Friday, December 17, 2010


This is the BIG question for all of us invloved in the music business and it's not something that's likely going to be answered tomorrow. But I think it's something that's definitely worth discussing because the more we talk about it, the closer we'll get to finding out the answer to this stress-inducing question. I'm talking particularly about whether or not artists/labels and copyright holders will continue to receive any kind of payment for writing songs and producing master recordings in the digital world. There's a lot of interesting points that have been made on this topic and they've been quite diverse, so which prediction(s) will be right when the dust finally settles?

Some propose that music will ultimately be free and that regardless of the fact that there's no revenue being generated, there will still be an abundance of music being created every day for us to listen to; however, the new music being created will be of such poor quality that no one will care enough to download it anyway. They're suggesting that what you'll end up with is a bunch of amateurs and hobbyists making music on their laptops in their bedrooms instead of professional musicians spending real money on top-shelf producers and engineers to create quality music. In the absense of putting a price tag on their music, those who create it simply won't be able to invest the time and money necessary to produce it in the first place.

Then there's the perspective that artists should focus more on other ways to get paid for what they do. For example: live performances, selling merch, ring tones, licensing music for film, television, video games, corporate videos, etc. and DVDs with live performances, behind-the-scenes clips and other tasty extras. With this kind of approach, you're basically treating the music as a loss leader (which can be a bit of a tough pill to swallow for the artists creating it), the way a label like Sony did with the artists they signed to their label.

Sure, if the artists they signed were selling CDs, it was gravy, but more importantly Sony owned a piece of the patent for the manufacturing of CDs and would get a 2.5 cent royalty for every one of them whether they actually sold or sat on the shelves at the retailers collecting dust. Either way, they were winning. RCA was actually losing money on the label portion of their business back in the 1950s, but continued to release albums anyway because those albums were stimulating the sales of the record players they were manufacturing. This is why it's important to understand how a label makes its money if you're considering doing business with them.


Trent Reznor did something I thought was pretty creative a couple years back. He released a deluxe version of Ghosts I-IV at a price point of $300 which included a lot of goodies for his diehard fans. It was a limited edition with only 2,500 units manufactured and signed by Trent Reznor himself and he proceeded to sell all of them. That's a gross profit of $750,000. Not bad.

radiohead Pictures, Images and Photos

When Radiohead released In Rainbows in 2007, their approach was to let the fans decide what the album was worth. "It's up to you," they said. According to comScore, two out of every five people that downloaded the album paid an average of six dollars. They say that there were 456,000 downloads that were actually paid for, bringing the total revenue for online sales alone to $2,736,000. In Rainbows has sold over three million copies to date and this figure includes downloads from, physical CDs, a deluxe 2-CD/vinyl box set, as well as sales via iTunes and other digital retailers.

I think this is encouraging as it shows that if something is truly of higher qualitly, people will be more than happy to pay for it. This is how major labels got themselves into trouble in the first place; releasing records with only one or two good tracks and the rest just filler. After getting burned a couple times paying fifteen dollars for a full-length album only to find that the single you heard on the radio is the only good track, you're going to be a little more cautious in the future.


Try and find social currency in something that is unique about you and/or what you do as an artist. Something you can build on and ultimately create your own niche. More so than just the music, fans are really looking for an experience. Something they can feel connected to. Something that they can own. The band Anvil did an excellent job of this with their story. A DVD documentary entitled "The Story of Anvil" (and it's a must-see BTW) is what brought them a significant splash of success over the past couple of years after flying below the radar for over two decades.

I would love to hear some ideas from you on this. A great place to start is to think from the perspective of being a fan. Define what you love about the bands/artists you listen to and figure out a way to model them in your own original way. I know this is easier said than done, but I believe there's still tons of great ideas out there that haven't been put into action yet. I know this because you're an individual with unique ideas and abilities and no one can possibly be better at being you than YOU!

So now I'm handing it over to you. Where is music going in the digital world and what can you do to maximize your return?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating Your Band's BRAND

Last time, we talked about ideas to help improve your live show so that you're getting up on stage and bringing a lot more to your audience than just simply running through a set of songs. This is really just one of the first steps on a much great journey and as I was writing this blog, my head was spinning a little bit due to the enormity of this 'bigger picture.' I'm talking specifically about one of the big buzz words of the day, "Branding."

If you want to be wildly successful with your music career, you have to go beyond your music and brand yourself. Gene Simmons stated in an interview I saw (and probably several more interviews) that KISS didn't want to be just a rock and roll band, they wanted to be a rock and roll BRAND! I know I reference KISS quite a bit in my blogs and it's because I like them a little bit (A LOT), but also because they're such a great success story in so many areas and certainly when it comes to branding.

