Clay Shirky is the former vice-president of the New York chapter of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and an expert on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies. This TED presentation on the Social Web is a much watch for anyone involved in media or marketing.

“The choice is not if this is the media environment we want to operate in. The question is now ‘how can we make the best use of this media?’ – even though it means changing the way we have always done it.”

Via Dave Allen @pampelmoose

Great post from Amanda Palmer of the Dresdon Dolls on using online media to connecting directly with fans and make $$$. Love the creativity here…

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From: Amanda Palmer
Subject: twitter power, or “how an indie musician can make $19,000 in 10 hours using twitter”

this story has just been blowing people’s minds so i figures i should write it down.

1.
FRIDAY NIGHT LOSERS T-SHIRT, $11,000

about a month ago, i was at home on a friday night (loser that i often am when i’m not touring, i almost never go out) and was, of course, on my mac, shifting between emails, links and occasionally doing some dishes and packing for a trip the next day. just a usual friday-night-rock-star-multi-tasking extravaganza.

i twitter whenever i’m online, i love the way it gives me a direct line of communication with my fans and friends.

i had already seen the power of twitter while touring…using twitter i’d gathered crowds of sometimes 200 fans with a DAY’S notice to come out and meet me in public spaces (parks, mostly) where i would play ukulele, sign, hug, take pictures, eat cake, and generally hang out and connect. this was especially helpful in the cities where we’d been unable to book all-ages gigs and there were crushed teenagers who were really grateful to have a shot at connecting with me & the community of amanda/dolls fans.

i’d also been using twitter to organize ACTUAL last-minute gigs…i twittered a secret gig in LA one morning and about 350 folks showed up 5 hours later at a warehouse space….i played piano, filmed by current.tv, and then (different camera crew) did an interview with afterellen.com.
the important thing to undertsand here is that the fans were never part of the plan..,i basically just INVITED my fans to a press day, the press didnt’ plan it…i did.
i was going to be playing in an empty room and doing q&a with afterellen on a coach with only the camera watching.
it was like….why not tell people and do this in a warehouse instead of a hotel lobby or a blank studio? so i did.

it cost me almost nothing. the fans were psyched.

but back to the bigger, cooler story….

so there i am, alone on friday night and i make a joke on twitter (which goes out to whichever of my 30,000 followers are online):

“i hereby call THE LOSERS OF FRIDAY NIGHT ON THEIR COMPUTERS to ORDER, motherfucker.”
9:15 PM May 15th from web

one thing led to another, and the next thing you know there were thousands of us and we’d become the #1 topic trend on twitter.
zoe keating described it as a “virtual flash mob”.

the way twitter works (if you don’t have it) is that certain topics can include a hashtag (#) and if a gazillion people start making posts that include that hashtag, the topic will zoom up the charts of what people are currently discussing. it’s a cool feature.

so anyway, there we were, virtually hanging out on twitter on a friday night. very pleased with ourselves for being such a large group, and cracking jokes.

how do you “hang out” on the internet? well, we collectively came up with a list of things that the government should do for us (free government-issued sweatpants, pizza and ponies, no tax on coffee), AND created a t-shirt.
thank god my web guy sean was awake and being a loser with me on friday night because he throw up the webpage WHILE we were having our twitter party and people started ordering the shirts – that i designed in SHARPIE in realtime) and a slogan that someone suggested: “DON’T STAND UP FOR WHAT’S RIGHT, STAY IN FOR WHAT’S WRONG”. neil gaiman and wil wheaton joined our party. the fdnas felt super-special.

by the end of the night, we’d sold 200 shirts off the quickie site (paypal only) that sean had set up.
i blogged the whole story the next day and in total, in the matter of a few days, we sold over 400 shirts, for $25/ea.

we ended up grossing OVER $11,000 on the shirts.
my assistant beth had the shirts printed up ASAP and mailed them from her apartment.

total made on twitter in two hours = $11,000.
total made from my huge-ass ben-folds produced-major-label solo album this year = $0

