tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:/posts Music, Musings, and the Social Media Biz 2014-05-21T16:13:15Z Jonathan Jaeger tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/694317 2014-05-21T16:13:15Z 2014-05-21T16:13:15Z Are You An Audiophile?

First there’s the audio equipment snob. I love my iPhone. I hate my iPhone earbuds. I’m talking about the original iPhone earbuds, the kind that millions of people still use. I don’t understand them – they don’t fit my ears and even if they did, the audio fidelity doesn’t match most of the in-ear headphones I’ve tried. The new iPhone earbuds: a step up, but still don’t fit my ears. So close!

Then there’s the production quality audiophile. While my ear training skills never developed well in the music theory sense of the term, I’ve always been interested in music production. A great mix with the perfectly selected reverb and separation between tracks means the difference between a good track and an amazing track. Can I tell the difference between 128 kbps and 256 kbps when you ask me the difference in quality between music files? Probably not.

That brings us to the file format audiophile. Neil Young unveiled his Pono music player to the mainstream with his Kickstarter project for audiophiles: a music device that will let you listen to high resolution music based off of FLAC, a lossless audio file format. For a few hundred dollars you can combine portability with quality.

But what kind of audiophile are you? Is the type of headphones you use going to determine your experience or is it the file format? Or is it how well-produced the music is? Or do you need all three? There are certainly many levels of audiophile: which one are you? Or is music just music and, “Who cares?”

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/657352 2014-02-23T16:32:20Z 2014-02-24T19:27:17Z Can You Replicate Virality?

YouTube, Reddit, tumblr, and a few other big platforms can make a person a sensation over night. It’s the perfect mix of talent, timing, and luck that cuts through the noise. Yesterday, somebody posted a link to a music video on Reddit with this title: “This guy was at my old school… i had no idea, wow.

First off, the title was on point for Reddit. It lacked any sort of promotional appeal to it like someone clamoring to get their music heard. Someone else posted it, not the original artist in the video, and the tone of the post title was clearly in the voice of a usual Redditor posting a link.

The link was to an original song by Kelvin Jones called “Call You Home,” which wracked up over 600,000 views over the course of a day. The song is poignant, melodic, and all-around good acoustic folk music. After Kelvin noticed how his song hit the Reddit front page, he capitalized on it by doing an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, the popular section where celebrities and interesting people answer questions about themselves or a particular subject in which they have expertise or knowledge that most people wouldn’t know about.

The strategy worked. The song got a lot of buzz with people like Jay McGuiness, the Wanted bandmember who has nearly a million Twitter followers, tweeting out the song. Kelvin even got his parents’ blessing to leave school to become a full-time musician, as he announced on Facebook.

One fortuitous event can propel a career in the age of Internet virality. We don’t know if it will for Kelvin, but it’s a first step of validation in the long hard grind as a musician. Events like this can also give you your 15 minutes of fame, and on the Internet it might only feel like three or four minutes of fame these days. So how do you replicate this? Can virality be replicated? Companies like Buzzfeed and Upworthy thrive off of virality. Whether it’s Buzzfeed using algorithms to find out what’s trending and focusing on what gets clicks or Upworthy testing out 25 different article titles to find out which one resonates the most with people, virality isn’t necessarily gamed but it’s manipulated as much as possible.

Huffington Post cofounder and Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti is no stranger to getting things to go viral. He created the satire sites Black People Love Us and the New YorkRejection Line and even had an email chain with Nike, who wouldn’t make custom Nike shoes with the word “sweatshop” on them for him, go viral. These things are repeatable, with many sites and videos going viral before the days of social networks. Now it’s difficult because you have everyone competing for things to go viral. The more unique an idea you have or the funnier, emotional, or crazier the video, the better the chances of making it.

Too many people try to replicate virality. When it feels forced, it’s not going to work. Did Rebecca Black mean for her infamous “Friday” video to go viral? No, she was probably trying to write a good song but instead the video was so comically bad and the tune was just catchy (and bad) enough to strike a chord with the mainstream. If you try to replicate virality by looking at what’s been done in the past, you’ve probably failed before you’ve even started.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/643970 2014-01-21T05:53:13Z 2014-01-21T16:08:27Z Reconnecting With the Physical World in the Digital Age

While talking to Zack Anselm of Tree Machine Records, an independent record label out of Bloomington, Indiana, we discussed the back-story of his music and artistic relationships and the life of a small, independent record label. Things have changed dramatically since the rise of file-sharing and the invention of the iPod, but sometimes you have to revisit the past to get a certain feeling or relationship with your music rekindled.

Zack says that he will be planning several vinyl record releases to “kick off a more physical connection with the world.” In my last blog post I covered some interesting stats about the music industry and how vinyl sales went up 32% last year. Many will write that off as hipsters in San Francisco, Brooklyn, and Portland getting their fix of indie rock along with their expensive morning coffee, but I think that’s an oversimplification. I like my vinyl just like I like my hardback or paperback books on the subway. Even though my coffee palette might not be particularly refined, I think it’s fair to say hipster or not, there is a point to what Zack was saying about reconnecting with the world.

It’s not just about nostalgia and clinging to the past, there is something that is often lost in the digital library of endless songs (and we’re not talking strictly about audio compression). Putting on some vinyl and listening to your record player takes a little bit more effort. Just enough to change the environment. Perhaps when we focus on physical things that lack immediacy, we’re offering ourselves a sense of delayed gratification. Not some perverse view of style or disdain for change, but a simple inclination to think, “If I listen to this record instead of playing music on my iPhone or crack open this book instead of busting out a Kindle, I might notice the subtleties in the art I’m about to consume.”

I’m the first one to admit I cycle through songs on my phone at the gym like a lab rat scurrying to get cheese in a well-designed maze. But when I put on a record, I’m committing to it, or at least until I have to flip to Side B. It would take effort to switch the record out, so I leave it on, and quite possibly there was no reason to switch at all.

The constraints of the physical world might be a gift in disguise some of the time.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/641195 2014-01-13T04:51:58Z 2014-01-13T04:51:59Z 10 Stats About Music Industry Sales You Never Knew

1. In 2013, digital music sales went down for the first time since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking them in 2003 (when iTunes launched). 

2. Vinyl music sales, on the other hand, went up 32% to six million last year.

3. In 2012, global music industry sales rose by 0.3%, the first time it had seen an increase since 1999.

4. 98.9% of all digital music tracks sell fewer than 1000 copies.

5. Only 10% of albums released make a profit. 

6. 90% of consumers would stop pirating and sharing files illegally after two warnings from their Internet Service Provider.

7. A 2011 study found that 22% of all Internet bandwidth was used for the purposes of online piracy.

8. That same study found that 70% of online users find nothing wrong with online piracy.

9. In 1988, Warner/Chappelle Music bought the company that owns the rights to “Happy Birthday to You” for $28 million, with the song’s value estimated at $5 million. It’ll cost you about $10,000 to put the popular sing-a-long song in a movie. 

10. The four major labels account for 87.89% of the U.S. music market share (IFPA 2011).

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/594360 2013-08-12T00:05:20Z 2013-10-08T17:28:26Z If You’re Everywhere, Are You Nowhere?


