Category: Music

The Power of Physical Merch

The Power of Physical Merch

In a world of digital music and streaming, physical merchandise is becoming more of a premium rarity. Music is so easily available that fans want a different way to show their affinity to their favorite artists. Providing fans with creative physical merchandise is a great way to generate additional revenue and satisfy a consumer need. I wanted to take a moment to examine a physical product I came across for an English Rock Band, the Struts.

I found out about this product release and band through one of my Full Sail friends. He’s a live show photographer and artist interviewer, so he meets a lot of bands in his line of work. He posted a Cereal Box bundle for The Struts on his Instagram stories. The bundle package included a vinyl record of an unreleased song, a digital download code for the song, and a cereal box. The premium product was designed and created by FunkO, a company that creates “licensed pop culture products [for] a diverse range of consumers (Funko, n.d.).”

The Struts cereal box package was priced at $14.99, and included a cereal box with a 7 in” vinyl of a song called  “21st Century Dandy,” as well as a digital download of the song. A cereal box is a great way to promote a brand and spread a message. I can’t recall how many times I’ve examined and read the back of a cereal box while eating cereal. The box for The Struts has information on the latest release, a cartoon design of the band centered in the front, and links to their social media accounts. The box also features the brand name FunkO, so it serves as a cross promotional product. The vinyl record compliments the box, portraying the band in the same cartoonish manner. The sleeve is the only thing that does not aesthetically fit with the package, but I still think it’s a great premium product overall.

Two locations I found where the product is available for purchase is EBay and FYE (an online retailer that sells collectable items and memorabilia). FYE is currently out of stock but the EBay listing has the product at $79.99. It appears to be resale from an original consumer.

There were various forms of promotion I saw for the product. The first one was an Instagram post by the band (this is what my friend posted on his IG Stories and how I ultimately saw it). I also found a YouTube video about it, and various publications online announcing the breakfast bundle, including some posts by UDiscoverMusic, a Radio Station called 92.1 The Zew, and Total Rock (all referenced at the end). The online publications could be paid for or organic, but a quick Google search will reveal that there were various outlets used to promote the premium product.

I feel success for a product ultimately depends on whether it sells or not. Since I have no ability to view sales numbers for this particular product, it’s challenging for me to determine whether it should be crowned a success. Looking at data from NextBigSound, the Spotify For Artist App, and Social Blade, there doesn’t appear to be any spikes in listening activity or fan engagement for November 9th (the product announcement date) and the days following. The data shows that the premium product did translate to more streams or fan engagement. Below is a snapshot of number of listeners from the Spotify for Artist App for the month of November and insights from NextBigSound. Listeners did not increase after November 9th for Spotify and there doesn’t appear to be much of an increase in Facebook mentions and Pandora plays (even though Radio Spins did increase on the week of November 9th). Twitter retweets did increased on the week of the product announcement, but they did not increase by an overwhelming degree.

The fact that the product reached me (and I am not a part of the band’s core audience) does mean that it served as a great promotional tool. Partnering up with a merchandise company that is known for their affiliation with Rock Bands compliments The Struts brand. Since the product is a logical cross promotional endeavor that allowed The Struts to reach new audiences, I will not label it a misstep. However, the product did not translate to more streams and/or fan engagement, so I will have to say it’s a working progress. Perhaps if the song was available for streaming it could have helped grow the band’s audience and listeners. Either way I thought it was very cool and creative.

Is Album Artwork Still Important?

Is Album Artwork Still Important?

Album artwork is half art and half science. With so many artists and music releases out now, it’s even more important to have artwork that will capture the audience’s attention. In this post we will look at an album that has one the most iconic art of all time; Led Zeppelin’s self titled debut album.

Led Zeppelin’s self-titled debut album, Led Zeppelin, has one of the most dramatic art covers of all time. The album cover was designed by George Hardie, who also worked on the album cover for Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (Colothan, 2016). It features a distorted image of the Hidenburg disaster. The Hidenburg disaster is a catastrophic event that occurred in 1937, in which a Zeppelin (a lavish skyliner invented by Ferdinand von Zeppelin) ignited in mid-air, resulting in the death of 36 people (Time, n.d.).”

Album artwork is “an important aspect of the creative process… which triggers all kinds of feelings and emotions (Shah, 2015).” The aesthetics of Led Zeppelin is bold, and conveys to music fans that they are about to hear an explosive and daring album. According to Jimmy Page, “the idea… was to use the impact of [the event] but use it in a graphic interpretation… It’s Led Zeppelin’s first album so it’s really good to go in there – not quite like a lead balloon – but like a streaming rocket… It’s a dramatic incident, it’s a dramatic album, it’s a dramatic statement. (Time, n.d.).” The artwork brilliantly captures how monumental this moment is, and communicates to the world that something unforgettable is transpiring.

The artwork is a metaphor in itself. It’s play on the band’s name, Zeppelin, but also playing on the saying, go down like a lead balloon (which means fail wretchedly). According to Jimmy Page, Keith Moon came up with the name Led Zeppelin, during a studio session in which John Paul Jones, himself, Nicky Hopkins, and Keith Moon worked on “Beck’s Bolero,” for Jeff Beck. Moon jokingly said they should form a band and call themselves Led Zeppelin, because a band like this “can only go down, like a lead balloon (Fricke, (2012).” The name stuck with Jimmy Page, and he would later use it when forming a band with Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham.

Hardie discusses how he used a “radiograph [to stipple] a facsimile of the famous photograph to avoid copyright problems (Cartwright, 2016),” but the impact of the image is still major. The Hidenburg disaster “helped bring the age of [Zeppelin] airships to a close and [serves] as a cautionary reminder of how human fallibility can lead to death and destruction,” but the band used the image to usher in “the era of album rock (Erlewine, n.d.)” and show the world that music can rebuild humanity in a world of war and chaos. The story behind the artwork continues to captivate audiences and illustrates how art can fortify an album.


Cartwright, J. (2016, October 10).  The first thing I ever designed: George Hardie on why Led Zeppelin I “Wasn’t really a proper idea.” Retrieved from

Colothan, S. (2018, September 20). 50 facts about Led Zeppelin’s iconic album covers. Retrieved from

Erlewine, S.T. (n.d.). Led Zeppelin Biography. Retrieved from

Fricke, D. (2012, December 6). Jimmy Page: The Rolling Stone Interview. Retrieved from

George Hardie. (Graphic Designer). (1969, January 12). Led Zeppelin [digital image]. Retrieved from

Shah, D. (2015). The importance of album artwork. Retrieved from

Shere, Sam. (Photographer). (1937). (1937, May 6). Crash of the Hindenburg, Lakehurst, New Jersey [digital image]. Retrieved from

Time. (n.d.). Time 100 photos. Retrieved from

Tracking Music Revenues: What’s the Next Challenge?

Tracking Music Revenues: What’s the Next Challenge?

Music streaming has turned the music industry on its head. It’s not only challenging the way we consume music, but how artists and business measure sales and market their products. Not only that, but it’s challenging the way music revenues are captures. But what if I told you things are only going to get more challenging? “Napster and iTunes ungrouped albums into individual tracks for sale and exchange [while] streaming platforms like Spotify… regrouped these ‘unbundled’ tracks into the newly-ordered format of a playlist.” She then goes on to explain how “the next natural step… is unbundling an individual song itself into isolated vocal and stem parts. (Hu, 2018).” I think this is a brilliant observation that will most certainly be realized. It has already taken place, as Hu points out, with many popular producers creating drum kits that other producers can purchase in order to make beats (Hu, 2018). In this case of unbundling songs, Digital Rights Management can be a tool that helps track content (music stems) and establish IP ownership. DRM will be necessary to make this next step of music evolution become a reality.

The content holder will want to implement DRM in this case for many reasons. First and foremost, all of the content might be centralized in one platform (Example: millions of songs on Apple Music). A consumer will then visit the platform, and purchase the stems he/she desires.  In order to ensure the proper copyright/IP owner receives credit for the purchase, a system that can identify where the money should go needs to be in place. This is where DRM comes into play. It will allow the customer’s money to go to the rightful seller. Furthermore, the business models for “stem selling” discussed in this article are subscription based This means the customer doesn’t necessarily “own” the sample/stem. Customers are merely buying a copyright. But what if they choose to resale it, as a completely new product with small stem “samples?”

If any revenues are generated from a track that is produced using stems/samples, DRM will be able to track the royalties and send the “appropriate” percentage to the copyright owners. DRM, in this case, allows the content owner to capture money upfront (through the purchase of the content they are distributing) and in the backend (through royalties that are created using the content they still own). But how will the royalty rate be established?

Although the consumer will be allowed to lawfully use the stem/samples, create an entirely new piece of content, and even sell it on the market, the new content will not be 100% theirs. Thanks to DRM, each sample/stem that is used in the new piece will become a “piece of the pie.” For example, let’s say I purchase three stems on (one of the platforms the article discusses). The three stems are: 1 Rick Ross grunt, a 2Pac line from I Ain’t Mad at Cha, and the electric guitar melody from Sade’s Cherish the Day. I then use these three stems/samples to create an entire new song, with another artist rapping on the verses. I put it out online and make over $100,000 in streaming and download revenue. That revenue would not all be mine. Because of DRM, the owner of each sample I purchased will be entitled to a percentage of the earnings. They will receive royalties from the song as well.

DRM will enable artists to make additional money from recorded music, besides streaming revenue. This will more than likely convince them to jump on board with the idea of “stem selling.” In turn, ordinary music fans will have access to new tools that will spark innovation and creativity. But for artists, DJ’s, and producers, DRM will most likely be bittersweet. While it gives them access to millions of sounds, they will come at a cost; a huge one at that. Not only will the original copyright owners earn royalties, but they will more than likely own a percentage of the master, and that’s not good for any artist.

I personally think DRM does attempt to further the goals of copyright, but it just makes things even more complicated. If a person creates something new using something old (in this case, a sample), who does it belong to? Are they joint owners, or does the new content belong to the “original” owner? I would think the new piece would be a derivative of the original work, but what if the new piece is completely unrecognizable? I like the fact that DRM can be used in music to establish a royalty rate for samples, but the whole issue of ownership will hurt this idea. I think establishing who will own the new content needs to be addressed before this unbundling of songs can come to fruition.


