Tag Archives: Pandora

How to Promote your Music Without Spamming – Part 2

As you may or may not have read in part 1 of this post, which was almost 8 months ago now, the mainstream industry is a sinking ship. I’d like to dive into that concept a little bit more, because last time I don’t think I went in depth enough about it.

The mainstream industry is a sinking ship, and the independent one is struggling pretty much just as much as it always has. Let’s look at the reasons why.

Having talked to independent artists from all over the world, it’s apparent that no matter where you go, they all have the same problems: Promotion, Distribution, and now Piracy. Piracy doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem for independents, while promotion and distribution doesn’t seem to be as big of a problem for mainstream artists. Nevertheless, these are the Big 3.

It all comes down to the Internet at this point. One can conclude that because the internet has already been responsible for an increase in the amount of options available, in terms of promotion and distribution, for independent artists especially, that this trend will continue. So it is interesting to look at what exactly this will mean for music. It’s also interesting to note that the internet is actually responsible for the piracy problem for the mainstream industry, even though it has proven to have been a positive force for indie artists.

The trick is now to get a solution that solves all three problems, because even though independents aren’t plagued by piracy as much right now, it’s a problem they may be forced to face if they do get more popular, within the current industry model.

The solution starts at the root – the internet. It may seem like the internet has attributed to many advances in indie promotion and distribution such as Myspace, iTunes, and Tunecore, but you must also look at it like this: The internet right now is also responsible for any limitations that still exist online. There is a great potential that has not been reached yet with online technology, and so all the problems that artists have these days – the big 3 – are all caused by the internet.

So how do you solve this? Do we fix the internet? …Yes. It may sound weird, but the internet does not work as good as it could, and in fact, the internet is not properly set up to handle music right now. There is a lot of potential left that has not been reached. Within this potential is a solution to piracy as well.

The internet is a visual medium, inherently, and so there are many more tools for other visual mediums online than there are for auditory ones right now, meaning that it’s easier to promote a visual medium online at the moment. For example, if you’re a photographer, you could change your Facebook profile picture every day if you wanted to and just leave a couple posts and people would be introduced to your work in its full glory.

In a world where music is a huge part of people’s everyday lives, relying on an environment that until this point has been primarily based on visual mediums, to support not only the music itself, but the whole industry as well, is a huge problem that needs to be fixed, both for the fans and for the artists. Think about this..right now, besides recommendation engines like Pandora, that mainly only work for artists that are already known, the only way to hear someone’s music is to click on a link.(This mainly applies to independents – the majority of the industry)

No matter where you go online, there must be a translation of your piece of audio content – your music, into this visual world. So this music that can sometimes be incredibly original and incredibly outstanding, is reduced to a link or small icon if you’re lucky, that could never even begin to represent all of the complexity in that piece of music, and that may in fact strike an incredible resemblance to every other link on the web. It is because of this system that there is a mass influx of links to people’s music, and the inability to sort them or categorize them in any certain way means that these links can become essentially spam. You probably see them all the time if you have a facebook or myspace page. Everybody wants you to check out their music…and maybe you do one day, and you hate it. It will probably deter you from ever clicking on one of those links again, and at that point, all the links become full-fledged spam for that user.

So how do you translate music into this visual world without stripping it of all of it’s meaning? You don’t. You build an audio world along side the visual one. A platform – a community online – a website – that is streamlined to handle music – serving as enhanced music discovery for the fans, and enhanced promotion and distribution for the artists as a result.

So now that the underlying problem of the internet’s inadequacy has a solution  – I give you the without spamming part – and the piracy part. Let’s go back to the Pandora model: the recommendation engine. This model is void of spam (unless you’re talking about their audio ads) because the music is selected for you and just plays. There are no links to follow – the music plays, and if you like it, you can vote it up, if you don’t you can vote it down. This is a pretty cool system but it could be a lot better. Pandora’s algorithm for recommendation is somewhat limiting. Personally I listen to dozens of different genres, sometimes all mashed together to form new genres specific to certain artists. Typing in an artist’s name or a song can put some serious limits on the stream of music that gets played, so it’s all about making a better recommendation engine.