Apple is known for their incredible, simple, intuitive design sense and they’ve created massive value with their extreme focus on just a few products. Steve Jobs famously returned to Apple to cut their product lines and throw away everything that wasn’t working well. Concentrate on one or two things at such a level that nobody can beat you. At first that was the iPod and Macbook laptops, but after those matured and technology improved it became the iPhone and subsequently the iPad.
 
Doing a lot is much easier than doing very little. Simplicity, cutting away the fat takes skill and patience. Testing and iterating. That’s why some one of my favorite tongue-in-cheek quotes jokes about difficulty in brevity:
 
“I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” –Mark Twain
 
What I’m trying to get at is that’s it’s very hard, if not impossible to be great at everything. In the creative world, you have a dual purposes: work on your craft or promote your craft. It’s often hard to do both at once. If you’re promoting your work, that’s time you’re not creating work. On the plus side, it’s difficult to be creative 24/7, so time away from your “work” is time you can promote (assuming that doesn’t suck away your energy leftover for being creative). In the hyper-competitive world of music and other artistic endeavors, you want to stand out.
 
So you’re everywhere. You sign up for every social network, you link out your work every chance you get to everyone you know, and you beg, borrow, and steal for a retweet, like, or upvote. It’s tough, but necessary. But if you’re everywhere at the same time, does that mean you’re nowhere?
 
I’m not condoning foregoing the next hottest thing because you’re “too busy” but often you need to focus on where the value is. Just because a community is big, that doesn’t mean you’re gaining value from it. The same is if it’s small. Any marketing device has its advantages and disadvantages. Sometimes you need to take the Apple approach and be great at one or two things. Whether that’s choosing a couple communities to focus on and really deeply engage with people or alternatively focusing on one type of promotional technique. For you that might be blogging, YouTube vlogging, tumblogging, tweeting, or maintaining an active Facebook page. If you’re going to do it all, focus on where you’re getting the most value not only in numbers but in engagement.  

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/591299 2013-07-29T22:09:28Z 2013-10-08T17:27:49Z You Should Care About Sound Quality

I come across a good deal of demo songs that people throw my way on a regular basis. Some are great and some are works-in-progress. Showing me a finished product or showing something you scratched up quickly in the morning both have merit. Nobody wants to waste their time listening to something that needs work, but if it starts a conversation and you can gain solid critical feedback that improves your later product, I’m all for it.

The one thing that unfortunately happens a lot with artists who consistently rush to get “product” out (i.e. new music) is that they sometimes don’t sweat the details. Now I’m certainly no A&R guy, a long lost profession of people who can hear a gem in a low-produced demo barely exists today in the traditional sense, but I can still tell if I think a song has merit before it gets that extra polish. With the tools we have at our disposal, which are both convenient and relatively cheap compared to outfitting yourself with a full studio, there isn’t much excuse for a horrible-sounding demo.

I’m not saying this to be harsh, I’m saying now that everybody has recording equipment at their disposal and anyone can be an artist if they have a YouTube account, you have to really be a cut above to get through the noise. Sometimes I hear a new artist that is a no-name, and I think to myself, “Compared to what’s famous these days, this person should be a star!” Perhaps that’s a little cynical view, since many people consistently lament the state of modern music, but I’m saying this less as a slight to the current state of music and more about how damn good some music from no-name artists actually is.

The fact is even well-produced artists don’t get discovered, don’t take the steps to get discovered, or simply never get lucky. But even those people often don’t “make it” with great-sounding music, so if you don’t put every ounce of effort to make your music sound professional and of the best audio fidelity, you don’t stand a chance.

You might say, “Well Jonathan, Nirvana’s music didn’t have great sound quality when they first started out.” And I can say, maybe it wasn’t the most polished production if you compare it to cookie-cutter pop music, but they made a choice to have a certain aesthetic and sound and it paid off. But if you listen to Bleach or other early Nirvana, it’s primal and it’s corrosive in a good way. It’s not unpolished in a lack-of-effort sort of way; it’s unpolished in a good way. There’s a difference.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/586556 2013-07-01T00:34:55Z 2013-10-08T17:26:53Z Why Video is Great for Instagram Users and Not Just Advertisers

Many people thought Instagram’s new 15-second video feature was just a way to ride on the coattails of Vine’s success in videosharing. Vine was acquired by Twitter prelaunch for $30 million and is now an integral video component to Twitter, although it also operates as a standalone social network for users to generate short, often pithy gif-like seven second videos. Instagram, as many know, was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock as its photosharing community surged in popularity on iPhones before also taking over in the Android market. 

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom had already expressed serious interest in video on Instagram long before Vine came around. Seeing how long it took Instagram to allow people to share photos on Instagram just shows how slow and methodical the scrappy team is while adjusting to such rapid growth on the user side. Vine simply got there first, but it seems Instagram quickly overtook Vine in number of shares on Twitter.

So why is video on a photo-only social network so great for users? We all know advertisers will eventually get their chance to put commercials in video form on Instagram, helping the site to monetize and warrant their large purchase price, but this is the chance for users to intimately share moments in their life that need more than just a pretty photo with a filter. It’s been a long time since I posted something to YouTube—the barriers are just too high for someone who doesn’t maintain a YouTube channel and the quality and length that would be appropriate for me to put effort into YouTube simply isn’t there. 

In comes Instagram and Vine, two apps that now allow me to capture a moment that I don’t want to post to Facebook to all my friends, acquaintances, and family, but to an audience that is appreciative of whatever creativity or interesting media pieces I have to share. Since I’m already enamored by Instagram and have put time in there, Vine doesn’t serve the immediacy and convenience of opening up the Instagram app I’ve already cultivated a tiny following on (even if you don’t have a lot of followers, I’ve discovered hashtags are the best way to scan your area or events you’re at for interesting content).

If you’re the type who has a following in a professional sense, like a musician or artist of some sort, this is a new medium for a quick message and for the people who are already primed to consume this type of content. Your Twitter or Facebook followers might not want 10 different 7-15 second updates, but your Instagram and Vine followers will eat it up and it’s another type of marketing that blends a message with intimacy. Just ask Madonna.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/583567 2013-06-10T22:12:17Z 2013-10-08T17:26:16Z Online Music Education Gets Cheaper as Berklee Releases BitTorrent Learning Bundle

BitTorrent is a dirty word in the music industry, as pirated copies of full albums and many other digitally downloadable files make their way on to peer-to-peer file-sharing networks every second. What BitTorrent can also do, along with other similar services, is enable the further spread of music education to the masses. Hypebot reports that Berklee Online released a series of online videos and eBooks for people to download and use for free (you can download the Berklee Online Musician’s Guide here). The online division of the Berklee School of Music, Berkleemusic, also provides free music lessons via Coursera, an online education platform that partners with many notable institutions to provide courses in a variety of subjects including music.

Even brick-and-mortar universities are getting smarter about online education. They know that not everyone will be able to afford, and might not even be selected to attend, a school like Berklee School of Music or an equivalent style of college. Although the move to online education, and occasionally giving away some free material, won’t be bringing in immediate revenue, it’s a somewhat inexpensive marketing maneuver. An act of goodwill also helps spread the word. Maybe it leads to new students at Berklee School of Music or paid courses through Berklee Online, and maybe it doesn’t.

