Amazon, More Money, More Stores, #1 Albums, Over $100 Million Dollars & Sonic Youth…

By Jeff Price

So there I was on the subway reading the NY Times, and once again in the Monday Business Section in the “Most Popular” Column was the list of best selling artists/releases, and once again there was a TuneCore Artist nestled between the other major label artists.

This was not supposed to happen (so says the traditional music industry).  And it caused me to pause, reflect, and look back on the last year.  I realized I missed the forest for the trees, and it’s a hell of a forest.

AMAZON

As some of you may recall, there was an issue between TuneCore and Amazon in the EU/UK, causing Amazon to pull down the entire TuneCore catalog of recordings.

I am pleased to say, that as of last week, all those TuneCore Artists’ recordings will be re-appearing in the Amazon EU and UK stores over the next five weeks.  In addition, any new releases will be showing up in Amazon EU/UK in the usual time frame.  You can read the official announcement and more about the entire thing here.

GROUNDBREAKING DEALS THAT GET TUNECORE ARTISTS MORE MONEY THAN ANY OTHER ENTITY IN THE WORLD.

Long story short, each time a song is downloaded, streamed or publicly performed, the person who wrote the song is owed a SECOND, separate royalty.

To date, TuneCore Artists have earned over $70 million dollars in songwriter royalties, but have not gotten all of their money.  So we started a service to get it for them.

It took a year to hire the people, build the technology and get it live. It’s been up and running for about four months, and you can view it here.

In the process of getting this live, we set up groundbreaking, first of its kind, industry changing deals.  Digital music services agreed to pay directly to TuneCore the royalties owed to songwriters.  This cut out a lot of middlemen that dipped, double dipped, and, in some cases, triple dipped into artists’ royalties and added over a year before they got their money (if it all).  This TuneCore songwriting service means that instead of this money sitting with some organization in Japan, Germany, Switzerland, England, etc., waiting to be picked up, if ever, it can now make it back to the songwriter.

We also updated and modernized and re-invented global songwriter publishing administration. This not only gets more money back to songwriters more quickly, but it opens the doors for any songwriter to have a global publishing administration (until now, this was only available to an elite few, just as distribution was, before TuneCore launched).

For the first time, any songwriter can come to TuneCore.com/songwriters, click through four screens, and get a global songwriter publishing administration deal. Songs are registered with over 200 societies and digital stores worldwide, and a songwriter royalties can now finally make it back to the songwriter.

In addition, if a songwriter’s song is played in Deezer, simfy, Rhapsody, or Spotify, the songwriter makes more money via TuneCore than via any other entity in the world.

There are four more services with which TuneCore is in direct deals for songwriters, coming shortly.

Hold on to your hats, we get to change the world again—this time for songwriters.

MORE STORES

There have been a number of new stores over the recent months—some came as existing services which expanded, others are new deals for us.  All are worthy of your music.

New stores and/or expansions to the TuneCore family of stores:

Deezer
Simfy
iHeartRadio
Google Play
iTunes – expanded into Latin America
Rhapsody – expanded into Germany and the UK

(Until the end of April there is a 50% off sale to add new stores to existing releases.)

We also signed a new deal yesterday with another music service (one I REALLY like) that comes with direct licensing for the songwriter. (Press release and announcement coming on that one soon.)

There are two more in the pipeline—they will also come with direct licensing for the songwriter…

TUNECORE ARTIST ACHIEVEMENTS

There were a lot, and I mean a LOT.  So many we cannot mention them all.  To start, there were over 2,600 TuneCore Artists featured in iTunes, Amazon, etc.  Some as the Starbucks free single of the week, others on the main genre pages, main homepages, in newsletters, as the iTunes free download of the week, in special pricing programs, and the list goes on and on.

