Background Along with some trusted friends and outside investors, Monster Loop is in the process of forming a Record Label. This is a continuing series where we discuss this process – various steps in this journey, obstacles we run into, etc. Why? To help our friends – you! Perhaps you can learn from our mistakes and our successes. We wish you success.
Forming a Record Label or other Music Industry-Related Business
In Parts 1 and 2, we provided background into some of the current issues in the music industry, such as listing the major record labels (the Big 3: United Music Group, Sony Music, Warner Music Group), trends and challenges currently facing the industry (e.g., decrease in the sale of CDs and other tangible media, increases in digital downloads and streaming but also an increase in digital piracy), and new business models emerging in this chaotic time in the history of the music industry (e.g., Reverbnation, Spotify, etc.).
This particular segment in our series temporarily puts aside these issues in order to focus on some of the more mundane, but practical aspects related to starting a band or music industry-related business.
Practical issues when forming a Band or Music Industry-related Business
Whatever service one is considering forming – whether a Band, Record Label, Music Aggregator, etc., there are certain fundamentals one must consider. First, you will need your own website. Obvious enough but, based on our research, many get tripped up on this issue by failing to keep a few key points in mind:
The name you use is important
While it’s fun (for some) to come up with wacky names for a band or Record Label like “Shakespeare’s Puddle,” it’s important to think about (a) how easy is the name for people to spell? and (2) is the Domain name available?
As far as the name, it’s our belief that it’s actually not all that important how clever the name is, what’s important is that (a) people can spell it (i.e., avoid words with multiple meanings/spellings or the use of words difficult to spell), (b) the name will not bring up 5,000 different items – especially other bands/labels that may currently use that name, (c) the web domain is available, (d) the legal name is available, and (e) the name has a positive symbolic connotation (e.g., avoid a name like “Unheard Records” unless you want to unconsciously send a message to people that they will never hear it).
That sounds like a lot of work, but it’s easier that one might imagine. The simplest beginning is simply to Google the name and see what comes up. Ideally, not much comes up, if anything. One especially wants to avoid a name that brings up other bands or record labels. Even if one has the legal right to the name and/or the domain name is available, consider the inevitable confusion among fans. If you become a success, do you want another band out there putting out music under the same name as you?
Second, check out whether the domain name is available. A good place you can check for free is http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search Simply type in the name and it will let you know if it is available. If it is, you will also need a host for your website. Hostmonster is a good one to use; there are many to choose from. ALso, if forming a new label, you may want to add in the word “Records” or “Recordings” to the name.
Third, if you have a name you like and the domain is available, check out whether the legal name is available. In the USA, you would do that by going to the Secretary of State website for the state in which you reside. Once there, simply look for a “corporation name search” section, or something similar. In most states this search is free.
Forming an Entity
Let’s assume the name is available and you are forming a business, now what? You want to form a legal entity, most likely (and again we’re assuming you are in the US – apologies if you are in a different country) a limited liability company (LLC). It’s actually not that difficult to do. There are some forms you need to fill out and file with the Secretary of State of the state in which you live. Please do not think of this as legal advice, however; you would need to consult your own legal counsel in such manners. An LLC – and there are analogous entity types in countries outside the US – gives you great flexibility in dividing profits and assign responsibilities, etc. You can have some people who contribute money but have no actual power over decisions of your business and vice versa – i.e., people who don’t contribute money, only their time and energy. There are many articles online about this entity type; it’s unnecessary to go into further detail on this topic.
Enough for now – we will add to this post soon. We need to do some Christmas shopping!
In response to an earlier post titled “Electronic Music Artists – REAL or FAKE,” a reader posted an interesting comment which we are pasting below:
I don’t know if it’s a real artist or artwork or not, but the Mr. D.o.B. album would sound like a great value if the artwork is anything to go by (pretty accurate image of how I felt on DOB – very similar visual aspect was on my menu as well). (Monster Loop note: “DOB” is a widely used acronym which stands for many things, such as “Department of Buildings.” It also stands for “Brolamfetamine” an amphetamine and hallucinogen and, as discussed below, is the signature character of Japanese contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami.)
So I say Mr. D.o.B. is a real one, same as the experience he had after taking DOB and, if I’m wrong, then someone should use that artwork as it is pretty f** mental and the album would be 18 hours of madness.
[Concerning real vs. fake artist]: Patterns of sounds played to a timed beat gives you music, so surely anything that matches this criteria is music, and it does not matter what your instrument is – it’s all the same. Some people play a piano, others play electronic instruments, so if the electronic artists are “fake,” so are the pianists, and if a pianist is a “real” artist, then so is an “electronicalist.” If I was pulling my dogs tail and making him scream to a beat, I would be an artist also; the artist could be called “dogeter” or “tail pullyist.”
We quite like this comment, and have the following response.
We did a little research and learned the print is by Takashi Murakami, a very talented contemporary Japanese artist from Tokyo. In 2008, Murakami was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”, the only visual artist included. In September, 2010 Murakami became the third contemporary artist, and first Japanese, to exhibit his works at the Palace of Versailles in France, filling 15 rooms and the park with his sculptures, paintings, a decorative carpet, and lamps.