“Free” is the new marketing. You might think, “Well, free is the old marketing too.” And in a way, you’re probably right. But what savvy artists started doing by giving away their music for free to market other revenue-generating products like merchandise and concert tickets, high-priced educational institutions and universities will have to replicate in their own business model. Online is not only the quickest distribution channel for content and education, but it will also level the playing field over time. Higher education in music is the next hurdle.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/581866 2013-05-30T16:37:10Z 2013-10-08T17:25:57Z Comedian Jon Lajoie Uses Fake Kickstarter Project to Get Your Email Address

Comedian Jon Lajoie racked up a quarter million hits in the last couple days for his YouTube video outlining his idea for a Kickstarter project. The YouTube parody king is known for such works of art as “Everyday Normal Guy” and “Show Me Your Genitals.” Lajoie wants to piggyback off the success of Kristen Bell’s "Veronica Mars Movie Project" and Zack Braff’s "Wish I Was Here" Kickstarter projects. Those two projects raised $5.7 million and $3.1 million, respectively. How much does Lajoie want to raise? $500 million! Why? To become super rich!

Kristin Bell and Zach Braff have caught a decent amount of flak for their Kickstarter projects. Critics say that well-known names don’t need to raise money from fans; they can easily find the funding for their creative projects in the industry since they have the contacts that many up-and-coming indie filmmakers don’t have. However, what Bell and Braff want is creative control over their works, what people often refer to as final cut in the movie biz. Kickstarter even wrote in their blog that Blockbuster projects like those of Bell and Braff actually increase the funding to indie filmmakers on the site, bringing people onto the platform who previously never backed a Kickstarter project and who later browse the site to back other projects.

Unlike the real Kickstarter projects that are housed on Kickstarter’s website, Lajoie isn’t directing viewers to a Kickstarter page. He is directing people to his website to pledge hypothetical money to him, of which he has raised over $10 billion so far – not too shabby! His original goal was only $500 million and he still has 88 days to raise more money from his Internet audience. It helps that you can put in an amount under “other” instead of a measly $50 or $10,000 pledge. Many will think this whole gimmick is stupid, but it’s as smart as Internet marketing gimmicks come.

When you pledge, the “send me email updates” and “send me text message updates” boxes are default checked, meaning that Jon Lajoie is happily collecting thousands of email addresses to add to his growing online presence separate from any ad revenue he splits with Google on his YouTube video plays. Tricky? Yes. Genius? Of course. Lajoie is big enough in the YouTube and comedy world to get people to spend the time to donate fictitious amounts of money, but it’s harnessing that wasted time into marketing value that takes the cake for innovative online business prowess.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/579754 2013-05-19T17:43:04Z 2013-10-08T17:25:31Z Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for Over a Billion and the Oncoming Monsoon of Haterade Looms Ahead

The Wall Street Journal just tweeted: “Breaking: The Yahoo board has approved a deal to pay $1.1 billion in cash for the blogging site Tumblr.” The acquisition was rumored for days now, as Tumblr struggles to make money off their huge userbase and Yahoo attempts to become relevant again by scooping up the teen-heavy blogging network and its billions of pageviews full of cat gifs, Bieber fandom, and soft-core pornography. 

Tumblr does house many sophisticated blogs and has redeeming content, but Yahoo is making a big bet that they will be able to bolster their future prospects on Wall Street by catering to the younger demographics that spend their days sifting through their Tumblr dashboards.

The acquisition, though not final, will be met by a vocal backlash of teensters and other social media addicts who don’t want to lose their sense of community by being bought out by an aging, albeit massive entity. Tumblr users have already started a petition to stop Yahoo from buying Tumblr, so far with over 150,000 digital signatures and climbing, and I don’t think they care whether somewhat newly-minted CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to turn a new leaf in Yahoo history. 

Every community faces growing pains and backlash. The Instagram community threatened to boycott the app after the company finally released their Android app (yes iPhone users wanted Instagram all to themselves). They also threatened to boycott when Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars in cash and stock. You know what happened? Instagram kept growing. I assume the same thing will happen with Tumblr.

The true test will be when Facebook and Yahoo try to monetize Tumblr and Instagram, respectively, to their fullest extent. The “cool” factor might not be there anymore if there isn’t a balance between sponsored content and organic content. Facebook has been slowly ramping up their advertising on their own platform with a long-term reluctance to degrade the mobile experience (ads only appeared on mobile more recently when compared to their desktop experience). Yahoo is desperate to pick up talent to improve their mobile footprint and Tumblr is one bold move they’re betting over a billion in cash on. 

Just like with most acquisitions or controversial topics online, there is going to be a loud minority of people who want their voices heard. Business trumps everything and you can’t always listen to all the haterade online, or you won’t get anything done. Backlash can destroy a brand, but in this case, it will most likely fade away as long as Tumblr pretty much stays Tumblr.
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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/577424 2013-05-05T17:54:09Z 2013-10-08T17:25:02Z The New Music Economy

The New Music Economy is upon us. Independent artist duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis made a guest appearance on “The Colbert Report” to discuss their decision to stay independent and not sign a 360 deal with a major label despite their megahit status with their song “Thrift Shop”.  Apparently, not only do you keep your creative freedom by staying independent, but you can also make more money too.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, instead of signing an onerous contract with a  major, “rented” Warner Brothers to help them get radio airplay. As much as the digital age and YouTube make radio feel obsolete, it’s still a big force in mainstream America—outside of the subways of big cities and Spotify-filled speakers of young company offices, terrestrial radio dictates chart-toppers.

Radio is just one slice of the pie though, so Macklemore and Ryan Lewis really didn’t need the all-inclusive deals the major labels thirst for up-and-coming artists to sign. The successful indie artists now have the leverage in negotiation and major labels aren’t as relevant as they once were. Expect the major label and big studio dominance to corrode even more as artists like Amanda Palmer crowdfund full album recordings and tours on Kickstarter or Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) and Kristin Bell (“Veronica Mars”) raise their own money from fans to create full-production movies.

The answer for all the artists still trying to gain a footing in this crazy industry? You no longer have to ask permission to succeed. The cost of doing business is coming closer to zero, so no more asking big-wigs at major labels (or even small indie labels) to take a chance on you. The world now has to take a chance on you and the best way to do it is to release stuff early and release it often: for everyone to see. Now.


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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409229 2013-04-15T03:15:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Six Breakout Hits With Attitude

1) “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This isn’t about buying bling or spending money on Ferraris, this is about going cheap at a thrift shop. And it’s got swagger to boot.


2) “212” by Azealia Banks

If the lyrics aren’t too fast for you to catch, you can tell Azealia Banks oozes attitude but with a smile the whole time.


3) “Gangnam Style” by Psy

With over 1.5 billion YouTube hits, you haven’t tuned in to the Internet or TV in the last year if you haven’t caught on to this track yet. Although it’s easy to be sick of this overplayed track, it doesn’t quite feel dated yet like the past generation’s “Macarena”.

 

4) “Harlem Shake” by Bauuer

With a  few hundred million hits spanning all the “Harlem Shake” joke videos, this beat is hard to forget. If you listen to the whole track, you might think it’s a bit repetitive, but for some it might be hard to resist a few nods of the head and a shake of the entire body.

