Skrillex Proves Popularity Through Steady Search Growth

When an artist gets their 15 minutes of fame through American Idol, a controversial news report of some sort, or comes out with their one hit wonder single, you can expect a healthy surge in search traffic for that artist on Google. Not Skrillex. As Digital Music News cleverly pointed out, the dubstep artist has slowly risen in popularity in terms of his Google search growth (this is based off of the search keyword “skrillex” and Google’s trend algorithms).

While some of the search growth can be attributed to American dubstep’s rapid rise in popularity in the last year or two, it is also a good sign that Skrillex is not just a flash in the pan sensation. There is no one-off press mania around Skrillex and there is no sharp spike that indicates a particular new story breaking and gaining some extra search juice before tapering off.

This healthy and steady growth is promising and hopefully will continue for the  artist, who started his career early in an emo rock band called From First to Last under his street name Sonny Moore.

So what does this mean for up-and-coming artists who haven’t yet made their name? Well it means you can hope for the pipe dream of quick success and get a lot of mainstream coverage right off the bat, or you can grind away and slowly build street cred over time. Even Skrillex had a boost because of his connections from producing music under his name Sonny Moore and playing in a popular rock band before that. That’s years and years before he reached the success he has now.

Up-and-coming artists probably shouldn’t hover over their computers tracking search traffic of themselves on a daily basis, but it might be the time to start slowly building your fanbase and online presence (thanking each fan individually for their attention). One day all those small little gains will add up to a career or better. Every overnight success, as they say, is 10 years in the making.

Stop Online Piracy Act Needs to be Stopped

From Tumblr to Google to Facebook to eBay, companies and citizens are up in arms over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that is up for a vote in Congress. Wikipedia summarizes SOPA as follows:

“The bill expands the power of U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to fight online traffic in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods.” 

While major labels, Hollywood, and other big businesses centered around copyrighting content favor the Congressional bill, there is growing opposition to SOPA. As Digital Music News puts it:

“The question is whether a more reasonable, middle ground can be forged. Shutting down sites with minimal due process seems like a recipe for disaster, though the status quo is increasingly being viewed as unfair and stacked against content interests.” 

The bill attempts to curb “rogue” websites from copyright infringement and allows the government to seize websites before those websites see their day in court. This essentially inches America closer to a police state that seeks protection over due process and technological innovation. For example, Youtube is a platform that works hard to curb piracy and should not be held accountable for every wrongdoing on the site. Should a company like Youtube be deemed a threat?

Even House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted that we need a better solution to the problem of intellectual copyright protection than is currently planned through SOPA. An initiative by social blogging platform Tumblr helped bring in 87,834 phone calls to representatives to protest the bill. Along with ads in various media, the biggest names in tech banded together to write a joint resolution to Congress expressing their concern with the bill and how it will affect innovation and stifle job creation.

While everyday artists and content creators are trying to protect their work from the infringing hands of pirating businesses and consumers, there are less nefarious ways of going about change. Tech pundits and industry experts are assuming this law won’t pass, but at that same time, that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t do everything they can to stop the worst-case scenario from happening.

The Patriot Act might save lives in some instances, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come at a price. The same is true for the Stop Online Piracy Act—although lives might not be on the line, the future outlook of our society might be. 


Pop Goes the Melting Pot

Popstars have officially embraced the edges of mainstream music. First Britney Spears took a foray into dubstep music on her track “Hold It Against Me,” and now Rihanna is sampling Metallica. According to, Rihanna will be incorporating a sample from the metal legends’ track “Wherever I May Roam” from the band’s self-titled album (also knows as “the black album”). While 1991’s the black album ended up selling almost 16 million copies worldwide, it still is no mainstream pop album in the same vein as Britney Spears or Rihanna and doesn’t cater to the faint of heart.

Rihanna is also incorporating music from Chase & Status’ “Saxon”, which features electronic sounds and heavy dubstep drops. Both Metallica and Chase & Status will have their music on the tune “Red Lipstick” on Rihanna’s new album Talk That Talk. What does this mean for the state of mainstream music? It means pop artists, those  who in the past were more accustomed to bubblegum sensibilities, are pushing the envelope of musical exploration. Sure it might not “be good enough” for the fringes of music society (those who stick to their niche genres like a badge on their respective niche jackets), but it does mean a melting pot of ideas for the mainstream.

