Category Archives: sales

Marc Geiger – Chicago Ideas Week discussion

Is the music industry climbing out of it’s slump? Is it stagnating? Getting worse?? The answers to these questions seem to vary widely, depending upon who is answering. Nearly every day I read blogs from industry writers, fans, other professionals and periphery figures who believe the best days are simply behind us. To these people, platforms such as iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube…and literally hundreds of others are doing nothing to sell records, and many are just ripping the profit from the hands of the artist. Or label, again…depending upon with whom you’re speaking. I continue to still read how pirating has completely destroyed the industry, and continues to ruin everyone within from artist to producer to label to distribution to sales channel(s). The view is incredibly grey and bleak, which is why when someone comes along with a sunnier outlook – you tend to stop and take note.

During the very same time that Durandemonium took place in Chicago…there was an event called Chicago Ideas Week. It covered a wide variety of topics, and one such topic was the state of the music industry, to which Marc Geiger, a founder of a little event called “Lollapalooza”, spoke.  You can watch it here. Mr. Geiger is an industry veteran, having done everything from DJ at 91X (a radio station in Southern California) to booking, to A&R, and then on an executive level at ARTISTdirect (CEO and Vice Chairman). Currently he is the head of the music division at William Morris Agency. He is seen as something of a visionary in the industry, due to his work at ARTISTdirect – which was the first internet company designed to create a direct connection between the artist and the fan.

The main purpose or thesis of Marc Geiger’s discussion that day was to explain that the industry is not dead, and it’s best days are yet to come. He believes that the power of platforms like Pandora and YouTube, among others, has yet to be realized, but that the business is finally “getting to a decent model” and that it’s going to be bigger than ever.  Prior to the “crash” in 2000, the overall business was at 40 million a year (the “record business”, as he put it, currently it sits at 27 million a year, and he believes that it will go to 200 million a year. I was honestly astonished to hear such figures, because if the blogs and industry articles I read are any indication – you’d think the only way to make real money these days is the live show. The “tour”. Not six months ago I read an article about how even Justin Timberlake’s latest album was slumping in sales as opposed to previous efforts – but that the expectation for sales was being met, simply due to the fact that the business model for the industry had changed so much. Then of course, we slide forward to Beyoncé and her latest album, which dropped “by surprise” last week – and it’s already sitting at nearly 900,000 copies sold, in the first week. I don’t think I need to mention to anyone that I don’t think the last two albums that DD has done have reached that sales figure, combined. I know we shouldn’t be focused on sales because it is most definitely not 1985 and the band’s target demographic is well, older now… but even so, it’s pretty staggering, and is really the first sign that maybe, just maybe, the record industry will live. So, Mr. Geiger needs to forgive me if I don’t quite see that we’re on the incline out of the Valley of Death just yet. Sure, maybe for the distinct few – but for everyone? I need more convincing.

One item that I do agree with though is globalization. He gave the example of a band like Fitz and the Tantrums here in the states. They are fairly well-known here, but you move that band to a place like Chile, where perhaps their music hasn’t been released and they’re definitely not getting radio play – and yet their shows are selling out. How does that happen?  YouTube. The internet. One cannot ignore that power, and one shouldn’t ignore the power of social media. I would also add that the very most powerful item in the tool chest of the band/artist is their existing fan base. We talk. We speak to others. We write blogs. We connect with fans on a global level, and we have the ability to work much harder to spread that word than the band themselves are able. There are thousands of us, and we can reach farther corners within a shorter period of time. This is key. This very blog gets read in not only the US, Canada and the UK, but we also have a sizable audience reading in various places in South America? Asia? Russia? (the stats here don’t include bots) Globalization is a big deal, and it’s the fans that will get you there. Social media and connecting with fans matter – and if it’s only the social media person in your entourage that is bothering (and maybe not doing the best job connecting), you’re missing the boat. Literally.

Bottom line from me: as I said a year ago – there is a way to navigate out of the confusion of harnessing the power of the internet for good. It remains shortsighted to blame the industry woes on pirating (illegal downloads are on the decline), and it does appear that at least some have learned how to create a new business model utilizing the power of the fan(s) that works. That doesn’t mean that it all has been figured out. Clearly there is still disconnect with streaming platforms, listening platforms like Pandora and Spotify, artist royalty from other platforms like Shazam, labels, and so forth. Labels do not like having less control over what you and I see and hear. They really don’t like having less control over stats and royalty statements. Bands and artists aren’t necessarily comfortable dealing with fans directly, especially if they came of age in a time prior to the internet.  I see that the future is at least beginning to form in the distance, and the convergence culture of the media will continue to grow. Better hang on as this boat gets moving, or you’re liable to be left in the distance.

-R

So like your sonic soul

Is the album format really dead in the US?

I read an article from last week on The Guardian that discusses this very subject, making the point that Katy Perry (an apparently acceptable example of a well-selling pop artist in this country) has the current number one selling album in the country – and two weeks ago, the total number of album sales were 4.49m units, with Katy’s selling less than 300,000 units (out of the 4.49m). That’s depressing…both because Katy Perry’s album is at number one (in my not-humble-opinion), and because it’s sales are not good by industry standards.

The article goes on to make the point that the 10-song “artist-statement” format used since the 1940’s might be nearing the end of it’s line.  I’m really not sure that’s the case at all…nor is a follow-up response to this article found on  Music:)Ally.  To begin with, I think back to sales of Red Carpet Massacre – I don’t have a subscription to RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) so I can’t really track sales, but I know I’ve read that by 2008 it had only sold about 88,000 copies. All You Need is Now didn’t do any better in sales (in fact I believe it sold even less overall).  So when you compare to that of Katy Perry’s 300,000 units in a week, the picture changes significantly.