The best way I can see, is to use a person’s friends or favorite artists – people they trust – to make the recommendations for them. If a user’s friends like a song enough to save into their own playlist, it should automatically get sent to your radio. Let your social network filter the music for you! This will always give you better recommendations because the music is not only coming from people you trust, but those people are just as complex as you are, where as an algorithm is forced to develop more standard ways of recommendation across all people, leaving the experience to lack any sense of a real custom experience.

This viral, automatic word of mouth spread of the music would mean that as long as the music was good, it would spread automatically. Now imagine this radio being a little toolbar that sits at the top of your screen all the time, and there’s a small, unobtrusive, let’s say postage stamp size ad associated with it.

As an artist, your music just plays on people’s radio. As a fan, music suiting your tastes just plays for you. You no longer have to search for it, and bands no longer have to promote it, as long as the music is good. If you give away the full quality stream for free, and perhaps even a free download on this website, there would be no reason for people to go to a torrent to get it and risk getting a virus. Offer them a completely safe way to access your music directly from you! Then, depending on your popularity from this new free viral promotion, you can leverage any views and plays for advertising revenue. This would effectively transform piracy from a hindrance to artist revenue, into an actual driving force for it. The more the music is played, downloaded, and spread, the more leverage for revenue the artist has.

Then the ideal situation would be the community, or website, contributing to making it easier for the artists to negotiate with the advertisers for their ad space, allowing them to set their own prices and approve sponsors. Also all while maintaining full control over their musical rights and freedoms. Does such a place exist you may ask? I wish – and that’s why I’m building it.

We’re in beta right now. Here’s a screen shot below. It’s called Beat-Play, and it will be (free) promotion and distribution without spam, as well as will be a solution to piracy, as well as will give independent artists the tools they need to be successful in their careers without a label, as well as give fans a better way to find music, as well as act as a catalyst to the organic growth and ongoing evolution of the music industry in a natural and healthy way for everyone.

We will be open to the public hopefully by January 2011 if everything goes as planned. Until then, as in the last post, my advice is just to keep making great music. Spam as a problem for artists will be history soon enough, along with their other promotion and piracy problems. The playing field is being leveled out, and the only thing that will determine an artist’s success then is the quality of their music…not a budget or connections. Plan for the future – make great music, and you’ll be fine!

Written by: Dante Cullari – Founder & President Beat-Play, LLC


Why Pandora Can’t Get Out of Their Box

Today I was turned on to an interesting article called Pandora founder pursues bigger piece of radio pieby Antony BrunoAccording to the article, the last quarter of last year was the first quarter the company has ever recorded a net profit.

But, to quote the article:

“Despite all this momentum, it’s not enough to sustain the kind of growth Westergren hopes to achieve. Pandora raked in $50 million in revenue in 2009, which the company hopes to double by the end of the year. Of that, it paid $30 million in royalties to the music industry as agreed to in the CRB rate settlement with performance rights organization SoundExchange.

That agreement calls for Pandora to pay either a per-stream rate for each song it plays or 25 percent of all revenue, whichever is greater. Pandora needs to generate 8 cents per user per hour to shift the royalty burden to the revenue-share model. Currently, it’s bringing in only 2 cents per user per hour.

‘Pandora can’t survive on network advertising,” Westergren says. “The site’s too expensive to run because of the licensing. We have to command premium rates.’ ”

Their answer to this seems to be creating a situation where artists offer content exclusively on Pandora, and then Pandora would sell the advertising for that content at “premium rates.” This has been found to work in the past for the company, with one example being a Dave Matthews Band listening party. However this solution can essentially only ever be a counter balance on the scale, to the royalty fees paid, and so they will constantly be in a struggle to both convince artists to give exclusive content to the site, and then to sell the advertising at the highest possible price.

