[UPDATED] Tom Yorke is now selling his new music via direct to fan platform BandCamp. With Radiohead, Yorke was the first major artist to offer new music using the "pay-what-you-want" model. As a solo artist, he's tried a variety of new release and sales platforms, including most recently, BitTorrent bundles. His goal with each of these experiments has to been to bypass "the self elected gate-keepers."
In typical Amazon fashion, the retail giant shared some vague holiday "statistics" they say show consumers embracing online purchasing and digital consumption with increasing zeal. More than 10 million worldwide took advantage of a free trial to use Amazon's Prime services for the first time, for example. 60% of all Amazon purchases this season were made on mobile, according to the company, who also shared some holiday musical milestones:
You’ve played a great show. Fans are lined up at your merch booth. You’re taking cash, making change, and signing CDs. Then a guy walks up and wants to buy a couple discs and a t-shirt — but he only has a credit card. Are you going to turn him away? No, you’re going to process his credit card transaction right then and there, in the sweet, dank, dark-lit, beer-soaked corner of a basement rock club.
I really wanted to make this happen for myself and participate in the extravaganza. All the people and acts from big labels are garnering all their fans to to make it all work for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But for me, Kosha Dillz, it did not work. I came up with six reasons, and it's all ok…for now. In my first year promoting my Black Friday sale, I have sold a total of 5 shirts. Disheartening at best, I am hoping my honesty will get you to take a look at my awesome shirts anyway. Below are the six reasons why I failed at my Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale.
UPDATED: Record Store Day is holding its fifth annual Black Friday event today (Friday November 28th). There is not an incomprehensible list of sale items being broadcasted as you've likely seen or experienced throughout this week in nearly every medium imaginible. Rather, in an effort to remove commercialized chaos from the experience, Record Store Day's Black Friday Event will offer limited edition exclusives and small-run speciality items to consumers who seek and appreciate the rarity and value of such pieces.
There has been a significant amount of industry chatter surrounding the abandonment of the national release day in order to make way for a globally unified release day. Retailers and independent labels are in agreement that a global release day may be in the best interest of the music industry as a whole, but are pushing for a reconsideration of the proposed global release day falling on Friday. Worried that a Friday release could cause the industry to incur unnecessary additional costs, and ultimately defeating the purpose of approaching releases globally, the following organizations are endorsing a Monday global release day.
Millenials know only a world where free music is everywhere, but one group is still willing to pay and has the disposable income to do it - adults 50+. Chasing that market, Sony Music Entertainment and its catalog division, Legacy Recordings, have formed a new relationship with the American Association Of Retired Persons to offer its 37 million members special music packages, deals and discounts.
[UPDATED] In what most in the music industry see as a long overdue move Nielson Soundscan will add both streams and downloads to their weekly Top 200 album sales chart published by Billboard. Beginning with the Dec. 3rd chart (sales for the week ending Nov. 30 which includes Black Friday), music streams from Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Beats and others will become part of the ranking using the calculation of 1500 song streams as as equal to an album sale.
On November 10, Dutch record company, Black Hole Recordings introduced a digital pop-up store, using Twitter as it's form of currency. The first pop-up store of it's kind, website visitors can purchase products like tracks, ringtones, and digital booklets in exchange for mentions and engagements via Twitter.
News that Taylor Swift's team pulled her entire catalog off Spotify and other streaming music services has been the source of more tweets and traffic than any story since Apple boughts Beats for $3 billion. This led Stuart Dredge of Music Ally to do some unofficial back-of-a-napkin calculations to determined just how much Swift & Company were earning on Spotfy from her hits track "Shake It Off" before the takedown.
Until now, at least for me, the face of Amazon has been images of Jeff Bezos and a variety of local delivery personnel from the UPS, USPS and Fed Ex. Now Amazon is making a move that will put some New Yorkers face to face with Amazon employees. The store will be located not far from Macy's and will initially serve the public via returns/exchanges and online order pickups. But inventory is expected to follow making this experimental effort one that could ultimately lead to more cities and hopefully more retail space for music-related merchandise.
Start “selling” your new music before its official release date
A digital pre-sale (via iTunes or Amazon) allows your fans to order your music in advance of its release. All pre-sales will be credited on the official release date — so the more pre-sales you get, the higher your sales ranking for that day. Your pre-sale customers will then be able to hear/download your music on the release date.
Equipboard is an interesting new startup that, on the face of it, is a crowdsourced site for posting the gear musicians use. But when you dig in you see it's quite a bit more than that combining multiple sources for gear identification but also fashion spotting and ecommerce. In addition, Equipboard is now including a broader range of subjects beyond musicians in its database such as athletes and actors which, in essence, illustrates their path forward.
Wicksteed Works is a London-based direct-to-fan consulting and services company who design, manage and execute digital campaigns for musicians. Today they released their guide to direct-to-fan platforms comparing 10 top platforms with details that would otherwise take quite a while to round up. In addition it shares a process for figuring out which platform is right for the artist in question since one's needs do change as one's career grows.
At this point it's rather unclear what the "music industry" thinks about a global release date happening on Fridays. But given the response of retailers, it sounds like the industry and a key partner industry are disconnected and poorly communicating. A statement from the UK's Entertainment Retailers Association is helping bring this divide into the light. Unfortunately it appears that no one has made public any of the claimed data that would help those affected decide. Call me old-fashioned but this doesn't seem to be a good point in history to be stumbling around in the dark.
