Archive for October, 2007

Pathetic attempt with USB sticks

The news today tells about Universals attempting to sell music on USB memory sticks. “Aimed to 12-24 year olds, that thinks the CD is boring”… But this is the group that downloads the most from the web. Another argument is that people want to have a physical product in their hands. But this is also something that this age group is not very eager to try. They use web music much more than physical media. The releases will be the Keane and Pink Floyd, not the usual 12-24 year olds ordinary music… And when I read the detalis on the releases it’s obvious that this is just another attempt to sell old stuff for more money. The sticks will be more expensive than a CD single, 4.99 £. The will contain old stuff mixed with new, and then they throw in a couple of videos too, just to make it seem “multimedial”, which still is supposed to be cool and innovative in the world of huge record companies.

I have no idea what these large corporations are doing, but it’s obvious to me that they are on the wrong track. So can I do better myself? Yes, just wait two more weeks for the first web album….

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Madonna leaves the record industry

Now Madonna walks the same way. Not as far as NIN, but she definitely is on the right path. As more and more artists have understood, the traditional record companies are no longer needed for successful music business:


Nine inch nails leaves labels behind

Another A-list band leaves the whole Label industry. Trent Reznor explains: “as of right now Nine Inch Nails is a totally free agent, free of any recording contract with any label.” Instead of futzing through the hapless middleman of an inept label, Trent’s promising “a direct relationship with the audience as I see fit and appropriate.” This is a very interesting development.

Are the copyright organizations our enemies?

When I joined the Swedish organisation for composers in the early nineties, I thought that the idea was perfect. Someone handling the deals with radio and TV-stations to help me get some money when my music is used. But the longer I have been around, the more strange the deal seems. And when I dug into the record company start-up, it just got bizarre.

First I learned that I have to pay to myself for playing my own music. Minus an administrative fee at 9 percent. Then I learned that I cant sell my own music in a proper way, unless I pay a similar administrative fee. I also started hearing about horrible attempts from the same copyright organizations, to thwart file sharing by lobbying for new laws, harassing and suing my audience and trying to cement the old ways of distributing music as static, physical items, bound in space and time. Now after a lot of discussion and correspondence I have reached a limit where I have to speak up against this.The organizations – STIM, NCB, IFPI and The Anti Piracy Board – have no idea in what world they work any more. They regard the industries as they worked in the fifties – with separate composers, musicians, distributors and record store owners. But today a composer can be sound engineer, musician, distributor and web shop owner. It is cheap and easy to get the music to an audience. This audience is moving, restless and used to huge amounts music they don’t pay for from radio, TV and Internet. But still these organizations remain in an old world of physical distribution of plastic discs, hit lists, copy protection and they motivate their existence by telling the politicians to impose new laws, protecting the old methods of musical expression and distributions.

Trying to be innovative in this business is almost hopeless. Because how do I create interactive products, changing over time, collaborating with other musicians and the audience to o something organic and alive, when I have to work with bureaucratic forms and deciding the length of a musical work before it is even created? How do I get the freedom to run my own business and use my own music, when a large part of the revenue goes to the organizations that is supposed to help me as a composer? Of course they have worked out a small exception, for small numbers of physical albums, released by a single composer. It can be free from the administration fees. But this exception, helping the smallest and poorest, is surrounded by strange criteria.
When talking and corresponding with the people in this business I have gotten these glimpses of their views: NCB (Nordic copyright bureau) regards cooperative companies as too large for this exception. So if you are a few composers, joining up to start your own record company, you are suddenly a large company, and are supposed to have a lot of cash to put in to your releases.

Hip hop collectives, where members are floating, are not valid for these exceptions either. I suppose we all have to form Beatles-like bands, with very few composers, for these organizations to understand what we do. Is the copyright organizations supposed to decide how and with who we create and distribute our music?

The handling can be extremely slow. I waited three months for the first answer to my initial questions, when trying to start my record company. They are mixing Internet sales with Internet downloads, resulting in bizarre fees. If I sell my physical album in my Internet store, sending it via mail to the buyer, it is strictly a business agreement between me and my buyer. But if she buys the album as MP3-files, there is suddenly a downloading fee to the copyright organization, that is a result of their ideas of downloading as something threatening. But if my audience pays me for my music, why do they have to pay more to STIM? They do not even follow their own policies. I have a strong notion that they do not know how to handle the Internet explosion, and improvising to override around their own rules. Examples: If you release your own music on Internet, they have concluded that you dont have to pay anything, as long as you own the web space and have full control over the FTP. Principally, the MP3-original on the web server, is also a copy and should render a fee from me as a composer to the copyright organizations, but ”for the moment” as they state in the deal, they have chosen not to demand that fee. It is kind of strange, and even more insecure for me as a composer/distributor. When will they decide that these temporarily free details will apply for payment?

The joy of your own web shop

Every one should start a web shop, its funny, hard and areally interesting experiment. I created ours in the winter of 2006-07. It was very strange programming at places, and the web hotel is not very good at telling me about upgrades and server flaws, so some really natural things has taken lts of energy in vain. But t is still a very funny thing to do.

