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Preview: No Revolution

No Revolution

the indie music vs. technology deathmatch

Updated: 2014-10-03T00:00:58.029-04:00


No Revolution: Now Part of IndieHQ


Readers and Friends, I'm happy to announce that effective immediately, I'll be officially joining forces with the IndieHQ family, where I will become a contributing columnist / editor. This also means that NoRevolution will go on indefinite hiatus.

Anyone who subscribes via RSS should switch their subscription to:

Good night, and good luck.

It's Been A Little While


Things are ramping up at over at Haystack. If you haven't checked it out yet, please do. The early phase of our beta is done and in the early part of the new year we will be launching some incredible enhancements and have some pretty amazing content announcements.

One request, I'm looking to find some of the best band sites (-not myspace, purevolume, or haystack pages) that use social media or community contribution in really amazing ways. I have some of my own, but would love to see more, please leave them in the comments below.

Two that I can come up with off the top of my head are: +44 and Head Automatica.

Haystack Now In "Public Preview"



So what is Haystack? A social discovery network for music and music only. We took the best elements of social media optimization (think digg or and built it upon a community of listeners and artists. We also have a group of users, called Tastemakers, who are established authorities on music.

From the Haystack FAQ:
Tastemakers are influencers within the Haystack community and are trusted sources for music recommendations. Tastemakers can be established music experts like producers, writers or DJ’s or just friends who you look to for suggestions on “what’s next.” A great Tastemaker can bring an unheard artist to the masses, or revive a forgotten release to its glory days.
The final component is a built-in library of music, where the artists and labels are compensated, using our RightsNow Media Royalty. We currently have almost a thousand major, indie, and unsigned bands and tons more will be uploaded over the next few weeks.

There are many many more features currently available, as well as in the works... but I hope you take the time to check out this early pr

To check out my profile:

Don't believe me? Listen to what Greg Verdino at Digitas and Daily Candy have to say about Haystack.

Idolator Says College Radio Is Bullshit


In the second part of their secret interview series, Idolator talks to a label college radio promotion person, and gets the straight dope.

Here's a summary:
  • College radio programmers love to name drop, but do not really know who Sebadoh is.
  • Adds and college charts are an irrelevant barometer of success that exist only to please out-of-touch higher ups.
  • Records are seldom, if ever, added on merit- it's all politics.
  • A large percentage of charts are totally fake.
Besides a handful of stations like WSOU, Blackout! never really was big into spending money on buying overpriced trade ads, or indie promotions teams. I always felt that tour support yielded a much better ROI.

CMJ Wrap Up


Aside from today's Haystack/ V2/ L-Magazine party I didn't really attend a ton of CMJ events this week. However, I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel called Improving Retail Relations With Labels and Distributors. The main focus of discussion was how indie retailers and record labels can help one another in pursuit of their shared business goals in a changing marketplace.

In addition to yours truly, my fellow panelists were:
  • Pat Egan, Director of Retail Sales, Relapse Records
  • Audrey Faine, Director of Marketing, Kill Rock Stars/5RC
  • Michael Kurtz, President, Music Monitor Network
  • Carl Mello, Senior Buyer, Newbury Comics
(Unfortunately, nobody currently who works at a distribution company was on the panel.)

Here are a few of the panel's observations about the current music landscape:

  1. Music has been devalued. Music loss leader status at the mass consumer level. Apple uses music to sell iPods, Best Buy to sell refrigerators. But the net effect puts the squeeze on indie retail because it simply cannot compete at that level.
  2. Distributors concentrate on big box stores. Another problem is that distribution companies put a tremendous amount of emphasis on chain marketing programs at those large chain retailers. Distros defer to the big box stores who can deliver thousand piece orders in their game of pennies. Distributors then turn to the labels, who are compelled to spend $3 a unit on a "micro-marketing campaign" which in reality translates to a piece on a shelf (IF you can actually get compliance.)
  3. Shift in consumer behavior. There's also been a shift in the consumer base. At one point, niche albums for niche crowds were served by specialty retailers and ignored by the chains. In addition, the epicenter of music community has shifted from a geographic location (record stores in major cities) to a virtual one (the web.)

