Pollack Media Group is an international media consultancy with unparalleled expertise in all things music, from global trends to niche markets. We specialize in helping TV networks, media sites, recording artists, radio stations, film companies, and consumer brands grow their audience and revenue by leveraging their content across multiple platforms.
There has been so much written about SXSX these past couple of weeks that I wasn't sure if there was anything left to add. Most of the blogs amply covered the new films being showcased, the exciting start-ups, the debut of cool new apps and the buzz surrounding various new bands like Alabama Shakes, Imagine Dragons, Kids These Days and others. If you haven't gone to SXSW in recent years, it has grown into a must-attend event not only for music but also for its film and interactive showcases. It is a place where business gets done and new companies hawk their wares, hoping to emulate the momentum and success of Twitter, Foursquare and others that came bursting out of Austin.
But SXSW is still at its heart a music dominated event, where trends begin, careers are launched, and everyone reflects on what really matters when it comes to the future of music. Two keynote speeches given last Thursday really resonated with me and ended up being my chief takeaway from this year (notwithstanding some memorable performances) because of their powerful themes and similarity of tone. This year's speeches were given by two people who represent very different ends of the music business, and who have been wildly successful in pursuing their dreams. Both Bruce Springsteen and Van Toffler (President of MTV's Music Group) underscored in their speeches the debt we owe to the original reason so many of us in the music world got started in our careers in the first place: a common passion for music and the escape it provided.
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When people say to give up record sales and give away your music, this is what they’re talking about. They’re not saying “don’t get paid for your work,” they’re simply saying the big money isn’t necessarily in album sales anymore. While this was a good promotion for Jay-Z, he definitely didn’t need it. You can bet American Express was paying him some big dollars to be the face of their promotion. This brought big attention to the AmEx’s YouTube Channel, Twitter account, and to the brand in general- and largely from an under 30 demographic, a largely untapped demo for the company.
It seems like every year the SXSW film, digital, and music conference in Austin, TX gets bigger and bigger. 2012 is possibly the biggest year yet, especially when it comes to the final week -- the music week-- of the conference. Hundreds of bands descend upon Austin to play multiple shows in venues of all sizes. It's truly a must-attend event for the industry and any up-and-coming artist. With so many important music biz folks and tastemakers around, it's no longer just for underground acts. Some of the biggest names in music now put on shows and make guest appearances at SXSW; this year acts ranging from Bruce Springsteen to A-Trak will be playing sets. With so much excitement around the parties and showcases, many producers are opting to broadcast and stream their shows, so even if you can't be in Austin, you can check out the performances. Check out my recommendations for some of the best shows going on next week.
Apple’s big announcement, as predicted, was about the iPad (and a new version of Apple TV). As usual, most of the details came out ahead of time, whether due to leaks, or just good guesses on the part of observers. We previously reported on most of the upgrades to the new iPad (faster processor, improved display, etc.), but Apple always has a few surprises. Perhaps the biggest one is that it won’t be called iPad 3, iPad 2S or iPad HD; it’s just “iPad.”
Owners of the original iPad who never upgraded to iPad 2 might find reasons to do so now. The jump from iPad to iPad 2 was a larger one than the jump forward this time. iPad 2 owners may be hard-pressed to justify the step up to the new one, given the relatively incremental upgrades. Here’s our take on some of the most important new features, beyond the faster processor and the retina display:
New playlist for this week features:
- Alabama Shakes
- Walk The Moon
- Jana Kramer
- Black Box Revelation
Check us out on Spotify and Songza!
Great interview with Ethan Kaplan, the new VP of Product Development at LiveNation.com, on Tech Crunch this week. In addition to talking about what’s going to work for artists and the industry in the digital age, as well as the live experience and what the team is up to at LiveNation.com, Kaplan draws a parallel between the music industry 10 years ago and the film industry today. He explains that windowing strategies long used in the film industry (in short: staggering a product release, in this case films to theatres, then dvd, then Netflix, then premium cable, etc.) are now being introduced in the music industry as well. The problem, Kaplan explains, is that these models “work as a marketing tool to a degree, but they don’t work as a way of curbing piracy or increasing the value of your product.”
There was an interesting article in Gigaom last week about a trend towards the “boring” at the MusicTech Summit in San Francisco, an event which features some of the newest and coolest companies in the music/digital world with sessions like Music Hack Day and Music StartUp Academy. The point was that conversation leaned much more towards numbers discussions, ecommerce, and B2B solutions rather than “cooler” topics like new DJs, festivals, and Spotify playlists.
Interesting article in Tech Dirt this week arguing that music is not a product and why that’s a good thing. The reasoning behind the piece is that people don’t BUY music. They are purchasing storage devices or platforms that let them access a copy of music, this includes CDs, music files, Spotify, etc. Customers also pay for concert tickets and merchandise, but rarely, if ever, do people actually pay for music, says TD. This is valid when one considers that the customers are not commissioning a performance nor do they have the right to do whatever they would like with the content after purchase. Just because you bought a download of the new Rihanna track doesn’t mean you can legally post it online for others to download or use it in your TV show.
The idea is that music is what gives the actual products value – it’s not the product itself. The CD is the product, the reason you’re willing to pay for it is because it has music by Lady Gaga, or Madonna, or M83 on it. Same with a downloaded file from iTunes. This distinction would have been pointless to make 20 years ago because there was no alternative to the act of purchasing; whether people thought of themselves as paying for a CD or paying for the music, they were ultimately paying either way. The distinction is key now because the customer has ways to access the music without the product – and therefore the number of people willing to pay for the product is dropping.
Last week Shazam announced that it would be tagging not only the halftime show, but the entire SuperBowl and many of the ads during the game with prizes ranging from gift cards to cars. Shazam, previously known as a song ID app that allowed users to identify music by simply holding their phone towards the source, has expanded to be a multipurpose audio recognition app. What’s the difference? It’s not just for music anymore.