What are we really comparing though?  If we’re using the 1980’s as the benchmark – I think that’s incredibly inaccurate. The entire world has changed since then. Back in that day, albums were really the only way to access your favorite artist between tours. You had the memories of the gig you attended (if you were lucky enough to be there!) and the albums you bought in between. Throw in some pinups and some shirts, and that was about it.  Nowadays, you’ve got social media, you’ve got YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Myspace, Instagram, Pinterest…and a ton more than I’m not bothering to mention…and of course…I mustn’t forget iTunes and streaming. You can buy a song at a time. You can just subscribe to stream the songs…and frankly there are so many different places to stream that I’ve lost complete track. It seems like every single week someone else is announcing a new streaming website, and I can’t keep up with it all.

Just today I dutifully went onto iTunes because I wanted to purchase Direct Hits by The Killers. It’s a new compilation of a lot of their bigger hits, along with a couple of songs I don’t own. To be honest, it reminds me a little bit of Arena, except it’s not live; or Decade, except it does offer a couple of new tracks. I get to iTunes, hit purchase, and iTunes reminds me that I already own quite a few of the tracks. I know this, but I wanted to buy it just to have the whole thing, as I would if I were buying the physical CD (which I will eventually buy). I’m a pretty big fan of The Killers, and just as I do with Duran Duran – I have multiple copies of multiple formats of their music. However, I started thinking that it’s not like I’m buying the actual CD. I’m just buying the music files; well, the rights to the files anyway. So I started comparing what iTunes thought I had verses what I really do own. I couldn’t decide in some cases if what it was saying I didn’t own was really in fact the case or if it was a completely different version, so ultimately I skipped the purchase altogether. I would bet that this happens a lot, and while it’s a blessing in some cases, because there are certain bands where I only want a song or two and others where I want everything they’ve got in every single possible format, I can’t imagine it really helps sales. After all, if iTunes hadn’t told me that I already own the songs and just let me buy…well…I would be playing the entire album right now. Albums aren’t really “albums” in iTunes or mp3 form. They are a collection of music files in the same folder that you are buying the “rights” to play. So are albums really dead??

Industry folk point their blame at a variety of things, but this week – it’s YouTube, Spotify and other streaming sources. On YouTube, you can hear and see everything for free (as long as you don’t mind advertising) and apparently the issue with Spotify and other streaming websites is that it’s causing a 4% decline in digital downloads.

No one is tracking or is able to track (what year is this again??) – what streaming revenues look like. Doesn’t that matter? The article I read seems to indicate that yes, it matters, and it’s the big variable in this equation. (can you tell I’m teaching Algebra this year?)  I have no idea if the streaming figures will indicate where the market is headed, but I can’t imagine it wouldn’t at least give some clues. Every article I read seems to talk about how everything from standard radio to CD sales to digital downloads are suffering. Yet music is getting out there. It’s getting heard by someone. Seems to me it’s time to stop whining about what isn’t happening and start finding what IS. I just don’t understand why the industry is so incredibly slow to notice, react..and be proactive to the next steps for once.

The ONE thing I’ve learned about the music industry is that without a doubt, everyone goes for the low hanging fruit. No one seems to pay attention to what is going on at the very top of the tree (what is really growing) – they want to pick, or blame, what is easiest to grab, even if it’s the rotting fruit at the base of the tree!  That goes for whether we’re talking about sales, talking about what is going wrong in the industry, or even what artists should be promoted.  Exploit what we can exploit, ignore anything that might take a little more thought.

What does all of this really mean for Duran Duran in 2014? That really is the question, isn’t it? I know that the time will come where I’ll start reading the rumblings: “Management doesn’t get it.”  “They don’t know how to promote.”  “Sales suck.”  “Will the band go on?”  It’s the same statements with each passing album. To be fair, I think the band has some idea of what success really means for them. That’s key. I think the fan base should have a better, much more realistic view of what success means as well. I don’t think it’s any surprise that for the band, touring is huge. It means revenue, and it means connecting with their fans and using that fan energy to their benefit. The new music is a way of the band speaking directly to their fans. It is their art.

The 10 song album format should not be declared dead. That artist statement is very important, and albums are the vehicle for how that proclamation is delivered (regardless of what format – vinyl, CD, mp3, etc – we’re discussing). To call that dead is very much the same as suggesting paintings should be a thing of the past as well. After all, we can certainly create digitally…and yet we’d never consider to tell our great painters and visual artists to stop using the medium with which they choose, would we? The key is finding the space where albums not only exist, but thrive. In order to move forward, we must be clear that this is no longer the 1980s or 1990s. Much has changed, and the same sort of tracking that worked during that time is no longer fully accurate. I would argue that the moment we decided to tear that album apart, by allowing single songs to be purchased on their own, we created the avenue upon which we currently travel.  Yes, it’s a double-edged sword, as is every step forward we take in technology; but now is the time to stop damning what has already been broken and start the rebuild.  Ask the right questions and perhaps the real answers will be revealed.

-R

Have you spent your $12 lately??

I know that there are people out there in Duranland who absolutely LOVE to talk sales figures.