As to the other part of your message – when we indicated some of the artists were “fake,” we did not mean this word in any pejorative sense (i.e., that certain Electronica musicians should not be considered “real” artists). We actually did make up those names – other than the 5 that are real flesh and blood bands – and did artwork for the 7 fictitious artists we made up. There is no band, for example, named “Beautiful Dream” – at least not in this dimension of space and time and/or in the traditional sense of the term. Perhaps by our creating these fictional artists they have become in some sense real, and who is to say what’s “real”? (i.e., does it have to be visible? tangible? perceivable to human senses? etc.) But we digress. Mr. D.o.B. is quite real; you may find him and stream his D.o.B. brand of music on Reverbnation.
You make an interesting point – i.e., that one should not have too narrow of a definition of what constitutes music. We agree.
In attempting to define music, Wikipedia itself begins with the caveat that “[h]ow to define music has long been the subject of debate by philosophers of art, lexicographers, composers, music critics, musicians, semiologists, linguists, sociologists, and neurologists.” Wikipedia then provides a definition of music, coined by Edgard Varèse, that it is “organized sound.” This definition seems to support your point.
Some argue, however, that this broad definitional approach – which focuses on the terms construction – delimits the meaning of music. The definition needs, it is argued, to also include a subjective component. Following this line of thought, “music” might be considered any wavelength produced by natural phenomena (or algorithm) which may be received and interpreted by means of aesthetic, cognitive processes. There are a couple of obvious problems with this definition. One, it incorporates the ambiguous term “aesthetic” (whose taste counts here and how is that defined?). Two, it is anthropocentric (defines music in strictly human terms).
On the other end of the spectrum, some may consider your definition too narrow. First, is a “timed beat,” for example, necessary for sound to constitute music? The great and legendary electronic music artist Aphex Twin, who we suspect is from your neck of the woods, might not qualify as a musician. Second, it assumes the sounds emitted by nature and the universe itself are not “organized.” And third, what exactly do we mean by “time”? We at Monster Loop believe it is a mere illusion and that all “times” actually exist simultaneously.
Were he alive today, the great Jacques Derrida might conclude the discussion by saying that no definition can ever truly convey meaning because any definition must, of necessity, refer to something beyond itself. That is, meaning is never fully present in a definition. Thus – and we suspect you would not disagree with us, it’s best to sit back and enjoy the sound, er uh, music. But please don’t be a dogeter and pull poochie’s tail; we love animals.
Along with some trusted friends and outside investors, Monster Loop is in the process of forming a Record Label. This is a continuing series where we discuss this process – various steps in this journey, obstacles we run into, etc. Why? To help our friends – you! Perhaps you can learn from our mistakes and our successes. We wish you success.
Starting a Label
We’ll start this new series with a quote – and you’ve probably heard some derivation of it: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” (Greg Anderson, Author) When something seems insurmountable, we like to think of this.
So if one is interested in starting a Record Label, where does one begin? We’re likely all familiar with dire reports of the chaos that has taken place in the music industry the past 10 years (e.g., the decline of CD sales, layoffs in the music industry, etc.) And that’s a good segway to our Series. Anytime I begin anything (and I’ve been involved with many successful – and some unsuccesful! – ventures), the first step is always to thoroughly understand the new environment. It’s common sense and we think of it a bit like this:
Imagine you are a fish and are about to be dropped into an ocean on the other side of the world – one in which you have never been swimming in before. What would you need to know? What would you need to do in order to survive? What will you eat? What will try to eat you?
We believe that our Record Label endeavor is not all that unlike this ocean/fish metaphor. For us, the business side of the Music Industry is a bit of a new ocean. To thrive in this ocean, we need to understand its contours and inhabitants.
The Big 3
The “Big 3″ refers to the three major corporate labels that currently dominate recorded music: Universal Music Group (after purchasing EMI in November 2011), Sony Music Entertainment, and Warner Music Group.
Universal Music Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of media conglomerate Vivendi SA which is based in Paris, France, is by far the largest, holding over 40% of the US market. Sony Music, a subisdiary of Japan’s Sony Corporation which is based in Tokyo, Japan, holds around 25% of the US market. Finally, Warner Music Group is the smallest of the three. It was purchased in July 2011 by Airplanes Music LLC and Airplanes Merger Sub, Inc., affiliates of “Access Industries,” a privately held US-based industrial conglomerate based in New York City (Manhattan), for around $3.3 billion (US). Warner Music Group holds around 5% of the US Market. That leaves around 18-20% of the market, which is shared among various independent record labels. The Big 3′s global market share is similar to that in the US, but independent labels possess a larger share – close to 30% of the market.
There wasn’t always just a “Big 3.” Twenty-five years ago it was the “Big 6″ (EMI, CBS, BMG, WEA, MCA, & Polygram). A series of acquisitions and reorganizations since that time, however, has left us with the current three. Interestingly, consolidation within the music industry roughly parallels consolidation within the field of public accounting, which was the “Big 8″ until 1987 and is now frequently referred to as the “Big 3″ (PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, & Ernst & Young) with the drop off of KPMG.
Dramatic Industry Change
Even most people’s grandparents are aware that the old model of selling CDs is a vestige of the past. Since 2000, sales of recorded music have dropped off substantially. The phrase “Music 2.0” is frequently used to describe a new “paradigm” for running a music business in this rapidly evolving area.
