Distribution is the way that recorded music gets in the hands of consumers. Traditionally, distribution companies sign deals with record labels which give them the right to sell that label’s products. The distributor takes a cut of income from each unit sold and then pays the label the remaining balance. Most distributors expect record labels to provide them with finished, ready-to-market, products, but sometimes distributors offer “M&D” deals.
M&D stands for manufacturing and distribution. With this set up, the distributor pays the manufacturing costs of an album up front and keeps all the income from album sales until that initial investment is paid off.
Music Distribution Basics
In the 20th century, distribution companies were the links between record labels and retail outlets, which included music-only stores, big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy, and bookstores. It is helpful to think of music distributors as wholesalers to better understand their role in the music industry.
Record labels signed — and still sign — contracts with music artists. They oversaw music recording, marketing and promotion. Consumers bought their favorite music on vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs and, in most cases, it was the record labels that paid to have these products manufactured. To get album copies in the hands of fans, record labels signed deals with distribution companies that in turn signed deals with retail stores to sell the albums.
Some distributors bought albums from record labels outright, while others distributed albums on consignment. Retailers did the same thing — some bought albums outright and others agreed to put the products on their shelves on consignment.
Radical Industry Changes
Downloading brought radical changes to the music industry at the turn of 21st century.
Before crackdowns, fans downloaded millions of tracks from a wide range of artists at no charge through companies such as Napster. Although consumers now pay to download music legally from outlets such as iTunes and Amazon, sales of vinyl records, cassette tapes and CDs have plummeted, and the music industry has lost billions of dollars. Subscription services such as Pandora and Spotify have further decreased music industry revenue. With hundreds of music distributor businesses folding, only a few affiliated with the largest record labels remained. Sony, Capitol, Universal Music Group and Warner own the largest music distribution companies.
The Future of Music Distribution
There is still a role for music distributors in the digital age, even in the face of radical industry changes. After all, not every record label and musician wants to take on the task of distributing their work. For this reason, the music distributors that remain still work closely with record labels to bring music to fans; some retail stores continue to sell physical album copies.
They also distribute music to digital download outlets, even though such businesses also offer distribution deals directly to artists.
Opportunities for growth remain for music distributors that specialize in certain types of music such as classical, Latin and jazz. Some distributors have found success by focusing on certain regions and distributing music locally.
In the old days, consumers of music were able to flip through liner notes of an album in order to ascertain precisely who was behind their favorite tracks. Now, after a digital hiatus, new technology could once again make this information, plus more, easily accessible once again.
Until about fifteen years ago, it was fairly easy to tell who had produced, recorded, and mastered an album — just flip through the gatefold or booklet and you’d be able to find all the information you needed. Granted, not all that many fans took this step, but plenty of artists found the producer who changed their careers or the recording engineer who defined their sound through this old-school method. Since the rise of digital distribution, this information has been harder to come by — and while in some cases it can be found on artist websites or Wikipedia pages, it’s often nearly impossible to track down.
That’s a shame, because making that information readily available to the public is vitally important for the creatives who shape albums behind the scenes. Sure, those producers and engineers, as well as the studio musicians, are still getting paid for their time, but they’re missing out on the recognition they deserve. Not only that, the lack of a public record makes it harder for them to build careers and connect with other artists – some recording engineers have made the jump to LinkedIn to share the projects they’ve worked on, but it’s by no means standard practice.
“Much of the music data currently available is incomplete or incorrect”
New technology that allows users to see all this information has the power to change this. Not only can it make this data more widely available to fans and other artists, but it can also help keep track of items that the old liner notes of yore could only imagine. For instance, there are programs that allow data about recording and production to be entered and uploaded to a database directly from the studio, potentially averting conflicts over royalty splits and disagreements over who exactly did that behind the console.
Cleaner production data will also help those producers and studio musicians get paid on time, no small matter in an era when studios are closing their doors and musicians are having a hard time making ends meet. While so much of the music data currently available is incomplete or incorrect, better information about everyone who was involved with a piece of music means that they can all share in the spoils of success, and no one is left out due to a missing piece of data.
