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The Suits will inherit the Earth, or History will teach us nothing.

Ben O'Hara - Friday, February 03, 2012

I have been reading Bobby Owsinski’s book ‘Music 3.0 A Survival Guide for Making Music in the Internet Age‘ It’s an interesting read.

He presents an interesting contention in the 1st few chapters.  In summary he suggests that the music industry has entered into 5 distinct phases.

Music 1.0 – 1950’s to mid 1980’s.  ‘It’s all about the MUSIC’. 

Owsinski suggests that this golden era for music saw record companies created by music fans who were discovering great music and finding ways to get that music to consumers – other music fans.  The industry was run by fans of music – for fans of music… until the suits take over.

Music 1.5 Mid 1980’s – CD’s and reselling the back catalogue.  The suits take over

Eventually, the bigger record labels were born, and all of the little indi labels get swallowed up by bigger ones.  There are still music fans at the heart of these bigger companies, but they are fans that realize that this rock music thing is more than a passing fad – it’s a business where you can make plenty of money.  As people re-buy on CD all of the stuff they had already bought on vinyl, the cash is just rolling in.  Big Artists make big profits for the big companies.  We end up with just a handful of major companies and they are owned by even bigger companies.  The TIME/Warner’s the Vivendi’s who have no idea about music.  It’s just another profit source for them.

Music 2.0 – The Digital Age – 1990’s.
Peer to Peer networks, file sharing, CD burning and so on.  The fans take control of the music once again.  ‘I want all the music I can get my hands on, I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t need too. ‘  Every fan of file sharing or of obtaining music illegally will at some point say in their defense one of the following statements:

  1. I was sick of paying for whole albums when all I really wanted was a couple of songs
  2. I buy lots of music anyway, I use online to find what I might buy later
  3. I don’t want to give my money to rich artists and even richer record companies.
  4. I only access stuff I can’t get anywhere else anyway.

It’s a golden era for consumers.  Free music…until the suits take over…

Music 2.5 – Digital Music is Monetized 2000’s

Apple iTunes and others realize that there is money to be made from online music.  They just need an interface that is better than the file sharing options, deals with the majors and indi’s to access their music and a price that competes with free.  So while iTunes doesn’t replace free music it does make a dent in it and it does replace the CD store.  iTunes, Amazon, Online Radio, The new Napster, Virgin all have a go at making big profits from online music.  What was once the domain of the fans is now a profit making machine for the big corporations.  This time the record companies miss out – it’s the technology companies that are controlling things.

Music 3.0 Artist/Fan Communication – 2006 onwards

Owsinski reckons that now is truly the golden era for musicians.  This is the era where musicians no longer needing the big companies.  We can of course finally communicate directly with fans via MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and so.  We can now cut out the middleman.  Owsinski reckons it will just keep getting better as well.  The technologies will continue to improve and there will once again be a golden era where the music really counts.

I think he is missing a pattern here.  ‘UNTIL THE SUITS TAKE OVER.’  History has shown us that true music fans and the musicians themselves drive the advances and changes but eventually the suits will take over.  If there is real money to be made, big business will eventually devise a system that they can control, where they can make the lion share of profits and they can funnel creator to consumer communication, to ensure big profits to them.

It might not happen right away, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.  Sometime in the next 10 years, a better system for communicating and getting money from fans will come along, access to that system will be limited to the chosen few and the profits will end up back in the pockets of big business.  I hate to sound pessimistic about this – but it’s what’s going to happen.  History has shown this to be true.

I am not saying that you may as well give up on direct to fan communication.  Not at all, I think it is the key for the moment.  Just be aware that there will come a point where it is no longer a level playing field.  

Ben O'Hara

Rick Springfield is a Marketing Genius

Info Info - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rick Springfield is Marketing Genius


Remember Rick Springfield?   Probably not, right. Think 1982 and Jessie’s Girl, still struggling?  Well it turns out that his fans remember him.  Rick is working on the Nine Inch Nail’s model of connecting with fans + reason to buy = $$$ (Look up Michael Masnick’s talk here if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

Rick is so good at it he has made a documentary about his fans love for him and his love for his fans.  View the trailer here -

Talk about connecting with your fans.  Personally my favourite bit was “he can do whatever he wants to Jessie’s Girl, just so long as he keeps his damm hands off my wife.”


Rick’s site is amazing, the amount of merch on there is huge and he sells premium stuff, auto graphed albums and guitars, premium packing of CD’s and special concert tickets that include attending the sound check and meet and greets before and after the show.  Even better than all of that – why not join Rick on a Rick Springfield themed cruise?  Travel the seven seas’s, and explore new places all with Rick Springfield and his band playing all the way through. 


