Monday, June 1, 2020

Black Out Tuesday and What It Doesn't Mean

"Leading record labels will mark "Black Out Tuesday" this week, suspending business and working with communities to fight racial inequality after protests erupted in the United States and beyond following the death of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody."

I saw this on June 1st, and my question to this is a pretty simple: Why?

Obviously, what started all of this was pretty awful but why are music companies trying to ride on the coat-tails of a tragedy now?  Record labels haven't been relevant for a while so I don't understand the all-of-a-sudden virtue signaling.

It is a pretty fair question to ask.  Music is that thing you listen to with your ears and doesn't care about your appearance.  So why are almost-dead record labels pretending they care about social issues?  It looks as though they believe they have some kind of influence on social matters to the point where one of them actually had the balls to consider themselves "gatekeepers of the culture".  The music industry is not the "gatekeepers of the culture".  They wouldn't know culture if they tripped over a perti dish.  In actual fact, they should be kissing everyone else's ass for still being around when they should have been tits-up years ago from poor business decisions.

So what are all of these benevolent record labels going to do on June 2nd?

From Warners:  "While this is only one day, we are committed to continuing the fight for real change.  We will be using this day to collectively reflect on what we as a company can do to put action towards change and we will be taking steps in the coming weeks and months."

Warners Music basically said they're just going to take the day off and sit around and do nothing.

Universal's was more vague: "This Tuesday, June 2, the Universal Music Group family will observe "Black Out Tuesday" - A day to contemplate, connect and organize."

"A day to contemplate, connect and organize," tells me nothing.  Are they shutting the radio down for a day?  Is the entire UMG catalogue on sale?  We may never know the answers.

Capitol Records was poor as well.  They're going to donate to Color of Change: A progressive, non-profit civil rights advocacy organization.  You lost me at progressive, since the term has been its opposite meaning for the last 5 years.

Interscope/Geffen/A&M (I had a laugh because I thought all three companies died years ago) are going so far as to not release any music for the week.  Holy shit.  I sense real change coming on even though I doubt they had any releases planned since everyone's releases have been pushed back because of the Flu. 

You have to remember that these are the same people that will take a cut of an artist's tour gross so they can stay afloat, so I highly doubt their sincerity.  Actually, I think it's funny that they're trying to pander to the audience that almost broke them from illegal downloading.

I guess I'll have to wait to see what happens tomorrow since it's obvious that none of the record labels know what they're going to do.

Monday, March 16, 2020

CD Lazy

I went to update my website the other night so I could plug my latest single, Contagious (have a listen at BandCamp: https://greggkoval.bandcamp.com/releases).  I noticed that the CD Baby Player wasn't displaying.  I thought it was the browser that wasn't loading the plugin but the "more info" link brought me to a page on CD Baby's webpage (https://support.cdbaby.com/hc/en-us/articles/360039108471) What Happened To My Music Player.  They should have had something that said "Surprise" in brackets.

The CD Baby music player is no longer supported. I know this is a bummer but here are some things to keep in mind.

If you are looking for ways to promote your music, use HearNow for more robust analytics and features. HearNow connects to your releases inside your CD Baby account, provides direct links to other platforms and fans can listen to your music from there as well.


Bummer, how professional.  It made it worse that there was absolutely no heads-up this was happening.  Then I'm wondering what else has changed unexpectedly.  Somehow, I found the page https://support.cdbaby.com/hc/en-us/articles/360039018232-What-you-should-know-about-the-retirement-of-CD-Baby-s-retail-store- .  I'll tell you what I should have known: that this was happening.  There is no mention, at all, on their homepage that they'll be stopping the online store at the end of the month.  There is a link to go to the Store though.  Call me old fashioned, but this is something fairly important to draw users' attention to.  When I went to find the article the next day for this Blog entry, I ended up having to Google "CD Baby online store" to find the page.  Terrible.