Creating A System That Works
The first part of making all this happen is creating a system that works for everyone and ensures a clean flow of information into the database. Once something is in place that can be widely used, then it’s up to the artists and producers to make sure everything is entered correctly so the right people can be credited. It’s not a foolproof system and never can be — there will always be disagreements over creative vision or hazy late nights that lead to data never making it into the system. But as long as there is something good in place that has buy-in from everyone, from engineers to artists to labels to streaming services, that’s a great start. Future generations might never know how much fun it was to flip through a booklet and decode liner notes, but they’ll at least have complete access to the information about the people who made the music happen.
BMI today announced the highest revenues in its 76-year history, achieving $1.060 billion for its fiscal year ended June 30. The Company also distributed and administered a record-breaking $931 million to its songwriters, composers and publishers, a 6% increase over last year. These results represent the most public performance revenue and royalty distributions by any music rights organization in the world.
BMI operates on a non-profit-making basis and returns approximately 88% of all revenue to the musical creators and copyright owners it represents.
“We are beyond pleased with this milestone,” said Mike O’Neill, President and CEO, BMI. “The ability to provide our songwriters, composers and publishers with our largest royalty distributions to date proves that the current marketplace is working efficiently, a fact the DOJ has undermined with its recent interpretation of our consent decree. We’re eager to build on this success and continue to ensure that all of our music creators are fairly paid for their work and that licensees maintain full access to BMI’s repertoire of nearly 12 million songs. As of now, the DOJ’s interpretation will disrupt these efforts, stifle creative freedom for songwriters, limit choices for music users and bog down the marketplace. We are determined not to let that happen.”
BMI’s total domestic revenue performance of $784 million was bolstered by record-breaking results in its digital and general licensing categories. Digital revenue, which exceeded $100 million for the first time last year, hit a new high of $152 million, up 50%. Numerous new agreements were signed throughout the year, notably a multi-year license with Pandora, as well as deals with Spotify, Apple Music, Microsoft, Sony’s PlayStation Video and Slacker, among others.
General Licensing, which includes fees from businesses like restaurants, bars, hotels and fitness facilities, along with other income, hit a new milestone of $140 million. The category added 15,000 new businesses to the hundreds of thousands already in BMI’s diverse portfolio.
Revenue from all media licensing, including radio, television and cable and satellite entertainment, grew to $492 million, with cable and satellite entertainment accounting for the largest portion of BMI’s domestic revenue for the third consecutive year. International revenues came in at a strong $276 million, despite significant economic challenges overseas resulting in lower foreign exchange rates. While down 5% year to year in U.S. dollars, BMI’s international revenues would have exceeded last year’s performance by $14 million had it not been for the strengthening dollar.
BMI processed more than one trillion audio performances this year, over 950 billion of which were digital, a 45% increase from last year.
The singer, full name “Prince Rogers Nelson” had a medical emergency on April 15th that forced his private jet to make an emergency landing in Illinois. The hospital released him an hour later. He appeared at a concert the next day to assure his fans he was okay. He told the fans he was battling the flu. At the show, Prince prophetically told the crowd, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”
The Carver County Sheriff Office states they are now investigating the circumstances of Prince’s death. At this time, there are no signs of foul play.
Prior to his most recent appearance however, Prince had cancelled two shows due to health concerns. Prince became an international superstar in 1982 after his breakthrough album “1999.”
He went on to churn out a ton of hits — and racking up 7 Grammys in the process. He also performed at the Super Bowl in 2007 … in one of the greatest live performances of all time. He also sold more than 100 million records during his career … and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score for Purple Rain in 1985.
Prince was married two times — the first time to his backup dancer Mayte Garcia. They split in 2000. He then married Manuela Testolini … but they split in 2006. He was inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, and performed a legendary version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to close the ceremony.
Prince Returned to his former label Warner Bros Music after an 18 year battle over money he was owed from past projects including Purple Rain.
Prince has returned to Warner Bros. Records after 18 years with a deal that will see him regain ownership of his catalog. His classic Warner albums like “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy” and “1999” will continue to be licensed through Warner Bros as part of a new global agreement.
As part of the deal, Prince’s classic “Purple Rain” album will be re-released in a remastered deluxe version in time for the 30th anniversary of the album and movie. Other planned re-issue projects will follow and Prince will issue a new album too, although it is unclear if that title is a part of the deal.
“A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros Records and Eye (sic) are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship,” Prince said in a statement
This legendary artist/singer will be greatly missed.