Check out the video from last years cruise.


What’s the lesson in all of this for you?

This guy is a bona fide Rockstar and you can get this close to him.  He loves the fans and he gives a lot to them.  He truly connects with the fans and gives them a reason to buy.  (Good luck downloading a cruise on the internet)  He is giving the fans a true Rick Springfield experience.  All bands can learn from this – updating your Facebook and sitting at the merch table after the gig is not connecting with fans.  I not saying that taking them on a cruise is, Springfield has workout that most of his fans are 35 to 45 year old women who remember having a crush on him 30 odd years ago.  You have to workout what your fans connect with you for…and meet them there.

Your music is your marketing

Info Info - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Think about this. For the independent musician, the music you make is essentially your advertising. The product that you are trying to sell is yourself as the artist. You are trying to get consumers to buy into you as an artist, come to shows, buy a t-shirt and buy the premium package of your music, whatever. The music is just an ad to get consumers to buy in.

Think about what could happen to your outlook on the music industry if you started to think of the music itself as just an advertising message. Would you charge people to listen to or watch an ad? No way, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to see your ads and to be affected by them. Better still, you want people to talk about your ads and to share them with one another. Your ad can go viral if enough people like it, share it and make it part of their Facebook profile. Your ad helps them define who they are – now that’s a buy in!

Music videos have always been ads for the single, but did you know that in the 60s the single was really just an ad for the album. The Beatles certainly thought that way; they always saw the album as the main game. Having number one singles is just a great way to get people to buy your album and then buy into you as an artist. Artists and record companies will always rather sell albums than singles. Traditionally the single was sold just above cost price but its main aim was to get you to buy more great songs just like this one...on the album. Remember the “Cassingle” (A cassette single that contained 2 or 3 songs) It was a disposable item, sold very cheap so you could take that favorite song with you anywhere you wanted. But if you didn’t want to have to change the tape every 5 minutes…you had to buy the album.

When you think of the music as an ad for the artist you have to question the wisdom of doing anything that gets in the way of getting that advertising message to the masses. Charging for music seems crazy.

Get the music everywhere that it can be seen or heard (like any marketing message) give it away at gigs or on MySpace or via file sharing sites, wherever you can. Hope that your adverting makes an emotional connection with the listener. If it does you will have the opportunity to try to turn them into fans. Why do anything to stop your main advertising message get to the masses?

Ben O'Hara

Consumerism, Radio Head: Pop is dead?

Mark Beard - Tuesday, June 08, 2010

It has been recently reported that Radiohead’s frontman Thom Yorke claims “pop is dead”

Being interviewed for the 'The Rax Active Citizenship Toolkit' Yorke reportedly said: "It will be only a matter of time - months rather than years - before the music business establishment completely folds"

The loss of the maintstream industry would be "no great loss to the world"

Plus telling musicians not to "tie themselves to the sinking ship".

Links reporting on Thom Yorkes comments

Remaining authentic amid a sea of hype

Mark Beard - Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Remaining authentic amid a sea of hype

Recently USA Today journalist Edna Gundersen characterized the career of singer/songwriter Jack Johnson thus: “unbending path of honest self-expressionin today's spectacle-driven pop world, where artifice trumps art, that's a non-conformist stance and one that has impressed legions of admirers”.

So how, in our marketing-driven culture do artists like Jack Johnson remain true to their craft, generate critical acclaim and a sustainable income?

“Consider such as the late jazz pianist Bill Evans, generally aspire to be artistic innovators, attempting to create music that meets their own artistic values of quality while appealing to a genre or sub-culture of fans. Early in his career Evans was troubled by the mysteries of career promotion. Not a natural self-promoter, he resolved to be the best musician he could be, trusting that audiences would find him. Evans never compromised his musical and artistic vision, and although open to new musical ideas, he always maintained the traditional jazz song structure. With this artistic approach he became one of the most successful jazz musicians of all time” (Source: Music Marketing PR and Image Making)

As for Jack Johnson, Billboard chart analyst Keith Caulfield puts it this way:

"There's a certain mystique about him that people find fascinating: how he exists as a musician in a hyper-public world, his conscious decision to lay low as that surfer dude chilling out in Hawaii."

The irony is, that sometimes, artistic serendipity comes first, then the “branding” follows.

We marketers are tempted to assume that the process goes something like this:

  • Through research, identify the unmet needs of market segment.

  • Develop a product and brand story that meets the needs and expectations of that segment.

