Jan 31, 2010

L.A. Times calls Records Labels Irrelevant

The L.A. Times published an article written by Geoff Boucher this morning titled The Path to Success is no longer labeled(Get it? Like a "Record label"?) Bad Puns aside, this is an insightful look into the current concerns and goals of local emerging artists. The tale is told mostly from the perspective of local indie act The Afternoons (who are actually now called Shadow Shadow Shade after they ran into a UK band that is also called "The Afternoons"

Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers supplies some wisdom that sums up what he sees as the current state of things
When I was young, it was about the magical record-label guy who tapped you on the shoulder and suddenly you're playing the Forum, riding around in a limo, getting that shiny tour bus. All of that doesn't exist anymore.

So what does exist? An opportunity for artists to operate outside of the label ecosystem. Any reasonable person would agree that no one has a bead on exactly what the next generation relationship between artist and fan is as of today. New hybrid models are being created and the internet plays a large role. Seems like it might be a lot of fun to figure it out.

Jan 24, 2010

Re-Mix Contest at layer23.com - get your remix released on a limited edition E.P.

Layer23.com is hosting a remix contest for 2 Gardening, Not Architecture tracks.
The winners will have their tracks released on a limited edition USB flash drive that will be hand decorated by G,NA's Sarah Saturday.
The complete individual tracks for two songs are posted, "Stop, I get it" and "Proof". The EP will also feature a full live Gardening, Not Architecuture set.
You can enter the re-mix contest at www.layer23.com

Jan 22, 2010

10,000 Reasons you are not a successful music act.

I wrote earlier about Tom Silverman's assessment that artists who sell less than 10,000 copies of an album are some how unsuccessful. After an interview at musiciancoaching.com was posted this week there has been a lot of grumbling about a) whether the seemingly arbitrary number of "10,000 albums" was anything less than well, arbitrary and b) are the number he quotes accurate?

Steve Lawson makes a few key points about this:
It’s ... based on ‘Soundscan’ statistics.

I hadn't considered that when originally reading Silverman's comments. His numbers may be accurate regarding sales tracked by Soundscan but
by their very nature, Independent artists operate outside of the Soundscan retail sales ecology.
At Aderra we often work with artists and labels that bundle a studio album on a MicroSd card or flash drive along with a live show we have recorded. While the studio album sales are always carefully tracked and reported to Nielsen the live tracks are not recognized by Soundscan at all. In 2008 our clients moved about 100,000 flash drives. Assuming there were 20 live tracks on each one
that is 2,000,000 digital track sales that were never once even whispered to the folks at Soundscan.
(This is a gross estimation, I'd have to go back and do an actual count but my math should be fairly close...)

So after I had this brilliant epiphany I came across Jeff Price from Tunecore's post in response to the musiciancoaching.com post. While he sounds a bit hurt by all of this he takes my little realization and blows it up to over 42,000,000 tracks sold by Tunecore artists, especially noting some such as MGMT, Drake and Soulja Boy who broke the 100,000 track mark before going on to success as signed label artists. (Disclosure, I have used Tunecore to distribute tracks for Eggfoot Records). (That is the first time I have worked a shoutout to Eggfoot Records into this blog so far. 2010 is our 20th Anniversary as an independent label.)

In the end Lawson makes probably the most important point in all of this debate:
10,000 listeners is a much more creatively inspiring target than 10,000 sales.
As I mentioned in this post, having fans discover a new artist is far more important than ensuring a per track sale.

I am sure that this will be discussed in great depth next week at the New Music Seminar in Los Angeles.


Jan 20, 2010

3 Reasons "The Cloud" Sucks

MP3.com founder Michael Robertson wrote a guest post on TechCrunch yesterday about Apple's purchase of lala.com and their "secret" cloud strategy. He lays out a plan that sounds an awful lot like his strategy at MP3Tunes.com. While conventional wisdom shows many platforms headed to the cloud, there is a long way to go to make this a viable solution to distribute music. Here are 3 Reasons why the Cloud Sucks:

1) Connectivity - I can barely keep a phone call connected with AT&T, how am I supposed to reliably connect to data in the cloud? Until wireless broadband access is low cost, global and reliable the cloud will not function as anything more than a databack up.

2) Control - I have spent a bit of time exploring Spotify, the much heralded European music streaming service. It is a pretty good model for what music in the cloud will look like. The search feature is really, really fast and the catalog is fairly deep. I always search for "Yellow No. 5"(The alt country act not the punk one) and "L.A. Tight" as a test of how deep a streaming service's catalog is. (Found Yellow No. 5 but not L.A. Tight)Here are Spotify's major downfalls(and I am not considering their delayed launch in the U.S. as one of them): a)Essential tracks are not in the catalog, including a number of U.S. indie artists. b)I can't ADD any tracks, I am not in control of the cloud. c) back to my first point, what if I can't connect?

3) People Like to Own stuff - Possession imbues something whether it be a car, a shirt or a song, with value. The cloud devalues everything by stripping the emotional connection away from the owner. While it is cool, could be convenient, and is surely coming - right now the cloud sucks

Jan 18, 2010

Aderra - Best LIVE Dance, Trance and DJs 2009

Tiesto, Deadmau5, Chicane, The Crystal Method, Daivd Guetta, Prodigy and more.


