If you missed the memo, Instagram is hot. Everyone thought that when Facebook bought it for a billion dollars three years ago that it would lose its cool factor and the kids would leave. Everyone couldn’t have been more wrong. With more than 300 million active monthly users, it has surpassed Twitter. And nearly half of all Instagram users are under 25. It’s important. There are now famous Instagramers making a living off of sponsored Instagramming (from brands). Artists need to learn to use (and love) Instagram now more than ever. It has officially become a must-use social network for artists. And if done right, it can grow your fan base more than Facebook or Twitter.
Like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram is a community. You have to learn what is accepted and what is looked down upon in this community. There is proper etiquette that must be followed or you will be shunned. You wouldn’t go to a funeral in a Hawaiian shirt; you wouldn’t mosh at a folk concert; you wouldn’t wear a wetsuit to a backyard pool party. Don’t use Instagram like you use Facebook, Twitter, Vine or Snapchat. These are separate communities and there is different etiquette.
Instagram has become one of the best ways to promote shows, new songs and videos. But don’t over do it! A good rule of thumb for Instagram, only 10% of your feed should promote or sell something. Of course, when a tour or album release is looming, you’re going to be promoting a lot more frequently, so make sure you balance that period with a long stretch of time where you’re not promoting anything.
Here are 10 reasons why you probably have very few Instagram followers or likes.
1) You Don’t Show Your Face
Unless you’re a photographer, designer or foodie, people are following you because they want to see YOU. Your fans are following you because they want a deeper glimpse into your life. But they need to be reminded that it’s YOUR life and not anyone else’s. My mom taught me a valuable lesson that holds true here: always be in your photos. Anyone can gram a photo of the Eiffel Tower. We’ve seen it before. But no one can gram a photo of the Eiffel Tower with YOU in it. Sure, not every photo you gram needs to have your face, but make sure the majority of your photos do. A prospective follower will click through to your Instagram feed, if they don’t see good looking photos of your face (or STUNNING photos of shots you took), more times than not, they will click away without following you. Show people your damn face!
2) Your Photos Are Shitty Quality
You’re an artist, be artistic! Follow musicians, photographers, actors, artists, designers, and other influencers with lots of followers and see how they gram. You’ll start to notice that most of their photos are high quality, great looking shots. Yes, as musicians you have lives that people like a glimpse into, but take some care in what you’re gramming. Try to gram only the best. If Snapchat is for a play by play, Instagram is to showcase the best of the best.
How do you find these famous Instagrammers to follow? Well, first follow musicians and celebrities you admire in the non-Instagram world. Their accounts will lead you down a rabbit hole to many other cool accounts. Also, you can google “Famous Instagrammers” which will bring up some fun lists.
3) You Don’t Have A “Thing”
Models get followers because they’re hot and people like looking at them. Hot girls in bikinis get tons of followers (as long as they continue to gram hot photos in bikinis). That’s their thing. There are meme accounts like thefatjewish, fuckjerry, betches, girlwithnojob and beigecardigan that gram funny memes. That’s their thing.
You’re a musician, so gram photos (and videos) of you (or your band) doing music things. Recording, practicing, performing, touring. People like to see you in your element. Get your photographer friends to shoot great photos at your shows or take videos of your rehearsals. The higher quality the better.
You can have multiple things. Maybe you love dogs. So gram photos of dogs and music. Pets always kill on Instagram. Just see tunameltsmyheart. Maybe fashion is another thing you love, gram photos of you in fashion forward outfits. Or regram other amazing designers/models. If you love coffee, gram about your coffee travels. Your fans will gain a deeper understanding (and loyalty) the more they know you. And if they also loves dogs/fashion/coffee they will relate to you on an even deeper level.
Make sure you have a theme to your Instagram account. It should “feel” like you or your band.
4) You Aren’t Tagging
Always tag everyone (and everything/everyplace you go) in your photo (if they have accounts of course). You will get tagged back when you’re in others’ photos. Some may regram you and tag you back! This is the best way to grow your follower base. It’s like collaborating on YouTube or Vine or being an opening act. You’re exposed to a completely different audience (and given the stamp of approval of that influencer).
5) You Include Links In the Comment
If you haven’t realized this, Instagram does not allow links in the comments section. This is one of the reasons people love Instagram – no link bait. So don’t put a link in the comments! You look foolish. The only acceptable place to put a link is in your bio. You can always change this out. And the best way to promote a link is by mentioning that the link is in your bio. Or a fun hack is to put “link in bio” as your location.
6) You Aren’t Sticking To A Schedule
Once you gain followers, they will expect a consistency from you. If you gram every day, make sure you continue to gram everyday. If you gram 3 times a day, fine, do it every day, 3 times a day. Whatever your frequency, stick to it. Don’t gram 5 times a day and then wait 2 weeks and then shock your followers with 6 grams in an hour.
