Be a Booking Agent! Lollapalooza Uses Crowdsourcing for 2010 Lineup

4 11 2009

Picture 5Lollapalooza has announced an interesting experiment on their Facebook & Twitter streams today asking fans and followers to submit their top 5 favorite bands for consideration in the Lollapalooza 2010 lineup. They’ve provided a link to a web page asking users to “Be a Booking Agent” and submit any genre of artist by November 11th along with other information such as a name and zip code. This unique festival crowdsourcing strategy comes amidst a number of innovative social media efforts taken by Lollapalooza organizers in 2009. Check out this case study on the festival’s use of social media in 2009 to generate buzz. While exact details of how they will use the information remain somewhat foggy, it is important to point out that Lollapalooza is undertaking an extremely interesting initiative that could change the nature of music festivals for musicians, organizers, and fans.

For an emerging musician, having a the opportunity to play in front of a couple thousand people could be the make or break of an artists’ career. Giving fans the ability to share their new favorite artists with festival organizers might allow a band to generate enough buzz online to get that ultimate gig. Lollapalooza organizers may not use the information for more than just general reference, but the idea of a crowdsourced festival line-up sounds like a dream come true for the D-I-Y artist. As musical preferences and tastes become more fragmented and niche focused, the idea of a radio hit-single will most likely fade into oblivion. This is especially true among more sophisticated music listeners. In this not so distant future, festival organizers may use more online crowdsourcing strategies, over traditional Billboard charts, to determine which artists will sell the most tickets or which regions prefer certain genres of artists.

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The collaborative nature of the social web has really opened up a number of opportunities for artists and fans. For example, Eventful.com allows fans to petition for their favorite band to visit their hometown, creating an on-demand experience for live shows. For the superfan the ability to demand an upcoming band to play a show in your hometown is a dream come true. For the musician, tools like Eventful are an excellent way to save valuable time and money determing the demand for live shows in cities across the nation.

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I look forward to seeing how Lollapalooza begins to handle the onslaught of artist suggestions. I have already begun to see a number of independent musicians calling on their fan base to vote them into the Lollapalooza line-up. Given the short time-period of the ‘experiment’ (ending Nov. 11), we may see very soon what crowdsourcing a festival may have in store for the future of music. Let the word-of-mouth marketing battle begin!

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Solving the Digital Music Distribution Dilemma

24 09 2009

itunes_logoThe paid-download world of digital music is a tricky beast to tame.   Artists continue to struggle to generate revenue even though they can easily establish a distribution network via iTunes, eMusic, Amazon, CDbaby.com, and so on.   Here lies the problem. Digital distribution is fragmented among only a few big players. Consumers continue to remain loyal to their chosen distribution networks whether it be iTunes or a bitorrent site like Mininova.  When a person hears a new band or song, it is almost instinctual that they Google the name and stumble onto either a MySpace page or an artist website.   Discovery is not the issue.  The issue arises when someone hopes to buy the music, but is forced to search through iTunes, see if the band is available on eMusic, or scour the web for torrent files.   From a user experience perspective, this deters a good amount of the target audience away from seeking out actual copies of the music in exchange for the ability to stream music.   

So what is the solution?  A few companies have been working to develop open API music e-commerce stores which can be easily integrated on any web page.  Imagine visiting an artists website and being able to access an entire discography with the ability to stream and purchase songs, without ever leaving the page. SNOCAP has been at this for a while, creating an easy to integrate open API for an artist’s MySpace page.  The company has been relatively unsuccessful with the idea, mainly because of their exclusive partnership with MySpace. Musicians must realize that MySpace serves mainly as a portal for discovery not commerce. Music fans head to an artists MySpace page to stream tracks and get information rather than buy music. 