So, with all these problems, how will indie stores survive to help indie labels break new bands?

  1. Re-establish themselves as the hub of community. The whole panel agreed on this. Carl indicated Newbury is doing this by expanding into suburban malls, and going head to head with "lifestyle" stores such as Hot Topic on their own turf. Other stores are morphing into a music related coffee house and performance spaces, where the small and growing artists can find a voice. Another idea brought forward was also to bring in special screenings of concert films or documentaries to retail (ex. Movies like American Hardcore aren't playing on a national level.)
  2. Embrace the internet. Pandora's box isn't closing. Ergo, stores also need to harness the power of the web to reaffirm the discovery and tastemaking ability of knowledgeable record store people. (cough, Haystack, cough.) Instead of just moving coupons or email blasts... stores need to know how to better utilize what's out there in emerging technologies to better serve their local market.
  3. Labels need to keep supporting the indies. Special tools such as in-store artist appearances, special releases for indie stores will enable stores to draw traffic.
It would be great to hear from others in the trenches on this. Perhaps we can do a virtual follow up to this panel via Skype and issue it as podcast.

Time Warp: Ed Gein's Car



Many thanks to the Record Robot blog for finding this. I remember seeing them play several matinee shows back in the mid 80's. A good reminder that not all "hardcore" sounded like Agnostic Front back then. I wish someone had the full album available for download, becuase I don't think it ever made it to CD.

download a track or two here.

Time Warp: Bullet LaVolta


I've decided to start going through my old collection and pulling out stuff that I really love but haven't listened to in a while. One of the standouts is Bullet LaVolta, a band that brilliantly merged the ferocity of older boston hardcore with the sensibilities of sonic youth influenced indie rock.

Check out Bullet LaVolta on MySpace.

Indie? What Is Indie?


A few weeks ago, my co-workers and I had a rather interesting (read as heated) discussion regarding the word "indie" and what it means. Is it a status, style or genre of music? A subset of rock? Does it stand on it's own? Now CNN is jumping on the bandwagon with their recent article, If it's cool, creative and different, it's indie.Given my soon-to-be greying punk rock roots, my stance is that indie first means independent. Not distributed through one of the majors, and not owned in total or in part by them. In a sense, totally entrepreneurial: where failure means not eating, paying your rent, having your significant other berate you, and possibly having to relocate to your mom's basement.Here's the litmus test: If you call out to your assistant to pick you up a latte after they call to schedule your car service to the show, YOU AREN'T INDIE. You're a spoiled rich brat, who thinks that Death Cab is a miracle simply because the other sheep are bleating to the same drummer.When used to describe a sound, I draw my definition from the Sebadoh single "Gimmie Indie Rock" recorded way back in 1991. Just Give Me Indie Rock! Started back in �83Started seeing things a differentlyAnd hardcore wasn�t doin� it for me no moreStarted smoking potThought things sounded better slowMuch slower, heavierBlack magic melody to sink this poseur�s soul VU Stooges undeniably coolTook a lesson from that drone rock schoolManipulate musicians hack righteous droolGetting loose with the Pussy GaloreCracking jokes like a Thurston MoorePeddle hopping like a Dinosaur, J... Rock and Roll genius, ride the middle of the roadMilk that sound, blow your loadShoot it further than you ever said it goFour stars in the Rolling Stone Oooh sludge rock,That�s hard as harshJust gimme indie rock!It�s gone bigCome on indie rockJust give me indie rock Taking inspiration from Husker DuIt�s a new generationOf electric white boy bluesCome on indie rockIt's gone bigCome on indie rockJust give me indie rock Breaking down the barriersLike Sonic YouthThey got what they wantedMaybe i can get what i want tooCome on indie rockIt's gone bigCome on indie rockJust give me indie rock Time to knockThe hard rock on it�s sideTime to knockThe shit right up a stormTurn to amazeWith the indie sludgeGrunge!Aaah! I blame the Brits, particularly NME for allowing the bastardization of the indie moniker during the mid 90's.[...]

Sunday Evening Rant: Banks


When I purchased my shiny new Apple laptop a year or so ago, I did it through their credit line at MBNA. I didn't pay it off during the allotted "free" time, so I got banged with interest payments. (That was my own doing so I can't complain about it.)

