The Music Xray Blog
technology enhanced identification of high potential songs & talent

Jeff Blue Guest Video Post: How Important Is Age & Image For Emerging Artists?

Posted by Mike McCready | August 25th, 2015 | No responses

We’re starting a new series here on Music Xray with some guest videos from Jeff Blue every Tuesday.

Here is the first one. How Important Is Age & Image For Emerging Artists?


Apple Squashes Music App Bugs in New iOS Update

Posted by Mike McCready | August 15th, 2015 | No responses


This post was originally published at

“Always Be Tinkering” should be Apple’s motto. The Cupertino-based company released a new version of iOS (8.4.1) for the iPhone and iPad on Thursday, with the update bringing several fixes to its Apple Music streaming service. According to the release notes, the new version addresses some security issues along with the following items:

Resolves issues that could prevent turning on iCloud Music Library

Resolves an issue that hides added music because Apple Music was set to show offline music only

Provides a way to add songs to a new playlist if there aren’t any playlists to choose from

Resolves an issue that may show different artwork for an album on other devices

Resolves several issues for artists while posting to Connect

Fixes an issue where tapping Love doesn’t work as expected while listening to Beats 1

Several users are already complaining that at least one of the problems, regarding album artwork on multiple devices, has not worked. “Album covers of the music that I keep native on my iPhone are still messed up!” one user wrote in an official Apple discussion thread. “I thought that the new iOS and iTunes updates were going to fix this… I guess i’m turning off iCloud music again! Really irritated about this.” Another user added that 8.4.1 “did not fix all the issues of incorrect artwork or wrong song playing, but it did seem to correct quite a few of them.”

Zane Lowe Talks Beats 1’s First Weeks, Working With Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre, And ‘Gorging On Pearl Jam Radio’

Version 8.4 was launched June 30, ushering in a redesigned Music app to support Apple Music. It is very likely that 8.4.1 is the final update before the release of iOS 9, which is rumored for a September launch.

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Author : Billboard Staff

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Barack Obama Hand Picks Summer #POTUSPlaylist on Spotify

Posted by Mike McCready | August 15th, 2015 | No responses


This post was originally published at

If you’ve ever given a thought to President Barack Obama’s summer playlist, you’re not alone and the curiousity can finally be put to rest. On Friday morning, the White House unveiled the summer #POTUSPlaylist on Spotify, complete with over 180 minutes of tunes and 40 tracks. One was crafted for the daytime and another chosen for specifically for nightfall, both hand-picked by Obama himself who’s currently vacationing in Martha’s Vineyard.

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The White House launched an official channel on the streaming service, making the #POTUSPlaylist the first post ever. “Take a listen to the 20 picks for a summer night,” the description for the playlist states. The two playlists feature a melting pot of genres from hip-hop and jazz to R&B; and folk, spanning a collection of celebrated artists such as the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Beyonce, Al Green, Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. “If I had one musical hero, it would have to be Stevie Wonder,” the president once told Rolling Stone.

Both collections have their own Twitter Hashtag: #POTUSPlaylist, including the 1 hour and 32 minutes day mix as well as the other playlist dubbed, “The President’s Summer Playlist: Night.” “President Obama hand-picked his favorite songs for a summer playlist,” the account explains. “Take a listen to his 20 picks for a summer night.”

The 54-year-old commander in chief recently divulged to curious Twitter users that he also enjoys the musical talents of the Black Keys and OutKast. Obama wrote, “was listening to outkast/liberation and the black keys/lonely boy this morning.” The Black Keys speedily responded with a tweet of their own, asking if he would allow them to show up to a gig in presidential style in Air Force 1. Obama replied that the band should “come play at the White House sometime instead.”

was listening to outkast/liberation and the black keys/lonely boy this morning.