7) You Aren’t Using Hashtags
Hashtags are a great way to be discovered within the Instagram community. Try to find creative hashtags that don’t have a zillion photos already. If you’re in rehearsal tag #rehearsing #drumming #guitar #loud. If you post a 15 second cover snippit of “This Is How We Do It” tag it #oldschool #90s #monteljordan #fridaynight
But don’t over do it! Including too many hashtags makes you look desperate for followers.
8) You Aren’t Interacting With Your Audience
Don’t use Instagram (or any social network) as a megaphone. Approach it more like a telephone. Listen to your audience and respond. You don’t have to respond to every single comment, but make it a habit to respond to at least a few. And click through to some of your followers’ profiles and like/comment on some of their photos.
You can actually network on Instagram. Follow other influencers who you admire and comment on their photos/direct message them. They’ll take notice and may follow you back and potentially start up a conversation with you.
9) You Aren’t Editing Your Photos
Sure, Instagram offers some pretty neat filters and simple photo editing features like brightness, contrast, warmth, saturation, color, sharpen and shadows. Explore these built in features, but also check out some excellent photo editing apps like Afterlight, Snapseed, VSCO Cam. Also, if you want to add text, look into Instaquote and if you need to change the size of one of your photos or videos, check out Instasize, CropVS, or ImageRotate. And sometimes if you can’t choose between just one photo, use Collage.
10) Your Account Is Private
The moment you decide to become a musician, you accept that you will give up a bit of your privacy. Whether you open yourself up in your songs or on Instagram, the public is getting a much deeper glimpse into your life than they do most “normal” people. In 2015, musicians need to have a PUBLIC Instagram account. Making your Instagram account private is like putting your songs behind a paywall. No one is going to purchase an album from an artist they don’t know without hearing a single song, and similarly, no one is going to follow an Instagram account without checking it out first. If you want a private, personal account to show off your baby to your friends and family, but don’t want to show off your baby to the world (thank you!), then create two accounts and make your personal one private. Your musician account MUST be public.
Do you have your own favorite Instagrammers? Post them in the comments.
Photo is from @tunameltsmyheart Instagram
With recorded music revenue in shambles as the transition from digital downloads to streaming takes place, one area where artists can still make some good money is from licensing. Placements. Sync. Whatever you want to call it, there is money to be made getting your music on TV shows, films, video games, movie trailers and commercials.
And the people that place that music? Music Supervisors.
Music supervisors are the actual people who take the cues from the producers and director when the “picture is locked” and underscore the picture with songs. They then negotiate with owners of that song a fee to allow them to sync the song to their video (be it a TV show, film, commercial, trailer or video game)
Sometimes music supervisors use the instrumental version and most of the time it’s just a small snippet of the song (however, now I have to brag a bit, One Tree Hill used all 3:43 of my song – words and music. But that’s very rare).
So how do you actually get your music to these supervisors? You could try cold emailing. But that rarely works. You could tweet your song to a supervisor, but again, it’s a long shot.
The best way to go about this is to find a licensing company or “song plugger” who has built up relationships with music supervisors (more on them later). These people are trusted sources who provide high quality, vetted music and they know to only send music to the supervisors for the projects they are currently working on (and within their price range).
Don’t confuse licensing companies with pre-cleared, music libraries. There are a ton of music library companies out there that accept music from indie artists and set a standard rate for any song to be used for super cheap. Any indie film maker can get this music with a few clicks of a button (without having to negotiate rates or send over paperwork). Lots of musicians compose mood music specifically for these libraries. The songs are tagged within the library with a mood (dark, dreamy, epic, indie rock, etc). If you do enough of these, and get enough purchases, it could work out to be a decent revenue stream.
However, if you get known as a “library” artist, it’s hard to rebrand yourself as an original artist.
But if you can’t find a licensing company excited to push you, what do you do?
NARIP (National Association of Record Industry Professionals), the biggest music business network in the world, offers direct access to some of these music supervisors.
NARIP hosts music supervisor pitching sessions a few times a month. Even though most are held in LA, attendees can Skype in from around the world to be a part of the session. NARIP boasts that they have helped facilitate over 200 placements from these sessions.
I attended last month’s session with music supervisor extraordinaire Lindsay Wolfington. Speaking of One Tree Hill, she was the supe (that’s short for music supervisor) who placed my song “Last Day” on the show about 5 years ago. Oh memories.
Lindsay currently places music for Royals (E!’s first scripted show), Shadowhunters (coming out later this year), The Night Shift, Bold and the Beautiful, and occasionally fills in for other music supervisors on other shows.
There were 6 of us in the room and I believe 5 who Skyped in as well. NARIP limits the number of attendees per session so the supe gets enough time to get through all of the music.