Economically it is not very expensive. Of course, if we bought the shop from some other programmer it would have cost us quite a lot. But now the costs are the following: 150 euros for the deal with the bank, 95 euros for the deal with the payment service provider and then 0,3 euros to the bank per transaction and 0,2 euros to the payment service provider  per transaction. It is not very much. We use the same webserver as our Gramtone space, so its free. In our cooperative record company it will be a great asset.

We want to use it as a factory outlet, for cheaper prices, strange deals and some merchandize that we cant sell elsewhere. Also, we want to set a standard for a personal and cool web shop. The ones I have seen so far, from Itunes to the services you can buy or rent on the web, are just extremly boring. Ok, they might be efficient, but it’s like the worst kind of warehouse-system, just listings and no human feeling. One had a surfer-sporty layout, but still worked like the most uninspiring list of MP3:s. So we are trying to put some content in, some video and to place ourselves into it, for the audience to understand that we are there, just behind the coding. 

There are some logistics involved of course. I suppose it would be very hard to run a web shop alone. But we are quite a few, adn orders have to be carried out fast and correct. There also has to be a customer service, and the economic overview. So 4-5 people will be intensly involved in this shop. The shop is finished and are starting up as soon as we get the first albums back from pressing.

Making of the first album

Just a glimpse into the process of creating the Tree full of people album. There were some songs finished years ago, and I made a demo udnr the name of Jodu, which went straight into a drawer. I just didn’t know what to do with it. But the few people who had heard it told me to do something with it. So in the winter of 2006-07, I started recording, and used six old songs as the base, writing seven new ones. I brought lots of friends to our lovely studio, to do the instruments that I cant handle. It became a very slow process.

 At first I really fantizised about being finished by novembr 2006, but it took almost a year longer, with all the people, new songs bubbling up in my mind, and of course the strange process of being more and more thorough as the time passed. I suppose the album was more or less finished about may 2007.

I got a EAN bar code fast and cheap, via a music organization, and started to feel some professionalism around the project.  Then I started wondering about mastering, and read a lot about it. I talked to companies, comparing and testing. After a while I realized that I could do the whole mastering myself. It feels a bit risky, because there is a certain air of magic around mastering. And some audiophile will certainly not like it, but I figure that the result is good, and that I can pay for the next album to be mastered if this sells somewhat ok.  

During the summer it was time to look at the cover. I had an idea inspired by art nouveu poster art, which I finished. It is not bad at all, but a bit to hippie/drug related for the music on the album. I like the design, but it was not correct. So I had a look at the jazz label Blue Note cover art and was quite inspired by that instead. So with a more graphic looks and lots of photos of the people on the record, I finished the cover in september.

The pressing is made in Czech republic, at a factory called GZCD. They are cheap, efficient and very friendly. There are lots of alternatives to choose from, regarding sleeves, boklets, special designs and such. I just wanted the whole album to look professional. So 16 full color pages in the booklet, full color CD-print and a normal jewl case.  The costs are very well controlled. I record for free in our studio, which allows it to take time. The EAN bar code costed 20 euros, the pressing of 1000CD:s, printing and freight from Czech republic is 1150 euros. I suppose stamps for sending stuff around to media and reviewers will be around 100 euros. Another 100 euros for distribution to stores. I will put some money into marketing, and depending on how we can cooperate with that in our cooperative, it will not be too expensive either.


Gramtone

Gramtone är musikutgivare och bas för ett gäng musiker och låtskrivare, baserade i Norrköping. Vi äger bolaget och studion tillsammans, folk med olika bakgrund och olika smak. Två dussin är vi, som ställer allt vi äger i ett rum och säger: varsågoda. Ett kollektiv av individualister har vi kallats, och varför inte: Grammisar har vunnits, stipendier har fåtts, medan somliga är kända för helt andra saker. Alla spelar roll, men inte nödvändigtvis rock. En driver ett enmansprojekt, en annan är med i fem band samtidigt. Några är runt 20, några har fyllt 50. En fick pris för årets bästa museum. Någon ligger bakom Softubes banbrytande pluggar och någon har fått utmärkelse för, hör och häpna, bästa fotbollslåt.

Gramtone satsar på en liten, spännande utgivning av ostyrig, vacker musik. Lyssna där du vill, vi finns i alla de vedertagna kanalerna. Vissa spelar live, andra spelar in. Några älskar att skriva låtar, andra spelar gitarr så fingrarna blöder. Gramtone är en plattform som används av varje band och artist som det passar dem bäst. Ibland är vi en lekplats, ibland kreativt nav, affärsyta eller en trampolin för musikkarriärer. Vi blir planterade och uppodlade av varandra, och vi gillar't. Vi tycker att musik gör tillvaron större och vill man att något ska finnas, då ska man också skapa det. Tre dussin utgivningar hittills, och mycket på gång. Titta in, lyssna in, och häng med.