In today’s music business, a musician needs to understand and receive all the various streams of revenue that they are entitled to for their musical works. However, many of today’s artists are uninformed as to what royalties they are entitled to; and, even more musicians are not properly registered nor have their works indexed. This prevents the artist from receiving all the income earned for their creative works. One of these most important streams of income that many musicians fail to recognize or handle properly are the revenues collected by SoundExchange.
Sound Exchange is a performance rights organization authorized to collect royalties for the digital performance of sound recordings under Section 114 of the U.S. Copyright Act. The right to these funds was originally established with the passage of the Digital Performance in Sound Recording Act of 1995 and later expanded by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Originally, SoundExchange was created by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) to handle these new revenues; however, Sound Exchange eventually became its own stand-alone entity representing the interests of over one hundred thousand artists and copyright owners. As of August 5, 2015, Sound Exchange has reportedly paid over $3 billion directly to its artist and label members (http://www.soundexchange.com/pr/soundexchange-breaks-the-3-billion-mark/).
Unlike the other performance rights organizations in the United States that collect royalties for the public performance of musical compositions (i.e., ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC); Sound Exchange is the only entity authorized to collect royalties for the digital performance of a sound recording. Sound Exchange derives its authority, pricing and guidelines from the Copyright Royalty Board, which is appointed by the U.S. Library of Congress. SoundExchange is run by a board of directors that includes nine artist representatives and nine label representatives. This structure gives artists an equal say in the running of the organization.
SoundExchange is authorized to collect digital performance royalties on behalf of the owners of the sound recording copyright (i.e., the actual recording of a performance of the musical composition, which is referred to as the “master recording”). Typically, the sound recording copyright is transferred to the record label as a part of the recording contract with the musician. However, there has been an increase in sound recording ownership by the artists themselves as record labels are extending far fewer recording contracts than they had done in the past. This fact is further evidenced by the large number of musicians who are involved in “Do-It-Yourself” music promotion and distribution without any traditional record label assistance.
Additionally, it is essential to understand the difference in the types of revenues collected by SoundExchange and those collected by “small” Performing Rights Organizations, such as ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC in the United States. Performing Rights Organizations collect “small” public performance royalties for the owners of copyrighted musical composition (the underlying musical composition). These public performance royalties are paid to the music publishers, songwriters and composers of the song. For example, when Jimi Hendrix’s version of “All Along The Watchtower” is played over an analog radio station, the songwriter, Bob Dylan (in addition to the song’s publisher) receive royalties from the appropriate Performing Rights Organization as the original composer of the song. In contrast, Sony Music, as the sound recording owner, and Jimi Hendrix, as the featured artist, would receive royalties from SoundExchange for the song’s recordings’ transmission over a non-interactive digital platform, for example, when the song is played on Pandora. Accordingly, companies and artists can collect royalties from both sources (i.e., one royalty for the musical composition copyright and another for the sound recording copyright) as these organizations work with each other to pay musical creators the royalties they have earned from these distinct streams of income.
Under Section 114 of the American Copyright Act, SoundExchange is only authorized to issue statutory licenses for non-interactive digital platforms. These include satellite radio stations (e.g., SiriusXM Radio), internet radio stations (e.g., iHeartRadio.com), non-interactive digital music streaming services (e.g., Pandora) as well as digital cable and satellite TV services (e.g., Music Choice, Muzak, DirecTV, Dish Network). A comprehensive list of all the current licensees is available from SoundExchange at http://www.soundexchange.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/2015-Q3-Licensee-Count-10-19-2015.pdf. For example, Pandora is a non-interactive service as it plays similar artists and songs based on a user’s selections and preferences; whereas, Spotify is an interactive service that enables a user to determine the exact song they wish to hear at that moment.
Each non-interactive licensee pays a statutory rate that is determined by a variety of factors, including the number of stations or channels, the number of listeners or subscribers, and/or the amount of advertising and other revenues earned by the licensee. In contrast, on-demand or interactive music streaming services, such as Spotify, are not subject to SoundExchange statutory licensing. These interactive services must enter into separate licensing agreements with the song’s copyright owners to utilize the works.