— President Obama (@POTUS) July 1, 2015

Further showcasing his appreciation for music, POTUS penned a letter to the Grateful Dead in the midst of their 50th anniversary and “Fare Thee Well” shows, detailing the impact of the iconic American Folk band. The president has also explored musical flairs of his own when he sang “Amazing Grace” during an emotional eulogy for the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

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Author : Alyssa Ladzinski

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Zane Lowe Talks Beats 1’s First Weeks, Working With Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre, And ‘Gorging On Pearl Jam Radio’

Posted by Mike McCready | August 14th, 2015 | No responses



This post was originally published at

Perhaps the greatest surprise of Apple Music’s first weeks has been the near-universal praise that its Beats 1 radio station has received, not just for its impressive battery of exclusives — interviews, premieres or regular shows from Dr. Dre, Drake, Pharrell, Disclosure, St. Vincent, Eminem, Elton John and many more — but also for its adventurous and ambitious programming. The station is a fusion of old-school and futurism that reminds some of college radio, some of the BBC and some of the halcyon early days of FM. At its helm stands Zane Lowe, 41, the effusive, hyper-verbal, New Zealand-born former tastemaker-in-chief for the BBC’s Radio 1, who, as Beats 1’s “special creative and lead anchor,” is charged with programming the station, which so far has been exciting, chaotic, attention-grabbing and unpredictable… apparently just the way his bosses (low-key, retiring people with surnames like Iovine, Reznor and Cue) want it — and so far, so do listeners. In just his second interview since the station’s launch, Lowe found an hour to talk with Billboard about the highlights and missteps of setting the tone for the venture.

What’s your core philosophy when it comes to programming?

I have two quotes up on my wall: One is mine, “Quality and consistency creates the addiction.” We want people to come back to Beats 1 because it has awakened something in them and they want to hear more. The other quote came from Jimmy [Iovine] and is the station’s mantra: “Don’t be boring.”

Beats 1 is supposed to be formatless, but there do seem to be parameters to what’s played. How would you define the Beats 1 sound?

The personality of the station is developing over time. We started with a selection of records. That came down to four or five of us going, “What’s popping?” Then you ask around about the artist, do a bit of due diligence. After the first week, it was really exciting to hear how it all fit together, but also at times it was jarring. For instance, we would come out of big shows by Q-Tip or Disclosure, and the first song was really slow — you’re immediately losing the impact you’ve gained from the previous song. So we made some changes. We also noticed in the first week people listened for really long amounts of time, which meant songs got tired quickly, so we revised our rotations. And we’re working on a replay service and we want to get full on-demand ready.

There’s a lot of electronic music, edgy rock and hip-hop on Beats 1. Are there set genres you’re pursuing?

No, not really. We’ve played country music, Mexican house music, South American EDM, German hip-hop. I’ve never been a fan of, “We’ve got to get 22 percent of rock, 17 percent of R&B; where’s our 16 percent of hip-hop and our 9 percent of country?” If you do it that way, you’re not basing it on the merit of the music. You’re basing it on some kind of obligation.

How about pop?

The other day I heard the new 5 Seconds of Summer record, and I was like, “Could I play that on my show?” It was really strange. My whole perception shifted, because I had never played 5 Seconds of Summer before; they went straight to [BBC’s mainstream] Radio 1 daytime and never really crossed my path. Then I heard this song, and it just sounds like SoCal pop-punk. Cool!

What have been some of the highlights of the first weeks of Beats 1?

Oh, so many. There’s huge excitement in the building around Dr. Dre and Compton. I grew up listening to his work — he has been a huge influence on me. And when Drake dropped three brand new tracks on his show. What was amazing, apart from hearing new music from him that people hadn’t heard before — including us — and one of them being a part of the whole Drake/Meek Mill scenario, was that he really used the radio to say what he wanted to say and share the music in a way that he wanted to do it.

Did you have much interaction with Dr. Dre before the interview around the Compton premier?

I’d never met him until I started having conversations with Jimmy and Trent [Reznor] about coming to Los Angeles. I was out here on Grammy weekend, and there was a meeting at Jimmy’s house. That was the moment where we laid out, initially at least, what we were hoping to achieve with Beats 1. It was a double whammy, because I was in the same room as Jimmy and [Apple senior vp Internet software and services] Eddy Cue and [vp iTunes content] Robert Kondrk, who I was meeting for the first time, and Trent. I’m trying to concentrate on saying the right things to get my point across and not stumble too hard, and at the same time I’m having these out-of-body experiences here and there, like “Dr. Dre, f—!” Which I’m sure he’s used to seeing, but I was just trying to keep my game face on.

