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The Revenue Streams of Indie Artist Taylor Swift

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Taylor Swift is an Indie artist?  Surprise!  In fact, she is arguably one of the most successful Indie artists of all time.  In the few short years of Taylor’s career she has taken the music industry by storm.  So how did it all start?

As a young teenager, Taylor signed a developmental deal with RCA records.  Her ambition was moving faster than RCA’s old-school developmental plan.  When the contract expired, she decided against renewing that deal in lieu of seeking greener pastures.  Wow!  She turned down RCA!  Unsure of her next move, Swift began playing in various venues around Nashville.

“While performing at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, Swift caught the eye of music industry veteran Scott Borchetta, who signed her to his newly formed label,” according to the Taylor Swift bio at cmt.com.

The rest is history.

Okay, so how does she stack up regarding the music industry’s three income streams, songwriting/publishing, live performance and recording?

The Songwriting/Publishing Stream

On Taylor’s first three albums she wrote or co-wrote every song.  She owns her own publishing company, Taylor Swift Music (BMI).  Her performing rights organization affiliation as a writer is BMI where she has won numerous awards.  With revenue through publishing and songwriting, she is taking full advantage of the earning power of her songs.

The Live Performance Stream

Taylor’s shows bring down the house.  According to Billboard Magazine she was the #2 touring act in 2011 behind Kenny Chesney. (Billboard Hot Tours-September 2011)  Her Fearless tour achieved some unbelievable feats.  When tickets went on sale in February of 2009 she sold out The Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2 minutes, Madison Square Garden in 1 minute, and the Fresno Save Mart Center in less than 10 minutes. (Fearless Tour info)

“I’ve been to many concerts and the sets and theatrics of Taylor’s ‘Fearless’ tour far surpassed any other artist I’ve seen.  She’s the best,” said concert goer, Nicole Smith.

Taylor Swift has figured out what the fans want to see and her live shows give them what they want.  When an artist’s tour is a top grossing show, the artist is fully tapping into the Live Performance stream.

The Recording Stream

For Taylor Swift, recording is the force that drives the other two streams.  Taylor’s first album Taylor Swift was certified 5 times platinum.  Her second album, Fearless was certified 6 times platinum.  The Speak Now album was certified 3 times platinum and continues to climb. (RIAA data) Those kind of numbers speak volumes.

It All Adds Up to $$$

As a songwriter, recording artist, and top touring performer, Taylor Swift is pulling huge revenues from all three of the primary income streams.  In her short career she has been nominated for over 170 awards including 12 Grammy Awards.  Of those nominations she has taken home 116 awards, 6 of which were Grammys. (Taylor’s Awards) Taylor is truly an amazing indie artist worthy of the attention of anyone who studies the music industry.

Maybe next week we’ll talk about her endorsement deals.

*The photos in the slideshow were taken by my talented wife Sharon Smith.

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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Industry Talk

 

Should YouTube Be Used To Present One’s Resume?

The question is quite interesting.  Musicians and Entertainers use YouTube for EPKs.  Should people seeking executive and professional jobs also use the social media platform?  Many young people, millennials if you will, have been weened on technology.  Understandably, the millennials gravitate toward extensive use of technology, and thus, one might expect an inclination toward using a platform such as YouTube to present their resumes.  By contrast, my generation, the Baby Boomers, came through the civil rights era.  While many of us are quite tech savvy (heck, we invented most of the stuff), we still are apprehensive about applying for jobs, loans, or anything where our visual appearance might be assessed in consideration of acceptance.  Of course, being called in for an interview after submitting a resume would then expose one’s physical appearance, but at least we would know that the resume got the interview based on qualification and not attractiveness.

The point is that the use of a YouTube resume exposes one to prejudice based on physical appearance, which could involve racial prejudice, age prejudice, or any number of other prejudices.  Still, some may say, “Go ahead and get the potential for prejudice out of the way if it exists,” or “If a company uses prejudicial criteria in their hiring practices, then I don’t want to work for that company anyway.” In reality, many corporations fear lawsuits for discrimination in their hiring practices.

