Finding Exposure To Gain Exposure: The Internet And Making It Into The Music Industry

Posted in Post on April 21, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

By: Brendan Ryan

Somewhere in the early-mid 1960’s a record executive walked into a dingy basement-looking pub.  On a small stage, poorly lit and playing off the venue’s PA was a folk singer. This folk singer played his set of Woody Guthrie-esque folk songs full of tall tale stories and protest political awareness.  After the set, this folk singer was approached by the then extremely impressed record executive and talks of signatures, contracts, and future exposure began.

This folk singer was:

BOB DYLAN

Unfortunately in some way, this type of thing doesn’t happen anymore.  A major record label would never just sign someone from personal belief and opinion that they were good and would make it big. In fact, it might even be safe to say that major record labels don’t even have a certain opinion about the artists they sign anymore.  Do you really believe that these suited 40-50 year old people are going home and listening to people like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga? No, good chances are they aren’t. There’s also a good chance these label heads and representatives don’t even personally like this type of music. So why is this music part of the label then? What makes these record label heads sign such artists? It’s because in the end it’s not about what the record label likes and wants to be popular, it’s about what the people want, the paying customers. These customers: (for the most part): are teens. They are the one’s to purchase the songs and therefore they are the ones who determine what reaches the top 40.

Which leads us to this post’s main question. In a world where you’re not going to reach the people who provide you exposure until you reach exposure yourself:

HOW DOES A MUSICIAN BECOME FAMOUS?

Well in the highly technological world we live in today, the task has become both more difficult and a bit easier both at the same time.  With such an obsession with the internet, TV, movies, music videos and pretty much all things visual,  being a popular mainstream musician is no longer about having a good collection of songs and having talent.  In fact, for a good amount of the time these days, those factors are thrown into the back burner.  With music videos being such a common thing now, image is everything.  There are inventions today like AutoTune that will correct someone’s pitchy vocals so this (unfortunately) is no longer that important except for when it comes to performing live, which even still is less important than it once was.  This is the factor about today that has made trying to become a famous musician because internet and TV has made the music itself less important.

On the other hand, however, the internet has also given hope to all aspiring musicians trying to make it big. With the internet, an artist is given so many more outlets to release their material than ever before. Sites like “MySpace,” “PureVolume,” “SonicBids” have for years now provided an area where songwriters can post their songs, advertise their gigs, and gain fans, something that before the internet could never have been possible.  There are even sites like GarageBand.com that will allow you to post your material to be reviewed by other songwriters and musicians looking for the same type of feedback.  With sites like these, this is what will get the attention of the major record labels.

See, the music business is in an awful time right now where they are losing many dollars from internet piracy and lack of CD sales, so they are in no place to take risks on artists. They will not sign an artist just because they like their sound. They’ll sign an artist when they visit their myspace page (or in these days, Facebook Page) and see that they have 1,000,000 followers.  In that case, it’s not about the music. It’s a no-brainer because it they can sign this already popular artist and release an album with them, those 1,000,000 followers are going to become 1,000,000 new customers.  It’s not about the melodies the labels are looking at….it’s the numbers.

But how does one get these numbers? Well this is where the strategy in the long view dates back to the days Dylan was signed and before and that’s creating your own exposure. When you’re a musician trying to become famous you are no longer just a person…you’re a brand. And it’s important to sell that brand and place that “logo” here there and everywhere.  You want people all over talking about “your brand, and with the internet, this has become easier. The only downfall is that it is also easier for anyone to do it….so there is even more competition from every corner.

This is why, despite piracy being so common, there is a sea of millions of other aspiring artists and you’ll have to find your unique quality. What about you makes you stand out among this large group of people? There is a reason why Lady Gaga is one of the biggest acts in the world. Under the meat dress, and large sunglasses; under the makeup, Lady Gaga isn’t necessarily the most attractive woman.

She is in no way “ugly” but she doesn’t have the same “model” looks that her pop predecessors, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilara. Same goes for Ke$ha, mentioned in my last post. Who can get away with actually looking like a normal everyday girl by distracting folks by her party girl, torn clothes and makeup. It’s what makes you stand out that will get people talking and through this you’ll start meeting “the right people“.

SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

How rarely we hear people today say, “You gotta check this new songwriter out, they’re so good. They got awesome songs.” Instead you’ll hear “You gotta see this new singer. They’re crazy. They’re insane.” And this is all because that is what comes first. How you present yourself is what will get the attention. The music itself that you play is what will get people to stay.

It was once said by a former Major Label executive that in order to get signed to a major record label you need to stop “Working to get signed” But instead “Work to make a living out of playing and recording your music.” If you succeed at this, the labels will come to you.

And in this day in age…this is how one can get famous.

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The Creative Commons

Posted in Post on April 21, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

By: Audel Shokohzadeh

There has been a movement by many  who believe that intellectual property should be shared with the world. Directors, artists, and musicians  have looked toward the creative commons as a means to generate awareness for their products. A Wired news article mentions Lawrence Lessing, founder of Creative Commons, and how he looks to combat “current strict legal interpretation of intellectual property rights frequently stifles the type of sharing that spurs innovation.”

The strict legal interpretation is the Sonny Bono Act. In 1998 the United States Congress passed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. The act was pushed by intellectual property owners, mainly Disney, in order to lengthen the term of copyright to the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. Kembrew McLeod’s book Popular Music and Society mentions that Disney was a huge force behind the passing of the Act. The copyright on Steamboat Willie (the first Mickey Mouse Cartoon) was due to expire in 2004, and the Act even copyrighted “Happy Birthday to You” and “This Land is Our Land.” The fear around The Sonny Bono Act is that it keeps ideas and works from reaching the public domain where they can be expanded upon and make a better society.

The video below was made within the Fair Use Doctrine and discusses even further some of the troubles around the Sonny Bono Act.

Creative Commons(CC) looks to combat the Sonny Bono Act by allowing artists to post their work on the website. On the website the artist can license their contribution so that it can only be used in a manner that the artist deems acceptable.  For example a musician could post a song on the website and allow for it to be mashed and sampled, as long as it isn’t sold for a profit and the original artist is created. Creative Commons even has a link to many websites that allow users to upload songs under a CC. A CC lasts 14 years and is subject to another 14 year renewal after which it enters the public domain. The youtube video below explains this in greater detail.

Creative Commons ultimate goal is to allow for a shared community to grow. With advances in technology it has become increasingly easy to allow other people to be creative and enhance the society. Creative Commons looks to break away from content and move toward communication. The video below captures the goal of Creative Commons more vividly.

The creative commons will be imperative not just to spread art but to maintain and help democracy grow. Our nation was founded on an idea that not just one forefather but all the forefathers debated and discussed over. People were allowed to and encouraged to help create a nation that would function for the people. Imagine if copyright existed during the time of our forefathers. The idea of democracy would belong to the first founder to suggest democracy and only he could adapt it and allow it to grow and spread. Only after 70 years would the general population be able to critique the democracy that had been created. Imagine if that happened though? After 70 years many things would become institutionalized and change would be difficult. We would live in a very scary world if that were the case.

Selling Sex and Violence: The Music Industry

Posted in Post on April 19, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

By: Michael Noce

The music industry is getting desperate. Ticket sales for tours are down and so are overall album sales. In their never ending attempt to grab new listeners and sell more merchandise, they have resorted to selling sex, drugs and violence to our youth. This isn’t a new tactic, as back in the days of Elvis and the devil child known as rock ‘n roll, youth were drawn to this new music for its rebellious messages and sex and drug references. What is different now is that along with the sex and drugs, we now have violence being glorified by artists of all styles. Why is this a problem? Who is to blame? How can we change this trend? Allow me to try and answer these questions.