That said, here’s the short list:

#1 album on all of iTunes for almost an entire week: Hoodie Allen

#1 on iTunes Rock Chart: Thousand Foot Krutch

#1 Soundtrack on iTunes: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

#1 on iTunes Comedy chart: Patrice O’Neal and Doug Benson

#1 on iTunes Singer/Songwriter Chart: The Civil Wars, Ben Rector, and others

Starbucks “Pick of the Week” went to Jesse Thomas and We Are Augustines (they both got those giveaway cards in Starbucks nationally)

The Civil Wars sold millions and millions and millions of songs (no doubt turning down every single kind of major label deal you can possibly think of), and performed on the Grammys, while winning TWO Grammys (because one is just not enough) for their album Barton Hollow: one for Best Folk Album and the other for Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

The Dove Award (Christian music’s highest honor) was won by:

Lecrae’s Hallelujah for Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year & Jennie Lee Riddle as a songwriter for the Inspirational Recorded Song of the YearHope Of The Broken World.

Kate Diaz played the official Earth Day Event in Washington, DC.

NPR Music featured a number of TuneCore Artists in their feature Song of the Day, including Girl in A Coma and Jennifer O’Connor.

Donnie McCLurkin was honored to be a featured performer in the Whitney Houston Memorial Service.

Joan Franka represented the Netherlands in the Eurovision Song Contest.

In December 2011, Alex Day became the first unsigned artist to achieve a place in the top ten of the Official Charts in the United Kingdom with his song Forever Yours.

Ian Axel’s track This is the New Year was in the Garry Marshall film New Year’s Eve (Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry, Robert DeNiro, Jon Bon Jovi, and Jessica Biel starred).

Punchline was a featured performer on Howie Mandel’s show “Mobbed.”

Courrier’s track Between was featured in an episode of Vampire Diaries (shooting them to #52 overall on iTunes), and they have a big TV placement coming in May.

The list goes on and on…

REVENUE EARNED BY TUNECORE ARTISTS IN 2010 & 2011 FOR THEIR RECORDINGS

In 2010, TuneCore Artists generated over $60 million dollars from the sale and use of their recordings in the stores TuneCore distributes to (i.e. iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc.).

In 2011, TuneCore Artists generated and got back over $100 million dollars from the sale and use of their recordings.

In 2012, the amount of money TuneCore Artists have made is already 68% higher than where it was this time last year.

Cool!

No matter how you slice it, more money is getting back to artists now than at any point in history.

(And for the usual contingency of people insisting that TuneCore is saying all artists will be billionaires, they won’t.  Please read this article.)

SONIC YOUTH

This is more of a personal one for me.  About two weeks ago, Sonic Youth selected TuneCore to distribute every album they released up to their first Geffen album. These albums sit with Rubber Soul and Revolver in my world.

Are you kidding me?  This is Sonic Youth!  I don’t get tongue tied often, but there are literally three people in the world that will cause me to be a starry-eyed, stuttering school boy when I speak to them: Charles Thompson (aka Black Francis and Frank Black), Thurston Moore, and Kim Gordon.

I can’t tell you how many hours and hours and hours and hours I spent listening, and re-listening, to the most innovative, creative and groundbreaking band of my generation.

The sonic walls of sound, production, songwriting and influence they had (and have) on artists still resonate today.

This is a band that never ever sold out. They did it their way and stayed at it for years, inventing, re-inventing, never ever becoming or doing something that was not true to them.

The credibility they brought to any label that released their music or artist who had the opportunity to open for them is immeasurable. I am truly humbled and blown away that I am going to play any role whatsoever in Sonic Youth’s career.  It is an honor.  And a thank you to every single TuneCore employee who helped create a company of such high quality, trust, value and integrity that Sonic Youth would choose to use us.

For those that do not know them, you are missing out on experiencing music and artistic creativity that most likely will not repeat itself.

For those that do know them, it’s so worth re-listening to.

Without you, none of this would have happened.

Thank you for giving all of us here at TuneCore the opportunity to cause change and make things better for artists.