2.
WEBCAST AUCTION, $6000

a few nights after that, i blogged and twittered, announcing a “webcast auction” from my apartment.
it went from 6 pm – 9 pm, my assitant beth sat at my side and kept her eyes on incoming bids and twitter feed.
while we hocked weird goods, i sang songs and answered questions from fans. we wore kimonos and drank wine. it was a blast.

people on twitter who were tuned in re-tweeted to other fans. the word spread that it was a fun place to be and watch.
we had, at peak, about 2000 people watching the webcast.

at the suggestion of a fan early in the webcastm anyone could, on demand, send us $20 via paypal and we would chew,
sign and mail them a postcard. we sold about 70, and we read all those names at the end of the webcast and thanked those
people for supporting us. here’s how the sales broke down:

all the items were signed by moi and hand-packed by beth and kayla._ the items and highest bidders were as follows:_ hilary, ukulele used on the european tour: $640 _jake, “guitar hero” plastic guitar controller used in album promo shoot: $250_ lary b, copy neo2 magazine, plus two post-war trade slap-bracelets & a crime-photo set: $230_ devi, glass dildo, with subtley-sordid backstory: $560 _liz b., “hipsters ruin everything” t-shirt, made by blake (get your very own here!!!!): $155.55_shannon m., my bill bryson book, a short history of neary everything: $280_ nikki, huge metal “the establishment” sign, used at rothbury festival for the circus tent i curated: $450 _j.r., purple velvet “A” dress used in the dresden dolls coin-operated boy video shoot: $400_ jessie & alan: who killed amanda palmer vinyl: $100_ nikki: wine bottle, auctioned BY REQUEST!!! $320 _shannon w., torn-to-shit vintage stockings used in the who killed amanda palmer/ michael pope video series: $200 _jodi,
school-note-book break-up letter, written to amanda from jonas woolverton in 7th grade (i still haven’t emailed him about that….): $250_ daryl, ANOTHER wine bottle, by request, that we had LYING AROUND: $320
and…………..
reto emailed, having barely missed the wine bottle, and asked us to send him “something funny” for $129.99. we sent a heath ledger statuette.

total made on twitter in 3 hours, including the postcards, was over $6000.
again, total made on my major-label solo album this year: $0

3.
TWITTER DONATION-ONLY GIG, $1800

a few days later, i twittered a guest-list only event in a recording studio in boston, to take place a week later.
the gig lasted about 5 hours, all told, with soundcheck and signing. i took mostly requests and we had a grand old time.
first come, first served. the first 200 people to ask got in, for free. i asked for donations and made about $2200 in cash.
i gave $400 back to the studio for the space and the help. we sold some weird merch. i think we should call it an even 2k.

total made at last-minute secret twitter gig, in about 5 hours = $2000
major-label record blah blah blah = $0

…..and for fun, and to thank my fans for being awesome, i’ve been doing some twitter perfomance art, including answering their questions by magic-markering my body until it’s covered, and displaying time-lapse make-up application advice….but that’s another story.

TOTAL MADE THIS MONTH USING TWITTER = $19,000
TOTAL MADE FROM 30,000 RECORD SALES = ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

turn on, tune in, get dropped!!!!!

love,
amanda fucking palmer

http://www.amandapalmer.net

http://www.dresdendolls.com

p.s.
if you want to read the full blogs and see the pictures from the #LOFNOTC events, i blogged here:

1. the friday night that started it all:

http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/111667948/twitter-the-beautiful-losers-lofnotc

2. the webcast and magic-marker/make-up mayhem:

http://blog.amandapalmer.net/post/127401792/wasnt-this-supposed-to-be-my-fucking-week-off

Dear Steven Van Zandt,

I just read your interview in CNN, and I wanted to offer an alternative view to your thoughts, particularly related to this quote: “The reason nobody wants to talk about it is because it mostly sucks! Who are we kidding here? Nobody’s buying records? Because they suck!”

