In our advice corner this week we provide suggestions for independent and DIY artists on how to prep their music for a vinyl pressing, make better concert posters, avoid common mistakes when putting together an electronic press kit, and much, much more.
Music Think Tank Weekly Recap: Mistakes The Beatles Made • Increase Your Chances Of Getting Press • New Artist Model Approach • More
Most recently on MusicThinkTank, we examined how choice of music can effect productivity, what to do before your first DJing gig, how to get more fans on YouTube, and more.
- Karl Heimer | Tips For Advanced Drumming
- Erin Taylor | How Your Choice Of Music Affects Productivity
- Jon Ostrow | How To Get More Fans On YouTube
In this trip down memory lane from the last seven days of music industry news, we revisit the damage done to after a massive DDOS attack, the spike in Janet Jackson's 'Nasty' on Spotify following Trump's debate outburst, Kanye's complaint of the Apple/Tidal feud, and much, much more.
Some of Hypebot's most popular and well received posts from the past week included a look at the truth behind Amazon Music's alleged low price, ASCAP's litigous actions against unlicensed venues, music streaming's tipping point, and more.
UPDATE: DDoS Attacks Continue As Spotify, SoundCloud, Others Experience Outages - Homeland Security Investigating
UPDATE: Spotify, SoundCloud, Twitter and Reddit and are among the major sites down or loading slowly today thanks to a massive DDOS attack. The Distributed Denial Of Services attacks, which had subsided briefly mid-day, have returned with a vengeance, according to managed DNS provider DYN.
Other sites affected include the Boston Globe, New York Times, Github, Airbnb, Box, Freshbooks, Heroku and Vox Media. While this morning's attacks appeared to be worse for users on the U.S. east coast, this afternoon;s problems are much more widespread.
AppleInsider is reporting that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is "monitoring the situation" and "investigating all potential causes" of the outages. Just before 3PM ET Friday DYN shared that their "engineers are still investigating and mitigating the attacks on our infrastructure."
Get more status update from DYN here.
With the recent massive uptick in vinyl's popularity of late, more and more artists have been working to get their music pressed in this format to release to fans. Preparing and album for vinyl, however, is decidedly different from doing so for CD or digital release. Here we look at how to so correctly.
Guest Post by Vlado Meller
When vinyl album production ramped down in the 1990s, many thought the format was as dead as the 8-track tape. But vinyl has returned stronger than ever, and more artists are looking to get releases out in this format for their fans. However, preparing a recording for a vinyl pressing has a few important differences than for a digital or CD release, and it’s important to know what they are before you even go into the studio to record.
I’ve been mastering records of all kinds - from Frank Sinatra to Frank Ocean and Metallica to Andrea Bocelli - since the 1960s, and I’m deeply familiar with how vinyl albums are prepared and cut. If you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of vinyl, here’s what to keep in mind throughout the process – from recording and ordering your album to pressing and shipping:
1. Engineer Experience Varies
First of all, if you're choosing to release music on vinyl, you should know that you can’t just send your usual engineer the files and ask them make a vinyl out of it. Many of today’s mastering engineers - especially less experienced ones - have not pressed vinyl, so make sure to ask a candidate if they personally master to vinyl, and if so, the extent of their discography. For example, the most critical things to prep for vinyl are the levels and the EQ; excessive high and low frequencies should be avoided in the mix and also during mastering, as they do not translate well to vinyl.
2. Length Matters
When you're preparing your album's final length and tracklisting, you need to take into consideration the way these factors relate to the vinyl medium. If you're looking for loud levels, sides should be between 17-18 minutes or less - the shorter the better. If the program sides are longer, EQ and overall levels have to be adjusted accordingly.
3. The First Song Will Sound The Best
Your best tracks, or the most sonically complex ones, or song you care most about, should be the first or second song in a side’s tracklisting, because the best playback is on the outside of the vinyl. As the diameter of the grooves gets smaller and smaller, audio quality slowly and subtly degrades as the pick up travels toward the center of the record.
4. For Your Reference
Once you've chosen the right engineers and tracklisting, you'll need to make sure that the engineer cutting the vinyl is doing their job correctly. It’s standard for the cutting engineer to share a vinyl reference disc before the vinyl master is sent for production, so you’ll need to confirm that this will happen. The reference disc you get from a cutting engineer should come back sounding nearly exactly the same as the finished product from the pressing plant. The quality of the final pressings depends on the skills and quality of the pressing plant.
