My Best Friend

Meghan McCauleyMusic holds immeasurable value in the lives of many. It is there to comfort in the darkest of moments and to celebrate during good times. Music can inspire, enlighten, and strengthen one’s soul.

It has certainly done that for me, and I can’t imagine where I would be today without it.

Every individual has a time in their life when they need to leave the protective arms of their guardians and experience the world for themselves. I was a freshman in college when I experienced an intense desire to take life into my own hands and make my own decisions for the first time. I wanted to express my true self in ways I had never been able to before. I began spending nearly all of my time on campus at my school, and I came to dread the nightly drive back to my parents’ house where I felt restricted. During those nights, the only music that played through my car speakers was Missy Higgins’s album On a Clear Night. Windows down, I would sing every heartfelt lyric at the top of my lungs. When I listen to a song, I always try to relate lyrics to my own life in some way.

As I drove home one cold winter’s night, the song “Steer” really resonated with me:

“It was always simple, not hidden hard
You’ve been pulling at the strings playing puppeteer for kings
And you’ve had enough

But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know that you control where you go
You can steer.”

Meghan meeting Missy HigginsIn that moment, I suddenly felt that I had control over my own life and what I wanted to do. It felt incredibly liberating to belt those lyrics with my hand sailing through the wind, letting the music wash over me like the freezing air outside.

That night, something changed inside me. I saw my life in a new light. It wasn’t long before I moved out of my parent’s house on my own accord and began making the life decisions that made me happy. I began living for myself and I stopped worrying about what anyone else would think. Being true to myself, I experienced a kind of freedom that I had never known before. I feel that without the strength I gained from that particular song, my true self would have remained confined for many years to come.

I look back to that night as a time when a great friend gave me the best advice and support in my time of need. That song truly gave me the strength and encouragement that I needed in order to spread my wings and gain my independence. I know firsthand that the power of music is immeasurable. For me, music is truly my best friend.

(Meghan McCauley, Intern)

How we helped move Neon Trees to Top 10

Neurotic Media’s Promotional Download Services Help Move Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” to Top 10. 

Neon TreesEarlier in 2012, Universal Music Group used our platform to support a promotional download of Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” as a component of a broader Buick promotion – via Buick’s Facebook page (for an episode of Celebrity Apprentice). During the 6 months that the spot has been running, “Everybody Talks” was lifted into the Billboard Top 10.

In a recent article, Billboard Magazine recognized Buick’s sponsorship of this promotion for having contributed significantly to the band’s success (see Billboard’s Nov. 3rd, 2012 issue – image below). The promotion was honored by Billboard as #7 of 100 platforms that “Move Music.” Quoting Billboard’s reasoning for the #7 spot: “High-Rotation TV Ad Leading Car Company: Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” missed the Hot 100 upon initial release. Then it made its way into a Buick spot and ended up in the top 10.”

There’s a reason why we use our slogan “Music That Moves”! While end users never know who we are, our platform is behind hundreds of branded promotions and campaigns every year that in one way or another weave music delivery into their engagement with their target audience. Neurotic Media helps clients move the needle on their marketing campaigns in a measurable and reliable way. It’s what we’re known for.  

We thank Musica for bringing this Billboard chart to our attention – Musica was the Music Licensing Coordinator for Leo Burnett Detroit in putting this deal together. We learned that the song was originally suggested by Allison Wood of Universal Music Group, and it was through her office that the license and promotion blossomed. Great stuff Allison! Keep them coming (smile).

View the Buick Verano spot with Neon Trees and their hit song “Everybody Talks” here.

For the Billboard article click here.

The future of social media

Twitter FightIn a struggle to monetize their operations and drive pragmatic value for shareholders, some social networks start appending themselves to traditional media business. With Facebook aggregating traffic and ad money the way it can today, more and more web 2.0 companies start aligning with traditional and larger industry. Is this the future of “social” – to become a channel for our corporate media? 

Social networks are credited for freeing the distribution of knowledge. At the same time, in the past decade or two, traditional media has sold out to corporations and represents, today, clear political agendas of various constituencies. Information is largely exposed through a tightly monitored sphincter. Are we destined to lose the openness of the web over time to these corporations?

Or does it really come down to the belief system of each company’s founders? If Facebook’s founder was no longer at the helm, would Facebook remain as open? And is our communication sphere really a collection of individuals and their unique influence on us? Turner, Murdoch, Zuckerberg, etc.? The “free media” always in the hands of individuals driving policies about how we communicate and what we think we know after watching or reading “the news”… what the hell do we know?

With respect to the mentioned alignment with old school broadcasting, think Breaking News, Shazam, now Twitter – this is an interesting article about the latter, via Gigaom.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

About music and food

This article was published in this quarter’s issue of Georgia Music Magazine (in which I write a regular music technology column) under the title “Music and marketing can be downloaded; A meal is a different story“:

Francine ReedBack in the mid-’90s, when I worked at Ichiban Records, one of our marquee artists was local Blues Diva Francine Reed. Once a month or so, Francine would pay us a visit and bring lunch with her. She would spend the morning cooking a hearty southern fried style lunch: Colored greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, meat loaf, corn bread – her meals where absolutely delicious, and doubly so on a cold winter day. It was heart-warming to see an artist invest so much in her relationship with her record company. She’d cook enough for forty of us, which is not trivial. And she’d hang out at the kitchen to greet everyone as we lined up to pick up our plate, shake hands with a bright smile and chat with each and every team member. What a wonderful lady! 