You also suggest that if bands learned more cover songs and listened to more “great records” (i.e. classic records) the record industry would be saved, which I think it is a slightly myopic view of what is happening in the business. I think you are missing two key points:

1. THERE IS AN AMAZING AMOUNT OF GREAT MUSIC OUT THERE, but I think you are looking in the wrong places for it. I suggest you take a look at eMusic – the largest online retailer for independent music. Find an artist you like, look at recommendations by eMusic and other consumers, and you can easily fall down the rabbit hole for hours experimenting with new, and in many cases, amazing music you have never heard before. Like Psych Rock? Check out Wooden Shjips. Sign up for newsletters from forward thinking physical retailers like Other Music, a store run by music geniuses who can connect the music dots between Grizzly Bear and Erlend Øye in three steps or less. And of course there are dozens of music blogs, from aggregators like the Hype Machine, live music session and editorial blogs like Daytrotter, old school outlets like Pitchforkmedia, and a million in between. Not to mention the myriad of online radio stations that are not hamstrung by the tight-playlists the consolidated commercial radio business has given us over the past 10 years. Widen your net, Steven, and you’ll find tons of music that will knock your socks off.

2. THE OLD MODEL OF A PHYSICAL RECORD-BASED MUSIC ECONOMY IS DEAD. It is not coming back. Dead. Dead. Dead. You can have a million bands covering “Working on a Dream” for a million years and you will not bring traditional physical record sales anywhere close to where they were at their height in 2000. The infrastructure has shifted forever. Some details you should consider:

Less Outlets for Traditional Music: Tower Records shut down their U.S. operation in 2006; Circuit City (9th largest music retailer in 2008) ceased operations in 2009; Virgin Megastore announced in 2009 that they will close all of their U.S. stores; Borders (the 6th largest retailer of music) has cut back their in-store floor space by 30% to 7% of their total floor space; and Transworld closed 101 stores in 2008, after losing $69 million dollars, including a 24% drop in total sales during the nine weeks leading up to the end of the year – traditionally the best music retail time of year. Taken together, there are simply less outlets and less floor space available to the labels to merchandise and sell their music. It is not a matter of buyers not taking in records because “they suck.” The space that had existed for music is now filled with DVDs and other media, or is gone.

Consolidated Commercial Radio is Ineffective: The number of artists that terrestrial radio “breaks,” in terms of converting radio play to mechanical royalty sales is smaller with each passing year. Although radio is still the primary method that folks hear about new music (49% of consumers list radio as the #1 way they find new music, according to a 2008 Edison Media Research survey), radio is quickly losing ground to the Internet, with 25% of consumers hearing about new music online.

The Replacement Cycle: Technological innovations have been shaping how, where, and when folks listen to (and purchase) music for years, beginning with improved production processes with vinyl, and then moving onto 8-track, cassette, CD, and finally digital music. Along the way, major labels have been able to monetize these technological innovations through a process called the replacement cycle – basically a repackaging of existing content in the newest format.

With consumers being able to convert files to digital themselves from existing CDs (not to mention sharing digital files for free online), the labels have been unable to find a way to monetize this format shift effectively. The end of the replacement cycle, coupled with the complete decentralization of the industry brought on by the Internet and the change in consumer habits, makes for a very tough time for the record business.

I know it’s a tough to find new music, particularly when you are on tour. Perhaps you don’t have regular access to the Internet. But I assure you; the issue is not that that music sucks. Spend some time doing your research on finding new bands, find some tastemakers you can depend on to turn you onto new music. The old industry that you grew up with is gone; but the phoenix is rising from the ashes with new models and new revenue streams. Whatever you do, please don’t blame what is happening on a lack of good music – it really makes you sound out of touch.

Mike

“Talking gross numbers that come directly to the band, we have made more money already than we have on the last record in four years,” said Mathieu Drouin, the band’s co-manager.