To pay its members, SoundExchange receives monthly reports from each of its licensees listing exactly what each licensee has performed that month. This data is compiled and utilized to distribute the licensing fees collected by SoundExchange to the appropriate
parties on a pay-per-play basis. Of the total amounts collected, 50% percent of these funds are distributed to the owner of the song’s sound recording (typically, a record label), 45% of these funds go to the featured performer on the track (typically, the musician) and the remaining 5% of these funds are distributed to the non-featured performers on the track through the American Federation of Musicians (A.F.M.) and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (A.F.T.R.A.). Additionally, SoundExchange takes a 4.6% administrative fee “off the top” of the total funds collected to handle these matters on behalf of its members.
Additionally, these royalties are very important to an artist as the funds are distributed directly to the recording artist without the artist’s respective share being first distributed to the artist’s record label. Typically, if the record label were to receive these funds first, they could potentially apply the funds against any unrecouped balance amount owed to the label; however, SoundExchange prevents this by distributing the funds directly to the artist. This distribution system is extremely advantageous to an artist, especially those signed to a major record label, as the artist can continue to receive SoundExchange payments without being fully recouped with their record label, which is not the case with most other royalties accrued in the music industry.
Also, SoundExchange currently holds at least $200 million in royalties owed to non-member artists. Most of these artists are unaware of the existence of this relatively new digital performance right and of the organization, SoundExchange, which administers the licensing. With the rise in popularity of Internet radio stations and music streaming services coupled with the decline in CD and download sales, it is essential that record labels and recording artists properly register with SoundExchange to ensure proper collection and distribution of all the royalties owed to them. SoundExchange’s distribution numbers have steadily risen in recent years and should continue to increase as more users switch from downloading media to streaming-based digital music services.
In conclusion, in order to receive the full value of an artist’s work, they should sign-up with SoundExchange and ensure that their musical repertoire is properly indexed to receive all the amounts they are entitled to. Additionally, SoundExchange does not administer royalties on behalf of downloaded material, as that is typically handled by the sound recording copyright owner (the record label).
Collins Connect handles all matters pertaining to music and the law, contact our office for help in registering your copyrights as well as indexing your works with ASCAP, BMI and SoundExchange visit www.collinsconnect.org.
The ASCAP Country Music Awards were held last night in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Kicking off CMA Awards week in Music City, the event brought out top country hitmakers and other luminaries including former President Jimmy Carter and pop star Justin Timberlake, on hand to honor friend and ASCAP Voice of Music Awardwinner Trisha Yearwood. The country music icon and lifestyle maven was honored in song by performances from Lady Antebellum (“Walkaway Joe”), Reba McEntire (“The Song Remembers When”), and husband Garth Brooks’ daughter, Allie Brooks (“She’s in Love with the Boy”).
Top songwriters Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay, Maddie & Tae and more picked up their awards for writing some of the biggest country songs of the past year. We heard performances from Songwriter of the Year Ashley Gorley, whose live renditions of two of his six top-performing songs of 2014 featured country music superstar Luke Bryan (“Play It Again” and “I See You”). 2014’s top breakout artist Sam Hunt collected two “of the year” trophies: he was named Songwriter-Artist of the Year and earned the Song of the Year prize alongside co-writer Josh Osborne for their hit, “Leave the Night On,” which they also performed. Warner/Chappell took home Publisher of the Year honors with 17 award-winning songs.
With all of the independent artists that are out there today making a living, and all of the resources and educational tools that are available for them, it seems like staying a free agent is the ideal option (especially with all of the record label horror stories that go around). However, record labels big and small have resources that independent artists have to work much harder to gain access to; there are still benefits to signing that contract.
Here are some of those benefits that you might be able to reap, if your record doesn’t get shelved.
1. International distribution
To this day, even artists who make it big independently often recruit the help of a major label to expand their distribution to a larger marketplace.
Though independent artists can still get radio play (especially on college radio), it’s very difficult, and record labels are better than anybody else at getting artists on the airwaves and into the ears of everyday listeners. Having label distribution also makes it much easier to get copies of your record all over the world, greatly increasing your ability to tour internationally if your album sells well overseas.
Of course, all of this is possible to do on your own, but it’s much more difficult and time consuming. Record labels specialize in distribution and have all of the contacts to make it happen.
2. Help building your team
In order to get any attention from a label whatsoever, you’ll generally need to have already started building a strong team around your brand. This includes people such as booking agents, publicists, lawyers, managers, and anybody else who helps handle the business stuff. Labels have big staffs of these very people on board, and when you sign on with one, they will often fill out your team with anybody you’re missing.