With the release of any of the more recent Duran albums, or their accompanying tours, the discussion almost always comes around to sales. How are the albums selling, and how many tickets are selling for the shows. We’ve had many a discussion on this blog as well as on Facebook as to what really accounts for success, but in this case we’re talking about dollars and cents. So what I’m about to share is likely to bolster the discussion, whether you’re arguing that no one actually makes real money on album/single sales these days, or you’re arguing that the band is like a fish trying to swim upstream. In this case – everyone is probably right.

Recently there was research published by Asymco analyst (this is a business analysis firm) Horace Dediu that shows the average iTunes user spends only $12 per year on music purchases. $12?!? That doesn’t even quite meet the cost of some CDs! In case you’re wondering – this figure was sitting at $42 a year just a few years ago (actually I believe it was two or two-and-a-half years ago that this research was last compiled).

What does that really mean? Well, to begin with, the number of iTunes users has grown significantly, with some analysts saying that the number is approaching 600 million worldwide, and the sales figures for software and books are also declining. Interestingly enough, new apps are still being developed at a near breakneck pace. The article, which you can read here makes the point that “not only is there more stuff for music fans to buy, they’re buying more of that other stuff”.

So Duran Duran is not only competing with other artists for our dollars, now they are also competing with other stuff music fans tend to buy. So what “other stuff” are we talking about here?

The article goes on to talk about Spotify, for example. Streaming music is becoming more popular. The trouble is – how does one profit from such a thing? I wonder if this is the sort of thing that was discussed back when radio first became popular, “How do we make money off of it if listening to the radio is free once you buy the radio?!?” Spotify alone has nearly 24 million subscribers worldwide, but only 6 million of those people are paying customers…and I would bet that not all of those 6 million people are paying the highest rate. (right now that sits at $10 a month), but the article uses that figure and then says that it puts the per-user spend rate at $30 a year, which is almost triple that of iTunes. Then it goes on to say that almost 70% of Spotify users are completely inactive…meaning those accounts are virtually abandoned accounts. Obviously that changes the figures…and while Mark Mulligan, an industry analyst that dared to quantify the variables into dollars and cents, came up with a registered per-user spend rate of just $9 a year, I have to say I think that’s way off as well.  I think the per-user spend rate for just a registered user is probably far, far less. Why? My guess is that the lions share of accounts that are abandoned are those that were started for free. I know that even for myself, I use my Spotify account because I pay for it monthly. If it were free, I would probably forget about it.  My opinion is that while I have a huge range of music that I can listen to, the UI is horrendous (User Interface), and it’s a pain. So I use it because I pay for it monthly.

As typical with these types of articles, the numbers are met with skeptical eyes. The comments range from those who are “simply shocked” that anyone actually pays for music these days when there is so much that can be downloaded legally and for free…to those who are certain that the originally research firm is supported by RIAA, therefore the numbers are skewed.  This particular commenter states that it’s odd that this research shows no growth in US downloaders at all, yet just recently the RIAA released figures showing that the growth in units (downloads) and revenue for 2012, and even I have to say, that seems fishy to say the least.

The reality of course is that no matter where the figures come from, there certainly seems to be an overall disconnect between the music and the audience. Nobody buys music, and as I’ve said for nearly a decade now- until someone can actually figure out WHAT the new business model for the music industry is supposed to be, and learn how to properly harness the power of social media and turn all of those “likes” into sales – we will continue to read reports such as this. I think it’s pretty obvious that all the music industry really knows how to do is point blame at illegal downloading, as though that is somehow going to magically admonish everyone back into the “legally buying” line at the sales counter. Newsflash guys, it’s been quite a while, and so far that party line just isn’t working. Probably time to find a new course of action.

So what does this all really mean for Duran Duran and bands like them? Tours. Tours matter a lot…and maybe even more than they ever did before. I know many people scoffed at the band for doing arena tours in Europe and then coming to the US and doing smaller venues (3-5,000 people, give or take). There was talk about things not selling out in Europe and even more talk about things not selling out here. I have to say, I was AT shows in the UK, and I was AT shows here in the US. They sold well. I can’t honestly say they were complete sell-outs because I didn’t go row by row counting seats, but I can tell you that they filled the venues very nicely. Those are the kinds of tours that have likely become the bread and butter for the band. Do I think they still need to make albums though?

I think there are two very different things going on here that fans should appreciate. To begin with, I don’t believe that any band truly wants to go on the road for 9-18 months and play the same songs they’ve played for the past 20 years. Those of you out there who believe the setlist is already stale – well, just imagine how stale it would be if there were absolutely NOTHING new? I don’t know that they’d continue to sell their tours very well without new music – at least not for the long haul. So, I think the albums keep the creativity flowing and the band quick on their feet. I think the albums are probably as much of a reward for the band for the hard work they’ve done on the road as they are a mechanism to create sales. I still believe the band creates new music out of love for the art form, and if that makes me naive or frivolous, so be it. Touring, on the other hand, is hard work – enjoyable hard work (I hope), but work nonetheless. They need those tours in order to pay themselves and their team.  Much discussion has been made about their touring schedule and how grueling it must be – and that the band should cut back. Only the band themselves know how much is too much, but I will say this: I truly believe there is something to be said for residencies. More bands are taking advantage of such things, and I feel this is an area that the band could also utilize in order to make the challenge of touring a little easier for not only themselves, but for fans as well. Just this past spring Def Leppard did nearly a month of shows in Las Vegas – shows that actually sold out most nights. I’m not suggesting Vegas is the only city where this could be done – it’s merely an example, and I believe that this could be done worldwide with a little strategic planning.

