Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Ian Rogers interview with David Hyman, founder and CEO of MOG.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq9mJGdehis&feature=player_embedded - skip forward to 22 mins for a utopian vision of music licensing that nearly came true.

Then skip forward to 35 minutes for his defence of streaming services in the face of minute royalty payments: "The average iTunes consumers is spending $40 a year on music, so just over $3 a month and out of that, the labels are probably getting 60-70%. Every time somebody subscribes to MOG, if they take our mobile option it's $10 a month, and the same percentage is going back to the labels - 60-70% - and that's much better than $3. The key question is how to we get scale." (And the answer is they'd like MOG to be bundled into your cable bill or ISP or mobile bill. If it could be bundled then the labels would probably allow all you can eat for $2 or $3 per month and the scale would be huge.)

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Nile Rodgers interviewed by Peter Paphides at Waterstone's, Piccadilly, London

Nile Rodgers launched his autobiography with a gripping talk at Waterstone's. Choice quotes and anecdotes...

In the early '70s, Nile saw Roxy Music play at the Roxy in London. "It was a totally immersive artistic experience - the crowd were fly, the band were fly, the music was textual, they were saying 'come into my world'." So Nile was inspired to try and create the black version of Roxy Music - and that was Chic.

But Nile said he always has to "swim upstream" and so it was at times with Chic. The UK label didn't want to release the first Chic album because it only had seven songs on it (albeit very long songs).

Likewise as a producer of other artists - Upside Down by Diana Ross was not well received at first, which was upsetting for Nile and Bernard Edwards because "Diana Ross was the first big star we ever worked with and we took it very seriously." They interviewed her for several days. "This was the first time in her life somebody cared about who she was; what she was - everyone previously had treated her the way we had treated Sister Sledge - they got her in and said 'Sing this'. We (took a more personal approach) because we felt we'd misrepresented Sister Sledge because we hadn't met them before they came in to sing We Are Family."

Nile wondered if He's The Greatest Dancer might have been the first song to mention brands in a big way.

Madonna played him all the songs that would go on Like A Virgin and said "Nile, if you don't love all these songs, I can't work with you". Nile replied "I don't love them all now but I will by the time we're finished".

David Bowie's phenomenally successful Let's Dance album was recorded, start to finish, including mixing, in 17 days.

Nile also said he's never had a manager. "Many artists I work with, I don't seem to do their follow-up records and that's because I don't put anyone above anyone else - if they want me, they have to wait".

Pete Paphides: "What did (an American radio station) take exception to on Carly Simon Why?"
Nile: "As Bernard would say 'Shit, you're white, you tell me'."

Nile's favourite tracks that have sampled Chic:
Alcazar - Crying at the Discoteque
Will Smith - Gettin' Jiggy With It
Notorious BIG - Mo Money Mo Problems
But his favourite of all is Rapper's Delight.

"When I wrote I Want Your Love it's because I was so mesmerised by Giorgio Moroder, and I had no idea there was such thing as a sequencer, so I thought he was playing like that." Nile has always believed in trying to play things rather than sequencing them.

"You should get a (record) deal in accordance with what you've accomplished, not because of what your attorney's other clients have accomplished."

On American Idol et al: "I think it's a little bit unfair to make an artist prove themselves, sink or swim, every day because everyone knows you can have a bad show one day."

Nonetheless, he enjoyed working with Adam Lambert recently.

Nile said of Madonna's iconic performance of on the first MTV Music Video Awards that she was supposed to do Holiday but she flipped it and did Like A Virgin, which no-one in the audience had heard at the time. "She went out on a limb and forced the record company to release that song."

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

RIAA chief Mitch Bainwol sends a goodbye letter to the music industry


video of Malcolm Gladwell on 10,000 hours

Friday, 1 July 2011

how much does it cost to make a hit song?


and a follow-up from Bob Lefsetz:

'I forwarded this to a well-placed person at another label and this is what this person had to say:

"I think their one source Ray Daniels is wrong on the majority of the numbers.. He manages Rock City, the song writing duo. He's guessing on a lot of these points. Wouldn't be surprised if they wrote that song quickly.

Mixes cost $500 to $7k including studio time.

Most songwriters work just for publishing which can be worth millions if the songs are global hits. Very few command upfront fees. Most labels never offer those and almost all writers still want to be on the good projects. Rihanna prob does pay some because she probably has a huge budget and can afford to.

Those vocal production fees are high but getable on superstars.

Rihanna's writing camp was one of the biggest I've ever seen. The $25k for 10 studios per day sounds very possible as they use nice studios. Maybe even more including engineers and equipment rentals. I think they did it as an SOS as they were running out of time to make a set release date. It did produce most of the singles thus probably worth it for her. I think they got half the album or more from it. I know they didn't get the whole album from that writing camp.

