I believe it’s possible to be a responsible business, and to be a responsible consumer. When you’re the business lecturing your consumers on what they should be doing, well, that can produce an awkward situation. Let’s leave it at saying that a certain blog post stating obvious things has resulted in what can best be described as a kerfuffle, and, since you’ve heard it all before, it’s probably not worth repeating.

Better than lecturing music lovers, then, is finding out better ways to reach them.

I know plenty of artists and even people whose day job is running a label who are heavy Spotify users, so let’s leave that discussion for the moment. What has been of ongoing interest to CDM is the music enthusiast – the person who does want to own music, on limited-edition CDs, on tapes, on vinyl, in high-quality digital downloads. Reaching these enthusiasts, even if it doesn’t net much in the way of income, can be almost an organizing tool. Getting them to spend a few bucks on your music can be about building a relationship with them.

We saw the wide spread of the musical act The Mast earlier this week. I made a rather significant error in that story, though – and what I missed says something about the diverse ideas out there about releasing music.

In their digital release of UpUpUp, the act and their label Playloop (and their other label Channel A) took a unique approach. Given a variety of models for how to distribute the music, they chose all of them. Self-released, pay what you will, straight from the artists? Check. iTunes? Check. Niche stores like Beatport? Check. Do you want this label, or this label? Yes.

They got the music out everywhere, and promoted it everywhere – and some of the resulting exposure of the music was only possible because of this multi-pronged approach.

Playloop Records’ Justin Paul (also an artist himself) sent in the correction.

The Mast EP is on two record labels, Channel A and Playloop Records. Each label is leveraging their brand and audience. Channel A is focusing on the iTunes market and Playloop is focus on EDM stores like Beatport, Juno and more. The band also has the freedom to release their content on Bandcamp for free or paid. This is a true 21st-century record deal.

Justin shares more of the details of how this came about with CDM.

This is a special situation. The band and I have a mutual friend and investor named Greg Lucas, founder of Creative Allies and former artist manager.

I was hanging out with Matt and Haale at Greg’s house in Santa Monica back in March. They were in town to do a shoot for the “UpUpUp” music video. Matt and Halle played me the original song, and I was like, wow! This would do really well in the EDM world – especially with remixes in several EDM sub genres. They come from more of a singer/songwriter and indie rock world. Greg explained to them that I’ve been a DJ, producer and label owner in EDM for a long time, and to trust my judgement. They already wanted to break into EDM and had a couple of people down to do remixes for the song.

I suggested that we do a hybrid deal. Have Playloop artists create exclusive remixes, and then release the EP via our EDM distribution channels such as Beatport and Juno. The version on iTunes and Bandcamp is slightly different. Both brands can leverage their audience and get DJs in the underground to help break the artist and record.

Deal structure:
Partnership between Channel A & Playloop Records:

Channel A / The Mast keeps 100% of the royalties from iTunes, Bandcamp and etc.

After Playloop remixers recoup their discounted production fee, the labels split royalties 50/50 from EDM distribution/stores, sync or other deals Playloop secures. Playloop remixers also get a piece of publishing if their derivative / remix gets public performance or sync

This maximizes leverage and helps establish a new model for artist and labels to follow. The traditional music business needs to evolve and
allow deals like this to take place. The contract has been via email. It also has been evolving.

The specifics here may prove directly applicable to other artists in a similar situation.

But consider the broader picture. Normally, people imagine working with labels (and labels working with artists) best left to exclusive deals, as either/or, as one choice over another. Here, there’s a true sense of collaboration. Ticking “all of the above” may have been better for all parties involved.

I could imagine that lesson applying to very different situations, too. And whatever the underlying business deal – even if you’re producing and sharing something for free – trying every available avenue may become increasingly necessary. It’s something that’s happening across the Internet, from politics to culture, whether for-sale or free.

And it’s nice to see it work. (See successes like Beatport exposure – and, hey, this site, too.) It certainly illustrates a role for a label. In this case, not only was one label better than none, two labels were better than one.

Hat tip to Yogi Berra, that legendary New York Yankee who is uniquely capable of the kind of zen koans like the one found in this headline.

And, of course, to the Muppets.

  • Khsef

    boring music, boring video, boring article

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Thrilling comment.

  • http://twitter.com/regend REGEND

    Distribute Digital Music…unless there’s a copy of the record on vinyl.