In the meantime, I’m going to hop over to iTunes and give my yearly $12 “donation”.

-R

I am 42 years old and want to go to shows and listen to good music until I die. Who wants my money??

A much-discussed topic amongst fans has been sales. I would imagine that will continue to be the case long after the band stops caring. After all, we even continue to still talk about air play (radio), and according to John Taylor during the band’s latest roundtable with Katy (August 2012), they’ve stopped worrying about that. (psst…so have I!)

Most of us have been thoroughly convinced that All You Need is Now is a fantastic album.  There are still a few naysayers out there (not sure what they would need in order to admit that the band still puts out good albums), but by-and-large, we all loved it. For a brief moment back when it was released – what was that, 2010?? (that went by VERY fast!) – I blinked back thoughts that we’d returned to the 80’s. Number one? Are you kidding me?!? Of course, that brief shining moment didn’t stay long, but they never really do. I know the moment meant a lot to the band, because they still continue to make mention from time to time. Naturally, there is much more to a great album than whether it hits number one. One look at the Top 40 charts these days, especially those here in America, will tell you that.

My real question here isn’t about why the band isn’t on top of the charts though. It’s really about whether or not the music industry is being completely stupid by not cashing in on MY generation. I hate to break it to those guys in the suits – but we still want to attend shows, and our demographic has the money to spend. I hear you all saying “But what about the recession?” True. Times are tougher now than they were, but I’ll tell you what – even in my family where our income has taken a huge hit in recent years, I FIND the money to go when I want to go. So do the rest of you Duranies out there. I know you do, because I see you at the shows I attend. What we do NOT want is to go to shows and be beaten to shreds by kids who are half our age. (Well, at least not most of us. There’s a few of you out there that like that sort of thing. I don’t judge. I just move out of your way.) I can’t speak for everyone, but the fact is – I actually care about where a band plays. I LIKE going to the unique venues, such as the Chicago Theater, that is steeped in great history. I like the plush seats, I loved the architecture. I liked not having to stand in wait for the band to arrive onstage. I’m not old, but you know – I like being treated as an adult and not a 40-year old teenager. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a great arena show like some of the ones I attended in the UK just last year at this time. (Seriously, it really was this time last year that I was there rocking it out with the band. Secret Oktober in Brighton? Come on now. They had ME like putty in their hands at that point.  Following it up with Meditteranea?? I could have fallen on the floor. I chose to remain standing, but I could have easily…and not just due to jet lag!) The truth is though, the venue matters more when you’re an adult. I like being comfortable. I like space. I like not having the sweat of another man’s armpit slathered across my face in the second row of the GA pit. (I still get shivers when I think of that – and they aren’t GOOD shivers, either.) I might be standing there cheering, screaming, and singing my heart out for each and every member of Duran Duran, but dammit I am a lady! I just wish more bands, especially the bands I grew up listening to, but some of the newer bands out there, actually clued in to the fact that my generation still goes to gigs. We are just more choosy about where we go and whom we’ll bother to see, so the industry would be wise to put their money and marketing into bands who might appeal.

I’m not the only one out there who feels this way. Just this past week, Mike Doughty, who writes the blog Immutable/Inscrutable on Tumblr wrote a brilliant blog titled “Forget Piracy, the Music Industry’s Biggest Money Loser is an Inability to Connect with Older People That Used to Spend Money on Music and Don’t Anymore”. (Go here to find and read it for yourself) The key here is that older people (and he is focusing on the 30-50 year old age group – doesn’t he know that 60 is the new 40??) CAN buy music. WE want to make those purchases. WE don’t feel as though we should hang it all up just because we’ve hit 30, 40 or even 50. The trouble is, we don’t hear what’s potentially out there because no one bothers to market anything to our generation. I hate having to do the dirty work myself, but that’s what Spotify (and countless other music apps of that nature) is for, I suppose.

I’m not like my mom. I still revel in finding new music that I like. While sure, I listen to a lot of Duran Duran and other bands that I grew up with, I would love to fall for a new band…and not just Blue to Brown. That doesn’t count. (Sorry Dom) Who wouldn’t? I’m a wife and mom, I’m not dead!  Music was a huge part of my life while growing up, and I really don’t want that to end. Obviously. You read this blog. It’s pretty clear where I stand. I love being a fan. My mom gave up all of her fangirl dreams after she married my dad, had my sister and I and became a housewife. That’s when I really got started, so no – I’m not giving this up. I keep saying that I’m not done, and I’m not kidding. *shakes fist at sky*  I will not quit!

Doughty ends his blog by asking who might buy physical copies of albums. Gee, I really don’t know. I’ve only got a garage lined with shelving that contains nearly 4,000 albums. (We’re collecting them should the apocalypse occur, you see. No canned goods, but dammit we’ve got our music!!) He is right in saying that the people who grew up buying it probably would continue. I just wish the industry would grab a clue. Here all of us are, sending them not-very-well coded messages telling them exactly what they need to know, and yet very few listen. Who wants our money?!?

Duran has got it right. They know their audience well, and they know we’re sticking with them. Too bad the very industry they work within thinks the only people that really matter or care are those who weren’t even around when music mattered most.

-R

Disposable Culture

Last week, I brought up a couple of blogs I’d read where a bit of a How To was given on Superfans.  These blogs discussed how to create them, and how to keep them.  My commentary was based on the premise that to cultivate such a group of fans would feel completely synthetic and contrived. I still wonder just how successful the effort will be seen in the long term.  Will fans really stick by for 30+ years, or will it end up being a situation with many “flashes in the pan”?