We've done writing camps before. Usually at very little cost. Writing camps are usually around 3 or 4 studios/rooms and a fun, collaborative environment.

Many producers on her album get more than $20k/track. A-list producers are usually in the $15-$60k per song range, sometime more. Still you can find great tracks from $2k up. Those fees are advances on the producers royalties. One of the big changes of the last 10 years is producer fees. 10 years ago there were many hip hop producers getting north of $100k/track, now just a few in limited scenarios.

Note all three of her big hits from this album came from the production duo Stargate and two from the writer Ester Dean."


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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hundreds of millions of people across the world may be ripping mp3s from YouTube - and this is a golden opportunity

YouTube is the no. 1 music website in the world. When you enter an artist and song title into Google, a YouTube video is often the top result now.

Did you know it's possible to rip an mp3 from a YouTube video? Do you know how many people are doing it? No-one does, but here's an indication: "Free YouTube to MP3 Converter" has been downloaded 24 million times from Download.com at the time of writing. Another piece of software that rips videos from YouTube and converts them to formats including mp3 has been downloaded 73 million times. These are just two of maybe a dozen hugely popular ways of ripping mp3s from YouTube. For more, type "mp3 YouTube" into Google.

So why aren't YouTube selling mp3s? They have enabled links to iTunes where metadata is correct, but those links are discreet, and they open a new webpage which says "If iTunes doesn't open, click the iTunes application icon in your Dock or Windows Task Bar. To download iTunes, please click here." Too cumbersome!

What we need is a one click "buy mp3" button on every YouTube page, enabling the user to buy the soundtrack to a YouTube video as an mp3. In other words, we need YouTube to incorporate an iTunes-style download store.

I believe if such a service existed then it could rival iTunes in size - especially if it included the many tracks on YouTube that aren't on iTunes, including rarities, live recordings, bootlegs and mash-ups (which are a large part of the reason why YouTube is the no. 1 music site in the world). And it should - if you can stream tracks and you can download them via an unlicensed service, why not let people pay for them?

If I'm wrong and such a service were to launch and flop while hundreds of millions of people continued to rip mp3s from YouTube, that would at least be strong evidence that we need to take action against unlicensed YouTube rippers - and of course Google could be the key ally in taking such action.

Why would anyone pay for mp3s direct from YouTube if they can get them for free? Well, none of the methods for ripping mp3s from YouTube are particularly user-friendly. Nor are they well publicised as they are unlicensed. In order to know about them, not to mention use them, you have to be comfortable with technology and relaxed about copyright law. And the mp3s obtained vary in bitrate considerably - some are close to CD quality, while others are barely listenable.

Despite all this, it appears that tens or hundreds of millions of people ARE ripping mp3s from YouTube. They are a potential market, as are the hundreds of millions of people who use YouTube, use mp3s, and would rip mp3s from YouTube if it were well-publicised, easy and legal to do so.

Do YouTube want to become a retailer? Some say there's a long-term business strategy at Google to drive down the cost of content to zero. But we know they want to sell downloads - a download store is an integral part of the cloud service they have been attempting to license.

Right now the unlicensed cloud service they've launched in the US requires the user to upload all their mp3s to the cloud, which could take several days. With licenses like the ones Apple have just obtained for their iCloud service, Google could simply scan the users' computer for files, then give them access to high quality versions of those files on Google's servers. This is a better solution for customers as it doesn't hog their broadband connection for days. It's a better solution for Google as it requires as a fraction of the server space. And it's a better solution for copyright owners as Google would pay them.

Why do people want to rip mp3s from YouTube rather than just listening on the web? Portability - with an mp3, you can listen on your iPod or phone when you're out of reception, although you have to transfer the mp3 there which is fiddly. So with Google's cloud service, the download store on YouTube becomes even more attractive. Love the Lady Gaga video? One click to buy and you'll not only get the file but you'll be able to access it from any computer with an internet connection or any Android phone (and there are 400,000 of those being activated every day). So, like Apple's iCloud service, Google's mooted cloud service will undoubtedly drive download sales, as the easiest way to access your new favourite song on all your devices will be to buy it.

But Google haven't been able to obtain licenses from all the majors for their music service, so they don't yet have a download store. For me this should be music industry priority number one - particularly now Apple have licenses for iCloud in the US. YouTube is not only the biggest music website in the world, it's also probably the biggest source of single-track piracy via YouTube ripping, and quite likely the biggest source of cannibalisation (i.e. it's a substitute for people who would otherwise use iTunes or Spotify). In other words, it's a huge shop window for music and potentially a huge driver for download sales.

