Q+A: SF Critic

In this week’s installment of our famous Blogger Q+A Series, we get to chat with universally recognized music voice in San Francisco, CA — David Johnson-Igra of SF Critic. In our chat, we digress from the usual hip-hop banter and open up the dialogue about west coast music, Outside Lands Music Festival and how musicians can use social media the right way in marketing themselves.

For a music blog, is there an advantage or disadvantage to being genre-specific?

Interesting question. In my opinion, there’s a big assumption here that there are such things as ‘genres.’ I think the greatest stride in the development of music from the internet, in addition to being able to spread/download/listen to an abundance of music, is the influence of that music on fans and artists. Genres were created as a method to categorize records to help consumers purchasing music. So in a roundabout way, being ‘genre-specific,’ is limiting because it’s like being one aisle in a record store without the understanding that music is the whole store: the people who buy it, the staff that talk about it, the albums, the many aisles, and the CDs/Tapes/Vinyl.

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Don’t Just Listen to Your Favorite Band, Sign Them

According to VentureBeat, Seattle-based Luca Sacchetti just launched the beta of music social network Rockstar Motel where the idea is users get to work with and purchase stock in the bands they like, and/or “sign them.”

As far as we can tell, the object of the service is to empower music fans in helping their favorite bands get promotion and fame, perhaps similar to Sellaband. Cool concept, but the incentive returns will be interesting. It seems the service will enable music fans and bands to work together with an end goal to help the band make it big, as well as offer another outlet for discovering new music. It’s kind of a mixed bag between Bandcamp and free download in exchange for sharing services.

Regardless, the creator sounds genuine and highly emotional, so this project will be an interesting product to track in the future. Sign up for the beta now if you’re interested.

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Q+A: Get Right Music

For this week’s installment of our super-popular Blogger Q+A series, we got to talk with mixtape-maven Jesse Janson from Get Right Music. Janson began his dynasty while still in collage at Fordham University producing for artists out his own small studio in 2002. When he finally realized he didn’t have the connections or money to take it to the next level, Get Right Music, now one of premiere landing spots for hip-hop mixtapes, was born.

What were the early days of Get Right Music like and what’s your daily routine now?

I was always involved with mixtapes. Since back in the day, early 90′s, while in high school, I was very much into battle djing and turntablism. I used to make mixtapes on cassettes and sell them for a little extra money. I also used to compete in local battle competitions around New York. Fast forward to 2005, I realized that sites like Mix Unit were selling mixtapes and making good money, but mixtapes were supposed to be free as a means of promotion. So, I began buying those mixtapes, ripping and digitizing them. Then, posting and reviewing them on the newly formed site, running on Blogger, GetRightMusic.com. The site began picking up momentum and it started to really get known as a good place to download and check the quality mixtape releases. We then moved off of Blogger to WordPress. After years of up and down roller coaster type movement we are now on a custom built system and focusing on not only providing a place to listen and download the best in mixtape releases, but also an excellent platform for artists to promote their mixtapes and music videos to a global audience.

The daily routine for running Get Right Music is pretty much scanning through a huge list of RSS feeds, Twitter lists/searches, emails from artists, labels, managers, fans and PR teams and making sure that we don’t miss any releases. We’re also constantly listening to every mixtape before we post it up. Our main mission for the site is that we want to make sure that we are posting quality mixtape releases and music, and not just posting everything up and polluting the integrity of Get Right Music.

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Artists Charging $5 for Live Feed of Concerts Via Facebook

If you aren’t making money from selling albums, why not put more emphasis on live concerts?

According to Inside Facebook, David Gray and Widespread Panic have partnered with venue companies (Gray with European Telecom 02 and Panic with Milyoni’s Social Theater) in an attempt to drive more revenues from live shows through Facebook apps. Using Facebook’s pay-for-credit system, Facebook users must offer up 50 credits (equivalent to $5) to watch Widespread Panic or David Gray live from their laptop.

Will virtual currency pan out for music and will music fans shell out $5 for a live feed of a concert? You be the judge.

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Q+A: Sunset in the Rearview

We apologize for the delay in this week’s edition of our weekly Blogger Q+A series, but we had scheduling mishaps. No matter! This week, we’re featuring a blogger a little more under the radar with a much different background compared to most of the hip-hop curators we come across. To be fair, Lydia Simmons of Sunset in the Rearview isn’t just into hip-hop; she’s not even a daily Starbucks dweller. By day, she’s works for an ad agency, and every other moment? Well, she’s writing about her favorite music and getting plenty of attention for it. The best part is she uses words like “braggadocious.”

You have a unique background for a music blogger. What does the blog mean to you in your life working in advertising?