The bottom line is that the question requires scrutiny based on the circumstances and the type of job being sought.  A well-done, technology-driven resume could present the applicant as being up-to-date with current trends.  All-in-all, in accord with our constantly evolving technologies, I believe that an applicant should be prepared to present a resume using traditional methods as well as new technologies.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear some comments on this ever-progressing topic.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Promotion and the EPK

As I continue my journey to complete my degree, one of my “stops-along-the-way” is a class simply called Promotion.  For the detail-oriented folks, you can identify the class as MKT 3850 at Middle Tennessee State University.  As the semester nears an end, I must say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the curriculum presented by Professor Laura Buckner.  In fact, I have been inspired to investigate some of the ways that promotion is used in the music industry.  One very effective method of promotion is the EPK or Electronic Press Kit.  An EPK should be essential to any musical artist either well-known or unknown.  In this blog post I will review and provide links to three EPKs that I found interesting in one way or another.

Sting EPK                              

This EPK is promoting The Last Ship, an album that Sting explains is intended to accompany a play about his hometown.  The EPK is sheer excellence.  Sting succeeds at getting the viewer excited about the release.  He lets us see some of the unique processes and instrumentation that is a part of the recordings.  We also get a nice blending of the different songs as they play in the background behind Sting’s narration.  Another thing that adds to the excellence is the insight that Sting gives us about his personality and feelings.  Even though we already know him as an international Superstar, we get to hear a fresh new dimension to him as a person.  The video quality was superb.  The length was 3:30, which I thought was too short, but only because I was left wanting much more.  So, I would have to say that the length actually added to the effectiveness.  As with many major label artists, the EPK had annoying pop-ups promoting other artists and projects.

Nikki Yanofsky EPK             

Wow!  How did I not know about this girl?  This EPK is everything it needs to be.  Nikki is promoting her album, Little Secret, as well as herself as a rising artist.  She has lots of A-list name dropping, such as her artistic involvement with the legendary Quincy Jones and her performance with the equally legendary Stevie Wonder.  The mix of footage that includes studio shots, live performance shots, living room shots, and candid shots are perfectly blended, and the audio mix is superior.  Her talent shines in every minute of the EPK.  The only think I hated was the pop-up ads in the first minute.  The length was 5:15.  I could have watched for twice that long.  Again, Wow!  One thing I noticed is that she’s only had a little more than 10,000 views.  Surely, it won’t take long for that figure to rise.

Sarah Brightman EPK                       
I really disliked this EPK.  It oozed with excessive ego.  I’m not sure if Sarah Brightman is an accomplished artist or the goddess of all goddesses.  The entire EPK is narrated by an older sounding guy with an English accent.  He speaks in a tone similar to commentators for a golf tournament.  The viewer gets the impression that he is in awe of Sarah’s talent and accomplishments, but he must be careful when he speaks her name.  We get absolutely nothing from the artist, but then, maybe that is her image….someone who is an untouchable deity.  Oh please, just let me touch the dirt off of her shoes.  Of course, the production is of superior high quality and the length is perfect, but why wouldn’t it be?

So friends, what are your thoughts and opinions of those three EPKs?  Do you have a personal favorite?  Give me a comment and provide a link to one that you like!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Mama May Not Dance, But Daddy Sure Does Rock ‘n’ Roll: A Commentary on Producer-Extraordinaire Jim Messina

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(Photos Courtesy of Sharon Smith Photography)

When great producers are discussed in Nashville circles, names such as Tony Brown and Dan Huff are always a part of the conversation. Their track record speaks for itself. When I talk about producers, the name that tops my list is Jim Messina. Yes, I’m referring to the same Jim Messina that was half of the legendary 70s duo of Loggins and Messina.

In the 60s Jim was a young sound engineer who had worked on projects with Roger Miller, Joni Mitchell, the Doors, Lee Michaels, Herb Alpert, and Leon Russell. He worked on Buffalo Springfield’s second album and was later recognized as an uncredited producer. That work got him the producer’s seat for their third and final album. Of course, Jim was also an extremely accomplished musician, and thus when Springfield lost their bass player Jim ended up joining the band to fill that slot.

Buffalo Springfield broke up after that album but Jim and the band’s guitarist, Richie Furay, along with Rusty Young decided to form a new band called Poco. Jim produced Poco’s first albums, but ended up leaving the band when Columbia Records offered him a 6 album producer’s deal. Poco has often been credited with developing the country/rock genre. In fact, the Eagles point to Poco as the primary influence on their early sound. Jim Messina was a major force in the molding of Poco’s sound.