Besides Beats 1, what radio have you listened to since you arrived in the United States?

I listened to nothing but American radio when I came here, man — from terrestrial to SiriusXM. I’d never had Sirius so listened to tons of their stations, just to get my head around the pacing and the feel of American radio. And I spent two weeks gorging on Pearl Jam Radio.


Yeah! In New Zealand, Pearl Jam is kind of a rite of passage. After about a week I realized if I don’t switch now, I’m going to end up destroying my love of this band. But Sirius is a really impressive collection of genres and stations. I definitely kicked up Real 92.3 [KRRL-FM]; I wanted to hear what hip-hop sounded like in Los Angeles. I listened to KIIS-FM, and I listened to Power 106 [KPWR]. I went across the board, man. It has taught me what I love about American radio, and it also taught me what we need to avoid, as a global radio station.

How do you like living in Los Angeles?

I spent a long time living in London, and I love the energy and the subliminal anxiety that London provided me. L.A. is very vehicle-driven. But I’m starting to enjoy that. I’m turning West Coast, slowly but surely.

How will Apple Music work if you get all of the components to click?

What we’re working toward is this one place where people can go to [the] “For You” [feature] and be fed these wonderful handmade playlists according to their tastes, go to Beats 1 and have a shared listening experience and then go to “Connect” and get close to the artists. The whole thing should work symbiotically. Also, we’re a broadcasting platform on a music service, so when people hear something they like, the idea is they’ll go deep: go into the music service, learn more, listen to the albums. That’s really important.

Do you find that planning and running the station distracts you from DJ-ing?

It’s certainly put my attention in places I haven’t been before: Looking at the station as a whole and how the flow is going to happen, and how do we incorporate more countries and different time zones? All those questions absolutely took me away from focusing on radio and suddenly I found myself like, “I’m on the air in three days!”

So how do you program a global radio station?

It just had to be about music. Most radio is entirely driven around formats that are built around time and time zones. But with a global station there’s no “breakfast” or “drive” or any of that, so we could only program around music. It’s complicated: You’re thinking, “This works well in this Sydney but what about Europe?” That’s why we have repeats – so that while you’re asleep someone else is hearing something for the first time. It was important that it was a communal listening experience. We decided to place shows in positions that gave different parts of the world a fair chance to listen to them.

Beats 1 was basically Trent Reznor’s idea?

Yeah. I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to sit with Trent, but he’s one of the most intelligent, eloquent, passionate people I’ve ever met, not just for art, but also the way people can use it. He’s really committed to the user experience, so his whole thing was like, “People have been splintered off into individual experiences — let’s see if we can bring them back together and if so, what would that feel like for the user? What if they’re using it on a device in a music service, and not in the traditional places where radio is experienced?” It was incredibly useful for me to hear him say that because it really [solidified] some of the ideas that I’d been kicking around but wasn’t sure if I was on the right path. What is really valuable and exciting about radio is the connection to a community. Trent has been incredibly supportive every step of the way.

One thing that is different from a lot of other stations is that your level of enthusiasm seems to have carried over to the other DJs. You are known for being somewhat enthusiastic on the air.

[Laughs and laughs] That’s such a nice way to put it, man, I appreciate that! That’ll replace some of the [negative] descriptions that’ve been hanging over my head. Anyway, we approached people that loved music. Hopefully it doesn’t sound tacky, but I really try to sell records because I love them and I want to share the music in a way that other people might like. We went looking for people who felt the same way, and [fellow anchors] Julie [Adenuga] and Ebro [Darden] are that through and through. And from there, it was like, OK, where is the different dynamic? And having someone like St. Vincent or even Drake come in — you can go to any number of [services] and find something that’s new or [recommendations based on other music you like]. But, how is that going to change your opinion? I like to think of us as working in a record store and someone comes up and says, “Hey, what’s good?” And if you can gain that trust, then we’re doing our job.

Have you worked in record stores?

Yeah, I did. I worked at the Music & Video Exchange, which used to be called the Record & Tape Exchange, a very famous chain of second-hand record stores in London [the supremely snobby store that was the basis for Championship Vinyl in Nick Hornby’s novel and film High Fidelity].

I hated those guys! They have the greatest selection but they were the meanest record snobs of all time.

