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Friday, March 13, 2009

Interesting Country Music Survey

A recent study funded by the Country Music Association and covered by The Tennessean uncovered some interesting facts that corroborate some of the findings from an earlier posting about country music:

  • About 2 in 5 Americans ages 18 to 54 consider themselves country music fans.
  • About 5% of American adults consider themselves "countryphiles," or exceptionally passionate fans of the genre.
  • They're predominantly Caucasian, more female than male, and are evenly distributed across all age groups and income levels.
  • They feel that country music represents their value system.
  • They hate it when an artist like John Mellencamp dabbles in the music but doesn't stay there long. They're happy to embrace a new artist in the country genre though.
  • And most surprising, 50% of country music fans DO NOT have home Internet access.
This accounts for why digital downloads are so low in the space, but it also provides a pretty good overview of the audience. One can only hope that the music business in Nashville reads this carefully and takes action accordingly to accommodate those fans.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Lefsetz Plan

Industry gadfly Bob Lefsetz had a brilliant idea in one of his recent newsletters. With the film business doing so well because it's a cheap source of escapist entertainment, why not do the same thing with the music business? One night, all over the country, a musical act in every venue for the same price.

Here's a quote of exactly what Bob proposed in his newsletter:
I'm positively stunned at the movie grosses. It appears that during the recession, people want cheap, escapist entertainment. But the best movie doesn't compare with live music. Which is why we in the music industry are going to steal the movie business' thunder, we're going to unite and show the public the power of live music.

We're gonna start with one night. A weeknight. A relatively dark night. A Monday or a Tuesday. On said weekday in every venue in every city there's going to be talent, performing live, for the exact same price of a movie. Ten bucks. Paid in cash. No ticketing fees, no facility fees, no bullshit. Ten bucks.

And who is going to perform?

Let's start in L.A. Stevie Wonder is gonna play Staples. Prince is gonna play the Hollywood Bowl. My buddy Billy Gibbons and his band ZZ Top are going to play the Nokia. Kanye West is going to play the Palladium. AND THEY'RE GOING TO DONATE THEIR SERVICES! To a good cause, the industry that pays their bills.

If you want to get rich, be an athlete. Except for a few superstars, musicians are now the itinerant troubadours they've been for ages. Getting off on the good times, the sex and the dope. The reward is playing. The NFL might get everybody to tune into the Super Bowl, but no musical act can get that kind of coverage, that number of eyeballs, no matter how the deck is stacked. There's endless music, and everybody's got his own favorite, which is why we're going to have a multitude of bands playing. But this benefit is for the business itself, to keep it alive. It's time for this industry to do a benefit for ITSELF!

Don't tell me about the lines, about people camping overnight, about those who can't get in. THIS IS WHAT WE WANT! This is how you generate publicity. This is the story the press wants to cover. Much more than the endless I'm sitting in front of my computer and can't get good seats from Ticketmaster.

Think of the heat, think of the ink, think of the publicity!

But our primary mission is to grow live music. Plain and simple.

Concerts are too expensive. Too many shows are about choreography rather than musical excellence. We want to illustrate the sheer joy of music, naked and unadorned.
Boy, is he right. Going to a show is way too expensive, especially in this economic environment. What ticks everyone off the most is when Ticketmaster adds on the "convenience charges" and "facility charge" and the "ticket printing charge" so your $40 ticket (if you're lucky) turns into 60. Add $15 for parking, $10 for a beer and if you've got anything left over, $15 for a T-shirt and you have an expensive night out.

And going to a club is no better, although no one is making money there. There's zero margin, but it's still too expensive.

The concert industry will price itself out of existence if it doesn't wise up soon, and the Lefsetz plan is a good start.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Beatles Sign Game Deal?

Apple Corp (The Beatles record label), MTV and game maker Harmonix announced that it will release The Beatles: Rock Band game on September 9th. This is unbelievable on several fronts:

1) The Beatles are still not on iTunes, yet they signed a game deal.

2) Can you believe that the toughest-to-license band in the world signed a game deal in the first place?

