Appetite for Western Destruction

Newly uncovered documents have revealed details of an old Soviet propaganda plan, in which Guns N Roses’ 1987 album, Appetite for Destruction, was to be turned into a 12-episode mini-series on the rise and triumph of Communism. During Vladimir Putin’s hair band days in the KGB, he was known to blare “18 and Life” by Skid Row during interrogations. But only now has his interest in GNR as a propaganda vehicle come to light.

Below is a plot outline taken from the “Appetite for Western Destruction” comic books, which were distributed in Soviet kindergartens and mining camps in anticipation of the ill-fated mini-series.

Episode 1 – Welcome to the Jungle

Dressed in leather, Lenin rides a horse into pre-Communist Vladivostock. He is overwhelmed by the sight of girls in short skirts and the smiles of potato vendors.

Episode 2 – It’s So Easy

Lenin tricks the entire czarist government into joining a tribe of donkeys in Siberia. The power vacuum enables his quick ascension to power.

Episode 3 – Nightrain

After Lenin succumbs to illness, Stalin spends Soviet resources to build a train from Moscow to Tahiti. To prevent an exodus of Russian peasants to the tropical islands, the train runs only after the 8pm curfew.

Episode 4 – Out Ta Get Me

Stalin’s paranoia gets the better of him. In addition to using body doubles when hunting in the countryside, he hires an additional 17,354 secret agents.

Episode 5 – Mr. Brownstone

Stalin’s uncle Boris moves to Brooklyn, where he opens a pastry shop. He recruits Soviet sympathizers and holds card games in his basement.

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Marketing is an Illness – So Cheer Up!

The deeper I wade into the nuts and bolts of music marketing, the sicker I feel. Are all industries as over saturated and horrifying?

Of all things, music has been the closest to my heart forever. And so I can’t imagine how I would feel, marketing something I didn’t even like. Oh, wait. Actually I can. Last year I worked in marketing at a hi-tech company here in NYC. My job in a nutshell was to sell software that didn’t exist with features and benefits that the company could never produce, to non-existent customers. What a shithole. Try feeling confident when pitching imaginary products based on technology you couldn’t produce or even talk about intelligently, to Fortune 500 companies. Good luck!

Anyway. I just came across a really cool hip-hop biz blog. Justin Boland has a style that I can really identify with. As the Bobs would say, this guy is a “real straight shooter”.
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Niche Marketing – Omar Hakim, Jack Kerouac, and Satan

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about niche marketing for music. Phil Robinson mentioned it in his MusicSnob interview, and Derek Sivers of CDBaby wrote a good post on it. Sivers says that by solving a particular need, you will sell more music.

The Problem

A lot of musicians approach people this way: “Hey, check out my music! It’s really awesome.”

Response: “What’s it sound like?”

Artist: “It’s really catchy, and sounds kind of like…”

As I know from my own experience, people won’t really care, because every musician thinks their music is good, and vague superlatives won’t inspire people to check it out.

The Solution, as I See It

The solution, then, is to associate your music with a specific purpose and a specific audience.

Because each of my songs is driven by a very different narrative, I haven’t thought up a single target niche. However, I have identified three different niches for the three main tracks on my latest EP, and am going to market them accordingly. Here’s the run-down:

Track 1: Pure Joy

This track presents an inspired vision of romantic love. But it’s not specific enough to really fit in a super-targeted group. A different angle, though, is that Omar Hakim, a world-famous drummer, plays on all the tracks of the EP. Perhaps by focusing on blogs aimed at drummers, instead of blogs that write about rock bands, I can get some people talking about the track. Omar’s playing is phenomenal on the entire EP, and I think drummers would love to hear what he can do in a studio session for an unknown artist.

Track 2: You and I

This track is about taking a road trip across America with a good friend. My youth was heavily influenced by Jack Kerouac, author of On the Road. This track is a musical homage to his influence on my life, and portrays the energy and excitement of road trips. I’m going to contact web communities of Kerouac fans and share this song with them, because I think it might speak to them in a similar way to his writings.

Track 3: Devil Song

This song is trickier, as the narrative is more complicated. It’s based on the story of Satan’s rebellion against God, as portrayed in the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. This is probably too obscure for most rock listeners. But one idea is to target literary communities online and see if the depiction of Satan’s dilemma resonates with any literary scholars or poets.

I could also target Christian communities, but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with that. The song is about Satan’s despair at being cast out of heaven and unable to coexist with humans on Earth. I’m not sure Christians would be too sympathetic, and, frankly, I don’t want my music associated with religious causes.

How About You?

What sort of niche markets are you targeting with your songs?

Your Online Music Marketing Strategy – Evolvor Media

For some great tips on marketing your music online, we recently turned to Eric Hebert, CEO of Evolvor Media. His company works with bands and labels to roll out successful web marketing campaigns. Here are his thoughts…

In your opinion, what are the essential social networking sites that bands MUST be on these days?

There are a ton of networks out there, and with new ones coming out every day it seems, the task of setting up all these profiles can be time consuming. Obviously MySpace and Facebook are no-brainers, they’re going to be the ones you use the most. If you’re in the rock genre, Purevolume and GarageBand are must haves. Virb is becoming very popular because of its clean but customizable options. You’ll have to get on YouTube for videos and Flickr for photos, they’re part of the plan as well. You’ll also need to make traction on the big three streaming networks –, iLike, and Imeem. Saving the best for last, Reverbnation offers the best tools out of any of these networks to help promote their music and nurture their fanbase.

How can an independent artist use MySpace effectively to develop a fan community? Is that even possible anymore?

