Tag Archives: music industry

Interactive Web Sites and Hip Hop

Screwing around on StumbleUpon today, I came across this site.

An interactive site detailing the bio of German super DJ Tomekk and his record label F-Records, this site leads you through an interwoven story about Tomekk’s career, and the growth of the label.

I spent a good 30 minutes just playing around with this site, primarily because of the infectious beats and the presence of KRS-One. If you like hip hop and/or interactive marketing, I highly suggest you check it out.


Unleashing Your Creativity

Last night I was taking my dog for a walk around the park by our house. I had my mp3 player on shuffle and was enjoying a broad range of songs, from hip hop to indie rock to oldies. As I was enjoying the weather, my player skipped to Miles Davis’s “Someday My Prince Will Come”.  This is it…

This piece got me thinking about “Splice” a recent movie I had seen. During the movie, the main characters, a pair of scientists,  were faced with a difficult problem, and couldn’t seem to find a way to overcome it.  At one point Adrian Brody (one of the main characters) decides that their choice of music is the problem and replaces a heavy metal track with jazz, a more free-flowing and loose-knit form of music.

And as I was pondering the effects of particular music styles on brain waves, I started thinking about the creative process, how it works and what makes someone creative. While I don’t pretend to be one of the countless psuedo-experts on the subject you’ll find on the Web, I know how I operate.

And what works for me is this: practice. I always liken creativity to playing an instrument. Everyone has the potential to play, and while some are naturally more gifted than others, with enough practice, virtually anyone can become proficient. I find that to unleash the greatest creativity, I simply need to tap into the creative part of my brain on a regular basis, whether it be writing, music, or a visual art (though to be honest, I’m only adept at writing).

To me, creativity is simply taking your experiences and what you know, and approaching them from a new angle. For example, Van Gogh, my favorite painter (cliche, I know), wasn’t so creative because of his subject matter. He wasn’t painting Dali-esque melting clocks, but rather it was the way he approached his artwork. His brush strokes, his treatment of colors, that’s what made him the legendary artist he was.  It was the fact that he was willing to turn the world he knew on its ear (perhaps due to his own mental illness), that allowed him to create such iconic pieces.

As a writer, to be successful, it seems you must follow this example,  seeking new and innovative ways to tell stories that are probably very similar to others that have been told before. To me, this is the essence of creativity.

With that said,  I’ve often encountered “writers” who struggle with writer’s block. I’ve never really had this problem. To me, the biggest block to my writing is finding the right way to say things, I’ve never struggled with a lack of ideas. Instead, I’ve struggled with too many ideas, wanting to say to much and getting distracted, taking my projects too far off base by following tangents.

And while these tangents may at times be distracting, even harmful to your project’s overall vision, it’s by following them, that you truly unleash your inner artist.

But that’s just my thoughts, I am by no means an expert on the matter, I just know how my own brain works.


Music with marketing, not vice versa

Advertisements have long depended on musicians to provide them with catchy jingles or song snippets to help promote their product. Now they’re returning the favor.  Brandweek is reporting that Mariah Carey’s new CD Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel will feature advertisements from Elizabeth Arden and the Bahamas Board of Tourism, among others, in its 34-page booklet.


In conjunction with Elle magazine, this approach to marketing is an experiment by Island Def Jam, probably due in part to declining album sales. If the project  is successful, expect similar deals quickly popping up in the liner notes of other artists.

On the surface, this can be viewed in one of two ways. The first, is that it is a great idea. These albums sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions of copies. By placing ads in the liner notes, which almost everyone looks, you are increasing brand awareness on a massive scale. Particularly interesting is the correlation that market researchers will draw between fans of a certain artist and the products they purchase. Thus, it seems logical that Mariah-fans, who are (I’m assuming) primarily women, would be attracted to certain perfumes, champagne and clothing lines.  This is a smart way to focus on a specific audience, while helping the record labels offset their production costs. Considering the decline of album sales in the face of digital downloads and rampant piracy, this is a brilliant move.