Great piece in the L.A. Times today on Metric. The band is forgoing a traditional record deal and focusing on alternative income sources and direct to fan sales and marketing techniques for their most recent release “Fantasties.” Direct to fan has been a proven model for megastars like Radiohead and Trent Reznor, and it’s encouraging to see a “middle class” musician (Metric’s 2005 release “Live It Out,” sold 45,000 copies) having success using a similar template.

Some takeaways from the effort:

1) Without the distribution fee and record royalties that a major label and distributor would charge, Metric is able to net $.77 per iTunes track as opposed to something closer to the $.22 per track a label would pay (this figure includes international downloads, which could pay the artist more than the US standard of $.70 per track by going direct)
2) As distribution follows marketing, Metric has hooked up with Topspin to handle the online direct to fan marketing and sales efforts. Take a look at their Website, here. Fantastic way to leverage “free” to acquire names for the mailing list, they have an active blog area, and most importantly, they are engaging in variable product and pricing which everyone from the hard core fan to the curious potential fan can engage in. Again, because the band is selling direct, their profit margin is much higher. Metric sold out of an initial allotment of 500 deluxe packages in 48 hours, said Drouin, who estimated a profit of $13 to $15 per unit. “We can never offer a fan that much value at that price if we had to go through a record company, distributor and a retailer. We cut out three rungs.”
3) The band made the entire record available for free as a stream a month before release, creating widgets that could be embedded in fans Websites (provided by Topspin). Folks were able to become familiar with the new record, they liked what they heard, and they paid for the record when it was released commercially. This is the “emotional connection” theory in action.
4) The band worked with independent distributor Redeye for the physical CD. Because Metric has a track record and had analytics that proved people were into the record, Redeye had an easier time shipping the record to physical independent record stores.
5) Canada supports the arts. The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings provided the band with $50,000 to cover recording costs, as well as a smaller federal grant.

Major labels are traditionally known for A) financing, B) marketing, C) distribution. I think Metric is a great example of a band that not only accomplishing all of these things outside of the traditional model, but is making more money because of it. Check out a cool Elliott Smith cover by the band:

It’s not all that surprising to read that some folks are making a killing from building apps for the iPhone. As of January ’09, over 500 million apps have been downloaded, and seeing that Apple takes a 30% cut on all apps (same as their fee for sales of music on iTunes), developers are taking in 70% of the revenue of these 500 million downloads. What IS interesting to me is the marketing behind these apps, and in particular, the way that some developers are using the concept of free to generate interest in their product.

The New York Times ran an article last week on Ethan Nicholas, the guy who built iShoot, an app that has generated $800,000 in sales in five months. Take a look at how his sales progressed:

After the project was finished, Mr. Nicholas sent it to Apple for approval, quickly granted, and iShoot was released into the online Apple store on Oct. 19.

When he checked his account with Apple to see how many copies the game had sold, Mr. Nicholas’s jaw dropped: On its first day, iShoot sold enough copies at $4.99 each to net him $1,000. He and Nicole were practically “dancing in the street,” he said.

The second day, his portion of the day’s sales was about $2,000.

On the third day, the figure slid down to $50, where it hovered for the next several weeks. “That’s nothing to sneeze at, but I wondered if we could do better,” Mr. Nicholas said.

In January, he released a free version of the game with fewer features, hoping to spark sales of the paid version. It worked: iShoot Lite has been downloaded more than 2 million times, and many people have upgraded to the paid version, which now costs $2.99. On its peak day — Jan. 11 — iShoot sold nearly 17,000 copies, which meant a $35,000 day’s take for Mr. Nicholas.”

Obviously, this is an extreme example of what can happen financially for app developers, but I do think that some comparisons can be made to musicians looking to generate interest in their music online. My friend John Snyder, who runs Artists House Music, once told me “the curse of the developing artist is anonymity, not piracy.” I do believe that some form of “free” makes sense for most artists; be it a download card distributed at live shows, select music available for free on your site (perhaps in exchange for an email address), live shows for download, etc.

