DIGSIN: A NEW LABEL MODEL THAT IS MAKING NOISE
March 29, 2013
"The biggest thing is to recognize that it's not social media. It's broadcasting." - Jay Frank, owner and CEO of DigSin
This week, I talk to Jay Frank again.
Jay is the owner and CEO of DigSin, a new singles-focused music company that allows subscribing fans to obtain music for free. DigSin signs new artists to deals that leverage new platforms, social networks and analytics that expose music to a wider audience, building popularity outside of traditional methods.
If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, then you also know Jay is the author of two books. His first book, "Futurehit.DNA," is a #1 songwriting book on Amazon and part of the curriculum at a number of colleges and universities. The book explores how digital technology has changed the way people discover music and examines what an artist needs to make their song more hit worthy in the digital age. Jay's second book, "Hack Your Hit," is a how-to guide for musicians filled with free and cheap marketing tips.
Prior to forming DigSin, Jay was the Senior Vice President of Music Strategy for CMT, an MTV Network. Under his leadership, music video ratings reached all-time highs thanks to an aggressive multi-platform promotional strategy. Jay was also Vice President of Music Programming and Label Relations for Yahoo! Music, responsible for all the company's music programming. He was instrumental in the exponential growth of Yahoo's audience bringing in approximately 25 million people a month. He was also senior music director at The Box Music Network, worked in marketing and A&R for Ignition Records, managed a live music venue, programmed broadcast radio stations and created two local music video shows.
I am happy that I had the opportunity to meet Jay (thank you Butch Waugh!) a few years back, and since that time we have become industry friends.
His knowledge about the industry is deep and wide, and what he is doing with DigSin is exciting.
SM: First of all Jay, thanks for taking the time out from running DigSin to talk to me. Can we start by you telling the readers exactly what DigSin is, and when did you formulate the idea for it? Is there anybody out there doing what DigSin is?
JF: DigSin is a new digital model record company where we release and market singles by developing artists. We've re-thought every aspect from the artist contract to the marketing plans, and believe we are finding a new model that is both profitable and very artist-friendly.
The idea is one that had been kicking around in my head for several years. The more people said, "The record label model is broken" the more I said, "Well, there has to be a fix." Over time, I kept developing unique solutions to the questions people had and then decided to pull the trigger about 18 months ago. There are certainly labels doing aspects of what we're doing, such as giving away the music or 50/50 artist splits. To my knowledge, we're the only label that has adopted this unique structure alongside heavy social marketing and data analysis to break music.
SM: It sounds like you have a very symbiotic relationship with the artists you sign, and I imagine the artists you sign find that very engaging.
JF: Yes, we work very closely with our artists as we have a relationship at a time in their career where they need a lot of guidance. With social networking such a key component in artist marketing today, we have to have that relationship. If the artist is not going to take the time to learn how to communicate and grow their fan base, then our efforts will not yield all they can. They also have to understand that we are taking a long view to our marketing efforts. We don't take a record to radio stations until we have the data to back up our promotional pitch. That usually takes months, and so our artists have to be on the same page as us in order to make it work. Having a close relationship with the artists and their management is absolutely essential.
SM: What do you look for when you sign an artist at DigSin?
JF: First and foremost, a great song. Since we sign artists to short-term deals that are for no more than six songs, we have to get the right songs. A short-term deal means we are not afforded the luxury of waiting two to three years for them to find their hit. After we hear a song we feel can impact significantly, then we evaluate how talented they are.
Finally, we get to know them. As mentioned in the previous question, the artist has to be amenable to social networking and the proper strategies to make that work. This requires a lot of trust and we have to know the artist can work as a team on this. I've met several artists with great songs that we haven't signed simply because we know they will not put in the right efforts to make for an effective viral/social campaign.
SM: Many people have tried to "reinvent" the record label ...d o you think DigSin is a model that could become adopted by many others? If so, wouldn't that make the online digital music marketplace much more competitive?