On the other hand, from a music purist’s point of view, this can be viewed as the ultimate sellout. A purist may view these integrated CD booklets as an artist compromising his or her integrity for a quick buck. Of course this point of view depends solely on the artist in question. Rappers, for example, are notorious for endorsing virtually anything (except McDonalds, apparently), provided the money is right. But if Beck, on the other hand, were to do this, I imagine there would be a huge outcry from his fan base.

In reality, advertising inside CDs is nothing new. No Limit albums always contained promos for upcoming releases inside the case, and 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me famously had a photo of 2Pac’s crew posing in front of two cars which prominently featured advertisements for a Los Angeles auto customization shop. Of course this is the first time CD booklets have been approached as a marketing medium on a general scale. If this is a success, and I think it will be, it’s a good bet that this type of marketing will soon become commonplace. Smaller, regional labels, in a particular may begin using this type of marketing to generate revenue to increase their budget and promote artist awareness.

Wu Social Media


I’m loving how Wu Tang Clan veteran Ghostface is promoting his new album. “Wizard of Poetry” (hate the name, by the way) drops on Sept. 29, and Ghost is using Twitter to full-advantage. Check out his profile here. By using Twitter to promote the album, he’s almost single-handedly creating a buzz around this album. Being a huge fan of the Shaolin MCs, he’s got my attention.

Of course the foray into social media is nothing new for Wu Tang. Other clan members Raekwon and RZA both have Twitter accounts they use to promote upcoming events and albums (including “Only Built for Cuban Linx 2”!), as does Wu-affiliate LA the Darkman.

In addition, the Clan, being the chess afficionados they are, also have Wu Chess. If you’re unfamiliar with Wu Chess, it’s a partnership with Chesspark that provides an online forum for chess-loving fans of the Wu Tang Clan to get together. To my knowledge, no other music group or entity has ever tried anything like this before, and it seems to be really successful.

It really seems this is just part of the hip hop hustle.  Rappers were some of the first musicians to really develop their personal brands and have really revolutionized the way in which musicians are seen. In addition to the requisite label that ever successful rapper owns, we’ve now got MCs selling clothes, alcohol, bottled water, and more. Jay-Z even patented  his own shade of blue. These street hustlers have completely re-written the rules of marketing and branding. And there’s sure to be more to come…

The Internet vs. the music industry

Yesterday while driving home from work I was listening to The Church of Lazlo on local radio station 96.5 the Buzz. One of the segments I listened to was an interview with Jill Sobule. You may remember her as the singer of the pre-Katy Perry version of “I Kissed A Girl”.

What’s really interesting about this woman is the way she drummed up financing and support for her latest record. Ms. Sobule solicited donations from her fans, a la PBS. If you go to her Web site, jillsnextrecord.com, she has a list detailing what each particular donation amount will net you. Of course the really cool thing is, if you donate $10,000, you get to sing on her record.

This is an interesting tactic, because it takes what the hip hop industry has been doing for years and hones it down even further. Starting sometime in the mid-90s, lots of rappers realized that they were not making nearly what they should off of album sales. As a result, almost overnight you started seeing record labels popping up. No Limit, Aftermath, Roc-A-Fella, all of these labels started as a means for their artists to keep a higher percentage of their sales.

And what Jill Sobule has done is take this to a new level. Rather than producing her next album herself, using her own money, she’s opened it up to her fans. And it seems like it’s beena successful tactic. It’s interesting to contrast this tactic with Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” album. If you recall, Radiohead offered “In Rainbows” for free download, asking only that fans give what they thought was fair. This had never been done before and was wildly successful, leading to 1.2 million downloads in the first 10 days, most of whom paid for the album.

Couple these guerilla marketing tactics with the fact that an entire of generation of musicians has relied on sites like Youtube and Myspace to expose their music to fans around the globe, and you can see this is the beginning of the end for the music giants. We’re witnessing a revolution in the music industry. It’s going to be very interesting to how this works out in the future.