Hard Work for Gatorade

You might be seeing this ad all over March Madness 2014…. MEGA organized the music license for the “Hard Work” cadence. Shows how a simple idea, marrying the truth of  consistent exercise to achieve your goals is hard work. I believe this will connect to a broad population who goes to the gym every day expecting “hard work”.

Cashing in Chips at SXSW with Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and Doritos
Lady Gaga and Doritos

This may be a new low for Music Branding associations.

You might find this article interesting in the New York Times.

The author laments the takeover of SXSW by corporate brands and wonders whether SXSW is a stage for the brands or the artists? More old(r) men lamenting the good old days where Artists were anti-establishment. Get over it. The artists now crave to be the establishment

Few in this new millennium era  care about sponsors and artists cozying up.. The “mega” artists continue to dominate the sponsorships and media attention while amazing new artists who are sleeping on floors and trading their last paychecks for gas money to get to SXSW fight, as they always must, for attention. Bummer? No, Reality check 2014.

No there’s nothing new here. SXSW has just become  a music and technology sponsor-fest….is there something wrong with that? It was inevitable. SXSW is not a 501(c)

What is interesting is the risk reward relationship that unfolded around the Doritos “Bold” sponsorship of Lady Gaga at SXSW with GaGa organizing a performance artist to vomit all over her during the Doritos branded show! That’s Bold.

Its well known that Frito Lay is a world class company and marketing organization. And Lady Gaga is a superstar….one whose running head face into the dark without her long time and also world class manager Troy.

However, this ill fated marketing initiative was bound to bring the wrong kind of attention. Attention, certainly, comes with the GaGa territory. She excels at attention getting. But disgust and laughs? Could not have been the plan.  But does anyone at Doritos believe that this association was good value? Not anymore you can be sure. Having organized some of the largest branded associations with artists in the world, (Pepsi and Beyonce- Led Zeppelin and Cadillac) I must admit to being challenged by artists feeling that they must show their credibility by biting the hand that’s feeding them, but I’ve never, ever seen something  so public and frankly dispensed with such (artistic) contempt….oh in the name of art of course;)

Brands today, more than ever in an instant social media world have to carefully think through the associations they craft they to augment their marketing efforts; especially when the whole point is to drive a conversation. How about this conversation? GaGa has a performance artist barf all over her at a Doritos gig…

Its not easy and I’m not advocating being risk adverse. Just be smart and vet the artist.  Never ever forget that the brighter the star the higher the inner temperature that burns; meaning, artistic genius (and yes even tho I do not care much for her music I do believe GaGa is an artistic genius) comes with a very sharp double edge sword. Is this a case of a smart plan just gone awry or a  plan where you could have seen this freight train coming? IMHO the latter….Meanwhile…Katy Perry and Popchips… much smarter relationship and working!

Transparency: I’m an owner in Popchips but had no hand in its relationship with KP.

Licensing Music: the Basics

Excerpted with permission from an article my good friend Larry Miller wrote in the November/December 2013 “Licensing Journal”…. and I could not think about saying it any better than he did!

The licensing of musical works is unique in that there are two copyrights in every recorded song. The underlying composition by the songwriter(s) usually is controlled by a music publisher. The recorded version of the song by a particular artist usually is controlled by a record label. For example, Darius Rucker recorded a song Bob Dylan wrote, “Wagon Wheel,” for his most recent country album, leading Dylan to be nominated for a 2013 Country Music Award. If someone wants to license Rucker’s recording of this song, a license must be obtained from Rucker’s record label Capitol Records Nashville, which is part of Universal Music Group, and also from Bob Dylan’s publisher. However, there is a second writer on “Wagon Wheel,” Ketch Secor, who wrote verses around Dylan’s original choruses. Both publisher licenses must be obtained to clear 100 percent of the composition.

That is a relatively simple example. In fact, publishing rights often are dramatically complex. The recording “Empire State of Mind” was made famous by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, but there are seven writers on the track: Burt Keyes, Sylvia Robinson, Angela Hunte, Shawn Carter, Jane’t Sewell, Alicia Augello-Cook, and Al Shuckburgh. How is that? Hunte and Sewell wrote the original version of the song; Jay-Z (aka Sean Carter) liked it but changed the words. Alicia Keys contributed to a new bridge. Then a sample of The Moments’ “Love On a Two-Way Street” was added, which was written by Sylvia Robinson and Bert Keyes. Al Shuckburgh, also known as Al Shux, was the recording’s producer, and as is often the case, was also given a writer credit.