Do you think that when the time came and we all got on the phone to market, promote and sell her records, this personal touch made a difference? You bet it did! A good meal is a sure way to a man’s or woman’s heart. Everyone felt the love, everyone felt invested, everyone felt committed. Everyone adored her and wanted to invest in making her releases succeed, and succeed they did. 

Another fun Ichiban Records memory is how we tried to use email for marketing. There was only one PC in the entire building that was connected to the internet back in 1996, and it was in a small station in the windowless printer room. It had a 14k modem (yes, 14k) and an Ichiban AOL account on it (though you’d wait an hour before you heard the PC scream “You Got Mail” at you). We tried to be “innovative” and start communicating about new releases to radio stations and stores. PAINFUL. Do you remember what the experience was back then, sitting in front of a noisy and slow modem and waiting for it to connect and to send and receive? It would literally take a 2-hour session to blast an email to a list of a few dozen people. And with this being the only connected PC in the building, there was often a line at the door, people waiting their turn to get on the magic box to view an email or, God forbid, try to print one out. 

We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? Not only in how we communicate, but also in how we access information and music. All the music you want, and all the cooking recipes you want, are but a click or two away via your favorite music site or cooking site – or just via Google or Bing. My smart phone can access those, plus email, faster than any computer could back in 1996. In 15 years, our communication methods and habits have been totally revolutionized. And we are not done yet.  

A younger generation is growing into their own now which would not recognize the world without smart phones, tablets, and the internet. They take it for granted that millions of songs are purchasable or streamable at their fingertips. Their interaction with one another and with the rest of society is largely digitized. They learn, read, play, listen and view the world on digital devices that are ever-connected to one another. It is hard to imagine what those devices would look like, and be able to do, fifteen years from today.We still, however, have to re-connect with earth to cook and eat a good meal. You can’t digitize mashed potatoes. Yet.  

(Shachar Oren, CEO).

Let It Go

Sometimes theNeurotic Media Intern Chris Caruso stars align and a song is just dropped into a person’s lap at precisely the time he or she needs it most.

During the last two hours of March 31st, I went through my first break up. I could have read the writing on the wall, but I still had stars in my eyes when it came to love, and was, thus, completely heartbroken. These feelings definitely did not make the thirty minute drive back to my house pleasant, and I made sure to exacerbate them by wallowing in the saddest love songs I had on my phone during that time. I cried, I listened to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”, and I had my disco moment.

Arriving home, I opened my laptop to the realization that it was finally April 1st, and that the single that I had been waiting eagerly for my favorite band, Dragonette, to release for weeks was finally out. In a fit of retail therapy, I immediately purchased “Let it Go” and set my headphone volume as loud as it could go. As soon as I hit play, I was blown away. The opening synthesizer line was exactly how the feeling of triumph would sound if it were to become music. Once the beat kicked in and I heard the line “We don’t need a cure for the weight of the world because it’s floating ‘round in the Universe / So take it by a string that you own and let it go!” from the chorus, I lost all urges to wallow in any kind of sadness. I took the advice to “blow the roof off” my life and channeled all of my energy into focusing on challenging myself to find my happiness and to better myself.

That very next day, I went running for the first time in months, and that next Saturday, I ran my first 5K race. On every run I went on, I played “Let it Go,” which acted as my own personal power anthem. Over the course of the next month, I ran over 100 miles and got into shape, successfully “letting go” of all negativity and sadness that had accumulated in my life. I thrived in school, I worked on an honors project for my Music Business class, and I applied for (and got!) an internship at Neurotic Media. As it stands, I am doing better than I ever have in my life. As a result of this choice to focus on myself, I am also the happiest I have ever been in my life.

I can only stop and think that this is all due to one song coming into my life at the perfect moment.

(Chris Caruso – Neurotic Media Intern)

Our Payment Wallet’s Benefits

Neurotic Media’s hosted store services shun the use of a shopping cart in favor of a payment wallet. In the case of “the download tribe”, the ease of use of a “wallet” account-based workflow increases the average spend per consumer per visit, and keeps consumers coming back for more.

Shachar OrenHere are important details about the ins and outs of the wallet solution offered by Neurotic Media’s Hosted Store Templates:

The conventional check-out process in a shopping cart takes 7-12 clicks from product selection to download, as consumers place products in their cart and later have to visit the cart and work through a check out process of several pages.

By comparison, our wallet solution calls for a simple, one-page data submission during your first visit to a site. 

This short setup process then leads to a VERY SHORT click-to-download count of steps, specifically THREE (3) clicks for a new user and TWO (2) for an existing logged-in user. As you may know, every added click on the internet is another spot where users leave, so it is important to minimize steps as much as possible. Our wallet/account system clearly optimizes the workflow and uses the least steps possible to lead a user to their downloads, in both purchases and reward redemptions.

Specifically, here’s the step-by-step count in our system:

  1. You click to purchase a product
  2. Second click to “Confirm” on the button
  3. We take you to the Create Account form. Fill up the form on this page to create your wallet, and Submit/Save….

DONE. You will return to the product page and the download will initiate. Continue to browse while the download takes place.