  • papernoise

    On one hand I cannot help thinking that this is somehow due to the fact that the whole market for music has become quite small lately, so people have to try everything to get something back for their investments. On the other hand you can read this in a different way also: The market is redefining itself, new channels are made and un-made daily. The best thing one can do is to experiment, because nobody really knows how the the market will work in the future, you can only find out by using everything there is now and being prepared for it.
    I imagine this can be quite a lot of work. The panorama is quite fragmented, you can’t rely on one channel only. This means that labels have to work a lot to get things out and keep everything under control.Actually I don’t have a lot information about how much piracy influences sales of indie musicians. I imagine it does, but maybe less than mainstream ones? Just wondering…
    Anyway there is no denying that one has to be even more creative now that only few crazy people will actually buy music. Most has been said about the topic, but I miss one thing in this whole discussion.

    The main problem of the record industry is that people don’t buy music because they can easily find it for free. And it’s become something totally natural for many people. I often happen to talk about music to someone and when I say that I buy everything I listen to, people look at me like I was an alien. 
    So this is a cultural problem, even a social one. I firmly believe that’s what labels should work on. It’s not just a problem of finding a business model.

    I’ve been working in marketing for some time now and I work a lot with cultural changes. The studio where I’m employed currently does a lot of projects related to cultural changes in society.
    As an example, we made a big campaign for the city of Munich, to increase the use of bicycles instead of cars in the urban area. Now Munich is totally a car-oriented city. It’s the BMW headquarters, again it’s a cultural and social thing. Nonetheless we managed to highly increase the so called modal split and get a lot more people to use the bicycle than anybody had thought we would.

    In the end it all boils down to creating sustainable environments for everybody. Paying for the music you listen to is just a way to make artists produce more music, they in turn will have money to spend on promotion, better shows, you name it (also they will spend more on tour posters and album covers, which is especially interesting for me 😀 )

    Cultural changes don’t come from nothing, but they happen, and can be fostered so they happen earlier than they would normally do.

  • theDIYrecordist

    Why must we assume there is something inherently wrong with a once-in-a-while lecture about how to be a responsible media consumer? I’m “lectured” daily from all angles about how to be a responsible citizen, a responsible parent, a responsible driver, environmentally responsible—the list goes on. Yes, calling out a specific young adult can be awkward, but the underlying message is clear and important: Your favorite music has value, there are real people dedicating their lives to making it, and they have to eat. As someone who has cobbled together a living for the past decade in music, I don’t mind someone reminding the public of that once in a while.

    That said, I totally agree—it’s our responsibility as media sellers to think waaaaay beyond the business models of the last 50 years.

    • papernoise

      I totally agree, but maybe it’s not only about responsibility, that’s one part of the thing. Responsibility sounds very rational to me, and people don’t act rationally most of the time. We act according to what we feel right. Acting in a responsible has to feel, otherwise you wouldn’t do it. Right now we have the problem that downloading your favourite band’s album from torrent feels totally right to many people.

      Now I don’t think that lecturing has much effect. I would not say it’s wrong, but if you lecture someone you attack the person, and that’s not a good starting point for communication.
      If I had a label I would invest in marketing actions that create a certain sensibility for the topic, getting people to experience the thing from the other point of view, from the musicians/labels perspective, involve people more in the processes behind the making of music. Make people experience the value of things. 
      Many things musicians and labels already do, but maybe these actions lack a certain clear strategy that gets the message to the people. it’s time to move on to Marketing 3.0

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Four words: “once in a while.”

      I trust the people experimenting with actual distribution models over the people lecturing a hapless intern about how she should donate money to make up for perceived ills. (All distorting what she said, as well – Spotify, whether he likes the terms or not, is using legal terms negotiated with labels and collection agencies, and it sounds from her post like she uses that a lot and torrents or otherwise illegally downloads very little. Heck, sounds like a lot of her music collection came in the mail to her post box at her job at the radio station from the labels and artists.)

  • Jim Aikin

    I agree with papernoise. Cultural changes don’t come from nothing, but they DO happen. I would compare the question of whether it’s okay to download free music to the question of whether it’s okay to throw lots of stuff in the garbage can. 30 years ago it was all garbage. Today, everybody recycles, because everybody understands that’s the responsible thing to do. Paying for music is the responsible thing to do. Period. I see no problem with an occasional public reminder of that fact, especially when a blogger for NPR admits that she treats musicians like garbage.

