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.

Picture 2

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.

Picture 4Picture 3

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!

Bookmark and Share





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: 

Picture 3

• 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.

Bookmark and Share





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.

Bookmark and Share