Not long after writing those blogs, I watched an episode of America’s Got Talent.  It’s not my favorite show, but for whatever reason it was on our television that night, and it occurred to me that the idea of creating a “hit” or the “next biggest thing” is the prevailing drive in the industry these days.  Nothing is allowed to happen naturally.  Not the talent, not the music, not the image, and definitely not the fans loyalty.

It should make one wonder if maybe, just maybe, there isn’t a simple correlation between sales  in recent years and the history of such shows as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, X Factor,  The Voice and many, many others. (Research just how many “one hit wonders” we’ve had in recent years.  The numbers are astounding!)  We’re so busy creating stars, buying one or two songs from them and then immediately moving on to the next big thing that we’re completely missing the bigger picture at hand.

My curiosities about the current culture will only be answered in hindsight many years ahead, being both the beauty and curse of history.  I am certain that as my children enter their thirties and forties a band of historians will dissect this moment in time as we have done to decades prior.  Will my children and others in their generation have similar tales to tell about continuing to follow the same band(s) well into their adulthood?  How will future music listeners look back on the beginning years of this century? 

If Duran Duran were at it’s beginnings today, just how different would they be from the band we knew in the 1980’s?  The obvious mentions are of course the image and styling – assuming the band would still be as forward thinking, but would the process be nearly as organic for them, and would fans still be as drawn?

Thankfully, I never have to know.  -R

Twitmusic….what’s the point?

I’ve been sick, as in sick on the couch and try to sleep all day, for about 3 days now.  Not terribly long, but long enough to where I’m really all done with the nonsense and yet I am still not back up to par. It’s annoying because I have a lot to do and no energy to even start.  Regardless, I’ve still been forcing myself to blog in the morning and briefly see what’s going on in the world before I retreat to my couch, blanket and hot tea. Obviously, my attempts to keep up with the world have utterly failed – because this morning I found Twitmusic.

What in the hell is Twitmusic and why do I need it? To begin with, Duran Duran has found Twitmusic – and they found it before I did. That alone is enough to make me hang my head in shame. I checked it out though, and I’m going to be blunt: I don’t get it. It would seem to me that it’s basically just another way to share music, and it’s obviously tied into Twitter. You can sign into Twitmusic using your Twitter account, and then my educated guess is that while you’re browsing, Twitter automatically tweets what you’re checking out, becoming a “fan” of, and listening to so that way all of your followers can then go check out what you’re listening to as well. That being the only innovative tool that Twitmusic seems to have going for itself at the moment.

Sure, we all know that social networking is a machine and a band or artist needs to make the machine work for them. Twitmusic would appear to be yet another tool in that arsenal. My only comments are that Twitmusic doesn’t really seem to offer anything new or different that Facebook and Myspace can’t offer, and it’s also REALLY late to market, meaning that several other apps (including the aforementioned Facebook and Myspace) have already ‘been there, done that’. I’m not faulting Duran Duran for joining (Take your hand off of that “send mail” button right now.) – they’ve got to get the visibility where ever they can get it – I’m only faulting Twitmusic for not being new, innovative or really even all that useful.  It’s just another thing.

At some point, social networking has to stop treading water and start turning it’s wheels to move the water out of its own way and get somewhere, otherwise there’s really no point beyond making the connection with fans – and while you and I might think that’s lovely and warranted – the band (and if not our band, definitely others out there!) most likely has bigger hopes in mind. There are hundreds of social networking sites out there now. Most are either unheard of or rarely used, but the big ones are Facebook and Twitter. Each day I read several blogs regarding how to turn those “likes” into sales, or those “followers” into “fans that purchase”. No one seems to know exactly how to close the sale. It seems to me that each day, more sites like Twitmusic go live, hoping to be the answer to seamlessly transfer the followers into dollar signs, and typically – they fail to deliver. All of this incredibly innovation, networking and technology – and yet sales are still ridiculously low across the board. Why?

That’s the million dollar question these days.  Hey, I’m no different from anyone else.  I don’t claim to have the answers. I just know we’re on the wrong page in the wrong book! Many, many others seem to think they’ve got they know the formula, and yet no one has said anything that has made a difference yet. Whether it’s piracy, the economy, DRM (Digital Rights Management), or the fact that everything really is available at our fingertips every hour of every day, hence there’s never a sense of urgency to buy, the truth is that Twitmusic is going to do relatively little if anything to help curb the sales hunger.

Sure, be a “fan” of @DuranDuran on Twitmusic. We did because of course we want to support the band. Listen to their music however you’d like and perhaps you’ll spread the word of their newest album online to your followers. I don’t know if you’re like @dailyduranie – but at least 95% of our followers are you. Fellow fans. Preaching to the choir maybe?

Just a little, I’ll bet.

-R

Thursday News Roundup!

Since I couldn’t quite decide on one topic…we’ve got a few to cover today.