Recently, another company, MediaNet Digital, announced it’s own new open API, MN Open.  MN Open hosts a number of web components that can be used by anyone and easily installed onto a website without any coding required. Alan McGlade, CEO of MediaNet, stated: “MediaNet is delivering the next generation of music services. We are changing the paradigm by bringing music to the user rather than forcing them to go to a handful of centralized online destinations to acquire downloads. The MN Open Web Components and API offer for the first time, the ability to engage users in the moment to discover and purchase music, while our customers can keep them on their site longer and maximize revenue.”  The components include: 

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• Media Matcher: Automatically matches MediaNet’s catalog against existing web content
• Media Links: Hyperlinks references to artists, albums and songs within existing content on page
• Relevant Media Search: Integrates into site’s existing search and returns media results alongside regular search results
• Media Explorer: Dynamically displays music-related information with purchasable media
• Media Charts: Charts top selling content to entice music discovery, sampling and purchases
• Media Purchase: Fulfills purchases through an automatically configured and setup component which appears in its dedicated, secure window

What I find very promising about MN Open is its feature functionality and it’s ability to be completely customized, branded, and integrated into any artists page.  Already, a number of music service providers such as MOG have arranged deals with MN Open to become their streaming music service.   The service may help decentralize digital distribution and allow artists e-commerce stores to become fabricated into the basic layout of their web page.  Another cool feature is that even music fans can embed the API on their site.  Imagine a fan blogging about their favorite artist while also helping them sell the music on their own site. While open API’s may not be the revolutionary technology necessary to immediately stimulate revenue from digital music, I believe that it may hold the key to democratizing music e-commerce.   While the web inches its way toward Web 3.0 capabilities, we will begin to see more open API’s integrated into websites.  We are already beginning to see the “life-stream” appear on many web pages via the Twitter open API.  As these technologies continue to proliferate the web, I believe open API commerce platforms may gain substantial traction.  Why would you seek out music on iTunes or a torrent site if you have the ability to get it right then and there on their web page?   

The next challenge is generating demand for your music.  Digital distribution is most definitely not going to create millionaires off of a one-hit-wonder.  Those days are long gone.  What it can do is provide an easy to use access point for fans to seek out and purchase music.  This may only be one hurdle musicians have to face in today’s industry, but as digital sales continue to rise we must question the dominance of iTunes and Amazon as digital distribution outlets.

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Radiohead Sets Another Example by Saying Good Riddance to the Album

19 08 2009

Picture 5Radiohead is no stranger to developing innovative digital strategies to sell and promote there music.  Recently, in an interview with The Believer, Thom Yorke revealed that Radiohead will not be focusing its creative efforts on a new album in the near future, but rather pursue creating and releasing singles or an occasional EP. At first I  have to say I was somewhat shocked.  I consider OK Computer and even Kid A/Amnesiac some of my favorite albums of all time, but taking a step back, I realized that this is just another step in the digital music revolution – and a step in the right direction for that matter.  

Okay, so the traditional album is dead – Get over it.   The “album” died when the physical product of a CD, cassette, etc. lost prominence and importance amongst the average consumer.   This may make the true music fanatic question the artistic integrity of a musician – Singles? I want a body of work.  But what does this really mean?  The album, for all practical matters, is just a figment of our imagination – created by the limited amount of storage space on a CD and an industry standard set by hegemonic major labels.   Most albums contain a few hits and the rest acts as almost a filler.  There are definitely albums that can be considered an entire piece of work, take Dark Side of the Moon for example, but these albums are few and far between.   Today, consumers seek out something from artists that could never be produced at such scale before the advent of the internet – content, and lots of it.   

The move towards singels and EP’s reflects this shift in music consumption away from a physical body of work to creating unique, high quality content across multiple online and physical channels.  In many ways this puts more pressure on the artist to crank out high quality tracks each and every time.   The album no longer masks the shitty filler tracks of the past. Instead,  artists can release a single online and allow people to digest that one track (whether they fall in love with it and can’t get it out of their head, or absolutely hate it) leaving them wanting more or wondering what else they can expect from the artist.  This is what the traditional radio has done for artists in the past, except now the distribution platform is the internet, which has an incredible reach, and is open to anyone to publish whatever they like.  

