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Zone In on Accounting: How to Draw Intelligence from Your Revenue

Header AccountingPart of my job in running The Orchard French and Benelux office with my colleague Philippe Giard is to meet up as regularly as possible with our local labels to discuss life (of course), and the development of the music business. In particular, we serve our clients best by reviewing how things are going in their relationship with us and sharing ideas on how to help this partnership grow even further.

When we do this, we typically prepare a brief presentation/analysis of developments we’ve noticed with their catalogue revenues and trends, whether by artist, top tracks/albums, label imprints when relevant, by store, by source of income (streaming, downloads, YouTube, RingBackTones revenues, etc.) and more.

Those who use our Workstation regularly will have probably already dug into a lot of this for themselves, but a refresher with a few tricks and methodology never hurts, especially when it comes to digging into your revenue data, i.e. money, and working out where more sources and mines of this precious metal can be found and maybe tapped and developed better.

Since we’re talking about actual revenues here, the “Accounting” tab in your Workstation is most useful as it reflects final revenue that has been reported and entered into clients’ accounts. Analytics, on the other hand, shows real-time developments of your label’s catalogue, and though useful to analyze data trends and activity around your content, numbers serve as a guideline and aren’t considered 100% verified until amounts are actually paid.

When using Accounting, I usually start by taking a period that is representative: remember you can now have 1 year’s worth of accounting displayed on your main page. I usually use the last 12 months or four quarters so it includes stronger and weaker sales periods, and I view by Country to spot the top 10 territories where a label’s customer base is most active:

Screenshot Accounting1

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Live Shows Turn Virtual Fans Into Real Ones

kinaGrannisLiveinParis 3Going to concerts is both a privilege and a fun part of my job. Recently, I was able to attend a Kina Grannis show in Paris with my youngest child, 13-year-old Penelope. I found myself taking in the crowd around me, turning my head and watching as the audience reacted, and witnessing casual fans turn into loyal fans — or “fidelisés,” as the French expression goes — as the show went on. Occasionally, I too am so taken by an artist’s show that I become a fan myself. I find this is especially the case when I bring one of my kids with me. At this show, my daughter’s enchantment enthralled me. In fact, I think Penelope could probably write a more convincing post about the concert than me. She was so captured by Kina Grannis’s singing and songwriting talent and presence on stage, which you can see in this video she took during the show (the photo above is also hers).

As professionals in digital music distribution here at The Orchard, we have witnessed many artists develop their fan base through YouTube videos and Internet marketing. In my opinion, Kina Grannis and her management have brought this concept to a very high level, taking on projects most could never even imagine. If you haven’t seen the incredibly sweet music video for her song “In Your Arms,” you will be shocked to learn how much creativity and time was put into it in this Making of “In Your Arms” (Stop Motion Animation) video. It is projects like this that captivate online viewers enough to come back and keep watching.

The pivotal moment, however, comes when you turn your virtual following into something that can actually make you money. In France, and in many other places, we’ve done this for Kina by tapping into our retail connections and securing prime placement across digital storefronts, like iTunes, pictured below.

iTunesPan-EU-MainMusicPage-NewRelease&Brick-KinaGrannis-ElementsDeluxeVersion-061714

Beyond this, time permitting, we can also contribute to more ‘out of the box’ connections aimed at facilitating further recognition and supporting upcoming events. In this case, it could be via one-on-one meetings with key local bloggers and industry figures, such as Virginie Berger from Don’t Believe The Hype (DBTH) Agency or Isabelle Wekstein, a very important legal representative for artists and labels within the French Cultural Industry.

I actually experienced part of this effect at my own personal “expense,” but that expenditure was a positive sign of the possible growth of an artist and the music business in general. There was no way that Penelope, new fan of Kina Grannis, would leave that concert hall without a really cool t-shirt, a poster signed by a very nice woman, and the promise of a signed CD, even if she can — and will — listen to that same music for close to free on various streaming sites. Live shows offer an opportunity to bring in revenue via tickets and merchandise; but, more importantly, they allow artists to connect with fans in a way that makes them more committed to supporting that artist for years to come.