MySpace is just a tool in your toolbox. It has to be part of a bigger plan. You’ll use it to gain fans and communicate with them, but ultimately you’ll want to have your own website, your own blog, your own contact list. Use MySpace and the other networks to interact and bring them to your website. Do you own the contact list you have through MySpace? You want to build your communnity and own the asset.

What are some of the most exciting music marketing tools you’ve seen lately?

I mentioned Reverbnation, they are offering fantastic tools, mostly for free. They have the best streaming music widgets out there, the sound quality is far superior to MySpace’s player. The have a full list management system that also coordinates your street team. I used to pay money for a similar system that was harder to use! Full analytics for everything as well, all in very nice charts and graphs. Their Gig Finder helps you book shows with contact information available right there. Soon they’re going to be rolling out some awesome new options, you really need to check them out.

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War on Terror Responsible for Low CD Sales

As we all know, CD sales have continued to drop over the past several years. The thugs of the recording industry (RIAA) consistently blame illegal downloading and filesharing, but today a new study brings to light a startling correlation:

After much statistical analysis, it is now clear that the drop in CD sales can be attributed to the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”, the public relations campaign that it began in September of 2001.

The study’s most disturbing findings were:

  • 9% of Americans are now too scared to hang out at the mall.
  • 14% of all music consumers enlisted in the military, and now they can’t afford to buy CDs.
  • 2% of American music consumers had the last name Bin Laden and were flown out of the USA by the Bush administration just after 9/11.
  • By 2001, every single American owned Dark Side of the Moon and Thriller.
  • 30,000 Americans saw the video of Attorney General John Ashcroft singing and no longer listen to music.
  • All 5,000,000 copies of the Backstreet Boys’ last album were sent to Guantanamo Bay.
  • Guns ‘N Roses hasn’t released an album in 15 years.
  • Dick Cheney has been too busy crushing souls to keep up with his CD of the Month Club.

How to Make Great Web Videos

Do you want your web videos to look like this?

Or like this?

One of the problems with having a budget of practically zero for online music marketing is that it can be difficult to create good quality videos for the web. I have a decent digital camera, but the last time I created a video in YouTube, it turned into a pile of crap. See below:

In addition to having poor image quality, the sound is pretty bad. The poor sound quality is particularly noticeable before the song really gets going, and you can hear the mic “noise”. I tried using audio noise filters in Adobe Premiere Pro, which seemed to work while listening in the program, but for some reason the final video still suffered.

So. A quick Google search has brought up several sites that seem to have very good suggestions that we can all use to avoid having crappy videos that no one wants to watch because they are too blurry:

How To Make YouTube Videos Look Great

If you scroll through this site, you will find a ton of articles on compressing videos for YouTube using a range of programs, as well as string of other articles with even more tips.

Just another example of how the internet is now doing the work of 100 men. 24 hours a day. Thank you, Mr. Internet!

Additional Sound Enhancement

For musical performances, keep in mind that you can process the sound from video. So if you know what you’re doing, you can eliminate most background hiss, add some slight reverb or delay for warmth, and EQs. Nice. Go easy on the reverb, though, because it can be quite weird listening to cathedral sounds while watching a video of someone’s basement.

Some Good Advice

Hey y’all, I recently came across Talk Music Biz, which covers a lot of ground that I think would be helpful for any of us poor and crushed musicians out there. The guy who maintains the site posts good videos where he talks about music industry stuff, and has some good tips for online marketing, getting licensed, internet radio, and on and on. Check it out.

Crash on My Couch! Tour Lodging for the Indie Musician

Finally, a company to serve those of us that wish more strange musicians would sleep on our couches!

Seriously, though, this actually sounds pretty interesting. Better Than The Van has recently introduced a site to connect touring musicians with people willing to let them sleep on their couches. Whether they are daredevils, sickos, or good Samaritans, people are posting profiles and opening their homes to musicians that need a free place to stay.

Better Than The Van looks too new to judge how useful it will be, but I like the idea. What I would really love to see is a site where I could match these willing victims with venues, essentially enabling me to plot out a little tour all from one site. But I guess if things were that easy, everyone would do it.

We posed some questions to Todd, the official “Firestarter” for BTTV. Read the interview below!

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Human Beings Detected!

I just got off the phone with Rick O’Neal, a friendly staffer from Nimbit. A few weeks ago I set up a free account with them so I could use their embeddable Online Merch Table (OMT), to sell my music directly to people from my various websites.

A Real Voice on the Phone

Though I usually just stare at unknown phone numbers with fear, for some reason I bothered to answer the call and was surprised to find that Nimbit was calling to find out how my sales were going. I know it was a sales call, as they want me to upgrade my account and give them some money, but it’s also in their best interests that I sell as much music as possible through my Nimbit OMT.

Artistic Representation of Rick
Artistic Representation of Rick

Given that this is web-based technology, the last thing I expect is to have a human actually call me to talk about my Nimbit account, and address additional ways I can try marketing and selling my music. Given that my music hasn’t “taken off” and I don’t have any gigs scheduled, I probably won’t upgrade my account anytime soon. But it sure raises their cache in my eyes that they actually call their users. I can’t think of any web-based service that’s ever called me to see what’s up…

Just Because You’re Paranoid, Don’t Mean They’re Not After You…

A paranoid person might say that Nimbit called me knowing I write this little blog on music marketing technology, but my rational side tells me that this is wishful thinking.

So, nice work Nimbit. Hopefully you guys will have a smaller module available soon for embedding in sidebars…

Anyone else have any good or bad experiences with these guys?