Releasing content gradually, helps stimulate demand and leaves people coming back for more, which is especially true amongst Gen Y-ers and an incredibly short attention span.   In the past a band would release a CD, then tour for a few years, and fans would be stuck listening to the same album for at least 2 years before the artist had fresh tracks.  Today an artist can distribute music whenever and however they might want.  If music consumption patterns continue to trend in the way that they are, the bands  that will have the most success will be those who consistently and constantly create good content (music & video especially.)   Through exclusive content, they can create a consistent following who will frequently visit their website, social media profiles, and concerts always expecting and receiving something new and fresh –  (hmm sounds almost like a blogging strategy.)  Once that community is created, artists can utilize it as a direct channel to sell merchandise, concert tickets, premium packages etc. (Things people are willing to pay for). So cheers to you Radiohead for taking another step toward a bright future in the music industry.

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Five Ways to Create an Engaging Artist/Musician iPhone App

30 07 2009

AppsYesterday, I posted my analysis on 10 iPhone artist/musician applications and their content strategies. After analyzing my findings and thinking about what is currently available in the music app world,  I came up with five content strategy suggestions for musicians, marketers, app developers, and labels to create more engaging and value-oriented artist/musician apps. Each of these strategies offers some sort of value to the music fan that will always keep them coming back and may one day create a valuable revenue stream for some artists. 

 

1. Use OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect and utilize existing social networks to create a community.

The problem I found with most of these apps is that their community platforms exist only within the application itself.  This means that you can only communicate with other people logged onto the app, normally strangers, without any sort of identification or profile. This creates chat-rooms full of spam, wingdings (smiley faces and what not), and fragmented conversation that is really more annoying than interesting. The solution to this problem lies in OpenID technology such as Facebook Connect, which may soon proliferate the web.  Allowing users to log-in to the app using an existing profile, such as their Facebook account, would open the app up to a world of possibilities.  Social gaming companies such as Zyng and Playfish are perfect examples of app developers harnessing the power of Facebook’s word-of-mouth/viral capabilities.  Facebook Connect might be the easiest solution to creating an engaged community, because lets face, when you fall in love with a band/musician/artist, the first person you to tell “You gotta hear this!” is a good friend. 

2. Provide lots of content ranging from photos, videos, artist information, podcasts, FREE music etc. and make sure its quality content.  

Every should have the ability to stream FULL tracks from the artist.  Why would I download a musicians iPhone app if I can’t even listen to their music?  This seems like the most basic value that a music application can offer to a consumer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have all your music streamed for free (although I strongly believe that it should be), but a music app that doesn’t offer any sort of music seems counter intuitive.   It’s also possible to post content directly to the applications photo and video portals, but this can also become very troublesome.  If you want to see what I mean, download the Lady Gaga app and watch an episode of her mobile show and compare it to the mobile show on the Soulja Boy app.  The difference is good quality produced content compared to a shaky iPhone video camera taking poor quality video of the every-day life of Soulja Boy.  While there’s a case for approaching video content in both of these ways, at least make sure its meets some quality standards. 

3. Allow and encourage user generated content

The only app that offered access to some type of user generated content was the Dave Mathews Band mobile app with photo sharing capabilities. Allowing fans to upload content to the app creates an interactive and immersive experience while also providing tons of unique content for the app. The apps could also link to existing social sites focused on user generated content such as Youtube and Flickr. Really, the mobile music app could be utilized to access an the artist’s entire cohesive web-presence with the touch of a button – I think there’s value in that. 

4. Create or enable the artist radio

When I heard about Irving Azoff’s partnership with Clear Channel to create a.p.e. (Artists Personal Experience) I thought “Brialliant!”  Who else would be the perfect tastemaker for new music other than your favorite artists themselves.  Not only that but if you love an artist’s music, your bound to be interested in their musical influences, experiences, and idols.  So why not integrate something that provides this entertainment in the artist’s mobile app? An artist specific radio station playing a similar type of genre, or music that influenced an album, or the band’s monthly new music picks…. the possibility of creating interesting and engaging content is practically limitless.  Another way to approach this would be to just include podcasts on the app – but I feel like this concept could be stretched to create something pretty unique. 

5. Offer interactive content such as mixing, re-mixing, social games etc. etc.

Make the content interactive.  This can be achieved in a number of ways such as allowing users to remix, mix, or interact with the audio content itself.  An approach that many major brands have been using within mobile apps is integrating interactive games into the applications.  This is where you have to get creative and come up with some a game that is relevant to the music, artist, and associated content. It could be something as simple as a trivia game, but allowing users to interact with the content will create a fun, unique, valuable experience for fans that will have them coming back for more.