[Laughs] It’s funny, I was the soft heart at the beginning and they had to take me aside and be like, “You just bought a vinyl copy of Nevermind by Nirvana for ten pounds. Why did you do that?” And I’d be like, “I’ve never seen it on vinyl before!” And they’d say, “That’s because you grew up in New Zealand! They sold 10 million copies of this on vinyl — it’s a 10 [pence] record, sort your shit out!” So I learned the hard way, but I loved the experience there. What it really taught me was the other side of music in the UK — the people that work behind the counter in those record stores, they are deep, deep in the catalog. And they’d say to me, “You think you’re open-minded but you’re not. You need to take things off the shelf and just try them. You’ve really got to stop sticking to your lane.” That really set me up for working in the UK because it’s a really deep and culturally exciting place for music and art.

It’s hard to think of better training for your BBC gig.

That’s so true. I remember the three bits of advice I got when working at Music and Video Exchange — this is probably irrelevant for your story but I’ll tell you anyway because it always makes me laugh. They were like, “Alright man, you’ve got the job, just by the skin of your teeth, so here’s the thing: Don’t do anything we don’t ask you to do because you’ll f— it up. Two: Don’t put so much milk in the tea, we like it strong out here. And three: I know in New Zealand everyone’s really happy all the time but for God’s sake stop being so f—ing enthusiastic!” It was epic, man. I learned how to do two of those things, but the enthusiasm has been a harder one to shake, unfortunately.

How was the Beastie Boys interview you did at the Capitol Records summit in L.A.?

Amazing. They’re my favorite group of all time, and ever since the passing of MCA, I was hoping one day I’d be able to talk to them in the context of the Beastie Boys again. It happened on the anniversary of [the late] Adam Yauch’s birthday, so the whole thing was wonderful [but] it was nervewracking to me because I’d never interviewed those guys in front of an audience before. They’re at their best when they’re being funny, when their humor comes across and they’re able to subvert your questions in a humorous way, but at the same time, when you’re on the stage having to moderate the conversation, how do you give them the freedom to do that without looking like you’re trying to insert yourself into their jokes? But it was cool, I just felt like I was part of the audience.

Do you have any input into the guest shows, like St. Vincent or Elton John, or do they just come in and do whatever they want?

They can do whatever they want, but if they ask direct questions I’ll always give them as honest and direct feedback as possible. But the formatting and idea of the shows and the music come entirely from the artists. Nobody ever tells them what to play.

At Beats 1, do you get a lot of radio promotion people promoting records to you?

It’s funny, I don’t really know at this point because I’ve been just focusing on my show. We talk amongst ourselves and we search for things that move us and we search for the stories. I try not to get promoted to because I’m looking for things that either come from my team or comes from my own search. Like, who is Gallant? Where does Halsey come from? What are they saying? It’s this wonderful freedom that nobody really knows what to expect from us.

So you don’t get somebody from Astralwerks Records saying, “Here’s the new Halsey single?”

Yeah, we do. The industry is important. These people are investing in art and artists and musicians and they want them to succeed just like we do. Some of my best friends work for labels and they really care about the artists that they work with. That trusted source is what helps us get music out to an audience.

How does it feel to be the runaway success of Apple Music? Are the other departments throwing shade at you?

[Laughter] No. The whole thing is being built with [the other units of Apple Music] in mind, and every day, we’re always communicating with them. We’re just there to play our part.

This article first appeared in the Aug. 22 issue of Billboard.

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Author : Jem Aswad

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Pandora’s Tim Westergren: Bringing Music Into The Light

Posted by Mike McCready | August 13th, 2015 | 1 Response



This post was originally published at

Although some claim that now is the best time in history to be a musician, many artists have great difficulty in accessing information regarding the rights and usage of their music. That can be detrimental, not only to their career, but it also makes life difficult for anyone wishing to use their music. Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren weighs in:


Guest Post by Tim Westergren, co-founder of Pandora.

In a recent New York Times editorial called “Open the Music Industry’s Black Box,” David Byrne said that this should be the best time in history to be a musician. Never has it been easier to record, be distributed and be discovered. The power of the Internet and streaming services, including Pandora, have given consumers the listening experience they have always wanted, and artists a platform to build and connect with audiences. The Internet has also brought with it the opportunity to bring transparency and fairness to a chronically opaque and confusing industry. Byrne is right. And it is time for all of us to work together to make it happen.