Hu, C. (2018, May 13). Unbundling the song: Inside the next wave of recorded music’s disruption. Retrieved from

The Truth About Remixes

The Truth About Remixes

Innovation is a remix of the past. Time and time again, we find the most groundbreaking inventions are improvements upon past creations. Take the flash drive for example. The development of personal computers brought about the “need to store more and more information… with [the desire of] portability… from machine to machine (Londonip, 2014).” The flash drive was created in order to fill the void left behind by its predecessor, the floppy disc, in order to give consumers more freedom in terms of capacity and convenience. Similar stories are prevalent throughout history. The past serves as the foundational building blocks of the future.

The storyline in RIP: A Remix Manifesto that I found to be the most compelling illustration of copyright law was the idea that culture always builds on the past (SocialRedChannel, 2013). Advancement is nearly impossible without an application of previous knowledge. In the case of music, it’s almost unreasonable to think that new sounds can be created without incorporating or modifying old sounds. Artists will always look to the past in order to connect with their audience, illustrate an appreciation for past cultures, strengthen their musical compositions, and create imaginative recordings that challenge the status quo. If artists were not allowed to build upon the past, music would not be where it is today. Take Rock N Roll, for example. The Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Foundation identifies the genres of Rhythm & Blues, Country, Jazz, Gospel, and Folk as Rock N Roll’s “immediate roots (RockHall, 2013).” If that’s the case, then one of the greatest genres in music is a mashup. Hip-Hop can also be considered a mashup. It builds upon past genres like Rock does, but it is also heavily influenced by sampling. One of the most iconic figures in Hip Hop, Jay-Z, recently sampled Nina Simone’s Four Women on his daring single The Story of O.J. (Unterberger, 2017). He did so in order to pay homage to the previous creator, and expand on the ideas of the original record. Jay-Z wanted to give his take on the topic and put a modern twist on the song. 21 Savage also recently sampled Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson’s Flashbulbs on his single, Bank Account (Unterberger, 2017). Both songs reached the Billboard 100, with the Story of O.J. peaking at #23 and Bank Account reaching #12 (Billboard, n.d.). Is it merely coincidence that a genre so heavily influenced by sampling is now the most popular genre in the music industry (Nielsen, 2018)? I don’t think so. The fact that Hip Hop can take something old and make it into something new is one of the reasons why it is so popular today. It’s daring, imaginative, and creative. It’s a culture that consistently builds on the past, and it’s driving the music industry into the future.

I understand that authors should have protection when it comes to guarding their intellectual property, but progression should be the ultimate goal, not inertia. We are in an era where things move at a very rapid pace. Creators are extremely active and need the proper tools to produce the products of the future. However, copyright law puts a limit on what they can utilize. It prevents culture from moving forward.

The fact of the matter is, mashups are “the result of two or more sources of content or data” being blended together to create a new application (Gerber, 2006). We use “mashups” every day. For example, internet sites such as Expedia and Priceline are mashups that allow consumers to easily compare vacation plans. Another example of a mashup is Angie’s List, “a directory service of general contractors, with customer reviews and opinions (Gil, 2018).” Some may argue that internet mashups and music mashups are very different, but the concept is the same: combine two or more sources of data in order to create an innovative way of consumption. The only real difference is, internet mashups connect the consumer to the seller. Music mashups, on the other hand, are viewed as competition to the original creation. But that misconception can be corrected through collaboration, in my opinion.

What many mashup artists don’t realize is that the original authors often feel like they are being undercut and unappreciated. Coherently, resistance will always be felt when creating something revolutionary that defies the norm. The phonograph was resisted by composers that were accustomed to making money from sheet music. Digital downloads were resisted by labels and artists that grew comfortable generating profits from physical albums. And streaming applications were resisted by companies that believed consumers should pay for a copy of music, instead of a subscription. In the end, that resistance eventually became support. I believe the same will occur when it comes to mashups, sampling, and remixing, but collaboration among all parties would certainly make things much smoother. Collaboration will turn resistance into support, especially if that same support becomes compensation.

Mashups should be legal, as long as the original author is acknowledged and profits with the new artist. As I explained earlier, mashups push music forward and have the power to create new genres, which will turn create new customers, new products, and new markets. Making mashups legal will create revolutionary styles of music that define previous classifications, which will grow the industry as a whole. While it’s unknown how much money Jay-Z or 21 Savage paid to clear the samples from Four Women and Flashbulbs (respectively), it’s clear that mashups are embraced as long as the original copyright owner is compensated. But money should not limit creativity. Everyone should be allowed to create, especially in music. While I believe that mashups should be legal, there should be some guidelines, rules, and regulations that protect the original creators. Here are the rules I propose:

  • A mashup should not be made to purposely discredit the original author. It should be used as a building block to create something new, not as a stepping stone to destroy a piece of art. Malice should be prohibited.
  • The original author has to be credited, and he must be entitled to royalties if the new creation is generating revenue. This brings me to my next point.
  • Mashups should not contain more than 9 samples. The more samples that are in a mashup, the harder it is to determine a royalty percentage. If the authors are capped at 10, the process can be simplified by establishing that each author is entitled to 10% of royalties. However, these can be negotiated among the creators, depending on the significance of each sample and the final product.

These three rules should satisfy many of the demands made by music artists and labels when it comes to mashups.

I believe copyright is a necessary law that empowers creators and allows them to benefit from the execution of their ideas. It puts the power in the hands of authors and copyright owners. That’s my personal opinion. Many people can think of brilliant ideas, but it takes effort and commitment to execute on those concepts. People who can make their ideas a reality should be rewarded, appreciated, and protected. However, I believe some changes can be made to improve copyright law. “Broadening copyright protection to encompass new forms of creative expression has been a consistent and driving force behind the evolution of copyright law (Carpenter, 2016)” yet mashups have been consistently resisted in the digital era. That needs to change.

Today’s world is extremely different than it was when the Constitution was created. There is no way that our founding fathers could have predicted a digital era, where written letters, postal systems, and newspapers have essentially been replaced by cellphones, the internet, and computers. They couldn’t have predicted that music would turn into a billion-dollar industry, where an artist has the ability to make money every time a listener hears their song. And they certainly couldn’t have predicted that technology would permit any person to be an inventor/creator. So how can we continue to implement the same laws from the 1700s in a 21st Century world? We have to make changes, in order “to promote the progress of science and useful arts (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Sec. 8, 1787).” The two changes I would like to be seen made to copyright law include the following:

  1. Reduce the terms of copyright from 70 years after the original author’s death to 10 years. For corporations, change it from 90 years to 20. The logic behind this is simple, get the most out of your creation as quickly as possible and prevent monopolization. If you have a brilliant piece of work, you shouldn’t be idle in capitalizing on the benefits. Get on it immediately. If you cannot get the most out of your work in 10-20 years, someone else should be given the opportunity to realize its full potential. It will put pressure on creators/inventors to make use of their products in the immediate future, as well as prevent corporations from monopolizing music (i.e. Warner and the Happy Birthday song).
  2. Allow others to make alternate versions (derivatives) of the original creation, as long as royalties are paid to the original author. This will solve many of the problems people have with copyright law, and will take the shackles off 21st century creators. Some people cannot pay upfront to secure licensing, but imagination shouldn’t be exclusive to the wealthy. Everyone should be allowed to exhibit their creativity. This proposed change will create a level playing field for all creators, while properly acknowledging and compensating original authors. As long as the derivative shows some level of creativity and doesn’t directly attack the original author, it should be permitted.

Copyright law covers a wide variety of works, but as an artist and music professional, I can only give my perspective through a musical scope. Copyright should protect authors and original creations, but it shouldn’t deter others from building upon those creations in order to push our culture forward. Instead of outlawing creativity and shackling those who break copyright law (figuratively and literally), collaboration should be encouraged and changes should be implemented to reflect a 21st Century world. Only then will our society truly be able to maximize imagination and creativity. Only then will our culture be able to evolve and move forward.


Billboard. (n.d.). 21 Savage chart history – Bank Account. Retrieved from

Billboard. (n.d.). Jay-Z chart history – The story of O.J. Retrieved from

Carpenter, M. M. (2016). If It’s Broke, Fix It: Fixing Fixation. Columbia Journal Of Law & The Arts, 39(3), 355-364. Retrieved from

Gerber, R. S. (2006). Mixing It up on the Web: Legal Issues Arising from Internet “Mashups”. Intellectual Property & Technology Law Journal18(8), 11-14. Retrieved from

Gil, P. (2018, April 2018). What is an internet ‘mashup’? Retrieved from

Londonip. (2014, September 15). 20 groundbreaking inventions from the last 100 years. Retrieved from

Nielsen. (2018, January 3). 2017 U.S. Music Year-End Report. Retrieved from

Rock Hall. (2013, October 18). The roots and definition of rock and roll. Retrieved from

[SocialRedChannel]. (2013, August 1). RiP: A remix manifesto. Complete [Video File]. Retrieved from

U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Sec. 8. Retrieved from

Unterberger, A. (2017, December 29). The 50 best samples, covers and references of 2017: Critic’s picks. Retrieved from

4 hands are better than one

4 hands are better than one

It’s well known that many artists do not write their own songs. As songwriters get more public recognition in the music industry, many fans are coming to the realization that the lyrics they love may not have came from their favorite artists. But how many songwriters does it take to make a hit song?

Apparently, four is the magic number. The top 50 Billboard songs have an average of four songwriters, ranging from 1 (Ed Sheeran’s Perfect) to 16 (Cardi B’s Be Careful). The list below was constructed by searching LyricsOnDemand’s database, which lists the songwriters of each song under the lyrics. How many songwriters contributed to your favorite radio song?