What other ideas do you have to improve the current artist/musician app?

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Ten Most Popular Artist/Musician iPhone App Strategies Reviewed

29 07 2009

 

Akon Death Cab for Cutie  Wilco DMB       

When thinking about the future of music and artist content, one must now consider the myriad of possible distribution platforms now available to musicians.  Whether it be iTunes, a subscription service, P2p file-sharing, or services like Soundcloud, one thing is certain, the idea of bundled content (like the album) is slowly becoming something of the past.  Now record companies, entrepreneurs, and technology providers are scrambling to find the next best thing to the once lucrative physical album.  

Mobile applications seem to offer some very unique features for musicians from direct-to-fan contact, in-app mobile stores, and music streaming capabilities. Many artist’s apps are offered for free and grant access to a bundle of content in hopes that the app serves as a promotional tool and drive sales. The problem is that most of these artists apps do not provide any sort of real value to the user.  This is a major problem seeing as though the majority of the top 25 apps in the iTunes app store consist of practical applications that provide services or benefits.   Therefore, I decided to review 10 of the most popular free apps available in the iTunes store to understand how labels and artists are approaching the application concept.  Here are some of the best practices, as well as an overview of all 10 apps reviewed: 

Best Practices

The apps that I consider to be best in class offer a value to the user that would encourage continuous use over time in terms of community, content, and direct artist contact. 

Community:

The Akon, Lady Gaga, and Soulja Boy apps are all powered by Kyte ( an online video-streaming community).  This allows for some really great things such as user rated videos, live chat rooms, and exclusive mobile video streamed directly from the artists.

The DMB app allows users to sign in with their Twitter account allowing for easy communication with band and the fan community.  The app also allows users to upload user-generated-content such as photos from concerts and contains a fan chat room.  

Content

The Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, and Black Lips apps provide streaming of full tracks and albums on the app.  The app will also function while audio is streamed (a feature that is not found with the iTunes 30sec samples). 

Santana offers guitar lessons via the mobile app provide something of true value to Santana fans. 

The Wilco application has an extensive selection of podcasts from the band. 

Arists-to-Fan: 

The Dead and DMB applications offer exclusive content from the band such as Tweets during live shows.

Update:  Here are 5 ways to create a killer music app based on this research 

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15 Essential Web Tools For The Musician – Say Goodbye to the Record Label

15 07 2009

Here is a short list of 15 useful websites for musicians that I have discovered over the last couple of weeks. Many of these services are still in their beta versions so keep an eye out for them as they continue to grow and offer some pretty awesome products and services. Social media tools have enabled developers to find solutions for almost all facets of the music business, including band & tour management, e-commerce, digital distribution, music promotion, and metrics. Having an arsenal of tools like these may prove to eliminate the need of a record label for the do-it-yourself musician. In the right hands these tools may create some awesome social media success stories for good musicians.

Anyone have any success stories out there yet? 


Band Management

Band Central – Online band management offering some pretty awesome tools that would make any DIY musicians life just a little bit easier. Tools include social media management, gig manager, band finances, easy file sharing, SMS fan alerts, and a centralized message board to help band communication.


Tour Management

Live Music Machine – Connects bands and fans through an online multimedia portal and portable widget. This service makes booking and managing gigs easier than ever, allowing fans, promoters, bar owners etc. to book an artist with the click of a button.


Eventful – Leading events website that enables its community to discover, share, promote, and create events. The Eventful Demand feature allows fans to demand appearances by musicians in their hometowns. Performers are able to use Eventful Demand to make informed decisions about where to appear and can communicate with their Demanders via highly targeted email tool.

Superfan – A social game based on collecting and contributing to all your favorites in order to become a super fan of your favorite musician, actor, comedian etc. This site creates a centralized location for your fan base allowing them to connect, share, and eventually become your #1 superfan.


Digital Distribution

Bandcamp – A free publishing platform for bands, provides artists with the most relevant content management and social marketing tools, with a super clean interface and friendly user management system. Allows visitors to purchase mp3’s in multiple formats – from the lowest quality to the highest – and features some awesome visualizers for streaming music.


