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December 14, 2010

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Pat from RockStar Machine

David, I think this post is a bit dangerous. While I agree with you about familiarity (ie. cover, etc.), The YouTube angle sends a message that requires clarification.

In trolling music promotion sites, boards, question sites and such as I do, I've discovered that the "cover a popular song and put it on YouTube" meme has reached epic proportions. Having seen this discussed as often as it is, I started to check out popular songs on YouTube. If you can last more than 10 minutes going through the first 3 seconds of people singing along with "Poker Face" playing in the background I must commend you.

While you mentioned that they have talent - they do - there are also some things that you didn't mention that I think make a huge difference.

- They're well produced. The sound quality of their tracks is very clear and their mixes were tight.
- The videos are well edited.
- Their productions may be DIY, but they still handle things with noticeable professionalism.
- Most importantly - YouTube is clearly not their only outlet. They also play live, including their performances on their YouTube channel.

The last point is why I used the term 'dangerous'. AHMIR didn't take a set-it-and-forget-it attitude by putting their music on YouTube. They got out and worked at it too, and the combination of interest offline and accessibility online is what seems to have made the difference.

Too many aspiring rockstars would take a post like this to mean that they should follow the cover-a-popular-song/YouTube meme. Success stories like this are few and far between. People win the lottery every week, but that doesn't make it a good retirement plan.

I think the real takeaway here is that having high numbers to point to - be they self released album sales, social networking followers, or views on a site like YouTube - is an asset when you're trying to get attention from the industry or the media.

These things are metrics of public interest. Check out the explanation of what caught the label's attention at 2:00 in the first vid. "...they had a lot of fans..." - first thing she noticed/mentioned.

David Hooper

Good points. Having a "proven concept" is vital. Labels, like any business, want to minimize risk and this is the best way to do it. If something works on a small level, it will likely work on a larger one.

Would be interesting to see a survey of all the people putting music on YouTube to find out how many of them are doing so to be "discovered" or something else to do with music business. While I'd bet a lot of them wouldn't mind something, such as what AHMIR got, I think a lot of them are probably doing it just because they're fans of the music and want a little attention and/or feedback from others.

Kris

Getting signed is one thing but the true facts about the music biz no one is selling. There's tons of talent out there but it doesn't mean they are going to sell & become a profitable signing?

What most people forget is that money has to be place to fund promoting & marketing of a CD along with a recognizable profit. Most of this is basic common sense but many seem to over look it all and base being signed on the merit of talent alone!

Of course talent is needed but we are living in a time that the majority of the potential consumer doesn't exist. The new generation of music listeners doesn't believe in buying CD's or legally downloading music on the net. In 2008 alone the ratio of those who buy CD's compared to those who illegally download music was 1:40 (again...this speaks for it self especially in a time that CD sales have been fallen on an average of 12% each year since 2000). (Hundreds of reputable proof and facts are available online via a simple google search).

I wish everyone the best when signing a record deal but how lucrative can it be if they are only selling 1500 in their 1st week of release and it is costing them more then $40,000 in promotions for that same CD?

(Even with a 50% drop that usually occurs in the 2nd week of sales that would mean that the label is $17,500 in debt and knowing that artists are also having problems selling, things seem more difficult then ever).

Carol

I think it's interesting that they are asking people to buy their music on itunes and not steal it. I wonder if this works. I don't think so and I still think we need to start looking at other sources of income from music rather than sales of songs. I see the song as a promotional tool, yes it's sad and I know all the arguments and came to this town as a songwriter myself, so I get it. However it feels like bands are turning into a charity. There's a similarity to this and the mail I get every day from a new charity asking me to donate.

David Hooper

I think it helps. Most people want to support the artists they like, but many need to educated about how to do this. Believe it or not, thanks to the "anti-label" feelings going around, some don't put two and two together that not paying for music also takes money away from artists who would be helped had the music been purchased.

But you are right that some musicians/songwriters come off like a charity... The "if you don't pay me, I'm going to stop creating music" argument can be very annoying. We all know that's not true anyway, since people, for the most part, make music because they enjoy it.

David Hooper

I don't disagree with you in general, but a few thoughts...

1. Some people ARE selling.

2. Most people want to support the artists they love, but don't know how. The public has a big misconception about the music industry and it hasn't been helped by the media we put out such as shows like Cribs and music videos with cars, jewelry, and designer clothing.

3. Just because somebody illegally downloads music, doesn't mean they'd buy it. There have been studies done which say that every 8000 downloads results in one lost sale.

Time will tell whether this deal is worthwhile for the band and label. I am planning a followup and will let you know once a little time has passed. :)

Thanks for your comments!