Billboard Top 50 – Week of June 09, 2018


Rank Artist and Song Songwriters Names of Songwriters
1 Drake Nice for What 12 Aubrey Drake Graham / Chauncy Hawkins / Corey Woods / Orville Hall / Dennis Coles / Phillip Price / Marvin Hamlisch / Alan Bergman / Marilyn Bergman / Russell Tyrone Jones / Clifford Smith / Shane Lee Lindstrom
2 Post Malone Psycho 4 Austin Richard Post / Carl Austin Rosen / Louis Bell / Tyrone William Griffin
3 Drake God’s Plan 5 Aubrey Graham / Noah Shebib / Matthew Samuels / Ronald LaTour / Daveon Jackson
4 Childish Gambino This is America 2 Donald Glover / Ludwig Goransson
5 Zedd The Middle 7 Jordan Johnson / Anton Zaslavski / Kyle Trewartha / Stefan Johnson / Sarah Aarons / Michael Trewartha / Marcus Lomax
6 Lil Baby Yes Indeed 2 Dominique Jones / Aubrey Graham
7 Cardi B I Like it 6 Belcalis Almanzar / Kleonard Raphael / Benito Martinez / Jose Osorio / Tony Pabon / Manny Rodriguez
8 Ella Mai Boo’d Up 4 Dijon Isaiah Mcfarlane / Ella Mai / Joelle Marie James / Larrance Levar Dopson
9 Bebe Rexha Meant to Be 4 Bleta Bebe Rexha / David Garcia / Joshua Miller / Tyler Reed Hubbard
10 Ariana Granda No Tears left to cry 4 Ilya Salmanzadeh / Savan Kotecha / Max Martin / Ariana Grande
11 Shawn Mendes In My Blood 4 Shawn Mendes / Geoff Warburton / Teddy Geiger / Scott Harris
12 BlocBoy JB Look Alive 3 Aubrey Graham / Brytavious Chambers / James Baker
13 Mashmello Friends 3 Marshmello; Natalie Dunn; Anne-Marie Nicholson
14 Migos Walk it Talk it 6 Aubrey Graham / Grant Andrew Decouto / Joshua Isaih Parker / Kiari Kendrell Cephus / Kirsnik Khari Ball / Quavious Keyate Marshall
15 Juice Wrld Lucid Dreams 1 Jared Higgins
16 Camila Cabello Never be the same 6 Adam Feeney / Camila Cabello / Jacob Ludwig Olofsson / Noonie Bao / Rami Dawod / Sasha Yatchenko
17 Ed Sheeran Perfect 1 Ed Sheeran
18 Imagine Dragons Whatever it takes 5 Benjamin Arthur McKee / Daniel Coulter Reynolds / Daniel James Platzman / Daniel Wayne Sermon / Joel Little
19 Drake I’m upset 1 Aubrey Graham
20 Bazzi Mine 3 Andrew Bazzi / Kevin White / Mike Woods
21 Cardi B Be Careful 16 Belcalis Almanzar / Mathew Samuels / Anderson Hernandez / Jordan Thorpe / Marilyn Bergman / Alan Bergman / Robert Diggs / Lauryn Hill / Clifford Smith / Lamont Hawkins / Dennis Coles / Gary Grice / Jason Hunter / Russell Jones / Corey Woods / Marvin Hamlisch
22 Kane Brown Heaven 3 Lindsay Rimes / Matthew John McGinn / Shy Carter
23 Post Malone Rockstar 6 Austin Post / Louis Bell / Olufunmibi Awoshiley / Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph / Carl Austin Rosen / Jo-Vaughn Virginie
24 Maroon 5 Wait 4 Adam Noah Levine / Ammar Malik / Jacob Kasher Hindlin / John Henry Ryan
25 Camila Cabello Havana 8 Adam Feeney / Jeffrey Williams / Pharrell Williams / Andrew Watt / Brian Lee / Ali Tamposa / Brittany Talia Hazzard / Camila Cabello
26 Lil Dicky Freaky Friday 5 Cat Cashmere / Chris Brown / David Burd / Dijon Mcfarlane / Twice As Nice
27 Rich the Kid Plug Walk 2 Dimitri Roger, Grant Dickinson
28 Taylor Swift Delicate 3 Taylor Swift / Max Martin / Karl Johan Schuster
29 The Weekend Pray for me 4 Abel Abraham Tesfaye / Adam King Feeney / Kendrick Lamar / Martin Mckinney
30 Post Malone Better Now 4 Austin Post / William Walsh / Adam Feeney / Louis Bell
31 Dua Lipa New Rules 3 Caroline Ailin / Emily Warren / Ian Kirkpatrick
32 Calvin Harris One Kiss 3 Jessica Reyez / Dua Lipa / Adam Richard Wiles
33 Nicky Minaj Chun-Li 2 Onika Tanya Maraj / Jeremy Reid
34 Luke Combs One Number Away 4 Luke Combs / Steven Andre Battey / Sammy Mitchell / Robert Steven Williford
35 Khalid Love Lies 5 Jamil George Chamas / Khalid Robinson / Normani Kordei Hamilton / Ryan Vojtesak / Tayla Parx
36 Casper Te Bote 6 Luis Antonio Quinones García / Julio Cruz García / Benito Martínez Ocasio / Darell Castro / Juan Carlos Ozuna Rosado / Nick Rivera Caminero
37 Dan + Shay Tequila 3 Dan Smyers / Jordan Reynolds / Nicolle Anne Galyon
38 Selena Gomez Back to You 5 Amy Allen / Selena Gomez / Micah Rayan Premnath / Diederik Jan Van Elsas / Parrish Alan Warrington
39 Bruno Mars Finesse 8 Christopher Steven Brown / Bruno Mars / Jeremy Reeves / Jonathan Yip / James Edward II Fauntleroy / Philip Lawrence / Ray Charles II McCullough / Ray Romulus
40 The Wekkend Call out my name 3 Abel Tesfaye / Nicolas Jaar / Adam Feeney
41 Kendrick Lamar All the stars 5 Alexander William Shuckburgh / Kendrick Lamar / Mark Anthony Spears / Solana I. Rowe / Anothony Tiffith
42 Jason Aldean You make it easy 4 Brian Kelley / Jordan Schmidt / Morgan Cole Wallen / Tyler Reed Hubbard
43 XXXtentacio Sad! 2 Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy / John Cunningham
44 Offset Ric Flair Drip 3 Bijan Amir / Kiari Kendrell Cephus / Leland Taylor Wayne
45 ASAP Rocky Praise the lord 3 Rakim Mayers / Joseph Adenuga / Hector Delgado
46 6ixN9ne Tati 1 Daniel Hernandez
47 Juice Wrld All girls are the same 3 Danny Snodgrass / Jarad A. Higgins / Nick Mira
48 Nicky Jam X 3 Juan Velez, J Balvin, Jeon
49 Dua lipa IDGAF 6 Dua Lipa / Jason Allen Dean / Joseph Davis Kirkland / Lawrence Michael Principato / Skyler Stonestreet / Uzoechi Osisioma Emenike
50 Powerglive Rae Sremmurd 4 Aaquil Brown / Khalif Brown / Justin Houston / Michael Len Williams


Billboard. (2018, June 09). The Hot 100. Retrieved from

Lyrics on Demand. (n.d.). Retrieved from

From Label Exec to Artist Manager: Kevin Liles

From Label Exec to Artist Manager: Kevin Liles

Kevin Liles is a former Record Label Executive turned Artist Manager. He started off as an artist but decided to learn the business when a song he wrote was sold to a different group. That group would go on to sell over 18 million copies and be awarded Grammys for “Best New Artist.”

Liles started his business career as 23 year-old intern at Def Jam Records and eventually rose through the ranks to became the President and CEO. After years of being in the highest positions in the music industry, he decided he needed to be on the ground. That’s when he left executive roles and began managing artists. Here’s an overview of his career path and how he become on of the most renowned artist managers in the music industry.

Below is a link to the presentation slides. There’s a lot one can learn from examining Kevin Lile’s. His determination and work ethic are truly noteworthy.

The Future of A&R

The Future of A&R

A&R’s find and discover talent that can be commercially successful in the music industry. According to Music Clout, they used to “serve as the middleman between the artist and record label and work very closely with the artist,” but now “the power of an A&R rep [has been] diminished” due to the advancements of technology (n.d.). The internet creates a direct path from artist to audience. It also creates a transparent ceiling where music companies can gaze down on musicians and see which ones are making traction. Once they have identified artists that have an established following and show the potential to be commercially successful, they can come down and swoop them up from the indie scene (or at least try). I believe the role of an A&R rep has shifted from seeking talent to seeking people with a paying audience, but there’s nothing wrong with that. According to McCready, “A&R’s primary business function is to… reduce the likelihood of failure in the marketplace (2011).” If that’s the case, then seeking a paying audience rather than talent is fulfilling the primary business function of an A&R. Talent doesn’t pay the bills, but in the world of music streaming, an audience that listen does.

I believe A&R is necessary for small and major labels. Many acts in the music industry are short-lived, but “good A&R’s can… push artists further. (Lindvall, 2011).” A large audience will not always translate to large revenues. Music is basically free now thanks to streaming, so even though an artist can have many listeners, it is not guaranteed that they will turn into paying customers. A good A&R will be able to identify and exploit revenue generating opportunities using an artist’s brand and character. A good A&R can also work closely with the artist to further develop their brand and convince their audience that he/she is worth seeing in a live setting. There are many things an A&R Rep can provide, but that doesn’t mean this support will necessarily come from an A&R rep.

The role of A&R has changed when compared to ten years ago, and will continue to change. The publishing side of the music industry is now more like the A&R Department. They sign artists and catalogues and work with them to get the most money out of the music, whether it be song placement in movies, TV shows, sports, or even video games. They also work with song writers too, which many labels fail to do. I think the role of A&R will eventually be provided by streaming companies, such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. That is where most of the listeners are at, so what better way to develop as an artist and get your music heard than by getting plugged into a popular playlist by a major streaming company like Spotify?

“Big data” is a major factor in the music industry. For people like myself that enjoy numbers, data, and statistics, we thrive on it. It is easy for an artist to download an Excel file from YouTube or Spotify with all of their sales, statistics, and streams. In fact, these reports can easily be acquired from the artist’s digital distributor (TuneCore, CDBaby, etc.). This data has information on the listener and their activity, revealing gender, geographical location, age, and even the device they are using for listening. Many artists are not aware of the importance of this data so it is not vastly used, but for people who want to be involved in the business of music and want to create songs that will captivate their audience, this data is extremely important. Record labels and A&R’s use this data to determine what kind of records are worth investment/attention. As time passes and the value of “big data” is realized, I believe it will be utilized by everyone in the music industry, including A&R’s, artist managers, and even songwriters. The data is extremely valuable.