JF: The online digital marketplace is already more competitive. In a lot of ways, my approach to a record label is "A model," but is not "THE model." The unique thing about the next decade for music companies is that there's room for multiple models. But ultimately it's not the model, but knowing what to do within that model and when, with the right talent. That's a mix with a lot of variables that are not easily replicated.
SM: As you mentioned, social media plays a part in today's artist development process, and it seems to me there is a plethora of artists out there trying to break through via that way, so how do artists/labels navigate the social media ocean successfully these days?
JF: The biggest thing is to recognize that it's not social media. It's broadcasting.
The unique aspect, however, is it's a broadcasting channel overseen by the artist and their team, broadcasting overwhelmingly to people predisposed to like your music. TV and Radio get the word out to a lot of people, but the percentage that are your fans is very low. When you add up the numbers, the weekly impressions an artist gets on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. is probably the largest weekly audience they have, or second to radio. So one has to approach it with the same strategies that one would use to grow an audience at a radio or TV station. This strategic outlook has been so successful, that we're now operating a marketing services company, DigMark, where a dozen clients are hiring us to manage this for them.
SM: 2012 was a great first year for at DigSin. Can you recap some of the highlights from last year?
JF: As a new business, we made it thru the first year, which is a great sign on its own. We also did so with two records that continue to have strong momentum in 2013. Jenn Bostic is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter who began to get radio play in the U.K. organically as a result of our efforts. We then pinpointed strategies there and the results were a #1 track on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart. Bronze Radio Return, a roots band from Connecticut, also achieved a lot of success where the viral efforts led to multiple sync placements that is now translating to sales and Triple A radio play. Overall, we've gotten over one million YouTube views on our channel, sold tens of thousands of downloads, and added a ton of names to our mailing list.
SM: Is it in your plans to eventually put out complete albums by your successful artists? Or will the focus be to secure the talent, establish them via hit tracks, and then sign with major labels for distribution?
JF: We are already aiding in releasing albums for our artists, and these are much more like unique joint ventures. For Bronze Radio Return, they create work within an album body. So even though they are the owners of the majority of the songs, we are helping them release their new album called "Up On & Over" on June 4th. The promotion strategy is still on the single. We fully expect some of our acts will graduate into partnerships with bigger companies. I recognize our limitations, and we don't have the resources or leverage to get a #1 song at radio. If we want our acts to sell multi-Platinum, we will need those partnerships to achieve those goals. When we do this, though, we will do this in tandem with the act so the deals are in their best overall interest as well.
SM: Are there any special plans for DigSin in 2013, or are you attacking the marketplace methodically, step-by-step, with each individual artist? Will there be any DigSin showcases with your artists anywhere?
JF: The broader, long-term vision for DigSin certainly involves things like showcases, tours and possibly even festivals. As we grow a base of strong artists, I believe there's a lot of potential for that to really work for us and the musicians. For 2013, we need to concentrate on making sure the bands succeed so we are positioned well to do those things later.
SM: I'm sure you read recently that VEVO is launching a 24-hour music channel, and it appears to confirm more active music listeners are seeking to watch/hear new music online rather than discover it on radio. Your thoughts?
JF: Certainly more initial activity is happening in the digital space than ever before. It's also rapidly migrated to mobile phones, which is a completely different device for hearing music. Yet I don't think discovery has moved from radio to online. It's moved from radio to friends/word-of-mouth. Many artists are getting discovered because their friends are telling them about it. Now, most of that dialogue is happening in social networks. And once a friend tells someone about an artist they might like, they tend to go to YouTube. But that action is confirming the discovery. The discovery process itself is happening person to person, largely on social networks.
SM: How would one go about submitting music to DigSin?
JF: We accept submissions thru Music Xray, but we're also scouring YouTube, Rdio and social networks to find new interesting independent artists. So the more you do to make yourself visible, the more likely you'll be found.
SM: Thanks for your time Jay and all the best for a great 2013 for DigSin!