It’s no secrete that now a days all you need is the internet to be connected with any song you desire to hear. You have access to this, I have access to this, and so does our youth. When these children search the internet for music, their age becomes meaningless. There is no way of knowing how old the user behind the computer screen truly is and this allows children of all ages to easily access music that they would not be able to buy in stores due to parental advisory warning labels. The main problem lies within the heavy influence music has on its listeners. It was seen in the 60’s and 70’s as music by artists such as Bob Dylan inspired thousands to rebel against the establishment. Now it is being seen in our children schools, on our street corners and on our evening news. According to a study performed by the American Psychological Association, songs with violent lyrics increase aggression related thoughts and emotions. Children become absorbed into their music as a way to define who they are as they come into adult and thus take these violent messages their role models are conveying and turn them into actions. What is worse, is that these messages are also being shown through music videos that are made easily accessible through sites like Youtube. The music industry has gone as far as to put their artist’s violent words into images by creating music videos showing how cool it is to live a violent lifestyle. Harvard University had college age students watch 518 music videos that were aired on MTV, CMT, BET and Video Hits 1 and they found that 75% of those videos showed interpersonal acts of violence. Is this really necessary to draw viewership?

Role Model?

It’s hard to blame one person or one source for this increase in violent music. You could point the finger at the music industry for promoting such music and encouraging it, or you could blame the artists themselves for willingly producing such music. Personally, I believe it is a mix of both and is seen across all genres, but its hard for me to look away from one genre in particular for helping fuel this fad. Rap/Hip Hop. Hip Hop has been called the “most important youth culture on the planet” by Time because it has created a new lifestyle in cultures all over the world. In mainstream youth culture, hip hop and rap have heavy influence on our youths fashion and attitudes. Rappers “sing” about glorious lifestyles filled with money and girls that come from living as a gangster or thug. It promotes violence as a resource to get what you want and become a somebody. These violent and disrespectful songs are the songs eating up all the air time on top 40 radio stations and MTV. All you need to do is watch one music video to see them throwing money around with a gun in one hand and a female in the other. These are our youths role models out there promoting gun use and that calls for immediate action, so what can we do?

Fight back. The same technology that makes music so easily available to all at the tips of your fingers also makes it just as easy to voice your opinion and make something happen. The video above shows just that, as the young man who made the video even says “If this song gets no plays or views today, at least I used my gifts to try to help them through the pain.” That is what it all comes down to, going out and using the resources we have been giving to make a difference. By using the online commons, you have the ability to gather the masses and organize your thoughts and goals in an online setting to be used in a real life setting. Classroom Classics took advantage of the internet to promote their Kids Against Violence campaign that includes an 11 song album song by kids about the negative effects of violence. It is up to us to use our powers and freedoms that are rightfully ours in this Democracy to keep violent messages out of our youths ears.

This isnt enough

Piracy, Not The End of Music (Hope for the Future)

Posted in Post on April 18, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

Looking at the music industry solely from a business prospective, there are bright spots that should be highlighted. One bright spot that can be highlighted is the sales of music digitally. It has increased since its advent each and every year, though it should also be highlighted that download sales of singles outnumber that of physical and digital full albums combined.

While the music industry may never return to the success they had ten or so years ago before the rise of file-sharing, there are signs that the music industry can be sustained and still thrive in our ever changing culture.

Music nowadays if often knocked being inferior to older music. As a whole, the music industry may be weaker, but there are standout artists that essentially carry and keep the industry afloat.  I will highlight two modern artists of contrasting styles that do this. First is the dance club and party culture virtuoso, Lady Gaga. Second, is the phenom of country music, Taylor Swift. Both of their 2008 albums had great commercial success as well as garnering many awards. Lady Gaga and her 2008 album, The Fame, is a certified 3x platinum. Taylor Swift’s 2008 Fearless album is a certified 6x platinum. So despite Lady Gaga’s popularity in our mainstream party culture, she is still outsold by Taylor Swift. However, that party culture may very well be the reason why Lady Gaga doesn’t sell as much.