5. Testing, Testing
While it is standard, double-check that your pressing plant provides you with a test pressing for your approval before the complete production order is fulfilled. Problems can arise in the pressing plant; just because you got a great vinyl reference doesn't mean the same thing will come out of the factory. A test pressing is viewed as a sort of insurance policy when making mass amounts of vinyl. And make sure you’re not going on vacation or something that delays you getting the test pressing and approving it - the plating should take place within 24 hours after the cutting. It cannot wait two weeks, and it cannot even wait from Friday to Monday (especially in hot weather). The cutting master can develop pre and post echo problems, similar to analog tape.
Mistakes can be made at each step of the process, and these are just the basic points to keep in mind. So if you are serious about getting the best possible sound from vinyl for your music, do your due diligence and learn more about the intricacies of vinyl production, and make sure everyone involved with your album is on the same page.
While major labels once held the majority of power within the music industry, able to pick and choose which artists they would buoy on to success, the tables seem to have shifted, with streaming services like Spotify now acting as the primary gatekeepers between artists and the potential consumers of their music.
Guest post by Jason Chernofsky of fan engagement platform The Village
In 2012, when EMI sold to Universal and Sony, then-CEO Roger Faxon told reporters that "major record labels, if they ever were, are no longer the gatekeepers. It's the music that matters, not the source anymore. You don't have to have a [major label] to produce an album anymore. The power now is with consumers, not labels."
The gatekeeper analogy is quite befitting. Without getting signed to a label, artists were once all but lost- dealing with the costs and complexities of recording, pressing, and distributing an album was just too much. And Savon’s comments were right- the major labels definitely are not the gatekeepers anymore. But if you follow the trail to see where the former EMI exec moved next, you can see that the music industry is just replacing one gatekeeper with another. Today, Faxon sits on the board of Pandora, one of a few giants in music streaming, an industry that will enjoy far more control over the music industry than the labels ever had.
He’s not alone. Over the past few years, the streaming platforms have been poaching music industry execs left and right. Dozens of names have gone from the labels to the streaming platforms in recent years and increasing numbers. A recent Music Business Worldwide article lists 57 names, saying it’s just a taster menu from the long list of music industry execs to make the switch to tech.
At first glance, this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. Streaming platforms are no longer the newcomers to the music industry. They are the power players.
THE DAYS OF TWO GATEKEEPERS
The shift is easier to understand by taking a look back at how the music industry used to work. Before the internet generated the likes of eMusic and Napster, there were two kinds of gatekeepers- consumer gatekeepers and artist gatekeepers.
The artist gatekeepers were the labels and publishers, the ones with the infrastructure in place to record, press, and distribute music. If you couldn’t get signed, you’d be hard pressed to get your music out there to a large audience. On the other hand, you had the consumer gatekeepers- radio, newspapers, TV, etc.- who controlled which music reached the ears of consumers. If you couldn’t get airplay or coverage, then nobody would hear about you.
Ultimately, if you, your music, or your management couldn’t find a way to get both gatekeepers on board, you were unlikely to break big as a musician.
THE DAYS OF MANY GATEKEEPERS
Then came the internet, making it a lot easier to become a gatekeeper.
Control over what music consumers listen to generally shifts to wherever consumers go. And in the 90s and 00s, they went to the internet. Radio has always had a huge grasp over consumer listening habits. But throughout the 80s and 90s, newspapers, magazines, and MTV also had a huge say in what music became popular. But as the internet erupted, so did traditional media's grasp of control. The digital revolution gave way to music blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, and even subReddits that would make names for themselves as new gatekeepers. And with so many gatekeepers, covering everything from jazz to psytrance and hip-hop to deep acid house, everyone had a place to find the music they loved.
All you needed to become a gatekeeper was to roll up your sleeves, find your niche market, and keep churning out content.
THE STREAMING PLATFORM TAKEOVER
Along came the streaming platforms. At first, they were met with disapproval by the labels. Grooveshark, one of the first major streaming platforms who ignored proper licensing needs, shut its doors after being hit with a $17B lawsuit. But the other streaming platforms learned from Grooveshark’s failure and understood the need for a strong legal team that would secure licensing rights from the labels. Eventually, they won the support of the labels.