Now that you are logged in with an existing account, choosing another product is this simple:

  1. You click to purchase a product
  2. Second click to “Confirm” on the button

DONE. The download will initiate. Continue to browse while the download takes place.

Our workflow differentiates our services from many others and contributes to stronger conversion results for our clients. For an example, visit our showcase store. We’ll be happy to address any questions you may have and provide sample reward codes, simply call us at 404.688.6858.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

Download Managers and Apps

Neurotic Media’s services do not require any download or installation from the consumer, none whatsoever.

This has always been a very important point for us: We offer a ubiquitous, software-agnostic web-based service. We leave it for the consumer to decide what player, jukebox or app they use to play MP3s on. We focus on “conversion” and insert as little friction as possible between the music fan and their music.

What follows are the specific technical details about how we administer downloads:

–          When it comes to downloading tracks, we allow the browser to simply administer the download process, using a simple DHTML DIV window to instruct the consumer to “save as”.

Album Download Manager–          When it comes to downloading an album with one click, the flow is a bit different, but also explained in the DHTML DIV window we display when the download initiates:

  • We default to a one-click that uses a “Java Runtime” Download Manager we built. The vast majority of computers “come with” Sun JAVA Runtime pre-installed (it’s free). A small portion of consumers may have to update their free Java Runtime, while another small portion – especially on older Apple computers (Tiger iOS) – may not be able to use it at all.
  • For the latter constituency, we offer an alternative, which is to go to “My History” page and re-get all the tracks one by one, which again simply happens through the browser as explained earlier.

Using Java Runtime is not a perfect solution – but when reviewing Google Analytics, we can see that neither would be solutions based on Flash, Adobe Air, or Silverlight. This is because no 3rd party technology option covers 100% of the user base in the marketplace. There are many different operating systems and version out there with a variety of 3rd party apps that may be supported on various levels. That IS a challenge for B2B companies such as us.

Java Runtime allows us to deliver a one-click album download throttling experience to the largest possible portion of existing consumers (almost 90%). We chose Java Runtime since it is the most ubiquitous of options to allow a simple, “neutral looking” multi-download manager without forcing the lion share of consumers to install anything at all. Our Java Download Manager is very elegant in functionality, creating the album folder and properly numbering all tracks in it.

–          We continue to evaluate other options for a “download all” in one click that may improve on the Java Runtime option. As of today, Java Runtime is still the best option we have identified, although his may change down the road… To clarify, ALL other options would involve the following negatives:

  • Require an installation of a full application by the user (Flash, Adobe Air, etc.) or an update (since Flash and Air have so many variations and constant updates)
  • And/or require an ActiveX execution on PC and a similar process on iOS, these are the sorts of apps that many consumers see as risky and may not want to install at all, which would negatively impact conversion rates for our clients

Having said that, if you represent a marquee BRAND, it might very well be worthwhile to consider an ActiveX app (and similar in iOS code) in line with the download manager utility amazon.com uses. We can create this for you if you so desire, and if you represent a trusted brand where offering such an install is unlikely to impact consumer behavior.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

Retail Fundamentals and Our API Services

Shachar OrenNeurotic Media is the only music distribution service able to deliver exclusives to specific retailers in our syndication chain. Being able to administer exclusive promotions that drive measurable lift in sales is critical for online retailers’ success in deploying new digital music initiatives – and this means that our API features are increasingly important in today’s competitive market.

Our patented platform allows record companies to manage, on a very granular basis (an album or a track), on a PER-MERCHANT basis, values such as:

–          Product availability window (i.e. assigning a product exclusively to you)

–          Product pricing (i.e. discounting a product exclusively for you)

–          Free/promo (assigning a free download just for you)

–          Pre-order with instant gratification (producing such an event just for you)

These elements are fundamentals in retail.

Not only is Neurotic Media the only B2B vendor supporting such services – we do, actually, own the patent on it: US Patent 7,693,914.

Neurolinq Open API Developer Lab

If you are in market seeking an API service, we encourage you to compare API features in detail (the devil is in the details!) and ensure you understand the various value-add-services Neurotic Media provides compared with other options. Our Neurolinq™ API suite includes the following values – all on a pure white-label basis that allows you to control branding, consumer data, and pricing:

–          Product sourcing and selling, both XML SOAP and JSON RESTful options, HTTP posts etc. covered

–          E-commerce, so you may use us for PCI-compliancy and minimize cash outlay on your own IT

–          Awards services (reward / PIN code redemptions, POS card activation optional)

–          Similar product and artist Recommendations

–          Artist Wikipedia bios, social media links and Tweeter handles

–          Pre-Order with Instant gratification – a promotional tool that drives considerable sales: Consumers may pre-order an album and receive the single immediately, weeks before album street date

–          Exclusive sale parameters: This relates to the patent mentioned above, covering options such as exclusive enhanced bundles (including various digital asset types), exclusive pricing discounts and pricing windows for your store alone, exclusive promotion assignments, etc.

–          Access to real-time reports, including API in/out transmission logs, downloads and sales reports, consumer data reports, all available 24-7 and exportable

–          CMS via API, allows you to leverage our permission-based Admin portal to manage your own site/app feature controls and real-estate via the API toolset

–          Consumer info and order info API “get” commands for your own reports

–          CRM module: Permission-based login for your customer service representatives

Combined, our technical services and admin portal provide online merchants with unmatched control over their music download services, coupled with marketing tools and services that allow merchants to work with record companies on meaningful promotions that drive significant revenue lifts.