All seven writers presumably have, in theory, worked out their ownership percentages (called shares or splits). But why nine publishers, not seven?

Because publishing assets often are treated much like stock in a company, with writers selling part of their shares to another publisher. All must be licensed, and all must then be accounted for in their payment.

Most other countries, including major music markets such as the United Kingdom, Japan, and Germany, have a single Mechanical Rights Organization. The United States, with its free market approach, does not, although the Harry Fox Agency (HFA) administers mechanical royalty licenses for much of the repertoire, but not all. So all of these licenses must be obtained by bulk licensing or directly with the publishers assuming they can all be identified. However, for music licences intended for use as commercials, in fact, a unique publishing and mechanical license(s) must be negotiated for the intended use (digital, television, radio, industrial…..and or more) and for a specific term.

Voluntary and Compulsory Mechanical Licensing

Unlike any other copyrightable work, under U.S. law, there is a provision for compulsory licensing of musical compositions for recording and distribution as long as the work has been previously recorded; first uses are reserved for the songwriter and directly licensed from the publisher. These uses include CDs, downloads (digital phonogram deliveries or DPDs), and on-demand streams. This license of the underlying composition is called a “mechanical,” a term that dates back to player piano rolls, the earliest known mechanical reproduction of a song. While the compulsory mechanical license provision has existed since 1909, there came to be accepted variations to the terms in business practice. To be in compliance with the compulsory license provision, the entity that wants to reproduce and distribute a work must first send all the publishers a Notice of Intent to use the work, as outlined in Section 115 of the U.S. Copyright Act.



Will Shazam stream ahead in a new music world?

I was curious at a posting this morning on CNBC regarding the popular app used to identify songs

Much of it was derived from a posting on All Things D last year

So here’s my thoughts. You would have thought that people were using Shazam to identify quirky or really great but lesser known songs….but hold on, not so fast!. If you take a look at what Shazam publishes about their users, look at what they are searching for:

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 9.32.45 AM


Pharrell’s “Happy”, Katy Perry, One Republic…..these are the most mainstream hit driven songs and artists in the world. Which leads one to think: are all these people living in a bubble or are they just part of “mainstream” music users who don’t live for music but enjoy it and find the Shazam app helpful so they don’t seem ignorant in social settings. I believe the latter is the case. These are the bulk of people who consume music not as a passion but as a part of a diverse life.

So Shazam, who last year said they had plenty of cash now are in the market for another ~$20M on a valuation of $500M. Who says the music business is down and out? It just depends what part of the ecosystem you participate in.

Do you use Shazam? I don’t. But I’m not part of the mainstream. Interesting case below taken from the CNBC article out today with excerpts from All Things D as well. Seems like Shazam would like to transition to giving more people more instant information about the television shows and even more commercials they are watching. I dont think thats gonna work as interactive data engagement on smartphones and tablets while we watch includes the ability to get info about almost everything you are looking at instantly from Google searches or by just hitting the “i” button. And as digital download sales decrease with streaming engagement on the rise form Spotify, Beats Music and others apps, the cut in affiliate sales that Shazam now enjoys will likely take a sharp downturn even as the number of active users are increasing.

Seems like early investors are also getting a cut of the new money which is usually not a good sign; not always the case but troubling in this case I believe.

“While Shazam gets a cut of the $300 million in affiliate music sales its app users purchased in the last 12 months, it is focusing a lot of energy on pitching TV advertisers on its service. This is a tricky proposition, though.

The beauty of the main music-discovery feature of the app is that it allows you to get the name of a song you simply can’t identify in another way. But when you are watching television, you can most likely identify the show (or can simply click “info” for that information) and commercial you’re watching, so it’s not nearly as serendipitous of an experience. Still, Shazam is trying to make this transition by delivering additional content about both shows and TV commercials to the mobile app.

Yet it’s nearly as simple for a person to just Google an advertiser or type in a URL if they really want to act on that commercial right then and there. In that way, Shazam for TV has similar challenges to the rest of so-called second-screen apps: Twitter and, to some extent, Facebook have started to dominate the online conversation around television programs and commercials, leaving limited market space for other players.