 

5) “Make It Bun Dem” by Skrillex & Damian Marley

Skrillex has the groove, Damian Marley has the rhymes. This track lights up EDM floors worldwide while merging a variety of styles.

 

6) “Bad Girls” by M.I.A.

A little desert flavor and a beat and lyrical hook to bring you back for more each time. M.I.A. keeps attitude high with “Bad Girls.”

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409232 2013-04-08T01:25:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Mad Men and the Soundtracks That Know the Perfect Song

Nothing helps define a time, a decade, or a moment like a perfectly crafted song choice for a TV show or movie soundtrack. The hit show and not-so-underground cult favorite “Mad Men” comes back to AMC for its two hour Season 6 premiere tonight (4/7/13), and I’m sure the music will suit the scenes just as much as the suits on the characters. No one knows how to strike up the atmosphere for a period in time like the writers and directors for the show—song choice included. 

Lionsgate, who produces “Mad Men”,  paid $250,000 to license the Beatles’ song “Tomorrow Never Knows” for an episode in Season 5—by then it was obvious that the show was a huge hit so they could afford such an extravagance, but it shows how important music is to define a necessary aesthetic. Movies have much bigger budgets than single episodes of a TV show, so it’s even more important to get the period music just right. “Son of a Preacher Man” and “Misirlou” made appropriate appearances in director Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction as did “Fortunate Son” and “All Along the Watchtower” in Forrest Gump. Forrest Gump happened to beat out Pulp Fiction for Best Picture in 1994 so I guess that year really knew its period theme music!

What will be the songs that define our current generation? It seems like the YouTube hits come in one day and go out the next, so it’s hard to imagine songs like Psy’s “Gangnam Style” or Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” playing in our movies 30 years from now. Perhaps they don’t evoke the necessary atmosphere, but something like Adele’s “Rollin’ in the Deep” in a drama or Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” in an action flick  could very easily make a future soundtrack that wants to wax nostalgia over the as-of-yet unnamed decades between 2000 and 2020. Oh and if the song is about New York, I’m sure Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” will find a way to make an appearance if it’s not a Frank Sinatra with “New York New York” kind of movie.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409244 2013-03-25T01:29:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Piracy Prevention Takes a New Twist in Spain

Spain is now proposing a law that would make it illegal for companies to advertise on sites that infringe on copyright. If the government finds a site to be a major distributor of copyright infringing material, like an mp3 hosting site for instance, they could fine advertisers who pay to advertise on that site. 

The story, reported by Digital Music News, notes that Education and Cultural Minister Jose Ignacio Wert is heading a major initiative to put a stranglehold on piracy in Spain with a bill that puts the onus on advertisers to help stop the lucrative business of Internet piracy. Wert stated: 

“This is about a philosophy of going after large-scale distributors of infringing content.”

Advertisers don’t have to be too worried just yet, as the government wants to put a stop to distributors more so than advertisers. There’s no question that Spain and many other countries want to be proactive about piracy. One-off takedown notices just aren’t cutting it, so governments want to hit infringers where it hurts (i.e. by stopping those who help pay the bills for these sites). 

The FBI in the United States hasn’t been shy about seizing certain website domains, only to find later that the same website has been copied over to a new URL. Of course, awareness is a big part of web traffic, and not everyone will follow the trail to find the new version of an infringing site. Many people pirate music, movies, and TV shows simply out of convenience more than anything. Not all content is easy to acquire legally as fast as people want to consume it so they turn to piracy. 

Should we be punishing the companies who host these files? I’m sure there are many illegal files hosted on Dropbox, YouTube, SoundCloud, and many other popular platforms that host content. It’s inevitable. While I think it’s a bit harsh to put the onus on the advertiser to control where all their ads are being shown online or for websites to be responsible for every file that crosses their servers,  if a site that hosts thousands and thousands of infringing files is complicit in the activity or at the very least takes very few steps to prevent this kind of activity, the government should be able to step in. 

Unfortunately there is a large gray area here where the right answer might not be evident, and we have to trust that technology and government can play nicely together so no one overreaches their bounds both in terms of following the law and enforcing it.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409254 2013-03-18T00:47:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Ultra Music Festival and Concerts From Home

By the time I finish writing this and you read it, it’ll be too late to catch Sunday evening’s streaming of Ultra Music Festival live from Miami. Don’t worry, there is always Weekend 2 of the festival. The live stream is being hosted on YouTube and showcases many of the bigger names of the festival with many different cameras catching all the angles from the DJs to the audience up close and from above. 

Nothing can replace the live concert experience, but not everyone can be in Miami and shell out a few hundred bucks for a weekend of EDM and partying. Because of this, the YouTube live concert series has gained popularity over the last couple of years. But it’s not just about the music, it’s about the video and feeling like you’re part of something. Ultra Music Festival was smart enough to put a chatbox on the right-side of their concert stream on their website so you could talk about set times, what song a DJ is playing at any given moment, or just make fun of the crowd for not showing enough energy. You weren’t there sharing the experience with audience, but you were sharing the experience with others in a completely different way.

While some concert promoters might not like the idea of live streaming a show because they’re going to make money off ticket sales more than you getting a free look into the concert from home, it’s hard to believe that online streaming will cause ticket sales to go down. If people can see what they’re missing, they’ll make sure to get out to the next concert when an artist or festival is in their area.

From a mental standpoint, it would be interesting to find out whether live streaming a concert from home makes you feel like you’re part of the event or an outside peeking in on something you’re missing out on. Even though you might be missing out on the true physical experience of a concert, at least you don’t need to earplugs to save your hearing for 20 years down the road (unless you have a really powerful sound system at home of course and understanding neighbors).

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409259 2013-03-10T00:40:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z SXSW and Going Where Everybody Else is Going

South By Southwest, aka SXSW, hit Austin with a groundswell of enthusiasm this weekend, with thousands of musicians, techies, and people looking for a party. Everyone is swamped with places to go, bands to see, digital gadgets to use, and new tech startups to checkout. “Who is having the best launch party,” “Who is giving out the greatest swag?” and, “Where can I recharge my iPhone?” are probably thoughts on a lot of people’s minds this weekend.

Many artists and tech startups come to the promised land of digital overload to get a piece of the action. But is this the best place to go right now? Regardless of whether you break out at SXSW, you’re probably going to have a solid time and make some good contacts, but maybe it’s not the time to put your hopes and dreams into the hype. 

The geolocation app Foursquare that took SXSW by storm just a few years ago took advantage of the situation in the best way possible. They had a location-based app that allowed people to show (and show-off) where they were in real-time. It was perfect for SXSW because it created value while also making for the best possible launch—a ton of people all in the same location trying to find places to go. In music, Janelle Monae, The White Stripes, Foster the People, and The Strokes all got some extra PR from their performances at the fest.