Tunecore – Digital distribution across the majority of mainstream digital music channels such as iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Limewire, etc. with no cut of the royalty percentage


Music Promotion – Discovery Networks

The Sixty-One – Combines the likes of a social network, music portal, and an interactive gaming experience. Members are given different “quests” such as listening to the other users playlists for a set amount of time, or listen to five songs of your favorite new artist. As individuals complete quests, they earn points and credibility, allowing community members to build social capital while also creating a unique, fun, and valuable experience. Excellent for independent artists to gain listeners and build a fan base.

Stereofame – Stereofame is a social music game that brings fans and artists together and empowers artists and listeners to determine what’s hot by creating virtual record labels. Features excellent social networking features, a music store, and monthly contests.

MOGWith thousands of contributions from music lovers and the top 300 music blogs that make up the network, MOG generates over 6,000 music blog posts per week, all hand-curated to deliver the web’s best daily music newspaper. MOG members receive personalized music recommendations and blog posts designed and chosen just for them.

Our Stage – Our Stage is a music discovery network that allows fans to artists to connect. Members are given the opportunity to vote on up and coming artists tracks, allowing the best musicians to be featured on Our Stage charts and streaming radio channels. OurStage also hosts contests and rewards the top artists by connecting them with industry professionals.

Music MogulThe world’s first online music world for independent artists. Musicians are allowed to post video, then promote their music to the online fan community. Every 90 days an artist will be chosen by online peers and a celebrity panel to win a chance to record a three song demo with a Grammy award winning producer. Artists even have the opportunity to preform live through music mogul to the global online audience.


Measuring Success

Band Metrics provides a first-of-its-kind semantic web application for the music industry that collects, analyzes and displays dynamic popularity and trends about musicians and bands from across the web. It’s a great solution for independent artists to understand the drivers of their music’s popularity, and their fans’ sentiments towards their music.

Band Metrics

Echo Nest – Fanylitics – The Echo Nest’s Fanalytics is the web’s first targeted online music promotion system — it acts like a recommendation engine for music marketers. Fanalytics understands the specific tastes of every music writer on the web and helps you find the writers most likely to review your music.

Rock Dex – Powered by Music Arsenal, this tool scours the social web and music sites to judge your bands social buzz, social media presence, fan base, and number of listens. The tool generates grades out of 100 and offers suggestions to help boost your Rock Dex score.

We Are HuntedWe Are Hunted listens to what people are saying about artists and their music on blogs, social networks like Facebook and MySpace, message boards and forums, Twitter and P2P networks to chart the top songs online everyday. Essentially a billboard chart for the social media space.

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Musicians Lead by Example with Innovative Social Media Strategies

14 07 2009

I have been reading a lot of blogs and articles recently about large, well-known corporations who have undertaken social media strategies with really no idea how to utilize social tools to generate, what they consider, a profitable investment. I blame this on a sense of apathy for innovation in exchange for other tried and true business practices such as utilizing mass media and the traditional push marketing strategies. But what happens when an industry is turned upside down, not by choice, but by disruptive technology.

The Crowded Musisphere

Enter Napster of 1999, the iTunes of 2001, and now the almost unlimited number of sources for digital music distribution existing today. With the traditional business model of physical unit sales and terrestrial radio promotion dying, artists and labels are hanging on by adopting digital distribution models, social media strategies, and direct artist-to-fan connections.

Music now thrives on digital and many musicians have led the way with some excellent social media strategies. This shift from mega-distribution to do-it-yourself, has given independent musicians an opportunity to find creative ways to promote themselves as individuals and their music. It is very important for social media marketers to keep an eye on musicians and the music industry — after all we did force them to become early adopters.

Here is a short list of musicians to watch who have used and are currently using some pretty innovative strategies to sell their music:

Umprhey’s McGee:

Using Twitter For a Festival Scavenger Hunt
Innovative CD Release – Word of Mouth Genius

Amanda Palmer:

Using Twitter to Gross 19,000 in 19 hours

Zoe Keating:

Indie Cellist Explodes on Twitter

Josh Freese

$20,000 for Mini-Golf With Rock Stars – Now That’s Engagement

Anyone else to add to the list??

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