As of now, it’s tough to tell whether this was a conscious decision by Rihanna or a calculated move by her managers or a producer cluing Rihanna in on some new sounds. But does it really matter? The fact is that it’s getting done, and whether sounds are watered down or butchered, there are going to be a lot of streams online for songs that otherwise would not have been found. Metallica has solidified its fanbase long ago, so they won’t need any help from Rihanna to introduce news fans to them. But look at the Youtube video for “Saxon”, embedded below, and you can see that there are already comments about how Rihanna’s album tracklisting brought her fans to a dubstep song from 2008. How could that not mean good exposure for non-mainstream music? 


Royalties and Copyright: Playing Fast and Loose in the Music Game

Recently Hypebot has been reporting on potential class action lawsuits against Universal Music Group. Chuck D and other artists are alleging they got stiffed on song and ringtone royalties. One statement on the claim reads:

"According to Ridenhour's claim, under UMG's current method of accounting, artists and producers receive $80.33 for every 1,000 downloads, when the correct amount should be $315.85 per 1,000. On the ringtone side of things...The suit claims that UMG's current accounting method yields $49.89 per thousand downloads, as opposed to the $660 per 1,000 that the suit claims is actually owed."

Regardless of the legitimacy of the statement, it is not unheard of for record labels to play hardball with paying artists (even more so when they are struggling to keep their businesses viable).  However, it is not only the big labels that are hearing complaints from artists.

In a recent spat with progressive rock legends King Crimson, Grooveshark has repeatedly been unable to stop copyright infringement of King Crimson’s works on their popular streaming service. While Grooveshark has taken down King Crimson songs from the application, the same songs reappear within hours of them being removed (you can read the heated email exchange on DigitalMusicNews).

After the King Crimson emails, other complaints have popped out of the woodwork. Lisa Thomas Music services wrote:

“I am the publishing administrator for the main songwriters of the Eagles and have spent hours upon hours serving DMCA takedown notices on Grooveshark’s designated agent demanding the site remove all of the compositions owned and controlled by my clients. I have cited specific url’s of each infringing post in the notices. To date, Grooveshark has not removed any of the material.”

Above are two examples of artists getting the raw end of the deal from two different businesses: one the old school establishment (UMG) and one digital music service (Grooveshark). I can attest to the fact that many users love Grooveshark, and I’m sure many artists do too, but often there is a fine line between creating a great product and playing fast and loose with other people’s property.

Spotify seems to be the darling child of Facebook and many new users of their product in the U.S., but even they have seen record labels leave them due to ambiguous terms and small royalty checks. Whether you are the entrenched industry companies or the up-and-coming digital innovators in the music space, sometimes it is hard to please everyone when it comes to pleasing the artists and the listeners. Can everyone be happy?


8 Tips for an Effective Musician’s Website

1) No Auto-start

Don’t have your music start automatically! There are so many reasons why this annoys the average visitor, even if the visitor wants to hear your music. Hypebot outlines a few of the reasons in this article.

2) Share Buttons 

Integrate social sharing buttons such as those for Facebook, Twitter, and AddThis (which contains sharing capability for tons of social websites all in one button).

3) Social Profiles

Some listeners just want to come to your site, but others might prefer to visit you on the music site of their choice. Make sure your social links are prominently displayed for others to follow you elsewhere and where they spend more of their time.

4) Mailing List

Email is king! Provide easy access for someone to join your mailing list straight from your homepage. Fans are much more likely to see your messages if they come through email, rather than a fleeting tweet or Facebook post. Make sure you provide relevant content because you want to create an email relationship with your fans where they click-through to your message every time.

5) Call-to-action

What is the most important thing for you to communicate to your fans? Where they can buy your album? Where you’re touring next? Where they can find you elsewhere online? Whatever it is that you feel is most important for you to build and maintain a fanbase or make money, make sure that that is the most prominent thing displayed on your website.

6) Video

Don’t underestimate the power of a video. Many companies use introduction videos to explain how their site works. About two out of every three new visitors that come to a site watch those introductory videos. You can explain yourself as an artist in your video or put a promo.

7) Mobile Access

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. This might not mean making a dedicated app for you as an artist, because that can be pricey, but make sure that visitors can still use the basic functionality of the site within their mobile phone (play music, sign-up or buy things, etc.).

8) Personality

Good design is good design, but since this is a website that represents you as an artist, don’t forget to inject your own personality into the design. This might be tough if you’re not the one designing the site or doing the coding, but make sure that whomever is in charge of that has your frame of reference as an artist in mind. If you’re using a pre-built template, consider paying a small fee for a more personalized design or one that is more unique. Either way, know your personality before you go into the design process.

A Story of Fragmentation

The world of technology and music are both witnessing their own stories of fragmentation but are merging into one long tail. In some instances this will mean more (but smaller) winners and in some instances it might mean very few winners at all. Chris Anderson coined the term the “long tail” as a means of “describing the retailing strategy of selling a large number of unique items with relatively small quantities sold of each – usually in addition to selling fewer popular items in large quantities.”

