Posts tagged business
Computers and music

George emailed me to say:

I wanted to ask your opinion on what you think computers could do to make it easier for musicians to create and perform music.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately and wanted to blog two of my replies:

Collaboration: There's a lot of opportunity right now for better creative tools. The biggest feature missing from all the major Digital Audio Workstations is semi-realtime collaboration (realtime is probably asking too much until the net gets better). I was just bugging Justin at Reaper about that the other day. Maybe ohmstudio (http://www.ohmstudio.com/) will fill the collaboration role but I think it's a feature every DAW should have within a few years.

Songwriting: For a long time I've been fantasizing about rapid songwriting software. Something analogous to a lot of the more creative, less technical software for screenwriters. The software could prompt the songwriter for sections, melodies and riffs and keep them cataloged. It'd let you easily rearrange the structure and experiment, organize your notes & ideas and help you generate new ideas. Throw a good rhyming dictionary in there, a markov chain generator for lyrics, etc. So a musician can quickly hammer out a bunch of song ideas and flesh them out without spending much time dicking around in software. I should be able to write and record an entire song with a guitar, microphone and foot pedal to control the software.

And that's the tooth.

Hey I think I’m hiring

Holy smokes, I'm looking to hire an assistant. I figure I'd rather hire someone who reads this site, so I'm starting my search here. Are you interested? Some things:

  • you must be awesome at using the web (programming not necessary)
  • you must have good writing and language skills
  • you must be decent at interacting with other humans (via phone & email mostly)
  • you unfortunately probably have to like my music (or fake it really really well)
  • your location doesn't matter
  • artistic talent would be a bonus
  • you like new challenges, wearing different hats, yadda yadda, etc, etc.

Most tasks are related to Brad Sucks but I've got other projects I'm looking for work on as well. If you're down, please email me at brad@bradsucks.net and tell me a bit about yourself. Thanks!

Update: Wow, I got a shocking number of applications. I've filled the position now, thanks to everyone who applied!

David’s reverse referral fee experiment

The other day David Weinberger approached me with an idea: what if he bought album downloads from me in bulk so that he could give them away? It was interesting but I was sceptical – I'm already giving away the music for free, why would anyone care?

So we agreed on a bulk price, I rigged up a special download link he could distribute and he twittered and blogged it:

I'm trying an experiment with a business model I like to call a reverse referral fee. Here's how it works…

You click on a link that lets you download a copy of Brad Sucks' latest album, Out of It. The album of wonderful music is yours for free in every sense. (Share it! Please!) But, I'm going to pay Brad for each copy downloaded, at a bulk rate he and I have agreed on.

To my surprise it got a fair amount of attention (aka free word-of-mouth advertising). Many people thanked him for buying them the album, I got a lot of mentions on Twitter that I wouldn't have ordinarily. The 50 copies were all downloaded within about an hour, but it's pretty clear more than 50 people got introduced to my music. Plus David paid me so I made out like gangbusters.

What is there to learn from this? I'm not sure. It's clear that the reaction was much larger than if David had said “go download Brad's free album, it's free and anyone can go get it whenever”. Saying that money was changing hands on behalf of their download definitely got people's attention and created a small viral chain reaction.

David thinks this could be a viable option for super-patrons and that I should offer it as an option. What do you think?

Taking care of business

I'm at this weird point in my music “career” where doing it all myself is getting hard to maintain. I'm naturally cagey about involving anyone else in my stuff but it's probably time to delegate some of the things I'm not good at (booking, promotion, talking to other human beings).

I've been attending workshops put on by Live 88.5, a local radio station, and it's been helpful – mostly in that it's shown me what I don't want.

Not to bag on the panelists because it was very informative and they're all successful, but I felt like a big dumb outsider. Things I heard: “What the fuck is a twitter”, “I get my son to show me how to work Facebook”. The preferred strategy was generally:

  • Tour endlessly
  • Lose money/go into debt
  • Chase radio play
  • Wait for it to eventually become profitable

This obviously can work and that's cool, though the scale seems impractical to me.

I'm not unique in having put together a modest fanbase and income from music, and that strategy feels like a tremendous step backwards. And for what? All I can think of is the promise of fame, but sustainability's always been more attractive to me.

Last night I asked a long rambling question focusing on the Internet, but I think the larger question is: where do I find people who can help me grow from where I am, not re-start my career in some traditional way?

