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September 2008 archive

CD Released and Getting Ready to Play Live Again

Hi – have been totally busy with Rebel Zen but have been getting some key things done music-wise in spare moments:

  1.  The CD is available for purchase via CD Baby . As per this funny post  the four discs in stock at CDBaby are CD-ROM, but I just received my order of commercial CDs proper, so what I am doing is emailing the people who buy the (perfectly fine) CD ROMS and posting them a complementary copy of the commercially pressed discs.
  2. I have a Melbourne Gig, October 16th at 303 (303 High St, Northcote) and an Adelaide gig at Grace Emily (date to be confirmed) in the pipeline so I’ll get all “promotey” about those over the next week. Yep, it’s time to tread the boards again after a long break.
  3. I am going to get a redesign of this site done soon with a “static” (but not static) homepage and more features, like free music downloads, video, and I’ll be making all of my older material (there’s shitloads) available for pretty cheap soon to.
  4. I have been getting a few requests for new copies of my old band Reckoning‘s CDs, but they’re all sold out now, so we are going to release a best of CD and get all the tracks available by digital download. Also I’ve got a copy of the only half-decent video we ever did which I will get around to converting from VHS and putting online eventually. I also have been meaning to set up a proper website for the band one day also. Just for old time’s sakes 😉
  5. This will tie in nicely with the recording that Pete (Reckoning drummer) and I will be doing over the summer, after that we hope to start playing live together on a regular basis. I am really excited about that.
  6. Oh and my new recordings are supposed to be available through iTunes soon, via CDBaby and also a bunch of other online distributors. It seems to take a while to set up but hopefully that will come together in time for my all singing all dancing live efforts again.

So yes, has been a bit slow for the last couple of weeks, but this year has been all about laying the groundwork for me to re-enter the music business again in a sustainable way. Wish me luck (now go listen to my tunes at MySpace or just go buy them already!)

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How to Get Your Head Around CD Track Listing Metadata

When you make a CD of your own music for commercial release, the last thing you want is for people to pop their copy into their player of choice – whether it be iTunes, car stereo or a boom box – to get greeted by “unknown album – track 1”.

Not exactly great branding 😉

Well I sent my first few home-made discs off to CDbaby for sale, and only then thought about this, so seeing as I am about place an order for a bunch of commercially made CDs, I thought I’d better get up speed on how to get the track listing information happening properly.

Well I don’t have time now to write up a funny rant about how irritating it was trying to Google that information, but suffice to say I didn’t really know the correct search terms (now I do, and you will too by the end of this post). After a couple of days and the help of a couple of mates, I was starting to get a pretty good picture although it was still all far from clear. (Why is everything so complicated these days? Am I really getting that old that I can’t keep up?)

Then today I got a reply to an email I had sent on a whim to Brian of CDBaby and ladies and gentlemen! We have a winner! Brian get’s the 2008 “legend award for explanatory clarity”!

I asked Brian if he would mind if I pasted his answers in here for the benefit of confused musicians everywhere and he said that was fine. But before I do, can I just say (and I am not getting paid for this) that CDBaby as an organisation of enthusiastic and pleasant individuals has consistently blown my mind over the last few months. They simply offer the best customer service of ANY organisation EVER.

Ever-ever ever.

The following words are Brian’s not mine, and admittedly I haven’t actually tested all this out yet, but I will post updates if anything turns out to be wrong (or you can leave a comment). Ok, so here goes, prepare to be enlightened:

“As for the information (metadata) on the CD…

There are 3 ways (I know of) that a CD can be inserted into a computer, and “automatically” know the artist, album, and song information.

== METHOD # 1: Directly recorded onto the CD

The name for the technology by which information about a recording is embedded into an audio CD is: CD-Text. The information itself (album title, artist name, etc.) is often referred to collectively as “metadata”.

CD-Text is part of the Red Book standard for audio CDs. Basically: if your burning program can do Red Book burning and offers the ability to specify the artist / album name and track titles for a CD, it can probably do the CD-Text when you burn the CD.  Most reputable mastering houses will allow you to specify CD-Text to go on your CD, as well.

These links can tell you a hell of a lot more than I ever could:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Books (all optical disk formats)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Book_%28audio_CD_standard%29 (Red Book CD format)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD_Text (CD-Text)

Be sure to see the links at the bottom of each article, too.  For example: http://web.ncf.ca/aa571/cdtext.htm : Nero can burn CD-Text onto CD-Rs. According to the above Wikipedia article, iTunes 7 can as well.

Here’s one I found when Googling “metadata audio.cd” which *looks* free: http://www.poikosoft.com/

== METHOD #2. Looked-up from an internet service like CDDB or FreeDB

There are several variants on this, and the only difference really is how they identify CDs when popped in.