Jan 17, 2010

Music Discovery Engine - Waltzo.com

The folks at waltzo asked me to be one of the first guest curators for their new music discovery service.
It is an interesting approach: Only one song available for listening at a time per visitor. Playlists are compiled by curators that select songs based on their own personal criteria. (The first person who guesses the theme of my list gets a free USB from the Aderra sample table). There are no user controls to select artist, genre etc.
They are accepting submissions for the consideration of the curator from independent artists as well as record labels.
Some stuff on my playlist:

Ray LaMontagne - Crazy (Gnarls Barkley cover)
Julia Albert - Can you Tell
Shotgun - Bound by the Sound
UB40 - Alum Rock Dub
L.A. Tight - Lieseplein
Roger LaPlant - The Reasons for Quittin
Killola - Cracks in the Armor
Maxfield Rabbit - Drunk
Bored - Untitled
Avett Brothers - Laundry Room Live in a Flash!
Her and Kings County - My Backyard
and a dozen more


Jan 10, 2010

Aderra - Best LIVE Country, Folk, Gypsy and Bluegrass 2009

Del McCoury, Green River Ordinance, Younder Mountain String Band, The Nightwatchman, Gogol Bordello, Devotchka, The Avett Brothers and more.


Jan 9, 2010

Aderra - Best of LIVE Rock and Metal 2009

I went through all of our recordings from 2009 and picked some of the highlights.
This is the first podcast which highlights the best recordings Aderra did of Rock and Metal acts in 2009 including Slash, Metallica, Mastodon, Tom Morello, Static-X, The Cult, The Pixies, We the Living and the Legendary Wayne Kramer.


Jan 1, 2010

5 Essential Lessons for tech entrepreneurs - Digital Music Startup

In late 2006 I started experimenting with delivering live recordings at concerts on USB sticks. By January 1 of 2007 I had done a bit of tech development prep, written the business plan and launched the company. Since then we have had many victories and our fair share of hardships as well. Here are 5 things I have learned so far about launching a tech startup:

  1. Recruiting - If the candidate demands a lot of money, they are not worth a penny.

    You are a start up. Your most important asset are the true believers you want working side by side with you. If a person TRULY believes in you and your business they will accept meager pay with the potential of reward later.
    Anyone who wants a bunch of cash upfront is betting against you. They have no confidence that you will be around for the long run.

  2. F&F - Be Focused and Flexible

    It is a weird tightrope walk: You need to be doggedly persistent to bring your vision to life but at the same time you need to be able to adapt that vision to the actual conditions you encounter. I'm not one for throwing around a bunch of martial bluster but
    the U.S Marine Corp. has an unofficial mantra that sounds like it came straight from Miles Davis' band stand: "Improvise, Adapt, Overcome."
    Recognize when you need to change strategy or tactics but then bite down hard and chase the new vision just as persistently as when you first started. My first vision for Aderra was to build hardware and sell it to touring performers. In the first handful of sales meeting I had I listened and learned that what they really wanted was a service to provide everything I was describing turn-key (Thanks to John Ferrante for helping to realize this.) . This was a total 180 from what was in the business plan but it quickly lead to us landing our first major concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater on June 2, 2007, a mere six months after starting the company.

  3. Make Sure your spouse, partner, or whoever is 1000% onboard.

    If they don't understand why you are killing yourself working so hard for so little return at first, they will withdraw their support and make your life difficult. After a punishing day in the trenches the last thing you need is grief on the home front. There is an entire universe of stress that goes along with running a start up, especially if you are bootstrapping. If your domestic situation is precarious to begin with, it will not survive the tumult. I watched a good friend's marriage crash and burn along with her new business.

  4. Lawyers are the only Winners in a lawsuit
    It is a hoary, old cliche but it is true. It does not matter how much evidence you have to support your case, it does not matter how "right" you are or how many lies the other side has told. The ONLY thing that matters is who has more money. The party with the fattest warchest will win a lawsuit every time. If you find yourself faced with an opponent that can easily out spend you on the suit, think carefully before entrenching yourself in the courts. And as a small startup, don't dream that you will find some fantasy attorney that will take your case on contingency. They won't. They know you or your opponent will most likely go bankrupt as a result of the lawsuit in which case they will never get paid. One strategy you may want to consider early on is to
    invite an attorney at a practice that can handle both transactions and litigation to join your Board in exchange for a percentage of equity.
    Your legal fees won't completely disappear but they may be significantly lower than if you simply hired a counselor.

  5. Never Give Up.

    You can credit my Dad with teaching me this one. There may be dark times in the early days. Funding is hard to come by, competition is fierce, there are a lot of people out there who just don't get what you do, sales are hard to come by. When you read business books or biographies of entrepreneurs they often gloss over this or mention it in passing "His first ten companies went bust before he hit on the trillion dollar idea..." but seldom do they ever describe in detail the gut wrenching feeling of not being sure how you will pay your employees (or your lawyers...). There is only one thing to do when things look gloomy, find the unnoticed opportunity that is presenting itself and chase it hard. (Thanks to Gus Ruelas for that bit of wisdom.)