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Thursday, October 22, 2009

AC/DC - The Coolest Box Set Ever?

Maybe you have to be a guitar player to appreciate it, but the new AC/DC box set just may be the coolest one ever released.

Not only does the $200 box set come with musical rarities and memorabilia, but it's packed inside a fully functional 1-watt guitar amplifier.

Inside the working amplifier comes three CDs, two DVDs, one vinyl LP, a 164-page hardcover book and memorabilia from the band’s earliest days of touring including a button, sticker, tour flier, track sheet, temporary tattoo, guitar pick, three lithographs, a poster and a replica of one of the fake $100 bills used to shower audiences during the ‘91 Moneytalks tour. The package is now available from the AC/DC Backtracks website.

The Backtracks CDs includes six never-before-released tracks, plus two discs of “live rarities” spanning from 1977’s Sydney Arts Festival to a 2000 show in Phoenix.

Another cool thing is that rather than include material already available, the DVDs pick up where the double-DVD Family Jewels left off, with music videos, live tour footage, 20 cuts from the band’s 2003 tour and “making of” videos for “Hard as a Rock” and “Rock ‘N Roll Train.”

The book includes “rare and unseen photos spanning 1974-2009,” original press releases, tour itineraries, tour books, test pressing labels and vintage advertisements, and the vinyl LP is audiophile-quality 180-gram vinyl featuring 12 studio rarities (it's also available on one of the three CDs if you don't have a turntable).

If you don’t believe that the amp can really be played, check out the Backtracks website, which includes videos of Angus Young playing the riffs to “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Back in Black” on one of the box sets.

The AC/DC box set is just another example excellent use of Music 3.0, as the band provides their true fans with material that they're keen for in a very appealing package.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Internet Radio Plays More Artists Than Broadcast

We knew this already, but a new study by streamSerf, a company that reports on music played on terrestrial, Internet and satellite radio stations, indicates that last month broadcast radio stations in the US (including public radio stations) played 25,399 unique artists while Internet radio stations played 829,971 unique artists during the same time period. That's a difference of about 3600% and does not even include stations that stream personalized channels, such as Pandora.

But that's not even the real story, according to Paul Mockenhaupt, founder of streamSerf. For him, "It’s the new, fresh, undiscovered, local, home grown music that’s filling the internet airwaves!” that's really making the difference. Internet radio finally gives a chance to be heard to a host of artists that previously had none.

Also interesting is the list of artists that get the most plays on broadcast stations versus Internet radio stations on the chart on the left. This list is skewed a bit because it comes during an unusual period of  Michael Jackson and Beatles activity, but some of the top ten artists are the same on each list while others are very different. It will be interesting to have a look at this chart in coming months when there are fewer superstar releases.

Music Subscription Still Coming On Strong

As posted a few times here previously, online music subscription is coming on strong, although sometimes the indications are subtle.

It's been reported that the online radio station Pandora now has over 35 million listeners and getting 65,000 new subscribers a day. Pandora isn't exactly a radio station in that you select the tunes you want to listen too and the service then supplies you with music based on your selections that it thinks you'll like, but it's close enough to a subscription model that 35 million listeners will have no trouble switching over whenever either Spotify becomes available in the US (it's being held up by one of the major labels), or iTunes flips the switch on it's service.

Then comes the news that over 500,000 iPhone users have downloaded subscription service Rhapsody's phone app, and you begin to believe that music subscription really is right around the corner.

With subscription, everyone wins, almost. For a flat fee (some say that $9.99 per month is the sweet spot), a subscriber gets all the music he wants to hear, any time and any place. That's a whole lot better than having to buy something new that just hits the charts for $1.29 per song, or having 20 gig worth of music cluttering up your drive.

The record labels win because they're getting the majority of ten bucks a month per subscriber every month. No marketing, no inventory, but lots of profits just like the gravy days before MP3s.