BUSINESS Is A Bigger Word Than Music

This is where it's imperative for bands/artists to get in touch with the business side of music. Just as a hamburger joint like McDonald's and an automobile manufacturer like BMW have done, you have to determine exactly what you're all about. This is not about selling out. If you view branding yourself as selling out, then every band/artist you and I love would be considered a sell-out. Take a really good look at why you love the bands you love. I guarantee there's some branding going on there. If there weren't, you probably wouldn't know about them. You have to make it clear to your audience who you are and what they can expect from you in terms of the live show you put on, what you sing about in your song lyrics, how you interact with your fans and certainly which musical category you fit into. Consistency is the key.

Imagine if Green Day decided that for their next album they were going to write death metal songs with satanic overtones. How many people from their fan base--that they've spent two decades building--do you think would buy the album and attend the concerts? Probably not very many. Green Day have built a solid brand over the years and we know exactly what we're going to get when we buy a CD or go see them live.

AC/DC is another fantastic example of genius branding. What does AC/DC mean to you? Is there any ambiguity surrounding who they are and what they're all about? I don't think so. In fact, they're one of the most consistent acts to ever exist.

So far I've made reference to acts that have decades of history (or Kisstory) behind them, so let's take a look at Lady Gaga as an example of a relative newcomer (and I say this with regard to her mega mainstream success because she's been around longer than you may know). She has done an extraordinary job of branding herself in the short time she's been on the scene. If you look at what Lady Gaga is at her very core, you'll find that she's a female pop artist who sings and plays piano. If I asked you, "Hey, do you know that girl who sings and plays piano?", would you know who I was talking about? Of course not, because there's thousands of pop artists who sing and play piano; however, I think it's pretty easy to see the difference between Lady Gaga and all the others.

Can I KISS You Just Once More?

Another brilliant move KISS made was creating the KISS ARMY. There's nothing more important than connecting with your fans and one of the best ways I know to do this is to create a community mentality. You're not just another KISS fan in the crowd, you're a part of the KISS ARMY. You're a part of something much, much greater and it gives you the sense that you belong. KISS has always been famous for the KISS Konventions that have been held all over the world by the fans. It's a chance for everyone to come together and celebrate the band and meet other music fans who share common interests.

Another great story from our own backyard, here in the greater Toronto area, is HAIL THE VILLAIN. If you're into this band you're not just a fan, you're a VILLAIN. They're website is very unique and it's fun and interactive for all the VILLAINS who want to be a part of this community. The band's videos have been very creative and like nothing you've ever seen before. These guys have a lot more in store for you so stay tuned!

So, I hope that spurs you on to some creative ideas and gets things rolling in a new and fun direction. Like I said at the beginning of this blog, it can be rather overwhelming, so don't feel you have to create your brand tomorrow. It takes a lot of time and it should be a relatively slow process, so just do a little at a time. But don't lose focus either. Stay on track and stay committed and eventually, the mere mention of your name will trigger a strong response from the public. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Hey everyone, what do you think of the new layout? Believe me, I'm no graphic artist, so yep, this is just a template. But it's a different template and I'm quite impressed that I even accomplished that.

So now that we've established that I know nothing about graphic design, let's move on to something that I do know a little something about. I want to talk a bit about live performance. I think this is a huge topic and from what I can tell, it's overlooked by many bands and artists who are playing the scene. The most important thing on which you could possibly focus is absolutely your song writing; however, I feel that a well thought out, well executed live show is also paramount in setting yourself apart from the competition and subsequently bringing an ever-expanding fan base through the doors at your gigs.

Why Do YOU Go See Live Concerts?

Think about why you run screaming to your computer to purchase tickets to see the bands you love in concert. You're getting something of value in return for you hard earned dollars. You're being entertained. If you paid to see a live act because you were digging their tunes and then found that their show was kind of lame, you probably wouldn't rush back to see them again. You'd just enjoy listening to the songs you like and leave it at that.

This is not the impression you want to leave your fans with as they're walking away from one of your performances. You want them to be blown away! Visually and auditorily stimulated to the max. Think of a band that you run to see every time they roll into town. What is it about their show that makes you part with your money and spend your precious time going to see them? Really think about this and make a list of all these points so you can determine which of these ideas could be implemented by your band. Maybe it's the way they dress. Maybe they have a really cool stage set with some cool props. You have to be really creative when you're working with a limited budget and with limited space--as most clubs/venues generally don't have a very large stage--but it can be done if you do your homework.

Be Yourself, Only BIGGER!

I always stress to bands, though, that whatever it is you do, make sure it feels natural and it resonates with you. Don't try to be something you're not because you'll just feel self-conscious and it won't evolve into to anything that really works for you. Go inside yourself and look for things that you can accentuate and capitalize on. Let your true personality and character traits come out, but in a BIG way.

Ask Alice

alice cooper Pictures, Images and Photos

Alice Cooper is a great example. I'm pretty sure when he's at home with his family he doesn't hang himself or decapitate himself for laughs, but there's a part of his personality that he's acting out and it's all very real for him. I'm certainly not suggesting that these types of stage antics are for everyone, but because it's such an extreme example I think it makes a clear point.

And by the way, if you get a chance to go see him in screaming to your computer to purchase tickets to his show because it's worth every penny!