UberdanSounds

At least they have a recognizable sound & I think they will do well. As a composer/producer myself I've noticed that you really have to write for what the market demands. Hip Hop/Pop/R&B is in high demand these days so I think that's another reason they're doing well. Not that you couldn't carve out your own niche if you wanted too, but it certainly helps to get noticed. I think "Covers" can definitely help, I'm finishing up a couple X-Mas tunes for next season now, but done in a different way.

gant roades

the whole biz has gotten plumb stupid and free music is not free let some of these jerks who down load or shall i say toad all day go out and see what it takes toput a cd together or a song for that matter
i hope you all wind in jail where u belong
cuz youre nothing but cheap little bastard thieves

Cam

I'm curious about the legalities of doing cover songs. I imagine that if I'm going to use someone else's music to sell myself, I would need to get permission through the appropriate channels. I don't know the rules in the USA but in Canada I can perform cover songs live as much as I want. If I want to broadcast them or sell them on an album of my own, I need to get permission from the publisher. How feasible is it to get permission? Also, I know that Youtube has regulations with regard to the posting of non-original content although, from what I can tell, they rarely enforce those regulations.

David Hooper

YouTube has a deal with publishers, so you're good to post covers there. If you're doing to release a record of covers, which is what AHMIR has done, you need to pay mechanical royalties, which is usually done via Harry Fox Agency. If a song has already been released once, you can get a license without permission of the creator.

Pat from RockStar Machine

If you really want to understand the fall off in music sales, you have to realize that there are several factors that contribute to the decline and illegal downloading doesn't account for nearly as much of it as people think.

Before p2p, people had CDRs and before that they had recordable cassettes/high-speed dubbing; both were widely used to share music and had no measurable effect on music sales. While file sharing has made it easier to copy and share music, the true measure of it's impact would be how many consumers it has removed from the market entirely (or how many people ONLY get music from illegally downloading).

David is completely correct in that illegal downloads don't actually mean lost sales. When you hear about college kids getting caught with 100,000 illegal downloads, or even the 9 year old girl that got caught with 3000, you have to ask whether these people would have actually bought, or even had the money to buy those songs... the answer is likely "no".

I've seen conflicting numbers as to how many people have ever used p2p/torrent sites ranging from 29-49% of people who consider themselves music listeners. The "have ever" part is what tends to get overlooked, which makes the 29-49% part seem dramatic. There are a lot of former file sharers that either got caught or were afraid of getting caught that no longer do it.

There are other, more logical factors, that seem to have a greater impact. For example, the option to legally download a-la-carte from services like iTunes has made buying full albums obsolete - thus, fewer album sales. I rarely buy CDs anymore, getting nearly all of my music from iTunes, and the ability to buy single tracks instead of full albums has made my music dollar go a lot further.

If you look at the track popularity on iTune's TOP SELLING ALBUMS list, you'll notice that there are typically 1-3 tracks with high popularity and the rest are relatively low. If you look at albums that are considered "classics", you'll notice much higher popularity results on every track.

This suggests that much of the decline in sales is due to the elimination of the need to buy entire albums and the continued inclusion of what are commonly referred to as "filler tracks" on most releases. In a way, it's sort of amplified the 80/20 principle in that now only the 20% of good music sells and 80% of the crap doesn't.

Of course, there are other things to consider beyond all this, but as usual I've written far too much comment for one night. It's just that I always feel compelled to fill in the many blanks that seem to be left whenever the topic of piracy comes up. I'd hate to see people give up on music because they think they can't make any money at it if they become successful.

I'm sure the "no one can sell music anymore" line would come as a shock to Lady Gaga and her 20 million plus (legal) downloads.

Paul

Why in the world would these guys need a record deal? If they are such DIY stars why haven't they transitioned to big time digital distribution. They'll now need to sell twice as much to even come close to the money they were seeing before and now they are handcuffed from a business perspective. Through numbers they can get on college and even AAA Radio. Prove yourself there and go to low rotation on mainstream, prove yourself there and get real spins if that is their goal.

I'm unclear on how a record deal is exciting beyond a musician just wanting a record deal unless Robbins has some uplift plan with a major that will get them a significant advance.

BTW, is Robbins a specialty label that just does covers?

David Hooper

I think, for a lot of bands, even though they don't "need" the deal, there is something nice about having one. Assuming you have a good contract with a good team, it can be beneficial to expanding your audience and long-term income, even if you don't make as much on the albums released with the label. At the very worst, it's credibility you can leverage for future projects.

Robbins doesn't just do acts with cover songs, but have had a lot of success with covers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JNhTNGC9vTo was one of the biggest in the last couple of years.

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