Lindvall, H. (2011, January 27). Behind the music: Is the A&R era over? Retrieved from

McCready, M. (October, 2011). Why the traditional A&R process is failing the industry and musicians alike. Retrieved from

Music Clout. (n.d.). The ugly truth about today’s A&R. Retrieved from


The Challenges of Entrepreneurship

The Challenges of Entrepreneurship

When I was a kid in elementary school, I used to sell drawings to other children in my classroom. Images of Pokémon were among my best sellers. I made these drawings because I enjoyed art; I didn’t really view it as a business. I wasn’t the only one making money at my school though. There was another kid in my classroom (Jorge Lucas) that sold candies. Mexican candies were his best sellers, but he would also experiment with other types of treats to see what sold the most. He peddled candies because he loved making money and enjoyed bringing happiness to others. He eventually grew up to become an entrepreneur.

As an adult, he continued to buy and resale products. He had ideas for other business ventures but didn’t know how to acquire the capital to pursue them. His friends would encourage him to attend networking events to find investors and business partners, but he said that wasn’t for him. He looked for business partners on various occasions, but he couldn’t find anyone that approached commerce in the same manner as he did. He decided to run his retail business alone. He locked himself in his office every night, doing market research on his computer to see what products were profitable and why.

One day, Jorge decided to become a vendor at a public event. He paid $200 to set up a stand and sell customized t-shirts at the event (he found selling t-shirts to be a profitable business). When he arrived at the event, he saw that various other vendors had teams of people working together. He, on the other hand, was by himself. He also saw glamorous logos branded on everyone’s stand. He didn’t have a logo because design was one of his weak points, and he never hired anyone for the task. He also saw that vendors were engaging with customers and talking to everyone that passed by. He, on the other hand, was an introvert and did not attempt to communicate with people. Needless to say, he had a bad day at the event. He only sold three shirts. After weeks of sulking, he decided to take a break from entrepreneurship and began looking for a day job.

Many people dream of starting their own business. Being a boss, working on your own schedule, coming up with concepts for products, and having a team dedicated to your enterprise are all ideas that lure people towards entrepreneurship. However, there are various aspects about being an entrepreneur that are not very glamorous. According to a survey conducted by Fits Small Business, approximately 82% of entrepreneurs work over 40 hours a week, with 49% working 50 or more hours every week (Kanapi, 2017). This statistic illustrates that being an entrepreneur is not all traveling and closing deals. There is a lot of hard work that a person must perform in order to be successful. Carol Cox (Internet Marketing Course Director at Full Sail) and Michael LePlante (Full Sail Graduate and Business Owner) discussed they keys to becoming a successful entrepreneur at a Hall of Fame event in February, 2018. They state that starting a business is not easy. One must protect themselves legally, perform market research, and make difficult decisions in order to be a successful business owner (Full Sail University, 2018). Their main points, however, include the following:

  1. Find a contrasting business partner that compliments your skill sets
  2. Seek help from others, including mentors and professional experts
  3. Talk to current and potential customers to improve your products/services

Overcoming conflict can contribute to growth. That’s why it’s important to find people that will challenge your perceptions and opinions. In the story of Jorge Lucas, he wanted a business partner that shared his approach, but he should have been looking for someone with a contrasting style. According to Michael LePlante, when you are seeking a business partner, you should seek “an opposite that counterbalances” your personality and approach (Full Sail, 2018). When everyone conforms to your opinions, you tend to become overconfident in your capabilities. That overconfidence can lead to complacency and a nonchalant attitude, which will bring trouble to any business. You want a business partner that will help you improve as an entrepreneur. For example, if coming up with ideas and products is your strong suit, you may want a business partner that’s strong in the field of product manufacturing or service implementation. Since Jorge Lucas was an introvert with strong research capabilities, it would have been beneficial to join forces with an outgoing partner with a strong background in sales. If two people start a business together and have extremely similar strengths, wouldn’t they have the same weakness as well? You want a business partner that can cover the areas you may be deficient in; a business partner that compliments your skill sets and challenges your ideas. This is the most efficient way to grow and expand an enterprise.

Seeking help is also very important. I remember when my 15-year-old nephew was having trouble with his math class. Although he was passing, he was among the lowest achieving students in his classroom. I sat with him one day and reviewed his homework. While looking through the work, I noticed a trend in the answers he was having difficulty with; they all revolved around square roots and exponents. I asked him if this was the reason why he was struggling, and he replied, “Yes,” almost ashamed of himself. I asked him why he didn’t simply ask for help, and he stated that he didn’t want people to think he was dumb. It turns out he missed a few days of school due to an illness, which resulted in him being absent during the lecture on square roots and exponents. I sat with him and gave a full lecture on the topic (thanks to YouTube and Google). After a few hours, he understood the matters and never had that problem again. The first step in acquiring help is asking for it. Often times, we may be hesitant to ask for help because we don’t want to come across as weak or needy. However, everyone needs help at one point or another. Carol and Michael both pointed out how they have invested money in seeking advice from business coaches (Full Sail, 2018) in order to overcome plateaus and improve as entrepreneurs. Investing money on a business coach can be very beneficial to an entrepreneur. Business coaches can help you see issues from an objective point of view and can identify solutions to problems by providing fresh insight. You’ll never get this help if you are afraid to seek it though. The first step in finding help is admitting that you need it. The second step is to ask for it.

According to McFadden, in order to be successful “an organization needs to continuously change and adapt to their customer’s ever-changing needs (2013).” This requires business owners to constantly communicate with customers. In the story of Jorge Lucas, he didn’t put enough effort in talking to customers. He relied solely on internet research. Not every product or idea will be an instant hit, but a business owner can start with a product and slowly develop it into a better creation using customer feedback. During the discussion, Michael LePlante tells the story of a small business that started with a group of people brainstorming. They combined all of their ideas to create a product and immediately put it out to the market. The CEO of the company would then call customers personally to receive feedback on the product. Using real customer feedback, the CEO would suggest improvements to the team, which will implement them immediately. Once the modifications were made to the product, the team would relaunch it into the market and go through the same process; contact clients, gather feedback, make improvements. Michael goes on to say that the business ended up being very profitable and was eventually sold to Ticketmaster for a large sum of cash. The team has continued to follow this routine and has created several successful enterprises (Full Sail, 2018). This story illustrates the importance of speaking to customers. They are the ones that will buy your product (ideally), so in order to improve you will have to understand what they like and don’t like about the product. The best way to get this information is to have a direct conversation with them.

The most impactful part of the discussion was when Carol Cox stated, “early entrepreneurs spend way too much time chasing funding… rather than chasing customers (Full Sail University, 2018).” I find this to be extremely true. Often times we focus on identifying investors, when we really should be focused on identifying customers. Entrepreneurs should be shifting their mind state from raising capital to creating problem-solving products and services for customers. All the start up capital in the world will not make a a bad product successful. At the end of the day, it’s the customers that will decide whether or not you prevail as a business owner, so it’s best to center your strategy around them and not investors.


[Full Sail University]. (2018, February 13). The do’s and don’ts of starting your own business. [Video File]. Retrieved March 20, 2018 from

Kanapi, H. (2017, July 30). 15 entrepreneurship statistics that you should know. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from

McFadden, K. (2013, March 19). Why it is essential to put customers first (and how organizations do it!). Retrieved March 24, 2018 from

McKnight Kurland. (2016, March 3). 5 visual content statistics and infographic. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from

Novellus, R. (2017, April 5).The pros and cons of entrepreneurial partnerships. Retrieved March 24, 2018 from

From Boy Band to Business Baron: Justin Timberlake’s Enterprise

From Boy Band to Business Baron: Justin Timberlake’s Enterprise

Justin Timberlake is one of the most successful entertainers of our time. While most people may know him for his musical genius, he’s an extremely bright businessman. In order to help us understand and appreciate his longevous career, we’re going to analyze his artist business model and break down each component.

Music Value Proposition

Justin Timberlake strives to fill the world with joy through entertainment. In a world contaminated with distress and division, JT creates content that brings people together. From full length albums to feature films, he’s committed to making the world a better place through entertainment and music.

Songs like Until the End of Time illustrate a world where love triumphs over chaos. JT also praises the power of love as an actor. In the movie, In Time, he fights against society’s standards and demonstrates how love can overcome social status. His work doesn’t stop as a singer and actor though, he also composes for films. He served as music composer for The Book of Love, a story about two strangers that help each other heal emotional wounds through friendship and understanding. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Timberlake states that he would “hear movies more than [he] would watch them [as a kid] (Greiving, 2017).” Timberlake consistently promotes the power of love throughout all of his content, which makes his work incredibly valuable to his fans and supporters.

While Justin Timberlake may align his brand with positivity and love, he isn’t without fault. When criticizing JT, some point to the Super Bowl halftime show from 2004, in which he “pulled off part of [Janet] Jackson’s outfit, briefly exposing her right breast in front of… 140 million viewers (Peter, 2018).” But this act can’t solely be the fault of Timberlake. The fact of the matter is that the halftime show performance is rehearsed to precision. The notion that JT would do something off-the-cuff is unlikely. The entire fiasco had to be prepared, more than likely as a way to increase ratings. Justin Timberlake has apologized for the situation on various occasions. Given his behavior since the event, one can safely assume that he learned his lesson and will not make mistakes of this magnitude again.

Streams of Revenue

In an interview with Kiplinger, Thomas Corley explains the correlation between millionaires and multiple sources of income. He stated that millionaires “calculate risks with their money to create [multiple] revenue streams (Block, 2017).” Justin Timberlake is no different. Despite his cordial demeanor, he’s an adamant businessman. Most artists depend on digital music streams, merchandise sales, and tours to make money, but JT finds other avenues. Not only does he generate revenue from digital song sales and touring, but he also acquires income from his acting career. JT has had an acting role in 18 films, including Alpha DogFriends with Benefits, and Wonder Wheel (Fandango, n.d.). He’s also a sound composer for films, co-founded Sauza 901 liquor, founded the William Rast Clothing Line, and is a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies (Kreps, 2014). Below is an illustration highlighting six forms of revenue for Justin Timberlake. He receives income from all of these enterprises.