Legal digital downloads became widely available with the debut of the iTunes Store in 2003. The popularity of internet music distribution has increased and in 2009 more than a quarter of all recorded music industry revenues worldwide are now coming from digital channels. However, as The Economist reports, “paid digital downloads grew rapidly, but did not begin to make up for the loss of revenue from CDs.” Indeed, total revenues for CDs, vinyl, cassettes and digital downloads in the world dropped 25% from $38.6b in 1999 to $27.5b in 2008 according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). In the US, these revenue streams dropped from a high of $14.6b in 1999 to $10.4b in 2008. Incidentally, the IFPI website is a useful resource for those researching this area.
Most sales (overall, all genres) take place in US (around 38%), followed by (2) Japan (around 18%), (3) UK (7%), (4) Germany (6%), France (6%), Canada (3%), Australia (2%), Brazil (2%), Italy (2%), Spain (2%). Japan is a useful country to keep an eye on, because it tends to provide an early indication of where the music industry is headed because of the sophistication of its consumers with digital/electronic products. Consider, for example, that in 2005, 85% of all digital single sales took place in Japan.
Music 2.0 – What is the market now?
Because of these dramatic changes, recording artists now rely more heavily on live performance and merchandise for their income. In fact, this phenomenon has given rise to what is known in the music industry as the “360 deal,” in which the artist agrees to give the company a percentage of all of its income, including sales of recorded music, live performances and any other income. This has also made artists more dependent on music promoters like Live Nation, which dominates tour promotion and owns a large number of music venues. Live Nation is a former subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, which is the largest owner of radio stations in the US.
Aside from the “Big 3,” who are the other players, what do they do, and is there still a viable market in sales of singles and “albums”? This is the subject of our next blog.
Comment Monster Loop received Tuesday evening, November 22, 2011, from ReverbNation Chief Operating Officer (“COO”), Jed Carlson, in response to a recent Monster Loop Post we titled “Facebook & Connection to Reverbnation Electronica Charts” (you can also view it there by going to this post and selecting beneath it, “3 Comments”)
Jed Carlson on 11.22.2011
You are one of the most astute bloggers I have ever read on this subject (I’m not just blowing sunshine…). There is indeed a correlation between your facebook activity and the Reverb Charts. Facebook likes are one dozens of inputs we use in our proprietary “Band Equity Score” algorithm that drives or charts.
Furthermore, we are in complete agreement that ‘talking about this’ and its ratio to total likes is a great way to understand an artist’s current “buzz”. We have been so interested in this ratio since facebook made it available that we are considering ways to fold it into our Band Equity calculation in the near future.
Thanks for observing this, and thanks for being such a perceptive social marketer. We must be kindred spirits in some way.
So then we, of course, replied:
Patrick Henry on 11.23.2011
Thank you for your incredibly thoughtful message. We’ve come to realize – and we expect that many of our readers who also record music would agree – that Reverbnation is genuinely and tirelessly dedicated to promoting emerging independent artists and – equally important – provides incomporable customer service! (anyone who has interacted with Reverbnation’s extraordinary Patrick Phelan knows what we’re talking about) And we’re not just blowing sunshine…!
Why do we say this? It’s based on our personal experience with a near-tragic musical event (to us) that took place in the 1990s. In the late 1980′s, thanks to some incredibly talented electronic musicians in Chicago, Frankfurt, Brussels, Antwerp, London, Manchester and a few other cities, electronic music exploded in terms of its quality and growth. Record labels took notice and, scrambling to monetize this emerging trend, began signing electronic artists left and right. We don’t blame them. The problem was, the labels’ A&R scouts had, understandably, little knowledge of the genre. They largely lacked the ability to discern the quality electronic music from the … well, the lesser quality. At that time, there was no option to download just 1 track, so you had to buy an entire CD making the purchase a crap shoot. And while potential fans of the genre were being turned off by some unfortunate CD purchases, the Seattle music scene exploded. And, at least in the US, electronic music largely stalled.
The confluence of these and other factors nearly destroyed Electronica (called “Techno” at the time) – at least in the US. In short, Techno had acquired a reputation for low quality. A well deserved reputation in fact. There were, however, very talented artists, but they were drowned out by the sheer volume of artists producing music that showed little signs of quality craftsmanship. The labels then resorted to appealing to the basest of human desires – sex. CD covers featured scantily clad women. The labels must have reasoned, “We don’t know whether the music is any good, but we know what a beautiful woman looks like.” It was a short-sighted approach and, ironically, CD cover art soon became a proxy to identify quality music. The “rule” was – if the cover had a scantily clad woman, the music was bad. Artists developed graphic design skills as a sign to knowing purchasers. This was how Aphex Twin and Rapoon, for example, broke through.
Fast forward to the present. We (Monster Loop) want to now help identify and promote artists who produce quality electronic music. And that’s why we like Reverbnation. We believe that Reverbnation is genuinely attempting to promote quality lesser known acts. Another thing we have in common is that it is Reverbnation’s stated goal to promote all artists. Monster Loop believes that each person (or artist/band) has it within themselves to produce extraordinary and powerfully unique music. We believe there are, at root, only two kinds of music: (1) good and (2) bad. What is good music? Good music is music that is an authentic expression of the artist. What is bad music? Music that is NOT an authentic expression of its creator. Maybe the artists doesn’t know him/herself well, maybe they are being lazy, maybe they are deluded by ego – who knows? But they have it within themselves to be as extraordinary as Pink Floyd – yes, we honestly believe that. Pink Floyd is, in our mind, extraordinary BECAUSE it knows itself and maximized its potential. And kudos to them for doing so – no easy task!!