Like with distribution, labels also have contacts overseas, and will help you build a team to have successful international tours (something that is, again, quite difficult and time consuming to do on your own).
Having a successful career making original music is definitely a full-time job plus overtime. In order to make it work, a lot of original artists ditch their day job before they’ve reached financial stability in their music career in the hopes of putting in all of their time and energy to jumpstart it. What ends up happening is many artists essentially living on the road, touring around and around and around the country in order to stay afloat (you don’t have to pay rent on a van). However, they have to stop and take a break somewhere eventually. But if you’re only ever breaking even on the road, what happens when you stop?
This is where labels can help you out. If they sign to put a record out, they will often advance you a certain amount of money (though it’s not nearly as much today as it used to be). While the label does get reimbursed for this directly out of your future record sales (and possibly all of your other streams of income, if you sign the dreaded but common 360 deal), having this money up front can at least allow you to survive while you’re off the road cutting your record.
Of course, advances often backfire. If you don’t sell enough records to cover your advance, you’ll actually end up in debt to the label, which could make your future music career difficult. But if you’re one of the lucky few who get signed and actually sell enough records to stay out of debt, having an advance is a luxury that can keep food on your table when you’re off the road.
4. Legitimacy and reputation
Despite the way the recording industry has been evolving over the last decade or two, record labels are still power players in the world today. Perhaps it’s more out of tradition than respect, but being on a label will still grant your brand a certain sort of legitimacy that’s hard to attain otherwise.
Signed bands get attention. Label affiliation is one of the first things that press, booking agents, promoters, talent buyers, and all sorts of other industry professionals will look at when you reach out to them for the first time (especially if it’s you who’s reaching out, rather than a member of your team).
In fact, there are some folks who won’t even work with you if you aren’t affiliated with a label, unless you somehow are able to work your way into their inner circle or are selling out huge venues on your own.
5. Income potential
It’s entirely possible to make a living as an independent artist, and even a comfortable one. Though it’s hard work, the goal has never been more attainable than it is today, and people do it every day. Getting help from a label doesn’t guarantee that you will make more money than you could make independently. However, those who are able to take full advantage of the label’s benefits can reach levels of success that are still almost completely inaccessible to those who work independently.
For example, what if through the label’s worldwide distribution, your record blows up on multiple continents, leading to multiple successful large-scale international tours? You may be able to work up to that point on your own, but it’s still something that’s much more realistic when you have the “machine” backing you. The chances are admittedly extremely slim, but if the stars align just right, you can end up making much more money than you ever could have independently.
It’s a matter of risk vs. reward. In the end, it’s impossible to say exactly what could go down if you sign the contract. But even in today’s music industry, you can’t deny that labels still carry a ton of power and can be a resource for your success.
In creating an effective music marketing plan, so far we have discussed building a solid and complete online foundation and outlined strategies for a successful new release launch. Now it is time to kick back and relax for a little while before starting to write material for the next album that you’ll release a year or two down the road right…..Couldn’t be further from the truth!
To build off of all the progress you’ve been making up to this point, while you are working on that next record, you will have to keep supplying content on a consistent basis to strengthen your relationship and stay relevant with your current fans, and at the same time this content will also help to increase your fanbase.
Additional merchandise is one content idea, you can make vinyl for the last album or announce a new T-shirt design. Continue to release music videos for songs off the last album is another, for example take footage from the album release tour and edit to create an easy and fun music video to upload to your YouTube channel.
In the final post of this series I will discuss the three crucial content streams of Music, Social Media and Performing Live.
Gone are the days of releasing an album once every couple of years and leaving it at that, today’s artists need to be constantly feeding their fanbase new music. Releasing singles will keep people engaged while they are waiting on a full length, but you’re not limited to just releasing original new works.
Create alternate versions of your studio tracks:
Get a DJ to remix one of your songs. Not saying this has to be a famous DJ, just someone who knows the technology and is Sparlers Notescreative. If you’re interested in holding a remix contest should contact the folks over at Indaba Music, they put together some great remix campaigns for artists. Unless you’re already an acoustic act, take a page from Nirvana and release an album of stripped down “unplugged” versions of your studio tracks. A great way to show a different side of the band and appeal to potentially new listeners. Lastly release a live album, preferably from the CD release show, but any show will work as long as the audio is of top quality.