The most common (and by “most common”, I mean “99.98% of time”) method used by the major audio players (e.g. iTunes, WinAmp, Windows Media Player) is extracting an ID number from the non-audio part of a CD and looking it up in an online database.

It basically involves getting some kind of unique “code” off the CD (usually referred to as a “catalog number” or “id number”), and then matching it up with an online database that stores all the information about the CD with that unique code.

Different online databases use different codes, but most of them are variants on the CD’s “table of contents”: http://www.cdrfaq.org/faq02.html#S2-27 … which is just a short blurb on the inner ring of a CD that tells an audio CD player where the tracks start and stop.

The biggest online databases are:

CDDB/Gracenote: http://www.gracenote.com/
The most popular and widely used online database. Most media players get info from the CDDB. It used to be free for all, but since Gracenote bought it, costs money for software companies to use.

FreeDB: http://www.freedb.org/
Still free. Less comprehensive than the CDDB, but still very comparable.

AMG AllMusicGuide: http://allmusic.com/
AMG supplies data about releases to lots of other companies. They also maintain the allmusic.com website, which is sort of like Google for mass-released recorded music.

Muze: http://www.muze.com/
Kind of like AMG, except they also provide the music too. (One of CD Baby’s
Digital Distribution partners.)

== METHOD #3. Audio player software keeps a local database on your computer.

This is what iTunes and Windows Media Player and others also do.

If you pop in a CD and explicitly type in the artist, album, and track names, it stores all this in a file somewhere, probably accompanied by an id number like the CDDB does. Then, when you pop that CD into your computer again, you don’t have to type all that junk in again.

So… what should YOU do, for YOUR CD?

#1 – For future CDs you press, definitely look into #1, and try to encode the information directly into the CD.

#2 – Submit your CD’s info to CDDB/Gracenote.
The easiest way to do this is through iTunes.
1. Insert the CD into your machine.
2. Open iTunes. Be sure it recognizes your CD with your artistname / albumname. If it doesn’t, you can right click on both the CD itself (on the left-hand side of iTunes) and the individual CD tracks (usually in the playlist window on the right) and choose “Get Info” or “Properties”. There you can enter your artist name, track titles, and all the other info, and iTunes will save it (this is Method #3 discussed above).
3. Click on the “advanced” menu.
4. Then just “submit CD track info”.
Save the submission and it will automatically be uploaded to CDDB/Gracenote. (This is Method #2 discussed above.)”
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A Purple Ocean Music Model

Derek Sivers: Promotion! Creating the music is easy (though still underrated). Distributing the music is so easy it’s moot. So now the delicate art of calling attention to your music means everything. Marketing is distribution.

I just read this interview and the above quote in particular got me my mind racing. Especially about this: If you are running around saying that you want to be “a successful musician” – what does that actually mean? What will you be doing from day to day when you are a successful musician?

When I started out in music I knew what I wanted – big crowds, pretty girls falling at my feet, free beer and weed – and a get-out-of-work-free card that lasted the rest of my life (which at that point I saw lasting until about 1998 if I was lucky).

Well I got the first three for a while before the sum combined effect of these gifts on my little boy mind caused a complete blow-out and I went off the music scene radar. And now, at the youthful age of not quite 35 I am playing a kind of music that I can see myself playing when I am 95 and I am eager to get out there and “be a successful musician again”. Not because of the same reasons though. Not because I need the ego trip – but just because I enjoy making music. Not because I think “I’ll be happy when” but because I am happy now – even when I am not (weird but true) – and this gives me a a kind of freedom and confidence to just do what feels right. And not because I want to get rich but (call me a hippy) because I am abundant.

So I have my new CD – click here and go have a listen and then if you like it you can buy it. It is also available through digital distribution outlets like iTunes and the like. And I have well and truly returned to live performance. Yup, I am slowly but surely getting my thang back on the boil.

But what does this actually mean?

Well I know what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean hedonistic excess for me anymore – I’m over it. And it doesn’t mean ‘not having to work’ because I love my work which is more like play and have no desire to give most aspects of it up.

And it doesn’t mean “Rock Star”. That concept is hackneyed and irrelevant as far as I am concerned although I concede that this may just be because I am, like, totally ancient.

And I don’t want it to mean countless gigs in front bars full of barflies who don’t care about my music. Why would I bother with that strategy? Popular wisdom has it that you do it to build a following – but is it really an efficient way to do that? I seriously doubt it. All those hours spent negotiating with horrible grumpy egotistical promoters just for that? Pah.