We will continue to monitor Reverbnation Jed. We believe in Reverbnation and have high hopes. Reverbnation is helping artists be discovered and, in fact, helping artists be more fully themselves by developing technology that provides extraordinary feedback. We encourage you to read, if you haven’t already, our 10 part series on the Reverbnation rankings and our 5 person focus group. One thing that emerges from that small focus group study we believe, is that the Reverbnation rankings methodology – while light years ahead of our rankings services we’ve seen – would be improved if it could somehow incorporate a subjective element. There are some extraordinary artists lower in the Electronica rankings because they don’t perform (and hence have fewer fans) and/or don’t market themselves effectively – instead they stay in their home and record record record. How do we identify those? Is there a way, for example, to have artists anonymously judge a designated number of tracks? We’re still thinking through this. “Stickleback” “Burning in Noise” “Laura Escude” and “Going after Zen” would make interesting studies for you. They aren’t doing poorly in the rankings but, for those with a trained ear in the genre, their music is simply EXTRAORDINARY. Judge for yourself. How do we further promote these artists?
Good luck to you and your company. You have the potential to affect the future of music – in fact, you are shaping it now. This is about more than money, and we believe you get that. It’s about something that transcends profit – the legacy we leave behind. It is an awesome responsibility and we have faith in you.
Attorney (licensed in NC by the way!), Accountant, Engineer, Artist, and Musician in Monster Loop
Jed Carlson kindly responds again:
Jed Carlson on 11.23.2011
We are humbled by your faith in us, and we do indeed subscribe to the same ideals held by Monster Loop. Let me give some thought to your suggestions about the Band Equity Score and the chart ranking system.
Thanks for the note about Patrick Phelan, I will make sure he gets your feedback and that it is reflected on his already stellar record of customer service here at RN.
If you are ever planning to be in NC, you MUST drop by our office in Durham so we can meet in person.
All the best,
We appreciate that Reverbnation’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Jed Carlson, would take the time to read our post on Reverbnation, and respond. What a great guy! And, yes Jed, the next time I am down that way I will in fact stop by. I spent many years in North Carolina where I practiced law and worked in Big-4 public accounting, and it has a special place in my heart.
Hello from Monsterloop. This blog entry was not planned; it’s in reponse to an email from two fans from California who were responding to a recent post.
Quick background: In that post, we talked about the connection between the Reverbnation Global Rankings for Electronic Music Bands and Facebook “Likes.” We briefly talked about Facebook’s new feature (which it is actively promoting) – “Talking About,” which relates to how much people who visit a Facebook Band site are “talking about” that Band. As we mentioned, “Talked About” was somewhat equivalent to Reverbnation’s counterbalancing the number of a band’s fans with how recently the Band acquired those fans. In short, “Talking About”, on Facebook, looks to how currently active a Band’s fans are. Soon after, we received this interesting email which we’re pasting below:
Dear Monster Loop, Greetings from Santa Cruz California. We’re writing this email in response to your post about Facebook likes and connect [sic] to the Reverb rankings. You mentioned that that the new Facebook [Talking About This] feature measures how hot a band is. That’s one way to look at it. We hear Facebook’s getting some pressure to better explain itself the metrics it keeps rolling out. The Talking About This metric is suppose to measure how engaging and interesting or intriguing a band is. We hear Facebook is trying to encourage bands to connect with their fans and they want to discourage bands from sticking up a music player and a couple glossy photos and then disappearing into the night to go drink champagne. So it’s more than just what’s current or, as like you put it, hot. It’s a kind of measure of how tight the band is with fans. It’s one thing to like the music. It’s another to like the Band. It’s yet another thing for the Band to like it’s fans, which this new metric somewhat reflects, if that makes sense.
After reading your post, we were curious how well some of our favorite artists would score in the Talks About percentage formula you wrote about. Turns out percentages were pretty low [ML note: the percentage of fans who like an artist who are also talking about them]. Most artists were around 1 percent. Many artists didn’t have a Facebook page but most did. Being computer geeks, we of course ran a program to calculate how engaging the artists are who are currently in the Reverbnation Global Top 500 for Electronica. We only included an artist if they had at least 100 Facebook Likes. You might find these results interesting, because you guys came out on top. Best, Kyle & Mike
(Monster Loop again) Thanks Guys – we appreciate the email! Our initial reaction is, the fact that we have fans that would send this email is evidence enough of how great our fans are! We did not independently validate each number but, before posting we did spot check around 15 or so and they checked out so we went ahead with the post. Oh, please note that, although this isn’t a big deal, the number of Facebook “Likes” reflected on our Reverbnation band page is incorrect – there’s some glitch in the data feed from Facebook to Reverbnation. The number reflected on our Monster Loop facebook page (which our friends in Santa Cruz used), however, should be correct. We did notice “Virginia” listed as a country which the fine people of that Colonial State may appreciate, but other than that – the list seems legit. William and I aren’t really sure what to make of the attached statistics, but we are happy and grateful to have any sort of connection to our fans, WHO WE REALLY LIKE. Later!
