When the record labels told Joe Purdy he could have a record deal as long as he changed his sound, Purdy decided to build his fanbase online instead. Eleven albums later, you can hear all of his music on his website and buy songs for download there as well but you won’t find his music available for sale in a record store anywhere.
Purdy’s story is one of online success. No record label, indie or otherwise. No record stores selling his stuff. His distribution is completely online.
He took his music direct to his fans, and it’s worked out just fine for him thank-you-very-much. His songs have been featured on TV shows like Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, & House, not to mention in a Kia ad that aired in the Superbowl. You can hear his music on Pandora, Rhapsody, Last.fm and other popular streaming platforms.
He writes, sings and produces all his music himself, and he’s sold lots of music from his website, without any label. What’s more, all his songs are available for streaming on his website for you to listen to before you decide to buy. He says he treats his career like a small business, and it seems to be working out just fine. Yep, Joe Purdy’s alive and well, with a thriving musical career online..
One of the best streaming sites on the planet is Wolfgang’s Vault. It’s owned by Bill Sagan, who purchased the Bill Graham archives in 2002. Graham was a legendary concert promoter who had a legendary collection of audio and video recordings of concerts and music merchandise.
After buying the Graham archives, Sagan went on to acquire the archives of the King Biscuit Flower Hour and other archives of great live music. All the audio and video they amassed is available for on demand streaming at Wolfgang’s Vault.
Springsteen at Winterland in 1978, Live Grateful Dead Shows, John Lennon, Tom Petty, Weather Report, Pearl Jam – it may be a collection that is focused on classic rock, but there’s a lot more than that, according to Eric Johnson, President and COO of Wolfgang’s Vault. They have a huge country archive, great jazz including the archives of the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, lots of metal and more.
Wolfgang’s Vault set out to acquire the intellectual property behind the content that they deliver – something that makes them quite unique among streaming audio platforms. They own copyrights to all the master recordings they play. It’s an enviable position.
What’s more, in 2008 they purchased Daytrotter, home of the Daytrotter Session Barn where famous and less famous musicians stop by and record songs that are then available for free on that site. Bands like The National and Death Cab for Cutie to Aimee Mann and even Carly Simon, plus lots and lots of newer and indie bands make this stop on their tours.
I’m in awe of these sites and their comprehensive dedication to delivering the music – from recording it or purchasing it to making it available to everyone. They’re in control of their content. Their revenue model consists of online sales of reproduced and commemorative memorabilia from their archives, download sales of the concerts, advertising, and subscriptions to listeners that get them better streaming and other enhancements.
And who’s listening? They stream ten to tens of thousands of concerts a day – most are about 3 hours long. Daytrotter has served 15.6 million downloads. Millions of uniques visit the sites each month.
Here’s a bit of irony – Sagan bought the archive that started it all – the Bill Graham collection – from Clear Channel for $5 million in 2002… This video is an interview of Sagan discussing his vision of acquiring, archiving, and providing access to great live performances online.
In the last twenty years there has been a huge transformation in the way we listen to music. It started with the Sony Walkman which enabled us to carry ten or so songs of our choosing in our pocket. From there we moved to mp3 players – my first one only held about ten songs – to larger and larger iPods, to iPhones and other connected mobile devices. With those, today’s music lover has access to millions of songs in a wide variety of genres by an enormous number of artists.
Now the challenge is to find the music they want to listen to.
Platforms like Pandora’s Genome and iTunes’ Genius systems have created music recommender systems that attempt to analyze current personal music tastes based on data provided by the listener, and recommend similar new artists or tracks. But what if you want to listen on another platform, or find music that is more eclectic than those platforms might be?
There’s a lot more to be done on the creation of music recommender services, according to WOMRAD, the Workshop on Music Recommendation and Discovery, recently convened in Barcelona, Spain. Tools can focus on social tagging, human interaction via computer, content analysis and time of day listening patterns to analyze data and enable better management of larger and larger music collections.
The documents presented at this symposium are available here.
Ironically, Sony last week announced that it has stopped making the Sony Walkman. RIP…
- Some iTunes special promotions aren’t so special (news.cnet.com)
- Apple introduces iTunes Sidebar, brings back Genius (macworld.com)
Streaming audio is a category that doesn’t have a lot of brand awareness, according to a study released a few weeks ago by Coleman Insights. That’s a good thing, it means that there’s still plenty of room for growth and competition. Even Pandora’s brand awareness is limited – only 28% of streaming audio consumers could name Pandora and only 22% use it regularly.
Consumers who regularly listen to streaming audio could only name – on average – 1.6 streaming audio brands. This, says the report, indicates that the streaming audio category is nowhere near mature. In mature brand categories, consumers can name 6 or 7 brands.
That said, streaming audio consumers were much more likely to name an online only streaming station when asked than a terrestrial streaming station. 77% named an online station while only 33% came up with a terrestrial streaming station when asked to name a streaming station. Similarly, they’re much more likely to report that they listen to the online only station.
Kudos to the Coleman Guys for coming up with this unique marketing study. While several research companies are hung up on asking people if they listen to streaming audio and certain stations, or even less reliably, whether they would like to listen, this is research that offers streaming audio brands some highly valuable insight into their marketplace. The study summary comes with some good advice too:
- Make branding your station/service of paramount importance
- Focus on a singular position or benefit
- Rethink the unique benefits that streaming services offer from the perspective of the listeners
- Broadcasters: don’t ignore the fact that listeners prefer online only services – create your own!