Personally I think that what is called for is a new model. This may not be revolutionary for others, wiser than I, but for me it needs to get clear in my head if I am to take my new music and get it heard by a decent amount of folk who will appreciate it.

So here is the model I have in my head – well it’s a model in the making actually and far from complete (and assumes that great music is being made else why would you bother). It draws on Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” book and the business strategy called “Blue Ocean Strategy” so instead of being a blue ocean it is a purple one to combine the two (very similar) theories.

My Purple Ocean Music Marketing Model

  1. Use Social Media to promote music:

I know, revolutionary hey? But actually it is.

If you were to successfully use social media to actually sell a largish amount of music then you’d be a God in my eyes because you’d have done it from your lounge room which is actually very flipping revolutionary.

And in my limited but rapidly increasing experience with using SM it is not just a case of jumping up and down screaming “look at me, look at me”. You have to have something to say otherwise you might as well not bother. I suppose there are people who do this already. Be cool to know who and explore their methods.

  1. Do Purple Gigs:

Seriously you don’t want to be stuck in front of a screen all the time as this will never come close to the sensation if playing live. (I mean it’s just crazy how much screen I do these days and yet ten or twelve years ago I didn’t have so much as a hotmail account and everything to do with music had nothing to do with computers for me then.)

But like I wrote earlier, I don’t want to do the same old rounds of crap gigs all over again. I might take the easy gigs that come my way but I am sure has hell not going to invest bulk time and energy into chasing two bit gigs. But how to approach playing live then?

Well, I have this model in mind of basically just copying what theatre people do which is they book out a theatre and pre-sell the tickets so that on the night they know how many crew are going to be there and all the emphasis in the lead up to the night is on the actual show itself.

None of this madly texting everybody at 6pm to try and convince them to come out to some crusty bar to hear you sing. No way, instead the idea is to book one night in a small theatre, pre-sell the tickets and then make sure it is such an awesome show that word of mouth kicks into gear and the venues start getting larger.

Think about it like this: Hit theatre shows don’t do endless gigs in two-bit dive bars. They rely on good self-promotion and then word of mouth based on the quality of their show.

  1. Sell Across My Brand

What I mean by this is:

  • I, Seamus Anthony, am a brand. My brand is that I am a musician, a writer, and an entrepreneur.
  • Giving away music is an excellent promotional strategy but relying solely on music sales is a poor business strategy.
  • So I will give away as many mp3s for free as people are willing to take. I will also sell them to those who are happy to buy them and will also sell other forms of music like CDs, USB sticks and live shows.
  • But I will also sell across the brand into my other offerings. For example, at Rebel Zen me and my business partner Steve have released an eBook I wrote about how to get high without drugs, call Psychedelic Meditation.

So you might come across my free mp3s, dig them, dig my blogging style here, also get into my writing style over at Rebel Zen and then buy the e book.

Voila. I gave away music and free blog content to sell a book. And that’s just one cross selling example. I have many more. But I’d rather do them than hypothesize about them.

  • This is where the Blue Ocean theory will come in because a lot of musicians don’t offer other services and products. Ok it has been done – Henry Rollins’ spoken word for example – but it isn’t wide spread and I am not aware of anybody who has offered the kinds of stuff I am thinking of.

4. Start Pumping Out New Music – and partner up to do it.

Although ‘Dogs May Bark’is a 100% solo effort, and while I will surely do more solo stuff, I am currently preparing to team up with some other dudes to release music under a couple of different names. I don’t see why you wouldn’t. Mixing it up with dudes always makes for different music than I would just make by myself, and if one project takes off, then I suppose we’d just run with it. Meanwhile you could cross-sell the acts amongst each other.

5. Re-Package the Past

One thing I think is a real shame is how some bands burn really bright for a while and then just get forgotten because they are not then re-packaged and re-marketed (yeah, I sound like a corporate tosser I know, can’t help it, I flick from business to artists brain really easily, but really I am just a nuff-nuff in a funny hat).

For example I was in one band called reckoning, and not to blow my own trumpet but well, you know, Bwaarp! So me and Peter from this band are getting back together this summer to record new music and meanwhile we are going to put together a website and a best of compilation (plus make all the mp3’s available for sale too) of the old band because it was a great band and more to the point, when I get into a new band or solo artist, I always want to know what other stuff they have done, so I assume that’s how other music fans also think.

So yeah, don’t let the past just die (but focus on making new music of course). Your history gives you context and depth.

6. Just Study the way things are done and try to do new things. (or if not new then just plain excellent).

If any readers could offer some ways to help invent a truly different music marketing model then I’d love to hear them so leave a comment (so far very un-comment-y visitors to this site, I see the stats but I don’t get much feedback, speak up! I love it!)

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