Hello there. We mentioned in a prior blog (we think) that Monster Loop was selected to be featured on the Windows Media Guide. On our www.monsterloop.com homepage (or click on “Monster Loop” at the top/center of this page) we have a place where you can vote – you can choose up to 3 tracks.
As of an hour or so ago, we had around 46 votes. So, first, to those who have voted – THANK YOU (results so far are below). But, totally independent of this Windows Media Guide thing, we appreciate your vote in that we find it to be valuable feedback. For those reading this blog who also happen to also record music, we’re sure you can relate to this – it’s easy to get locked into your own private band world when creating/producing the music. And while that is a necessary part of the process, it is also hazardous.
We (Monster Loop) personally believe – and we’re not alone in this view of course – that the “best” music is created when the artist is focused on expressing something deep inside themselves – rather than just trying to give an audience what the artist thinks the audience wants. Our philosophy is that, what an audience probably wants to hear is an artist’s authentic expression of the artist. That is the power of a song. We mention that because the purpose of our soliciting feedback is that when we (or any artist we suppose) engage in this creative music-making process… creating music or creating any sort of art… it’s easy to “drink from your own Kool-Aid,” so to speak. What we mean is, sometimes an artist needs a fellow human being to give them objective feedback – for many reasons. One reason is, it’s easy for an artist to, unconsciously, be led astray from themselves. Huh?
Let us clarify this peculiar statement. As strange as this may sound, we believe an artist can easily lose themselves in the creative process. Everyone has biases that sometimes act as blinders. Pride/ego may be the biggest. Friends telling you how great you are. And when you get feedback – true, honest feedback, well, it is a bit like a GPS device if done right in that it assists the artist in staying on the artist’s true path. In fact, we think that’s the very “purpose” of a fan! For us, a fan isn’t someone to stroke your ego. No one really needs that. Another thing is, Recording Artists sometimes get it stuck in their head that (fill in the blank) is their absolute best song – maybe it has to do with the politics of the band. And that’s one place where fans come in handy. A fan is someone who knows a bit about the artist and his/her work, appreciates it, and, in a sense, helps that artist become their True Artistic Selves. In short, we think a fan is a vital part of the creative process.
Okay, enough of our soap box for today!
We (Monster Loop) noticed something this morning we thought our readers might find interesting. It has to do with the relationship between the number of “Facebook Likes” an artist has on the artist’s Facebook Band Page and that artist’s rank on the Reverbnation Global Electronica Charts. A picture is worth a thousand words, so check out the following, which is self-explanatory:
Notice any connection here?
Of course you do. We found this connection interesting. And here’s a related point we thought was interesting. On a Band’s Facebook page, in addition to the “Like” feature, there is also a metric called Talking About.”
What does “Facebook – Talking About” mean?
According to Facebook, its “Talking About” is a number that is designed to measure a Band’s fans:
- “Liking” the Band’s Page;
- Posting to the Band’s Page’s Wall;
- Commenting or sharing the Band’s posts or other content (e.g., photos, videos, albums) on that person’s page;
- Answering a question the Band may have posted, or RSVP-ing to one of its events;
- Mentioning or tagging the Band’s Page; or
- Simply checking in at the Band’s Page.
In theory, if someone “Likes” a Band, these are activities one might logically expect that fan to do. But do they, and what’s the point here? Does “Talking About” matter?
Apparently, yes, “Talking About” matters, and here’s why. Facebook page impressions are purportedly driven by a Facebook algorithm, known as “Edgerank” that determines whether or not to display a post on the wall of a fan. And this is where “Talking About” comes in. In short, “Talking About” is to Facebook what “Recency” is to the Reverbnation Music Charts - it helps Facebook/Reverbnation measure what is currently hot. For example, a band on Facebook that, for example, generated a large number of “Likes” some time ago cannot simply coast on these “Likes.” Otherwise, Michael Jackson might still be #1 on the Pop Charts, right? Don’t answer that.
So one’s “Talking About” numbers and, more significantly, one’s “Talking About Percentage,” are highly important. To arrive at one’s Talking About Percentage, you simply take the Band’s “Talking About” number and divide it by the Band’s number of “Likes” – both of which should appear on the Band’s page. The higher that “Talking About Percentage,” the more current/hot the Artist is supposed to be. In theory, anyway.
So we did a quick Talking About Percentage calculation for the artists included in the graphic above and, for good measure, threw ourselves in the mix. We were pleasantly startled when we got the following result:
I personally was sufficiently surprised to spit up a fair amount of coffee on my freshly pressed white shirt. It was not graceful and I’m glad you didn’t see it. This Talking About Percentage, of course, shifts a lot – in fact, that’s the whole point of it. But we at Monster Loop wanted to say to our fans – Thank You for talking about us. As Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” For however long it lasts, we appreciate it.
If you’ve been following our posts lately, you’ve read all or part of our 10-part series discussing the way Reverbnation ranks top, emerging Electronica artists throughout the globe. You probably also read comments from our 5 judges. William and I have, ourselves, talked a lot about the results and the comments from our focus group. In fact, we’re preparing a post with some of our own observations and conclusions.