They started out as libraries. You could go into the platform and listen to all of the music they owned rights to, which has evolved to include just about everything that’s been recorded digitally. But as they grew, their users encountered the “search box quandary”, or that feeling you get when you’re presented with a massive database of music but no clue what to listen to.
So the platforms set out to solve that. Initially, they just created curated playlists. This helped but never really solved the discovery problem for users- they still had to spend time searching for new music elsewhere. As the platforms attempted to solve the problem, Pandora, then considered internet radio, had found success solving the discovery problem by using a smart algorithm and a team of curators. Instead of searching for new music elsewhere, just type in the name of an artist you like and Pandora will find more similar music.
The streaming platforms quickly followed suit, seeing an opportunity to be far more than just the place you listen to music, but also the place you find it. Spotify and YouTube would quickly offer similar algorithms to their users. With so many players in streaming, discovery quickly became their new battleground for differentiation. Some dropped their algorithms before even using them (ahem, Apple Music), others have found new and unique ways to build different algorithms (Spotify’s Discover Weekly).
Now the streaming platforms have worked their way into the center of music discovery, some with algorithmic playlists (Spotify, YouTube, Pandora), others with curated playlists (Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music). All of them now viewing discovery as a key battleground, understanding the value of becoming the consumer gatekeepers- the ones who control what music consumers are exposed to.
HOW STREAMING PLATFORMS ARE TAKING OVER THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY
Already the place where users went to listen to music, it was easy enough for platforms to become the discovery platform of choice for their users. Spotify’s Discover Weekly hit 5 billion listens just 10 months after launching. With just about 100 million users, that’s about 50 new songs discovered via Discover Weekly per Spotify user.
Now labels have effectively become data companies, looking to the streaming platforms to find the new hot artists. Instead of sending A&R teams out to discover new acts, they monitor things like listens, adds, and skips across platforms to see which artists are worth signing. The power the streaming platforms have should be clear- they own the path to both getting signed and getting heard. Effectively, they’re already more powerful than the labels ever were, becoming the new gatekeepers for consumers and for artists.
And they have yet to hit their ceiling in terms of power within the industry. Their algorithms and curated playlists have a huge say over what their users consume. If they choose to promote a song or album, they can easily draw millions of listens for the artist. Right now, they split the revenue these listens generate with the label and publisher. Which should make you wonder- if they own the ears of fans, why wouldn’t the platforms become labels and publishers themselves instead of losing so much to the labels?
It’s an obvious play for the streaming platforms, given Netflix’s success creating its own content. Spotify and YouTube have already dabbled in creating their own videos and music is the clear next step. For musicians, these platforms can offer unprecedented access to the ears of audiences by placing them on the most popular playlists. And by removing the label’s seat at the table, there’s more pie to go around for the musicians, too.
It’s pretty clear that it’s already happening and the platforms aren’t even being coy about it. Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s former manager, was named Spotify’s Global Head of Creator Services and ex-Universal Pat Shah was named Head of Original Content Licensing. Apple Music already has former head of Interscope Jimmy Iovine, who has succesfully wooed their own heads of original content. YouTube brought on former Def Jam chief Lyor Cohen.
Basically, the streaming platforms have now set their sights on taking over not only discovery and distribution, but also the creation of music. Since they own discovery, their music will almost certainly be promoted, and they’ll be taking the bulk of the cut, splitting it only with the artists. The labels still have their power in the deals with artists, but with time, artists will see the clear advantages of working with the streaming platforms. And labels could find themselves in an even deeper hole than the one they’re already stuck in.
INNOVATION AS A METHOD OF SURVIVAL
While the streaming platforms are taking even more control over the music industry, there’s still a lot of hope for everyone else. The technological sword that is slowly killing them can also be their savior, if they only embrace it.
Until recently, technology and music were viewed as two separate industries. As they slowly become intertwined, it’s clear that there can be no separation if you want to survive in the long-term. While some still look at the music industry’s state today and see technology as an enemy that cannibalized album sales, it’s actually their strongest ally. Clinging to the old model by finding ways to increase album sales just won’t work. It's not about creating the next streaming platform, either. That's already been done. It's about creating the next thing that provides enough value to consumers to catch their attention.
