Who doesn’t love an infographic? They’re all the rage and I’m just waiting for the Portlandia episode to emerge that mocks it. With SXSW fast approaching and over 1,400 bands and artists set to play at the festival, MusicMetric, a company that specializes in tracking all of that new data about music and entertainment, has assembled this fun infographic outlining which of those artists are getting the most online buzz and activity.
Looking at this survey from The Nielson Company of global music consumption habits I think not. Digital music sales are flat, music consumption habits are changing and so are the demographics and desires of music fans themselves. So why is there no innovation in music product to cater to these new habits and consumers? Why aren’t the labels listening? Why aren’t they cooperating and creating appropriate licensing models that will spur new product innovation and….revenue?
Clearly the old model of buy and listen isn’t winning the popular vote anymore. When the labels had control over music supply it was a very viable and lucrative model. But guess what, they don’t have control over the supply anymore, whether they like it or not. Consumers have a choice and try as they might to squelch piracy with their iron fists of legislation, at the end of the day they’re losing…and making everyone suffer along the way. It’s a slippery slope of defense with an inevitable ending. The reality is right there in this chart. This isn’t the music consumer of yore. It’s a YouTube generation filled with a new kind of music fan that wants to experience music and share it. So let’s put this lame horse known as the old music industry out of it’s misery, make some glue, and build new product strategies that support both the artists and consumers. Goddamnit.
Grand Canyon is a New Mexico-based band that recently emailed us about their debut album release ‘The Hits’ on cassette tape. They shared with us their insights for choosing cassette as their physical medium. The group also has a digital version of the album, which you can download for free on Bandcamp.
For us, cassettes were the right choice for a lot of reasons. The biggest was that a lot of the material (mainly drum tracks and vocal tracks, but some guitar and bass too) were recorded originally on cassette tape on a Portastudio. So we wanted to keep some of the release analog in the same way. We also took a very DIY approach to this album (it’s all self-recorded and self-released) and the lithographed and uniquely colored j-cards, and uniquely colored tape labels (all done by the band and a few friends) were just another way we could showcase the do-it-yourself experience. Tapes were only a little cheaper than CDs, which helped, but we thought that the appearance of the final product of the tapes was aesthetically much better than the similarly priced discs. Plus the coloring party was fun.
Sound wise, we were into the idea of tapes too. Three of our four band members are in our mid-twenties, so we grew up listening to music on cassette. Cassettes, of course, offer “that analog warmth,” and while the sound doesn’t stay as pristine on cassette as it does on cd (assuming you can keep your discs from getting scratched, but that’s a different story), we kind of thought the weird sounds you get as tape deteriorates and cassettes warp are at least interesting, and can add to the listening experience. CDs make for boring, over-compressed background music.
Our last reason for going with tapes was that we think in the world of mp3s, even cds are totally obsolete, or at least will be soon. So we figured it didn’t matter what medium we used to release the album physically. We had all the reasons I listed above to do tapes, plus it worked as a marketing tool. When people asked us, “Why tapes?,” we responded, “Why not?” And it got people talking. Plus we thought an interesting looking, and uniquely designed cassette was something people could take home as a collectors item, whether people listened to the 29 tracks of our original music on it or not. And we sold all 50 of the run at the release show, so it seems to have worked.
Dig out your boom boxes, tape decks and head cleaners because another almost obsolete music format, the cassette tape, is quickly being brought back to life. They’re turning up everywhere, being released by bleeding edge DIY hipster indie bands with a penchant for the self-released EP. Dive deep into your local indie music scene and you’ll see what I mean. Merch tables are filled with them and the frequency of the cassette EP press announcements in my inbox are quickly rising. If vinyl is the format for the high browed music snob, then the cassette is the format for the DIY, crafty crowd.
It’s been a source of great frustration for me of late to discover fabulous up and coming bands live, then realize the only option for continued enjoyment of their music is a format I haven’t owned equipment for in a good decade. Grass Widow, The Baths, Blank Dogs. These are all bands that released music on cassette that I would have liked to have in my music rotation but couldn’t do so because….I DON’T HAVE A CASSETTE PLAYER! God dangit. Who still owns a cassette player? (Besides Blogger Mike who has three. Sheesh.)