I’m sure everyone, at least those here in America have heard that Dick Clark died yesterday at the age of 82 from a heart attack.  Dick Clark was many things, but for me personally he was the host of my favorite Saturday morning TV show – American Bandstand.  I can still sing the theme song from the show. (Not well, and no, you will not find a video of me singing it on YouTube or any where else, thankyouverymuch)  I find that I tend to romanticize the images I have of people from my childhood, and Dick Clark is certainly no different.  Much to my mom’s chagrin, I would stop everything I was doing in order to stand and watch the show before she would come down the hall or out of the kitchen to shoo me away from the TV in order to do my chores.  I can remember watching videos or hearing music from Duran Duran, Madonna, Romeo Void, Janet Jackson…and many, many others on the show were interviewed and performed.  To me at that age, Dick Clark was a bit of a hero simply because he was able to meet so many of the people I was so interested in.  I paid zero attention to his life away from American Bandstand, although I knew he had created the AMA’s and had his own production company.  I simply didn’t care because he was “Dick Clark of American Bandstand”, and later as I grew up he became “Dick Clark of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”  I was much sadder when he had his stroke than I was yesterday because for me, his era ended back when he gave up the helm of Rockin’ Eve to Ryan Seacrest.  It pains me to think that for my kids – Ryan Seacrest is liable to be their Dick Clark, but I suppose that’s how it is all meant to work.

Anybody ever heard of Greg Ham?  Greg was the flautist for a group called Men At Work.  He was found dead today in his home at the age of 58.  The saddest thing about Greg was that he feared that he would only be remembered for the law suit involving the flute melody from “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree”.  Reality?  I only remember him for being one of a mere handful of woodwind musicians that made it in a rock band, which makes him a hero to me. Yes, he played a beautiful flute melody for a song that I dearly loved as a kid.  I’ve never cared about that lawsuit, although sure – many did. I’ve seen many an interview with Mr. Ham over the years, and he never struck me as intentionally copying the melody, even though I can’t deny how similar it really sounds.

From a file marked, “No kidding?”…Album sales have now hit a 12 year low, according to the bean counters who are responsible for keeping track of this sort of thing. It does not seem to be the sort of announcement that should shock anyone, especially given that even Madonna can’t seem to sell her albums these days.  All this news does is continue to convince the world that album sales should not be end-all as a determining factor for success in this business, and if your band is still thinking that sales is where it’s at – you’d better think again.  On the other hand, the sales of singles (single tracks off of an album) is up nearly 12% from this time last year.  So the moral of the story is that people are still buying music (even if in amounts that are a fraction of what they once were), but they refuse to buy entire albums.  Should we be thanking or slapping Apple??  
Lastly, I am revisiting Glee.  No, I’m not rewatching the smooshed version of Rio and HLTW, but I did take notice that they are treating the likes of Beyonce, New Radicals, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Queen, Alice Cooper, The Bravery, and Green Day among others to the Glee treatment for their season finale on May 22nd.  It’s the “graduation” episode, and I have to admit, I’m morbidly curious as to what they’ll do to/with the songs by this group of artists.  Hey, I sat through the disco episode on Tuesday night and lived to tell about it, so how much worse can it get?
Don’t answer that.
Happy weekend everyone, and for those of you in England, I hope it stops raining soon. I still don’t know what a hosepipe is or why it’s been banned…and I’ll ponder that as I’m sitting on the beach or at the pool here in Orange County California this weekend!  No yachting for me, our boat is drydocked at the moment.  
And in Very Late Breaking News (as in, this blog went to press just as I received word)…Dom Brown announced that Pre-release copies of his new album, Blue to Brown are now available to be ordered beginning today!  If that doesn’t excite you enough to go to his website dombrown.com and order, Dom sweetens the deal by saying that the first 100 copies are signed AND if you order now, packing and posting are FREE worldwide!!  I’m looking forward to getting my hands on this one!    
-R

Why hasn’t there been a Girl Panic?!

Let’s be honest: we are probably the easiest sales the band knows.  When they put out an album, they can guarantee – or at least seriously count on a certain amount of sales purely based on the hardcore fan base.  I really am not sure how big of a number that is at this point, but I know we exist out there somewhere!  It really makes no difference whether we love the album or hate it, most of us still buy at least one copy (and some of us will buy even more…) just to keep the collection pristine.  The band truly has to do very little to keep the core base going.  Sure, there have been times when the numbers have gone down or flattened out, but there still remains a base.  It’s somewhat counterintuitive to what many fans feel they deserve, because here I am admitting that the band has to do relatively little to keep our interest, and yet just a few weeks ago we were chatting about what we felt we deserved.  It’s a delicate balance between continuing a connection with long time fans, and striving for new.

Not long ago, I commented that Girl Panic (the video) really did not sell many additional songs or albums for the band.  This information is not made up on my part, it was straight from John Taylor’s mouth.  Currently the video is sitting at nearly 5.3 million views, a number the band themselves has characterized as “viral”.  Apparently that number has not translated well into additional sales, and it seemed – at least to me – that the band is at least somewhat confused as to why that is.  It’s the “new model”, some will say.

So the new model basically says that music is free to those who want to get it, and so if I’m understanding this all correctly – it’s really up to the band to convince everyone (except the hard core fan base, apparently) else WHY they should buy.  I dare say that most people don’t really care how EASY it is to purchase the song or album, and most people don’t really care about how many different places you can buy it, how many versions there are available, or how many different forms the album comes in. (mp3, iTunes mp4, vinyl, CD, etc.)  It seems to me that most people, other than me and perhaps the others reading this blog, want to know why they should part with their good money to own the album.  Why should they care?

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to Duran Duran.  It applies to every single band or artist out there – and some artists are hitting the mark, and some are not.  Some artists and bands are blessed with HUGE fan bases that buy everything they sell.  The work to keep those fans just might not be as tough – but to be fair – there are remarkably few of those bands out there. The overwhelming majority have to work very hard to show people why they are worthy.