Call us today for more information at 404.688.6858.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

The Evolution of Dream Pop

Last summer I discovered a genre of music called Dream Pop. I realized that I had been a fan for a while of this particular style of music, being that I enjoyed indie bands such as Wild Nothing, Beach House, The Radio Dept., M83, and Silversun Pickups to name a few. I fell in love though when I began listening to Youth Lagoon. The band, which consists mostly of artist Trevor Powers, who sings and plays keyboard, was featured on the website Pitchfork after receiving great reviews for their first album The Year of Hibernation. The style of music is called Dream Pop because it is indeed very dreamy. It mostly consists of bright melodies and distant vocals. It could be the soundtrack to your most favorite daydream. One of my friends described the sound as “music underwater.” It is a genre that started in the 1980’s and was referred to as “shoegaze”, but has recently expanded to include a wide variety of artists.

Back in November I had the privilege to see Youth Lagoon live at The Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta. I had always loved the sound of their music recorded but it became vibrant and was really brought to life when I heard it in person. It was amazing to see at the show such an array of people, from high school students to middle age couples, who enjoyed their music. Afterwards I had the opportunity to meet the band and talk to them about what inspired the music they wrote. Hearing about the recording process was very interesting and reflective of how the music industry works today. Trevor Powers said he recorded the entire album at a friend’s studio and then played it in his friend’s garage and rerecorded it so that it would sound distant and echo-y. It goes to show that you don’t need huge effects and expensive, professional producers to become successful. These days, many people like music that sounds genuine and real.

Since they came onto the scene last spring, Youth Lagoon has toured across the country, played music festivals SXSW and Coachella, and their music has been featured on playlists in clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters and J. Crew. They have become the Dream Pop poster child. Their popularity continues to grow as their fan base expands. I feel lucky to have discovered them at the beginning of their journey and will no doubt be a fan of theirs for life.

(Emily Madden – Neurotic Media Intern)

Lost In Music

Music is a very profound subject for me. The idea of having a favorite song is likeGeorge Harris Neurotic Media having a favorite outfit. It’s only your favorite until you discover something new or you just simply get tired of it. I really enjoy Pop music because it has a solid foundation for me. Pop music gives me the opportunity to keep up with culture and be aware of what my peers are listening to.

In middle school and high school, I remember getting up really early before school just to watch the music videos playing on MTV and VH1. I saw this as my time to research and see what was popular because I knew these songs would be up for discussion when I got to school. During that time, Ciara had just come out with the single “1, 2 Step” and was killing it on the charts. I tried to learn every dance routine from the music video. Even if I didn’t pick-up every single step, it sure felt like I had because no beat was left without movement. At this point when I was growing up, I realized I had a strong passion for music – but not just music; entertainment as a whole.

My favorite genre of music is still Pop. For me, it’s a way to connect with other people because we can all relate to music. If I’m ever not sure what to listen to next, or in other words when I’m lost in music, I can always use the charts as a way to track the direction of what’s popular and identify what’s happening right now.

(George Harris – Neurotic Media Intern)

Pickin’ on Saturdays

Gary Eaton Neurotic MediaI play the mandolin. I picked up the instrument back in the fall of 2005 – I’m not all that great, far from it in fact, but it’s something I really enjoy.

There’s a special place near where I live called Everett’s Music Barn. It’s pretty well known in the circles of Bluegrass music. For the past 30 some odd years, people have been showing up from all around to hear and play Bluegrass music on Saturday nights. It’s really quite an institution and a wonderful tradition.

The set up works like this – on the property, there’s a little red barn that holds maybe 125 – 150 people. Seating is comprised of folding chairs, plastic chairs and a few old church pews. The small stage is only about six inches off the ground and it has held some of the best musicians to ever walk the planet. Nearly all of the groups that tour the Bluegrass circuit have played at Everett’s during some point in their career.

My favorite part of Everett’s though is the house. This is where people of all ages and all skill levels bring their instruments and play. Because the catalog of Bluegrass music is a language shared by everyone in attendance, it’s actually possible for a group of complete strangers to gather up in a circle and take off on a song by the likes of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, etc.

Some nights, nearly every room of this old house is filled with musicians doing what they love to do. It’s not uncommon to see a circle of pickers in the kitchen by the ever present coffee pot.  When the weather is nice, the porch is a popular place as well.  On occasion, when things come together just right, it’s a transcendental occurrence that simply can’t be described; it has to be experienced.

Ultimately, it’s the music that bonds us together. It’s why we’re all there. It’s a shared love, a shared passion and as a result, there’s a great sense of community and fellowship – and it happens at Everett’s Music Barn when people are pickin’ on Saturdays.

(Gary Eaton – Neurotic Media VP Sales)

Music is everything

Ariel Bailey Music Is Everything I became a music lover by the time I was two or three years old. I remember having a little Fisher-Price cassette player and I would walk around the house with it playing all of my favorite nursery rhymes and songs. Attached to the cassette player was a microphone that I would sing into as loud as I could. One of my favorite songs to sing was “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Growing up I was exposed to all types of music, so I truly enjoy all genres. I mostly listen to Pop, Country, Gospel, R&B, Rock and Hip Hop. In general, I’ll probably enjoy any song with a good melody and/or meaningful lyrics. I can’t say that I have a favorite type of music, but I do have favorite eras of music if that makes sense. For example, I love the funk and soul music from the 70’s and I love R&B music from the 90’s.

