HDTV and Music

It seems that the preferred quality of video content goes up while preferred audio quality stays the same or goes down.

HD video has a portal to distribute high quality, high bandwidth, content. Music content is at the mercy of internet bandwidth.

A fundamental difference is the context. Video has many different levels of experience. HDTV, standard TV, web based HD and standard TV served by the networks, YouTube, and mobile video (iTunes).

Music has one level. iTunes and Amazon are about as premium an experience as you can get when it comes to making a purchase. iTunes is as good as it gets when listening to a library of music. Music social networks like hypem and last.fm are good but the quality isn’t better (audio or experience quality).

Can we create different tiers and formats to experience music beyond what we have now? Can we create a ‘high definition’ experience?

Compilation Records

A few days ago I got a compilation record by Ed Banger Records. It struck me how cool compilation records were and how long its been since I’ve listened to one.

Compilations give fans an overall perspective of what a label is all about. They give insight into a label’s culture. They provide a spring board for more specific purchases. They allow a fan to sample a label’s wares. And most importantly, they are a great representation of what a label believes in.

Our industry needs stuff that can help fans make a connection between the artist and the supporting label.

Musicians and Their Friends

The traditional way of marketing music or any product for that matter is to use the communication technology available to tell as many people as possible about the product. Turn on the TV or listen to the radio. Advertisers are randomly trying to tell everyone about their product.

What is the whole point of trying to contact as many possible customers? ….to reach the taste makers – the real fans. Marketers use radio and TV is to tell everyone in hopes that the taste makers are listening.

In many ways we’ve been treating the internet in the same way. This new communication tool is being used to try and tell everyone about a band. How many friends can we get on a MySpace page? How many people can we follow on Twitter? How can we get our music listed on every mp3 blog? If we do all that, someone who cares will listen right? Ummmmm.

The web isn’t like TV and radio. Today an artist or band can find their real fans, the influencers, easily. How? The real fans will use the web to search out their favorite artists and bands. Those are your peeps. Get to know them. Treat them well because they are going to talk about you.

If you can amaze an audience with a performance and a song, then the puzzle of how you need to use the web to connect with your fans will all fall into place. It’ll be obvious what needs to be done. The fans will tell you.

We, as the music industry, need to use the web to communicate with fans, not talk at them.

Artists Need a Home Base

As entertainment producers we have all this freedom to create what we want and distribute those creations how we see fit.

There aren’t any limits on what we can produce and distribute. Filters? They don’t exist.

I will argue that there needs to be filters. Regardless if you enjoy what a filter like a record label or movie studio puts out, there is a level of quality that is evident in what they produce. That’s the whole point of a label or studio! To serve up the best stuff!

These filters have been hit in the wallet by the change in digital distribution but it doesn’t mean they aren’t important anymore. We still need people who care about music to pick the best of the best, nurture it, help push it along and then show it to the world.

In the future are all bands going to connect with fans direcly on their own, without support? That sounds like a great idea but I’m not sure that it is possible. What I do think is that record labels can connect with fans directly. The filters can make these connections. So much of the work that a band takes on with the DIY style of connecting with fans could be transfered to a label or filter if the right relationship was established. That is what artists need; support! Once an artist or band reaches a certain level, they as individuals can’t take on all the communication work that is needed. That’s where great managers, and great labels come into the picture. A great manager can change an artist’s life. A great label can do the same!

A label is a home. A place where an artist feels comraderie. A place where they feel they belong. A place they can run to.

Connecting with a fan directly is the future. The artist connecting one on one with a fan is part of it. The label needs to stand behind that communication and help that happen. Labels need to be behind the ‘one on one’ connection propping it up, supporting it, and pulling it all together.

Use Care in Connecting With an Audience

There are many channels that an artist can use to broadcast themselves today. We all know this. And, we all know that it has become incredibly popular in recent years.

Personal branding, and DIY production/broadcasting methods seem to be mentioned everywhere today.

Ok, cool, but we all know the what. Lets look at the why. Why are audiences attracted to this?

I’ve decided that its all a matter of authenticity. When an artist broadcasts directly to an audience, he or she is making a gesture that they themselves are real and authentic. I think that is what audiences are increasingly becoming attracted to. Its what they’ve been missing.

You may think that this is obvious but I don’t think it is to a lot of people and groups using social media tools. These tools must be used for the purpose of making an authentic connection. Not every recording artist should Twitter, or blog, or have a YouTube channel.

As an artist, take care in using this stuff. The ‘use it all’ approach won’t resonate with your fans. Take the time to find out what is going to work for you and what you can be creative with.

What is the Point of Touring?

Is it to increase your friend count, entertain, simply play music in front of people, connect with people, feel like a rock star? To you, the musician, what is the point of touring?

What *really* is the point of touring? Answer: To personally knock the audience out of their seats with your performance so they leave wanting more.

Here are a few things that will be helpful.

Surround yourself with a handful of people who believe in you who aren’t parents and aren’t in the band. Put yourself in a location that feels comfortable. Be surrounded by artists with similar goals and similar paths. (Great stuff comes from bands feeding of of each other. Movements start when bands feed off of each other.) And, make sure someone responsible is running your ‘show’.