How do they create that interest?  Well to begin with – it’s the music.  That’s not enough though, and that is just not where the story ends.  It’s merely the beginning.  One of my favorite quotes these days is from Ian Rogers, who is the CEO of TopSpin (a Direct-To-Fan Marketing company).  “This is not a world where you can simply record an excellent song and expect people will naturally discover and go crazy for it.  This is not a build-it-and-they-will-come world.”  I just don’t think there’s a better example of this out there than Duran Duran.  Some might say they aren’t consistent with their music.  Ok sure, some albums haven’t sold well (All You Need is Now is in that category, mind you!)  and might not be what *I* would prefer, but by and large – they’ve got a great catalog, historically speaking.  All You Need is Now is probably one of their best albums ever and is truly worthy of sales 10 or 15 times more than what they’ve seen thus far.  The problem though, is that for whatever reason, the band doesn’t reach people.  Yes, they have truly paved the way for a relationship with their existing fans.  The trouble is, we are really not the people they need to sell on their music.  We’re already sold!!

So, real goal is sharing the “why”.  It’s forging an interest from the people that don’t already know and love them, and it’s learning to balance that newly formed relationship with the ones that already exist.  Not an easy line to walk.  Long time fans aren’t necessarily excited by “new ways”.  Change is an awful thing when you’re in your forties I guess. I remember the uproar when they began the paid fan community – and I can’t really imagine what fans would do if they started a crowdfunding campaign for their next album or tour (see andytaylor.tv for a great blog on Crowdfunding by our friend and fellow fan, Bryony Evens!)

A great article to further explain my point and introduce some others can be found here.

-R

You mean that band is still around? Really?

This morning I was in Target, picking up the usual: milk and that sort of thing.  I was in line – a very long line I might add, and my cell phone rang.  My ringers are personalized depending upon who is calling, and this person has a DD ringtone assigned to them.  (Those calls get answered first, especially when it’s Amanda’s ringtone I hear!  Other calls, such as the ones with just a regular ring, typically get ignored, and I’m not even kidding.  All of my kids school numbers – as in the office number for their schools – are assigned to Reach Up for the Sunrise because the chorus is so loud it nearly makes me jump out of my skin…so I know to pick up immediately!)  Anyway, after the call, a woman behind me asked if my ring tone was Duran Duran, to which I smiled and said “Yes”.  That’s when she said “I loved them back in the 80’s, but they aren’t even together anymore.”  Well, my eyes about bugged out of my head at this point, and I took the time in line to correct her.  She was shocked, and even more so when I explained that they have several albums out that she should really look into getting!  (Her fascination ended at The Wedding Album. *sigh*)

I don’t know about anyone else, but this happens to me quite a bit, and mainly because of my ringtones!  I’m pleased to help out the band with their grass roots marketing, but also completely annoyed that people have been living under a rock for the past 20 years.  I have many friends from high school who have found me on Facebook, and one of the first questions they ask me, obviously after scrutinizing some of my pictures and things, is whether or not I’m still a Duran Duran fan.  Some are nice about it, but a lot of them try to tease me by saying “What? You’re still into them?  Aren’t they dead yet?”  (Yes, people REALLY say that…)  After which I take a deep cleansing breath and attempt to answer their questions as nicely as possible.  Sometimes, I even succeed.

After my excursion to Target, I came home, knowing that I needed to blog and that I didn’t really have much of a topic in mind.  That’s happening a lot lately.  I’ve got tons of book ideas, but the blog is tougher right now.  There’s not a ton of Duran news, and what news I do have doesn’t really affect me to the point where I have an urge to write.  It’s either feast or famine sometimes.  Anyway, I hopped onto Twitter to see if something would get my creative juices flowing, and I saw the #questionsIhateanswering topic trending for Los Angeles.  My answer?  The topic of this blog.

It’s not even that I hate answering the question,  it’s that it is even a question at all.  I can’t help but be frustrated that such a fantastic album like All You Need is Now has gotten so little notice from the general public, and what’s more – I’m completely annoyed with my fellow 30 and 40 somethings out there that they haven’t stayed more in touch with music in general.  It’s sad that once we hit the age of 30, 35 or 40 we stop paying attention to what’s out there.  Granted, I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s no wonder that our demographic no longer seems to matter to anyone but ourselves, and that’s incredibly sad.

One person commented back to my rantings on Twitter that she’s over it.  She just loves the band for what they give us (I’m totally paraphrasing here, my apologies), and the rest of it just doesn’t matter.  Most days, I would agree.  Today…I’m missing that mark.

-R

Here Right Now at DLD

I’ve got a confession to make:  I love doing homework for the blog, even when I’m interrupted five times while doing so.  This morning I watched the feed from the DLD conference with John Taylor.  Do you want the link?  Oh, you know you do….watch it here!  I have to say, it’s one of the better “interviews” (for lack of a better term) I’ve heard/read/seen in a while.  As we’ve discussed before, it’s tough for a diehard fan to get past some of the filler crap we get in magazine articles.  I don’t really need to know that the Taylor’s aren’t brothers, for instance…or how long the band has been “back together”…or that Andy is no longer with the band.  This discussion gets a little past those things, and chews a bit more at John’s insight with regard to where music has been, where it’s going, how they fit their career to the new model of business, and lastly, he talks more about the Here Right Now project.