-Jeff and TuneCore


(Sonic Youth albums below distributed by TuneCore)


Confusion Is Sex (Plus Kill Yr. Idols)

Daydream Nation (Deluxe Edition)

Daydream Nation (Remastered Original Album)

Evol

Sister

Sonic Youth

Bad Moon Rising

The Whitey Album

#TCVideoFridays – April 27th 2012

To celebrate #TCVideoFridays we’ve rounded up a bunch of awesome videos from TuneCore Artists. Check ’em out!

Chester French, “Black Girls”

Corey Gray, “Where We’re Going”

We Are Augustines, “Book of James”

Jesse Thomas, “You I Want”

Joan Franka,”You and Me”

Sonic Youth, “Teen Age Riot”

Courrier, “Between”

Kate Diaz, “Down To Earth”

PaperDoll, “If Nothing Happened”

Canton Jones, “Window”

How 150 People Might Get You Headlining Arenas

By George Howard
(Follow George on Twitter)

One of the most important things an artist can do in order to help accelerate his or her growth is to implement a well-executed and designed “touring” strategy.  I put the word “touring” in quotations because this word means different things to different people.  Too often, artists feel that unless they are crossing the country, they are not touring.  This is not only fallacious, but also potentially harmful thinking.  By using distance toured/number of dates played as your metrics, you run the risk of misjudging the success or failure of the endeavor.

Think about it this way: You’re a band on the east or west coast.  You decide that you want to do a “tour.”  You book some shows in your rough (east or west coast) vicinity, and then plot out the further reaches of your tour.  What you will soon find is that, aside from Chicago, there really isn’t a whole lot in between the two coasts when it comes to touring.  Before everyone in all of these states gets irate with me, I am not deriding these states, nor am I saying that there aren’t tons of amazing places to play in the Midwest, etc.  However, for most bands that are struggling to build a following, the concentration of opportunity tends to lie elsewhere.

In fact, it’s for these very people that the following strategy is designed.  That is, artists who have developed something of a following in their hometowns; to the point where they can headline a mid-sized (100-500 capacity) room.  As a note, if you have not reached this level of being able to headline a 100-500 capacity room in your hometown, playing outside of your hometown shouldn’t really be your focus.

Once you have hit this magic number of between one and five hundred fans in your hometown, good things can begin to happen (please review the various articles that both Jeff Price and I have written for some tactics on how to develop to this stage).

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar put forth a theory that states that 150 is a very significant number.  To (overly) paraphrase, it’s the number of actual/authentic connections any individual can maintain with other people.  Think about your personal Facebook account.  You may have over 150 people to whom you are connected, but how many are you actively keeping up with?  The writer Malcolm Gladwell ran with Dunbar’s work, and suggested that ideas/products/brands spread when these groups of 150 who have organized around a product/idea/brand spread to other groups of 150.  Once this begins to happen, exponential growth takes place.  We see this every day, when something goes “viral.”  What it requires, however, for something to make the leap from one group of 150 to another is what Gladwell refers to as a “weak tie.”  That is some person who—for whatever reason—has a connection to more than one group.  Think about how viruses spread.  Some clump of people have a cold.  One person in that clump goes out of town, and shakes the hand of a person belonging to another clump of people, and thereby infects that person with the virus.  This newly-infected person now spreads the virus to all those in her group, and so forth.

The same theory holds true for bands.  A band who has reached a stage where they are able to draw 150 or so people to a club in their hometown has now reached a mass where there is potential for their music to be spread—virus-like—to other clumps of people.

The job of the band is to not simply wait and hope that some organic weak-tie does the spreading for them, but rather to encourage this type of spreading amongst disparate groups.

One effective way of doing this is to rethink “touring.”  Stop considering it as a linear experience (i.e. going across the country), and instead think of it as an ongoing, endeavor with reciprocal benefit.