However, in order to keep up with the payments, I put it on auto-pay. Tonight I looked at my account, and found out that I overpaid about $1000, because although the thing was closed, they still kept taking my money. I called them and am getting a check back in a few days.

But that isn't the point. These motherf*#kers CHARGE THE LIVING SH!T out of people in interest, and if payment's a nanosecond late, they send the party to collections, or have some a##hole call at 8 in the morning. Am I getting interest on the grand they held for over a month? Nope. Can I awaken the chairman of MBNA at 6am to ask where my money is? No. I also believe it should be illegal for them to take money against an account that is paid off.

I'm not sure I have a point in this, as I'm just ranting. But one thing's for sure... the personal tip, MBNA will never ever see one thin dime from me, ever again. On a different level, with the multinational banks and the wealthy gaining more and more control, we only have more of this screwing of the middle and lower classes to look forward to. Sadly, most will never notice the fleecing because they're too busy fighting the Pyrrhic "culture war" against gay rights or the teaching of evolution.

Ahhhh. That makes me feel better.

(BTW, if you don't agree with me don't waste your energy posting a comment. Not only could I give a rats ass, it won't be approved, and nobody will see it. I'm not interested in dialog with Republicans, Evangelical Christians, or idiots of any other sort.)

So It Appears That Piracy Is A Business Model


Newsflash: It is better to embrace technology than spend your war chest fighting it!

Yes! According to arstechnica, Disney ABC has finally gotten wind that maybe trying to sue the pants off of people and turning all that sharing into money might not be a bad thing.

"So we understand piracy now as a business model," said Sweeney in a recent analyst call. "It exists to serve a need in the marketplace specifically for consumers who want TV content on demand and it competes for consumers the same way we do, through high-quality, price and availability and we don't like the model. But we realize it's effective enough to make piracy a key competitor going forward. And we've created a strategy to address this threat with attractive, easy to use ways to for viewers to get the content they want from us legally; in other words, keeping honest people honest."

With Universal and WMG making deals with GoogleTube, are they actually gonna bumble their way into getting it right?

Great Digtal Reissue Label: Anthology Recordings


Anthology Recordings is cool. Great website, good stuff. I'd say this is the first quality digital imprint I've seen so far. I just downloaded the elusive Moondog release (featuring Quicksand, Gorilla Biscuits, and Rival Schools' own Walter Schreifels) . Good luck to all involved!

From their about page:

About Anthology Recordings: beyond the mainstream, beyond boundaries.

Anthology Recordings is the world’s first ever all digital reissue label, its goal to provide an online outlet for rare and out-of-print music of all eras, genres and cultures.

In the Fall of 2005, as the demand for digital music was mounting exponentially, Anthology Recordings founder Keith Abrahamsson (an A&R executive with New York City-based indie label Kemado Records) was struck by the conspicuous absence of obscure, but influential music titles on most high volume online retailers – an injustice to both these artists and their prospective fans, which he grew determined to address.

Beyond the mainstream and beyond all boundaries; the Anthology Recordings team pledges to continually seek out music’s underrated, forgotten, or overlooked, and help make the digital music landscape richer, more complete, and definitely more eclectic with every release.

Reaction To The Tower Liquidation


There's been quite a buzz surrounding the demise of Tower from around the web. One of the most telling items comes from a response to Lefsetz' take on the subject from Redeye Distribution's John McGlasson:
I wouldn't care at all if they didn't owe our dist. (Redeye) a shitload of money, a screwing that you can be sure will be passed onto us, though Tower bought a bunch of one of our new releases (10/03, John Blakeley/Ron Nagle's Tan Mantis) for cash, something that surprised me, even in bankruptcy, it seems Tower thought if they could make it thru the holidays they could pull out of it. Big retail and the big labels have made it hard on indies forever, and distributors still try to get indies to play the big label game with the stores who charge hundreds or thousands for decent store placement, knowing we can only sell at best a handful of cds per store. So in this transitional period, we have no choice but to play along with the distributor and big retail, though we all know we're just going through the motions, waiting for it's death. Big retail is our biggest liability right now as a label, but we'll win.