I can't even imagine the amount of money they'll be receiving from this, but I bet it's larger than the GDP of a small country.

I've railed against Guitar Hero and Rock Band for a long time now (certainly in numerous posts here), but I'm beginning to think that I'm wrong. My thought was that, with all the time that kids are spending on the games instead of learning to play a real instrument, they were hurting the music business in the long term. I've recently found empirical evidence to the contrary though. Several guitar and music teachers have told me that the number of students starting lessons have increased and they directly attribute it to these games.

It's good to be wrong about something yet have some great consequences come of it. I'm glad to be wrong in my opinions all day long if that's the case.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The CD Turns 30 - No Gift From MP3

The Compact Disc turned 30 years old this week. That's the time period between now and its first demonstration, not when it became commercially available in 1982.

In that time, 3.5 billion CD players were sold along with 240 billion (yes, with a 'B") discs.

Even though the CD is now into a slow death roll, it's had a remarkably successful run and has made a lot of people and companies wealthy. Too bad we can't say that for it's replacement.

Drum Recording Handbook

Another new book that I've written along with engineer Dennis Moody has just been released called "The Drum Recording Handbook". Dennis has been my engineer on projects that I produce for years, and he's the go-to guy for such monster drummers as Michael White, Ricky Lawson, Gary Novak, Bernie Dresel, Dave Weckl (who are all in the book), Vinnie Colaiuta, and Steve Ferrone among others.

The book is about the best method to get great drum sounds even with inexpensive gear, although it covers a lot of drum related issues like tuning, studio environment, phase cancellation (the drum sound destroyer), and the drummer's headphone mix.

Of all the things in this book that I wish I knew when I started out, learning what it takes to make a drum kit sound good before you even put the mics up is number 1. Let's face it, if the drums don't sound good by themselves in the room first, no amount of electronic manipulation will make them sound good later.

A 90 minute DVD also comes with the book where Dennis takes you through the steps of miking each drum, getting sounds, and getting a mix together. Michael White (drummer for Steely Dan and Earth, Wind & Fire among others) the takes you through drum tuning and even plays a song.

For more info, check out The Drum Recording Handbook here.

Virgin To Close Last 6 Stores

The last 6 Virgin Megastores in the United States will close later this summer, which is another blow to the already depleted ranks of the dwindling ranks of US music retailers.

The 6 stores, located in Hollywood, San Francisco, Denver, Orlando, and in New York's Time Square and Union Square, were actually doing OK even in this economy, taking in about $170 million last year.

The irony is the reason the stores are closing is that the real estate the stores are on has become more valuable than the income they produce. According to Simon Wright, chief executive of Virgin Entertainment Group, "Our six best stores from a retail point of view are also our six best stores from a real estate point of view."

But the real message here is that Virgin clearly sees no future selling recorded music. Even in this horrible real estate market, it's better to get out while you can.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Suit That Could've Change Everything

Rapper Eminem and record label Universal Music Group (UMG) just completed a battle in court that could've dealt a final death blow the music industry.

Eminem's FBT production company sued UMG over what amounts to the definition of ownership of a digital file. FBT claimed that UMG owed them more money because a digital file sold by iTunes or Amazon MP3 is actually a license. UMG insisted that regardless of whether it's a CD, vinyl record, or digital file, Eminem's music is part of their distribution deal.

So is it licensing or is it distribution? That's what the court had to decide.

There was a lot of money at stake here. If the court decided that selling a digital file is a licensing deal, then the record label and the artist would split the proceeds 50/50 and the artist would be entitled to about 35 cents per download. But if they decided it's distribution, then the original recording agreement would still be in force and the artist would make about 15% (more or less), or about 10 to 20 cents on every download instead.

FTB claimed that, since there's no manufacturing or packaging costs (which are covered by the record label), and only a single copy is delivered to the digital download companies, then it should be a license, since that's what occurs in other licensing deals. UMG argued that a sale is a sale regardless how it happens.

On Saturday, the court sided with UMG and the industry released a giant sigh of relief. You can be sure that the issue isn't dead and will be revisited in the future, however.


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