Record cover songs:
Music fans love covers. Recording cover songs is a great strategy for gaining awareness for new artists and providing fun content to share with your fans. Cover artists that inspire the music that you make and bigger name similar sounding artists to further entrench yourself within your genre. But also look outside of your genre as you never know, might end up tapping in to a whole new fanbase. This is exactly what the pianist Scott D. Davis did when he decided to combine his love of heavy metal with the beautiful piano pieces he was recording. The result was millions of youtube hits for his metal covers and new fans out of the heavy metal community, even of the artists themselves; Scott has been invited to open for Godsmack, Korn, P.O.D., Sevendust, Vince Neil of Mötley Crüe and Queensrÿche among others.
*Please note, to legally sell a cover song you will need to obtain and pay for a mechanical license. Harry Fox Agency is the foremost mechanical licensing agency in the US. Or work with Limelight who will get the license for a small fee per song on top of the mechanical license fee.
SOCIAL MEDIA, NEWSLETTER, BLOG Real simple here, keep doing it. Just because you may not have a big ticket item like a new album that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with your fans on a regular basis. You should be updating daily to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Newsletters should still be going out once a month and keep your blog active with a couple new entries per month. In addition to all the content ideas I’ve gone over in this blog post thus far that you can share, post about things happening in your personal life, such as a vacation you just went on or a great movie you recently saw. Repost interesting articles you’ve just read or a post song from a band you recently discovered that you love. News, politics, sports, parenting, art and fashion all make good topics for people to engage and connect around. Now that you have continued to stay present with fans, you’ll have a stronger and larger online audience when you’re ready to release the next album.
Continue to tour, hitting the same markets that you played while supporting the new album to build on the momentum that has been made. There are undoubtedly limitations though on how often you can tour and you more than likely won’t be able to tour to every market where there are fans. Live streaming is a great solution to these limitations and if you use a platform like Stageit or Concert Window you will also be able to monetize these performances. There are also some great features that they offer to reward supporters and create tip rewards for an enhanced and more financial rewarding experience. Then spread the word by making a Facebook invite with all the details and sending to your fans, posting on twitter and letting everyone on your mailing list know.
Keeping the shows fresh and different will help with increasing viewership from show-to-show:
Play a game at some point during the performance using the live streaming platforms chat feature, a fun way to interact with the viewers. Trivia would be a very easy game to execute, where people could win merch or any other prizes that you can get your hands on for being the first to answer the question correctly. Learn a new cover song for each performance, or better yet, ask people what covers you should play for the next live streaming show. Post the question to Facebook as well and the song suggestion that gets the most likes will be the one(s) you cover. Invite a guest performer to join you, a great way to add a new element to the live stream, while cross promoting to each others fans at the same time.
LEADING UP TO THE NEXT RELEASE TAKE PEOPLE ON THE JOURNEY WITH YOU
People like to follow along to real life stories that are interesting and different from their own lives, hence the popularity of realityStart TV. Used by an artist around a specific story, such as the making of a new album, is a great way to form a stronger bond with your current fans. The types of content that you could be sending are updates on how the recording is going using text posts, videos and pics via your social media channels, blog and newsletter. But also engage with your following on things like artwork and song titles by polling your fans and holding contests to select what cover or title to go with. The goal of all this activity is to get people excited so they are telling their friends about the upcoming release and will buy it the minute it’s available!
Whenever the topic of social media is raised in any forum of the music industry, a choice discussion is always the practice of purchasing followers or views, allowing artists to game charts, rendering social activity unreliable and therefore less significant.
But often overlooked in this dismissal of the validity of social activity is the fact that building a significant social following is fairly pointless for an artist unless they successfully leverage that following at critical moments. To reach fans with a new lyric video, to spread the word about a tour, to gauge interest in an upcoming album release – ultimately to interact with fans and get instant feedback on what you are creating.
While a vast social following can be a valuable tool, only legitimate and loyal followers that engage with the content you provide through social channels, and ultimately your work, provide you with the reach and engagement you are seeking as an artist. For this very reason, it is important to look beyond totals, and start to measure the relationship between daily activity and the number of fans you have – a measure of engagement.