To me, music is everything. There is a song to fit every emotion that I am feeling at any particular time. Although, I personally don’t have any musical talent, I know good music when I hear it. I listen to music every single day and would probably go crazy if I didn’t.

(Ariel Bailey – Neurotic Media Intern)

Me and an Almost Elvis

Believe it or not, I actually turned down a chance to be a back-up singer for an Elvis impersonator in Gatlinburg, TN. It was early spring in 1986 and I was living in Knoxville, TN – basically still trying to decide what to do with my life.

I was leaning toward pursuing a career on the business side of music. Somewhere along the line I realized that even though I’d been in bands and had some legitimate musical talent, the odds for me of actually making a living as an Artist were pretty small. So, I started looking into schools that could put me on the right path to get a job in the music industry.

Right about that same time, I was approached with an Gary Eatonopportunity to audition for a spot in a local Country / Gospel quartet. These guys were similar in style to groups like The Oak Ridge Boys and The Statler Brothers. Having been raised on a heavy diet of Southern Gospel music, those types of harmonies came very naturally to me – so I said what the heck and gave it a shot.

Sure enough, I got the spot and come to find out, the group had a public appearance scheduled in Gatlinburg that was just a week or two away. Fortunately, it was just a short appearance and not a full concert performance.

Also appearing at this event was an Elvis impersonator who had a regular show that ran in Gatlinburg during the summer. After hearing our performance, he approached us in full character and asked if we might be interested in being his back up vocal group for the coming season; kind of surreal when you think about it.

Soon after, I decided to go to school and had to drop out of the group. The other guys found a new baritone and the quartet did in fact take the gig – and I bet they had an absolute blast. Think about it, an entire summer singing songs for Smoky Mountain tourists with an Elvis impersonator.

I’ve certainly wondered how life would have turned out had I stayed in Tennessee and sang with an “almost” Elvis, but no regrets. Pursuing a career in the music industry has been one of the best decisions I ever made, and I’m proud to be here at Neurotic Media.

(Gary Eaton / VP Sales / @garyeaton)

The future of digital music is strong

Gary EatonAccording to figures just released by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), digital music accounted for 51% of all US music sales in 2011. This marks the first time in history when digital music surpassed the sale of physical product. Of course, we all knew this day was coming – it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

Several other things stand out from the RIAA year end numbers; one of the most encouraging being that overall sales achieved a slight increase compared to 2010. Granted, the increase is a nominal 0.2%, but after seven straight years of decline, there’s a cautious sigh of relief that this might just signal the beginning of a turnaround.

Other encouraging news; there was a dramatic jump of 25% for full length digital albums.  Meanwhile, digital singles also increased sales by 13%.

While sales numbers are clearly an important indicator, they don’t even begin to measure how truly important music is to all of us. Numbers don’t measure that feeling you get when you hear a song that reminds you of a first love, a great concert, a perfect summer day. Numbers can’t communicate the experience of hearing a favorite song at just the right time. How can you put an ROI on a powerful memory?

Clearly the future of digital music is strong – and here at Neurotic Media, we’re in a position to help businesses of all types benefit from the growing popularity of digital music.  Perhaps more important, we’re also in a position to leverage the universal appeal and the esoteric power of music in ways that will achieve any number of marketing and branding goals for your business.

(Gary Eaton / VP Sales / @garyeaton)

What is SOPA, anyway?

We’ve all heard so much about SOPA in recent months, and yet many people seem confused about what it means or if it impacts them (it DOES).  Here’s a brief summary that you may find helpful if you’re new to the story:

The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) were an attempt by lobbying groups representing various intellectual property (IP) right holders (music, movies, books, games) to introduce a Federal law that restricts how IP can be shared online, with the goal of protecting IP owners from the growing impact of piracy on their business. It was defeated by a broad and loud outcry of technology professionals, bloggers, concerned consumers and internet users who lobbied against its perceived heavy-handedness. Some lobbied against the ramifications of certain clauses in the suggested law, and others lobbied against the entire effort as a concept.

The issues that SOPA/PIPA attempted to address are important: Online piracy costs billions of losses to right holders. Businesses and IP creators are in the right to seek improvements in the law to curb online piracy. However, the problems with the suggested law proved to be complex, as it stood to grant the government far-reaching power into the conduct of any company that touches consumer-generated content. In fitting fashion, the opposition was driven by consumer-generated content sites: By bloggers. The nature of the debate, coupled with several parallel incidents, proved why passing a censorship-driven law is a dangerous step for law makers.

The original language proposed in the law would have been very general, and it would have meant that popular sites on the internet – Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and any other site dealing with user-generated data – could immediately be in breach of the law. The bill also proposed allowing the government to quickly shut down such sites with the first indication of any infringement.

The opposition to the bill spread like wildfire – and in January culminated with several leading web sites announcing a 24-hour “black-out” to protest the Bill. The opposition was able to articulate the danger that the Bill, as written, represented to social media, to innovation, and to existing businesses worth many billions of dollars. In that way, it became a debate between which industries deserve more protection, IP owners or technology and internet brands.

