Browsing my Google Reader today I stumbled into Kyle Bylin’s interview with Jay Frank of Futurehit.DNA and CMT (a division of MTV Networks) at hypebot. Jay’s new book “FutureHit.DNA – How The Digital Revolution Is Changing Top 10 Songs” you can download for free on his site.
Well, of course the digital revolution has changed music. But there are some claims of his that I do not necessarily agree to in the way Jay puts it. It’s a bit of context that’s missing.
First of all, you might easily forget about the fact that he’s talking about chart music only. During the interview I can’t help getting the feeling the majority of musicians (from Jay’s point of view) are merely in it for the money. Rules to follow, issues to avoid – just to make sure your song makes the Top 10.
Honestly, the probability any song makes it there is very low. Let’s face it: It’s near zero. You might as well spend your time and money on lotteries.
On he goes with his first rule:
“The biggest new rule is keeping the intros as short as possible. I say 7 seconds max mostly because that’s just slightly less time than most people give a track. The key reason for focusing on the intro is also because the paradigm of discovery has changed. People used to get hooks of songs thru flipping thru radio stations, stumbling upon MTV in the middle of the video, or just hearing a station in the background and not consciously recognizing a song until it’s at the hook. Now, nearly every music discovery listen is coming from the same point: an active listen starting at the song’s beginning. This includes legal and illegal downloads, streaming from most websites, video views. Google’s new music search is only reinforcing this as it offers even more discovery opportunities from the zero second point.” (Jay Frank)
One word: Nope. Many downloads, in particular the illegal and free ones, are not listened to at all before downloading. Some of these are listened to never. Some illegally shared ones are recommended by friends. The recommendation is of higher value than a first listen of the intro. What’s really important is to get your music heard within a stream of music the listener likes. And there’s only one way to actively manipulate this: Allow the potential listener to get access to your tracks most easily, most comfortably, and for free preferrably. Then he or she might buy some added value products from you, or he might recommend you to make your fanbase grow.
What about style related music in playlists at your favourite streaming service? I discovered Sarah Fimm and Charlotte Martin on Last.fm while playing my Tori Amos/Aimee Mann/etc. based playlist. It certainly isn’t limited to the first 7 sec on today’s radio (which last.fm, Spotify et al. do represent) that I decide on liking a track or not.
I must admit, I haven’t read his book yet (hey, I just read the interview a few minutes ago!). But it is necessary, and it can’t be repeated too often, to point out that today’s artist has to be true to himself.
The main change and the most important rule that has to be faced is, do not orientate towards stardom. This ensures credibility and longevity. It is not necessarily massive income that awaits, but it’s much more likely to help you earn a living than in the years before. Lady Gaga will be gone in 2 years.
One thing Jay omits completely (within the interview): Yes, technology has changed. But this also means, higher quality and a wider range of tools is available to everyone, including artists. This doesn’t stop at music recording gear. Today it’s marketing and distribution that counts (and the quality of your music of course). If you’re low at cash and you are not signed – create a hub with some good friends and supporters of your music. Highly effective and efficient tools of marketing and collaboration are available to everyone, not just for labels. Instead they are missing one thing that artists may offer – credibility.
Today, collaboration of die-hard fans and the artist himself may render the necessity of being signed less important, sometimes even obsolete.