Is It Really A Paradigm Shift Or Merely An Account Transfer?|
[ No. 14 - December 1997 ]
Things That Are New
Nordic Entertainment has been busy: they now boast a menu of 3,000
downloads, their ad banners have been linked, they are using only
high-quality MPEG Layer 3 for encoding and they are netcasting radio
station KQST-FM (Sedona, AZ). Nordic also sells collectors vinyl
carefully inventoried on the site.
Progressive Networks has changed its name to Real Networks and released
v5.0 featuring MacroMedia Flash animation funtionality, improved video
quality and more efficient commerce capabilities.
Xing technologies has a new CEO, Hassan Miah, formerly with the
Hollywood-based talent behemoth CAA (Creative Artists Agency), freeing
founder Howard Gordon to return to the trenches and focus on product
development and strategy. For information, player and encoder (which
soon will be supporting MP3) go to:
We thought, in this column, that we'd return to a subject near and dear
to our hearts and yours - money. Let's assume that digital download
sites are not quite up to speed yet. Let's point out the obvious:
distribution of physical product is in greater demand and therefore
offers a greater revenue source than electronic distribution. Amusing
statistic #1: If you make your music available through electronic
distribution, a listener can download your song for 25 cents. That
money is split between the host site, the web credit company handling
the transaction and you. It could require somewhere in the
neighborhood of one hundred downloads to equal the money you make
selling one independently-released CD at a show or through mail-order.
Here, then, is a round-up of ideas and information to assist you in
creating, augmenting and streamlining your Web presence (and more
importantly, your Internet fan-base) and maybe making a few dollars on
Amusing statistic #2: The Artist Formerly Known As You-Know-Who posts,
on one of his sites
an 800 number for a
mail-order CD. There are no soundclips to preview. There is no other
way to find out about or purchase this particular album. There is no
press or promotion. The album is not even manufactured yet. 84,000
CDs are pre-sold within a few months.
This is a picture-perfect example of a successful direct-marketed fan
base. No label, distribution, radio or promotion outside of a mention
on the website. No middlemen. The Internet is a tool for the
independent musician to easily interact one-on-one with his/her
listeners and to fulfill orders for physical product on demand -- all
without layers of unnecessary commercial bureaucracy! Hell, if Kenny
Rogers can sell 400,000 albums in one hour on QVC to a tight little
American demographic (amusing statistic #3), imagine what the potential
worldwide reach of your Internet presence offers.
Of course, some of these artists have control over their music. If you
enter the major-label maelstrom, you'll most likely be forced to give
up these opportunities.
Things That Are Litigious
Real change often isn't seen until the first major courtroom dramas. It
looks like we're starting to get close, though. For starters:
Microsoft is being sued by the U.S. Government for anti-trust
violations. 'Nuff said. Next up is the RIAA (Recording Industry
Association of America - the support group for the beleaguered major
labels) which is threatening to sue a handful of website owners who
were offering full MP3 (MPEG Layer III) songs made available without
permission from the artist or label.
We feel these points bear repeating: If you do not have one already,
get or create a website. Most local music or arts-oriented print
publications have classifieds that include offers from small website
development companies. Shop around, not only for price but for
emotional affinity. It's an underrated commodity. To create your own
homepage, download website building tools (try looking on
) or use search engines to locate HTML editors. Use
the acronym "HTML" (HyperText Markup Language) in the engine's dialog
box. Or try a mainstay such as NetObjects, Adobe Pagemill or Netscape
Composer (which is free). Constructing your own website can be a total
creative gas. You have your music, artwork, words, video and who knows
what else to play with. Go off.
Call attention to your site by promoting it. Start with your local
geographical area. Find local music websites and politely offer to
trade links and information with them. It benefits everybody and
builds community. Use a search engine using the name of your town and
the word "music" or "arts." Go to and search in your
town to see if there is any relevant information. Find out who's doing
what on the Web in your area by asking everybody; at shows, music
stores, recording studios, etc. This approach creates a foundation in
your locale that, once established, can be extended around the world.
Music need not be the only common ground here. Get with web-based
organizations that share your political, ideological, artistic or
ecological views. Go to and find out about having
your Internet existence included by major search engines (Lycos, Yahoo,
Excite, etc.) Finally, place the URL for your website everywhere. On
your letterhead, business card, albums, faxes, t-shirts... we've even
seen it tattooed!
Breathe life into your site by maintaining it. Alter, manipulate and
update your site frequently. Aesthetically, it encourages people to
return, and usefully, it becomes a tool which actually does something.
Answer email promptly and politely. Thank someone for contacting you.
Offer to place them on a mailing list for updates about shows, music
and subjects relevant to you. Get an "ok" from the person contacting
you before adding their email address to your mailing list. Create a
separate fan list for your listeners to post emails to each other. If
you feel it's justified, create a chat area for realtime conversation
among your listeners. Update your itinerary immediately upon
confirming shows and events. Offer free stuff to fans through oddball
contests. Most musicians think nothing of sending CDs to already
swamped record label employees. Why not give free CDs to your fans?
These are the people who really matter.
If you like to perform, play a LOT. Tour like hell. Nothing can
replace the experience of live music. Promote yourself shamelessly
from the stage. Build your following and pay attention to them.
Without them you are alone. Of course, if the solitary environment of
the studio is your preference, you can still benefit.
Amusing statistic #4: 97% of major-label releases sell less than 700
albums in their first year. All the promotion in the world, a fat
advance and a nice haircut will not guarantee you anything. And, if
you sign with a major label, they own the rights to your masters.
Forever. We FezGuys have heard of contracts so severe that
technically, even voice mail messages and home videos are owned by the
Another Case History: A band with a local following makes a live CD and
sends out an email message to fans announcing the album's release. In
three weeks they sell 200 copies, through mail-order. Email
announcement only, and only to the fans who agreed to sign up on the
list. No other form of promotion is used. It generally costs less
than two dollars apiece to manufacture 1,000 CDs. If the band sells
200 CDs at fifteen dollars apiece the gross is 3,000 dollars. In three
weeks! The Web presence of the band has justified itself.
musicians is an extremely positive one. Next month we will discuss the
state of Electronic Distribution, which has had a microscope placed on
it by the media in recent months. Where it is, where it's going and
how the musician can benefit.
Dear Fezguys - Greetings from the frozen wilds of Canada! I own a
recording studio and I really appreciate your columns since they relate
to where I'm trying to get. My studio is operated in tandem with a
coffeehouse where we bring in live entertainment. I record live to
16-track analog while mixing FOH. The next step in this chain is to
transmit live over the Internet. Most of the artists I bring in are up
and coming (broke) players and when I read your column I knew that was
where I had to be since I also have a management company and a record
label. Any additional info you come across would be greatly
appreciated! Keep up the great work. I've linked you to my web site. -
John Reid/Twisted Grooves Entertainment/Analog As Art Studios
Dear John - Thanks for your letter! We highly recommend you take a look
at (or re-read) our
July 1997 column ("The Grok Sessions")
in which we discuss the technical ins and outs of transforming your
standard studio (or live performance) setup into an Internet live
broadcasting station. If you encounter any hurdles, join us on our threaded
discussion area at our website. All columns and the discussion area are
awaiting you at
May the Fez be with you!
The FezGuys encourage participation in the Internet audio community.
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