The reason I'm a little ticked about this is that I first started using CD Baby back in 2003, when Derek Sivers was still running things and I've been using them regularly (1 release a year) ever since.  They were the only game in town at that point and I was happy to give them my money.  Over the years, some things have gotten better and some things not but this is pretty awful.  I should have known things were taking a turn for the worst when I couldn't get download cards made for Bright Ideas Vol 6 last September.

CD Baby's mission is to help artists monetize and promote their music in the best ways possible. In order to provide the tools and services you need to succeed in an evolving music ecosystem, we’ve made the decision to retire the CD Baby retail store on March 31st, 2020.

We’re going to focus on what is making a difference for musicians today: our distribution, monetization, and promotion services. There are some exciting developments in process, and we’re delighted to be able to launch new tools and expand existing services, more quickly in the coming years.


I think what's lost on them is that the best tool they had "to help artists monetize and promote their music" was with the online store.  All my links to songs pointed here and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I think what else is lost on them is the help artists monetize part.  They should have been focusing on sales, not streams.  An artist always gets more money from a sale than a stream.  And CD Baby would take a percentage of your sale so why would they not promote sales?  And for promotion services, I already mentioned they dropped the ball on Download Cards.

CD Baby's idea to replace the store is to use HearNow instead.

What is HearNow?

HearNow is a one-page promotion tool exclusively for CD Baby artists because it’s built with the information and audio you have already provided.  Creating your promo page is inexpensive and simple and you have the option to add digital and physical links.


In other words, it's the same shit they used to do only they're off-loading it to someone else (probably a family member).  It's pretty shady.  They just admitted the artist does all work, now it costs more.  And their promo is $12 for the first year per page, and then up to $24 a year after that.  Currently, I have 13 items up for sale (CDs, EPs, and singles).  Does HearNow expect me to pay $156 for the first year and $312 after that?  They'd be out of their goddamn minds if they did.  That may be good for CD Baby to get a cut of that but it's not good for anyone else.  And that was the tipping point where I said to myself, "You guys suck, I'm going to go somewhere else."

Thankfully, they're still doing physical distribution (LPs, CDs).  That was sarcasm since this should have been the area to be cut first, and I have CDs still in their warehouse.  So, I guess it's better to hang on to something that's not cost effective (warehousing/shipping) rather than keep up something that costs pennies to maintain like an online store.  The Where should I send fans to buy my CDs and Vinyl? could have just been answered with "anywhere else but here."  The focus is now on streams and they still want to warehouse LPs.  Clever.

Tried to login to the website that I've been on for almost 20 years to check off that No, this article didn't help.


The last FAQ question was Why did CD Baby retire its retail store?

20 years ago, when CD Baby launched the online store, it was revolutionary to help independent musicians gain direct access to their fans and the market. By 2009, sales through our store accounted for only 27% of the total revenue we paid to artists every week. By 2019, sales on our store comprised less than 3% of our clients’ total earnings. With a few exceptions, the store is no longer a money-maker for most of our artists.

So, we’re going to focus on what is making a difference for musicians today: our distribution, monetization, and promotion services. We WILL continue our physical distribution program because the majority of orders we ship are coming through Amazon and other retailers. If you’ve stocked us with CDs and vinyl, we’ll still warehouse your product and fulfill those orders for you. We’re just retiring OUR store.


They posted this in mid February - not even a two month notice.  In short, they should have just said, "Uh, we, like, ummm don't care anymore or something?  This wasn't our company anyways.  Even though everything's pretty much automated and cost next to nothing to keep running, and we're, like, still going to tell people to stream instead of sell, so like, every one can make less money.  LOL."

I have no idea what's going on with the YouTube videos anymore.  They used to make them for you and I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do since it saved me some time (even though I couldn't edit my own YouTube CD Band Page).  I guess it's time to get reacquainted with Windows MovieMaker.