Everyone's starting to see what I've been blathering on about for the last year. Big marketing costs from retail making it almost impossible for indies to succeed. What's going to happen is that the indies will change to a digital model, possibly monetize their relationships with artists by taking over booking and merchandising, and leave the CD business to the dinosaurs.

Welcome aboard.

Lefsetz Agrees With Me


A few months ago, I posted about how the label business as a stand alone entity is pretty much going the way of the dinosaur. What will take it's place is a management/ label hybrid that will produce content, supply funding, guidance and faciliate connections for the artist.

Lefsetz also seems to be on board with this idea, as a recent post of his screams it loud and clear.

You can’t survive the present economic conditions unless you participate in ALL revenue streams of the act. Since the disc/legal file business is de minimis. But the majors can’t get a piece of these streams. Because it’s these monies the acts are living on. The label builds you, you profit on ticket receipts and merchandise sales. And since the label can’t get a piece of this ancillary revenue, they trumpet acts that work on their paradigm. In other words, two-dimensional caricatures that can be sold via image all over the media. They want something with INCESSANT impressions. They want to beat the public over the head to purchase the equivalent of hula hoops. Because to take the time to develop an act slowly, that has real fans… Well, the Grateful Dead never sold that many records. And how many albums did Fleetwood Mac make before they hit on a winning formula? The majors don’t want to invest in musicmakers who march to the beat of their own drummer, they just want a pretty face, who’ll do what they say, who will sing the songs written by the hacks and produced by the usual suspects.

Given the way things are, I can't compete in the CD marketplace. It's chock full of people spending massive dollars to potentially have a "hit" which maybe clears the red out of all the books. Where I can compete is the same place that I did back in the 80's, in the true underground- where the barrier to entry isn't a $3 per unit co-op at Best Buy.

Never Buy Another Hard Drive


For most indie labels, data storage and backup is (or should be) a huge issue. With multiple kinds of digital data being the basis for almost the entire business, having a viable backup and archive strategy should really be a serious priority.

I remember as far back as the early 90's, backing up all of my documents and artwork onto big, clunky Syquest disks and having stacks of floppy disks sitting around my office. This media would perpetually fail, so I had to have multiple backups. When CD Drives arrived in the later 90's, I transferred all of that data over to little shiny discs and kept them in a closet in the event of a meltdown. Recently I've kept multiple redundant hard drives and backed up religiously.

That's all over.

Thanks to Amazon S3 and a great little shareware utility called Jungledisk, I can store all of my label documents (art files, documents, music files, data archive) in a completely secure off site environment that can be accessed from anywhere.

How easy? To quote Jungledisk's page:
  1. Download and install Jungle Disk.
    It's available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and only takes a few seconds to install.
  2. Sign up for Amazon S3™ storage
    You can use your existing account! It's free to sign up and you'll only pay for the storage you use.
  3. Configure Jungle Disk with your Amazon Access Key
    It will automatically prompt you the first time you run it.
  4. Connect to your Jungle Disk
    For Windows users, just use the Start Menu shortcut provided. Connecting is easy for Mac and Linux users too.
  5. Start using your Jungle Disk like a local hard drive!
    You can copy files to it using Explorer (or Finder on Mac). When you copy a file to your Jungle Disk it is encrypted and uploaded in the background to the servers.
For more information about how and why to switch, check out this article by Jeremy Sawodny.

Screw CD's


The first record I ever put out in 1989 was a hardcore compilation entitled NYHC:Where The Wild Things Are. At the time, it really was something special for me. From what people tell me, for a great many it documented the pinnacle of the second wave of New York Hardcore.

That record remains my favorite release, not because of the relative success it had when it came out. Not even because of the bands that it documented. It was the people, who surrounded it and the fond memories it brings back. One of those people is Jim Gibson. He (and his label Noiseville) were co-founders of Blackout! He remains a close friend, and in addition to still doing his label, he runs an amazing store called Cold Spring Music Company, in upstate NY.

A little while ago, Jim approached me about doing a vinyl reissue of the compilation. Nothing too crazy, just a thousand or so, on colored wax that would surely sell to collectors. As the record wasn't around for a while, I decided that we should do it. Certainly more of a fun thing, as nobody was going to be able to pay their bills with it.