The black box Byrne invokes is real. Too often, music makers cannot access even the most basic information around the rights, usage and economics of their music. This is true even for well-known artists like himself. The lack of information not only cripples the careers of working artists, it also greatly inhibits the growth of a healthy ecosystem of businesses looking to use the music, as simple questions like, “Who owns the music?” have no reliable answer. It’s quite an extraordinary state of affairs — unlike any other industry.

The “working musician” is giving way to the musician as “small business.” And the foundation for the success of what could be hundreds of thousands of small businesses, is information.

This is not news to us at Pandora, and we are doing our part. For starters, save for a very small amount of directly licensed content, our payments are completely transparent, administered through SoundExchange, and governed by federal law — a law that every artist should know guarantees that 50 percent of the revenue goes to the performing musicians. We’ve also opened up our data to artists. Through our Artist Marketing Platform, every single artist can see a complete summary, not only of their song spin activity, but also a comprehensive view of their fan base. Such information can be used not only to audit the financial picture, but also to make smart, tactical career decisions, such as where to tour.

Thousands of artists are already using this resource. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We’re already beta testing a self-service platform that will allow artists to freely communicate with, and market to their fans, through Pandora. Recently we gave it a test run for a U.S. tour of an emerging band, Odesza, to sell tickets to its Pandora listeners, targeted to the show locations. We sold out our allocations in minutes in many places, and several additional shows were added just based on the demand we generated. We sold nearly 10 percent of the Rolling Stones’ Zip Code tour using the same technique.

The “working musician” is giving way to the musician as “small business.” And the foundation for the success of what could be hundreds of thousands of small businesses is information. Knowledge is power, and our goal is to enable musicians to harness that power to build sustainable careers. It’s exactly what the Internet was created for — to inject openness, creativity and innovation into old ways of doing things, making them better for all of us. That is the real future of music. I think David Byrne would agree: It’s time to start making sense.

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Author : Guest Post

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The Sync Power of Music and Video on Facebook

Posted by Mike McCready | August 12th, 2015 | No responses


This post was originally published at

With Facebook’s massively popular video streaming service, they face a lofty challenge of remunerating rights holders whose music is used in videos they host. Of the 4 billion views daily on Facebook, how many millions include music? How can this music be licensed and used legally? And are those views generating income for rightsholders like YouTube views are? Using industry infrastructure like RADkey and Content ID, Rumblefish and Audible Magic have enabled video platforms to become heavy users of licensed music. Is Facebook the next sync frontier? In this panel, reps from Facebook, Rumblefish, and Audible Magic will answer these questions.

Questions Answered

How are music rights holders compensated when their music is used in DIY facebook videos?

How can rights holders make their music available to video creators and begin to tap into sync revenue? How can video creators find this music?

What are Facebook’s infrastructure plans for content ID and video monetization for music rights holders?



Show me another

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Who killed the music industry?

Posted by Mike McCready | August 11th, 2015 | No responses



This post was originally published at

It took a pop singer to question why people get music for a song. Earlier this summer, Taylor Swift publicly shamed Apple for planning to offer a free trial of its music service: “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.” Her essay was remarkable not just because it challenged a giant corporation, but because it was a searing reminder of the anemic state of the music industry. Apple isn’t the only guilty party. Almost all of us expect free music, leading Quincy Jones to remark, “Honey, we have no music industry.” If video killed the radio star, who slayed the music industry? There are 3 culprits.

The first culprit: leakers. In his revealing book, “How Music Got Free,” Stephen Witt dispenses with the notion that music piracy began as a crowd-sourced phenomenon. Indeed, it certainly went that way. But it started with a small group who systematically leaked CDs, so that they could sell them at the flea market. He tracked down one of the original leakers, a man named Bernie Lydell Glover who worked at a CD manufacturing plant in North Carolina during the 1990s. Witt describes Glover as “the world’s leading leaker of pre-release music.” Glover had invested $2,000 on burning devices so that he could re-produce the albums for others, and which he sold out of the trunk of his Jeep.