But it went deeper than that: Social media and user-generated data are now considered an important tenet of what the World Wide Web is really about for society. So the issue of government right to sensor became a matter of philosophy about social and political issues – extending far beyond the narrow economical issue the bill intended to address.

And so, SOPA/PIPA was shelved. But the issue is not over and dead – the matter is still being worked on by groups on both sides of the argument.

In January, during the same week when SOPA was shelved, the Federal government, swiftly and rather unilaterally, closed a file sharing service called MegaUpload. The authorities arrested its management team and owners overseas, and seized the entire company’s assets (including IP stored in its cloud service by thousands of end-users which were left with no recourse). This was done at the guise of protecting IP owners, but without the usual legal proceedings you would expect to see in a law suit state-side. The incident is being contested in courts, and more information is being revealed every week about the legal process the government used to make it happen. Interestingly, the New Zealand Courts (where the CEO of MegaUpload was arrested) have declared the action illegal.

Many bloggers claim this incident proves the risk of empowering governments with the right to act unilaterally against private companies. Moreover, it brings to question the need for SOPA/PIPA: If the government can do what it did to MegaUpload as is, why do we need additional law that grants the government any more rights?

As well, did the government have the right to take this action against MegaUpload in the fashion it did?  Why was MegaUpload’s case singled out for action while others have not been pursued? Is there any difference, technically and legally, between MegaUpload and, say, YouTube, iCloud, or any other cloud service or user generated site?

These are mission-critical issues that affect the core of what many companies and many individuals do on the web, how we use the internet, and indeed what role technology plays in our daily lives. Plus, the laws governing these issues differ per country, which adds to the complexity of addressing such matters. We can’t ignore this key socio-economical and political issue, and it is our duty to get involved if we expect to have a stake in the results. Stay informed.

(Shachar Oren, CEO)

Developing artists while your CFO is riding you

On Thursday, February 16th, Jim McDermott wrote a wonderfully thoughtful opinion piece about the major labels’ strategy behind licensing deals “advances” – an issue that has been debated repeatedly within the industry over the years, and recently got re-ignited on a panel in SF. You can read the article and join the conversation at Digital Music News, the article’s name is “Ex-Major Label Exec: ‘You Can’t Develop Artists When Everyone Thinks You’re an Extortionist’”. I added my own voice to the conversation yesterday, and I am posting my comments below for your reading pleasure (smile). Would love to hear back from you here (you can comment below) or at the DMN site. 

You Can’t Develop Artists When Your CFO is Riding You For Numbers
I don’t see the status of the industry as something that was developed intentionally by labels over the years. I think you would agree it’s quite the opposite, since they’ve been rather reactionary all along (at least since I joined in during the mid 90s, this is my point of view). Let’s take a step back for a second and consider our short digital history:

I think record companies got spoiled during the internet bubble days, when the “advance payment” model was introduced and most start ups had lots of cash from VCs to pay for access, pay to play. With many companies then going out of business in the aftermath of paying “advances”, the cash went straight to the bottom line. What a wonderful model!

We are, of course, dealing with (most of the time) public recorded music companies. These companies used to own hard goods – plants, studios, stock, etc. – and the mentality of the public company CFO is to try and drive stock price and revenue and margin increases by any reasonable means necessary.

During the past decade, while labels were getting out of those physical asset management business lines, they were also creating “digital business development” units that were originally designed to explore, approve and license new digital business models. But before you knew it, those units became a P&L center, with their members in charge of driving revenue numbers. Sales. So advance fees became a new business model. Even thought the bubble was gone, with iTunes launching there were plenty of other large profile entrants to the marketplace that could and did pay entry fees.

In the past handful of years, there has been a healthy shift in the industry, and most such “biz dev units” merged with “distribution” – and indeed, the decisions made about “advances” and such today are a lot more strategic in nature and driven by a holistic approach to the prospect, not a dry requirement to meet a red line. They are not punitive, but rather driven by a realistic approach of short and long term opportunity per prospect.

Reality still presents a challenge when one takes “art and entertainment” (where product quality is very hard to predict) and attempts to drive a public company with it. You just can’t make projections like you do with pizza. Back when there was stock to “play with” on the books, and plants, and studios, there were other elements to the business that drove recurring revenues. Catalog was business too.

Today, the revenue is mainly about the art itself, the IP. The result is that well, if the money is on the table with a major opportunity, it is hard to fault a businessman for trying to make a sale. There is no right or wrong in an open market environment. You can of course argue this has nothing to do with the art and is unfair to artists – that is an entirely separate story altogether.

Yes, taken as a whole, over the past say 15 years, the industry’s restrictive and punitive approach has done it more damage than good. I think it was due to a lack of strategic vision and to short-term, quarterly-numbers focused approach. Things are changing for the better, though time would tell if it’s too little too late.

So in the end of the day, I understand both sides of the argument, and believe that, with respect to our 2012 reality, the “truth” is in the middle and in various shades of grey.