Music that is associated with clubbing and our party culture, people can just go to the club and they are guaranteed to hear it. They more often listen to the music because it reminds them of the party atmosphere more than the messages and the lyrics of the song. Taylor Swift’s music connects to her audience through many emotional discourses. That is what makes the difference; people who listen to Taylor Swift’s music listen for more than just reliving the party experience. This is not to say that fans of Lady Gaga do not for other reasons than just reliving the party atmosphere, but it is much more prevalent in Swift’s case, as is apparent by her following. The way that Swift emotionally attaches herself with her fans is very similar to how punk rock in the late 90s and early 2000s attached to their fans and built their following, all while selling millions as well. This is apparent by her 2010 album Speak Now, which sold over 1 million in its first week, a feat that means much more nowadays than it did ten years ago, and a feat that has not been accomplished since 2008. I am not suggesting who is better or what the best model for selling is, but rather examples of success in recent years in two completely different ways.

Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga are just two examples of successful artists in the current music industry. They are examples of how they have found their niche in the industry and have built a following in similar ways to how music was drawing in crowds when the industry was at its peak. Those days are over, but that does not mean the industry has to die.

Just like how steroids ravaged Major League Baseball, it has been on the recovery in recent years. Piracy may have ravaged the music industry, but right now, they are recovering and only time will tell how much they recover and what new business plans they decide to push forth.

DC

What comes after iTunes?

Posted in Post on April 12, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

by: Audel Shokohzadeh

Introduction

The Music Industry is steadily in decline. There lack of adaptation to new technologies and consumer trends have resulted in a loss of revenue as other companies such as Apple have taken advantage and reaped the benefits. However as technology grows and illegal downloading continues new business models must be pursued. This blog will examine how the Music Industry fell behind, how Apple picked up the slack and how the future of listening to music is in for a huge change.

The Music Industry had a very sweet deal at the peak of its success in the 80s and 90s. The only way to listen to music would be to save money, usually $20, and go to a record store and buy a cd and the radio was dominated by the Top 40. Then in 1999 Shawn Fanning created Napster the first major peer to peer file sharing website. Not only was music free to download but people could pick and choose which songs they wanted to download. Not only did you not need to buy an entire album but the music choice you had at your finger tips was astounding.

In 2001 the RIAA sued Napster to eliminate any copyrighted material on its website resulting in Napster creating a deal with the Big 5 (EMI Records, Sony, Vivendi Universal, AOL Time Warner and BMG) by using a subscription based-model. However the revolution had begun and many different free and now illegal file sharing websites begun to emerge. Since 2000 the music industry has noticed a downward trend in the number of units (albums) sold. In 1999 almost 1,100,000,000 total units were sold. In 2010 roughly 300,000,000 units were sold.

Many point to these peer to peer sites as the reason why the music industry begun to decline. If you ask many musicians however you will find that the only person the music industry can blame is itself. Frank Zappa explains that during the 60s experimental music was released because the industry took a chance. Thom Yorke lead singer of Radiohead claims that now we are hearing more of the same but not what people want.

Along came an Apple

January 9, 2001 was a day that would change the music scene forever, with the introduction of Apples iTunes. Created to help fuel sales for the Apple iPod, iTunes allowed users to download singles for 99¢ and Albums for $9.99. iTunes’ debut meant the “demise of [the] album” and singles became the money maker for the music industry. iTunes also made music incredibly mobile and portable. People could listen to the music they downloaded on their computers, on their iPods, and even burn songs onto blank CDs so they could listen in their cars. In 2008 Apple surpassed Wal-Mart as the number one muisc retailer. As iTunes success grew so did tension between the music industry and Apple. In 2010 almost 1,000,000,000 singles were downloaded. The Big 5 claimed that the pricing devalues the product and in response iTunes has created a new pricing structure ranging; singles will now cost 69¢, 99¢ and $1.29 to appease the labels.


The Competition

Apple however still faces a problem, people still don’t want to pay for music. A survey of 1,000 respondents between the ages of 15-24 found that 66% found it was morally acceptable to download music for free, 63% admitted to downloading music illegally and 70% of those who downloaded music illegally did not feel bad about downloading the music. This has opened the door for services such as Rdio, Mog, and Spotify to grow.

Rdio and Mog are services that require a $9.99 monthly service but grants users unlimited access to as much music as the want. With libraries at 10 million songs and growing suers have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and explore many different types of music. Mog has a Pandora-like service. If you are listening to Lupe Fiasco you will notice a bar at the bottom of the screen, moving this bar further to the right allows Mog to play artists that are similar to Lupe. Rdio has an emphasis on social networking where you can follow and like playlists and see what your friends are listening to if they are using the same service. The downside with these two services is that if you stop paying the monthly fee you lose access to the online catalog and the music you already have when you no longer have internet access.

