Monday, May 21, 2007

The Labels, The Internet and the Artist

Internet, as a giant copy and distribution machine, may and should continue to afford artists with greater autonomy well into the future. Reports of musicians' success in using this copy-and-distribution tool continue to pour in.

For example, Wall Street Journal's John Jurgensen writes about how musicians use the Internet to promote their work ("Singers Bypass Lables for Prime-Time Exposure," May 17, 2007, WSJ, B1). The report focuses on the case of singer and musician Ingrid Michaelson, "a 26-year-old Staten Island native who ... was discovered on MySpace by a management company that specializes in finding little-known acts and placing their works in soundtracks for TV shows, commercials, movies and videogames."

Many shows will only pay unsigned artists about $1,000 for the use of their music on TV, while artists on major labels might garner more than $30,000. Since she has been signed to Secret Road [Music Services, not a label], Ms. Michaelson has been paid up to $15,000 each time her music has been featured on a show or commercial, according to someone familiar with the deals. Secret Road says its cut of Ms. Michaelson's income is in keeping with industry standards of between 15% and 20%.

TV, of course, has become an increasingly powerful force for driving music sales. Apart from "American Idol" and "Saturday Night Live," possibly the most coveted TV slots for musicians are on "Grey's Anatomy," which has helped make songs like "How to Save a Life" by the Fray into top sellers on iTunes. A finale spot on "Grey's" is considered a particularly plum slot. Last year, the finale allowed Scottish band Snow Patrol to break through to a broad audience and played a role in making its featured song, "Chasing Cars," a hit.

Because Ms. Michaelson doesn't have a record-label contract, she stands to make substantially more from online sales of her music. For each 99-cent sale on iTunes, Ms. Michaelson grosses 63 cents, compared with perhaps 10 or 15 cents that typical major-label artists receives via their label. So far she has sold about 60,000 copies of her songs on iTunes and other digital stores. Ms. Michaelson is pouring most of her profits into pressing her own CDs and T-shirts, hiring a marketing company to produce promotional podcasts and setting up distribution for her CDS.

The fact that much good music today is discovered on the Internet before it ever makes it to the labels demonstrates that the labels need to reconsider their full "supply chain" and continue to review their policies and rules governing the protection and distribution of cultural content they come to license ("for a limited time").

On the same day as the report above, The Wall Street Journal also reported a significant move away from DRM which indicates the labels are recognizing the role of the Internet as a means to build networks of fans for artists through low-cost copy-and-distribution of content:

EMI Group PLC, the world's third-largest recorded-music company by sales (and the fourth-largest in the U.S. market) announced yesterday it would license its catalog to Amazon's DRM-free service. The three other major music companies haven't said publicly whether they expect to play ball with Amazon, but people close to all three companies said they don't expect to license content to Amazon in the near future. That means consumers shopping for downloads on Amazon will be able to buy tracks from EMI artists like Norah Jones and Coldplay, but are unlikely to be able to find music by most other major artists, including, for instance, each of the top-10 selling albums last week. Another complication: Apple's iTunes is moving toward offering music without copy protection, and also plans to release EMI's catalog in that format.

Much of the early use of DRM technologies has focused on limiting the power of digital copy and distribution of content.

1 comment:

jeff said...

I enjoyed your posting and wanted to share a few more succes stories from the world of TuneCore

* Liam Sullivan – With no label, Liam used TuneCore to get his music into iTunes and sold over 120,000 copies of his songs in less than 86 weeks. He received 100% of the revenue. Liam is a comic actor who writes, produces, directs, edits and stars in his own short films. One of his most popular characters is Kelly, whose “Shoes” video went viral on YouTube and has garnered over 20,000,000 views. Though a popular success on YouTube and MySpace, Sullivan didn’t see a financial return on his work until he used TuneCore to get Kelly’s music onto iTunes. He is now managed by Bill Silva Management and represented by the William Morris agency, is touring on the college circuits, and is in talks with several record labels and TV networks.