To begin with, the conversation talked about aesthetics.  Specifically, the loss of aesthetics with regard to MP3’s.  John did give a bit of background, mentioning that their last album (that would be Red Carpet Massacre) was really a low point with them (he was referring to the lack of connection to their fan base).  I think he went back to describe that so he could explain why they chose to release AYNIN independently through iTunes.  As any of us who was around in the 80’s and loved vinyl knows – there is something really lost without those precious liner notes and album covers.  I still feel that way, and I know I’m not alone.  Yes, iTunes and the like has(have) many wonderful attributes, but there is something really special about being able to hold that album in ones hand and see that artwork up close and personal.  John continues to explain that the first video for the album (AYNIN) only cost them $10k to make.  Say what you will about labels, I do understand how the lack of resources can sting a bit.  Although in my opinion, this video is more than strong.  John says it was “nothing extraordinary”.  Maybe not.  However, if you’re asking me….and I know you’re not but that’s the beauty of this blog….I think the video is absolutely extraordinary because it feels organic and natural in a way that most videos today do not.  It showcases the song, the band and a sense of “self” that the band doesn’t often show.  Of course, on the other end of the spectrum is Girl Panic, which is the epitome of excess in almost every way, complete with product sponsors, girls, skin, champagne…and almost no sign of the band or the song it is supposed to be promoting.  Oddly, this one video is the first video that the band has had that has gone “viral” in any sense with over 5 million views at this writing.  John explains that they really didn’t know what the video would do, they had no control over where it would play or how far it would go.  (I wonder what it’s like to be on their end at times when you just have to take a step back and let the video do it’s thing!)  So, either I’m totally wrong about AYNIN or I just don’t get people.  I’d probably say both.  John was then asked if the view count of the video translates into sales – because let’s face it – that really IS the question, isn’t it?   John was honest, and I give him complete credit for not trying to spin the answer the way some in that band might have done, and he said that they don’t know yet but that he thinks it’s more about the indirect brand enhancement.  When they play it at shows, he commented that it feels more like they’re playing a hit song, even though it’s gotten very little airplay (if any) on radio.  Personally, I think he’s on to something with that.  YouTube might need to be looked at differently in order to be used more effectively by the band.  It may just be more of a marketing goldmine than anyone is really thinking.

Technology as a whole really has changed since the 80’s, and that in turn has changed music.  John feels that iTunes has really changed the listening habits of the younger generation.  He gave the example that back in the 70’s, he listened to acts like Bowie – who to a large degree were only big in England until the industry itself started thinking more globally; and his musical tastes centered around acts that were big at that time (the late 70’s).  I think to my own tastes, and I often comment that I listened to 80’s alternative.  I discovered most of my music from KROQ radio here in Los Angeles and MTV.  I didn’t have the library of iTunes to wade through (although I did love Tower Records – which was king of vinyl back in my day!), and even when I did spend time in record stores, I bought music that I’d already heard somewhere.  There was very little ability to “try before you buy” (those “listening station” things didn’t really come into practice until the later 90’s).  iTunes, on the other hands, allows for the buyer to really get a taste of what they’re buying, they can buy music on a huge global level, and just about anything you’ve ever heard from any time period is able to be bought.   You’d think that today’s generation would have better taste with that sort of spectrum to glean from, wouldn’t you?

Duran Duran’s fans come from around the world.  This much we know to be true, and we also know that during the past year or so, at least a few of the band members have tried to reach out and connect with fans.  John found that he enjoyed the rapid back and forth real time banter he was able to have with fans and friends throughout the world – even though initially he wasn’t sure he would enjoy social media.  What seems to have really struck, and maybe even surprised the band, was how fans in turn connect with one another.  I would go so far as to tell him that because the band was so late in coming to the social media “table” – fans actually connected with one another before we really even connected with them on a level beyond the stage.  Granted, we all came here due to the band, but I still say that many of stuck around as much for one another as we might have to support the music.  A drastic thought, really.  The band has found real power in our connection, and as John put it – they have seen that power and energy continue to grow.  It’s that power that I feel the band has to learn how to put to good use.  Before we eat one another, of course.  (good luck!)

While the band plays catch up and sees that if they harness our loyalty to themselves and to one another, we might be able to set this world afire, there is the Here Right Now project, which I introduced in this blog here.  This project was introduced to the fan community a few short weeks ago, but today it has been formally launched to the world.  Originally the project was seen as a way to show peoples needs around the world, and morphed into what it is today.  The band wants feedback from fans, utilizing short prompts – and over time, these prompts will change and become more obscure.  I suppose to some extent, one could look at it as though it’s a giant global game…they name the word, we think of the picture to describe what we think when seeing that word.  What remains to be seen is how much the band will take part, if any; and if the past is any sort of indicator to them – they need to know that it is this sort of thing where they really should attempt to take part.  It’s part of the whole “connecting with fans” thing – and in this case it seems as though it should take no time.  The ability to upload pictures with a mobile phone means they could be (and will be) anywhere in the world, take a picture – and upload it to the site.  Obviously, fans can and should do the same.  In a year where so much will be taking place on our globe – it would seem to be a great time to connect on such a visual level.

Of course, ask me if I’ve tried it out myself – and the answer would be no. I have to be honest, I haven’t even thought about the site lately.  I suspect it’s one of those things that can be easily forgotten, and will take the same sort of effort that going to Twitter or Facebook initially took.  Some will get it, some might not, but the beauty is that there seems to be some sort of way to connect for everyone in a way we never had before!

-R