NARIP’s president, Tess Taylor, lead the session, introduced each presenter and kept the session moving. Each attendee got to present 4 songs for review. Lindsay had a laptop in front of her with all the songs imported and a sheet of paper with the presenter’s bio info along with the song selections (with mood keywords). She played the songs in the room like she normally reviews music. She mentioned that the intro to the song is incredibly important and that she knows almost immediately if it will work or not for the show she’s working on.
She skipped around a bit to hear different sections of the song. She gave each song about 60 seconds of listening time on average. She explained what folder she would add this song to and for which show (if any).
Every music supervisor has their own style of organization. Lindsay got her start working with music supervisor superstar (and fellow curly head), Madonna Wade-Reed, so Lindsay’s organization is similar to Madonna’s. Some of Lindsay’s folders are labeled “Suspense,” “What’s Going To Happen,” “Intrigue,” “Playful,” “Steamy,” and “Action.”
For a placement to be effective, the vibe of the song has to fit perfectly with the action and emotion of the scene.
How To Contact Music Supervisors
Lindsay said the best way to contact her is via email with an informed body. “It shows you’ve done research which is always impressive,” she explained. But don’t act like you know her if you don’t.
The best email to send goes like this:
Subject line: “sounds like (popular artist), for (TV show currently working on)
Body: I’ve been watching your show and I saw you do _____. My music sounds like ______ (this type of music and maybe these bands). I own 200% of these songs.
Then include links to box.com of the mp3s. Lindsay prefers box.com because you can stream and/or download the song. Dropbox requires you to download the song to just listen to it. Soundcloud is ok as well if downloading is enabled.
Don’t pitch a fee. She will come back with a fee range and ask if that will work for you. And then she will pitch the song to the producers.
“I respond to polite and charming. Not assuming anything. Cockiness is really unattractive to me.” – Lindsay Wolfington, music supervisor, Royals
She said to only follow up every 2 months and the follow up email should NOT be “have you listened.” If you’re going to follow up, email new music with a new email.
She explained that her (and most other supes) love (need) metadata. When they add songs to folders, they don’t add in contact info. So when they’re going through their folders and find a song to use, they need to know who to contact. So make sure you add contact information in the metadata of the mp3. The way to do this, is in iTunes, open information (command i on a mac), under Details at the very bottom is Comments. Add in your name, email, phone number and include if you own “200%” of the song. That means you own 100% of the master and 100% of the publishing. If you don’t, make sure you include all the parties of ownership that she would need to contact to clear the song. However, she doesn’t want to take anything from unknown artists pitching themselves who DON’T own 200%.
Currently, the shows Lindsay is working on don’t have a huge budget for music. She mentioned that some episodes may only have about $10K total. So, she needs to find music that doesn’t cost that much. If you’re an independent artist who owns “200%,” this makes it easy. She said for her current shows (Royals and Shadowhunters) she’s paying about $1K-3K TOTAL for each placement. Other projects, especially network TV shows, movie trailers or films can pay MUCH more. I’ve heard of indie artists getting $80,000 for a movie trailer placement or $20K for a network TV spot. The sky is the limit for films, but producers know they can get songs by indie artists for a lot cheaper than what major labels/ publishers demand.
Music supervisors like working with people they know. If you can provide them songs that work, they’ll love you – no matter who you are (musician, song plugger, publisher, label). Lindsay said “One use precipitates others.” But don’t be difficult. She told a story about a publisher she worked with (I’ll withhold the name) who all but green lit a song for her, but when it came time for the paperwork they pulled a bait-and-switch and tried to get more money. She was so tainted by that experience, she never wants to work with them again.
Just because a music supervisor doesn’t use your song (or doesn’t respond to your email) doesn’t mean she doesn’t like your song. It may just mean that it doesn’t work for the projects she is currently working on. Only pitch music when you have something that works for her current projects.
As I learned at the music supervisor’s panel at the ASCAP Music Expo this past May, some music supervisors (namely Kasey Truman of Chop Shop) no longer take unsolicited music. Meaning, if she doesn’t know you, your music goes straight into the trash. And it makes sense. Supervisors (especially those who have been in the game a long time) get inundated with music and they just don’t have time to get through it all.
Lindsay did mention that it’s good to get in with the supe’s assistant or coordinator. “They have more time than we do.” So, email/call them and be charming! Maybe ask them what they think of your song. If they like your song they may pass it along to their boss. And if you build up a relationship with them, they will most likely be a supe one day who will welcome your pitches.
A few 3rd party song-plugger/licensing companies who Lindsay likes to work with are:
The Music Playground
Razor and Tie
Big Yellow Dog
Words and Music
However, there are literally hundreds more.
