Digital Industries 2: Music Distribution: What determines an artiste’s visibility?

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Last week, I discussed the feasibility of selling records as an artiste. There are various ways in which one can sell their music in whichever form it comes in. The infographic, I posted last time demonstrated how many copies of music one has to sell in order to derive a decent living as an artiste. According to the charts shown, the best case scenario would be to press an LP and sell 149 copies at 14.99 each. That way you can 1160 dollars a month. This, in most countries, is an amount that would suffice for a decent living. The worst case scenario would be to try and sell your work through Spotify which has a terrible revenue plan for artistes. Continue reading

Digital Industries Part 1:Does recording music make commercial sense?

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If you visit most torrent sites on the internet, there are certain categories that are placed near the top of the page on the menu bar. These are music, games, movies, and applications. Sometime you may be lucky enough to find books. What does this very feature signal? It signals the coming of an age where intellectual property could easily become worthless.

When Bill Gates came up with the Windows Operating System for office computers in 1985 he did not foresee an age where digitization of products would proliferate to such gigantic levels. He simply wanted to create something that can make managing office work a walk in the park; a simple unified station where you can draft up documents, communicate them to others, design business presentations, analyze  and maintain important figures for your organization and the list keeps getting bigger each year. It was everything a white collar working man needed on his computer.

Soon, with the advent of the personal computer, communication became a more prominent function of this system and the publicly available version of the internet broke loose in 1995, ten years after Windows emerged. It was clear that human connectivity was about to see a serious overhaul. But what many did not understand is that communicating messages was one part of the grand picture. This tool would help us communicate information in whichever form it comes in. Microsoft had set it all up years before by inventing the copy paste function where information can be shared in two short keystrokes. Yet nothing was done to prevent the great torrent of internet piracy networks that was coincidentally named the bit torrent. So the gradual decline of various intellectual industries WAS inevitable. Given that most communication on the net is completely free of charge and that ISPs have no regulatory concerns over content flow, intellectual property owners were up for a major challenge; protecting their work from piracy. Today anyone can send a song they bought to someone else using their email for free. Where does this leave the artiste?

The Music industry

In the nineties, Warner Music  Group was generating figures that were over 3 billion dollars in revenue but in 2004, the company was being sold off to a group of investors for only 2.6 billion dollars. Sounds to me like a major drop in value. Apparently they did this to offload the major debt baggage that they were carrying at that time. Expenses were flying high and production was not meeting sales. They strategically decided to close and sell off their compact disc pressing plants which produced physical copies of the records they sold. This was the same thing that EMI, another big name in the recording industry did before them. And that ended their physical record production business right there and then.This forced them to shift their focus to digital distribution and live shows.

On a much rosier scale of things, iTunes the new cat in the music industry was posting yearly revenues that surpassed the sell off price for Warner’s music division making to date over a billion in revenue per QUARTER! And what did it cost them? A software application. Clearly the digital revolution was impossible to ignore. While the big five, EMI’s, Sony Records, Universal, Warner and BMG, had tried making digital distribution work with Spotify, it was no match for iTunes’ popular and scalable model. They eventually collaborated with the digital music giant.

Where do you stand as a musician in this wave?

Taylor Swift released her fourth album Red this year and it sold 1.5 million copies worldwide in one week of its release. Adele’s 21 was the highest selling alum last year with over 5 million records to show. But before that all the top selling albums in the U.S since 2005 have all sold less than 5 million records. Interestingly though all top selling records from the previous ten years before 2005 have all sold above 5 million records with some even approaching 10. The signs are pretty clear that albums sales are becoming more and more diminished. There is less money to be made by the super successful pop icon today than there was 10 years ago. This might trickle down the ladder of fame but only to a certain point.

If you are a less known act you might be at an advantage especially if you plan to distribute your music globally. Years ago, a lesser known act was overshadowed by the prospect of not getting a record deal from a major company. The biggest merit to a record deal was always the major distribution opportunities for their music. Today, with online tools such as iTunes and Amazon one can easily do their own distribution and even build a fan base through other sites such as Soundcloud. Accessibility to music is becoming very fast and so is distribution. So in a situation where one would only make 10 sales a month off their debut album from that local indie record label near your home, now you can hope to make 10 times or more through such affordable online avenues. The rate at which new talent is being discovered is exciting and all it takes is a click on a link to see a whole list of new acts. Music taste can be fully accessed and therefore artistes are freer to explore their options.

There has never been a much better time to become an independent musician than now and likewise there has never been a worse time to be an icon. But all this is within the lines of record sales. In the second part we will analyze live shows. Meanwhile the following infographic sums up your commercial prospect as a recording musician.