For a while, I've been pondering if I should do a CD reissue of this. Maybe with a DVD or some cool bonus. The Photoshop files have been sitting idle on my hard drive since 2001. But today's CD marketplace is so utterly underwhelming, I decided to take a different path.

In addition to the vinyl version of the release, Where The Wild Things Are will be released digitally via iTunes, eMusic, Downloadpunk, Audiolunchbox, in conjunction with the vinyl release. The record will also be streamed for free in it's entirety, on demand, at Haystack.

I'm hoping that this vinyl/ digital only release will be the start of something new. I'm only going to be advertising it on blogs and on the web, staying away from high priced retail co-ops and print ads in faux punk glossies. It should be an interesting experiment and this release seems to be the one to try it with.

Love to know anyone's feedback on this.



Payola has now officially entered the blogosphere. Techcrunch reports on a new service called PayPerPost:
The service is a marketplace for advertisers to pay bloggers to write about products for a fee. Commenters to our original post wee polarized into those violently for and those againt the product. The key area of controversy is the fact that advertisers can mandate that posts be positive on the product, and disclosure of payment is optional for the blogger.

If you want to pay people to write about stuff... I guess that's fine. But to not disclose it -or- require positive reviews in exchange for money is pretty reprehensible. (You listening, Armstrong Williams?)

Yes, Because Your Bands Need LESS Exposure


According to the fine folks over at PaidContent, Universal has pulled their company videos from Fuse and WEA has pulled videos from Yahoo. While Universal seems to be looking to monetize every ounce of content and build a proprietary network, I'm a little surprised at the Warner Bros. thing.

Why be stingy with video? Because the music has pretty moving pictures with it they're worth "more" than music? I thought that they are "promotional" video clips. Certainly in most major record contracts I've been aware of, videos are 100% recoupable from the bands share of royalties. So how can videos, ostensibly made for "promotion" be sold in this way? Don't the bands feel a little cheated because they've been deprived of the promotional value they paid for? I really just don't understand. But I also don't understand DRM or the way the digital format has been handled at all by the big companies.

Content is king. Keep it flowing, there are so many bands out there that the only way to rise above the din is to keep up a consistent stream of free media for fans to enjoy. Free discovery is the only way to make things happen. Once fans are loyal to your b(r)and, MAYBE they'll pay for something, but not before.




The Story Behind The Music


(image) People who weren't there during the mid 80's NYHC hardcore scene don't really understand what it was really like back then. In fact, by the time I started becoming a regular matinee rat at CBGB in late '85/ early '86, most of the early bands including Minor Threat, The Misfits (w/ Danzig), and Dead Kennedys (w/Jello) had already played their final NYC shows and were on to different things. By the time I arrived, the influx of B&T kids (like myself) was already changing the direction of the downtown scene.

One of the earliest bands I can remember being schooled on was Major Conflict, fronted by the charismatic Dito Montiel. Dito was somewhat of a legend, especially to the Astoria kids. By the time I hung around he was in a band with some of the ex-members of Kraut, called Gutterboy. After that fizzled in a spectacular way, he made his way out to LA to seek fame and fortune in the film world.

A few years ago Dito contacted me for a copy of the Killing Time "The Method" CD, because there was a Major Conflict cover on it. In trade he sent me a copy of his book, called A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints. More than about hardcore, It was a memoir of sorts, about growing up in a tough city and looking to escape the economic and social barriers of a lower-middle class upbringing.

That book is now a movie starring Robert Downey Jr., Chaz Palminteri, and Rosario Dawson, and will be released on September 29. It's already won a few awards at Caan, and from what I saw of the trailer, it looks way more worthwhile than most of the Hollywood schlock out there. I encourage everyone to go and see the movie, support one of the founding fathers of NYHC, and get a window into a world that most people never even knew existed.

So MySpace Is Selling Downloads


MySpace has now joined the digital music retail war by announcing plans to create a non-DRM download store where artists can sell their own music. Liz Gaines at Gigaom offers the following details:

This isn’t a challenger to iTunes because the songs will be unrestricted MP3s, therefore leaving out the DRM-obsessed major labels. But it’s a great way to play into the allure of being part of the cool crowd — one of MySpace’s greatest strengths. Bands will be able to set their prices, with MySpace and Snocap each getting a cut. Fans can syndicate the stores on their MySpace pages, but it’s not clear if they will be able to take a share of the revenue as well.