As an independent artist who has had some licensing success (about 30 placements), I can tell you first hand that it is incredibly difficult to pitch yourself (well, for anything in life – but especially placements). It’s best to spend your time finding a licensing company who is excited about your music and will work on your behalf to pitch supes. And, of course, make sure they have the credentials and placement history. You don’t want just anyone pitching you, though. You want someone who is a trusted friend of the music supervisor.
You can find upcoming music supervisor NARIP sessions here.
They cost $329 (or $249 for NARIP members). It may sound like a lot, but if you get one placement out of it, it more than pays for itself. This is one of the better investments you can make for your music career.
The following guest post comes from Jeff Price, one of the original founders of Tunecore and more recently, Audiam, a company whose mission is to gets rights holders paid from the digital use of their music.
Spotify just posted a blog stating…
“As we grow, the amount of royalties we pay out to artists, songwriters and rights holders continues to climb faster than ever. We have now paid more than $3 billion USD in royalties, including more than $300 million in the first three months of 2015 alone. That’s good for music, good for music fans… and good for music makers.”
There is good news in their numbers. Unfortunately, that’s only part of the story.
In 2014, as Spotify’s Gross Revenue, subscribers and music royalty pool went up, the amount artists, songwriters, publishers and labels were paid went DOWN.
You can see this trend in the graph I posted at the top of this article. You can also see the decline across various metrics:
Some Notable Spotify Premium Statistics From January, 2014 to December, 2014.
- In January 2014, an artist receiving 10,000 streams in Spotify Premium and controlling the rights to their recording and composition made $90.64.
- In December 2014, for the same number of streams the artist made $74.72, this is a DECREASE of -17.56%.
- Due to the drop in the royalty rate, for the artist to earn the same amount in December, 2014 as they did 11 months earlier in January, 2014 the artist needed an extra 2,131 streams.
- The amount earned by the songwriter/publisher as a Mechanical Royalty each time a recording of their song was streamed in 2014 went DOWN -5.37% from $0.00071961 in January to $0.000681 in December.
- The amount earned for a sound recording each time it was streamed in 2014 went DOWN -17.39% from $0.0074199 in January to $ 0.0061296 in December.
Why Is this Happening?
The Spotify Premium monthly per-stream rates are calculated by dividing the money in the royalty pot (the Spotify Reported Gross Revenue) by the number of streams in that month. The decrease in the per-stream rate is occurring due to the number of streams per month growing at a more rapid rate than the revenue.
In other words, it appears anyone that pays $10 a month for unlimited music streams a hell of a lot of music. In addition, as the rates drop, the money is being spread over a larger number of artists causing the money to spread more “thinly”.
The end result in 2014 for Spotify’s Premium service is an artist needs increased streams each month, at what appears to be untenable rate, to just stay even with were they were financially the previous month.
It also means that in many cases, they can have more streams than the previous month and make less money. But this isn’t just limited to Spotify, it can be seen more dramatically across all music streaming services we track:
This model could work if people treated the streaming service like a gym membership. That is, pay for a service and only 10% of them truly use it. If this was the case, the royalty pool would be much higher but not diluted so drastically by streams.
It could also work if there were limits on the number of streams each individual could have each month.
In addition to the lowering per stream and the money being spread wider across more artists, a significant percentage of the money earned by songwriters and music publishers is not being paid to them due to Spotify (and all interactive streaming services) building no infrastructure to make the payments. Instead, they outsourced the job to third parties who cannot fulfill their obligations.
(Based on recovery of past mechancial royalties for its clients, Audiam projects that between 7% to 15% of all earned US streaming mechanicals are either not paid at all, paid in part or are paid to the wrong entity.)
If these trends continue, it will be a forever diminishing return for the music creators and copyright holders to the point where there may no longer be an economic business model that generates any real revenue for the music creators and copyright holders.
A possible alternative business model may be to pay for the specific streams on a more direct basis. That is, if someone pays $10 a month, and only streams songs from the album Broken Boy Soldiers by the band The Ranconteurs, the money from these streams would only be paid for the use of these songs and not impact/dilute the royalties to another rights holder.
Finally, the launch of the Apple streaming service at the end of the June, 2015 could catalyze a quick en-masse shift of consumers from buying music to renting/streaming it. When this shift occurs (and it is a “when,” not an “if”), the impact on the artist, songwriter, label, publisher and the music industry as a whole will be significant.
It’s vital we address these issue now before we are left with more money being generated from the use of music than at any time in civilization with less and less of it going to the artists, songwriters, labels and music publishers.
The end result could be a strip-mined music industry in the wake of Silicon Valley IPOs and trillion dollar market caps.
You can view the vast amount of data and analysis that we’ve collected on Spotify and other streaming services here:
As music director at KCRW, Jason Bentley is one of the most influential tastemakers in the world. He’s also a major figure in electronica and dance, and will speaking at the upcoming EDMbiz Conference Expo, happening June 17th and 18th in Las Vegas.