These cases are all outliers. They found a good thing and took advantage of a situation before it was everybody trying to take advantage of a good situation. Perhaps there’s nothing to lose by going to SXSW, but the lesson might be to strike while things are just about to get real hot because then once the secret is out everyone will be on the bandwagon. Time to find the next hot place and cleverest tactic to get discovered.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409266 2013-02-06T01:11:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z There’s More to the Music Industry than Social Media

Many social media critics (and skeptics) are warning people to not rely too heavily on social media or expect it to deliver your hopes and dreams on a silver platter with a nice pink bow. Jon Ostrow of CyperPR notes: “Social media is a conversation tool – that’s it,” and as Wes Davenport claims on Hypebot, social media won’t write your press releases, plot your tours, make your live performances better, or help manage your finances.

All these claims are true. Social media helps spread the word and isn’t the “answer” to saving the music industry from low record sales and pirating. However, there’s a flip-side to all of this. Think about all the businesses and companies that help artists from creative to financial matters that wouldn’t be possible in their current state without social media.

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. While it is a social network in its own right, it’s first and foremost a tool to help you raise money from an extended audience of people interested in your work. Artists like Amanda Palmer are known in the music industry for raising tons of money to help fund touring and album production, much of it done with the help of Kickstarter’s platform. She leveraged her existing social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to bring fans to Kickstarter. If social media didn’t exist, it would be a lot harder for sites like Kickstarter to thrive because the users of the site are evangelists of the platform itself, bringing droves of people from other social networks onto the funding platform. It’s all a virtuous cycle, and the same is true for many other sites.

Other online services that can do things like manage your finances (think Mint or Betterment) or help you book gigs online (think Sonicbids or GigMaven) are all part of a growing number of services that leverage social media to grow. Without social media, many of these sites wouldn’t exist because people simply wouldn’t know about them. So, sure, as Wes Davenport argues you can’t have your career handed to you by merely having social media skills. However, social media is often the glue that helps the whole ecosystem grow. Of course at the end of the day all these tools that help us get things done also need to keep a sustainable career going, but that’s another discussion altogether.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409270 2013-01-14T03:35:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Avicii is Crowdsourcing a New Single

It might be a little premature to call it a hit single, but lately everything Avicii has touched has turned into EDM gold or at least was met with some fanfare from the Swede’s rabid fanbase. Partnering with Ericcson, Avicii launched Avicii X You to be the “world’s largest collaboration,” a crowdsourcing project that Avicii is using to bring in DJs, fans, and songwriters from around the world to work together on a new song.

The move is brilliant. You can see crowdsourcing with popular remix contests on sites like Indaba Music with famous artists and brands and crowdsourced funding projects on sites like Kickstarter. While crowdsourcing is a valuable tool to invoke the masses from the ground up, it’s also a brilliant marketing tool. It will be interesting to see if the collective minds of thousands of DJs will come up with a track that is better or more diverse in sound than something Avicii would come up with himself. Either way, it’s going to get tons of attention and will get people excited about participating in something that will probably be heard by millions. As he mentions in his YouTube promo video for the project, wouldn’t you like to hear your melody, your beat, or your little synth sound on an Avicii track even if it’s for only a second or two? 

To keep it organized, Avicii is breaking up the project into steps, with the first step as the melody. Nothing gets a song going like a good hook, as many know from Avicii’s summer anthem, ‘Levels’, which hit its stride in summer of 2011. Now Avicii has the fame to really make a huge crowdsourcing project work. However, you don’t have to be famous to try to get help from others. The Reddit community had their own take on crowdsourcing a generic hit single, which got a lot of community engagement. Clearly the tools are there, whether you’re famous or not, but Avicii is making a statement by opening up his creative process to everyone. Who knows, maybe this will catch on as a legitimate source of songwriting, or maybe it’ll just be a fun experiment in music marketing.

 

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409273 2012-12-23T21:41:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z What We Can Learn from Gangnam Style Hitting One Billion Plays

“Gangnam Style” was the perfect storm of continuous and monstrous daily and weekly view counts on YouTube as Korean pop-sensation Psy climbed his way to a historic one billion plays, a record for any single YouTube video and all that in less than six months. Other than having an insanely infectious beat and a hook with ambiguous yet highly memorable lyrics, what catapulted Psy to one billion plays? 

You can point to the well-produced video, the catchy song, and a imitable dance akin to the last generation’s “Macarena”, but it’s a little more than that. Psy had no massive presence outside of South Korea before “Gangnam Style” hit its viral stride, but the track met the sensibilities of pop suitable for any culture. Some American pop doesn’t sit well all over the world, and much of the East Asian pop doesn’t make its way overseas to the States. “Gangnam Style” was met with curiosity and was just the right amount of familiar and mysterious. As YouTube commenters joked, what is Psy chanting during the chorus? He’s singing “oppan Gangnam style” repeatedly. As the annotated lyrics encyclopedia

RapGenius points out in a further elaboration of the lyrics:

“Psy is saying in third person he is boyfriend material, or an attractive guy. Gangnam is a wealthy district in Seoul, where the young people are known to be very prim, proper, and professional during the day, but get crazy at night. ‘Gangnam Style’ connotes not just wealth, but the aforementioned lifestyle.”

Psy mixes just the right amount of mainstream pop with silliness and over-the-top theatrics in the video, all the while leaving himself ripe for parody of his unique style. Part of YouTube viral engine of views is the ability for viewers to make reaction videos. Just like “Call Me Maybe” had the perfect lyrics and hook to be parodied ad nauseum, “Gangnam Style” adds the quirky dancing element to it where copy-cat videos can throw in choreography as well as altered song lyrics to suit their parody’s intentions.

Even for artists who don’t expect to hit a billion or even a million views, in their first go-around, there are a number of strategies to attempt the ultimate viral package: 

Mainstream: Catchy song that is dynamic but still adheres to a pop or rock format.
Video: Unique video concept with enough production and slick editing.
Hook: A chorus that can be sung by anyone even if they don’t know the native language.
Edge: Just enough edginess and innuendo while still maintaining a PG-13 rating and a sense of humor.
Parody: A format, in terms of song and video, that opens itself up for parody or strong reactions of some kind.

 

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409277 2012-12-09T23:58:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Should You Give Yourself an "Image"?

With so many artists vying for your ear, it’s tough to cut through the noise. Sometimes it helps to have a unique persona that is not separate from your music, but complements your artistic goals. In the metal world, bands like Slipknot, Gwar, and Mushroomhead use masks and over-the-top theatrics to enhance their live show. For Slipknot, wearing masks is a part of their message but it’s not a defining characteristic—from what I can tell, the music is the most important part to them and their fans. What they gain from the masks is immediate recall from the masses who automatically associate Slipknot with “masks”. When done right, this can be great for viral marketing purposes. Gwar, on the other hand, wears grotesque costumes and shoots random liquids into the crowd while in concert. Part of Gwar’s allure is the gimmick, though I’m sure many like their sludgy riffs and abrasive vocals too.

The question then becomes whether the persona or “image” you create for yourself will define you as an artist, will be a gimmick, or will be a logical extension of the music. When people think of Deadmau5 or Daft Punk they might think first of the onstage attire, but for the most part the two artists have risen to electronic music stardom with popular dance-ready tracks. The costumes merely put a visual stamp on the music. 