In the meantime, we wanted to share with you some examples of great Electronica cover art. We’re going to post 4 images done by various Electronica artists from around the world. We’ll let you see if you can guess who they are and, in the next post, we’ll reveal the answers.
This is Part 10 of 10 in a series analyzing the way that Reverbnation, the popular artist/dj/rapper/band ranking website, ranks artists
(scroll below for a super long play list of awesome electronic music you can stream for free)Recap: We hired a focus group of 5 individuals, each of whom is a heavy listener of electronic music. We asked them to listen to 3 tracks by each artist ranked in the Global Top 50 on Reverbnation’s Electronica Charts. We also asked them to listen to 3 tracks by artists ranked 1001 to 1050. We did not tell them which artist made which song, or what each artist was ranked. Some artists only posted 1 or 2 tracks on their Reverbnation page, so the total number of tracks heard was 260. Our 5 judges assigned each track a score between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest), based on how much they “liked” the track – we left that vague standard to their own interpretation. After the first day, in which they listened to all or part of these 260 tracks, we tallied each tracks average score, and “cut” from our list any track that did not receive an average score of at least a 7.5 from our 5 judges. This left 126 tracks. We then put these 126 tracks in a “head to head” competition,pitting one track against another for 6 rounds, and asked our judges to select their favorite between the two. We used a special software to match tracks based on how well each track was doing. See our November 8 post, below, for a list of the final 20 – the 20 tracks, from #20 to #1, based on our head-to-head competition as determined by 5 Judges: 4 from America, 1 from Germany. You can also stream them for free using the player below.
Background: After nearly 3 gruelling days, we completed our Focus Group. And then, for the first time, we showed our 5 Judges the results of their music evaluations. The results sheet we provided them listed the name of the top songs/tracks (sorted in their final order), the name of the artist/group who created the song, and the artist’s rank on the Reverbnation Charts. We then gave our Judges an hour to surf through the Reverbnation website. We concluded with a final debrief. Excerpts of this final debrief are included below.
MONSTER LOOP: First, thanks for undertaking this monumental task – listening to so much music. We promised we’d give you a chance to provide your final thoughts.
Seth. I’m reading the final results. I have a lot of thoughts going on in my head… but I can’t get any words out…
MONSTER LOOP: No problem, we’ll help start the discussion. So, looking through the list of the final 20 tracks based on your results… any surprises? A couple things we noticed were, a lot of different styles are represented in your list and that, out of the 100 different artists and 260 tracks we began with, your final 20 has one artist, Burn in Noise with two tracks in your top 5, and then there are two artists, Laura Escude’ and Going after Zen,who both have 2 tracks in your top 20. Maybe you could talk about that briefly.
Mike. I did not have a preconceived idea of where [the final rankings list] would end up. I’m not surprised there’s an artist or two with more than a track in our top 20 but I am surprised we have an artist in our Top 5 twice – none of us even realized those two tracks were by the same artist. So, you know, we are for sure curious about him.
Jason. What makes Gustavo so good is, it all comes together… production, sounds, rhythm, beat, and you never get bored, he keeps changing it up and takes you on a journey. Cheers to him.
MONSTER LOOP: The other artists with multiple songs in your list, Laura Escude’ and ‘Going after Zen‘ aka Chris Hirons – any comments you want to add?
Seth I have a comment. ‘Going after Zen‘ – Chris Hirons you say? (yes) He is super smooth – very polished, incredibly talented – it’s obvious. It’s pretty flawless, his work. It’s also very interesting and gets better the more you hear it. He’s a pro, pure and simple. I think the same goes for Laura Escude’ – those two have a very polished product. You can also tell those two are thinkers – it comes out in the music. There are a lot of subtle complex things going on in their tracks that are like, “whoa” – I never would have thought to do that. But they make it sound simple.
Katja If you’re into power or intensity in techno, those two aren’t for you. It’s downbeat, IDM, ambient. And very good.
MONSTER LOOP: When we noticed those two receiving high scores, we did a little research on them. Laura Escude’ is actually an Ableton Live instructor and appears to work behind the scenes with some major global artists. Chris Hirons is a bit of an enigma – it was not easy to find out much about him or Stickleback (aka Ben Heppel).
Mike It’s interesting you say that because, maybe it partly explains why, in this anonymous listening process, we liked them so much, but those 3 artists were ranked between 1000-1050 – which is just shocking honestly. What I’m wondering is, you know, if they aren’t ranked higher because they don’t put much effort into marketing themselves. Their music is just phenomenal.
MONSTER LOOP: The very reason for putting this Focus Group together was to find and promote artists that are extremely talented but that people might not know about. Let’s shift topics for a moment. Right now we hear a lot about Dubstep, but Burn in Noise, which did very well in your reviews, his Electronic Music style is Psytrance, as is the case with Amit Bharadwaj and Infected Mushroom, who also did well. Scanning through your final 20, Psytrance and a Downbeat-type sound seem strongly represented.
Jason. Yeah, but I’m not sure how much you can read into that. It could be we just heard artists this weekend that are really good that happen to make those styles.
Jose. And I did hear some dubstep that was really good. I think Downlink is Dubstep. And Excision… Datsik, those artists from Canada that did Dubstep were good.
MONSTER LOOP: Let’s talk about that briefly. After day 1, some of the highest scores were by 3 or 4 artists that make Dubstep. But we noticed their scores started to decrease a bit as the weekend went on.