Band no more

Over the weekend I broke up with my band. It wasn't them, it was me. Thanks to Bruce and Matt for the awesome support and good times. I'm trying to figure out what's next and I'll probably be looking for ideas on here.

How does a “one man band” do a rocking live show that isn't boring as all hell?

newsBrad Turcottebusiness, live
Promotion suggestions?

So the dark, paralyzing fear of having a new album coming out shortly is that maybe nobody will listen to it! So I pose you this question:

If you were (or are) an independent musician with a very limited budget and a new alternative/rock-style album scheduled for release in a few weeks, where and how would you promote it?

I'm mostly looking for places/people to send/pitch it to, but I'll appreciate more elaborate or imaginative suggestions.

Indie Band Survival Guide

indieband A long time ago I was interviewed for a book called the Indie Band Survival Guide by some nice fellas. It's published and available to buy now. I didn't know what to expect, but I got a copy in the mail the other day and am impressed.

It's real thorough and just the Internet stuff alone would be valuable to any musician trying to wrap their head around this web thing. Plus I run my big mouth off in it.

Your locations

Since I've been going geo-crazy lately, here are some data pictures (wheee!!):

subscriber locations

map-signups

Red markers for anyone who subscribed and entered their location in the past couple of days.

album sale locations

map-albums

Blue markers for a couple years of album sale data.

subscribers and album sale locations

map-all

Not shown: Antarctica -- not big fans of mine apparently.

If you want to stand up and be counted, you can sign up on the Live page.

New music & store makeovers

In preparation for the new album release I've re-vamped all the music/store sections on the site. I'll spare you the boring tech details but it was A LOT OF WORK. Here's some of the new stuff:

  • Affected pages are music, I Don't Know What I'm Doing, I Don't Know What I'm Doing Remixed, Outside the Inbox and the store.
  • I tried to roll buying and listening together in a non-obnoxious way. Anywhere you can listen to the albums you can also buy them and vice versa.
  • Combined physical and digital buying instead of having two separate stores.
  • Every album has a flash player on it now for quick listening.
  • Variable prices for I Don't Know What I'm Doing. MP3s go for any price including. CDs have a $5 minimum.
  • Paid downloads come off the ultra-reliable Amazon S3 servers and free downloads come off my clunky junkbox.
  • Buying a CD gets you instant access to digital downloads of that album.
  • OGG format is gone, bye bye, hardly anyone bought you!
  • Lossless FLAC format is gone (but might come back?) It was more popular than OGG but not by tons and the bandwidth considerations make it rough to give away for free.

There are probably plenty of bugs (please let me know) but good lord am I glad that's over with. Did Prince have to write his own storefronts?

CD changes

I'm nearly all out of CDs of I Don't Know What I'm Doing and have a new album slouching slowly towards release. Thinking about dropping a few grand on plastic discs while I myself have downsized my once large CD collection to about 15 "keepers" is a tough thing to reconcile. It feels stupid.

I think I'm stuck with pressing CDs up for the near future. But what to replace them with?

Brad's social linkdump

In hanging around Cambridge and Harvard this week I spoke to a lot of people. Here are some of the links I remember referring to:

  • Kevin Kelly's Better Than Free article. A great, great article breaking down what artists can still charge for when the art itself is given away for free.
  • Scott Adams' How To Become A Cartoonist. I read this years and years ago and the idea of the "copy test" was hugely influential -- though I applied it to music.
  • thesixtyone - community voted music site.
  • Magnatune - "We're not evil", creative-commons based record label. Doing variable pricing long before Radiohead's In Rainbows.
  • RCRDLBL - Advertising supported record label.
  • Eminem sues Apple for using song - when talking about what would happen if Apple used one of my songs in their ads without permission. (I believe I said it would be "hilarious" and great for me.)
  • The Superficial. When talking about the escalating trend of dismantling celebrities who "artificially" elevate themselves.
  • Daft Punk's Live Show - I described their (awesome) masked, pyramided largely pre-recorded performances as blurring the lines of what people expect or want from live shows and what people will pay for.
  • ccMixter.org - Creative commons based remix site.

Self-links:

I'll add more if I can remember any.

Saul Williams download numbers

saul williams Trent Reznor released some facts about the Saul Williams record he produced and then released digitally for $5 [nin.com]:

Saul's previous record was released in 2004 and has sold 33,897 copies.

