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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.

Your band name is one of the most important assets you have. It’s how fans identify you, it represents you and your music, and for some bands, like the Rolling Stones or Black Flag, it can become an iconic symbol representing a genre, attitude, or era. With the market saturated with small amateur bands, the likelihood that another shares your same name is increasing.

This interview with James Trigg and Ashford Tucker, lawyers specializing in copyright and trademark law, explains the importance of a unique trademark, the steps necessary to secure ownership of a trademark, and domain names.

A trademark serves to identify the source of goods or services. When we see marks like COCA-COLA, MICROSOFT, BUDWEISER and BMW, we instantly associate them with the products sold in conjunction with them, and we rely on these names to assist us in distinguishing one product or service from another. Thus, generally, trademark law seeks to prevent consumer confusion by allowing trademark owners to control the use of their marks so that consumers can rely on a trademark as an indication of a product or service’s unique characteristics.

The law of trademarks applies to the fields of music, film, literature and art just as readily as it does to soda, software, beer and cars. Of course, most of us do not like to think of the arts as a “commodity,” something that merely is bought and sold. Similarly,artists themselves at times may be reluctant to view their names or their creations as commercial trademarks that identify them to the public in exactly the same way that BUDWEISER identifies Anheuser-Busch.   Nonetheless, by taking steps to protect their names, entertainers and artists can assume greater control of their identities and the way that those identities are perceived by the public.

To read the full interview, and learn more about trademark law and how it applies to your band and career, visit Digital Music News.

 

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.

Here is a guest post excerpt from my friend and artist MC Lars from the Huffington Post UK.

“In last week’s State of the Union, President Obama stressed the importance of creatively revitalising our nation’s economy. He called for “an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values,” the blueprint for lasting domestic prosperity. There are some parallels to this shift in thinking in today’s indie rap game, specifically in application of sustainable new media economics.”

“What this means then is that in order for artists like me to survive, I must be creative with how I let people hear my music. A primary means of distribution in 2011 was my USB robot, a two-gigabyte hard drive keychain that housed all of my albums digitally. I also sell t-shirts with cartoon characters I draw myself and I try to print on shirts manufactured domestically when I can. 47% of my income comes from merchandise, 40% from ticket sales, and 13% comes from iTunes, Spotify or other paid music services through the internet. I used a crowdsourced funding site called Kickstarter to produce my last album, with added bonuses of drawings and personalized songs to the highest contributors.

If the internet were compromised or regulated to the point where the 13% of my traditional digital income (from iTunes, Spotify, and others) were to disappear, it could likely mean that people would turn to getting my music for free, which would then mean that I would need more ticket and t-shirt sales in order to maintain my income level. (My income, by the way, covers my expenses, taxes, and health insurance, and that’s it.)

“Economically, we are living in an era that takes us back to the punk and indie roots of the 70s and 80s. Musicians must be able to go out and perform for years in small clubs to tiny crowds; it’s the way one perfects his or her craft and pays his or her dues. It’s how bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat became legendary, they had explosive, powerful shows and were willing to sacrifice everything to make their music heard. Henry Rollins of Black Flag tells his story in his classic book of journals, Get in the Van, an important read for any indie musician today.

We live in an era of innovative fusion of old and new. Being a musician no longer means simply being a songwriter and performer. One must also know a little bit about business, branding, t-shirt design, social networking, production, publicity, accounting and tour managing.

Ultimately, what this is means is that if you own and run your own business, no one can take that away from you. (The MPAA and RIAA exist to maintain the status quo of the entertainment industry, but I don’t need someone with a large salary lobbying for my interests as an artist when that person is disconnected from the reality of new media economics that I’ve described above.)

The internet in its current free and open format is important to me as an independent indie rap musician and artist. In fact the internet is essential to me and to all of the other artists who are like me. The government’s harnessing and regulating the internet and its free flow of information would be a dangerous thing in that it could lead to government control of a very important channel of a portion of the income that I earn – and through which I express myself freely, exercising my First Amendment rights as an artist.”

Read the whole thing here from the Huff Post UK.

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.

http://www.podbean.com/podcast-audio-video-blog-player/mp3playerlightsmallv3.swf?audioPath=http://networkingmusician.podbean.com/mf/play/nsumyj/MusicPowerNetwork.mp3&autoStart=no

The music industry is being reinvented before our very eyes. Learn how it is developing from today’s entrepreneurs including Ian Rogers from TopSpin, Steve Schnur from EA, and Derek Sivers and how you can capitalize on the changing opportunities.