Spotify is a very unique music streaming site that can pose the biggest threat to iTunes. Having gained legal status in the United Kingdom as well as Finland, France, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the and Netherlands. Spotify is ad-funded, users search for music and create playlists that they wish to listen to and at certain points during the playlists ads are played in order to pay artists for the music they have created. Spotify also allows for users to download playlists to their computer or mobile phone so they can be accessed even with a lack of an internet connection and even provides a premium service to bypass ads and the need to download playlists and even to play music on any device hooked up to an internet connection in your house.

What does this mean for us?

The consumer only stands to benefit from the evolution of the music business model. Music services such as Rdio, Mog and Spotify will give consumers the opportunity to explore what music means to them. In the words of H.A. Overstreet “I have my own particular sorrows, loves, delights; and you have yours.  But sorrow, gladness, yearning, hope, love, belong to all of us, in all times and in all places.  Music is the only means whereby we feel these emotions in their universality.”

Partying. Partying. (yeah!) – Music as the reflection of a culture

Posted in Post on April 12, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

by: Brendan Ryan

The music of the 1960’s will forever go down as the sound of change.  Within each lyric were the undertones and overtones of messages like “Power To The People,” “All You Need Is Love,” and “Try to learn to love another.”  This was crucial and needed in a time where American teens’ peers were being drafted and shipped off to fight in Vietnam. It was a demand for peace, love and equality. These messages were necessary not only for the hope of a better future but to vent out stress and anger at the current situation of the time.  The decades of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s would not have the same need for such a powerful message but would still keep close the theme of love and expression, taking advantage of the power music has when allowing you to deliver a message.

Some where along the line….this changed and we are now thrown into the mainstream of the 2000’s and 2010’s. “The era of the Party-er”

Here’s an experiment:

Turn on your local mainstream Top 40 radio station. What song is on? How long do you have to wait until the words “Club,” “Dance,” or “Party” come on?  With the way our mainstream pop radio plays out, you most likely won’t have to wait too long.  Almost every top 40 song on the radio in America today is about just this; going out. getting drunk. hooking up.  Why is this exactly? Could it be that the youth of today is neutral to any topics that were once censored? What phenomenon happened in the youth culture today to make this the overplayed topic so popular?  Club hits about dancing and drinking had always been involved in the mainstream rotation but never to such frequency.  One person to credit/blame may be this young woman right here:

The very popular KE$HA attacked the mainstream music scene in 2005 with her extremely huge hit, Tik Tok; an anthem about waking up hungover, and going out to party and get drunk.  Unlike past songs about partying and clubbing, these lyrics were right in your face. There was zero subtely or innuendos and the teeny boppers ate it up. People were quick to laugh at the in your face demeanor while also tapping their foot along.  Slowly this blantant form of partying expression became more and more common. With the same half time bumping bass drum, over compressed synthesizers and heavily auto-tune vocals, the mainstream radio stations have become a constant 24/7 dance club.  It was as if the songs were produced the way their messages deliver. It was as if the singer singing about partying was rushing out to get to a party and so they threw a song together. Catchy = yes. Repititive =  yes.  And though they get everyone moving on the floor, it also serves as a threat to the time and care that used to be put into the lyrics and melodies of songs. It as if anyone could make the same thing in their own home in a day:

A more recent example of this comes with Chris Brown’s hit, “Yeah x3.” It is always fun to compare how artists like Chris Brown who have been around for a few years have changed their sound to cater to the popular message of today’s sound. Here in comparison is Chris Brown’s Yo (Excuse Me Miss) from 2005

To his 2011 hit, Yeah x3

With lyrics like “You like to drink? So do we!” In the chorus, there is no question what the motive of the song is.