While this a cool widget, I don't see this ala-carte MySpace store catching fire unless the larger independents and majors hop on board. Would I consider having Blackout! artists selling music through individual stores on MySpace? Absolutely, provided the labels rights were protected.

By using this somewhat traditional model of digital commerce, MySpace missed a huge opportunity to really seize the hearts and minds of music lovers. Instead of the pay per download model, they could have set up a low cost monthly subscription plan, that would rival eMusic. For a few dollars a month (or other incremental micropayment users) could dowload up to X amount of releases. I believe this would have ultimately created more long term value for labels, artists, and MySpace itself.



Yesterday's big news was SpiralFrog, a company that allows free downloads in exchange for advertising. While I applaud Universal's entry into this marketplace (as I believe that ads can sustain a music model) I don't see how SpiralFrog can work- given the obstacle course a user needs to run just to listen to, nevermind keep, a song.

Neither do the folks at PCWorld:

The service, due later this year, will be offered by a company called SpiralFrog, which says it would like to sign deals with the other major music labels. Watch a 90-second ad and you can download a song; watch a two-minute one, and you can download a video; to keep them, you'll need to return to SpiralFrog's site and watch more ads. The music will be free, but not freely available, and because the music and copy protection are wrapped up in Microsoft's WMA format, the tunes won't play on the vast majority of audio players out there (read: iPods).

What kid is going to waste any time watching ads to get a song. It's WORK. Advertising works best when it's not a roadblock to the content you want. At a baseball game, do you have to watch a commercial on the big screen before every pitch? No. The ads are in the background and don't impede the experience.

Clearly those involved at this company are executives who are far removed from the reality of the current music marketplace. It's musical lipstick on an advertising pig. (apologies to pigs everywhere)

Tower Chapter 11


Another crushing blow to the world of indie music. Any label that thinks this is still about selling little silver shiny things needs to get the hell over themselves.

More later.

The Return Of Sun Records


One of my favorite movies is O Brother Where Art Thou. It's a depression-era adaptation of Homer's Odyssey, and features a ton of great music. At one point in the movie Everett Ulysses McGill (George Clooney) and his fellow prison-escapees find refuge in a lonely radio station, where they record a song, which is released as a single. It's a regional hit, and the song winds up being a key component in the ultimate reunification of the Pater Familius and his estranged family.

This exemplifies the small-time home-grown model of music that existed until Elvis changed it all. Songs were recorded and released by labels like Sun Records, who had the connections to get the material promoted, usually on a regional basis. The artist would then tour regionally and make their money on performances.

This is where music is headed again. With the cost of marketing a release in the stratosphere (even for indies), labels simply cannot afford to pay unproven baby bands' recording budgets. Some even flat out refuse to give advances, and expect delivery of a finished master (while taking merchandise rights and publishing.) Blackout! is fortunate that a partner in the company owns a recording studio, so we're still able to record bands quite reasonably.

Instead of focusing on how to buy "hits", what about figuring out how to use the new (low cost) models of distribution to release moderately recorded and modestly promoted records that have a reasonable break even point?

Google Copies


Seems like everyone's getting into the personal playlist game.

Here's An Idea


According to Paidcontent, the folks over at the Home Shopping Network have enabled click-to-purchase right through the teevee.

MTV networks/ Fuse or other music networks should follow up on this. In my dream scenario:
  • Customers would register their download store preference (iTunes, Napster) at the network's website, including username and password.
  • Songs that are available for purchase would have a special icon on screen.
  • When they see the "purchase enabled" icon on the screen, the user can click a button on their remote, and that track will be added to a queue to purchase.
  • The cable network makes money from the referral fee to others, and there's a tangible conversion rate from viewership to intent to purchase to actual purchase. Very viable statistics.
This could also work with television commercials (buy the song from the Honda commecial) and TV shows (Gray's Anatomy, The OC.)

If anyone implements this idea I expect a cut. :-)