Traditional one-size-fits-all physical retailers are failing – Virgin, Transworld, and Borders have all either closed up shop in the US, drastically cut back on music floor space, or are taking massive financial hits. I think a large part of the future of sales in the music business is online direct to fan relationships (with supporting offline components), where artists cultivate more extensive relationships with their fans, and in the process more effectively monetize traditional and non-traditional sales options. I think some part of “free” works to engage your existing fanbase, as well as turn casual fans into hard-core supporters.

Andrew Dubber has some good thoughts on the topic of free as well. Take a look at his post on “Why Give Away Music For Free.”

It’s been widely reported that Touch and Go, a seminal independent record label (as well as a distributor of other fantastic indie labels), is cutting back its label operations and discontinuing its manufacturing and distribution operations completely. Here’s the message from Touch and Go’s Corey Rusk:

It is with great sadness that we are reporting some major changes here at Touch and Go Records. Many of you may not be aware, but for nearly 2 decades, Touch and Go has provided manufacturing and distribution services for a select yet diverse group of other important independent record labels. Titles from these other labels populate the shelves of our warehouse alongside the titles on our own two labels, Touch and Go Records, and Quarterstick Records.

Unfortunately, as much as we love all of these labels, the current state of the economy has reached the point where we can no longer afford to continue this lesser known, yet important part of Touch and Go’s operations. Over the years, these labels have become part of our family, and it pains us to see them go. We wish them all the very best and we will be doing everything we can to help make the transition as easy as possible.

Touch and Go will be returning to its roots and focusing solely on being an independent record label. We’ll be busy for a few months working closely with the departing labels and scaling our company to an appropriate smaller size after their departure. It is the end of a grand chapter in Touch and Go’s history, but we also know that good things can come from new beginnings.

It’s sad to see a label so artist friendly (the handshake deals that Touch and Go does with bands pays them 50 percent of the net profit on their records–about four times the industry’s standard royalty rate) in this situation. Physical distribution is a tough business (as is physical retail), and as Rusk mentions in the last sentence of his note, good things can come from new beginnings. Innovative thinkers (like Terry McBride from Nettwerk) are forging a new direction with music companies that are based less on the reliance of income generated from distribution and sales of physical product. I hope Corey Rusk can do the same with Touch and Go.

Slint - Spiderland

It just got a whole lot harder for online music retailers to compete with iTunes. Although I stop purchasing music from iTunes years ago to buy only DRM-free music (I settled on a monthly subscription with eMusic – which will still be my jam for more obscure left-of-the-dial music for the time being), the announcement by Apple on Tuesday that they are immediately dropping DRM (Digital Rights Management) from 8 million tracks changes things slightly.

Here’s what this announcement means to me:

A) Labels are continuing to relinquish more control over their product (which is a good thing).
B) It’s likely that iTunes market share will increase over and above their already commanding 70%+ of the legal online download market (which is not a good thing for competition).
C) Other players (like the leap year bug plagued Zune) will be able to play music from the Apple store (but only after it is converted from AAC to MP3, which iTunes can do, but is not ideal).

The truth is, aside from folks that are deep in the music business, how many consumers are really going to notice a difference? Do many casual music fans with an iPod know that iTunes had DRM files to start with?

Overall, the fact that Apple is removing DRM is definitely a step forward for the music industry. But I do tend to think that the real game changer for online music will be some sort of collective licensing model along the lines of what the EFF proposes. According to the IFPI, the ratio of unlicensed tracks downloaded to legal tracks sold is about 20 to 1. There are extreme opinions on both sides of the very complex collective licensing model discussion, but finding a way to monetize this traffic in a way that positively affects artists will have a much greater impact to the music industry than Apple’s DRM announcement. Baby steps!

Some really interesting comments in the NYT article this afternoon on Atlantic Records statement that their digital sales are surpassing their CD sales. What really struck me was how Atlantic is going about increasing their digital sales. Good quote here:

“I think we’ve figured it out,” said Julie Greenwald, president of Atlantic Records. “It used to be that you could connect five dots and sell a million records. Now there are 20 dots you can connect to sell a million records.”