All they have to do is switch their mindset and understand that they must completely embrace technology. To survive in tomorrow’s music industry, companies will need to not only work with technology, but become technology companies themselves.
First impressions are as important in the music business as they are anywhere else, and your band bio is often the thing making that impression, meaning its important that is stay up to snuff. Here a veteran bio writer offers some quick and useful tips on getting your bio to stand out.
Guest post by Sharyn from the ReverbNation Blog
- DON’T overestimate the reader’s attention span. Keep it short and sweet – think one to two paragraphs max.
- DON’T let writing intimidate you, reach out to your writer friends for advice
- DO hook the reader in with the very first sentence
- DON’T use cliche phrases like “hails from” or “we sound like (insert band name) and (insert another totally different band) had a baby. Be original.
- DO create a strong, unique tag line for your band that press can latch onto like “disco pop princess” or “post-millennial Billie Holiday”
- DO find a compelling story line about your life and music that sets you apart and build the bio around this
- DON’T include 15 press quotes from unknown sources (i.e. your friend’s tumblr)
- DO include at least one strong press quote from a reputable press source
- Jesse Ruben thought he would never play music again after contracting lyme disease.
- The Bergamot toured the country in a car they had strangers sign in every city they stopped in.
- Sammy Brue was discovered busking at 11 years old at Sundance Music Festival.
Sharyn started at the Windish Agency in Chicago at the front desk. After a year, she became the president’s personal assistant then his booking assistant, eventually working her way up to a full-blown agent with her own roster. In her six years at the agency, she has worked on tours for dozens of artist including The xx, alt-J, Hot Chip, Gotye, The Knife, and M83. Prior to Windish, Sharyn worked as an assistant talent buyer for two small venues in Chicago and did PR for a few artists. She now works in artist development for ReverbNation CONNECT and manages artists.
Posters are an important part of promoting an upcoming show, and the content and style of said posters go a long way towards impacting their effectiveness as a promotional tool. Here we look at twelve helpful tips to ensure you're getting the most out of your design.
Guest Post by Chris Robley & Arielle Danos on The DIY Musician
Don’t just make a poster, make a statement
I’ve been a fan of design tools like Word Swag and Canva for a while now. I can’t say the results of what I make with those tools ever beats what my friends who are professional graphic designers would create, but when you’re trying to get a poster or web image made for zero dollars, and pronto, they’re fantastic solutions.
I heard about another design solution recently called PosterMyWall, and I thought I’d ask someone that has experience with the service for advice on getting the most out of it. Arielle Danos, who’s both the promoter for a band called The Southern EarthTones and a designer for PosterMyWall, offered some great design tips that apply no matter how you’re creating your poster.
Check out her advice below.
1. Choose a template that matches the style of your band.
Example: If your style is R&B, make it clean and smooth. Add smooth lines and cool silhouettes of people; maybe the moon and stars to help your ad describe the gig’s atmosphere so that consumers who are likely to be your true audience will be interested. Alternately, a punk rock band would use choppy, chicken-scratch word type, graffiti, and an overall, grungy look.
2. Consider using a black background.
Although bright colors get attention, most of the flyers that I have used for my band have a predominantly black background. A black background is sleek, clean, and always professional looking, in music especially. DJ & Bar Flyers are the same. Think about what most bands set up behind them for a live show. A black backdrop. Same concept. Add bright lights and big flashy wording to take the audience’s mind into stage/show mode just from looking at an ad before they even attend the event. They are more likely to follow through in attendance.
3. Image selection and treatment will make or break your poster.
Templates with single images are less cluttered. Go for either one large image that commands attention by dominating the poster or one small image surrounded by lots of white space that makes readers curious. PosterMyWall lets you upload your own image so you can personalize any template.
Take advantage of PosterMyWall’s different photo image effects to make your band photo really interesting. With scratched edge effects, tints, torn paper, black & white, invert filters and sepia effects, you can make the entire poster look ten times more professional in a matter of one click.
Vintage flyers and ads are very popular, the circa 1950’s – 1970’s look with either plain vintage parchment or bright colored or color-faded background, big bold boxy words and only 1-3 simple band line-up photos. Add your band’s photo with a yellow color tint or antique effect to make it look as old as your grandmother’s birth certificate.