JF: Steve, thanks for your support and for a great interview.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 2
FROM CNET: 'DIGITAL - A BRIGHT SPOT FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'
The financial picture of the music industry is still bleak, but YouTube, Spotify, and other services are helping. Read more
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 3
A TERRIFIC BRIEF ON 'GENERATIONS X,Y,Z, AND OTHERS'
From the Center For Media Research comes this: "Though not so much 'research,' as the application of research, the assembled demographic information in this Brief can be of value in media buying, positioning and tactical and strategic planning. The segmentation of the marketplace has fallen into several categories, but none so ubiquitous as age or generational similarities. William Schroer, SocialMarketing.org, has thoroughly described population cohorts in a convenient fashion for planning purposes.
"Schroer explains that, when we use such jargon phrases as '... Gen X or Baby Boomer,' it seems especially important we have some reasonably good idea of what these terms actually mean ... these ... phrases for the subcomponents of society demarcated by age... are generally the language used by non-demographers... and society as a whole..."
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 4
PHIL SPECTOR, THE MOVIE DOESN'T TELL IT ALL
This week HBO aired "Phil Spector;" the movie stars Al Pacino as the legendary music producer, with a script by David Mamet. (You've no doubt read about it elsewhere online as the film has created a media firestorm.) The biopic didn't exactly rise to the top of the charts with its Sunday premiere; it drew 754,000 viewers with its initial 9p airing. Combined with a midnight re-airing, the biopic drew 1 million total viewers.
As I mentioned in the newsletter last week, the film, which takes place during the trial of record producer Phil Spector for the 1993 shooting death of Lana Clarkson, insists in its opening credits that it is not based on a true story. "This is a work of fiction. It's not based on a true story."
For some tales of the 'Real Phil Spector: Music, Guns - and Hot Dogs on Silver Platters'...
Read the story at TheWrap.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 5
BEWARE OF THE LATEST iPAD SCAM
Suzanne Nassise bought Apple's popular tablet from a well-known retailer, expecting it to be legit. Nassise says she walked out of a Walmart in Brockton, MA, last month with what she believed was a new $499 iPad.
When she got home and opened the box, she told CNN affiliate WCVB, she thought, "'Wow, it's a little on the light side -- Apple's an elegant product.'" Then she tried to turn it on.
When nothing happened, Nassise looked at the plastic rectangle more closely. The imitation iPad -- an iFake, if you will -- tried to replicate a real iPad's charging port and speakers, the latter of which were small, painted-on dots.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 6
IT WAS JUST A MERE 50 YEARS AGO
It's been 50 years since the Beatles released "Please Please Me," the debut album that transformed Western culture. Incredibly, the little band recorded it at Abbey Road studios in one 12-hour session. Today, it can take a band 12 hours just to mic the kick drum.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 7
'AMERICAN IDOL' VS. 'THE VOICE'
With the fourth cycle premiere of NBC's singing competition, "The Voice," on Monday night, an age-old (okay, a year-or-so-old) question is back in play -- just how did it fare against "American Idol?"
Full story at TheWrap
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 8
HBO'S STREAMING WILL BOOST NETFLIX
HBO's move toward on-demand streaming -- a "big paradigm shift" -- should be a boost for Netflix, which is "essentially the best in the world, we think, at executing that model," Pacific Crest analyst Andy Hargreaves told CNBC's "Squawk On The Street."
"Pacific Crest raised its price target for Netflix to $225 and upgraded its rating to 'outperform' on Tuesday," writes Cadie Thompson. Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 9
SPOTIFY WANTS TO STREAM VIDEOS
Spotify, the on-demand music service, may be planning to enter the video streaming market by adding television series and original video content and possibly movies.
THE 'A-SIDE' - TRACK 10
THE TABLETS TAKE OVER
For the first time, tablets are on track to out ship desktop computers this year, according to estimates from IDC.
