Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Week 8

This is a summary of my thoughts for the readings assigned during Week 8, including Chapters 11-13 of Steve Gordon's The Future of the Music Business and a few websites.

The Future of the Music Business

Chapter 11 starts with Gordon singing the praises of utilizing websites as a musical artist. Having been a musician in the age of Myspace and Facebook, I certainly agree with him. He compares a music website to an online "press kit," or media portfolio of sorts that contains a demo, a bio, pictures, and other positive press of a musical artist. I completely agree, in my anecdotal experience, booking agents are contented visiting my band's Facebook and Myspace page instead of requiring that I send them a full-on press kit. Similarly, e-mail lists and tour dates help fans get in touch and know when and where a band is playing. For most bands I listen to, I check their Myspace page or official website to see when they are coming through Denver. Having an online store in which to sell merchandise such as CDs, t-shirts, and stickers is also crucial. Most bands I know use bigcartel.com, a free-to-use and customizable vending website. Gordon also provides a few lessons regarding e-mail lists that I've learned, such as adding incentive to sign up in the first place and not sending out too many e-mails so it doesn't feel like subscribers are getting spammed. The interview at the end of the chapter has Gordon speaking with a promotions consultant about providing music online, it got me thinking about a recent purchase of mine. I purchased two albums by artists on Paper + Plastick Records, a small record label with poor distribution, meaning finding a physical copy of a CD was nearly impossible. Their website allows users to purchase the entire physical CD for around $8 or $9 and comes with a free instant download. This way, I get the physical CD but also the instant satisfaction of the mp3s on my computer so I can put them on my mp3 player. Genius.

In the next chapter, Steve Gordon interviews Will Calhoun of Living Colour. Calhoun says that Myspace and e-commerce (selling music online) are becoming foundations of being a musician and that the former helps him connect with fans all across the world. He also weighs the pros and cons of being on an independent label versus a major label. A major makes more people care about your music and invests in it, but takes a large percentage of profits. Independently, it is more difficult to find fans and garner interest, but the profit margin is much more heavily in the artist's favor. Calhoun and another jazz musician Dave Samuels touch on the existence of YouTube a bit. Both seem to accept its existence as an inevitability but think it can be a promotional tool as well.

In the next chapter, Gordon continues his discussion of online music promotion and vending with The Orchard, an online independent music distributor. The owner Greg Scholl talks about how promotion online can be free, as opposed to putting a poster up in a major record store, which often costs a label money. Another site he's involved in, eMusic, is a subscription site. He explains that subscription sites don't mean that if the user stops paying monthly that they will lost all the songs they paid for, instead they just stop using the service. Once a user purchases a song, he or she owns it. This seems to be quite a logistical problem for music subscription services, differentiating and describing how the process works. Gordon also points out other tools on the Internet that help artists promote themselves such as blogs and podcasting. A friend of mine visits a website called One Track Mind, a blog that offers a free mp3 every day by a different artist to discover. Labor of love-type blogs like these help users discover new music and ways to support bands that would have been unheard otherwise. Satellite radio is also becoming a form of media to watch, with Sirius and XM merging and having freedom to play unsigned artists and major players like Howard Stern. It's also a great tool for up and coming artists, there's an unsigned artists station that many A & R guys from the music industry listen to.

Wikipedia - Improvisation

I found this entry interesting, especially the focus on taking in one's environment and feelings as one improvises. As a musician who has not improvised before, this was interesting to hear. I also thought it was cool that some composers were bold enough to fully improvise a full symphony with nothing tying it together but for a recurring melody.

Live Plasma

The website wasn't working for me. Hopefully I can come back and update this entry.


I like the ideas implemented on this website, but I'd rather seem them used on a free-to-use and indie-artist friendly website like Last.fm. I also wish that the site would show the user what mood a particular song is considered. I listened to The Beatles' "Yesterday" and felt that it was "calm" and "dark" but I couldn't find a way to prove myself right or wrong. Also to its credit, there are a fair number of options available to non-paying users.

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