Partners / Mediators that help generates revenue streams

“The power of one… is formidable, but the power of many working together is better. (Arroyo, n.d.).” One can accomplish many things and get very far on their own, but reaching new echelons will require the help of others. There are various partners that JT must work with in order to generate revenues from his businesses. In terms of music, he must work with his record label (Tennman Records) and Interscope Records to create, distribute, and market recordings. The label does many things on behalf of JT, including securing intellectual property, such as copyrights. Having control over the copyrights allows the label to produce products using JT’s name and likeness. The label is also responsible for establishing licensing deals with music streaming platforms (such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora), TV shows, and movies. They must also distribute the recordings to digital and physical retailers. On top all of these duties, the record label is in charge of marketing and promoting the music. Various groups (such as Legal, Finance, Accounting, and Marketing) collaborate from within the organization to generate revenue.

Live Nation is another important partner that helps generate revenues for Justin Timberlake. According to Live Nation, “every 18 minutes,” one of their events is taking place (n.d.). This worldwide company has such a grasp on the live entertainment industry, it’s a no brainer for JT to partner with them for his The Man of The Woods Tour (Live Nation, 2018). Performing at 27 cities in 17 days is no easy feat. He requires an experienced company to handle logistics, secure venues, promote the tour, and sell tickets in order to pull it off. This partnership allows him to rehearse appropriately without worrying about managing the day to day business aspects of a tour.

“Celebrities can make brands appear relevant… and help foster trust” but they can also “destroy the same trust” when the two parties do not complement each other (Schlossberg, 2016). In order for celebrity endorsements to be successful, there must be a clear connection between the two. Not having this connection will raise a red flag to consumers who feel the partnership is fabricated. Justin Timberlake has done a great job developing partnerships with brands that match his persona, one of them being with Sequential Brands Group.

Sequential Brands Group is the parent company of the William Rast clothing line, which JT co-founded with Trace Ayala in 2005 (Chan, 2016). He depends on Sequential Brands Group to manufacture quality clothing, hire models that will showcase the garments, market the apparel to the public through various mediums (including magazines and websites), and distribute the clothing to major retailers (such as Macy’s and Dillard’s). The partnership makes sense because the clothing resembles JT’s brand and appeals to his target audience. The apparel is advertised as premium (just like Justin Timberlake’s persona) yet affordable (for his younger fans aged 18-24).

Another partner JT works with is Sauza Tequila. “As a tequila lover and entrepreneur, [he] wanted to bring the passion and dedication that went into every bottle of his 901 Tequila to his fans (Sauza 901, n.d.).” He has adamantly crowned tequila as his favorite alcoholic beverage, so having his own line is not so farfetched. This partnership makes sense because his influence over the public can increase sales for Sauza, and the increase in sales will add more revenue to his name. He’s also a tequila aficionado and does not shy away from it.

While some may argue that artists should not be endorsing alcohol (especially since there are so many teenage music fans), at the end of the day we all have minds of our own. Martha Lockie from New Life House (an alcohol rehabilitation center in California) published an interesting article on the topic. She agrees that celebrities endorsing alcohol makes a parent’s job more challenging, but she also stated that “vilifying celebrities or alcohol companies” is not the solution (Lockie, n.d.). She goes on to state that “families who demonstrate healthy drinking habits at home, clear boundaries and consistent consequences when family guidelines are ignored [will be more equipped at] handling possible alcohol and drug abuse in their children (n.d.).” Every parent must make it their mission to instill principle and morality within their children. Having these values will allow a person to understand right from wrong, and that includes being influenced down the wrong path. The general public should have no issue with Timberlake’s 901 tequila.

In his role as an actor, he partnered with WME (his talent agency) to acquire roles in movies and TV shows. WME is the first talent agency in the world (Charity Buzz, n.d.), so it makes sense that JT would rely on their expertise for his acting career. The talent agency acquired the business of booking all of his events as an actor and performer in 2013 (Halperin, 2013). That means that WME now manages his tours, books his live events, identifies acting opportunities for him, and even finds endorsements deals for him. They play an integral role in his success as a celebrity, influencer and performer.

His role as a minority owner of the Memphis Grizzlies also creates a partnership between him and the organization. This partnership is less demanding though. Since he is only a minority owner, he does not have the authority or responsibility associated with being a majority owner. Majority owners assign GM’s and are heavily involved in basketball operations. Timberlake on the other hand, just enjoys rooting for his hometown basketball team and watching his investment grow. The organization’s revenues have increased by an annual average of 5.3% over the past decade (Statista, 2018) and is currently valued at $1.025B (Forbes, 2018).

Essential Activities to Generate Revenue

There are various activities that must happen in order to generate the revenues I have identified. JT has to write songs and rehearse his performances in order to provide his services as an artist and actor. Marketing, selling, licensing and music distribution is also required for him to generate revenue from his talents. Other important activities include social media management, personal brand development, legal overview, accounting and financial analysis. Below is an illustration listing the key activities.

In order to get a better understanding of how these essential activities generate revenue, we will examine them individually.

  • Songwriting – This activity is essential for any artist. Although Timberlake is highly regarded for writing his own songs, many people have no idea that he has written hits for other artists. He wrote Blow and Rocket for Beyoncé in 2013, Rehab for Rihanna in 2007, and Miles Away for Madonna in 2008 (Stephens, 2017). His writing skills bring in the loot, but more importantly, they allow him to maintain his celebrity. Fresh material is required create momentum for a tour, place JT on the music charts, and sustain his relevance in a fast-paced industry.
  • Music composition – Not only does JT produce music for his own works, but he also composes for films. This requires him to be in the studio experimenting with sounds until he can match melodies with movies. One example of a song he composed for film is Can’t Stop the Feeling!, which was featured in the film Trolls. Timberlake went on to win a Grammy for “best song written for visual media” with Can’t Stop the Feeling!(Brown, 2017). The recording had “2.4 million downloads in 2016 [and was] streamed nearly 700 million times,” making it the top-selling track in 2016 (Newman, 2016). I think it’s wise to say that composing music is an essential activity for JT’s business model.
  • Marketing – This activity is extremely important. Timberlake can make the greatest music compositions for film and release the ultimate sound recordings, but without effective marketing many will never know. Marketing requires money, but a person with Timberlake’s celebrity can pay with other resources. This activity is imperative to maximizing ticket sales and making tours profitable. Social media is a big tool for marketing, which is the next activity we’ll discuss.
  • Social Media Management – Social media is everything right now. In order for JT to reach his core audience, he must be active on social media. His busy schedule makes that challenging though. To solve this problem, JT has to hire somebody to manage, oversee, and analyze his social media accounts. Traditional business professionals might not see the value in social media, but JT’s team sure does. “90% of Instagram users are younger than 35 (Pennsylvania State University, 2015),” making it the ideal place for Timberlake to reach his core audience. Posting pictures, uploading videos, and sharing glimpses of his private life allow Timberlake to speak with his fans and monetize an emotional connection.
  • Personal Brand Development – Even though Justin Timberlake has seen an extremely high level of success, he must continue to grow and cultivate his brand. Working with a brand strategist will allow him to continue growing as a celebrity and will help him identify areas of weakness, as well as strengths.
  • Performance Rehearsals – Practice makes perfect. In order to put on the best performances, JT must rehearse. According to Willis, Timberlake rehearsed eight to ten hours per day as he prepared for his Super Bowl Halftime Show (2018). One can only imagine how much time he is dedicating to his nationwide tour.
  • Selling – A dedicated sales team is needed to generate revenue. Sales people “establish relationships with retail stores, rack jobbers, and online outlets to set up channels of distribution for album sales (Get in Media, n.d.).” This group of people communicates with merchants and provides JT’S record label with all the information required to maximize sales, including: quantity of merchandise required, market area demographics, and monthly sales reports.
  • Licensing – This activity allows Timberlake to make money by having his music featured in films, commercials, TV shows, and even online music streaming sites. Licensing allows third-party entities “the right to use the music in a visual space (McDonald, 2018).” For a fee, Timberlake will allow a third-party entity, such a film company, to use one of his songs in their movie.
  • Music Distribution – How can Timberlake make money from selling his music and merchandise if it’s not available to consume? In order to get revenue from songs streams and digital downloads (as well as vinyl and physical cd sales) the music must be accessible to his fans. This is why music distribution is an essential task. His record label (and more specifically his sales team) will ensure that the music is sent to all the appropriate retailers so fans can listen and buy his products.
  • Legal Overview – A legal team is extremely important in any business sector, especially one as highly scrutinized as the music industry. I labeled legal overview as an essential activity because JT must abide by all copyright and federal laws in order to continue doing business in the U.S. The legal team will also steer JT away from unlawful activities that might implicate his celebrity in a negative manner.
  • Accounting – Justin Timberlake may have millions of dollars, but who’s counting? His accounting team tracks costs and expenditures, puts money aside for taxes, classifies revenue and expenses, and balance the checkbook. Accountants are essential to any business. During fast-paced times, such as touring, they are even more important. These individuals allow JT’s to see where the money is going to and coming from, which will identify trends and allow them to maximize profitability.
  • Financial Analysis – The Finance Team is also an integral part of JT’s business model. They manage investments, analyze revenues, forecast finances, create budgets, identify the most profitable projects, and develop plans for upcoming endeavors. Without their support, it would be very difficult to know the risk and reward associated with a project (like a tour) or an investment (like the Memphis Grizzlies).


There are various expenses related to the revenue streams that have been identified, including music production costs (studio time, mixing and mastering, production rates, etc.) advertising expenditures, salaries (accountants, financial analysts, legal team, sales team, etc.), copyright registration costs and music distribution fees. Costs associated with touring also create heavy expenses.

Record labels tend to invest anywhere from $150,000 – $500,00 in an artist’s recording and up to $300,000 in video production (IFPI, n.d.). This is the price an artist must pay in order to compete in the music industry. Utilizing state of the art equipment, collaborating in other famous artists, and hiring the most experienced music professionals to work on your projects comes with a substantial price tag, but as you can see from the graph below, it’s not such a bad idea.

According to Statista, in 2016, over 190 billion dollars were dedicated to marketing in the United States (2017). This figure is staggering and illustrates how great of an expense advertising truly is. However, it is essential to any business. You have to invest money to make money. JT knows that Tequila 901 commercials, William Rast magazine articles, and online commercials for his tour will create dividends for him and his businesses. Often times, it’s the difference between being seen/heard or being invisible/mute.