Riley’s (Shazam’s CEO) answer to this predicament is that brands should be advertising on Shazam in addition to these services, that there’s a population that discovers on Shazam that doesn’t do so on social networks. Advertisers can customize their Shazam campaigns to deliver any type of content they want when a viewer “Shazams” a commercial.”


The Dawn of Digital Aura’s

The Beatles, Indianapolis, IN © CURT GUNTHER, 1964
The Beatles, Indianapolis, IN

Ever look at your screen when you are using Pandora, Spotify, or not look at the screen when using the incredible service @ or the lately, un-amazing itunes? Why would you? Its pathetic.

The visual content is boring because its repeated over and over and over again. Of limited range and never curated directly by the artists, it’s usually a static mix of album covers, a narrow band of promotional pictures or legacy bios all served up to us over and over and over again. Until our eyes are numb….tune out and so everyone is kinda like; why look? there’s nothing to see.

The dirty little secret is its a mess and this whole music digital meta data business is ripe for disruption. The images we see on digital streaming services have been aggregated by some of the companies above who literally scrape it off promotional websites of labels or social media sites with zero intent to make it compelling or interesting or cool. They are doing the least possible, paying nothing to the artists or photographers. They are making a fortune, think millions of dollars licensing the meta data they aggregate to music streaming services we all use every day who otherwise would have no practical ability to put any images together for millions of artists.

The result is SUPER BORING….visually

Well now,  consider the notion of artists having an opportunity to curate their own digital aura’s; the composite visual images and stories that make up their “aura” on the www. Think it could get really compelling? I do.

Close your eyes and stoke your brain to recall the photographs of your favorite artists: jazz, classical, rock, pop, hip hop that span their careers taken by gifted pro’s like the ones in residence here at the legendary gallery The Morrison Hotel or from fans on social media  in whose hands there are now hundreds of millions of powerful cam’s embeeded in smart phones. Tweets and Facebook posts during gigs. Some are really fantastic.

Now imagine that some very clever bloke, serial entrepreneur and music fanatic friend of mine has decided to change the way artist’s digital aura’s are curated and served up to us….to make the experience of marrying dynamic images and music s digital devices, streaming media, simply… magical.

“Open Aura” is going to launch in the next few weeks. I’m beaming with excitement to be helping the founder as an advisor and stoked to see what the f’k happens.

Stay tuned for more updates on Kevin Arnold’s next big idea and hopefully if he and his great team get it right we can wake up our eyes to be in sync with our ears as the digital revolution enters another next bend in this amazing journey for us all.

The Biggest Music Story Of Superbowl 2014

The biggest music story of Superbowl

Prince on “New Girl” Ok; it was not on the Superbowl of course but in our minds it rated the biggest music story of the storied big event day. His purpleness debuted a new song “PretzelBodyLogic” and showed himself to be very approachable, very funny and of course inspirational when it comes to a master songwriter and live performer. A new way to promote new content to young audiences? You bet. Smart….ingenious and altogether a very important development in music marketing. Look for more older music stars to try and imitate while almost impossible to do as exceptionally and remarkably as Prince did last night. This guy can act too….

Alicia Keys and Blackberry’s Failed Odessey

I love Alicia. She is one of the most talented singer songwriters around and when she wants to belt something out vocally, there are few who can match her range and ferocity. She’s just plain awesome!

But when did she become a tech company “creative director”?. What was the thinking? To put a new spin on a sponsorship? She is a genius singer and songwriter….that’s not enough?

It’s really important for Artists, their management, and brands to think carefully about the way they position artists in branded deals. This was a relationship set up for failure and it needn’t have been so.

Who was the moron at Blackberry who thought that Alicia, uber talent that she is, was going to sell one Blackberry anything? I mean the consumer platform was in a tailspin anyways; with infinite creative possibilities to stop the brand bleed, this was the BIG IDEA?…..

Of course the big loser is not Alicia. I’ll wager not one of her fans gives a hoot for this failure and will never think twice about it. But for Blackberry, it was yet another example of second rate thinking on behalf of management (now fired) that continued to accelerate the downfall of a once great brand.

It was not the creative even as much as it was Blackberry’s mobile product line that has fallen behind the curve of Apple and Android that has resulted in Blackberry becoming a marginalized consumer brand.