The blatant of the blatant came with the most recent viral video for Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” a terribly written pop song by an unknown teen-aged girl and the production company that backs her. Her video currently has over 98 million views and has been mocked by everyone and their grandparents for the awfully unsubtle lyrics. But in the beginning when the song first surfaced, people didn’t know whether to take it as a joke or not but in truth, the lyrics of the song are not too far from any of the other lyrics and messages in today’s mainstream sound.

With songs and messages like these, it is hard to tell what is next for the mainstream music world. Surely there is no more room to top themselves with simplicity. Perhaps what we are seeing now is a passing fad of a genre much like the 1970’s had with Disco. Something the masses will look back on and say, “It was silly but it was fun.”

Here’s to hoping the future of music isn’t the gymnasium of a middle school dance.

The New Age of Music Marketing

Posted in Post on April 11, 2011 by The Sounds Of The Youth

By: Michael Noce

With the rapidly changing world of technology, businesses of all kinds have been forced to change and adapt to our fast moving world. The music business is no exception, the digital age has been changing the way music is promoted and discovered. Thanks in large part to Apple and iTtunes, the way we find and download music is completely different from just a decade ago. The days of artists going multi-platinum and promoting themselves through the release and sales of new albums are over causing record companies to come up with new strategies to promote their clients. Thanks to our tech-savvy generation, today’s youth have entered the music market and are now competing with big record companies from their own computers. This was made possible with the ability to upload and download music from the internet for free and our you has taken full advantage of this and by doing so is “driving down overall music sales.” With so many music options available on the web for free, its hard for record companies to promote their material in a way that persuades listeners to purchase the music, in turn they are going about promoting music in new ways. This makes me wonder, what new advancement in music will our youth influence next?

One of the main concepts in this new marketing approach has been all about gaining exposure. Record companies and artists must now willingly give away their music for free and hope that in return they will gain new fans that will purchase material later or strike gold with companies willing to market or license their music. This concept is being used by legends like Radiohead, who had their last album available online to download at the price of your choice, and basement DJ’s who use the online commons to give out their samples for free in order to gain recognition. One of the most successful examples of this I came across came from a band called the IdeaLists. This no-named band gained instant popularity by shooting a music video for a new song that contained “dogboarding” and made it available for all to see with no cost.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/21504557″>Dogboarding</a&gt; from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/danieldaniel”>DANIELS</a&gt; on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Another method of marketing artist have been using to gain exposure and money is by using big companies in two ways. One is by selling the rights to their songs for use in commercials. The artist sells their song to make money and gain exposure of their music, while the companies agree to it as they hope the public will think of their product that they have linked to the song each time they hear the song wherever it may be. The other way they took a page out of the movie industries book by starting to use product placement within their videos. I can understand why they would take a couple extra bucks to through in a quick clip of the lead singer sipping on a Pepsi, however, when Pepsi goes and uses a song to brand their product, it rubs me the wrong way. When artists, such as Train in the example below, use their tremendous talent to write and compose songs they put their own meanings into the song to send a message to their fans. After Pepsi throws money at them, they steal the song and destroy the meaning the artist meant for the song to have. They do this to make their product look superior to others and in doing so take the song out of context and embed a new meaning into the public’s’ mind. A good example of this is Vampire Weekend’s song Holiday, which was bought out by Honda to be used in multiple commercials during the holiday season. If you look at the lyrics, you can clearly see the song has nothing to do with the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa season as the commercial portrays.

All of these new methods of reaching new audiences and spending money to give away free music in hopes of a greater return leads back to impact our youth has on the music industry. We have the ability to control the content that is available in the online commons. With our knowledge and experience of the online world, we have created a new world of online music that has forced multi-million dollar companies to change the way in which they market their products. Apple has been able to essentially monopolizes the online music downloading scene by keeping up with what we, the youth, wants and providing us with the tools necessary to not only discover new music, but share our own. Which brings up a concern of mine, how democratic is Itunes by taking over the online music scene and forcing us to pay as much as $1.29 for ONE song? This scares record companies and has forced them to dip as low as to try to sell music to our youth through violent and sexual music, that they believe appeals to us. This raises the question to me of how far will we allow record companies and artist to go in terms of the messages they are trying to sell to youth?

In music, sex and violence sells.