Play enough that you are making money doing it. There is one really good way of measuring how well you are doing as a band. If people are paying to come see you then you are connecting with an audience.

Make sure your manager or someone who cares is keeping track of some numbers for you. If you’ve been gigging for eight months and you are starting to see a rise in your monthly take at shows then good for you. If you see a spike at month two when you opened for Death Cab, but then the line dropped way back down, then you might think twice about putting so much time and energy into landing that opening spot when all it did was gave u a spike and bragging rights.

If you can get yourself on the road and build up to the break-even point and then on to putting money in your pocket, you are on your way. Today’s world is different with people broadcasting themselves in every direction, but as a band or musician who wants to be a real pro it really isn’t that different. Just play. Having a pro knock my head off with a performance never gets old or cheap.

So the next time you feel like you need to be on tour opening for some amazing, act ask yourself why. Do you need to be on this tour because you mesh with the band and you bring something to the table, or do you just want their fans that they worked hard to get to see you?

Omon Ra in Montreal

This is for all the Montreal peeps and people who are going to be in Montreal on Thursday:)

Tessa of Fixture Records is a friend that Dan and I made through working on AjiSignal.

If you are in Montreal on Thursday go check out the Fixture Records release party for Omon Ra‘s The Halls of Medicine.

Thursday, August 7th 9PM at Divian Orange (4234 Saint-Laurent)
Cover: $7 includes an advance copy of the record

More details are on Omon Ra’s MySpace page.

ArtistDish Numero Two

The ArtistDish podcast episode two is available.

If you are into digital music, technology and the like then you’ll probably be entertained with what Bruce Houghton of Hypebot, Duncan Freeman of IndieMusicTech, and myself talk about. :)

In this episode we talk about price points for digital singles, and digital audio quality on the web.

The ArtistDish podcast is about digital music trends and tools.

The discussion topics in this podcast were suggested by Greg Piper, Adam Wexler and Kate Lawson. Special thanks to Amy Devon of Burning Couch for providing their song “Pulse. You can have your music featured on the ArtistDish; just send us an email for consideration. Stay tuned for the next show in about 3 weeks. You can also follow ArtistDish on Twitter. If you have any questions, show suggestions or comments, post them here.

Music from the ISP is Convenient Pt2

Now, price comes into the convenience picture.

But why would a service like this hook up with the ISPs you ask? Well, the service will need to bill for their offering somehow and getting together with the people that provide the access in the first place seems like a good place to start At least no one else is servicing that area yet so it is an open opportunity to check out. Everyone who pays for access to the internet will have the option to have access to a music store and that is simply convenient. More people will be willing to give money to a central company than multiple companies.

I think that a big challege will be organizing the major record labels to cooperate with each other to create a store at the ISP. Hulu was created by the TV industry to service the TV industry and in a best case scenario the music industry would do the same. If the industry doesn’t build it for themselves then someone else will.

After all, piracy is dead so why wouldn’t the music industry themselves build a better, more convenient place to download music?

Update: A key is to do what the other stores are not. And, it is best if this comes from the industry itself.

Music from the ISP is Convenient Pt1

The idea of a music service being bundled with a cable bill is something that I haven’t been fond of in the past. I have always felt that a music service could be built on the web that would be pleasing to most. I’ve been looking around at the state of music services and it is apparent that there are a couple services that work and a ton of services who are experimenting with pricing models and delivery, trying to get it right.

I’m going lay out some observations and leave pricing out of the discussion for now.

iTunes and Amazon rule with convenience. If you want to get music, it will be hard to find a more convenient place to *find* and get music beyond these two stores. There are fringe stores like Bleep that have great stuff but not everything, and thus aren’t convenient for everyone. Most people want to go to one place to find what they need.

Another very convenient way to get music is through p2p. Through p2p I can get any music I want quickly and easily. It is possibly the most convenient way of acquiring music digitally. But, there are some drawbacks. One is that quality fluctuates too much. It is hard to know what you are downloading. Inconsistent quality is a big blow to p2p’s convenience rating. Another drawback is that p2p portals aren’t stores. Typically, p2p portals aren’t used for browsing. It isn’t fun to browse around on a p2p service. It *is* fun to browse iTunes and Amazon.

So, we have two big convenient stores and we have the seemingly less convenient p2p portals. Now, one thing that the p2p portals have that the other big stores don’t have is an instant representation of what is available digitally on the web.

For instance, there may be a mix tape or a bootleg or a leaked track that I can’t find on any store but I can find on a p2p portal. This is big score for p2p’s convenience factor.

All of this leads up to the point of music being served by an ISP service. If an incredible music store were bundled with monthly cable bills, that could be turned off and on like Netflix, it might be enough for all the frustrated people searching for music to use it. This store would have to reflect what is available digitally in real time like p2p networks do, and also provide the fun browsing environment like the big digital stores.

Convenience needs to be in the foreground, not price.

This is not a solution that will fix *everything*. There will never be ‘one’ music service that people use. I think this is all the more reason to make available a music service that is bundled with a cable bill.