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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chinese Democracy Sales And Playing Live - Connection?

Guns N' Roses Chinese Democracy sales have dropped by 78% to only 57,000 in the second week after its release. It looks like the most expensive album ever made (at a reported $13 million) is cooked. But there's a reason for slow sales that goes beyond the music of Chinese Democracy and it's because the band didn't tour behind it. In fact, the band has only performed infrequently over the past 10 years or so, which doesn't exactly build an audience.

G N' R missed one of the rules of the music business, especially as we enter the Music 3.0 era - the album release (regardless of format) promotes your tour and not the other way around.

A popular misconception about the music business is that most of the money an artist makes is made on the album sales, but from the beginning of the music business that's never been true. In fact, artists have always made the bulk of their money on the road (the songwriters make the most money on a release). As stated before, in Music 3.0 (of which I'm writing a book right now), the music promotes the tour. You just can't expect to release a new album with any success without performing in front of your current or potential fans.

Guns N' Roses (which is really just Axl Rose with a backup band) still has a chance to become relevant again and rescue this album from the scrap heap. They need to get out there and tour relentlessly, give their fans unforgettable show after unforgettable show, and not worry about album sales. The sales will happen if they just go back to the old school way of building an audience, one fan at a time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jill's Next Record

Indie artist Jill Sobule has just raised $87,760 from her fans to help her release her next record. Her funding drive was hoping to raise $75,000, but continues to exceed that amount. As she says on her dedicated donation site "...who am I to refuse."

Jill had donation levels starting from $10 all the way up to $10,000 (wonder how many of those she sold), from which the donor received anything from a free download to dedicated song to a free house concert to coming to sing with her on song on the CD.

This is a brilliant new way for artists to have their fan base directly participate in their success. It works on so many levels. The artist gets enough money to finance his/her art, the fan (at the very least) gets to directly participate in something that he deeply cares about.

Welcome to the new way of doing business in the music industry, and applaud this innovator for being able to actually pull it off.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Is The CD Really Dead?

Britney Spears' Circus sold 505,000 CD's in the first week on the market.  Add to that 286,000 downloads of the single Womenizer, and you have a pretty healthy first week of sales.

I'm not suggesting that this is ground-breaking or even long lasting music, but it does prove that there is still a market for plastic shiny discs from popular artists, despite what the Music 2.0 naysayers may say.  Considering that this was a rather low-key release (as opposed to G n' R, who sold only 286,000 first week after a huge marketing campaign), Britney's team should be commended for going Gold right out of the box despite the hard economic times and difficulty finding the product to buy (there's not many brick and mortar CD retailers these days).

But next week will tell the tale, since a large sales drop-off has become the norm.  Just how large a drop-off will really be an indicator of the album's success.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 Lies Indie Musicians Tell Themselves

This is from Bruce Houghton's great Hypebot blog but I couldn't resist commenting on a couple of the points.  Go here for the entire post.

1.  "The Internet leveled the playing field for indie music."  Not quite.  Imagine you're in a stadium filled with a hundred thousand people who are all raising their arms as high as they can.  The only way you can get noticed in that crowd is not just to get your hand a little higher than the rest, but a lot higher so you can't be missed.  That's the trick of marketing, getting noticed in a crowd.  It takes the same serious strategy to make it happen regardless if you're marketing on-line, to print or broadcast media.

2. "I'm going D.I.Y (Do it yourself)."  If only that were possible.  You can probably get started by doing everything yourself, but at points along the way you'll start to need specialists in order to stay successful or become more successful. Pros are pros for a reason - they're good at what they do, and they can spend the time on aspects of the biz that you're either not good at or hate to do.  You want to keep making music, right?  That takes up enough time to do well let alone having to concentrate on management, marketing, web, getting gigs, etc.

You can read the other points on Bruce's blog, but I couldn't resist commenting on the above.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Caught Red Handed?

It's been all over the news recently about guitarist Joe Satriani suing the band Coldplay for plagiarism. Satch claims that their hit song "Vida La Vida" is a direct rip of his "If I Could Fly", a rather obscure song from his 1987 Surfing With The Alien album.

If it was some kid in a garage band in Ohio suing, then perhaps Coldplay would have a leg to stand on, but Satch has been around for a long time and is a revered artist, at least in guitar circles, so the argument about not ever hearing the song doesn't hold much water. And this damaging clip from Youtube lays it out pretty well for a jury to decide. 

Until then, you be the judge.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Remix Hotel - Mixing Tips For Mastering

Here's a screen from my presentation on mastering at Remix Hotel last night.  It's from later in the program, after a discussion on exactly what mastering is, a bit of history and how the pros do it.

If you intend to master your songs, you should mix with that in mind.  Following these steps will make the mastering engineer's job easier (even if that's you) and ultimately give you a better end product.

1)  Don't Over-EQ.  It's better to have a dull master mix than one that's either too bright or too bass heavy since it's usually easier to brighten things up or add bottom than it is to remove too much of any frequency.  Plus, mastering EQs may sound better than what you have available during mixing.  If you have to use too much EQ during mastering, maybe you should consider remixing.

2) Don't Over-compress.  If you squash your mix too hard, you won't leave anything to work with during mastering.

3)  Watch Your Fades.  A lot of mixes have some real ragged fades because the mixer didn't listen at a loud enough level down at the end of the fade.  A good mastering engineer (even if that means you) will have to fix a fade that isn't smooth later.

4)  Do Alternate Mixes.  This can turn into a long discussion, since alternate mixes have gotten out of hand these days (with some labels asking for vocal up 1dB, down 1dB, solo up 1 and down 1, background vocals up 1 and down 1, and on and on), but we'll keep it to something simple here.  It's best to do at least one alternative mix just in case there's a glitch on your master.  And a TV Track (a mix without a lead vocal or instrument) is always ideal for seamlessly removing swear words for a clean mix.

5)  Check Your Phase.  Make sure that your track plays well in mono by checking your mix in mono.  If your lead vocal suddenly drops out, you have a phase problem and you should go back to your mix and fix it.  Mono is still an important format to consider in that you'll never know when someone will inadvertently change your nice stereo mix to a single mono channel.

6)  Document Everything!  It's really easy to forget things like which file is the correct mix and what changes you've made or need (especially after some time has passed) so the best thing is to always have  hard and soft copy documentation available.

Next post, more from Remix Hotel.


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