So Thom Yorke, famed early adopter, dropped an alpha-stage BitTorrent Bundle with some free stuff and some stuff you pay for. The new part was that instead of trading an email address for the stuff that wasn't free you now pay real money for it. What's the big deal? With BitTorrent Bundles, BitTorrent, the company, has created direct access for all sorts of artists to a large community that uses the BitTorrent protocol and includes a significant portion that spend money on music. Not only that, but BitTorrent intends to seek RIAA certification so that sales count on the charts. It's all win.
If the vinyl boom wasn't maxing out record presses before, look for that super special indie release from that barely known artist to face some pushbacks. Urban Outfitters' claim to be the no. 1 vinyl retailer was shown by Billboard to be false. Amazon's no. 1 as you might have suspected. However additional rivalry is expected from Guitar Center, Whole Foods and Barnes & Noble.
Gumroad is a popular ecommerce option that allows you to sell digital goods just about anywhere. But up till now fans didn't have an easy way to take their collection in the Gumroad Library mobile. Now Gumroad's brought the process full circle with an app for listeners that lets them automatically go mobile with their Gumroad purchases allowing them to listen, watch and read as they wish.
Stripe is becoming omnipresent as a partner in new social and mobile payment systems. They offer an integration with the upcoming Apple Pay and are also one of a small group of companies partnering with Twitter on their buy button. Facebook began testing a buy button back in July but it's only come out this week that Stripe is going solo, at least for this testing period, in powering Facebook's buy button. Given Stripe's integrations into a wide range of platforms and ecommerce services, it's worth a look if you're considering options for your music site or business.
Clothing retailer Urban Outfitters is claiming that it is now the world's number one seller of vinyl records. According to a report by Forbes, the claim was made by Urban Outfitter’s Chief Administrative Office Calvin Hollinger during a conference call with industry analysts. “Music is very, very important to the Urban customer … in fact, we are the world’s number one vinyl seller,” Hollinger said.
As Garth Brooks' GhostTunes moves forward with its digital music sales and streaming locker service, they've got their second big digital exclusive. GhostTunes launched and is said to be founded by Garth Brooks who gave them their first. Now Trisha Yearwood, his wife, is offering presales of her next album as a GhostTunes digital exclusive with physical sales presumably handled as normal. It's a good look for GhostTunes which hasn't yet delivered on Brooks social promises but could make big moves with digital exclusives.
To paraphrase Amanda Palmer, people want to give you their money so make sure you can take it. DipJar is a tipjar that takes tips via credit cards. It's designed as a self-serve solution for coffee shops and similar settings and suggests one possible solution for street musicians in a cashless society. Accepting payment in digital currency such as Bitcoin is another issue facing musicians. Lots of retailers are coming on board and now there are tools for taking Bitcoin as direct payments on your site.
Jack & Jack look likely to be the next major Vine music stars. They're two young white guys doing comedy Vines, now with millions of followers, who recognized they could leverage that fame and start making music. Their validator beyond Vine and other social media followers, including 474k+ on YouTube, is their rise on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart to #25 on the strength of iTunes sales of the single "Wild Life." How much Jack & Jack's live appearances made the difference with this latest push is hard to say but it does show they're serious about making the transition from Vine to real life stars.
Today Twitter announced official testing of its new Buy button. The feature will allow for ecommerce sales on Twitter's platform which should provide a big boost due to the Buy button's official nature. Initial launch partners include Musictoday, Gumroad, Stripe and Fancy with a bunch more to follow including musicians like Pharrell, Ryan Adams, Eminem, Keith Urban, Megadeth and Wiz Khalifa.
YouTube is a powerful platform for musicians in many ways including its strength as a streaming music service, its reach as a marketing platform and its advertising revenue. But a recent study of music fans' behavior points out that YouTube is also an important part of the customer journey to purchasing music and maybe other things as well. So musicians should make their voices heard not just on such concerns as licensing issues but on platform features as well.
After promising Garth Brooks' fans their "own version of social media", yesterday Brooks unveiled GhostTunes. The digital music store allows rights holders to sell music as digital singles, albums or bundles. In addition to downloads it provides a content locker for streaming from devices. Specials on digital music bundles should be expected in coming months. But it's not the special warm and fuzzy Garth Brooks place Brooks promised.
Are three buzz phrases enough to capture the excitement of anecdotal evidence of retail's return? Maybe so but I think it's truly exciting that the vinyl resurgence has helped fuel both new sales of physical music (especially vinyl and CDs) and the opening of new retail outlets that sell music as part of a larger experience. UK-retailer HMV is reporting a successful comeback with a wide range of in-store events while Josey Records is an example of a new indie retailer in Texas that aims to be a "cultural center around music."
"The Streaming Effect: Assessing The Impact Of Streaming Music Behaviour" is a new report from MIDiA Research focused on the music market's reaction to streaming music options and the effects of listeners' choices on music sales. Listeners have an array of easy free choices, described in the report as a "hierarchy of free," from which to choose. So, though there may be many more listeners left to make the transition to streaming, that transition continues to be difficult. In fact, it may well be that free ad-supported options rule the day establishing a much lower and more turbulent source of core revenue for recorded music.