Artists can and do make big positive impacts on brands in advertising and sales promotions; but its tough and very tricky to get right. These relationships need very careful strategic thought.

As a Brand, think hard and long before making big announcements full of bravado and shill only to retreat like Kodak did with Gaga and now Blackberry is doing with Alica.

What do you think?

The Future of Music 2013

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So, I think we should exit 2013 with some optimism.

Who’s got the time?
Youth. And plenty of it. Like always, like when we were young, remember?
Youth’s got the time and they fall into a couple of distinguishable camps.
First there’s the Popsters. They are the biggest group.  They are gliding through their lives, interested in sports, money, fashion, boys, girls, coding, hiking, biking, and they love about 10-20 “hits” they can hum and sing the chorus, each year. Gimme a GaGa, throw in a Mars, maybe one Macklemore, a Lordes…you know the drift. Beyond that, they don’t really give a shit about the artists, or their rants or anything else beyond ~ten to twenty songs a year. And I may be overestimating.
Second there’s the Musesters. Oh, they LOVE music and musicians and listen to everything from every era, mostly on Spotify (more about that later) and my gosh, they are true FANS. They listen HOURS a day to music, on their phones, streaming, on their laptops, streaming, streaming streaming and could not imagine living without music. They cook to music, make love to to music, walk to classes to music, train in gyms to music and on and on and on. They care about the experience, the sound, the lyrical meaning of the songs and oh yea, just ASK them, they’ll rate and debate you on the fine points of hundreds of artists big and small, established and niche; music helps define who they are like you and me and many of the people who read your stuff.
And then my friend theres the Whocaresters. The third group of up and coming Youth. They really don’t care about music. Oh they may catch on to a few songs a year that kinda like is akin to commercial fishing where you know, the net just grabs anything in its wake; people, dogs, politico’s etc. Can you watch PSY Gangnam Style again (uh…..nope)
Sure. This is a brief note about the NEXT generation. Not us, or people in their 30’s. Those folks are a whole different kettle of fish. I’m talking about the FUTURE. YOUTH
There’s big money from the Popsters. There’s careers engaging the Musesters. And good luck beyond that.
Spotify will rule the Musesters. I mean, holy shit. For $10 a month you can own (yeah I know I said own) over ten million songs, whole albums and listen to them on demand in any order you want wherever you want on any device you want. FOR LESS MONEY THAN A F’N PIZZA a month. Tell me owning music is different than I can listen to whatever I want whenever I want, locally stored if there’s no online connection. Thats ownership man; ownership as its defined to YOUTH in 2013.
Wow, I wish I had all that as a kid growing up. I mean I had to CHOOSE what to buy or trade with friends because, shit man, music was expensive. Now, I can have it ALL for ten bucks a month with no commercials….free if I put up with the crap that is called commercials these days on streaming services but the Musesters; they’ll pay $10 a month for the sheer bliss of listening and dreaming to the MAGIC of what they love in music without the commercials . Musesters may sustain many more careers. And I’m talking about a global group of YOUTH.
Most people won’t care. The album as an art form is practically dead. So its back to the fifties with an explosion of consumer technology now. Smartphones, Beats (and lots of other GREAT headphones) bluetooth everything, synch devices, etc. etc.
So, WRITE GREAT SONGS, learn to PERFORM THEM LIVE like AMAZING (Kanye may define that more than anyone today). And welcome to the new world order. Steaming, playing live, selling merch; its all gonna be just fine. The glass is more than half full. Onward to 2014!


Celebrating Led Zeppelin on Spotify

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form] If you are still buying tracks from iTunes you must be over 40. Its no wonder that as my college age son said with glee in his eye, “Dad, I have 20 million songs with no commercials for ten dollars a month! On my phone, on my computer, anywhere.” Well, I’m not sure if 20 million is the right number on Spotify but you get the point. Buying music is a dying behavior when you can instantly, on demand, listen to almost any track in the world with lovely services like Spotify. And now, what great news, that one of my favorite artists of all time and for whom my company, MEGA, had the enormous good fortune to license their only song to a brand, Cadillac, in 2002; now has announced a deal with Spotify to stream all their music.

Congratulations Image

to the Band, to Spotify and its time (again) to “celebrate” this iconic artist’s music.

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