Their solution equates to a wad of gum in the hole in the dyke. If Tim Westergren wanted to truly solve his problems once and for all, he will have to think about the situation completely differently. Continue reading

How the F**K can I find some good music??

Okay so I HAVE to touch on this subject again, just because of all of the ridiculous things I’ve been reading on different blogs about it lately.

I want to bring some of the different view-pionts to light here, and then really analyze them further to reveal the true meat and potatoes underneath it all – what really matters, and what doesn’t, and introduce a way of thinking about it that just really makes more sense. There are many misconceptions floating around right now that I feel I owe to people to clear up.

Continue reading

Why iTunes Sucks and What’s Next

There was an article this weekend brought to my attention, about iTunes, that I thought perfectly explained the problems with the platform. The article is called ITunes Music Store. Facelift for a Corrupt Society. I definitely recommend checking it out.

Of course, if you do this research yourself, or you’re an artist, you will or have found the same results, but if that’s not the case, his main points against iTunes are that it’s too expensive, there is poor audio quality, and they take too high of a cut from sales. (horrendous paraphrase..apologies)

Continue reading

The Problem with Song Recommendation Engines, and How they could be Better

I thought I’d talk a little bit today about song recommendation engines, as far as where we are currently with the technology online, and how it can get any better.

First of all, we’ve all heard about Pandora’s Music Genome Project. They actually have a very dedicated staff that goes through each song for about 10-15 minutes and reports on a list of many different musical variables. The results get fed into the algorithm and BAM, there’s your playlist.

Last.fm does something very similar, but they use different variables, and many sites, like thesixtyone.com, use a “similar” function that introduces you to music with similar variables.

So how do you tell which one works the best? You’d almost have to go through and look at the variables they use to tie music together. It would be almost impossible to tell if the site could have played you a better song than the one it did. Streaming music seems to be the way to go, but right now I believe the biggest factor in people’s choices between these different websites may be the design appeal and ease of use. That, and the lack of anything better.

There are several problems I see with this picture. Number one is that it never seems like a good idea to use a tool that has no clear distinction between it’s competitors. There’s gotta be one that’s better, but in this case it’s too hard to tell, or would take too much effort. This most likely has a lot to do with the fact that these concepts are no new, and no one has really settled on one ultimate solution, yet people do have their favorites of the moment.

That brings me to the second problem with this picture, which is a fundamental one. The current song recommendation engines all use the song’s variables to tie the songs together, and then tie you to the songs by entering a song or artist you like. This a pretty cool, but your control over your music ends after you enter your favorite artist or song.

Music is such a social thing. It seems to me that our playlists shouldn’t be controlled by similarities between songs, but similarities between people.

There needs to be a system where I can follow people that I share a taste in music with(my friends, favorite band members, ect). Then anything in those people’s playlists will get sent to my radio player, at random, or at my control. This not only ensures that you’ll hear only the best music, but also it will automatically update you when new songs are out, and it doesn’t bind you to one genre, or one sound.

If you’re like me you could listen to 4 or 5 different genres, back to back. This system would also allow for filters on things like genres, moods, tags, ect, and could create a much more custom listening experience.

Also for new bands, this would almost take the place of promotion, because it is basically automated word of mouth and is the epitome of viral. With this model, who knows, you could be the one to discover a band for your whole generation.

I don’t know about you, but I think that sounds a lot better than trusting variables and algorithms. This model will actually be out soon. It will be included in my website, Beat-Play, coming out in beta this April, 2010. It will be undergoing many changes early on in the beta process, but we hope to get it all fleshed out by June.

When it comes to the internet and all of the crazy, complex, and really cool tools out there, it’s best to keep this thought in the back of your mind: “Is this the experience I want?” If the answer is “I don’t know”, then there’s usually a problem somewhere, and also a void waiting to be filled.

For more info about the Beat-Play beta check out the BeatPlay Beta Overview

And to sign up to beta test, visit: http://MusicWithoutLabels.com

Written by: Dante Cullari Founder & President, Beat-Play, LLC

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