MPN is my latest project and an online service for music business people and music and artist managers creating the future of the industry. MPN provides online music business lessons, exclusive video interviews and advice, career and business planning tools and thousands of specially selected resources designed to help you achieve success in this ever changing industry. MPN gives you the tools, expertise and guidance to help you get organized and take your music career to the next level. Learn from industry experts, set your goals and realize your vision.


Our book is available in various forms.

The Future of Music Book

You can listen to the book on iTunes as a podcast for free. Go to the iTunes store and search “Future of Music” podcasts and subscribe.

You can buy the book on Amazon for $11.53 or less.

You can purchase the audiobook from Audible for $7.49.

Here are a few of the reviews.

Publishers Weekly
Two innovators in music technology take a fascinating look at the impact of the digital revolution on the music business and predict “a future in which music will be like water: ubiquitous and free-flowing.” Kusek and Leonhard foresee the disappearance of CDs and record stores as we know them in the next decade; consumers will have access to more products than ever, though, through a vast range of digital radio channels, person-to-person Internet file sharing and a host of subscription services. The authors are especially good at describing how the way current record companies operate – as both owners and distributors of music, with artists making less than executives – will also drastically change: individual CD sales, for example, will be replaced by “a very potent ‘liquid’ pricing system that incorporates subscriptions, bundles of various media types, multi-access deals, and added-value services.” While the authors often shift from analysts into cheerleaders for the über-wired future they predict – “Let’s replace inefficient content-protection schemes with effective means of sharing-control and superdistribution!” – their clearly written and groundbreaking book is the first major statement of what may be “the new digital reality” of the music business in the future.

5.0 out of 5 stars THE FUTURE OF MUSIC IS NOW
Gian Fiero (Hollywood, California)

This book is so brilliant that it makes the vast majority of music industry books that are being published seem irrelevant. It discusses in detail, the reasons why the future of the music industry is headed into the digital/mobile entertainment era. It also provides statistical information that professionals, marketers, entrepreneurs, and educators can use constructively. Both Dave and Gerd (the books co-author), have their fingers firmly planted on current music industry activities and trends. They also possess and display a clairvoyant eye toward the future that offers beneficial insight and foresight to those who may not be aware of what this whole digital (i.e. independent) revolution is about, and most importantly, what it will entail to prosper in it. The book is easy to read, easy to understand and simply brilliant. If you buy just one industry book this year, this should be THE one. Buy it now!

5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensible
Stephen Hill “Producer, Hearts of Space” (San Rafael, CA USA)

A stunningly candid source of concentrated, up to date insight about the music business and its turbulent transition into the digital era. This book tells it straight and will make the dinosaurs of the music industry very unhappy.

Like Martin Luther’s ’95 Theses’ nailed to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, Kusek and Leonard drive nail after nail into the sclerotic heart of the old-fashioned music business. Their rational vision of the future of music rests on the idea of unshackling music from the hardcopy product business in a yet-to-be-realized era of open content licensing, facilitating sharing and communication among users, and growing the business to its full potential.

It provides as clear a vision of the future of the music industry as you will find, from two writers with a rare combination: a solid grounding in the traditional practices of the music business, an up-to-the-minute knowledge of the new technologies that are changing it, and the ability to think through the consequences.

I’ve dreamed about a book like this, but thought it would be impossible in today’s hyperdynamic environment where every week seems to bring a breakthrough technology, device, or service. But by digging out the underlying trends and principles Kusek and Leonard get under the news and illuminate it. Along the way they provide a brilliantly concise history of the evolution of digital media.

I can’t think of any book more important for artists to get the full re-orientation they need to survive and prosper in the digital era. It’s no less critical for members of the music and broadcasting industries who need to consolidate their thinking into a coherent roadmap for the future. In a word: indispensible.

The state of the music business is obviously in transition, but new models are beginning to work at various levels that shine a very positive light on the future of the music industry. For example, some of the predictions made in the Future of Music Book and in other places are beginning to come to pass, such as the abandonment of DRM, music subscription and licensing services, ad supported music and the ascent of the Indie artist and Indie label. Take a look at these examples:

You can now purchase MP3 files for download without DRM from all four major labels on Amazon.com, emusic and a growing list of music destinations. The predictions that an unprotected format would kill sales have simply not been true. These businesses are exploding.

Early proponents of the subscription models Napster and Rhapsody have survived and are growing.

There is active discussion of a flat-fee structure for music at major labels where once we were laughed out of the offices.

Indie Labels now account for upwards of 30% of total music sales, up from the low 20’s just a few years ago. This is a profound shift in the powerbase that favors the independent artist and innovator.

Social music sites such as LastFM, Pandora, iLike and many more are making the fans into tastemakers with the ability to promote and share great new music at the touch of a button.

This is all very good news for musicians, writers and artists who want control of their destiny and their careers.