* Secondhand Serenade – John Veselly is Secondhand Serenade. John used TuneCore to get his music into iTunes and other digital stores and sold over 200,000 songs in four month. He received 100% of the revenue. At the time, Secondhand Serenade was an unsigned artist with no record label, no press agent, and no radio play. The band used MySpace and MP3 blogs to drive sales. John was subsequently offered multiple record label deals and was able to craft a unique deal on his terms signing to Glassnote Records. Secondhand Serenade, an unsigned artist, No record label, no press agent, no radio play, used TuneCore and sold over 200,000 songs in three months. He received 100% of the revenue. MySpace and MP3 blogs drove the sales. He was offered multiple record label deals – waited and was able to craft a unique deal on his terms signing to Glass Note Records.

* Jeffree Star – Jeffree is a dance music artist. He used TuneCore to deliver a 4 song EP to iTunes. 5 days before he announced its availability, and with no label, no publicist, no tour dates, no radio it went to #1 on the iTunes dance chart and into the iTunes Top 40 most sold albums. He received 100% of the revenue. He is now on the True Colors tour with Cyndi Lauper, Erasure, Dresden Dolls, Debbie Harry and more. He also has a reality show and Makeup Line in the works and is a celebrity Makeup Expert for Life and Style Magazine.

* Catherine Feeny, signed to Tallgrass, a small independent London label. She used TuneCore to get her music delivered into iTunes globally and went on to sell over 17,000 songs in three months. She received 100% of the revenue. Via TuneCore, this English based artist sold a significant volume of music in the US. Catherine has gone on to tour with Martha Wainwright, Kelly Jones, Tim Finn, Suzanne Vega, John Prine, Dr John, Ben Taylor, Indigo Girls; Hal and Aberfeldy. Catherine's song 'Mr Blue' is featured in 'Running with Scissors' and an episode of the OC.

* In late April of 2006, New York singer songwriter Jaymay used TuneCore to upload her homemade 5 song EP 'Sea Green, See Blue' to iTunes. Soon thereafter, her EP attained the #1 slot in the iTunes Folk section for both song and album and cracked iTunes’ Top 100 Albums overall- Jaymay has since sold nearly 20,000 songs around the world. Positively impacted by her TuneCore sales, Jaymay’s ability to reach an international audience as an independent artist provided leverage in negotiations when approached by multiple independent and major labels. Jaymay has recently signed with EMI/Heavenly Records in the UK who will release her forthcoming album and additional EP’s worldwide.

With Nielsen SoundScan already reporting almost 200 million digital units sold this year (and those are just the ones they are counting), it is no wonder that artists are building careers, selling significant volumes of music and generating more revenue than most “signed” artists while keeping their rights utilizing the new model created by TuneCore.

Unknown artists are launching their careers before they have managers, publicist or record labels and gaining global fame as well as more revenue than they could via the old music industry model.

In addition to unknown artists, known and established artists are also utilizing and embracing the new model created by TuneCore.

Guns ‘n Roses founder and guitarist Izzy Stradlin, with no label, sold his solo albums to Guns ‘n Roses fans across the world from his own home

Ricky Skaggs and Ziggy Marley, with no label, made their music available globally via TuneCore and won GRAMMYS in 2006 for the Best Blue Grass and Best Reggae album of the year

And all of this success while retaining all their rights, getting all of their money in a non-exclusive agreement that can be cancelled at anytime and without signing over rights to their masters.

“With G ’n R I would be onstage in front of 20,000 or 30,000 people playing our songs, but at the same time I would have this piece of work that I’m just dying to get out. This is a way for me to get the music out there — there are zero people between me, my music and the fans”
- Izzy Stradlin [Read the full story here.]

“With the help of TuneCore my new album ‘Love Everlasting’ is currently number one in my state. TuneCore’s services are unsurpassed I plan to continue working with you guys for a very long time. I thanked you in the album credits so I guess now you will have to buy it to see.”
- Jennifer Deejay

“TuneCore has been a blessing the music business has been yearning for. We have several artists in their user friendly system and wouldn't even think of looking for an alternative.” - Jonathan Klear, Milspro Management, Josh Kelley