The long tail is applicable both in music and technology. For example, in the world of online business, more and more startup companies are getting funded as it has become easier to start companies (Amazon EC3 cloud services for scalable web development, open-sourced programming software, etc.). Eventually there will be too many companies and not enough follow-on investment or talent to help take these startups to the next level. As a whole, however, these companies manage to create software that enables consumers like you to discover, listen to, buy, and download music in a much easier fashion than in the pre-Internet days.

What does this mean? A lot more music by a lot more people with fewer and fewer high-selling records or singles. In a recent post, Digital Music News asked Apple how much artists should expect to receive from streams off of Apple’s music streaming service iCloud. While Apple mentioned that iTunes receives a 30% cut of sales and declined to comment on streaming rates, Digital Music News says artists can expect royalties in the range of $0.0007 to $0.0035 per stream. One can assume that regardless of volume, even bigger names will have trouble making as much money through streaming as they did on album sales before the digital era of music downloading.

This long tail of music downloads paints a grim picture for artists looking to scratch by.  At the very least, royalties grew 9.1% in 2010 to a total of $1.6 billion globally (via SoundExchange figures). With streaming services like Spotify breaking into the U.S. and leveraging Facebook’s massive userbase and Pandora finding more distribution channels for their music services, we can expect streaming music to keep gaining steam. However, more streaming won’t mean much more in terms of financial return for artists. The winners will be those who ride the coattails of the digital music revolution by gaining exposure and finding new ways to monetize their content. The music industry has always been a story of few winners, but now it’s going to become a fragmented story where we’ll have to piece together the spoils amongst a larger number of players and smaller bits of data.


Everything is Moving to Simple

Everything is moving to simple. The Internet is barely an adult, but despite having more and more experience online every year we all gravitate toward the simple. Simple means products that create value in the most user-friendly and intuitive ways. Clean design and utilitarian beats out complexity and feature creep any day.

What made the iPod and iPhone so popular? Of course viral commercials helped a lot,  they were a pop culture phenomenon, but it was the easy-to-use interface and storage capabilities of the iPod that started the most recent digital revolution. Solving a real need in the simplest way possible. Steve Jobs did everything he could to take away features, not tack them on. You want an extra USB port on your computer? Sorry. You want a bigger keyboard on your iPhone? Sorry. Not. Going. To. Happen.

The new online era follows the same philosophy. Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, dictates that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. This means, for example, that 20% of your product’s features account for 80% of the time spent using that product (or 80% of the value of the product, or any other metric that you deem important). The fact of the matter is that companies like Apple are not successful for adding more and more features, instead they highlight the features that dictate 80% of the customer’s needs.

One problem that arises is separating the majority of people from the individual. If you try to appease everyone by fulfilling every individual’s request, you’ll end up satisfying no one. You’ll end up with a laundry list of things that you need to change and ultimately hurt the user experience. This is as true for a technology company like Apple as it is for a touring artist. You can’t give every fan what they want. You can give them your undivided attention, perhaps, but you can’t always give them what they want. Whether you’re designing a website to highlight yourself as an artist, planning how you will turn music into a business, or building a tech product, know that everyone wants something simple. Bite the bullet and get rid of “that one more thing” you wanted to add because you thought it was necessary. Most people probably won’t need it or want it.

Focus on the 20% of the things that will take you 80% of the way. The rest you can focus on after you nailed that first 20%. And if doing extra in some way hurts what you accomplished with that first 20%, then forget about it.


There Are 97 Million Songs in the World, So Which One Are You?

Digital Music News reported an interesting statistic: based on songs counted in the Gracenote database, there are 97,000,000 songs in the world. MusicHype’s CEO Kevin King presented this stat at the Digital Music Forum West in Los Angeles last Thursday (10/6/2011). The number 97 million seems a bit arbitrary given the number of people who play music and never unleash it all to the world. Of course there are millions and millions of songs that don’t see the light of day outside of a band’s garage, but the number puts a somewhat tangible grasp on the amount of noise (both good and bad) online and in physical music form.

As an up-and-coming artist you’re probably thinking this is a lot of competition. Who’s going to hear my song? At the very least, you have one-leg up on a great number of the 97 million simply because there are millions of songs in the world that seek no promotion. The songwriter might want the song to reach the masses but in most cases is creating only as a hobby or without any will to market the music. Small but meaningful measures on your part to promote your music will get you past much of those millions.