Seth. I’m one of those who started decreasing their score. I was not super familiar with Dubstep. Sure, I’ve heard about it, but it’s still relatively new on the scene so I haven’t heard as much of that style. So when I heard it this weekend- my first reaction was “WOW, this is some powerful <bleep>. It’s new, it’s different, it has a lot of bells and whistles. I wouldn’t say it’s “cool” because there’s nothing laid back about it. It’s kind of hyper. But then, after hearing it over and over I, you know, it started to wear on me a bit. So as the competition went on, and tracks were eliminated, the Dubstep music was being compared against some great Psytrance and other styles and, for me at least, it wasn’t quite as good. In contrast, the music by Amit Bharadwaj & Burn in Noise seemed to sound better the more I heard it, to hold up better..
Mike. I thought Infected Mushroom was very slick. I liked the track that made our list a lot. Those guys remind me of Depeche Mode or early Ministry. But that’s also what worries me about them.
MONSTER LOOP: Worries? What do you mean?
Mike. Well, back in the mid-1980′s, Ministry released this EP called “Twitch” which I think is one of the best Electronic Music releases ever. Part of what made it so good was that it was just way ahead of its time. They actually made most of those tracks back in 1982, which I think was around the same time Soft Cell released their version of “Tainted Love.” ”Twitch” – and you’d have to hear it really to appreciate it – was radical. It was RADICAL compared to the music being created at that time. And it was a key link in the chain of what we know called “Electronica.” After they released “Twitch,” though, Ministry went into this very different direction with “Land of Rape and Honey.” They go full-on metal with an army of electric guitars, etc. And Ministry became, for me, the Darth Vader of electronic music – they went to the dark side. And a lot of people stopped listening to them at that point, including me. Of course, a lot of people started to listen to them. They reinvented themselves basically. But in a way that was not techno or electronica.
Jose. If Ministry was Darth Vader who was Obi-Wan Kanobi? (laughter)
Mike. Obi-Wan Kanobi was Front 242. Both bands were on the cutting edge at that time. And they even worked together for awhile. But compare their sound by the late 1980′s. Ministry releases “The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste” around the same time Front 242 releases “Front by Front.” Front by Front, that’s one of the greatest electronic dance music releases by any artist, ever. Front by Front did more to grow Techno music that possibly anything else at the time, and it was a time when Techno needed a force like Front 242. A band not only creative, powerful, but also polished. Their production was as good as anyone’s production in any genre.
Mike. Infected Mushroom is very good. Their track that did best in our review (“Can’t Stop“), it has a lot of diverse elements in it. A few minutes into the song, the guitars kick in and I start having flashbacks to Ministry. What worries me is that, talented Electronica artists in the US, like Infected Mushroom, might take the path Ministry took. I mean, Ministry basically went to the dark side from Industrial Techno to Industrial Metal and I’m sure made millions in the process screaming into microphones to the cacophonous screech of grinding guitars. Another example is Nine Inch Nails (aka Trent Reznor), though not as extreme. Nine Inch Nails was, in the beginning techno – google “Down in it“, his first release. It sounds nothing like Reznor’s later work. Nine Inch Nails was at that time working with Adrian Sherwood. Sherwood produced both ‘Pretty Hate Machine‘ with Nine Inch Nails and ‘Twitch‘ with Ministry. Brilliant productions and way ahead of their time. But they never worked with Sherwood again, as far as I’m aware. And it’s a <bleep> shame. Now, when I hear Infected Mushroom, and I think “NUDE !” from Germany also falls into this category – I think there is the potential for those artists to take that Ministry direction. My advice would be, “Don’t go to the dark side of the force! Follow the example of Front 242.” On the other hand, Front 242 became a bit harsh years later. The dark side is tempting.
Don‘t misinterpret what I‘m saying though. Al Jourgensen is a genius. I just think – and let me interrupt myself to say, “what the <bleep> do I know?” – I never met the guy, just read a lot. Listened to a lot. Anyway, I think Jourgensen just went into this dark place within himself and, you know, it comes out in the music. So he did a brilliant job of expressing this absolute darkness. Can people relate to that? Sure. And this is when I bring it back to my Darth Vader analogy. The dark side is powerful. That is part of its lure. But remember, it’s the dark side of the force. I’m just saying, I hope talented bands like Infected Mushroom, NUDE ! and new kids coming up know that you can be creative, you can make money, you can kick <bleep> with your music without joining the Evil Empire. You mentioned the “New Beat” movement in one of our breaks – that underground electronic music movement came out of Belgium in the late 1980′s, so at the time Front 242 was peaking. And we discussed the “Lords of Acid.” I think the same applies with them. The New Beat was incredible there for awhile and was influenced by the Chicago Acid House, releases like ’House Hallucinates.’ They took the Chicago sound, harnessed it, and made it something highly original. But again, the Lords of Acid - these great pioneers of New Beat – abandoned this incredibly powerful and cool style and went to the dark side. I mean, it started to get ridiculous, like porn videos with an over-the-top aggressive beat. Why? They felt it would help them sell music maybe? I really don’t know.