Frustration turned to anger after my third attempt to buy music from a band with a cassette only option. (Why, why, why are you making it so difficult to support you?!) Then the anger turned to action. I needed to understand the rationale these artists had for adopting a format that is clearly not widely used. Was it a cost factor? Cool factor? Sound factor? Did they want to languish in obscurity because no one could readily appreciate their music? What…what was the allure?
Welcome to The OCMD trendspotting series, “Cassettes Are The New Vinyl”, where we’ll explore the rational of artists and labels reviving this nearly dead format that so dominated my youth. Tune back in for Part 2 where we’ll get insight from a band and their reasons behind choosing cassette for their physical format.
Everybody’s in a band these days. Everybody owns a label these days. The newest addition to the music label ranks is David Letterman’s new venture called Clear Entertainment/C.E. Music, a subsidiary of Worldwide Pants, Inc. production company, which will release the self-titled debut for the pop-punk group called Runner Runner later this summer.
First of all, what kind of BS genre is pop-punk? It’s a complete oxymoron. I already don’t like it. Secondly, is owning a record label the latest trend du jour? Every blog of importance seems to have one now and it seems to be crossing into the celebrity sphere. I fear this is heading down a dangerous and misguided path. Like the en vogue trend of actresses launching their own fashion/makeup/ fragrance lines. Just because you’re pretty and dress well, does that mean you should design clothes too? I don’t know. But it all seems to be a bit much.
One thing for sure about Letterman, he has the eyeballs and the media power to truly make a difference for a band. So more power to him. Too bad he doesn’t have better music taste. Take a listen to his pick and see if you agree.
I’m not sure what’s going on, but I think there’s an Australian music invasion afoot. Ever since I returned home from Austin my inbox has been pinged by an unusually high number of Australian-based indie bands looking for blog love. Hmmm. I did attend the SXSW Aussie BBQ showcase in Austin. Perhaps I was tagged. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence. Or maybe there is a plot to take over the airwaves. Every geography has it’s moment of musical dominance after all. Why not Australia?
Whatever the case, I met some lovely folks in Austin and have been introduced to some talented bands since then as well. And seeing as I love themes, I’ve decided to roll out my Aussie faves for you all week. Welcome to Aussie Week on The OCMD! Hope you enjoy.
The Marketing and Trends Guru: Seth Godin, bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change weighs in on the vinyl debate. Godin is author of ten books that have been bestsellers around the world, including the recently published book Tribes.
To read the entire series, click here.
theOCMD: After reading your book, Tribes, it became clear to me you are a music lover. I’ve have been musing over your notion of the ‘tribe’ and how it relates to vinyl’s comeback. Is there a correlation? To what do you attribute vinyl’s resurgence?
Seth: Vinyl is handmade, it’s visual, I can show you my collection. It brings us closer.
Vinyl requires effort to play. Especially if you clean it first. It’s a process and a ritual.
Vinyl can be shared, digital is only given.
And Vinyl is not the standard. Which means you can be in a tribe. There is no tribe of normal.
theOCMD: The community of vinyl advocates seems to be evolving from cult status to a full-fledged movement. What’s unclear to me, however, is who’s leading it – the ‘tribe’ itself or the music industry?
Seth: Not the industry, not at all. They’re too clueless to do that, too focused on large numbers as opposed to passionate users.
theOCMD: It seems to me what made vinyl so unique and special was the fact that it was rare and inaccessible. As the format’s pervasiveness and accessibility increase, will the tribe be compromised? Will members defect and find something new to covet – like cassette tapes? Is vinyl just a trend or here to stay?
Seth: The mantra of, “on one goes there, it’s too crowded.” There’s always the early adopter and outlier that likes something simply because it’s not popular. Vinyl has plenty of room, I think, to triple or 10x in size without losing most of the people. And I also think the expense and hassle will prevent it from ever being a mainstream product again.
theOCMD: As a purveyor of change and ‘what’s next’ – what do you think the music industry look like in 10 years?
Seth: Plenty of music, not so much industry. There’s no poetry industry, is there?
theOCMD: Lastly, and for the record, analog vs. digital. Where do you stand?
Seth: When I listen to music, I prefer to LISTEN. Background music is not so much my thing.
And when I listen, vinyl makes me smile more.