Thankfully, there's other options out there now.  I wanted to put out my final physical CD out this year but it's looking like I did that 4 years ago with Dutch Oven.  After this last CD Baby fiasco, I finally set up a Bandcamp account and I remembered I had setup a SoundCloud account too.  I'm tempted to go back to ReverbNation but I don't really feel like getting Update emails twice a day.  And maybe I'll go back to some old favourites like SoundClick and RadioIndy.  I'll look at the Digital Distribution options from other sites because honestly, I probably won't be returning to CD Baby.  If they can't advertise on their website that a major, useful portion of it will be unavailable, why would I stick with these guys?  The company looks like it's now run by a bunch 20-somethings.  If Derek Sivers was dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.

At the time of this entry, CD Baby still hasn't completely processed my order that I set up about a week and a half ago, even though it's already on their website (https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/greggkoval18) and I already got a sale from there.  My "new release" was buried 5 pages in and that's if I filtered for bands Ontario, Canada.  Frustrating.

Now that I can't recommend CD Baby to anyone anymore, have a listen to the new, catchy single, Contagious... at BandCamp: https://greggkoval.bandcamp.com/releases

Friday, February 7, 2020

Bad Advertising for Love


Stuck for a Valentine's Day gift?  Try writing an erotic poem.  Windsor, Ont. writer Vanessa Shields offers tips to sensual writing.
(https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/windsor-author-erotic-writing-1.5455558?cmp=rss)


Oh, boy.  Where to begin?

At first I thought it was a parody piece, after reading lines like "Stuck for a Valentine's Day...", "Vanessa Shields offers tips.." just the tip and "take a crack at some erotic writing".  But it's the CBC so that's enough to leave anyone dry and my out-of-context quotes are the most stimulating thing about that article.

If you're not familiar with the songs I come up with, they used to be innudeno-ish/funny type lyrics with titles like Landing Strip, Esther's In Town, Drive You Home, etc.  Double Entendre Potty Humour was my specialty.  Obviously, as I've gotten older and more mature, I now come up with songs like Suspicious Package, Beach Whistle and Taking It On The Chin.

"We're going to be thinking about trying to write about pleasure and sensuality," said Shields. "I'm going to be giving people things to write about based on the five senses — so sensuality and senses really will guide the workshop."

Not that I like to stereotype people's appearances (even though it's a great time saver), looking at the photo of Ms Shields, I know exactly what type of crowd she'll attract: over-60ers who might think this is still something wild and taboo and/or blush at episodes of Three's Company.  From the other side of the spectrum, expect awkward, progressives in their 20s that still ask for consent from their socks.  It'll be the most G-rated erotica ever put to paper.  Which isn't very erotic.

"It can be explicit but for the purpose of our workshop we're not going to be really reaching into those realms," she said. "We're going to be writing using central words and thinking about sensuality more than sex."

Again, I was almost fooled with the "really reaching into those realms".  And then came the worst advertisement for an event I've ever read: she posted a poem of hers. 

Intrigue

It wasn't the way the black dress fit her full body like a love song
It wasn't the way the red lipstick clung to her plump mouth like a poem
It wasn't the way the silver stilettos embraced her slender feet like a promise
No
It was the unfinished story in her eyes
The yearning blue dappled with specks of yellow hope
It was the soft sounds of my name creating themselves in her heart
I went to her


To counter that, here's the first two verses of an old ditty that I had on one of my older CDs:

The Case of the Missing Finger

Whoa no, where did it go?  It was here just a moment ago
It was right here beside me; now it's gone into hiding
By the way have you seen it?  I just can't figure
Maybe you can help me solve the case of the missing finger.

Ah hah, I just found it, I knew that you were around it
How the heck did it get up there?  I think this thing needs some air
I know that you like the feel of it and that smell may linger
I'm glad that you could help me solve the case of the missing finger.

(c)2003 Greggkoval.com

Anyways, if you live near Windsor and you pee when you laugh, this might be something that's right up your alley - no pun intended.  The erotic writing workshop will be held Saturday at Gertrude's Writing Room, located in the Coach House at Willistead Park.  Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day.