    • Ev Buckley

      I don’t think it follows from paying for music being a responsible thing to do that every individual end consumer of that music should necessarily be the one to do the paying. It’s certainly one way to do things, and I’d never argue that it is wrong, but other ways exist too.

      Take for instance visual art. I don’t pay for any visual art, ever. Occasionally, after the art has been made and paid for by other people I’ll buy an exhibition ticket for a big show, but I never contribute directly to its creation. And yet, I don’t have any moral problem with expecting (demanding, even) that visual art continue to be made, and visual artists continue to be paid, whether by government funding, private funding, or Saatchi-like commissions.

      Visual art is never paid for by me. I never buy art, never commission it, and never own it. I just keep going to galleries for free, and soaking up the amazing cultural achievements created by interactions between those who care enough and can afford to pay for these things to be created, and the artists who create them. In spite of this, I don’t feel like I “treat [visual artists] like garbage” just because I benefit from their work without paying them directly.

      I think the commodification of recorded music was an aberrant detour that one branch of the arts made away from the others due to a peculiarity of reproduction technology, and in future music will have to gradually come back into line with everything from poetry to architecture, where it’s simply unheard of to expect to make a living by charging per reader, building user or listener.

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Except that’s not what she said. She said she doesn’t own music on CD. She didn’t talk about buying music from online sources – I’m unclear on what this particular random intern does there. But she said she wanted an easier, Spotify-like way of paying for music. I have no idea how that’s a radical idea – in fact, it’s more or less the very model ASCAP and BMI have applied to performance venues and radio for years.

      It’s a blown-up, non-controversy, which is why I tried to direct discusion to an actual model of how you would make his all work. It seems I’m being nonetheless ignored in comments. But to me, this example really is illustrative. If you have people like this young person not buying music, your best bet is to get stuff in front of them in a way that they do. And, as that endlessly preachy response pointed out, Spotify doesn’t generate enough revenue.

      Things like Beatport, however, are huge wins for artists in terms of *both* exposure and income (and don’t force artists to choose.)

      Anyway, why discuss the actual substantive issues when you can do what trichordist did and go off on a long rant about the plight of artists, with no real structural solutions, begging people to instead call out advertisers on Pirate Bay and write checks to charities? Makes sense to me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cacealian Todd Fletcher

    Most people never have paid for the music they listened to: they got it through the radio for free. The ratio of hours of free music (whether from radio play or downloads)  to album sales has probably always been high, like 1000:1. 

  • Nathan Groth

    I’m a little surprised that nobody has commented on this little phrase in Justin Paul’s quote “The band and I have a mutual friend and investor…”.  I’m not casting any judgements on this but I think it’s an interesting litte aside in a larger conversation about promoting music, because promoting and distributing music typically takes some $$! In all these discussions about the “new economic model” of the music industry these days, one detail that seems to get ignored, at least in my opinion, is who funds this stuff, especially if the artist themselves aren’t getting any appreciable income from the sales of their music to put toward promo, etc.  Is a “friendly” investor the real future of the music business in the 21st century?

    • Justin Paul

      Hi Nathan, To be very clear. On this project we used our own resources and skill sets. The band and Playloop received zero investment for this EP. The band paid for and created the video on their own. I leveraged Playloop’s existing distribution channels and our audience that I’ve been building mostly on my own for the last six years. Greg has only invested in my educational Website GetGoingTraining. I have funded Playloop from my events, labels share of net revenue, performances and faculty salary. 

    • Nathan Groth

      Thanks for the clarification. Like I said in my original post, I wasn’t bringing this up in a negative light, the phrase just jumped out at me and seemed to warrant further investigation.

  • heinrichz

    Preaching proper fair use is not the way to go but i think if someone makes money playing other people’s music they should also get a substlantial part of it to the creators. I’m mainly talking about professional DJ’s here, that would download stuff from torrents etc.
    Where i would draw the line ethically is whether you’re just consuming other people’s music for your own enjoyment and education or whether you’re planning to use it for some money making gigs. I think the gallery/art example is spot on for the average music consumer: he should be able to hear anything for free or just a little fee if it’s presented via a curated chanel of sorts. And clearily that’s where the business model is heading. The old record business was indeed an anomaly based on a developing technology, and the sooner we as musicians can forget about it the better.