On a separate note, I remain curious about the limited long-term vision that record companies take to their business line. They have realized a decade ago that their real assets are the IP. But the largest diversification has been 360 deals? Why not expand what IP means? How come the major labels don’t control Apps, games, and other IP? Why distribute just one line of digital IP (and the smallest at that)? We all know labels would do well staying focused on music, it’s what they know best. But the public entity that used to own plants, studios, stock, the public company that seeks aggressive growth – has so many exciting opportunities in front of its face these days, and yet none have acted on it. Diversification seems to be a more exciting and constructive approach than arguing with digital retailers over pay for play fees. Just an idea.

Shachar Oren, CEO

The Inaugural Georgia Music Day

Where's Waldo?The local music community celebrated the inaugural Georgia Music Day at the Capitol on January 24, 2012.

Neurotic Media’s VP of Sales Gary Eaton and CEO Shachar Oren attended the event. Participating Artists Included Black Crowes, Train, Rolling Stones, Third Day, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, Drivin N Cryin, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Corey Smith, and Anthony David.

Kudos to Georgia Music Partners and the Recording Academy® Atlanta Chapter for organizing the event and for our Representatives at the State Capitol for their support.

We hope that in the weeks and months to come, we will see decisive action taken by our Representatives to deliver incentives that help propel the music business in Georgia to the next level. Onward and upward!

Brands as (Music) Tastemakers

In 2011,Gary Eaton VP Sales Neurotic Media 90% of all US music sales came from just 2% of the albums released (Nielsen Soundscan).

For those that follow these trends, this isn’t new information or even perceived as a new dynamic. In fact, over the history of popular recorded music, a handful of artists / albums have typically always accounted for a majority of sales on an annual basis.

In today’s digital landscape, the ease and economics of access to recording technology and digital distribution has made it simpler than ever before for an artist to create and release a project. Here’s a little perspective: In 2011, there were almost 77,000 albums released which sold one copy or more (Nielsen Soundscan).

It seems like almost everyone is recording and releasing music – but is anyone actually being heard?

The truth is, the enormous pipeline of new releases is so expansive and vast that it’s a challenge for even the most avid consumer to stay up to date. This is a problem. It’s a problem for the artist who is struggling to gain an audience – and it’s a problem for consumers who don’t want to be exposed to all the new music (77,000 albums!?) – just the good new music.

Sure, radio is still a leading force in music discovery, but we all know how limited and narrow their playlists are programmed.

This problem creates a landscape of opportunity for brands. Consumers “may” feel loyalty to a brand, but they are passionate about music. Why not connect with that passion and become a voice of authority, a destination, a valuable filter in the eyes of your customers by exposing them to the good new music? This can take the form of an artist discovery program, pick of the week, song of the day, etc. Conversion, activation and loyalty will grow as result of truly connecting with the market you are looking to influence.

Whether a brand has a well-defined personality – or is simply looking to change their image or voice – music is a powerful tool that helps you express the brand attributes that you wish to emphasize. Music helps brands communicate to consumers in a language they understand – and create an emotional relationship.

Here at Neurotic Media, we have the technology and the music (millions of songs) to curate a campaign specifically for your needs. If you’d like to explore how this strategy might fit your particular objectives, please send us an email. We’d love to explore the possibilities with you.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales / @garyeaton)

Best Albums of 2011

2011 was a great year of music that featured a long list of noteworthy releases. Here are the top albums that moved us the most here at Neurotic Media – the albums that echoed off of our walls daily as our computers fought each other to be heard. Todd usually wins that battle BTW (listens to hard core metal and such). But we do get to share and enjoy each other’s different flavors and diversify our tastes. So, here are our recommendations for the year – and feel free to share yours with us below too:

Above and BeyondAbove & Beyond: Group Therapy – This really covers the entire spectrum of electronic music. Above & Beyond are some of the best producers with their emotional hooks and catchy beats. (Earle Smith) 

 

AdeleAdele: 21 – Adele’s sophomore album showcases her timeless voice and her ability to cross the pond and dominate the charts in multiple countries with personal songs jetting straight from her heart. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

ArchitectureArchitecture in Helsinki: Moment Bends – Sexy pop for smart people. This isn’t on Britney’s playlist. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

 

AWOLnationAWOLnation: Megalithic Symphony – The most positive, spiritually sarcastic rock you will ever hear; even your mom will like it. (Mazzy Solana)  

 

 

Bad Meets EvilBad Meets Evil: Hell: The Sequel – Eminem at his best. (Tim Kohler) 

 

 

 

Beastie BoysBeastie Boys:Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 – Hard to believe these guys put out their first album 30 years ago. This latest project finds their energy, rhymes, production and beats still going strong. It’s like a party for your ears! (Gary Eaton) 

 

 

ColbieColbie Caillat: All of You – This project shows the best of her husky tone, relaxing guitar and encouraging lyrics. (Ling Zhu) 

 

 

 

Hayes CarllHayes Carll: “KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)” – A steady fixture on the Texas scene, Carll delivers an album full of exceptionally clever and insightful lyrics in his trademark slurry twang . The song “Hard Out Here” is reason enough to be on a best of the year list. (Gary Eaton)

 

ColdplayColdplay: Mylo Xyloto – This album strays a little from the original sound of Coldplay but you can still hear where they started and they stay true to their sound. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

Cut CopyCut Copy: Zonoscope – Australian pop so good, you won’t realize you’re dancing too hard until you get pulled over. (Mazzy Solana)

  

 