Jim’s first project with Columbia was to work on the debut album of a young songwriter named Kenny Loggins. Jim found that he and Kenny were very compatible from a musical perspective. Their songwriting talents, vocal styles, and musicianship were a perfect fit. Jim went to Clive Davis and convinced him to allow the pair to collaborate on Kenny’s first album. Clive reluctantly agreed. The album was released as “Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin’ In.” It’s come to be known as simply the “Sittin’ In” album. The pair went on to release nine albums in seven years selling over 14 million units. Many industry pros point to the “Sittin’ In” album as one of the finest produced works of the acoustic rock era.

In recent years Jim has confined his producing talents to mostly his own albums. Those albums are every bit as impressive as his past work. His sound can be characterized by extremely tight and true vocals and harmonies that blend as smooth as silk with solidly arranged guitars and other stringed instruments such as fiddle, mandolin, and steel guitar. No one knows how to record a guitar better than Jim Messina. As a producer, Jim has the extreme advantage of also being one of the best musicians in the business. His guitar work blends folk, blues, country, jazz, and baroque-style classical into a sound that is purely his own.

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(Kenny Loggins, Greg Smith, and Jim Messina backstage at Reunion Concert)

I have often discussed my admiration of Jim’s work. Many have asked me why I think Jim is not as visibly active nowadays. Let me begin by saying that I have the pleasure of being casual friends with Jim. I was able to participate in a week-long intensive Songwriter Performance Workshop taught by Jim, as well as having the privilege of performing with him. My first hand observation is that Jim is doing things exactly as he desires. I’d love to see him take on a new up and coming artist in Nashville. Although Jim is in his 60s, he still has much to offer the recording industry.

http://www.jimmessina.com/

LINK TO JIM MESSINA CONCERT DVD PREVIEW:

2011 Concert Preview

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Industry Talk

 

Do Violent Video Games Cause Violence: A Short Essay

Do violent video games increase violence in society?  Do guns kill people? The short answer to both questions is “No,” but the issue is much more complex. Maybe the question should be, “Do violent video games CONTRIBUTE to an increase in violence in society?” I believe they do.

 Consider the following analogy: Use “Fire” to represent violence, a “Match” to represent a violent video game, and a designated “Substance” to represent a person of some varied personality and/or emotional makeup. Each different type of person would be represented by a different substance.

1. Light a match and put it in water and you will see the fire instantly die.

2. Light a match and toss it in gasoline and it will burst into flames. (Gasoline is already intended to be used as an igniter)

Those examples are the extremes. Now think about the in-between scenarios.

3. Light a match and put it against a piece of iron. The iron gets hot but doesn’t ignite and the match eventually burns out and the iron cools down.

4. Light a match and put it against a piece of wood. (Assume that a smaller piece of wood is a younger person and a larger piece of wood is an older person) The wood gets hot and may or may not ignite depending upon the length of the match and the time it takes to burn out.

Per example #1, for some individuals a violent video game will have no effect.

Per example #2, for others who may already have extensive violent tendencies a violent video game may be a catalyst to accelerate a violent act that was bound to happen anyway.

Per example #3, still others are affected by the violent game in a manner that is more identified as a “release.” These individuals will probably never commit a violent act. Their appeal is more physical than psychological.

For the first three examples the video game really has little or no effect on ultimate societal outcome.

The fourth scenario is the one that should concern us the most. This individual, when introduced to the violent game (lit match), has a real chance of being influenced into a violent act. At the very least, the individual becomes scarred and over time desensitized to the point of committing a violent act. (Igniting)

These are my initial thoughts on the subject. I have much more to say on this topic in future posts.

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Who is the Most Influential Gatekeeper in the Music Industry?

The question is not easily answered.  In fact, there are multiple potential answers because there are multiple potential outcomes.  In other words, one must first decide through which gate we desire to enter.  Many of us start off having a two dimensional view of the music business.  We perceive that there is only one road and one gate.  If we travel that road and get through that gate then we will attain the ultimate goal.  Of course, I’m referring to the “road” that leads to a Major Label.