Digital Music News: You’ve been a huge player in electronic music, dance, and ‘EDM,’ whether that’s with seminal deejays or lobbying the Grammys to expand its awards around the format. So here we are in 2015, but is EDM plateauing?
Jason Bentley: I think it’s finding its roots now, there’s a lot of talk about electronic music hitting the mainstream and threatening a saturation point. And there’s the referenced story of disco being ultimately rejected by the mainstream, though I don’t think that this is a case of history repeating itself. This is more of a continuum, there are layers of the onion.
I feel like it’s stabilizing, broadening its position, its history and identity. There are the superficial indicators, the trends in Vegas for example, but there’s also a more interesting, deeper, more thoughtful approach to dance music evolving.
DMN: EDM starkly stands apart from other verse-chorus-verse genres, and its popularity surged without any help from mainstays like traditional radio and TV. This is clearly a totally different terrain, the rules haven’t really been written. So how can an artist thrive best in this fundamentally different format?
Bentley: I’d say find a context, make a comment, at least have a strong point of view and stick with it. Music has a lot of parallels to fashion, especially this genre of music. There are trends that come from the grassroots, and you need to be a trendsetter and aware of what’s happening right now. And part of that is just standing in it, and being bold enough to stand by it — ‘ya know, it’s gonna be parachute pants,’ and when parachute pants are all the rage, you were there.
It’s your decision as an artist if you’re going to stand by the pop side of EDM, as well as its poppy structure. That’s cool, at least you have a point of view and are working from somewhere.
The most enduring artists have stuck to their guns, they’ve been purists.
Take Above Beyond, they’ve carved out an impressive career with no help from the mainstream, they sell out at the Greek, they sell lots of music, and they’ve stayed true to this idea of trance. They’re also not your typical rock stars, they lack those rock star qualities.
When you stay on message, whether it’s trendy or not, you put yourself in a better position to keep your fanbase along the way. I question artists that shift direction with where the winds are blowing — that can be very dangerous.
DMN: But can you get stuck sticking to those guns?
Bentley: The trick is to transcend the trend, to not be a sub-genre but to come out of that on your own terms and with a certain ownership of how people see you. That’s the goal, but yeah, I think you have to give your audience something that adds up, that makes sense to them.
I’ve seen a lot of different types of artists, everyone has a different set of pros and cons. You can start to assess whether they’ll have a great career or not. Especially at the early stages, you sort of have to dumb it down, at least down to a t-shirt slogan, at least for some people. There are some that aren’t going to fit a mode, but generally your sound has to match your presence and overall aesthetic, it’s the reason why a lot of stuff from Europe is too challenging for American audiences.
When it’s too difficult for people to grasp, it’s a fatal flaw. I see a lot of fatal flaws, sometimes starting with the name of the band.
I’ll often have the opportunity early on to advise — I can at least say – ‘it’s not too late to make a better decision here,’ they don’t always listen but sometimes I’m able to voice an opinion. I can say, ‘you’re not doing yourself any favors by making it really difficult for an audience to grasp what you’re doing.’
You don’t want to dumb down your message too much, but to achieve success over time, you need to set yourself up properly. And it all starts with finding, and connecting, with your community.
DMN: EDM attracts a much younger audience, yet sometimes ’standing your ground’ takes more than a decade of waiting. Which might explain why a lot of prominent DJs are actually in their 30s and beyond. How does age play a factor in all of this?
Bentley: We’re really in uncharted waters here. Only a handful of [older] people – Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Green Velvet – are still at the top of their game, but many are approaching 50 or are past 50, and there aren’t a lot of examples to look at.
One thing that everyone needs to look to and respect is when someone is passionate and driven to share their passion and craft. Age doesn’t trump that.
Take the talent of Carl Cox, the commitment, hookiness, relevance, the fun… these aspects are still readily accessibly to anyone. No doubt that club culture is more for the active, youth demo, maybe because festivals are more of an endurance test for people, and for older people priorities change. They’re not out trying to find that new track.
Look at Fatboy Slim, take that career track versus a newer artist today like Flume. The newer groups have a long way to go before they have a long-term career track like that.
DMN: Short-burst media is surging, whether via Snapchat, Vine, or YouTube, to name a few. And artists are connecting through so many different methods beyond just music. So is it still about the song?
Bentley: Well, I’m veiled in the song, that’s the connection, that is the tissue between us all, that’s what I play all day. And there are general themes that people are hitting over and over in those songs — love, heartbreak, feeling good and feeling bad, stuff falls into those categories. And honesty, the ability to hold it close over time, is one of the challenges for dance music, because it’s so much about the feeling of the moment, the type of the moment. The stuff that me and my friends were into at 21, we lived for new records and singles, and we would buy into the myth around these artists, we would be living for it. But do we listen to these records today? No, it’s just a postcard in the back of our minds; enduring music is really about a great song, one that makes a significant connection for people.