I really think the same can be said for developing artists. A common thread in my course (as well as the other business courses that we’re teaching here online) is that diversifying your revenue streams and engaging in niche marketing is a big part of making it work for musicians these days. Check out what Atlantic is doing:

Replacing compact disc sales are small bits of revenue from many sources: Atlantic Records’ digital sales include ring tones, ringbacks, satellite radio, iTunes sales and subscription services. At the same time, record labels — Atlantic included — are spending less money to market artists. In the pre-Internet days, said Ms. Greenwald, “we were so flush, we did everything in the name of promotion.” Among the cutbacks are less spending to produce videos and to support publicity tours when a new album is released.

The same principles can be (must be) applied to developing artists. Get your music out to Pandora (who accept indie submissions), start selling ringtones, start selling merch off of your own site, use TuneCore or CD Baby to get your music up on iTunes. Be aggressive with your outreach, and targeted with your outlets.

It only takes a couple hours for a musician to get started with basic online marketing. Setting up an account with MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, uStream, Flickr, Reverbnation, OurStage, Fanbridge, and the dozens of other options is simple, and an excellent first step. But I tend to think that some bands lose sight of the fact that online marketing is not an end on to itself. The most effective online marketing campaigns support the physical marketing efforts as well.

Two examples from this week:

1) Don Bartlett, manager of Joe Pug (via the Lefsetz letter):

“We decided to put an offer up on Joe’s website and MySpace. We told any fan that if they knew anyone who might be interested in Joe’s music that they could send us an email and we send them as many copies of a two-song sampler CD as they wanted. Free. We even cover the postage. To keep costs down, we invested in a cd publishing system that burns and prints them robotically. Each CD has two songs, contact info, MySpace, and a reminder that the full cd was at iTunes. If someone lived near a place where a show was scheduled, we printed that show info on there as well. People requested as few as 2 and as many as 50. We sent all of them. Requests continued to pour in, and the more we sent out the faster the new requests came in. We’re at the point now where we get about 15 a day. Joe writes a thank you in each and every one. And almost instantly, sales took off. [Show] attendance jumped noticeably and MySpace/website action began a steady upward arc. More importantly, we built an incredible database of his most hardcore fans. And after receiving a mailbox full of cds for free, they are willing to do anything to help forward the cause. And it is the ultimate in target marketing…you have people who already like your music passing it on to their friends, whose tastes they presumably know.”

2) Rock/Jam band Umphrey’s McGee

The band is organizing an online pre-sale campaign that gives their fans a reason to encourage others to buy the record pre-sale. They’re announcing it on their Website, as well as using banner ads on their social networking properties. Here are the details from their site:

Much like an Umphrey’s show, no one is exactly sure what will happen with Mantis, the upcoming release from Umphrey’s McGee. The more fans that pre-order the release, the more bonus content we’ll unlock for everyone. We are leaving the amount of additional content and the makeup of some of that content entirely up to you. There are 8 total levels of material that could be unlocked containing over 45 unique & unreleased audio tracks, including behind-the-scenes perspectives, videos, and plenty of quirky surprises. Bonus Material Part I available EXCLUSIVELY to those who pre-order.

Great to see both of these bands nailing the online campaign to affect tangible change offline and facilitate a personal connection directly with their fans.

Music Ally has posted their thoughts on the best online promotions from October 2008. I was familiar with many of these (the AC/DC video in Excel being my favorite), but there’s some other really creative ideas in here worth looking into. Great iPhone app ideas from Snow Patrol, NIN and Pink, and a cool online distribution idea from Ben Folds that leverages iTunes and his live music.

Also: if you are not part of the Twitter train yet, I suggest you give it a look. Microblogging is another great marketing tool that should be considered as part of your overall community-building plan. Even Britney Spears is on board!