivers,
everywhere…like water!

In their vision of 2015, Music streams to you via wifi wherever you
are… your "TasteMate" remembers your favorites and keeps those songs
in rotation in your personal playlists…news and entertainment are
available as well…and the music companies have a model of business
that is fair and profitable!

Where do libraries fall in this mix of the ubiquitous jukebox
connected to subscribers? For one thing, the CD collections will slowly
fade away like VHS is now. I wonder if the next step will be vendors of
digital content offering a subscription to libraries — like many
vendors do now. In this vague "Music like Water" future, will the
public library pay yearly for streams or downloads of stuff to their
patrons devices and home media servers? I want to see this future!

WOWZA! I need to continue listening. Please let me know what you think if you have read the book!

There is an inherent difference between receiving information from some service like radio or television, and going out and acquiring information at a music store, video shop or filesharing network.  In the first instance, information is being ‘pushed’ at you by some programming network, and in the second instance, you are ‘pulling’ information to you.  The first is passive and the second is active.

There is little doubt as to the success and popularity of the push services.  Radio and TV have grown to be hugely profitable businesses reaching hundreds of millions of listeners and viewers all while pushing content to willing consumers.  People make the argument that these services became popular because they were free and did not cost anything.  This is not entirely true.  As consumers we are deluged with advertising from these services and we do pay for that advertising as part of the cost of goods that we purchase, often as a result of being influenced by the ads.  It is not really free.  And, you don’t own or store the programming.  It is either on or it is not on when you listen or view the service.

Cable TV began as a paid push service.  Millions of consumers pay a subscription fee for cable and endure the advertising on top of that.  Cable TV has since evolved into a paid push/pull service with the addition of Pay Per View and On-Demand.  You actually have to pay more to pull the programming to you than the basic push service costs.

There is a debate today over music subscription services (push) and paid download music services (pull) and whether one approach is better than the other.  Apple’s position with iTunes is that they don’t believe that people are interested in a subscription service – so you can only pay to download music.  BUT, they have also released a podcast service which allows you to ‘subscribe’ to feeds – albeit for free at the moment.  Seems like a bit of a mixed message to me.

Services such as Napster 2, Rhapsody and Yahoo music all have a combination of push and pull services allowing you to stream music programmed for you, and letting you pay to download tracks.  This approach makes a lot more sense than simply a download service.  Many people argue that subscription services that provide tracks that play for you only as long as you continue to pay for the service are not what they want.  They claim instead that they want to "own" the music – like a CD – rather than "rent" the music.  The point that they are missing is that you never have really owned the music you purchased on CD, you simply licensed it from the labels for your personal use.

This debate will rage on in the years to come as digital music services try out different models and features to try and find the optimum mix and consumer satisfaction.  Look forward to seeing services that provide downloading, streaming, and file-sharing – and a whole lot more.

Here is a good article on this subject from the Hollywood Reporter special fall 2005 report on the future of entertainment.

We have begun to Podcast chapters from the Future of Music.

Periodically we will post a new audio chapter from the Future of Music book along with audio commentary from the authors on the latest happenings in the digital music space.

The Podcast is available as an iTunes subscription and as an RSS feed.  To access simply click on one of the Get the Podcast links on the right column of this blog.

We hope you enjoy listening and encourage you to join our mailing list to stay in touch.