So now I’ll momentarily return to the original question.  If we are seeking to name a single individual, then the question is as hard to answer as “What’s your favorite song?”  There are many genres and many styles within each genre.  There are also many different jobs in the industry and many different positions within those jobs.  I prefer to approach the subject from a broader yet more individualistic perspective.

When I entered the music business over 31 years ago the industry appeared much more two dimensional than today. (It really wasn’t two dimensional. It just looked that way.) Unless an artist had a truck full of money, high quality recording gear was out of reach to most.  Even if you could manage to afford the expense of making a radio-ready recording, the cost to market and distribute was beyond the typical pocketbook.  The way to go was to get a Major Label deal, thus we all thought the gatekeepers were A&R directors and record producers.  At that time in my life those guys could have definitely been considered gatekeepers.  Some still consider them to be the gatekeepers for anyone who is an artist and wants to be signed to a Major Label.  Of course, many artists today are taking control of their own careers and making waves without the Big Boys.  Advancements in technology, reduced costs of high quality gear, and access to the World Wide Web have created a more level playing field.

What about the person who wants to do something else in the industry?  Perhaps you want to work in marketing, publishing, or audio production.  Your gatekeeper could be different.  Maybe the question should be, “Who would be the gatekeeper in my own personal path?”  So, what is the bottom line?

The music industry could be simplistically defined as an industry centered on the financial exploitation of its product, the song.  Everything that happens to the song from the time it is originally created is for the purpose of selling it to the consumer.  Ultimately, the consumer, in my opinion, is the most influential gatekeeper.

* Interesting links for further reading:

Music Industry Gatekeepers

A&R Star Makers: The Vanishing Gatekeepers

Music’s New Gatekeepers (Wall Street Journal Article)

Shift Happens: A Lesson in Coping with Music Industry Change

The Influentials: Music

The Realities of Making a Living with Music in 2011

The New Music Gatekeepers: Fans & Workload

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Industry Talk

 

How to Copyright 10 Songs for the Price of 1

Creativity was flowing.  I had ten great songs that I was performing at all the hot songwriter venues.  I started to get a bit nervous because I was noticing other writers taking an interest in my material.  I decided that it was time to register the copyrights to my new songs, but my buddy said that the last time he registered a song the cost was $50 per song.  I couldn’t drop $500 bucks all at once.  What could I do?  I decided to visit the US Copyright web site and see if another alternative existed.  To my surprise, I discovered that I could copyright all ten songs for as little as $35.  Here’s the step-by-step process I followed to gain the knowledge and execute the registration:

  1. I visited the US Copyright web site at www.copyright.gov.
  2. From the main page I clicked on “Copyright Basics” which took me to the page for Circular 1.
  3. I then read Circular 1 and learned on page 7 that the Copyright Office prefers that the claimant use the online registration system.  I also learned on page 9 of the circular that unpublished works by a single writer can be copyrighted as a collection such as “Anthology of Greg Smith” or “Greg’s Greatest Hits.”  The registration can be done on one application with one fee.  I also had to meet the following other requirements:

• The elements of the collection are assembled in an orderly form;

• The combined elements bear a single title identifying the collection as a whole;

• The copyright claimant in all the elements and in the collection as a whole is the same; and

• All the elements are by the same author, or, if they are by different authors, at least one of the authors has contributed copyrightable authorship to each element.

  1. I also discovered on page 10 of Circular 1 that I could amplify the information in a registration of a collection by filing form CA.  Although that form is not required, it can definitely help me remember which songs are in my collection. (Circular 8, info for form CA)
  2. After reading the rest of the circular I clicked on my browser’s “back” button to return to the home page and then clicked on “How to Register a Work.”  I was taken to the following page:  http://www.copyright.gov/eco/
  3. Next I perused the recommended reading before moving to the next step.  Information was provided for the acceptable audio file formats.  A PowerPoint presentation gave a tutorial for registering through the online system.
  4. I then proceeded to the eCO online registration system by following the provided links where I signed up and created a username and password.
  5. After following the instructions and filling out the online registration form, I uploaded my collection of songs and used a credit card to pay the $35 fee.

Upon completion of the process the only remaining task is to wait for my official registration certificate to arrive by mail.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in Industry Talk