4. Don’t forget the important details like date, time, place, entrance fee.
BUT don’t make the cover charge or entrance fee so noticeable that it overwhelms the design. Put it a little smaller and more toward the bottom of the flyer, as the viewer will normally look from top to bottom. A high priced, very noticeable cover charge may throw people off right away. I’ve witnessed this happen.
5. Include social media info.
Always make sure to put any sites or social networks you are linked to on the poster, adding that social network’s icon helps bring the viewers attention to your page; more views=more likes=bigger crowds=more exposure=closer to success.
6. Include an incentive for each show ad.
Think of something that goes beyond the pre-sale ticket discount, like a free drawing to win an autographed item, a drink tab, food discount, anything that helps show the connection between the band and the establishment/venue/event helps to connect the audience to both the event or place and the band as well. Which means they are more likely to tell their friends, like your page, and return to that particular place.
7. Create good will for your band by giving back.
If you’re into helping charities or doing benefits, it’s a great way to advertise your show for more positive feedback. You donate anyways, so why not involve your band as a supporter of certain foundations. Example: a drawing for a breast cancer gift basket during the breast cancer awareness month of October. Be sure to highlight your cause on your event poster.
8. ALWAYS USE HOLIDAYS as an added attraction.
People love a good gimmick. So if it’s Halloween, dress up, and advertise a costume contest. Same with any other holiday. It gives them all the more reason to go to the event. And make your poster just as festive!
9. Resize your poster design for sharing via social media.
It takes just one click with PosterMyWall. Select from the “Re-size Design” dropdown menu to create a FB, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, Etsy or LinkedIn post.
10. Post the poster on FB, Twitter, Instagram,and any other social media platforms your band uses.
Post it on your FB page and make a FB event page. Remember to always make the event page a public event. It helps anyone who searches for you to easily know who you are and when your next show is scheduled. Do it at least one week ahead of time, and get every band member, family member, and friend to invite everyone they have in their list. It is a little tedious but well worth it.
11. Increase exposure by getting the venue to post the image on their social media accounts.
THIS IS A MUST. Venues absolutely need to know that they have to promote the show as well and may need a little reminding to do it. Don’t be shy. I have had lots of times that an establishment just simply forgot about spreading the news or the info on their books was wrong – mistakes I was able to correct by checking in with the venue.
Also, brainstorm with the venue for ad ideas that appeal to them. One thing I did was making up a drink (mixed or virgin) named after the band, and listed it on the poster at a discount price. This helps fans remember your name and the fact that “you” helped to get them a drink deal.
12. Don’t forget the press.
Most local papers and local TV and radio stations run an “Arts and Entertainment” section or a “Things to do” calendar. They usually also have a FB page. Reach out to them to ask how your FB post (and poster) can be shared with their audience. PosterMyWall posters look great on these sights – they really stand out and are a great way to advertise your event.
Chris Robley... is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songsthat've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.
Music Publishing News Roundup 10.21.16: Google, Amazon Exploit Songwriter Loophole • Australasian Revenue • Core Rights + SOCAN
Australasian collection society APRA AMCOS reported record revenue of a third of a billion Australian dollars for the financial year 2015-2016.
The main driver for the revenue gains for both societies was over A$20 million ($15 million) in digital revenue from downloads, subscriptions and ad-funded streaming services, video-on-demand, websites, and user-generated services. CEO Brett Cottle said, “the sheer volume of music being consumed is growing exponentially, which means that the fruits of this growth are being spread over a vastly increased pool of songwriters.”
• Google and Amazon are under fire for utilizing a loophole in US Copyright law to exploit songwriters’ work without compensation. These services have been sending notices of intent to use songwriters’ works to the U.S. Copyright Office if they’re unable to find the songwriter’s contact information, allowing them to continue to use the songs without paying royalties until the songwriter is found. Songwriters are sometimes never found, and the services are legally allowed to continue to use their work for free due to compulsory licenses mandated by the US government.
• Core Rights has partnered with SOCAN and Re:Sound to form Canada’s first country-wide digital marketplace for licensing music rights, with the help of a strategic alliance with Soundstr. Nashville-based Core Rights creates digital marketplaces that power licensing needs across countries and markets, integrating into existing PROs and other rights management functions to manage e-commerce, transactions, and digital contracts. This new platform will allow digital agents representing business owners, rights holders, and music suppliers to meet to create a one-stop shop for customers.