Moving beyond YouTube, let's seek out all the music consumption that's happening online, then work out a way to make (more) money out of it. For every popular form of unlicensed downloading or streaming, let's either license it or make sure a rival, superior, licensed version is launched. Everywhere music is streamed or written about, there should be a buy button. Soundcloud is a great service, but it's also susceptible to mp3 ripping, so why doesn't every Soundcloud stream feature a buy button? Why doesn't every Guardian or Sun or Drowned In Sound review carry a "buy" button? Surely this is the way to grow the digital music market.


by Joe Taylor. Originally published on the MMF website.

Monday, 9 May 2011

interesting perspective on Vevo from Rory Cellan-Jones


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

the top pages on Facebook


Thursday, 14 April 2011

YouTube videos that have received over 100 million plays


Friday, 21 January 2011

"On air, on sale" is a good start. Now let's give fans everything else they want from online music, says Joe Taylor.

David Joseph of Universal and Ged Doherty of Sony made a brave and progressive move this week by confirming that their companies will release tracks to retail as soon as they go to radio.

To declare my own interest, I suggested to the Music Managers Forum that they campaign on this issue, which they did alongside the Featured Artists Coalition, the Musicians Union, iTunes and others. It's not over yet - Warner and EMI plan to continue using pre-release windows on a case-by-case basis so we can expect to see some of their releases entering the chart high after pre-release exposure, which will make it harder for media to interpret which are the real hits in the new look chart.

But this week's announcement is a big step in the right direction. It will be good for licensed download stores, bad for pirate sites, bad for people who release soundalike versions of pre-release tracks on iTunes, and not great for YouTube, which is currently the main port of call to hear pre-release music online. More importantly, it will be good for fans, who were rightly the focus of the Sony and Universal announcements.

Let's hope "on air, on sale" signals a new approach to online music, driven by giving fans what they want. Surely this is the key to growing the recorded music business - not suing fans or shutting down popular services.

Next, let's comb the internet for every significant type of music consumption out there - then let's license those services, and come up with new ideas for how to make money out of them. Or for the likes of The Pirate Bay that are truly dedicated to piracy, let's license someone else to launch a similar but better service (as Virgin Media have tried and failed to do).

Some examples:

A YouTube video is now the top Google result for most songs. There are millions of tracks that are on YouTube but not on iTunes or any other store. There are loads of ways of getting an mp3 of the audio from a YouTube video but no way of paying for it legitimately - why not?

How about a website with all label copy, artwork and label-owned photography on there? Viewing the information should be free, but prints could be available to order and images could be available to license, Getty Images-style. With some torrents, there's a printer-friendly file included which enables you to print the perfectly sized CD sleeve - that could be a commercial service.

There are forums and newsgroups dedicated to downloads of instrumentals, a capellas and stems for remixing. We should be selling these things - preferably on a website where fans could upload remixes they've made and make a share of any revenue that resulted from their remix.

How about an mp3 legitimisation service which would scan your computer for mp3s and, for a small fee, enable you to upgrade them to legitimate, properly tagged files?

Every leading artist's website should sell discographies of that artist - i.e. their complete catalogue as high quality mp3s with artwork including rarities for a decent price, available in one click. Why? Because you can get this on The Pirate Bay, but you can't get it legitimately for any artist I know of.

How about a website where fans could upload recordings of gigs they've made for others to buy?

I was at a meeting where a musical hero of mine, the artist and indie label boss Ben Watt, spoke out about cyberlockers, meaning services that allow files/albums to be downloaded by any number of users from one weblink. He was despairing because one of these companies was offering fans money to upload copyrighted content in the knowledge that this content would drive traffic, advertising sales and premium subscriptions. But surely this is exciting - it shows that cyberlockers are a viable business model and an opportunity for the industry. Why aren't any of them licensed?

Why isn't the record industry allowing fans to make available all the tracks they haven't got round to putting on iTunes, and giving them a share of the profits from resulting sales? It's easy to set up a blog giving away free music without a license, but what if a fan wanted a license to sell music off their blog? No chance. So let's make it as easy to sell music online as it is to give it away, much like buying stock for a record store - i.e. as long as you pay the copyright owners for each sale, you can sell the music. Let's have as many one click "buy" buttons on the internet as there are free streams or downloads.

How would all these services be licensed? In some cases, it would be tricky - and that's the problem. We need to rethink licensing with the aim of enabling new services rather than making life difficult for them. Our current licensing practices have scared off investors and there are very few successful online music services, while services that succeed in one country can't get a license in another (Pandora in the UK, Spotify in the US). The music industry has put huge amounts of energy and resources into anti-piracy measures. Now let's put the same effort into facilitating new services.

Licensing music should be so easy that there's no excuse for any online service to operate without a license - then the industry would really have success in going after the few remaining pirate outfits. They would no longer be launching political parties - instead they would be viewed as the moral equivalent of market traders selling shoddy CDs with colour photocopied sleeves. But, to paraphrase David Joseph, this is not primarily about preventing piracy - it's about giving fans what they want.