Archive | Geeking Out
If there’s one thing the current musical climate has taught us, it’s that there aren’t as many gatekeepers as there used to be. A motivated artist can record a studio-quality album in their living room for the price of a computer and some time and get it on all major online music services for free. And while there are still many reasons to sign with a label, it’s not the necessity that it used to be to gain exposure. However, a recent study done in the UK says that 71% of unsigned artists are still looking for a label deal.
There are a handful of reasons why the 301 artists interviewed for The Unsigned Guide want label backing. “Marketing and promotional support” was the top reason, with 76% claiming that as the primary reason. Tour support and a record advance were the next two reasons, with 46% and 35% of artists claiming those would be benefits of having label support. So basically, the motivating factor of unsigned bands to want to sign with a label is money. But unless your band takes off, that’s money that you’ll owe to the label and might not recoup.
The article. which we first read about on Digital Music News, cites another study from BVMI, which represents the German music industry. There, 80% of unsigned artists wanted to be signed. It would be interesting to see how unsigned artists in America would react to the same question. Educated artists know that they’re probably not going to make a ton of money off album sales whether they’re on a label or not. And while there are certainly advantages to having a label throw their marketing and promotional support behind you, there are many bands talking the DIY approach and doing fine. We’d think that the number of artists claiming they need to be signed would continue to slowly decrease as time goes on.
Regular readers of Metal Insider know that last year was a good one for the beleaguered music industry, with the first annual increase in units sold since 2004. Now there’s more good news for the industry, according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It turns out that 2011 also had its first increase in actual revenue in seven years. The 0.2% increase isn’t that much, but that puts revenue at just above $7 billion.
According to a report in the New York Post, the increase was fueled by subscription services, like Spotify. Rdio and MOG. While the number of subscribers to digital services is still moderately low (1.8 million), that’s up 19% from 2010, and generated $241 million. Sales of digital albums were up 25% from 2010, topping $1 billion. Regardless of what side you’re on in the subscription services or where you stand on paying for music, this should be seen as a positive sign. Many of the labels that are still standing don’t have the bloat that they had in their heyday, and while it would be naive to assume that most of the labels’ revenue is going to the artists, it still means that they’re likely being compensated better than they were in 201.
When I was an intern, I made lots of copies. Really, that’s pretty much all I remember about my internship. Also, when I interned at WMMR’s metal show (R.I.P. Rockers!), I once had the honor of making coffee for King Diamond. At any rate, an intern at music service Last.fm did a project during his internship where he did gender plot graphs of who was listening to what at Last.fm according to their age and gender. And guess what dudes in their 20s are listening to? Plenty of metal, apparently. Artists like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Slayer are up there, but so are acts that wouldn’t be as obvious, such as Periphery, Soilwork, and High On Fire. As the typical male listener gets older, there’s still some metal-leaning artists in there, most notably Kings X.
The intern also did one for genres of music. While almost an equal amount of males and females listen to Metal, it’s unsurprising that the listenership gets more male as the subgenres (math metal, death metal, mathcore) get more specific. And Joe Satriani gets his own category! As everyone across the board gets older, metal drops off, as do pretty much any recognizable artists, as does the frequency of listenership. It should be noted that this is a British study, which might account for something or other, but I’m not quite sure what.
NARM (or the National Association of Recording Merchandisers) is an association for music industry professionals that’s been around for more than 50 years. Their annual convention is taking place this year in Chicago from May 14-16. What’s that have to do with metal? Well for the first time, they’re having a “Metal Meetup,” which will be a discussion about the state of the metal industry from people involved in it.
The Meetup, on Sunday, May 16, will be moderated by Metal Blade’s Brian Slagel, and will feature other luminaries including Strong Management’s Vaughn Lewis, Relapse Records’ Pat Egan, Roadrunner’s Austin Stephens, EMI’s Sarah Wefald and *cough* me. There’s going to be a lot of ground covered, so if you’re in the Chicago area, in the music industry, or just want to be, you should register now. For only $99, and you’ll get admission to the Metal Meetup, the two day “Music Business Crash Course,” and a cocktail party following the Metal Meetup. If you’re a student, you can get in for only $49.