  • Pull out the “4-Ps” from the marketing toolbox and “pee” all over that market.

  • Wait for the cash to roll in.

But… marketing is non-linear. Don’t assume that just because a pro-forma marketing plan document sets out “marketing” in a rigid order, that marketing in practice follows those rigid steps.

Often product development, (or in Jack Johnson’s case artistic expression) comes first and the “marketing” follows. True it could be argued that product/artistic development is a constituent element of the product “P” in the ubiquitous marketing mix. If this is true, then marketing must be non-linear. It simply defies logic that an artist, like a market researcher would first consult the market prior to creating.

I think Jack Johnson, Bill Evans and even the Ray Kinsella character in Kevin Kosner’s Field of Dreams had it right…” if you build it, he (the fan) will come”.

Read the full Edna Gundersen USA Today article here

The Biz to support 2010 AMPAL Industry Forum

Ben O'Hara - Monday, May 10, 2010


For immediate release: 21 April 2010 

The Backstage Pass is a forum evening for young people interested in developing careers in the music industry. An expert panel will feature Ian James (Mushroom Music Publishing), Rae Harvey (Crucial Music), Tim Janes (Shock Records), Charlie Thorpe (Dash & Will) and Catherine Gerard (AMPAL). The evening will begin from 8pm at The Toff in Town on Tuesday, 18 May. Entry is $15 through MoshTix and at the door until sold out.

All young people interested in developing careers within the music industry are invited to a forum night featuring an array of industry panellists from all sectors of 'the biz'. The Backstage Pass information night, is presented by the Australasian Music Publishers Association (AMPAL) and organised by the Music Industry Business Office (MiBO

The Toff in Town will play host to The Backstage Pass on Tuesday May 18th with the evening’s proceedings beginning from 8pm. The expert panellists include Ian James (Mushroom Publishing), Rae Harvey (Crucial Music), Tim Janes (Shock), Charlie Thorpe (Dash & Will) and Catherine Gerrard (AMPAL).

Ian James
has been with Mushroom Music Publishing for over 22 years however has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. In this time Ian has also worked as a Licensing Manager at APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association). Being the Deputy Chairman of APRA and Chairman of AMCOS, he has been closely involved in setting new standards in the music industry. Some of the tasks he entails are: collecting royalties from record labels, television licences, and the most important new revenue, digital downloads.

Rae Harvey
began as a show promoter at the age of 18 when she coordinated 9 bands to play at a party for her birthday. Though only 50 people were invited, a crowd of over 600 showed up. She was soon organising and promoting shows at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. In 1996 Harvey established her own management company, Crucial Music and became the long term manager of the successful Australian band, The Living End. Harvey has worked with bands Bodyjar, NoFX, Blink 182, Lagwagon and Millencolin. After a breakup scare with The Living End, Harvey began to manage other Australian bands including Children Collide and Gyroscope. Harvey is considered an expert in her field, focusing on managing and preparing tours.

Tim Janes
is the marketing manager of Shock Records. Shock is Australia's leading independent record distributor and music exporter. This involves licensing, marketing and distributing CDs from over 100 international record labels within Australia as well as commercial releases of its Australian artists in overseas markets.  Prior to his work with Shock, Janes started his career in the Melbourne street press magazines Beat and Inpress before moving onto Shock in the late 90s as Local Product Manager.

Charlie Thorpe
, also known as ‘Dash’ one half of the Australian Pop duo, Dash & Will have been performing from a very young age, first performing with ‘Will’ at the age of twelve. The two have performed at many festivals such as: Falls Festival, Push Over, Southbound, Homebake and the prestigious South by South West in Austin, Texas. Dash & Will have also supported such acts as The Kooks, The Ting Tings, The Futureheads, Ben Lee and Van She. The Duo’s first single, " Pick You Up ", was released in May 2008. Their debut album ‘Up in Something’ was released in August 2009.

Catherine Gerrard
is the Executive Director, of publishing and copyright at All Music Publishing and Distribution, also known as AMPD. In her role at AMPD, Catherine has worked with such artists as Missy Higgins, Kate Miller-Heidke, and Silverchair. She has also worked with many catalogues such as Mushroom, Albert Music and Native Tongue. Prior to being at AMPD, Catherine worked in a senior management position at AMEB federal office. Catherine is also the director of AMCOS, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Association and the chairperson of AMPAL, the Australasian Music Publishers’Association.

Entry into the evening is $15 with tickets available from MoshTix and at the door, until sold out. People interested in attending are encouraged to submit their questions for the panellists prior to the event by emailing

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