Salaries are another big expense. Accounts/Financial Analysts and Attorneys may not have a lot of things in common, but one thing they both love is money. In 2017, accountants earned $50K, financial analysts earned $56K, and attorneys earned $91K on average (, 2018). Let’s say JT has three accountants, two financial analysts and three attorneys on his team. According to the figures provided by, that would result in $588K in annual salaries (just for his finance and legal team). Keep in mind that these particular professionals are more than likely to get paid above average, especially if they’re hired by a celebrity and expected to work on the tour. Other important salaries to consider include the marketing team, personal brand strategist and social media manager.

Touring also incurs expenditures. Rental equipment, booking venues, lodging and meals, gas, airfare, insurance, salaries, promotion, and commissions for the booking agency all add up pretty quickly. This is why having a finance and accounting team is extremely important, as well as teaming up with an established live events company like Live Nation. With the help of these professionals an artist will end up generating money and not losing it.

Future Opportunities to Create Revenue

Justin Timberlake has a diverse business portfolio. His personal brand allows him to venture off into territory that many artists cannot. After reviewing his current business model, I believe I have identified two future opportunities for him to create even more revenue. One capitalizes on his festive personality and the other revolves around his involvement in the entertainment industry.

Owning a nightclub would be a great business endeavor for Justin Timberlake. He is an extremely popular celebrity that many other stars are drawn to. His music and personality have the power to drawn in the female demographic, which will in turn attract the males into the nightclub as well. This would be a great opportunity to promote and sell his Sauza 901 liquor brand as well. He can create specialized drinks and an entire menu completely off the beverage, while playing many of his hits throughout the night. I think this would be a great chance for him to generate more income and stay true to his brands.

Another business venture I believe can serve him well is establishing a Film Production Company. He has proven his love for film and music, so why not take it up a notch and create a full-fledged movie production company. If writing scripts isn’t his forte, he can source it out to various talented directors in the industry, which will allow him to focus on the soundtrack and music composition for the film. I certainly feel like this move would be natural and make a lot of sense. He could be a brilliant director or producer, with the right partnership of course.

JT is a brilliant artist and businessman. He’s had his moments away from the spotlight, but if one examines closely they’ll discover he’s always been involved; somewhere behind the scenes composing for films or writing songs for other artists. He’s on a career high right now and has found his second wind. In the era of social media, I see JT’s personal brand skyrocketing. There’s no limit to what he can accomplish and how much he can earn.


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What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

What Facebook’s Licensing Deals mean for YouTube

Earlier in the year, Facebook secured licensing deals with Sacem, Socan, and Wix Publishing. The social media company had previously secured licensing deals with Universal Music Group, Sony Music, and Warner Music (Welch, 2018). These licensing deals illustrate Facebook’s desire to attract more users to its platform through music, but more importantly, it show’s the company’s commitment to work with the music community as we try to turn streaming into a sustainable source of income. In order to show their consideration for music creators and rights holders, Facebook hired Tamara Hrivnak. Hrivnak was the Director of Music Partnerships at YouTube for six years, and prior to that position she was the VP of Digital Strategy & Business Affairs for Warner/Chappel Music Publishing (Levine, 2017). Her experience will be extremely valuable to Facebook’s efforts and could give them a favorable advantage as they prepare to battle against YouTube for music video consumers.

I remember when bootlegging was extremely prevalent in the early 2000’s. There was one artist here in my hometown, Houston, that would literally find bootleggers and fight them during that time. But for every bootlegger he battered, two more appeared. Although he was upset about missing out on sales due to the bootlegged copies of his music, he did notice that his fan base was growing. Eventually he set up a meeting with all of the bootleggers in town with the intent of making them authorized sellers. The meeting did not go well. The bootleggers said they could only afford to pay him .05% of his asking price; an asking price he felt was already extremely low. Needless to say, he was outraged. He continued to battle with them for months, but they just wouldn’t go away. After hundreds of brawls, his stamina and resolve were finally depleted. He gave in and allowed the bootleggers to legally sell his product on their payment terms, and he’s been stuck with this awful deal ever since. The bootleggers in this story represent YouTube, and the artist represents music companies and publishers.

YouTube has been a thorn in the Music Industry’s side for quite some time, particularly due to what is known as the value gap. According to IFPI, the value gap illustrates the “growing mismatch between the value that user upload services, such as YouTube, extract from music and the revenue returned to the music community (2017).” In other words, the value gap explains the variance between the benefits YouTube receives from uploading music on their platforms and the money that labels and artists obtain from those activities. As you can see from the chart below, the difference is blatant.

Does FB’s licensing deals prove that the music industry is regaining authority in a tech-driven world? If Facebook is able to take some video consumption away from YouTube, it could give labels, publishing companies, and artists more power in terms of negotiation. YouTube has grown tremendously over the years. One can argue that this growth is primarily due to how YouTube has been able to integrate music into their platform. According to the 2016 IFPI Music Consumer Insight Report, 93% of YouTube users aged 16-24 utilize the platform to access music, while 82% of total users utilize it for music listening (IFPI, 2017). With over 1 billion users, YouTube is the most popular platform for music streaming. YouTube is able to attract a large number of consumers and advertisers due to their music catalogue, however, they fail to pass on suitable revenues to the copyright owners of that music (primarily because the service is free). One may argue that the copyright owners should prohibit YouTube from showcasing their music until a fair price can be agreed upon, but it’s not that simple. With over 1 billion users (82% being music consumers), YouTube has all of the bargaining power. Michael Weston once said, “To win a negotiation you have to show you’re willing to walk away. And the best way to show you’re willing to walk away is to walk away (Wise Old Sayings, n.d.). It’s difficult to walk away from 1 billion customers though. Even if they are not paying for the digital version of the music, artists and music companies can recoup the losses through revenues from live shows and merchandise. Labels and publishers certainly do not want to leave 1 billion potential customers at the table. But if they have the opportunity to serve those same customers on a different platform (like Facebook) then they may not be hesitant to leave. That’s what makes this development so dynamic and noteworthy.

YouTube and Facebook could soon be in a bitter war to see who can reign supreme over the video streaming market. All the while, music labels and publishers will be standing idly by, waiting to see which platform wants their songs the most. As demand for digital music increases, the price will have to increase as well. I believe recorded music is extremely devalued and that people have acquired a false sense of entitlement when it comes to accessing music. Facebook’s willingness to negotiate with labels and publishers shows that they have an appreciation for music and want to create a partnership with our industry. I commend them for that and applaud them for producing a new revenue stream for creators and right holders.

I believe the music industry is taking initiative by engaging with social media companies. This endeavor creates various opportunities for music industry professionals. Facebook hiring Tamara Hrivnak (a former music business expert) is a perfect example of this. Tech companies understand how important it is to have an industry insider on their side, especially when it comes to negotiating deals.

Technology and music have always had an unsanctioned marriage. In order for the music industry to remain relevant, we have to find ways to stay ahead of the curve. Music streaming has proven to be a profitable source of income for labels and publishers for two years in a row, so it’s only right to ride the wave and widen the stream of revenues. As new social media companies enter the market, they will also be required to do what Facebook is doing if they want to incorporate music into their platform. This deal sets the standard for the future of music in the social media era. I just hope we can stay ahead of the next technological curve so we never have to accept terms from a position of weakness again.


IFPI (2017). Music consumer insight report 2016. IFPI. Retrieved from

IFPI (2017). Rewarding creativity – fixing the value gap. IFPI. Retrieved from

Levine, R. (2017, January 1). Facebook hires YouTube’s Tamara Hrivnak to lead global music strategy. Billboard. Retrieved March from

Nicolaou, A. (2018, March 18). Facebook strikes new music licensing deals. Financial Times. Retrieved from

Welch, C. (2018, March 9). Facebook now has music licensing dealsw tih all three major labels. The Verge. Retrieved from

Wise Old Sayings (n.d.). Negotiation Sayings and Quotes. Wise Old Sayings.

Nipsey’s Hustle

Nipsey’s Hustle

Over the years, Nipsey Hussle has never conformed to the undeclared rules of the music industry. In 2013, he received critical acclaim for his mixtape “Crenshaw,” and the marketing tactics he used to communicate its value. During a time when most artists were releasing free mixtapes on, he decided to do something different. He made 1,000 physical mixtape copies and put a $100 price tag on each one. In an interview with Rap Radar’s B.Dot, Nipsey stated the $100 “isn’t the price of the plastic case and polyurethane disc… it’s the price of revolution! The price of rebellion against an industry that has tricked us all into making products that have no soul for fear of not being heard (2013, October).” He labeled the campaign “Proud 2 Pay” and sold every copy he pressed “in under 24 hours… even though the mixtape would be available for free download the next morning (Hunte, 2013).” This move sparked conversation in the Hip-Hop community and gave his core fans the opportunity to show appreciation for his work. Jay-Z bought the first 100 copies (Markman, 2013).

Hussle was recently in the public eye for teaming up with DJ Khaled to “purchase a historic Los Angeles hotel” in Santa Monica, California (India, 2018). He has a history of investing and thinking outside of the Hip-Hop world. In 2013, he invested in Bitcoin and is now a frontrunner in the emerging technology (Kennedy, 2018). He’s very business savvy and diversifies his business portfolio by exploring opportunities outside of music.

During a time when artists are releasing 3-minute singles to capture the diminishing time span of people, Hussle released a full-length album, Victory Lap, that demands attention. He has features from prominent artists, such as Kendrick Lamar, CeeLo Green, Marsha Ambrosius, YG and Puff Daddy, making his project noteworthy. He also has an underdog feel to him, which is why I believe people resonate with his music. He’s inspiration to any entrepreneur, and illustrates how going against the grain can be beneficial in establishing your brand and differentiating yourself from the competition. It’s all a part of the hustle.