But of course, the artist is left out in the cold, since most label deals don't cover subscription at the moment, or the deals are so weak that it means virtually nothing to them in terms of income. And an artist can't even rely on publishing from subscription, since there's not a mechanism currently in place to digitally sort through all the streams in an efficient manner, not to mention the fact that we're only talking a fraction of a cent per stream anyway. This, of course, will be rectified eventually, but not without a long hard battle and a lot of money in the label's coffers first.

But rest assured, if you've not already indulged, music subscription will be coming to a computer or phone near you - sooner or later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vic Mizzy And The McClayvier

Vic Mizzy, who's music will forever be known to millions of people as the composer of the theme music for the 60's iconic television shows, Green Acres and The Adams Family, passed away yesterday at his home in Bel Air. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1981, I briefly met Vic, and he made an impression upon me, though probably not the one he intended.

After I moved to LA I briefly worked as a salesman at Everything Audio, a pro audio dealership who happened to have the exclusive for McClayvier sales. The McClayvier was the first keyboard workstation and was way ahead of it's time. In fact, it was so far ahead that it couldn't really be produced (but that's another story).

The one thing that it had that gave the Hollywood types goose bumps was the ability to transcribe what was played on the keyboard into printed notation. This is a no-brainer today and a feature of just about any inexpensive software package, but back then, music transcription was all done by hand, and each film studio had a building with people that did nothing but manually copy music all day long. Any hint of automating the process was big news to them.

We gave an exclusive, appointment-only McClayvier demo one day and Vic Mizzy showed up. I didn't know who he was at the time, but he arrived looking sort of like a Jewish Sammy Davis Jr., in a plaid suit with an open satin white shirt, lots and lots of gold, a huge gold watch, and extraordinarily hip sun glasses. He also had the Beverly Hills, "Yo, Babe," vocabulary that immediately made me think that everything I'd seen about Hollywood on TV and in the movies when I grew up in Pennsylvania was true. He seemed like a nice enough guy, but clearly thought that he was definitely too hip for room and decided early on that we weren't cool enough to deal with and disappeared after a few minutes. The fact was, we didn't think he was that cool either and kind of giggled about his appearance after he left.

That was my first brush with "old Hollywood," an archetype that was already pretty much dead by that time. The new Hollywood of Armani suits and cocaine was replacing it, no better or no worse, just hipper than thou (as always).

As an aside, the McClavier brought a number of music celebs who all wanted a unit if it were given to them for free, a trend that still continues to this day. The ones who can afford it most are usually the ones that don't have to pay. Endorsements maybe meant a lot more in those days than it does today, and what manufacturer can afford to give things away these days anyway?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Being An Artist Versus A Craftsman

The online marketing agency Media Junction Digital has a four step marketing plan they use when putting together a campaign for an artist that makes total sense.
1)  Understand who your audience is.
2)  Create content that appeals to them.
3)  Place the content where they will discover it.
4)  Provide the audience/ consumer with easy links to buy.

Contrast that plan with music marketing company TopSpin’s recently published four step plan:
1) Don’t suck.
2) Get others to introduce you to their audiences.
3) Make those audiences an offer they can’t refuse.
4) Repeat.

Topspin gets all the press these days for being on the forefront of digital music marketing, but if you're an artist just finding out, you'll find Media Junction Digital's advice a little more helpful, but I don't really agree with many of the points above.

If you're good enough to gain an audience of any size, it really helps to understand just who that audience is so that you can more easily communicate and interact with them. But if you're an artist, you can't craft content for your audience. That's not why they like you. They like you because you create content that you like. Crafting music for a particular audience has gotten us into the morose state of music that we're in now. And advice like "Don't suck" make no sense at all. What sucks to one group of people are the songs of angels to another.

An artist must be true to himself and take the results as it comes. If an audience is found, then it's time to interact with them, but not before. As I've said many times before in previous posts and in my books - "Art is something you do for yourself. A craft is something you do for someone else."


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