But with the advent of the mp3, Glover thought, “[it] could reproduce Tupac at one-eleventh the bandwidth, and if Tupac could then be distributed, free, on the Internet, what the hell was the point of a compact disk?” Eventually, he and other leakers distributed music via mp3s, and across the Internet, which started the wave of global piracy that services like Napster and Bit Torrent abetted.

The second culprit: labels. For one thing, record labels should have instituted stricter safety measures at CD manufacturing plants to prevent leakers. But also, they were slow at adopting new technologies like mp3s and streaming services. They rightfully sued piracy purveyors, but could have been quicker at creating an online marketplace to meet burgeoning demand. Suffering shrinking revenue that has been cut in half, to $15 billion globally since 2000, the major labels capitulated to Steve Jobs: no longer would consumers need to shell out $20 for an album but 99 cents for a song. As a result, singles have outsold albums for the last decade. Record companies did themselves in.

The third culprit: musicians. Musicians deserve blame for their ignorance. I’ve worked with too many artists who say their “eyes glaze over” when they read record label contracts. It’s important to know all the ways that a label will screw you. For example, some labels don’t incorporate digital sales into their retail channel numbers, so the overall sales numbers look smaller. And even though international digital sales are growing, labels have been known to decrease international royalty payments to artists. Shady practices by labels have harmed even top-selling artists: during the 1990s, despite selling millions of albums, the Back Street Boys reportedly received no royalty payments. When you can sell out Madison Square Garden, you should dictate your terms. That’s why it’s powerful that Taylor Swift spoke up, using her perch to advocate changes that affect the entire industry.

Despite the lackluster state of affairs, some entrepreneurs are undeterred. Binta Brown, founder of the music company Fermata Entertainment, believes musicians will make more money if they retain the rights to their work. Her firm employs a venture-capital approach, infusing cash for equity in the works of artists: “We treat each artist as an entrepreneur,” she explains. Fermata enables musicians to start earning right away, instead of waiting for advances to be recouped and royalties to kick in. It’s a novel approach, and one that the music industry should consider writ large: align interests and (really) share profits.

To resurrect the music industry, it will take musicians and entrepreneurs not only forming new types of partnerships but raising the public’s awareness about unfair business practices. That’s why Taylor Swift’s letter is her greatest hit yet.

Commentary by Kabir Sehgal, author of the New York Times best seller “Coined: The Rich Life of Money And How Its History Has Shaped Us.” He is a former vice president at JPMorgan and Grammy-winning producer. Follow him on Twitter @HiKabir.

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New Feature: Submission Dashboard for Artists

Posted by Mike McCready | August 10th, 2015 | No responses

Today we launch another feature – this one is for the artist community and it will help them keep better track of their submissions, instantly know if they’ve had previous interactions with a particular industry professional, and easily identify if submissions have been made to a particular opportunity.

You can see this dashboard (assuming you’ve made a submission or two already) by clicking here.

We hope you love it!

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.33.12 PM


Why Is the Live Music Business Living in the Last Century?

Posted by Mike McCready | August 6th, 2015 | No responses



This post was originally published at

While concerts remain popular and one of the primary ways in which artists make money, there is a lost opportunity at live shows with regard to data collection. If utilized, this data could allow bands to connect with their fans on a whole new level.


By music and entertainment industry consultant Cortney Harding. She also co-hosts Hypebot’s Music Business podcast.

Imagine this: it’s the summer of 1995, you’re 15 years old, and you’re about to go see Veruca Salt open for PJ Harvey and Live. You pick up the ticket that you had to adjust your schedule to buy and head off into the crowd, where no one, from the venue owners to the band, has any idea who you are. You watch the show, mildly annoyed at the dude with the disposable camera who won’t stop taking pictures, but otherwise have a generally pleasant time. When you leave, you don’t communicate any feedback about your experience and the bands never contact you. But hey, they played “Seether” and it sounded awesome!

Fast forward nineteen years. You’re, uh, older, and heading out to see Veruca Salt headline the Music Hall of Williamsburg. You paid too much for your ticket on Stubhub because you have a job and adult responsibilities and couldn’t reschedule life to navigate the Ticketmaster website. The mildly annoying guy now has a smartphone, but other than that, nothing has changed. The venue and the band have no idea who you are. You never have an opportunity to give any feedback. “Seether” is still a killer song.