DevotchkaDevotchka: 100 Lovers – An amazing pop record, sounds like rock n roll Gypsies, a colorful canvas of melodies and song. (Shachar Oren)

  

 

EmeryEmery: We Do What We Want – Most bands in the Post-hardcore genre put out an album or two and fall off. Emery is different, they have continued to impress since 2004, and their latest album is definitely one of their best. (Todd Jones)

 

 

GameGame: The R.E.D. Album – Most know Game is lyrically talented, but the guest spots and out-of-this-world production make this album the best rap album of 2011. (Earle Smith) 

 

 

 

Holy GhostHoly Ghost!: “Holy Ghost!” – This album is so sexy you would think Holy Ghost was French, but they’re from New York so it’s much funkier. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

 

 

Lady GagaLady Gaga:Born This Way – A mind-blowing sophomore album. (Stephen Lam) 

 

 

 

Man ManMan Man:Life Fantastic – All life’s lessons in a single album. They literally tell you to punch your dad in the face if it will make you feel better. It’s like Rock for happy pirates. (Mazzy Solana) 

 

Mister HeavenlyMister Heavenly: Out of Love – It’s not any secret that I love Islands, so I was pre-destined to love this album. Add Honus Honus from Man Man, Joe Plummer, and an occasional tour appearance by Michael Cera and you get this heavenly musical experience. It has a sort of old school feel but is still very relevant. Definitely has an Islands-y vibe. Saw them live this year and they were all wearing matching friendship shirts! (Becka Hardy)  

Portugal, The ManPortugal. The Man: In the Mountain In The Cloud – A great alt-pop album, with fun musical tributes to the likes of Pixies, ELO, Supertramp and others mixed in if you listen close enough. (Shachar Oren)  

 

Sick PuppiesSick Puppies: Polar Opposite – An acoustic EP of some of their most popular songs. Allowed me to really listen to the words without the organized confusion of multiple instruments. (Earle Smith)

 

 

Thile and DavesChris Thile & Michael Daves: Sleep With One Eye Open – A fiery duo of acoustic masters playing traditional bluegrass songs with passion, speed, authenticity and technical brilliance. (Gary Eaton)

  

 

Eddie VedderEddie Vedder: Ukulele Songs – Heartfelt lyrics and an acoustic sound make this album excellent for those quiet, reflective moments. Classic Vedder. (Tim Kohler)

 

 

  

But wait, there’s more! Here are a few additional notable releases we liked this year:

Battles: “Gloss Drop” – This album sounds like two (or more) robots having sex: math rock at its finest while still being ridiculously dance-y. (Mazzy Solana) 

The Civil Wars: “Barton Hollow” – Absolutely (and truly) breathtaking. (Gary Eaton)

dEUS: “Keep You Close” – A wonderful new record from this Belgian band, which sort of picked things up where Radiohead left it after ‘OK Computer’ and been running with it ever since – this new album is the best since their mid-90’s debut, a strong, fun, innovative rock record. (Shachar Oren)

The Ghost Inside: “Returners” – This album actually came out in 2010, but I didn’t find out about it until this year. These guys are definitely one of the best hardcore bands to come out in the last 5 years. (Todd Jones)

Hooray for Earth: “True Loves” – I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t just love this band because of the name. (Becka Hardy)

Sondre Lerche: (self titled) – A fantastic release from one of today’s strongest alt-pop writers, in the tradition of Aztec Camera, Prefab Sprout, The Beatles. Unmatched vocal range, beautiful writing and composing, he just makes every complex song sound so easy and effortless. (Shachar Oren)

Silkie: “City Limits Volume 2″ – Most dubstep that comes out is released as singles or EPs, and even when an artist releases a full album it’s rare that I can listen to the entire thing end to end. Silkie expertly weaves jazz and funk influences throughout the album but still manages to stay true to the dubstep roots. (Todd Jones)

Stinkahbell & Psy:am: “Don’t Tell Mum About Ibiza EP” – Two highly anticipated up and coming dubstep producers. They’ve both put out some good tracks this year, but their EP together really set the bar for what they need to do in 2012. (Todd Jones)

STRFKR: “Jupiter” (Remastered) – I didn’t discover the dance party that is STRFKR until more recently, so I missed out on the original release of this album. Luckily, it made its way to me in the form of this re-release this year. Highly recommended if you’re into the synth-pop thing! (Becka Hardy)

The most popular thing in the world

Earlier this week I was on the phone with a new business contact, a poteGary Eatonntial client to be exact. We were talking about his business, how we might work together, etc.

As often happens, the conversation turned to the universal appeal and power of music and he quickly said “It’s the most popular thing in the world.”  I told him that was a great line and that I’d probably have to use it at some point in the future.

The person I was speaking with went on to explain that he couldn’t take credit for the line, that he had in fact heard it in an interview with Donald Trump.  He said when Mr. Trump was asked “What is the most popular thing in the world?” that he gave a one word answer “Music.”

Sure enough, I found a clip online. Not sure how I missed this but it’s from 2004 in a sit down with Ali G (a character played by Sacha Baron Cohen). In true comedic form, Ali G goes on to argue that the correct answer is ice cream.  Sorry Ali G, I’m going to have to side with Mr. Trump on this one.

(Gary Eaton – VP Sales / @garyeaton)