Blogging is, in fact, a side job. You might even call it a hobby. But to me, it’s so much more than that. Time-wise, I consider it a second full-time job. Thing is, though, nobody ever wants one of those, particularly if it means you’re practically working for free. But I absolutely love it. The things it has done for me are invaluable – I’ve improved my writing, my knowledge of music, have gotten to meet artists I never would have imagined standing face to face with, have been given press credentials to music festivals…it runs the gamut. At the end of the day, the blog is like a child to me. My day job in advertising is great, and I give it my all, but my heart is with the blog.

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How StereoGrid Works

We’ve been so busy building StereoGrid, that we just now realized that we hadn’t even put together a guide on how to use our platform. Well, we’re fixing that problem right now!

We’re doing some really interesting things and have created some killer features that we want to make sure that you as our users take full advantage of and enable. StereoGrid should make your life easier as a music blogger/artist, not harder!

Setting Up Your Drop Box

Location: Dashboard > Settings > Drop Box Settings

Many music bloggers either have a music submission page or a submission email address that allows artists, labels or PR firms to send them music directly. When building StereoGrid, we wanted to make sure that we continued to give bloggers the ability to accept submissions, but in a way that prevents them from having to scour through hundreds of emails to find a song or two that might be worth posting. This is why we provide each blogger with a custom Drop Box.

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TopSpin CEO Senses Major Power Shift Away From Music Publishers

In an interview with the Music Think Tank, CEO Ian Rodgers of direct-to-fan music marketing company TopSpin Media, argued that ‘middle-class’ musicians are finding ways to thrive using independent services, except that it takes “a really long time” to get to the next level.

“There is something massive going on, not just in the music business, but in all content creation,” Rodgers said. “For a long time, we’ve been saying there’s a power shift from the label to the artist. Similarly, there is a power shift from the manufacturer to the publisher.”

With the industry’s limitless resources for musicians to market their own brand, big-time publishers are losing their stranglehold on the middle-ground musicians working their way up, as long as bands are willing to grind out for five to eight years. Take Metric or The Black Keys for example; they were active for nearly a decade before reaching national recognition.

Tough? Absolutely. But can middle-level musicians survive on their own? Apparently. StereoGrid is here to help them get to the next level.

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Q+A: Beats and Rants

Camden, NJ native Trent Fitzgerald has been a big-time player in the hip-hop blogosphere with Beats and Rants since 2003 and earned the honor of making Vibe Magazine’s Top 50 Hottest Rap Blogs list not too long ago, in 2009. In this week’s edition of our blogger highlight series Fitzgerald sheds light on the number one common marketing mistake independent artists make and how he sees his blog separated from the rest of the incumbent brands like Nah Right and The Smoking Section.

How did it feel to be recognized by Vibe Magazine?

It was a huge honor. It was something that was unexpected because I didn’t get out to get noticed like that and it’s weird to see a magazine such as Vibe notice all the hard work. For at least the past 10 years, I’ve been putting a lot of hard work into the blog, showcased a lot of different types of music and writing about hip-hop music and the future [of the genre]. Never saw it coming.

What does Beats and Rants do to separate itself from other hip-hop blogs?

I don’t post every single song by Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj or Young Jeezy. I think what separates me from the other blogs is I present quality, not quantity. That’s not to throw any shade at Nah Right, or Rap Radar or 2DopeBoyz or The Smoking Section. Those are all fantastic blogs, but I try to focus on great hip-hop music; music that inspires me as opposed to posting hundreds and hundreds of stuff that most people don’t want to look at or listen to half the time.

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Spotify Sports Big Numbers But Little Results

As reported by All Things D, Spotify is officially a hit in the U.S., but converting free accounts into paying customers continues to be a challenge. The report says Spotify has 1.4 million U.S. users, but only 12.5 percent pay for the service, leaving only 175,000 paying customers. It sounds like a bad headline, but honestly is anyone really surprised?

It’s a tough lesson that in this version of the music industry, you can change the product but you can’t change the culture. It’s also not a number that Spotify would scoff at either–their European numbers aren’t much better, only 15 percent are paying customers but with a much larger total user base.

In due time, Spotify will expand its U.S. market and still be successful from a user acquisition and perhaps a revenue perspective even if the statistics aren’t currently spectacular.

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Diglo Offers Alternative to iCloud and Music Online Storage

Everyone knows cloud servers are all the rage right now and there’s a football team-size of music storage servies vying for your file-sharing appetite, but there aren’t many with great security. I Am Not A Pirate wrote a rave review of a new product called Diglo, calling it a ‘revolutionary file sharing site.’ It’s not limited to music, in fact, users can share movies, documents and any other kind of file but are awarded the authority to pick and choose who can download from their individual cloud.

The best feature perhaps? You can sync it to your iTunes and backup all of your music, which is especially useful for PC users who won’t be able to use Apple’s iCloud service.

While it looks like there’s an undisclosed (as far as we can tell) fee for the premium membership, the site also offers a 90-day trial period and a credit system where each file download provides 10 points and after 10,000 points are collected, the user gets a month free service. Not bad.

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