I’m from Chicago. Grew up here. Love Chicago. Ministry is from here and Rezner is, I believe from Detroit – so also from the Midwest. A lot of great music comes from Chicago – the whole acid house scene started on the south side of Chicago you know – and so this hits close to home for me. TWICE we’ve started something major in Chicago with Techno but then, both times it was Central Europe that took it to the next level. So maybe now with you guys (Monster Loop), maybe you can take Chicago back to being the epicenter of the cutting edge music, as is our tradition.
MONSTER LOOP: That’s kind of you to say that. Thank you.
Mike. I think we have to protect Electronic Music on several fronts: America, in particular, has this tradition with electric guitars. It’s become this cliche’ – that a band has a lead vocalist, a bass guitarist, an electric guitarist, and then a drummer. C’mon – it’s antiquated. So the first “front” to protect is – you don’t have to have guitar! I think this is partly because there’s the temptation to want to have that instrument for live performance. So then the second front, is hip hop. Rap music is really strong in the US. I like rap music, a lot actually, especially old school. But I think that, as Electronica gets more and more popular – and we’re seeing that now – we have to protect Electronica from being overtaken by rappers. Electronica is not rap music. We already have rap music. Rap music can benefit from the developments in Electronica. But I’d prefer not to see Electronica co-opted by these other styles. Pretty Lights is a great example of a good balance of rap/techno. There’s a third front, vocals in general, singers. Listen to Goldfrapp, great vocals. Great music. But it’s in balance. It doesn’t take over. It works with the music. They get equal footing. trezOra – check out his song ‘Loving You.’ Singing. But it doesn’t overpower the song. The French band Air is great about this – great balance between the music and the vocals. So the third front isn’t to resist vocals, it’s that the electronic music not get over powered by them, that the vocals not take center stage. And I think the first clue that the vocals are trying to take center stage is when the band highlights the singer instead of the creators of the music. I never cared for that. It never made sense to me.
I think the risk is related to a desire to perform live. Let’s face it, techno is really studio music. It really is. Live techno sounds like crap – and I’m sorry if I piss someone off saying it. If it doesn’t sound like crap, it’s because you’re triggering pre-recorded loops. And there’s no shame in saying that techno sounds best in a studio setting. So I think there is a temptation to, you know, want a vocalist – it makes more sense live because you can sing live. And a guitar – because it makes sense to play a guitar live, and it’s fun. But good electronic music, it’s layered and it takes hours and hours and hours to craft. It’s just not a “live” style of music. So that’s why DJs got big – because people want a face with the music, so the face became the DJ. And even that got absurd. There’s footage of a DJ – Tiesto maybe? I don’t recall. Anyway, there’s a large crowd, and they’re seated. And they are, they’re basically just watching him DJ up there on stage. So he’s up there playing other people’s music. And they’re cheering for him like he’s a rock star. I don’t get it. I think at that point, that was the point where people began to start moving away from DJs back to creators of electronic music – who, I know, can also be DJs. I think people have to just accept that, this style of music – at least at this stage – the great heavily layered music, as created by the original artist – it’s not a “live” production. Avoid the temptation to try to make it a live production. It is what it is. If you start to shift focus to the vocals and the guitars, and all that – well that’s all good and well, and the music might be fine. But if the focus isn’t on the electronic music, well it’s really not Electronica, is it? If someone reads what I’m saying at some point in the future, I would say, listen to these 20 tracks. THIS is techno.
Well that’s all for now – Monster Loop will post be posting more of the final Focus Group session soon. Right now, we have to fly to San Francisco.
This is Part 9 of 10 in a series analyzing the way that Reverbnation, the popular artist/dj/rapper/band ranking website, ranks artists
(scroll below for a super long play list of awesome electronic music you can stream for free)Recap: We hired a focus group of 5 individuals, each of whom is a heavy listener of electronic music. We asked them to listen to 3 tracks by each artist ranked in the Global Top 50 on Reverbnation’s Electronica Charts. We also asked them to listen to 3 tracks by artists ranked 1001 to 1050. We did not tell them which artist made which song, or what each artist was ranked. Some artists only posted 1 or 2 tracks on their Reverbnation page, so the total number of tracks heard was 260. Our 5 judges assigned each track a score between 1 (lowest) and 10 (highest), based on how much they “liked” the track – we left that vague standard to their own interpretation. After the first day, in which they listened to all or part of these 260 tracks, we tallied each tracks average score, and “cut” from our list any track that did not receive an average score of at least a 7.5 from our 5 judges. This left 126 tracks. We then put these 126 tracks in a “head to head” competition,pitting one track against another for 6 rounds, and asked our judges to select their favorite between the two. We used a special software to match tracks based on how well each track was doing. The following tracks are the final 20 – the 20 tracks, from #20 to #1, based on our head-to-head competition as determined by 5 Judges: 4 from America, 1 from Germany.
Based on the results of our Judges, here are the TOP 20 TRACKS, beginning with numbers 20 through 11 (click on image to enlarge):
And here are the TOP 10 (click on image to enlarge):
Please ignore the numbering below – this player starts with the Artist that finished #20 (Biofear) and counts down to the artist that finished #1 (Burn in Noise).
Next Up: We finally show our 5 Judges who they were listening to, and get their feedback on the music they heard, and why they most preferred these 20 (and others). PLUS, our 5 Judges tell us which Artists they felt had the best production, were most innovative, had the best art work, etc.