What I mean by this is the following:  Once you’ve developed a following in your hometown of 150 or so, view this as your hub.  Next, look to three to five markets within driving distance of your hub.  These are your spokes.  At the terminus of each of these spokes, find bands whose values/style align with yours (use Facebook, use weekly arts magazines from these “spoke” towns to educate yourself about the bands in these markets).  Make sure that in addition to having similar values/style to your band, that they too are at roughly the same stage of development as you; i.e., able to draw 150 or so people in their hometown.

Once identified, reach out to these artists.  Suggest that they come to your hometown, and open for you.  The benefit to them is that you’re acting as a “weak tie;” you’re exposing their work—virus-like—to a new clump of people, who, because you’ve determined that there is value alignment between your band and the band who is coming to your hometown, will be receptive to this band.

In return for having them come to your hometown and open for your crowd, you open for this band in their hometown.  In this way, the band is acting as a weak tie for you.

If you’re able to do this in three to five markets, you’ll be on the road once a week or so playing in new markets, while also playing once a month in your hometown with one of these bands opening for you.  Playing more than once a month in your hometown will, over time, lead to diminishing returns as it fatigues your fans.

As you return to these “spoke” markets a number of times, you should be seeing growth in terms of people coming to see you specifically, people signing up for your email newsletter, etc.  At this point, you can add more spokes, or extend them further out to more remote towns from your hub; all the while employing the same gig-swapping methodology.

Done successfully, it won’t be long before you have a plethora of viable markets for you to play.  “Suddenly,” you’re really touring.  But, rather than randomly bouncing from town to town, taking whatever gig you can get (and typically playing in front of indifferent audiences—if there’s anyone there at all) just so that you can say you’ve toured across the country, you’ve actually built a sustainable touring circuit.

From this comes everything.  The bands who are doing this are the ones that attract managers, booking agents, music supervisors, labels, publishers, and, most importantly, fans.  Bands who are not doing this, attract none of these.  Eventually, these bands who have not employed a strategy as outlined above, and who attract no one, break up. So, remember to think of touring in the way it should be thought of: a tool.  It’s the engine that drives pretty much everything else (online/social media, for instance, really accelerates when it’s combined with a robust offline (i.e. touring) effort).  Importantly, think of markets as nodes of potential connectivity, and actively seek weak ties that help spread your music and message into these markets.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is an Associate Professor of Music Business/Management at Berklee.  He is most easily found on Twitter at: twitter.com/gah650

Related to this article: Let Radiohead Be Your Guide

The Vespers On Their New Album, Joining Forces With Siblings & More

Good things can happen when two pairs of musical siblings join forces. For Callie and Phoebe Cryar and Bruno and Taylor Jones, a great thing happened: The Vespers. Soon after the band’s formation, the young musicians took to the road where they started to develop their sound and live show through trial and error, all in front of an audience. Read on to learn about how their new album “The Fourth Wall” came together, the role that faith plays in their music, and where they’re headed. And catch them on tour now if you can!

Without using any “conventional” genre words, describe your sound.
(Bruno) We’ve started calling it “Indiecana” here and there, but the coolest I’ve heard would probably be “Appalachian Rock.”

Congrats on your new album, The Fourth Wall, that just hit stores this month!  How did this album come together?
(Bruno) Well, the band had enough songs written (most of which we were already playing in our live shows in 2011) to throw another album together. So we went for it. We worked with two extremely talented friends of ours, Anderson East and Daniel Scobey, in a 6-man tag team co-production effort. We tracked the first half in May 2011, went on tour a bunch, then recorded the other half in August of 2011 during some time off from touring in Nashville. The guys also mixed the record, and it was ready to be pressed by Christmas!

What kind of marketing/promotion did you do leading up to the release?
(Bruno) We crowd sourced (Kickstarter) a little budget to put towards the marketing and promotional side, and essentially built a team of folks to “work” the record. Two publicists and a radio promoter were brought in, and we teamed up with an Indy distro/sales company. We released two music videos, a mini documentary on our band, and some other performance videos prior to the release. We encouraged our fans to spread the word online and repost/share content about our band, among other DIY (aka Low Budget) strategies.