DMN: Where does video fit into all of this? After all, the most ‘listened to’ format is a video, whether it’s highly-produced action, lyrics videos, or simple slideshows. Is this something artists should be focusing on?
Bentley: I’m not that visually inclined, I don’t want to be told what the situation in a song is all about, I don’t want that so much. I’m thinking first about the atmosphere, the sensibility of the sound, then I’m keying into lyrics, the aesthetics, the sounds and the atmosphere. But videos, you can’t deny it, it’s very important for a lot of people, I get it, MTV was big — I was just as glued to it as the next person. But generally in my world, it’s not what I’m looking at.
DMN: There’s a tremendous amount of thought, investment and capital around video. YouTube is now the most important format for the musicians and the music industry, Spotify is trying to layer video into its platform to complete, Vadio is trying to ‘video-ize’ streaming applications and just raised $7.5 million, startups like BAMM.tv are trying to reinvent companies through smart video content. But do people really care passionately about videos in the end?
Bentley: It’s a good question. Really, the video work we do every day, for example we do sessions for artists, there are cases where we’ll enjoy tens of thousands or maybe millions of views. But usually what we post on Youtube gets between 3,500 and 7,000 views, I just don’t know if people care that much about video. We post highlights on our Youtube channel, and we get a breakout for someone like Ed Sharpe or Gotye and it blows up.
I’m not so sure how this evolves with the whole move to streaming, it seems like there’s so much potential in how people are going to consume and listen to music. So maybe there’s something we haven’t thought of.
You mentioned lyric videos — those are kind of cool, you can at least meditate on the lyrics and think about the song. It turns out it’s something that a band can lead with, they can grow out of a lyrics video. So it would be great to see a resurgence in that space. It would be nice to see that.
DMN: We’ve talked about audiences shifting towards shorter bits of media, and the resulting surges we’re seeing around mega-players like Snapchat, Vine, and YouTube. But beyond that, data is now showing that music listeners frequently skip a song on Spotify before it’s done. That’s affecting artistry and career paths as well: Sean Mendez breaking out on Vine sticks out as a prominent example. Should we be reconceptualizing the full-length song in the process?
Bentley: It’s a sign of the times, the post-modern world where things are broken up into hooks and samples. But I personally love times when songs are so important to you — you just play it multiple times, over and over again.
As far as my point of view, I’m a deejay and I approach my craft with monk-like precision. I play attention to every single segue, I use music software programs that show me the waveforms and there’s no guessing when it ends; I can beat-match and loop sessions. I’m obsessive about the music environment that I’m creating, I’m like a pilot taking people on a trip, I’m creating an atmosphere and guiding them safely. I’m letting songs breath, I couldn’t imagine interrupting things and jumping around; I’m looking for the right transitions to different songs. If I play deejay at a party, I’m jumping around genre-wise, and you don’t even have to get up to do it. But I’m still really interested in telling the story and taking care of the transition.
DMN: There’s the convenience of streaming, but at what cost?
Bentley: There’s been a lot of talk about the rise of vinyl sale, but what’s the other side? Yes, everything is in the cloud, there’s no ownership, but I wonder if there’s a growing part of the populace that really does want to own something, and are we set up to cater to that interest? With the move to streaming, I wonder if there’s going to be an answer here, if people want to own something.
I totally love that there’s access to data on what the trends are, but I can only chalk it up to how the world is today: sometimes I only channel surf, I jump around and don’t watch anything for half-an-hour, because that’s how it’s presented to me. You just jump around.
Maybe that’s the strongest argument for the curatorial, giving people the better filters, the better signal-to-noise ratio, applying that opinion and human touch.
DMN: Maybe that explains the growth of more hands-off concepts like Songza, and the surge in listening hours on Pandora. Are you seeing similar increases for your curated, lean-back curatorial approach?
Bentley: I could only look at our membership with that test. At KCRW, we try to get the passive listener to become a paying member, so I have seen growth on that side, but I don’t pay attention to the ratings periods. Honestly, I don’t know how much reliability a service like Arbitron has: they have a panel that they put together and it seems so random to me. They coincidentally add one person who’s an NPR listener and our ratings go through roof.
But having a sense of our connection with our community is most important, and L.A. travels really well. People are really interested in what this station out of Santa Monica is doing, and we do world class programming. It’s a wonderful thing, it’s pretty unique, and yes I see the growth. We’ve had to keep pace with the changes: whenever a new platform comes along our policy is to embrace and inhabit it and not feel threatened by it — because ultimately it spreads the word on what we’re doing.