If accurate, the shift would catapult us into a true "post-PC era," Mashable remarks. Shipments of tablet PCs are expected to grow by 48.7%, this year, while those of desktops are on pace to decline by 4.3%, IDC reports. Read the whole story
THE 'A-SIDE' - BONUS TRACKS
* Setting up a router is like the root canal of the tech world. But it doesn't have to be. Learn the best way to set up most Wi-Fi routers without all the pain. Read more
* USB Flash Charger for Smartphones & Tablets. When you're on the go, you don't always have the opportunity to stop and recharge your devices with a wall charger. For those times when you need a little extra boost and have nowhere to charge, this Flash Charger is the perfect solution.
* Not to be outdone by Apple or Samsung, Google is reportedly working on a smartwatch of its own. "And unlike Glass, which was developed in the company's experimental X Lab, the watch ... is said to be under development by the Android unit, possibly indicating that Google sees it as a more immediately viable product," The Verge points out. "Wearable electronics like watches are seen as the next frontier in consumer electronics." Read the whole story
* Apple to launch 'low-end iPhone' without Retina in 2013 -- report. That's the claim from Amit Daryanani of RBC Capital Markets, who says the device will have a 4-inch display and come with plastic casing. Read more
*A newly published Apple patent application describes a future smartphone with a transparent body and a flexible wrap-around display. Read more
* Apple iPad - Free Quick Reference Card. This Apple iPad Quick Reference provides shortcuts, tips, and tricks for the popular tablet device. Use it to brush up on the basics and to find alternate methods to your favorite commands. This printable quick reference is yours to use, distribute, and share at your organization! Along with this free reference card, if you are eligible, you will also receive a 30-day trial of CustomGuide training, including over 7,000 Online Skills Assessments and Interactive Tutorials. Get it here
* The Monster ClarityHD Micro is a very good little Bluetooth speaker, but it's worth buying only if you can get it for less than $125. Read more
Short News Items ...
ON THE ROAD AGAIN:
John Mayer has announced his first tour dates in three years, following his medical hiatus for two rounds of throat surgery. His summer tour will begin July 6th at Summerfest in Milwaukee.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN, TOO:
Mumford & Sons will hit the road this spring for a tour of North America that will wind through the U.S. and Canada intermittently through September.
TONY AND GAGA:
At the Amy Winehouse Foundation's Gala and Inspiration Awards in New York, Tony Bennett told Rolling Stone that he and Lady Gaga are set to enter a recording studio in June for their planned jazz album. "She's phenomenal," said the 86-year-old singer.
MACCA ALBUM IN THE WORKS:
Paul McCartney is working on a new album and Mark Ronson is involved, for one thing. After DJing McCartney's wedding to Nancy Shevall in 2011, Ronson joined the former Beatle in the studio to produce three new songs, he told The Associated Press.
AUTOGRAPHED 'PEPPER' TO GO FOR BIG BUX:
A copy of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' autographed by all four Beatles up for auction has already surpassed its estimated price by tens of thousands of dollars, The Associated Press reports. Bidding began at $15,000 with the Dallas-based Heritage Auctions expecting the copy to sell for about $30,000. Early bidding, however, has already pushed the price to $110,500. The auction itself is set for March 30th, and the house says the price could exceed $150,000 by then.
AND MORE BIG BUX FOR RARE BEATLE PIX:
A rare set of photographs taken at the Beatles' 1965 concert at Shea Stadium have just sold at auction for £30,680 (around $46,700). The BBC reports that the pictures were snapped by an amateur photographer named Marc Weinstein, who used a fake press pass to get backstage at the Beatles' biggest show. The historic New York concert drew more 55,000 fans, but there was only one other photographer present – and he ran out of film.
MARTIN & BRICKELL:
Steve Martin and singer-songwriter Edie Brickell are set to release their first collaborative LP, "Love Has Come For You," on April 23rd through Rounder Records. Comprising 13 new songs that combine Martin's banjo work with Brickell's lyrics and vocals.
FREY TO UNIVERSAL PUB:
The Eagles' Glenn Frey is Universal Music Publishing Group's newest signee, it was announced last week in a statement. The deal is for worldwide -- excluding the U.S. -- exclusive publishing rights to Frey's catalog. Frey, a member of both the Rock and Songwriter Halls of Fame and a six-time Grammy winner, was the principal songwriter of some of The Eagles' most well-known songs, including "Hotel California," "Desperado" and "Best of My Love."