Then there’s the name to think about. Regardless of whether you’re going to don the strangest of attire or just put on a t-shirt and jeans for your live shows, a name goes a long way in establishing yourself as someone quirky, weird, funny, or just plain ordinary. When you hear the band name The Tony Tapdance Extravaganza, you can’t help but laugh a little. A play on words like Mord Fustang or Com Truise is a little more subtle, and equally hilarious, but doesn’t connote the same absurdity that a dance dedicated to former actor and “Who’s the Boss” TV star Tony Danza seems to contrive.

Be mindful early on about how someone interprets your name if you’re trying to make a statement or get attention. Ask some friends, some fans, and some random music enthusiasts what words come to mind when they hear your name. The worst thing you can do is attach a certain idea or image to yourself as an artist that is in direct conflict with your intentions. I can’t remember the last time I heard a jazz fusion artist with a band name like Hon Jamm or The Doogie Howser Merengue Party.

 

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409279 2012-12-04T05:49:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Revenue Streams That Make the Money Flow In

I recently wrote a news blurb on HypedSound about the 25 highest paid artists from May 2011 through May 2012. Dr. Dre topped the list with $110 million in gross revenue, before accounting for taxes, fees, overhead, and related expenses. That’s a lot of money for someone who hasn’t released in album in over a decade! 

Dr. Dre’s been meaning to release his album Detox for some time, but probably got sidetracked with selling a 51% stake in his massively popular company Beats By Dre for $300 million. You know, those headphones with the letter ‘B’ on it that you can’t help see all over the subways in New York City (and probably in your suburban high schools too, I just wouldn’t know about that those).

So what does this all mean? It means hip-hop moguls like Dr. Dre and Jay-Z are more business moguls than anything else. They leveraged their music fame to create branded businesses centered around their larger-than-life personas. This might not be something the average indie musician can do, but they certainly can take a couple lessons. 

When it comes down to it, don’t sell your music—at least not at first. The reason Facebook, Instagram, and many other social networks didn’t focus on making money at the beginning was because they knew they had to get the eyeballs before they could get advertisers interested. The same is true in music. If people don’t want to listen to your music for free, at first, do you really think they’ll pay for it? It’s hard enough getting attention with the word ‘free’ let alone getting someone to open up their wallet for someone they don’t know about. 

I’m not saying artists shouldn’t sell music, but their should be a strategy behind selling. If you give music away for free and increase your fanbase to the point you sell more merch or concert tickets, then perhaps you’ll make more money than if you sold your music straight out of the gate.

EDM and dubstep phenom Skrillex released an advergame, SKRILLEX QUEST, that is promoting his single for ‘Summit’ by having players experience the song rather than merely listen to it. While creating an advergame (advertisement + game) is probably out of the budget or skillset of an up-and-coming artist, that doesn’t mean they can’t a) come up with something interactive to boost record sales, or b) come up with something interactive to boost awareness about you as an artist that will turn into revenue later. 

What we’ve seen with advergames, Kickstarter campaigns, Google Hangouts, and other promotional tools is that it’s no longer just about the music. It’s about an experience. Invest in your experience.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409280 2012-11-19T05:02:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Getting Through the Noise on Facebook

Now more than ever is when you need to make each post count. Facebook status updates and shares, tweets, and email marketing newsletters are all important to maintain your fans, followers, and userbase. However, it’s getting harder and harder to cut through the noise. As more artists embrace social media 24/7, more companies bring their marketing online, and more “stuff” tries to get in your inbox or in your feed, which makes it harder to distinguish between the good and the fluff. 

Facebook is trying to take a proactive stance for quality. Their EdgeRank algorithm sorts what comes into your News Feed every time you login to Facebook. If you login every few minutes, you’ll see the best stuff from the last few minutes. If you login once a month, you’ll only have some of the best stuff over the last few days or the last few weeks. If you, as an artist or a brand, want to make it into that News Feed to reach all the people who already liked your page, then you have to tone down the number of posts that people don’t care about or are unlikely to get any engagement (i.e. likes and comments). You need to focus on quality. Once people stop engaging with your content, you’re almost lost from the News Feed entirely. 

Many Facebook page owners and marketers were up in arms when Facebook introduced the pay-to-promote option. If you pay a certain amount, you can reach a certain number of your followers. So instead of the EdgeRank algorithm deciding which 10-30% of your followers would see your post, you can guarantee views to your post and reach a lot more people. The conclusion was that many people paid Facebook for their likes through Facebook advertising and now Facebook was asking for money to reach those followers (double taxation, if you will). Some felt duped. 

Facebook is grappling with two different pressures: the pressure to increase revenues to perform well on the stock market for their investors and employees and to maintain the user experience for their users. Even if you think what Facebook doing is in part to increase revenues, which it is, they are also combating the increasing amount of noise on the platform.

The story? Facebook gets huge. Marketers flock to the platform for cheap advertising or for “viral” and organic ways of reaching more people. Facebook has to deal with all the noise and turns down the noise of not only the bad actors but also legitimate actors who can’t fit all their content in the News Feed. As social media gets flooded, social networks will turn to algorithms to chop down the noise or add in expert curation to pick out what’s the best content. No matter what the method is that prevents posts from being seen, you have to make sure you focus on quality to get through the clutter and actually stay visible to your audience and your potential audience.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409287 2012-11-12T05:53:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Creating Your Own Visual Tapestry

Most musicians approach their craft from an auditory level. How does this production sound? What melody is appropriate for this song? Or on an even more granular level, what kind of filter should I add to give this intro a contrasting sound from the rest of the track? Oftentimes, artists who think of music first are so enveloped in the songwriting and production process that there is no consideration for the visual aspect, at least at first.

As much as humans love a nice catchy melody, we are visual creatures. While we’re not going to be thinking about how something looks when we listen to music with our earbuds tucked neatly in our ears and our eyes on the road (or on the treadmill, or in our bedrooms), it can be a great exercise in creativity to think about the visual aspect of your work first. 

As the cliché saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I’m not sure how many words a musical note is worth, but I can venture to say visuals are pretty important in expressing creativity as much as sound. If you think of what kind of visual and emotions you want your imagination to convey, as you would with the music you create, you can get a good sense of what atmosphere you’d like to evoke.

For fun, start writing a song by drawing a picture or recording a video. Maybe take a couple pictures. Find the visual first and then craft a song as if that visual was the summary of your song. This can be a powerful tool to cure writer’s block or it can just be an interesting project. On the plus side, if you like the music you create after creating your visual, you’ve already got your album artwork, music video, t-shirt design, or a concert stage prop ready to go along with your composition.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409293 2012-10-22T01:39:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z The Outdated Story of the Drugged Out Rocker

Duff McKagan tells you how to say no to drugs. At one point in time, drug use in the rock n’ roll scene was not only expected, it was a given. McKagan, of Guns N’ Roses fame, writes for Seattle Weekly: 

“Rock and roll definitely has the stereotype of being connected to drug use. I get it. The cliché has been earned. But in our modern era, it seems like drugs have finally lost the status of being a mystical and romantic part of the rock persona. Maybe we've seen too many people implode, with public meltdowns, and worst of all, death.”

This mentality goes back to the days of wild nights in L.A. and NYC. McKagan notes:

“Places like The Viper Room--and the old CBGBs, come to think of it--only have one set of bathrooms. Everyone shares. Your columnist went into the men's room at the Viper Room in L.A. Your columnist simply has to urinate. Your columnist is nervous for the show, as he patiently waits his turn for the urinal. Your columnist gets offered a bump of cocaine right there--dick in hand and everything!”