Ultimately, we’re trying to get as much members to support our cause, and stimulate the intellect of our listeners and members.
DMN: Perhaps the biggest challenge for artists is connecting as strongly with their natural audiences, instead of searching around for something bigger and more ‘now’.
It’s just too tricky when you try to reinvent the wheel. I respect different looks, producers, and ideas, but it often doesn’t work out for the group.
It’s sad to say, but that’s one thing I really take away from our conversation.
Apple Music will be paying 71.5 percent of streaming revenues back to rights owners, at least after a three-month, free-access period (when royalties will be zero). That beats Spotify by at least 1.5 percentage points, and it’s not 58 percent, according to Apple, despite that figure surfacing in a recently leaked in a Apple contract.
“In the US, Apple will pay music owners 71.5 percent of Apple Music’s subscription revenue,” Apple iTunes Content Vice President Robert Kondrk told Re/Code this morning. “Outside the US, the number will fluctuate, but will average around 73 percent.”
The details are getting extremely confusing, though that’s become de rigueur for streaming. In the same contract, Apple outlines a 70 percent payout for a-la-carte downloads, which includes publishing payouts, yet the publishing component isn’t included for the streaming portion. That led to the clearly-stated 58 percent figure, though subsequently, the head of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) David Israelite informed Digital Music News that Apple is paying publishing royalties separately on streaming through separate transactions and contracts.
The higher number was subsequently backed up by top music industry attorney Steve Gordon, who pointed to an aggregate mechanical and performance publishing payout adding to 10.5 percent. “They’re handling publishing themselves now on streaming,” Gordon confirmed.
(Actually, 58+10.5 doesn’t quite add up to 71.5, but it does solidly add up to fugghedaboudit.)
Meanwhile, one figure remains totally unchallenged by Apple: zero. That is, zero percent during a three-month, free trial window. That’s the payout the Apple made very clear in the same contract, a move that could result in serious pullbacks by leading independent artists and labels.
As of this morning, Apple has made no concessions on its $0 free-trial royalty structure.
Image by Ryan Somma, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).
Justin Blau, better known as 3LAU, is an in-demand producer and DJ. He’s been making electronic music for four years and has already seen massive success. Blau will be on the artist panel at the EDMbiz Conference Expo, which takes place June 16th to 18th in Las Vegas. He’s also playing EDC.
Digital Music News: You rose pretty quickly. How did you attract the attention of Dim Mak and other artists and labels that supported you?
Justin Blau: Honestly it all started with Revealed, Hardwell’s label. I obviously got some support from Dim Mak. Dim Mak wasn’t a really big part of the picture, but Steve Aoki has supported me forever.
To be honest though, I wouldn’t say my success is really based on artist labels, I would say it’s predominately based on just the music. I think it’s a little bit of a misconception that bigger artists’ labels help smaller artists. It’s nice to think that that’s true, but it’s actually not at all.
What really makes or breaks an artist is having a song that kind of transcends dance music proper.
“How You Love Me” was the one that broke me. For Audien, it was his Bastille remix. For TJR it was “Oi”. Songs that just go far and beyond what dance music offers are the songs that truly break artists. Artist labels are great and all, but I’m just giving you my honest answer. It’s really about the uniqueness of the music.
DMN: Besides not focusing too much on artist labels, what are some other misconceptions that you think upcoming DJs and producers might have about the scene?
Blau: I think… there’s so many… I think DJ co-signs. A lot of smaller artists think that co-signs mean everything, the reality of the situation is they don’t at all. They help build credibility in an artist’s career, which is really, really great.
You know what… when you’re smaller you have to do those things. I think it is important, but too many people spend too much time focusing on co-signs as opposed to focusing on making truly unique music. I’ll say that 20 times in this interview, especially now, at a time when everything is really starting to sound the same. It’s all about doing something different and doing something different that still sounds good. I think any smaller up-and-comer should focus on finding what they love to make, instead of mimicking what’s working right now.
All my future releases are kind of a combination of what’s working right now and stuff that I think hasn’t been made before. I’ve spent so much time doing that, cause some of my releases in the past have been following trends. I think for the first time my future records are significantly different.
DMN: Is that something that you wish you would have known going into the scene? Or…?
Blau: That’s something that I think everybody knows, right? Everybody knows that they have to make unique, different music that still sounds good. But it’s something that more recently has become a priority. It’s really a quality control thing.
At the end of the day lots of artists — we write a lot of songs, we finish a lot of songs, how many songs do we release?
A lot of artists are releasing every single song they finish just to keep their name out there. The reality of the situation is that when you have one thing that’s killer, you only need that one thing that’s killer. It’s a quality over quantity relationship.
That’s what I think is at the core of what I’m talking about.