BOSTON HEADED FOR COURT:
Changes to copyright law that went into effect in 1978 dictated that authors of work could terminate copyright grants 35 years after publication. Many song artists have done the math and filed termination notices to reclaim their works. The latest one involves the popular late-'70s band, Boston, which exploded onto the rock scene in 1976 with an eponymous debut album that charted songs, "More than a Feeling," "Long Time" and "Peace of Mind." Boston's original co-manager Paul Ahern and Next Decade Entertainment filed a lawsuit in New York federal court against Tom Scholz, a songwriter who was an original member.
After a dozen years together, My Chemical Romance is calling it a day. The band announced its breakup through its website last Friday.
Prince will embark on a West Coast U.S. tour, with his brand-new, all-female backing band, 3rdEyeGirl, starting April 15th in Vancouver and concluding May 13th in Denver. The nine-city tour will feature Prince performing two shows per night at 8 and 11p. The dates are as follows: Vogue Theater in Vancouver (4/15-16), Showbox at the Market in Seattle (4/18-19), Roseland Theater in Portland (4/21), DNA Lounge in S.F. (4/23-24), The Joint in Las Vegas (4/26-27), Marquee Theater in Phoenix (4/30-5/1), Hard Rock Hotel Ballroom in San Diego (5/3-4), the City National Grove of Anaheim (5/7-8) and the Ogden Theater in Denver (5/12-13).
Wilco's Jeff Tweedy has supported same-sex marriage in a recent letter to the editor of his hometown Illinois paper, the Belleville News-Democrat. Writing in support of the state's SB10 measure – which ensures "all laws of [Illinois] applicable to marriage apply equally to marriages of same-sex and different-sex couples and their children" – Tweedy urges his fellow citizens to back the bill.
WILLIE BIRTHDAY AND NEW LP:
Willie Nelson is turning 80 this year but on April 16th, the same he becomes an octogenarian, he'll release his latest album, "Let's Face the Music And Dance," a collection of American standards and Country classics by Willie Nelson and Family.
JOY ON RECORD STORE DAY:
The Joy Formidable are getting into the act on Record Store Day (April 20th) with a treat for both their fans and Bruce Springsteen admirers. Their new vinyl release, "A Minute's Silence," will feature a live cover of "Badlands" on the B side, frontwoman Ritzy Bryan tells Rolling Stone.
30 YEARS AGO THIS WEEK:
Thirty years ago, the world first saw Michael Jackson moonwalk. The big moment came during the end of his performance of "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25th Anniversary special. Check it out here
OSCARS MOVE TO MARCH:
The Oscars are getting out of the way of next year's Winter Olympics and moving into March, 2014, but the show then plans to return to late February for the 2015 awards.
CRYSTAL DOES PATSY:
Crystal Bowersox, the "American Idol" Season 9 runner-up, will take on Patsy Cline in the Broadway premiere of a new musical based on the country legend's life. The musical will be in previews in July and will officially open in August, producers said. It will feature 30 songs from the "Sweet Dreams" songstress.
Dionne Warwick's long and complicated relationship with the IRS is coming to a close. On March 21st, the soul singer filed for Chapter Seven bankruptcy over tax liens dating back to the 1990s.
Lou Reed has canceled five gigs scheduled for April, including a pair of Coachella performances. The former Velvet Underground frontman has also nixed shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Monterrey, CA, according to The Scenestar.
R&R HALL OF FAME NEWS:
At the 28th Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in L.A. on April 18th, Dave Grohl will help induct Rush, and he may also perform with the band. Other highlights will include Spike Lee inducting Public Enemy and Don Henley inducting Randy Newman.
Kings of Leon bassist Jared Followill confirmed that the band has finished recording their sixth LP, which should see release this September, NME reports.
