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New Music Digest: Spring 2010

Blog | May 3, 2010 | Updated: June 27, 2012 | Posted by Basilisk

I process a lot of interesting content on the web these days. Much of this comes from the blogs I subscribe to and read almost daily. I also tend to follow links shared on Facebook and Twitter whenever my curiosity is piqued. I have been posting my findings on Twitter for a while but I have found that only a small percentage of site visitors are tuned in. Twitter is also a fleeting medium–good content is quickly buried. For that reason I have gathered a number of the more enduring, intriguing, or controversial links I have shared in the last few months (and a few that I never got around to passing on). These news items and opinion pieces are intended to inspire, inform, educate, and prompt discussion about the new music industry, copyright reform, netaudio, and the state of the psytrance scene. Let’s begin…

David Kusek’s 10 strategies for success in music is all about developing a positive and pragmatic attitude to the music business. It directly assaults some of the more unrealistic expectations that seem to inflict musicians with alarming regularity. A great primer for new artists.

How much do music artists earn online? This infographic seeks to convey a sense of scale, quantifying how much music an artist must sell to earn a monthly wage comparable to the average burger jockey or gas station attendant. It is particularly interesting given the hype surrounding new streaming services such as Spotify and last.fm (from which Ektoplazm has made less than 5 EUR since the program began).

Speaking of last.fm, they recently shut down on-demand streaming, though you wouldn’t know it by the mealy-worded blog posting the announcement was buried in. Ten days later reveals a new “play direct” program that falls outside of the artist royalty program. It sounds bad but you have to look at the numbers–in the case of Ektoplazm less than 2% of our royalties were earned through on-demand streaming.

Are downloads really killing the music industry? Or is it something else? This is an old article that I dredged up since the message really resonates. The argument is simple: people are spending more on entertainment but proportionately less on music compared to more interactive and immersive mediums such as video games.

Why all musicians should pay attention to Facebook fan pages is a case study in fan acquisition. The lessons: make great music, invest a little time into Facebook, make it easy to get some of your good music for free, and realize that anyone can be the link to your next “SuperFan.”

What I learned from making The Sandinista Project free for a day provides more evidence for the huge attention gap between free and almost free. The conclusion is rather pessimistic but I haven’t got a better answer yet either.

How to sell to a pirate is a dry examination of the stupid ways in which the cultural industries handicap themselves–for instance, by using DRM or failing to offer a product in some territories. The free (but illegal) alternatives often win out simply because they provide a better product with fewer hassles for the consumer than what the legal channels offer.

Labels: Lower Music Prices And Increase Your Profits, Study Says is another article from the “obvious” file. Digital media still has a higher per-unit cost than physical media despite all the savings involved (no need to stock inventory, for instance). Seems stupid, right? It feels like such a wasted opportunity–just when consumers were shifting into the digital realm the industry makes it as unpalatable as possible to choose the legal option.

It could be worse. The Orwellian plan to track your music illuminates what the RIAA would like to be able to do. Forget net neutrality and online privacy–if the industry has its way we’d live in a police state.

Netlabel 101 with blocSonic is a straight-forward interview with one of the leading voices in netaudio. Topics include free music distribution, how to start up a netlabel, the Creative Commons, and the importance of those who dig–the gatekeepers and tastemakers.

Artists Should Be Compensated For Their Work is an inflammatory diatribe that will likely anger many musicians. The author makes a careful distinction between an artist’s art and their work, arguing that artists are not inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their art. Food for thought, no doubt.

Clay Shirky has been a huge inspiration for everything I do here at Ektoplazm. The connection might not be obvious, particularly when you read his most recent article, The Collapse Of Complex Business Models, but it is there. I won’t even attempt to summarize his nuanced points–just read it if the headline interests you.

Do music artists fare better in a world with illegal file-sharing? This controversial analysis of label and artist revenue seems to suggest that major artists are in a better position now than they were years ago–all thanks to the power of live gigs. I remain sceptical–but it is worth looking into at least.

Bad news for Psyport and other niche market social networks using the Ning platform: Ning is transitioning to a pay-only service. Bummer. At least they are providing an option to export data (unlike Big Brother Facebook).

Goa trance in 1982? Thoughts on ‘10 Ragas To a Disco Beat’ explores the buzz surrounding Charanjit Singh’s seemingly improbable synthesizer exploits from the early eighties. More samples here.

The Barriers of Music Consumption, Past and Present touches upon the death of the album format, the democratization of music collection, and the end of the economy of scarcity that defined the previous generations’ relationship with recordings. This is followed by The Broken System: Deconstructing Music Consumption, which examines traditional distribution systems, the process of music discovery, and how our taste in music is shaped in the digital era.

This Is Our Hous(ing) Music: Some thoughts on the ‘fetish’ packaging of sound recordings is a musing and intellectually-stimulating exploration of the strange world of limited edition packaging and physical media fetishism.

Cosmic Trance, the Hero’s Journey and the Overview Effect is a heavy exploration of astronomic themes in psytrance (and related genres) by Graham St John, the editor of the Dancecult journal. In it he touches upon Cybernetika’s Nanospheric (a free download here at Ektoplazm) and Kenji Williams’ intriguing Bella Gaia project among many others.

Kaiserdisco, please be minimal is a Beatportal feature that highlights the failings of Beatport’s system of musical categorization. What is the difference between minimal, techno, and tech house? Seems like some artists are just opting for the designation that leads to the most sales–and minimal is on its way out.

Hunab-ku Magik Mix Contest: The Winning Mix wraps up several months of activity over at Marsh’s Goat Ranch blog. The net result is about a dozen serious DJ mixes by a bunch of die-hard old school Goa trance collectors. Be sure to check out Marsh’s next project, the ambitious Global Goa Party. I plan to make a mix for that one!

Finally, Listology is home to a number of resources of interest to OCD Goa trance fans. Check out Somazoid’s New School Goa Trance Discography and the Best Goa Trance to find out what you might have been missing.

Is this digest format useful? Let me know–I might assemble another one some day. In the meantime, follow Ektoplazm on Twitter for instant updates.

Photo credit: JohnRHawk.


6 Comments

  • Omwoods says:

    Thanks for sharing these links. God I can’t believe Ning is going pay-only. Yet again, I can. Serious bummer.
    Makes me appreciate your site even more
    – thanks, Om

  • marsh says:

    Thanks for the plug! Looking forward to your mix, Bas. :)

  • Astral Brain Tentacles says:

    I appreciate the effort Bas’ in posting these links. Cheers. I especially enjoyed Cosmic Trance, the Hero’s Journey and the Overview Effect.

  • Sid says:

    Wow thanks alex…monday morning is gonna b nice now :D
    gettin my cuppa now hehe

  • Eskae says:

    very useful links for an amateur producer such as myself! nice to see things in perspective. thanks for posting it!

  • sonia says:

    Hi great info to present to my father who has been researching with his brother the affects socially,physchologicaly etc,etc, of the music industry,and his interest in goa trance,likes the tunes been downloading for him..Not bad for a 67 yr old still rave dances at clubs.