DMN: Once you reached a certain level of prominence, how did you know how to find your team? Like your manager, your booking agent, how did you know they were the right ones for your career?
Blau: Well I’ve actually moved between a lot of my team members. The only team member that stayed the same the whole time was my agent. I worked with a guy who is still a good friend of mine for four years, from the beginning. We had to part ways recently, as friends, for a variety of reasons. I have a new team now. I’ve changed lawyers in my career, my new lawyer is fantastic.
It takes time to find the right people that you work with and that you vibe with. I think for me, it’s taken four years. And I think right now I have the all star team and I might not have before. So it does take time to find the right people that work for you.
DMN: As far as software, I know that you use Ableton. Is that still your main software of choice?
Blau: Yeah, I actually use both Ableton and Logic, I always have. I do some things in one, some things in the other. But the truth is it doesn’t matter what software you use, it really just matters how you use it. Lots of different people use lots of different things.
DMN: Was going from production to live performances something that was hard for you?
Blau: Yeah, it actually is. It’s funny, that’s a really good question I think. It’s something that I might have a different opinion about than other artists.
But in the beginning of everyone’s career you get really excited about playing in front of tens of thousands of people. It’s the rush, the high, it’s amazing. And I still get that rush every time I go play and I LOVE playing, but the truth is I’m in this business to make music. I’m not in this business to play shows. I didn’t start DJing and start trying to make dance music because I wanted to be a famous DJ, I started making dance music because I love making dance music. I think that’s different for a lot of people, let’s be honest. A lot of people do what they do TO be famous or TO play for tens of thousands of people.
For me right now, the transition from being in the studio to going to play, sometimes I kind of resent going to play. That’s my honest answer. I really prefer being at home and working on doing what I love every single day.
Now there are some shows, like EDC, which I’m hyped as hell about. That’s a whole different story. Most of the time though, going to do smaller club gigs in different cities; it’s exciting at first, for the first two years of a career. But for me, it’s four years now. It’s not to say that I don’t get excited, trust me I do, I get excited every single show that I play. I always have an amazing time. But the truth is, the more you play, the less time you have in the studio. And that’s just the serious nature of dance music.
DMN: How do you keep your head on straight when you’re touring and playing all those parties and festivals?
Blau: Well I used to travel alone, and when I traveled alone it was pretty difficult. But I never missed a show and I’ve never missed a flight, knock on wood. It’s still difficult, I think there’s a lot of temptations when you’re touring. You want to drink, you want to party, you want to have a good time.
More recently one of my best friends and my tour manager, Nick, he’s a super fit and super health oriented guy. He keeps me on track when I can’t keep myself on track, which I’m pretty decent at myself.
But getting the right amount of sleep, making sure you’re eating well, making sure you’re working out on the road, making sure you’re not drinking excessively… it is very difficult to stay sane, I’ll give you that.
Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more: @nine_u
Apple is now facing the prospect of a ‘massive withdrawal’ from a ‘very large group of indie’ artists and labels from Apple Music, according to multiple sources speaking with Digital Music News this weekend. That includes some of the largest independent artists on the planet, including Adele, The National, Alabama Shakes, and quite possibly, Radiohead, already a vocal opponent of streaming royalty payments (or lack thereof).
Given the brewing dissatisfaction over egregious Apple terms, it was estimated that more than 50 percent of indie artists will be absent during Apple’s critical launch period this summer.
According to more than four separate sources, including a pair a well-known independent labels, most of the artists and labels will keep their catalogs available for traditional download on the iTunes Store, but will opt out of streaming aspects.
“I don’t need to call Apple to tell them, ‘deal with this, or you’re looking at more than 70 percent of the indies holding out,’” explained one head of a large independent label. “This is just very clearly a raw deal.”
For those just tuning in, the major sticking point is a decision by Apple not to pay any royalties to artists during a gratis, three-month period. That was spelled out in no uncertain terms in an Apple contract sent to indies, and of course, leaked to Digital Music News.
Since then, fecal matter has been floating towards the fan. In reaction, powerful, US-based independent label organization A2IM issued a letter warning its members to exercise extreme caution, or simply pullout entirely. “Since a sizable percentage of Apple’s most voracious music consumers are likely to initiate their free trails at launch, we are struggling to understand why rights holders would authorize their content on the service before October 1,” the note advised.
”Please do not feel rushed to sign Apple’s current offer.”
Now, that message is reverberating throughout the industry, with most indies deciding to either wait until after the initial three-month free window lapses on September 30th, demand Apple change its payout terms, or both.
Meanwhile, a number of artists and independent distributors are closely examining ways to opt-out of the service themselves. On Friday, independent artist Zoe Keating took to Digital Music News and noted that opting out is actually easy through the iTunes Connect interface, while distributors like DistroKid have already indicated that pulling out is not an issue.