It’s funny to come across this article at around the same time I watched a documentary on the old days of New York city in a VH1 documentary called “NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell.” The infamous Summer of Sam was also a time when NYC hit rock bottom, going through bouts of crime, unemployment problems, a city-wide blackout, and the beginnings of the disco craze, hip-hop birth, and punk rock underbelly. 

It’s easy to look back on an era in a favorable light, despite its problems, romanticizing the excesses and the newness that is now nostalgia. Rockstars from records labels and punk bands like The Ramones and Blondie reminisce about the early days of CBGBs and how 42nd street was crawling with drugs and hookers. As one put it, the days when it wasn’t safe in Times Square for women and children, those were actually the best days for the arts.

In the same way that modern day New York City might be bland for a punk band from the late 1970s, drugs are often seen as the alluring and commonplace part of the artist’s lifestyle. Clearly McKagan doesn’t think it’s necessary even though many of his fans offer him joints at shows as if its second nature, thinking that it’s a given that a rockstar would partake in drugs handed to him (or her). Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, was open about his experimentation with LSD, so even in other fields than rock n’ roll a drug can be described as providing a spiritual or creative awakening. However, all the coke, heroin, or pot in the world won’t help you write the next “Sweet Child o’ Mine” or “Welcome to the Jungle.” 

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409295 2012-10-15T01:34:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z This is How Much You Can Make on Merch

As musicians scramble to find new ways to make money in the digital era, Jakprints released data on the profit margins for a variety of popular merchandise options for artists (see photos). Digital Music News broke down several merch selling strategies, including everything from partnering with distributors who organize drop-shipping, sales, and merchandise printing to organizing touring inventory and merch giveaways.

In an age where the top DJs don’t sell many records, the modern day musician needs to professionalize the rest of their trade (i.e. stuff other than recording music) and concentrate on diversifying with alternative revenue streams. When people think merch, most  think of t-shirts first because fans proudly sport the latest in their favorite artists’ fashion. Artists know people need to wear clothes, so fans might as well support artists at the same time as they pick their wardrobe.

T-shirts provide a good profit margin, as Jakprints’ data shows, but there’s no reason to ignore little knick-knacks that are fun for fans and easy to produce cheaply. This means everything from stickers to magnets to patches. These are all items that fans can easily stick on clothes, laptops, and their local indie club’s stall doors (disclaimer: I’m not condoning graffiti, but some clubs dig the grungy vibe provided by a sticker-covered bathroom). This all means getting free marketing as you would with a fan wearing a t-shirt, except that fans can’t wear the same shirt every day, assuming they have some sense of proper hygiene.

Not only should you look at other options other than clothes, but you should think about what fans can wear year-round. A t-shirt is good in the summer, but hoodies, hats, and maybe even a wool scarf is something your fans could be into. If you’re pinching pennies, ask your fans what they want via an online survey before making an investment in merchandise—use a site like SurveyMonkey if you have an email list of your fans all ready to go. Alternatively, run a presale for items on your website or an online store widget and only commit to charging your fans for an item once you’ve sold enough of a specific item and can commit to ordering the item from a manufacturer.

Merch is just one of a varied number of ways to make money as an artist, but even within that one category of sales, dig deeper and find new ways to take advantage of product offerings. 

Check out the profit margin of each product type below:

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409304 2012-09-29T17:40:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Songkick To Help Artists Crowdfund Concerts

Songkick, a music concert discovery service, is going into the business of helping artists crowdfund their concert experiences. CEO Ian Hogarth wrote a blog post about how Songkick helped electronic artist Tycho organize a gig for 500 people in London.

Ian wrote about the process of spreading the word for Tycho’s crowdfunded concert: 

“We chatted to Tycho and his team and it seemed like they’d need to sell a few hundred tickets to make it feasible to come to London, so we created a simple website, Detour to allow Tycho fans to pledge. What happened next was pretty insane! We emailed the fans on Songkick who were tracking Tycho, and over 100 of them pledged money for a ticket. Gideon was pretty thrilled to see how many other people shared his passion for Tycho. But 100 or so wasn’t enough to get the show confirmed so the Songkickers took it into their own hands & started to contact friends and music fans who were either into Tycho or should be! Within a short while we hit our target and the gig was on! Wow.”

This isn’t the first foray into crowdfunding events, but Songkick might have the technology to take it up a notch. Kickstarter, the most well-known of crowdfunding sites, helps artists raise money for album releases and tours, helps film-makers shoot documentaries, helps product designers release their newest project, and enables many others to realize their dreams. However, crowdfunding a concert is only one very small chunk of the Kickstarter platform for creative projects. Songkick, which ties into Facebook and other social media sites to help get the word out about concerts in your area, is perhaps the ideal location for bands to raise money for  tours they don’t know they can afford.

As Hogarth notes, social media sites are filled with comments from fans asking artists to come to their city. Sometimes it’s very hard to know whether there is enough demand for an artist in a particular city if the artist only sees a few comments. Artists can use data and analytics sites like Next Big Sound to see what cities are most interested in them or can look at song and album sales to gauge some idea of where to travel next. For independent artists or bands on a budget, this might not be enough to commit to an expensive gig in a faraway city. 

If Songkick can not only provide the platform to help artists raise money to play in different cities, but also help spread the word about a concert, there might be a whole new market for concerts all over the world. Kickstarter already proved the power of ecommerce, patronage, and donations all wrapped into one platform. If Songkick has the formula to reach more people who like to attend concerts and helps fans put their money where their mouth is, we might start to see a much more efficient market for artists who don’t find themselves on the Ticketmasters of the world.

 

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409309 2012-09-24T02:28:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Social Media Is Not a Number

The most damage you can do to yourself is to treat all numbers alike. Social media is not a number. The race to some elusive goal (3K Twitter followers, 10K Facebook likes, or 500K YouTube views) is just a goal. But not all numbers are created equal.

On the one hand, a high social media count for one page can certainly give you a perception of importance. If my Facebook page has a million likes, people will come to it and view the page more seriously than a page with just a few likes. Big numbers do matter, but context is everything. Having a large presence online can act as a snowball effect, so as your numbers get bigger they continue to get bigger faster and faster. This is the viral effect, whether it be an increase in credibility that leads to more sharing by people or it’s a boost in a website’s algorithm that floats you to the top of the stack and gets you many more views. This can be a great form of free marketing. 

At the end of the day, the goal of obtaining a high number of social media followers should be more than just for ego-stroking. Ask yourself why these followers are important. How did you obtain them? Did you spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign that got you thousands of “fans” in a day or did you shake a thousand people’s hands at gigs across the country that led them to following you online and telling all their friends about your music? Or did you pay someone $5 to give you 1,000 Twitter followers that turn out to be mostly fake? Each kind of follower is different and increasing your following only matters insofar that the followers are there to stay and engage with you or your community.