Deke Richards, who helped write and produce hits for Diana Ross and the Supremes and The Jackson Five, died of cancer on Sunday. He was 68. He passed in hospice care near his home in Washington state. As leader of the "The Corporation," Richards joined Berry Gordy, Fonce Mizell and Freddie Perren in filling the creative void at Motown after Holland-Dozier-Holland left the label in 1968. They crafted smash hits such as "Love Child," "I Want You Back," "ABC" and "The Love You Save."
Paul Williams, a pioneering music journalist who started the first magazine devoted to rock 'n' roll criticism, died on Wednesday in Southern California. He was 64. Williams was the founder of Crawdaddy! Magazine and the author of more than two dozen books about music, popular culture and new-age philosophy. He died of complications related to Alzheimer's, which came on after he suffered a brain injury in a 1995 bicycle accident.
Scott Hardkiss (Scott Friedel), a San Francisco DJ who played a key role in the development of America's rave scene in the 1990s, has died. The cause of death was not specified. Friedel was 43. Alongside Gavin Hardkiss and Robbie Hardkiss, Friedel was a member of the trio that shared their (invented) surname.
Quotes of the week
"There's a subtext of love between us, and it would be hard to deny that much of what we've accomplished had something to do with trying to prove something to each other. Maybe that's fucked up, but this is someone I've known since I was 16, and I think on some weird level we're still trying to work some things out. There will never be romance there, but there are other kinds of love to be had. And for me, getting married and having children was a positive outcome. I wonder sometimes how Stevie feels about the choices she made, because she doesn't really have a relationship – she has her career."
-- Lindsey Buckingham in Men's Journal, talking about his past relationship with Stevie Nicks
"The resemblance is terrifying."
-- Miley Cyrus, comparing herself to the villainous Lord of the Rings character, on Twitter. (It sure is, Miley, maybe it's time to change that haircut)
"I'm still a meatball, just a slender one, I guess."
-- Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, on her weight loss, on 'Anderson Live.' (But, you are exactly that ... just a meatball)
"It's been great. It's been really an honor being onstage with one of my favorite bands – one of the greatest live bands of all time. I've been to a lot of Bruce Springsteen shows, but I've never been to four consecutive ones. And every show isn't just a different show – a completely different experience."
-- Tom Morello, on joining the E Street Band on their current Australian leg of the Wrecking Ball tour while Steven Van Zandt films his show 'Lilyhammer'
The B-Side - 'Blips'
THE ONION (www.theonion.com) STORY OF THE WEEK:
Report: It Pretty Incredible That Americans Entrusted With Driving Cars
WASHINGTON—Citing that a majority of Americans are irresponsible, easily distracted people who have little regard for other human beings, a new Department of Transportation report revealed Wednesday that it's "actually kind of crazy" that U.S. citizens are allowed to drive automobiles.
The Music Industry Past, Present & Future, And The Internet I answer questions on EconTalk
I did an interview about the industry and the Internet at EconTalk with host Russ Roberts. Russ is also a professor of economics at George Mason University, blogs at Cafe Hayek, and has written three novels that teach economics. He's also the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap video. (And if your understanding of the economic meltdown that occurred needs to be enlightened, this video will do it)
In the interview we talk about the evolution of the music industry, the impact of the digital revolution, and I give my reasons for believing in the virtues and potential of the Internet in enhancing the music industry. I point out, as I have many times here in the newsletter, that the internet allows numerous artists to make money from their music and it can enhance revenues from live performances by expanding an artist's base. We also discuss the challenges facing record companies and I suggest that the full potential of the Internet as a distribution channel has yet to be fully exploited. There's a lot of ground covered, but based on the comments already posted of those who have tuned in, they've enjoyed it.
Read more about it by clicking here.
Smart Marketing Consulting Services
Smart Marketing Consulting Services has been in business sixteen years, and consults clients in the music, entertainment, attraction, media, and technology industry on branding, marketing, online exploitation, maximizing new media, and more.
"And the beat goes on, the beat goes on ... drums keep poundin' rhythm to the brain."
"Work is life, you know, and without it, there's nothing but fear and insecurity." -- John Lennon