Has your sound evolved since your first album?
(Callie) It has. The banjo has become a lead instrument on this record, whereas the first record was almost banjo-less. Taylor, our drummer, plays a lot of mandolin in the group now. My sister’s and my vocal performances have gotten more moody. More soulful/powerful here, more sad/mournful there, and at times more joyful and fearless. The songwriting feels more mature and vulnerable as well, and we’ve all gotten a little more capable on our instruments—lots of growth. I would say this record is more intimate than our first record, a musical representation of where our personalities are at this point in our lives.

The family element of your band is really unique. How does this affect the dynamic of the band?
(Bruno) Ha. It makes things really convenient actually. With one text message we can relay word to everyone fairly easily. As far as the sound goes, my brother and I have been playing together for about 7 years now and the girls have been singing together since they were children. It’s like we combined their chemistry with our chemistry (which were, and still are, complete opposites of each other) to create a new chemistry. My brother and I are very alike and it’s the same for the girls. When we’re on stage each one of us can tell where our sibling is going next. It’s pretty gnarly.

Did you face any challenges when the two pairs of siblings joined forces?
(Callie) Yes there were some. I guess you could say their were big differences in our lifestyles that we had to weave through. My sister and I were brought up waaay differently than Taylor and Bruno. We were homeschooled and perfectionists, and they were a little more coarse and unceremonious. We had to learn to not judge each other. Long story short, we were all young and very green, but looking back now we see we were put together for a reason. We learned a lot from them, they learned a lot from us. It broadened our different ways of thinking, musically and in our individual lives outside of that.

I read that you started touring very soon after coming together, and touring “shaped” the band.  Can you tell us more about what you mean?
(Callie) Yes. We had a booking agent on board very early on, maybe after our 3rd or 4th show. That was a huge blessing. We had only known each other for 6 months or so before our first practice together, and less than a year later we had a record and were playing out of town. We didn’t know what we were doing at all when we got to some of those early shows so we learned by trial and error. We watched the big bands at the festivals, learned what to say on stage, what to wear, what the audiences responded to, etc. The songwriting mentality then became, “well what is gonna go over at the shows?” The songs on the new record were born out of that mentality and The Fourth Wall became the perfect title to represent that.

What part does your faith play in your music?
(Bruno) Our faith in Jesus is why we play music, now, honestly. We feel like we’ve been given the gift of music for a bigger reason. Our songs are simple, and our mission is simple; we just want to be a positive outlet and share the love of Christ. All we’re doing is creating music from where our hearts are. We’re open about it, cause that’s what we’re called to do.

What’s next for The Vespers?
(Bruno) The Vespers are off to play shows. Getting in front of audiences is how you get fans. We have shows announced in a bunch of states. We still take it one day at a time however. We’re realistic. We’re patient. We’re happy where we are at, and are having the time of our lives. No time for us to crave superstardom.

Download The Fourth Wall from iTunes

Follow The Vespers on Twitter

Become a Fan on Facebook

Learn More About The Vespers

Gadgets We Like: Webdoc Connects Artists & Fans Through Interactive Media Posts

Looking for some interactive ways to engage with your fans on the web? Webdoc offers up a blank canvas that can be easily customized with photos, videos, text, and services like Songkick, iTunes, Topspin and more.  The only requirement for using Webdoc is that you know how to drag and drop. If you’ve got that down you’re good to go.

Once you create a free account you can start posting content to your heart’s content.

Webdoc’s got some ideas to get you started: Create an interactive e-flyer to promote an upcoming release or show. Or put together a “backstage” page so you can invite your fans to get to know you and share their appreciation of your music.

Once you’re satisfied with your creation, get it out to your fans!  Share it through Twitter and Facebook so your fans can participate and contribute their own posts. You can also easily embed your creations on your social platforms like your blog or band website.

For a more in-depth look at Webdoc, check out the video below…

Go to Webdoc.com to get started