While the recorded music business has started to embrace big data, the live space lags far behind. Venues think that because you can’t download the experience of being at a live show they’ll be insulated from the challenges recorded music has faced, and on a certain level they’re right. Live streamed shows are all well and good, but there’s no way to really replicate being in the crowd when someone plays your favorite song. The problem is that much of the experience surrounding that one great moment has become so lousy that it might just not be worth it any more.

So what would a truly modern and connected concert experience look like? Let’s start with the process of finding out about the show and getting tickets. Though there are plenty of great startups out there trying to solve the first problem, no one has fully mastered the art of making recommendations seamless and keeping you on top of who is coming to town. In smaller markets it’s still pretty easy to scan the local alt-weekly and find all the info you need, but in major markets like New York and London, the sheer number of shows happening on a given night can overwhelm the most dedicated fan. Some streaming services, like Spotify, include live music listings; others, like Apple Music, don’t. Depending on how you listen, the whole process can feel disconnected.

Even if you have decent recommendations, there’s still the cumbersome process of buying tickets, including the need to be online at a certain time to actually attempt to make the purchase. What if there was a way to put down a percentage of the cost of the ticket and then have a machine complete your purchase for you if you weren’t able to be online at a given time? I’d love to see AmEx presales go the next step and offer promotions for users to be able to enter a lottery so that they don’t need to be in front of the laptop when tickets go on sale.

Then there’s the secondary market, which is a great example of free market capitalism in its purest form and a terrible user experience for those of us who don’t like paying hundreds of dollars to see a band. It’s also terrible from a data perspective, because it creates yet another pool of information on fans that just seems to sit around, unused. The obvious answer would be for ticketing companies to launch their own reselling operations, if just to keep users in one place.

Let’s say you finally get everything sorted and get to the show — where the venue will likely look the same as it does almost every night. If venues worked with ticket sellers to gather data on the folks coming to the concert, they might be able to create an audience profile and adjust the atmosphere based on that. Even the zip codes associated with the credit cards could give some indication of what the crowd wants to drink or whether they’ll be able to stay out late or need to be home to relieve the sitter. Get social data in the mix, and then we’re cooking.

Maybe there’s an influencer coming the show — send them a push notification with the offer of a free drink if they share their experience with their followers. If you see that the audience is mostly female, beef up outside security and offer to walk people to their cars. I realize this next suggestion dips into some nastier territory, but if someone’s social profile indicates that they’re a troublemaker or a predator, it’s worth passing along to security to keep an eye on things.

This data can also be used to keep communication flowing during the show. People spend an awful lot of time staring at their phones during concerts, so push notifications are a great way to spread information and keep the audience engaged. You can send quick polls to make sure everything is copacetic and keep folks up to date on set times, wait times, and all the other necessary info.

Any band worth their salt would love to have this data. We’ve all seen the sad little sign up sheet on the merch table asking for email address — you know, it’s the same one bands have had since the late nineties. There’s no reason the band can’t message the audience before, during, and after the show to solidify their connection and offer rewards.

The live music business can keep on cruising for a while longer, but eventually, it’ll run out of gas. Superfans will still show up, but the casual fan will be drawn to experiences that feel more inclusive and rewarding. It’s not too late for the industry to start experimenting with data and connecting with their customers, but they need to act fast.

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Author : Guest Post

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Biggest Contracts in Music History: Jay Z, Lil Wayne, Michael Jackson and More

Posted by Mike McCready | August 6th, 2015 | No responses


This post was originally published at

Stevie Wonder struck it rich 40 years ago on this day when he signed what was, at that point in history, the most lucrative music contract ever: $13 million for seven years and seven albums for Motown/Tamla Records. Granted, things have gotten bigger in the four decades since—both in terms of payouts and inflation rates. Here are the five biggest contracts signed in music history, not adjusted for inflation. Understand that many of these deals won’t ever be surpassed due to the increasingly smaller likelihood that a performer or band will sign for such lengthy periods. Jay Z, Lil Wayne and more cash in:

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05) Bruce Springsteen and Columbia Recordings = $150 million (2005)