Many music and business folks talk about 1000 fans. All you need is 1000 true fans to have a solid career doing what you love in the arts. Having 1000 true fans doesn’t mean having 1000 Facebook likes. The 1000 is for the truly devout fans that do more than press a button (be it to follow or to like). Even if someone is not that invested in you as an artist, you shouldn’t turn them away if they happen to follow you on a social media site. No one is saying that. However, think of where you are putting your energy to reach your goals. Are you being authentic in obtaining fans? Time spent on the business side of things is time spent away from the creative production of your art (be it music or otherwise).

If you’re just rigidly optimizing for a certain number instead of trying to create genuine relationships with your fans, growing revenue for your career, and making lasting connections, perhaps it’s time to consider that not all numbers are created equal.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409311 2012-09-17T04:46:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:53Z Branding: So Is It Quality or Is It Just a Name?

iPhone 5 and headphones

 

Apple has become synonymous with simplicity of design and ease of use with their iPod and iPhone products. The way we experience music and related applications will never be the same after Steve Jobs helped make it possible to “fit your whole music library in your pocket.” While it’s hard to argue with the quality of Apple’s product, there is no question that the marketing and hype machine surrounding Apple’s product launches is nothing short of genius. The Apple fanboys and fangirls of the world will buy anything Apple, and even if competing companies build a worthy product, many won’t turn their heads. 

Digital Music News wrote a piece on the new iPhone 5 and how it is an evolution of the iPhone 4S but is not revolutionizing the way people use smartphones—most of that work is already done. Other than making the device much faster and lighter, there aren’t that many new bells and whistles unless you consider a new headphone name (EarPods) to be exciting. While the kind of headphones that comes with the iPhone is not a big selling point, the audiophiles of the world will see their audio experience very differently based on different types of headphones. 

With smartphone choice, other than noticeable differences in speed, app selection, and other core parts of the iPhone experience, the Apple branding has a strong psychological influence on one’s perception of the product. Whether it’s the marketing or the fact you expect quality when you buy an Apple product, there is still a subliminal desire to think highly of an Apple product regardless of all the factors at play. Then there is the case of headphones, where one would think that quality trumps branding (since we trust our ears to tell us what sounds goods, how can branding have an effect on what we perceive to be good sound quality?).

Enter Beats, the company that makes the headphones that command 51% of the premium headphone market that’s worth about a $1 billion in the U.S. alone (according to Digital Music News). In the professional audio community, Beats sometimes gets a bad rep for being overpriced—that is to say the quality is not so great, and you’re paying double a normal sticker price just for the association with Dr. Dre and the Beats name. It seems that Beats is not just a headphone choice but also a fashion choice, with the trendy headphones easily spotted in New York City subways and on college campuses across America. This might be one of those times that branding gets ahead of product, unlike with Apple products that seemed to impress a smaller core group of Apple fanatics early on before hitting the masses. The NPD says:

“Thirty-eight percent of premium headphone owners say their device is part of their personal style and one-in-four say it is important that their headphones are fashionable.”

For audio geeks such a statement seems egregious and that sound quality should be the first thing people think about when deciding how to listen to music, but our devices are more than how fast or how well they get us from Point A to Point B. Products that we wear every day are also a reflection of our personalities and how we want to be perceived by other people. That’s where branding just beat out product, even if the product itself is in fact of sound quality.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409313 2012-09-10T04:32:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:54Z Apple to Compete With Pandora

As reported by New York Times and many other news sources, Apple will be launching a Pandora competitor within the next few months. While Pandora already has many streaming Internet radio competitors, with the likes of Slacker and iHeartRadio, and other music listening platform competitors like Spotify and rdio, Apple is the behemoth that could put Pandora in a shaky situation. 

Pandora’s stock dropped nearly 17% at the news, Hypebot mentions. This comes at a time when Pandora is still having trouble reaching profitability, as its spending is tied heavily to current regulation that requires a payment for radio streams to record labels and other sources that seems to prevent it from being in the black.

While Pandora expects to turn a profit sometime in the coming year or two, the allure of switching to an Apple product might be too great for some and could stifle Pandora’s growth. With the upcoming iPhone 5 release, and the design-focused company that is Apple, consumers will soon have a choice between what service they want to use and how tied it will be to the device in their pocket. 

Is this time for Pandora to panic? Perhaps not, considering so many consumers’ daily office experience is related to the customized radio stations Pandora offers them, catered directly to their tastes. Many companies know that the switching costs of leaving a service that knows so much about you to a competing service is high. What that new service has to offer must be 10 times better than the old service, otherwise most are too lazy to switch. Who cares if Bing is better or worse than Google—we’re used to Google and we’re going to keep going to that homepage or using that Google search toolbar until some cathartic experience with a new search engine causes us to switch.

However, if Apple provides a service that seamlessly ties into your devices, whether it be through the all-too-familiar iTunes, iPod, or iPhone, it’s going to turn a few eyebrows. Apple will easily bring the fanboys and fangirls on board, but will they have the music discovery ability to snatch away a growing Pandora userbase? We’ll have to grab some popcorn (and our nicest earbuds) and wait to see.

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Jonathan Jaeger
tag:jonathanjaeger.com,2013:Post/409321 2012-08-20T04:44:00Z 2013-10-08T16:49:54Z On Musicians and Politics

What is it about musicians and politics that gets the mainstream so intrigued? If you oppose the artist’s political philosophy, then you’re probably saying to your friends, “Why do musicians have to talk about politics? No one cares about their opinion, they should just play music and shut up.” If you agree with the artist, you’ll probably tolerate the mixing of politics and music. Perhaps, you’ll be drawn to the music even more. Is it that we hate politics in our music or that we just hate politics that we don’t agree with?

Take Dave Mustaine for instance—he’s been taking a lot of flack for his recent accusation on Obama for staging the recent massacres at Aurora and the Sikh temple. Mustaine is free to speak his mind, even if metalheads across the world don’t agree with him. Much of his music and lyrics is politically-charged, so does it make sense for Mustaine to share political opinions in the middle of a concert? If you don’t agree with a musician, is it possible to separate their opinions from their music? I’m sure there are many Mustaine and Megadeth fans who despite enjoying the music have a hard time embracing the artist behind the music—maybe they give up on the music altogether. While his lyrics might be political in nature on occasion, Dave Mustaine’s music is appreciated for the guitar riffs, hooks, and overall metal sound. When one thinks Megadeth, one doesn’t think politics. If there is no definitive connection between the medium and the message, it isn’t in your best interests to alienate fans with your politics.

On the other hand, there are artists like Tom Morello, who recently spoke out against Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and his affinity for Rage Against the Machine’s music. Music and politics are at the heart of Rage Against the Machine’s music, so it’s hard to believe their fans resent the band for bringing in politics outside of their own song lyrics. Political activism and Rage Against the Machine’s music go hand-in-hand, from the distorted riffs of “Bulls on Parade” to the public statements of protest. When you listen to the music you know what you signed up for, and that’s vital to the social contract between the artist and the fans.

So if your politics isn’t core to the music and one of the most identifiable bonds between you as an artist and your fans, it probably is wise to drop any politics you have from the public consciousness. Making a difference is important, but if you forget why your fans made you successful in the first place, you could start a divide in your fanbase that can’t be fixed. Next time you want to mix music with politics, think about why your fans listen to your music and whether mixing in your own political viewpoints will add value to the discourse or just ruin the excitement of the music.  

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Jonathan Jaeger