NARM Director of Digital Strategy and Business Development Bill Wilson coordinated the inaugural metal event for the association. Wilson has run his own label in the past, and also logged time as the GM of Earache in the mid-90s. We spoke to him about NARM as well as touched on some of the things that will be spoken about on the 15th.
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In a move that surprised chart watchers and could have an impact on how new music charts, earlier this week Billboard Magazine announced that their Billboard 200 chart will change significantly starting with the December 5 issue. With that week’s chart, catalog albums will appear alongside current albums on the list, which ranks the top 200 albums sold that week. Currently any album ranking below 100 that’s 18 months old and doesn’t have a current charting single is removed from the chart.
What are the implications of this? Well, for one, expect to see a lot of Greatest Hits albums on the chart. And when an event happens, like Michael Jackson’s death/concert film or the Beatles catalog being re-released, expect to see multiple titles from artists on the chart. You’ll also see albums that consistently sell copies, like AC/DC’s Back In Black and GN’R's Appetite For Destruction, popping up. The down side is relatively small. For the last year or so, any band that sold 2,500 copies or so in their first week had a pretty good chance of cracking the top 200. The bar has been raised now – with the number of catalog titles that would be in this past week’s top 200 (35), that’s 35 new/existing albums that wouldn’t be in the chart.
This is a good move, in our opinion. It reflects how people that still buy music purchase it. Many music fans will opt for a greatest hits album over buying a full album. And there are classic albums that people will always buy. It’s about time there’s a chart that reflects that.
(full disclosure, this post’s author worked used to work at a Billboard-affiliated magazine).
Of all the things things the decline of physical CD sales has brought about, we might miss the record store clerk the most. Sure, there were plenty of elitist indie douchebags of the High Fidelity variety, but also passionate music fans trying to help steer people towards music they wouldn’t otherwise have heard. It’s in that spirit that Panel, a new iPhone app, is operating. The $2.99 app gives tastemakers – musicians, producers, record store owners, DJs, music writers and more, a forum to share music. Each week, a different tastemaker will stream two albums, giving commentary and featuring interviews.
The service definitely seems a little more in the indie rock world right now, but producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, Minus the Bear) is listed as a participant, and the work he’s done on Mastodon’s first three albums alone is enough for me to take notice. Panel is not going to completely replicate the record store clerk (shout out to Philly’s Third Street Jazz and Rock!), but considering the most advice from employees you’ll usually get while buying records is “the CD section is between household appliances and TVs,” this service might be worth trying.
Last month, MySpace did the music world a favor and disabled autoplay on their profiles, saving the world from crimes against music being commited by bored 16 year-olds that have Garage Band and an Attack Attack! album. Although it hasn’t even been a month, the number of plays on MySpace has dropped dramatically. Media tracking company Big Champagne found that plays in August dropped 20.7 percent from July.
The company canvassed thousands of top artists on MySpace Music, convering the most heavily-tracked names. In July, it showed 1.436 billion plays. In August, it had dropped to 1.138 billion. This is pretty notable, given than they didn’t disable autoplay until around August 18. The bigger picture is that many visitors to a band’s MySpace page might not actually care much about the music, and if anyone has been using number of plays from a band to judge their influence and popularity, they might have to re-examine that.
Albums mixed in 5.1 surround sound (that’s five speakers plus a subwoofer) have always been hard to come by in the metal scene. The 5.1 album has been a niche product in general because of the format’s higher price and limited playability (it’ll only play on your DVD player, but you’ll still have to buy the CD version for anywhere else). And that’s not to mention the geeks-only factor of being an audiophile format in a compressed-mp3-is-good-enough age.
With its low sales and high production costs, the format has been mostly relegated to mainstream, classic releases like the Beach Boys and Phil Collins – most metal bands just don’t have the budget to mix an album twice. Still, there are metal artists with the technical chops, high production and careful attention to their craft that deserve the high quality 5.1 treatment. We present to you some absolute must-own 5.1 surround sound metal albums.
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