Music sales infographic

Peace

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Why is it so hard for human beings to accept each other? Why is conflict so rampant in every nation today.?

If you look at the news headlines in today’s media houses where online or off, its all the same message. Country X is fighting with Country Y.

There is hardly a day that goes by without an incidence of politically triggered violence in the world. As we speak Israel and Egypt are facing tense relationships over Gaza. The rebels in Congo have been at war with their people since time immemorial. There is a situation in Syria that has seen over 30000 killed over an 18 month period. And the situation in Somalia never seems to improve.

But it hardly comes as a surprise when we observe the way in which we as humans interact on a normal day to day basis. Conflict is present in most of our conversations. The problem comes from an attempt to meet certain values we hold dear. In the course of our missions to serve personal interests we often realize that other people’s help is required. This is simply because as humans we have grown to accept to live within certain constraining systems that demand collective interactiveness for survival such inter-country economic transactions as opposed to having one global market with free trade. We all live and work within the same system and want the same things. Ultimately the drive to love one’s self more than the other, drives us to work against our neighbours hence disrupting the peace. It has become the modus operandi of life today and thus breaking it down demands a global paradigm shift that may take millenia of active campaigning to bring about. Government systems would have to be brought down, econimc systems re-enginereed and religions merged. A millenium would suffice.

The Truth about Content

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The truth about content is that good content can turn any business around. Content is your gateway to connecting with customers. You get to intelligently imprint your values into their psyche in an non invasive way. In this day and age of information systems, generating and delivering content has never been easier. But for content to be effective it has to have some qualities.

Good content engages the mind of a consumer

The best way about this is by using our irrational response. The less a chance one has to think about a message, the quicker the communication. People often try too hard to come up with phrases that have a hidden message when they should be working to come up with messages that have a straight emotional or psychological trigger. The average customer does not have the time to dig into some strange messages from a strange billboard in order to dish out his money for some strange product. So shout it out.Image

Good content is three dimensional

Three dimensional in this case means visual, audio and text. If you are going to launch a marketing campaign, you need to be seen, heard and understood. Some businesses make the mistake of simply lining out their services on a brochure that’s been muddied with bad graphics and expect the customer’s trust in their products to soar immediately. Some have the ugliest websites that make a clear statement of poor character. In business, most customers believe what you see is what you get. You might get away with being two dimensional but adding an actual voice will suddenly transform the business into an actual human being and not just pictures of them. People relate to human businesses better.

Good content is frequent content

I call it the be in their face strategy. A seemingly hard to interpret message can become very easy once it is repeated over and over again. Consistent exposure of a certain kind of content can inevitably alter a person’s consciousness about the message behind it. It forces one to think about the message and take it into consideration. Unless the person has a serious aversion to what is being advertised they should easily start to affirm the statements made by the content for themselves. This in turn means getting them on your side once the offer is put on the table.

Good content has personality

So now your business has a human face. But is it ugly? Is it nerdy? Is it immature? The decision to make your content wear a specific personality is crucial to humanizing your business. The last thing you want to do is create the impression of  confused brand after finally reeling in your audiences attention. If its funny, stick to funny. If its inspiring stick to inspiring. If its serious, stick to serious and so on.. American apparel got their brand off with the sexy image. It worked. A personality can be anything. It can be a job description or a music genre. You cant lack something unique to go with.

 

Motion theory

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I have been silent for the past couple of weeks because I have been testing a certain theory called motion. The motion is a state of action that fuels itself further into more action.  It helps one focus on many things that require repeated performance. Take for example, a business launch. In the event that you want to start a new business you need to gain a significant amount of momentum early enough. So you know what you need to accomplish first.

The idea of motion theory is to set up your activities so that whatever you do will have results that will trigger further action in one way or the other. For instance, if you are torn between a choice of business cards, you can decide to make a few samples and let the final decision of which business card to go with be made by a random friend. Tell the random friend in advance. The choice to include someone else’s decision making skills in the process enables you to avoid time wasting situation which can cause analysis paralysis. You simply want to do and not think. So before you do, you decide on how to avoid thinking situations by providing predetermined formulas for decision making.

But then all the right steps may not  be available at once. You might not have all the moves planned till your twentieth sale. As you move on with your plans you need to look around for innovative clues that will help you solve future problems. While you are at the wholesale shop you might want to ask the wholesalers how the established a good distribution network for their product and so forth.

Motion theory should also make use of experimentation. When the choices you make do not bring results, you need to try out other new moves for which the results can be positive. For example a sales offer that allows the first 10 customers to pick a product for free might reveal real demand for your product. The main idea is to have as many results as possible with which to base your future decision making.