B.Dot. (2013, October 4). Nipsey Hussle on releasing $100 album. Retrieved from

Hunte, J. (2013, October 18). Proud to pay: Nipsey Hussle’s new rule on grassroots marketing. Retrieved from

India, L. (2018, March 6). Nipssey Hussle and DJ Khaled invest in bid to purchase historic Los Angeles hotel. Retrieved from

Kennedy, J. (2018, January 16). A beginner’s guide to bitcoin and cryptocurrency, according to Nipsey Hussle. Retrieved from

Markman, R. (2013, October 9). Jay Z spent how much on Nipsey Hussle’s Crenshaw cd? Retrieved from

Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of Music Companies

Evaluating the Strengths and Weaknesses of Music Companies

Interscope Records is a staple in the Music Industry. It is important to assess the major companies in your designated industry in order to learn how to conduct business and be efficient.

One strength for Interscope Records is their roster and portfolio. They have very established artists that can generate buzz, produce revenues for the company and draw talent. Some of the bigger acts include: Dr. Dre, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Kendrick Lamar, Madonna and Selena Gomez. Below are some figures that show how popular and wealthy these artists are.

Interscope Artists – Networth and IG Followers
Artist Net Worth IG Followers
Dr. Dre $830m 2.9m
Madonna $800m 10.2m
Eminem $190m 14.5m
Gwen Stefani $100m 7.1m
Selena Gomez $60m 128m
Kendrick Lamar $35m 7.7m

These music figures are brands with extreme influence over the entertainment industry. Having these assets gives Interscope strength because these artists are brands that can persuade the general population to support Interscope, which will lead to greater brand awareness and revenues for the company.

A weakness of Interscope is their inability to devote valuable resources equally among artists. According to an article published on The Balance, “as a new signing… [artists are] likely to find [themselves] fighting for attention from the label” (McDonald, 2017). Having huge acts under Interscope’s umbrella creates challenges for the company. A new artist may sign with the company in hopes of accelerating their music career, but will likely find themselves struggling to gain the support from the label. Capital is often allocated to projects that have the highest rate of return. It will be difficult for a new artist to gain funding for their project if Kendrick Lamar requires those same resources. This weakness is the side-effect of having a star-studded roster, but it’s still a weakness nevertheless.

The departments that would be responsible for Interscope’s strengths and weaknesses include the A&R Department, the Finance group and the Marketing team. The A&R Department is responsible for finding and developing talent. This team works with artists to keep them happy and grow their career, while ensuring the talent creates revenue for Interscope. They played a major role in establishing the acts I have listed above (strength) but they are also relied upon to cater to new artists. When they cannot get new acts the resources they need to elevate their career, they are creating internal weaknesses for the company. Finance has a role in the strengths and weaknesses as well because they must properly present projects in a way that upper manage finds appealing and noteworthy. When they present the projects effectively, they get the capital needed to pursue them. However, if they cannot show the benefits of the projects they can be put on hold. The effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the Finance group affects new and established artists, which can either magnify the strength or weakness I have listed. Lastly, the marketing team must promote artists and bring appealing products to the general public’s attention. They are strengthening the company when they successfully promote a new album by Kendrick Lamar, but weakening it when new acts feel ignored or overlooked, which will eventually lead to broken ties. These three departments must function at the highest level in order to fortify strengths and diminish weaknesses.

One great opportunity for Interscope Records is music streaming. Striking deals with home speakers like Google Home or Echo are opportunities that Interscope should invest time and resources on. Perhaps there can be some sort of agreement that Interscope’s artists stream out of the speakers when a person feels like casually listening to music while cooking or cleaning. Music companies must be creative in order to get the most out of music streaming while it’s trending.

A threat for Interscope Records is the rise of independent artists. Technology and social media has given artists the tools to build their brands without the help of conventional record labels. As stated in an article published on Forbes, “streaming services like Apple Music are stepping in to oversee traditional label responsibilities…, making the future of artist development even more cryptic.” (Hu, 2016). Technological and social companies are able to support artists in the same ways a music company can, with a little bit more flexibility. Artists no longer need to rely on music companies like Interscope to launch their career. There are more options on the market now, which will continue to threaten Interscope’s ability to attract the talent they need to remain relevant.

Trends that have impacted Interscope Records is the rise of social media and the way technology has been successfully interwoven with music. Music streaming is a perfect example of this notion. This is a both an opportunity and a threat. The opportunities involve embracing this new innovative music listening experience. Music streaming allows artists and companies to gain revenues every time a fan plays their music. On the flip side, the payouts offered by music streaming platforms are minimal. This creates a threat because artists want to make the most money out of their craft. It’s a slippery slope that record companies must approach very carefully. They want artists to embrace this new music listening experience, but in order to do so they must offer other incentives. I think the record labels that can convey the benefits of music streaming, while still offering artists creative ways to earn more money from recorded music, will flourish under this current environment. I trust that Interscope, under the guidance of UMG, will be able to do just that.



Hu, C. (2016, October 15). The Record Labels Of The Future Are Already Here. Forbes. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Celebrity Networth. (n.d.). Selena Gomez’s Net Worth. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Strohm, M. (2017, February 8). Dr. Dre Net Worth. Bankrate. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Terry, L. (2017, June 23). Eminem’s net Worth is $190 million. Bankrate. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Zelinsky-Syarto, M. (2017, April 10). Gwen Stefani’s Net Worth is $100 million. Bankrate. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Dabholkar, S. (2017, April 12). “King of West Coast Rap” Worth? Earn the Necklace. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Lynch, J. (2014, December 2). Madonna Bests Paul McCartney as World’s Richest Recording Artist. Billboard. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

McDonald, H. (2017, March 6). Understanding the Pros and Cons of Label Record Deals. The Balance. Retrieved on October 4, 2017 from:

Popular Culture in Music: How Times Change

Popular Culture in Music: How Times Change

Music plays an important part of popular culture and essentially breeds symbols and genres that are to be associated with myths. Incorporating older components of media into a new design allows the creator to utilize symbols that have proven to be effective in the past. Not only can a creator expand their reach by incorporating an older piece of popular culture into a new work of art, but they can also strengthen and reinforce their ideas by integrating media that supports their message. There is no point in reinventing the wheel, it has already been done. One can, however, improve the wheel by adding new aspects that advance upon the original creation. Or one can use the wheel’s design as inspiration for a new product. This is essentially the same mind state many people have when merging an older media creation into a modern project. I view samples in songs as quotes. Just as when a person uses a quote to strengthen their points, one can use a sample to strengthen their song. Hip-Hop artist Future was able to do just that by incorporating a sample from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” into his now triple platinum single “Mask Off.”

“Prison Song” is a 1976 record featured on Tommy Butler’s “Selma” Album, which is also a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Civil Rights Movement was a breakthrough political campaign in America’s history that brought attention to the oppression of African Americans, even after slavery was abolished. It paved the way for racial uniformity and equal opportunity. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the forefront of the crusade and was one of the driving forces behind its momentum. His contributions enabled many people within the black community to stand up against cultural injustice. Without his influence, it is unclear where America would be today. Tommy Butler used “Selma” as a medium to illuminate this pivotal piece of American History. “Selma” is not only an album, but it was also a 1978 musical play. The play puts black history in the limelight and highlights the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. played the leading role in establishing voter registration. The city of Selma, AL became the foundation for this voter registration reform. That is the reason why Tommy Butler chose to name the musical play “Selma.” The play received backlash from mainstream media due to its unapologetic perspective towards racial injustice, but it paved the way for African Americans to voice their struggle and oppression. “Prison Song” is a piece that echoes Martin Luther King’s perspective about fighting racism in a nonviolent way. Tommy Butler tells his target audience how violence will only lead to prison, which will further confine the African American’s body and spirit. He states that one must be forgiving towards their persecutors, as they are oblivious to their wrongdoing. It’s a powerful song with a mix of Blues, Soul, Funk, Gospel, and Jazz. These genres that are popular within the African American Community, which allowed the piece to resonate with the target audience.

“Mask Off” is a Rap/Hip-Hop single released by Future in 2017 for his self-titled studio album “Future.” The song was created in conjunction with renowned Hip-Hop Producer Metro Boomin. “Mask Off” has been crowned as a certified Triple Platinum single as of July 14, 2017, proving the notion that it has connected with Hip-Hop fans across America. Future is known for his catchy style and eccentric delivery. “Mask off” features a captivating flute (which is a sample from Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song”) throughout the composition and has a Soul feel to it that has permitted it to stand out in the competitive music market. Throughout the song, Future speaks on drugs, robbery, poverty, and money. These topics often resonate with people living in inner city communities. Although “Mask Off” may sound shallow at first, the fact that “Prison Song” was incorporated into the work makes one think there is more to the song that rap clichés. I believe the song’s success can be attributed to Metro Boomin’s production, as well as Future’s rap style. Future is a well-known artist with a powerful fan base and practically anything he touches becomes a hit. Regardless of that notion, the sample of “Prison Song” cannot be overlooked. It is another contributing force that makes the single noteworthy.

I believe “Prison Song” was successfully incorporated into “Mask Off” because although the two pieces do not technically speak on the same topic, they both touch on the subject of oppression, poverty, and the battles that many African Americans face. Tommy Butler speaks of forgiving one’s oppressor throughout “Prison Song,” and explains how participating in violence will eventually land one in prison and add to the mental suffering already being endured by African Americans. Going to prison and being locked in cell of anguish is exactly what his oppressors want. In Butler’s eyes, it’s better to be the bigger person and rise above violence. He has adopted Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideology. On “Mask Off,” Future glorifies drugs, robbery, and money (topics that are often the focal point of many mainstream Hip-Hop songs). Despite the glorifications, his presence over the song illustrates how he has been able to drive through social barriers in order to reach fame and success within the Music Industry. Future has been able to achieve this level of success by embracing his community’s struggles and speaking on the aspirations and urges associated with people living in poverty. The two songs touch on oppression, but in different forms. By incorporating a sample from “Prison Song” into “Mask Off,” Future is also acknowledging the struggles his ancestors endured that allow him and others to follow their dreams. He’s paying homage to the ones before him.