Artist manager Robbie Lackritz has been working with Leslie Feist – known only as Feist – for close to a decade, and has a strong sense of how to build valuable engagement with fans. Feist, who is a Canadian singer-songwriter with more than four solo studio albums under her belt as well as countless collaborations with other artists and bands, has maintained a successful career as an artist for many years now.
Her most commercially successful album came in 2007. The Reminder (the making of which is chronicled in her 2010 documentary Look At What The Light Did Now) earned her four nominations for Grammy awards in 2010, including Best New Artist. About her latest album Metals and their release strategy, Lackritz says “it was a lot more about finding a more engaged core of followers.”
With just shy of a million page likes on Facebook, 127,000 followers on Twitter and more than 20 million video views on Vevo, Feist is classified as a Mainstream musician. But for the artist and her management team, building the largest online following, and simply hocking social content for attention, has never been the goal.
SoundScan revealed it’s 2014 statistics for the music industry, spotlighting 54 percent growth in on-demand streams of audio and video music-related content. Total streams were up from 106 billion in 2013 to 164 billion in 2014 due to the popularity of services like Spotify, Beats Music, Rhapsody and Pandora.
The rise of streaming services comes as traditional digital album and song sales are on the decline. Sales of digital albums fell 9 percent in 2014 to 117.6 million, while songs dropped 12 percent to 1.26 billion.
For the year, total sales for hip-hop albums were down 24.1 percent, while all other genres dropped just 11.2 percent. It is important to note that R&B and hip-hop music are popular on streaming sites as they increased 54 percent last year.
Some industry insiders believe that the popularity of streaming services might’ve helped the record industry break even this year. Pandora alone contributed royalties equivalent to 16.3 million album sales.
While sales may be down, streaming is way up, which will only help the music industry transition into a digital world.
Choose Your Business Name
Choosing a business name is an important step in the business planning process. Not only should you pick a name that reflects your brand identity, but you also need to ensure it is properly registered and protected for the long term. You should also give a thought to whether it’s web-ready. Is the domain name even available?
Here are some tips to help you pick, register, and protect your business name.
Factors to Consider When Naming Your Business
Many businesses start out as freelancers, solo operations, or partnerships. In these cases, it’s easy to fall back on your own name as your business name. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it does make it tougher to present a professional image and build brand awareness.
Here are some points to consider as you choose a name:
How will your name look? – On the web, as part of a logo, on social media. What connotations does it evoke? – Is your name too corporate or not corporate enough? Does it reflect your business philosophy and culture? Does it appeal to your market? Is it unique? – Pick a name that hasn’t been claimed by others, online or offline. A quick web search and domain name search (more on this below) will alert you to any existing use. Check for Trademarks
Trademark infringement can carry a high cost for your business. Before you pick a name, use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s trademark search tool to see if a similar name, or variations of it, is trademarked.
If You Intend to Incorporate
If you intend to incorporate your business, you’ll need to contact your state filing office to check whether your intended business name has already been claimed and is in use. If you find a business operating under your proposed name, you may still be able to use it, provided your business and the existing business offer different goods/services or are located in different regions.
Pick a Name That is Web-Ready
In order to claim a website address or URL, your business name needs to be unique and available. It should also be rich in key words that reflect what your business does. To find out if your business name has been claimed online, do a simple web search to see if anyone is already using that name.
Next, check whether a domain name (or web address) is available. You can do this using the WHOIS database of domain names. If it is available, be sure to claim it right away. This guide explains how to register a domain name.
Claim Your Social Media Identity
It’s a good idea to claim your social media name early in the naming process – even if you are not sure which sites you intend to use. A name for your Facebook page can be set up and changed, but you can only claim a vanity URL or custom URL once you’ve got 25 fans or “likes.” This custom URL name must be unique, or un-claimed.
Register Your New Business Name
Registering a business name is a confusing area for new business owners. What does it mean and what are you required to do?
Registering your business name involves a process known as registering a “Doing Business As (DBA)” name or trade name. This process shouldn’t be confused with incorporation and it doesn’t provide trademark protection. Registering your “Doing Business As” name is simply the process of letting your state government know that you are doing business as a name other than your personal name or the legal name of your partnership or corporation. If you are operating under your own name, then you can skip the process.
A trademark protects words, names, symbols, and logos that distinguish goods and services. Your name is one of your most valuable business assets, so it’s worth protecting. You can file for a trademark for less than $300. Learn how to trademark your business name.