It’s Game time! Stop Overplanning

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Analysis is Paralysis

Analysis is Paralysis (Photo credit: Poldavo (Alex))

I have heard that there are three people in the world.

Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that don’t know whats happening. I have also heard that there are two kinds of people in the world. Those that believe that there are two kinds of people in the world that those who don’t.

I might not agree with the latter but there is definitely some evidence for the former. Sometimes we are a bit of all three. We are at some point shaping the universe, consuming it or simply assuming it.

I honestly believe the most dangerous position is to strictly be one kind of person. You don’t need to be a watcher all the time and neither do you need to be a game changer constantly.

I personally have a greater leaning towards being the guy who makes things happen. But at the same time I have always felt that if I don’t watch things happen then I might impair my ability to make things happen. You need to observe in order to act, to learn in order to work. There are crucial lessons to be gathered once we open our eyes once in  a while to what is happening around us each day.

At the same time there is a need to ignore what you see once in a while. Too much information flow can blind you. Switching off is the term that is sometimes used.It pays to not know what else is happening especially when you are needed to make things happen. That’s usually what is referred to as analysis paralysis. We see it happen all the time. Big corporates have this tendency to search for more and more information in order to act. Sometimes the wait is in vain and the value added for the data presented in the end turns out to be insignificant. In fact at times it only produces a loss.

 

Waiting for game time is a balancing act that the mind needs to master. To be a real game changer, you need to:

Think at the right time

Act at the right time

Switch off at the right time

… else you will end up in a deep dark maze.

Communication and management

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You need two skills in business.

Communication skills and management skills.

Communication is what sells your product

You have to be on everyone’s ears, eyes and noses. Keeping in touch with your clients helps you form more than just a clientbase but a relationship too. Communication helps you define that relationship. You want to be their friends but you want them to be your loyal customers. Its crucial to make that boundary.

Communication also calls for innovation. Its an art. One does not simply say 499/= for a set of headphones. One can also give a free cd from some artiste you are in pertnership with. You can pack it up in some really trendy package while you are at it. Be creative with it. Its an image thing not a ‘sell and move on’ thing. You are looking to make your business viral by selling an image and not just a product.

Imagine you have product A. It a drycleaning business. All you need is to break even with all the expenses you took up when starting it. Getting clients from the neighbourhood alone will not help that. You have a dozen other hoods around and they don’t really have access to a good drycleaning store.Sounds like an extra market to me.

What a typical drycleaner would do is to put up a sign that reads Mr CleanPress Drycleaners above his shop. That will get you all the clients from the neighbourhood. It will take you 1 year to break even with such a market. A more than typical drycleaner would put up the sign and put other small signages around the other hoods. This will get you your own neighbourhood’s market and a few clients from the other neighbourhoods. This will help you break even in 8 months. An even better drycleaner would add some buzz and put some jisty graphics onto the signages so that he can pull everyone’s attention. On top of that he can give a 3 month offer where everyone gets a funny t-shirt for free for signing up into monthly premium membership. You break even in 4 months. After that you will be literally rolling in dough.

Communication is also about listening. Put two or three attendants at the door of the shop once a week to take queries and suggestions from each customer. Even a note can suffice. But do not write suggestions or comments at the top of the note. Ask two vital questions that will actually help the business. Did the cashier attend to you well? What products do you want to see introduced?

Communication and management

Then comes the management needs

I always say, you need to ship in order to stay in business. Management is about keeping your head above things – knowing exactly whats going on.

It’s the science in the business. This involves promptly delivering, improving your product, keeping operational policies in check, checking your finances and careful expansion. You do not need to be creative with this. You simply need to observe, note and conclude. You are basically the scientist analyzing a system that is in progress. A notebook is very useful when managing your business. It keeps track of everything that has been assessed so far. You can use ledger and minutes but if they are only going to complicate your life then toss them in the bin.

People often disregard the importance of controlling a business’s quality. Banks have suffered business because of this. The biggest complaint that any bank client normally has is the long queues they experience. Because of this a lot of banks have turned to internet banking. But imagine the frustration of taking an internet banking plan only to find out that it has some technical issues and you cannot finish your transactions in one day. That’s where management comes in. If you cant ship an extra item don’t even launch it. It beats sense to have more complaints about the firm’s products simply because a new product has been unleashed. Make it available and make it functional.

You also need to manage your staff. If you hire someone you will want to make them want to work and not need to work. This way they can even add hours without being told to which always translates to additional costs. People management calls for understanding and appreciation.

When these two tools are used hand in hand. You are bound to make a lot of organic growth in your start up in no time.