There’s always a risk when considering what kind of money to offer music legends. On one hand, Bruce Springsteen is one of the biggest names in music, but that’s almost entirely based on his discography up until this point. If he puts out another record, will it bring in the kind of money that Columbia is considering putting into it? Consider that The Rolling Stones entered its loathed ’80s recording period after signing the then-biggest contract of all time with CBS, and Virgin ended up paying Mariah Carey to axe the massive contract it signed with her prior to Glitter’s failure. So far, it seems that Columbia made the right move by offering one of the largest contracts ever to The Boss: All five of the albums that he and The E Street Band have released since signing the megadeal have gone to no. 1 on the Billboard 200.

04) Jay Z and Live Nation = $150 million (2008)

Hov may only be at no. 5 overall on this list, but he also secured one of the most solid deals from a personal standpoint: Not only was Live Nation paying him $150 million, it was so that he could release his music on his own imprint, Roc Nation. Of course, Live Nation was getting a lot more than albums for its massive deal with the biggest name in hip-hop at the time-in fact, Jay was “only” getting paid $10 million for three expected albums over ten years. The rest of his paycheck came as a result of exclusively using Live Nation for his tours and business deals for the 10-year period (what’s called a “360 deal,” encompassing the act’s entire profitable identity, essentially). Pitchfork headlined its summary of the deal at the time by saying “Jay-Z signs with Live Nation for a Bazillion Dollars.” Live Nation was on a heck of a spending spree during 2008, coughing up $120 million to handle Madonna’s career, and a deal with U2 worth a similar amount.

03) Lil Wayne and Cash Money Entertainment = $150 million (2012)

One of the most popular music stories of 2015 is tied to Lil Wayne’s attempts to leave the Cash Money label because of its hesitation in releasing The Carter V, and Weezy’s lawsuit against the label for refusing to let him go. That kind of set up might lead you to think that Wayne is the 100 percent victim here…but it’s not quite true. Going back a short way to 2012, we see that Cash Money realized it would have to shell out to keep one of the biggest names in hip-hop from leaving for a more major label. Birdman and company offered him $150 million for four albums, which was the deal Wayne reported at the time. We have no idea why Cash Money is allegedly sitting on a new Carter title. But up to this point, if it drops that album, Wayne will still owe the label two more before he can split (as the Free Weezy Album was released on Tidal without Cash Money’s consent). On one hand, Cash Money owes Wayne for bringing profit-machine Drake under the label’s umbrella, but then again, Wayne probably owes Birdman for his career. Money doesn’t solve everything.

02) U2 and Polydor = $200 million (1993)

It would be logical to expect, after three $150 million deals, that the next biggest entry on the list would occur more recently than 22 years ago. Although U2 may still hold the title for the “biggest band in the world,” it truly has nothing on the massive sales/critical successes the band experienced with The Joshua Tree and Achtung Baby. Polydor, the owner of Island—the label that U2 released its biggest hits on—was certain that the band could do so again, so it offered the band $200 million to stick with the label. The move wasn’t a bad one, necessarily, from a record label’s point of view: The following albums both went to the top of the sales charts. Zooropa (1993) and Pop (1997) are generally considered among the worst of the band’s releases. Fortunately the band got back on the quality wagon as well for 2000’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind.

01) Michael Jackson and Sony Music = $250 million (2010)

You may have raised an eyebrow when you saw the date at which point “Michael Jackson” inked his record-breaking deal with Sony Music…more than a year after his death. The contract was actually negotiated between his estate and Sony. One could say that the label was being rather cynical, but numbers don’t lie: The King of Pop’s catalogue had sold more than 31 million albums in the 12 months following his death and Sony wanted to ensure that it was still the label that was reaping the benefits for the next seven years (the deal will probably be renegotiated during 2017). The deal also involved plans to release ten albums—consisting of both hits compilations and rereleases of classics such as Thriller—but also a few collections of new music, which we’ve seen in Michael and Xscape. Sony also got the benefit of benefitting from productions such as Cirque de Soleil’s ONE project. That’s about the best testament you can give for Jackson’s role in music history…Sony paid $250 million for the almost-guarantee of no new music.

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Author : Ryan Book

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