As of 1/2/08, 154,449 people chose to download Saul's new record. 28,322 of those people chose to pay $5 for it, meaning: 18.3% chose to pay.

Of those paying,

3220 chose 192kbps MP3 19,764 chose 320kbps MP3 5338 chose FLAC

Thoughts:

  • 28,322 * $5 = $141,610 which for a solo artist and zero marketing investment seems pretty decent. Of course partnering with a super famous established artist like Trent helps.
  • With 154,449 downloads and earnings of $141,610 that works out to earning $0.92 per download which vastly exceeds all bandwidth costs.
  • 154,449 seems like an extremely low number of downloads. The hype for this album was primarily in nerd-centric venues so I'm assuming the majority skipped the ecommerce shit and went straight to torrents for their downloads.
  • This isn't counting other digital sales avenues -- did they put it on iTunes? That's where most people are buying their digital music these days, not going direct to the artist's website.
  • I think putting such a low limit on what people could pay was a dopey idea. If we're going to be dealing in intangible value, why not let consumers decide for themselves?
  • Are there really that many FLAC users out there?

All in all I think it was a success even if they feel disheartened. Trent admits that he spent too much on the record. I'd be interested to know what the costs amounted to. I can't even conceive of spending $40,000 on a record let's say and having $100,000 left over would keep me in beer and guitar strings for another year or two.

Gimme Some Money v0.85

I've been jealous of Gimme Some Candy for a long time. I've hassled them to let me in but they're not accepting new artists. It's a great idea -- a tip jar with benefits. Supporters can buy items and leave a little message that gets displayed on the artist's homepage.

So I've written and released an open source clone that's pretty easy to set up. It's called Gimme Some Money. The default items are a star, heart and cookie but they can be swapped out. You can see mine (using the default icons) over on the right sidebar.

Requirements: PHP 4+/MySQL & a Paypal account

Update: fixed an IE/Opera bug and updated it to v0.86 (thanks to jason for pointing out the bug).

David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars

Fantastic optimistic article in Wired by David Byrne about emerging music models: David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists — and Megastars. His conclusion:

No single model will work for everyone. There's room for all of us. Some artists are the Coke and Pepsi of music, while others are the fine wine — or the funky home-brewed moonshine. And that's fine. I like Rihanna's "Umbrella" and Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man." Sometimes a corporate soft drink is what you want — just not at the expense of the other thing. In the recent past, it often seemed like all or nothing, but maybe now we won't be forced to choose.

As someone doing the 100% DIY thing for years, I've been scouting around for the low to midrange music biz services and been fairly disappointed with the options. Hopefully that'll improve.

Sellout Songs - The Moby Equation

moby_equation The Washington Post has a cute article: The Moby Equation. A helpful sellout guide, taking into account rock and roll ideals, the song's sacredness, the artist's reputation, wealth and time since their heyday.

These days with a PVR and downloading TV from the Internet, television commercials are alien to me. The idea of a song being "wrecked" by a commercial seems like a thing of the past, but I'm often weird about these things.

Scott Andrew pre-order aftermath

Scott gives the lowdown on his pre-orders. Very awesome and open of him to give the numbers out. Looks like it was a pretty great success and huge congratulations to him.

I've been thinking about taking pre-orders for the next Brad Sucks album but I don't think I have the energy or time or talent to set up a sweet system like Scott's so I doubt I'll bother. It's hard enough getting the record out the door.

Radiohead and pricing thoughts

I don't know if anyone told you -- I mean the Internet has been practically silent about it -- but Radiohead is offering Magnatune-style pay-what-you-like pricing (including free) on the digital download of their new album In Rainbows (site is currently dead slow), to be released in ten days. Or you can buy their $80 box of vinyl and extra songs and stuff.

I don't have much to say about the move. Radiohead is in a unique position that's about as far away from most musicians as can be imagined and I'm thinking it'll work great for them.

What's interesting to me though, especially as I try to decide on one myself for the next record, is all the different sales models out there that musicians are using. It's a little overwhelming:

There's giving it away for free and asking for donations, variable pricing, lower-than-retail pricing, higher-than-retail pricing, tiered clubs with rewards, pre-ordering incentives, club memberships, merch bundles, box sets, etc, etc, etc.

How do you choose which one's best?