In the land of free (free music downloads, free music hosting, free video hosting, free recording software) this is only going to become a more crowded space. Music creation has little barrier to entry and the only thing separating you from artistic notoriety is the extent to which you can utilize these free tools and get your message out.

Of course the more you can invest in improving the whole music experience, from production to distribution to marketing, the more viable your music becomes (in terms of sound quality and awareness surrounding your name). What 97 million teaches us is that you’ll need a little bit of luck and a lot of perseverance to be discovered. Sometimes you’ll have to discover yourself, meaning you’ll have to believe in your music and push it out into the world before anyone else does the heavy lifting for you.

10 Not-So-Obvious Ways To Market Your Music

1. Exclusive Photos Inside Your CD

The band The Good Natured posted their marketing idea on their Facebook page. They took 100 limited edition polaroids to go inside 100 of their EP’s. Exclusive, creative, and fun.

2. Countdown Clock

Got a big announcement, contest, or giveaway? Try a countdown clock to increase the suspense for your announcement or giveaway end date. But remember, you don’t want to be anticlimactic, so make the countdown worth it at the end. Try It’s Almost as your countdown clock or find one online that you can embed in your site.

3. Live Streaming Concert

Not able to do a show everywhere in the world and at the same time? Stream a live concert online via the many live streaming services (Ustream, Livestream,, Youtube, Google+, etc.). Play in your garage, in your room, or record a gig at a venue. Either way, get some live piece of your music online and in real-time.

4. Curate the Best Content

People don’t want to follow you on Twitter or Facebook just to get updates on your latest tour or music release. Curate the best content on your social networking feeds for music article links or songs you dig – if people trust your taste, they’ll probably follow you and check out your music udpates when it organically meshes into your stream.

5. Number Your Albums

Once again, it’s all about exclusivity. If you number your albums, fans will have a unique CD that is not a 100% duplicate of someone else’s purchase. Also, the lower the number the greater sense of value for the fan.

6. Remixes

Include remixes of your favorite song on your album. Perhaps this means using different effects, changing up the mix, or even changing the genre of the song entirely. Experiment! If you have a wide audience, you could even consider holding a remix contest for the song. With a top-notch remix, you can include it on the CD or a subsequent release if the album is already finished.

7. Track Analytics

Where do you want your fans to go? If it’s your website, make sure you have Google Analytics installed and track what sources are providing the most (and best) traffic. Once you find those sites, double-down on the amount of time you spend on those sites. If you use other websites to share music with fans, see what those sites offer you in terms of analytics.

8. Flash Mob

Organize a flash mob based around one of your songs. Then hope it goes viral once you post the video on Youtube!

9. Segmented Email List

Don’t you hate it when people invite you to events and concerts on Facebook or other social networking sites when you’re not even in the same city? It feels spammy. Make sure that when you’re building your email list, segment your emails based on your desired target for each specific email. Services like Mailchimp help you manage large email lists and segment your audience.

10. Limited Edition Vinyl

Because all the cool kids have it on vinyl.


Sources that inspired this article and fuel for more ideas:

Music 3.0


Hypebot 2


Friends vs. Machine: A Battle of Music Discovery

After witnessing the onslaught of updates by Facebook this week, I started to notice an influx of real-time updates regarding my friends and their Spotify listening habits. I personally don’t use streaming services like Pandora, Spotify, or Rdio because I like to browse the more artist-centric social networks and music aggregators that aren’t assaulted by record label constraints and rampant advertising, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see how big of an impact this will have on the average music consumer.

Facebook has done something interesting here. Many people live off of music recommendations from their friends and family, so isn’t it an organic fit for Facebook to update you on your friends’ current playlists in real-time? Yes and no.

I remember the days when Facebook bombarded your notification stream with gaming updates (so-and-so leveled up in this game, downloaded this app, etc.). It got to a saturation point where you would just want to ignore notifications entirely. Facebook needs to make sure Spotify and other music updates stay at a comfortable level. You don’t want to get to the point where there is so much that it makes the experience as a whole into a burden, and even worse, irrelevant. Of course, users can customize their updates in a very granular way as to prevent repetitive updates, but the average Facebook user doesn’t want to go to such lengths to modify their experience. This is an instance where the machine (i.e. the algorithm) needs to be fully aware of who you interact with and whose music you interact with on a regular basis. The two might or might not be the same.

Getting music recommendations from your closest friends is an important element of music discovery that a machine can’t replicate. You trust your friends, share some similar tastes that you are already aware of, and you know the number of close friends is limited (thus preventing an overload of information). Facebook added their lists function as a way to keep up with people in your news feed that you actually care about. Let’s hope the same stays true for music.