At first, the connection between the two creations is not very clear. Tommy Butler’s “Prison Song” is a very soulful composition filled with sorrow and concern, while Future’s “Mask Off” is very flamboyant and bold in nature. But after watching the music video for “Mask Off,” one can clearly see the correlations between the two pieces. In the music video, Future is featured riding around in an extravagant Bentley while riots and revolts are occurring around him. People in masks are fighting against policemen dressed in riot gear. Flames engulf the streets as the revolution ensues. One can quickly make an easy comparison between the two songs and draw further analysis. In “Prison Song,” Tommy Butler speaks on being forgiving and compassionate when dealing with oppression, as it’s the only way to stay out of a physical and mental prison. The oppressors in his case are the Ku Klux Klan and other prejudice groups. In the video for “Mask Off,” the oppressors are racist police officers wrongfully killing unarmed minority groups. In the last verse of the song, Future is performing on top of a building an inciting the revolution. He then says, “Mask On, **** it Mask Off,” as if he is not afraid to show his face and reveal his identity to his oppressors. Although both Tommy Butler and Future want the same outcome (racial equality) they have different means of obtaining that result. One wants to do it through mercy, while the other wants to do it through rebellion. The two examples have a shared meaning but speak in different contexts, which completely changes the overall message.

These two pieces are a part of different time periods in American History, yet they both revolve around the same topic. That topic is racial inequality and oppression. Tommy Butler is speaking from a position of disadvantage, as he is at the mercy of his oppressors and uses forgiveness and understanding as his line of defense. Future, on the other hand, is speaking from a position of strength as he is a wealthy music figure with incredible reach and influence. He believes rebellion and revolt are the way to defend against racism. Although Future has a different message, his song embodies the same topic. I believe that is why he and Metro Boomin decided to sample “Prison Song.” By incorporating this older piece of musical media (which is also a piece of African American culture and U.S. History), Future is fortifying his perspective on oppression, poverty, and social injustice. He is also expanding his reach to older audiences that are familiar with Tommy Butler and illustrating that he understands the importance his ancestors played in his modern success. The sample serves as an artifact that highlights the notion that some things don’t change. Although we have come far in regards to racial equality, racism and discrimination still exists. Rather than trying to hide these realities behind his incredible fortune and fame, Future chooses to take the “Mask Off” and show where he stands. He stands brazen in the face of his oppressors, unfazed and resilient.



FunkDawg0711 [username]. (2008, September 15). Tommy Butler – Prison Song [Video File]. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

West, M. (2017, January 16). Selma, The Musical: An Unheard Song. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Holden, S. (1984, February 22). Stage: ‘Selma’ At the Federal. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Gold & Platinum – “Mask Off.” Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

(n.d.). Here’s the 1976 Sample metro Boomin used for Future’s “Mask Off” Single. Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Witmer, P. (2017, February 23). A Brief History of That Kickass Flute Sample on Future’s “Mask Off.” Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Mench, C. (2017, February 21). Does Future’s “Mask Off” use a flute sample from the 1976 Musical ‘Selma?’ Retrieved on September 2nd 2017 from:

Lessons from Vinyl’s Resurgence

Lessons from Vinyl’s Resurgence

The music industry is constantly evolving with the fast pace development of technology, as are many products and services in the world of commerce. Although technology tends to move us forward, ever so often it satisfies nostalgia. Whenever these situations occur, one must examine it in order to find further opportunities.

Although vinyl sales make up a small portion of the music industry’s revenue as a whole, I believe the trend is noteworthy and deserves attention because it provides insight into a far greater theme. Business Insider published an article last month about the uptick in vinyl sales. It was accompanied by great graphs and stats.

As the music industry becomes more intertwined with technology, physical music mediums are beginning to diminish. Streaming platforms have made the distributing of music a seamless process. One no longer has to go to a record store (or a digital store) in order to access music. Spotify and Apple Music provides a colossal catalogue of songs for a monthly payment. The advancement of technology contributed to the rise of music streaming and consequently minimized the power of physical (and digital) record sales. One example that illustrate this notion is vehicle manufacturing. New cars are no longer sold with CD players. Smart Technology in vehicles allows one to play their favorite songs from their mobile device; physical music mediums are no longer required. However, I find it ironic that vinyl records could see a consistent increase in sales during the music streaming revolution. It is my conclusion that this trend is occurring because although music streaming has the capacity to deliver tunes to us in a convenient manner, it is inadvertently diminishing the consumer’s listening experience. Fans are attempting to regain that higher involvement with music by looking to the past, but it’s up to us in the industry to reinvent that feeling and bring it to the present.

I believe this trend illustrates the idea that more and more music fans want an enhanced listening experience. Two examples I can think of are headphones and live concerts. High cost headphones have seen an upsurge in the past few years. Since 2013, headphone unit sales have annually increased by 11% on average, according to Statista. When Beats by Dre came out a few years ago, they were marketed as providing studio quality sound in a fashionable package. Fans wanted that greater listening experience, so they bought into expensive headphones/earphones. They have continued to do so on a consistent basis. Festivals and concerts are also becoming more prevalent among music fans. According to statistics compiled by Statistic Brain, concert ticket sales have increased by approximately 37% since 2011. These figures are astounding and they all have a common theme: People don’t want to listen to music, they want to experience it. The upsurge in vinyl sales provides perspective into this notion.

Since vinyl sales make up a very small percentage of music industry revenues (4.6% in 2016), I do not believe it will have a personal or professional impact on me within the next few years. However, the overlaying theme in the trend (people wanting a superior listening experience) most certainly will. Music companies and artists will have to be creative in order to capitalize on this opportunity. Making great music is not enough; it has to be delivered in exceptional fashion.

The two graphs I found on do a great job of providing insight into the trend. The first one illustrates the change in sales, while including the vinyl market share as well. However, I believe the graph is still ambiguous. There is missing information and figures that could provide greater insight into the trend. The vinyl pie graph has information I would like to see incorporated into the first chart, but I also believe adding the age demographics of vinyl buyers, as well as music genres, would be beneficial. This is too much information for one graph so I think splitting the information onto two separate charts would be the best option. I created mock graphs with made-up figures to illustrate how the graphs would look. I attached the graphs, but also provided the Excel workbook with all of the data for those who would like to see it.

Three external factors that could influence the trend of vinyl sales (and ultimately the music consumer’s desire for a greater listening experience) include: Customer Base, Technology, and Music Companies/Artists. According to an article published in 2016 by Digital Music News, people aged 18-34 account for nearly 50% of all vinyl purchases. Most of this age demographic wasn’t even around when vinyl was the dominant source of recorded music revenue. This customer base is also the age group most active in music listening. Only time will tell how the upcoming generations will choose to experience music. I believe there is still a huge untapped market in the older demographic age group. Technology is also a factor that will affect the way people experience music. Artificial Intelligence is slowly creeping it’s way into the music industry. Market adaptability and the capacity to target new opportunities technology presents will determine whether the industry can continue to grow with technology, or get left behind. The last factor, is music companies and artists. As I stated before, music companies and artists must find ways to deliver music in new and creative ways. Streaming is trending right now, but as royalty percentages decrease (new licensing deals between music companies and streaming platforms wanting lower royalty payouts) complications will eventually arise. Artists such as Jay-Z have already taken a stand against low royalty pay outs by removing large portions of their catalogue from streaming sites. I believe other artists will do so in the future as well. This will result in innovative methods being utilized to deliver music, outside of streaming platforms. Artists and music companies must be able to leverage technology in order to appeal to consumers and give them the heightened listening experience and fulfill their unmet desires.


UMG’s Management Approach

UMG’s Management Approach

As an active music artist with a long-term goal of managing my own music company, I admire UMG’s success and influence in the music industry. They have a wide array of artists on their roster, such as Drake, The Weekend, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Taylor Swift. They also own the rights to many popular albums and songs from music legends, such as John Lennon, the Beatles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Kiss, and even Eazy-E. Through asset acquisitions (like album copyrights and publishing rights), artist development, market adaptability, innovative leadership, and customer focus, UMG has been able to provide high quality products while putting themselves in a profitable position.
UMG is currently under the leadership of Sir Lucian Grainge. He has been the CEO and Chairman of the Management Board since 2010. Grainge has over 25 years of experience in the music industry and has an extensive background in music publishing. According to an article published by Variety, Universal Music Group’s value has tripled in value since Grainge became the Chairman and CEO of the company.
The music industry has fought hard to break out of the depressive downturn it’s been in for the past 10 years plus. Pirating and digital music sales are some of the factors that contributed to the despair. Music streaming, however, has created an upsurge in revenues for the past two years, and large music corporations love it. UMG is demonstrating effective management because they are showing adaptability to the new music environment. Instead of fighting the changes and complaining about the marginal payouts streaming platforms distribute, UMG has embraced the changing landscape while increasing their revenue. They are also displaying their customer focus by taking initiative and become engaged in the new market.
According to statistics compiled by, UMG has the largest music industry market share when compared to all other music companies, accounting for 29%. Sony and Warner Music make up 22% and 17%, respectively. The other 31% belongs to all independent music companies not named UMG, Sony, or Warner Music. UMG’s grasp on the music industry can be attributed to their diverse catalogue of music, adaptable marketing strategies, and innovative leadership.

I believe the company demonstrates effective management because they are adapting their business approach and using their current assets to maximize profitability, while making further acquisitions that will increase revenue and grow their footprint in the music industry. They are also providing products in a way that satisfies consumer needs. As they say in business, you have to ride the wave. That wave right now in the music industry is streaming.

Last month, UMG struck a licensing deal with Spotify, the biggest music streaming company at the moment. By making this move, Universal is demonstrating it’s market adaptability by investing in the new music market landscape. According to a publication released by Statista, streaming subscription services accounted for 38% of total music consumption in 2016. This upsurge translated to increased revenues in a market that has seen downturns year after year.

Although UMG is allowing Spotify access to their catalogue, they still included some contingencies to that will be advantageous to the company’s long-term goal of making music streaming profits a sustainable source of income. In order to come to terms, UMG required Spotify to “window” certain albums, where only paid subscribers to the will be allowed access to the music for two weeks. This move was made as an attempt to incentivize going from a free Spotify plan to a monthly subscription. Spotify has also agreed to give UMG access to their massive database, which will give Universal insight into current and future trends listening trends. In an article published through Full Sail’s library, Robert Levine quotes an industry analyst saying, “Universal is the one that can call the shots,” and I couldn’t agree more. UMG is the first of the Big 3 to strike a licensing deal with Spotify. Their market flexibility and ability to position themselves for sustainable growth (while catering to the average music consumer) shows effective management and great leadership skills.


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