So I’m a bit out of pocket, but really happy to have helped facilitate musical discovery. Thanks Kina and Jonathan, Philippe Giard from The Orchard, and Penelope, of course. And to everyone who helped make this feeling happen, you know who you are…

A Tribute in Music to Ibrahima Sylla

January 22, 2014 Artist News, Featured News Comments Off

ibrahima-syllaI had meant to do my first post of 2014 in a festive spirit: re-living the intensely fun and crazy moments I had as a jury member for The Orchard’s Got Talent at our annual get together. It was something special and the truth is that although I had meant to be sarcastic and harsh in my role, it was very difficult faced with the real talent and sheer courage of every single act that got up on stage and performed — some said I managed still and others said I was too kind so I guess I sort of walked the line.

But on my return to the Paris office, before I had put pen to paper (yes I do still need rapidly indecipherable squiggles to help me think), I heard the sad and bad news of the passing of someone I had worked with over the last twenty-five years — a great Producer of African music, Ibrahima Sylla.

It was not unexpected — he had been suffering for a while — but he had a strength that made you expect him to always come out successfully, as he had done from so many complicated situations as the key player in the most ambitious projects with the biggest stars in African music: Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, Mory Kante, Baaba Maal, Ismael Lo… just to name a few who are best known to Western audiences and who all had a respect tinged with awe for this founder of an African Motown. I first worked with his releases in physical distribution, exporting the music he was bringing out in France to as many parts of the globe that could afford to legally pay for music, and then consulted for him directly on International Sales as the “Digital” era started to become a reality. This included setting up physical and digital download distribution worldwide for his catalogue via his different deals — always feeling in deep waters but ones that he navigated with skill.

He had a catalogue that included historical treasures from the roots of Mali-Guinean music of Independence — countries are not always defined by their boundaries in this part of the world, as he helped me understand — Dance music from Congo, great voices from Senegal that needed to be shared with other cultures, and perhaps most notably a fusion of African and Latin traditions that found its epitome in the Africando project, the first African release to hit the charts in the USA .

I have made a purely subjective playlist which you can listen to on Spotify and/or Deezer. It’s comprised of recordings that he produced but also ones that he helped make possible, ones that could never have happened without his input into the development and popularization of African music worldwide and ones that probably influenced him, when as a young man he decided againts being a lawyer in favor of becoming “Sylla.”

We at The Orchard have the immense fortune of continuing to distribute the vast majority of his productions essentially through two labels: Sterns African Music and Frochot Cantos, and I continue to encourage the sharing of this musical richness through every means possible. Playlists like the one below are perfect for this since they are not restricted to any one source but encompass many different aspects of his musical vision. And though the list of must-have albums from Sylla’s catalogue can be daunting, it is a treasure trove of permanent delights and surprises.

Rest in Peace, Ibrahima Sylla. Your work will long outlive you.

WOMEX 2013: Of Playlists and Live Recordings

November 7, 2013 Marketing No Comments

header_womex13_654x130I recently had the chance to once again attend WOMEX — the World Music Expo, which took place in Cardiff this year, and which I’ve been attending regularly now practically since the conference’s beginnings (first known as the Berlin Independence days and held in what had only recently been called “East” Berlin)… As usual, I wanted to meet old friends, listen to great music and talk about and listen to how people were surviving — and they are — in these new “digital” days.

Of the top ten labels celebrated this year at WOMEX, we are working with at least half, including World Music Network, the award-winning label for 2013. Suggesting ways and means of helping these top labels make the most of developing trends is always part of our discussions, and as pioneers in this digital sphere, The Orchard is continually learning and testing new Marketing and Communications strategies.

One of these strategies which is coming to fruition and becoming scalable now despite having been available for quite some time is the creation of playlists for streaming stores. This is one of our development methods for labels who want to open up the channels of access to their music, and has since been extended beyond the original players — Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Aspiro — with the recent launches of iTunes Radio and Google Play Music All Access. Here’s just one example of a playlist we’ve created:

I have already gone on record with how I think streaming positively affects music accessibility in parts of the world where legal, convenient, or even any kind of music consumption is not available, and we have even pulled some very interesting positive results from streaming in more “mature” markets. I continue to believe there is a lot of undiscovered potential with these services, and look forward to uncovering them.

All these discussions with our labels are ongoing, interesting and fruitful, especially so this year with the added presence of my colleagues Naomi Moran, General Manager of our European structure, and Nic Rizzi from our London office. Naomi worked for several years at World Circuit and has a great reputation in this “World,” and Nic was there representing a really cool group he is part of, Anna Phoebe, as well as showing off some of The Orchard’s most helpful tools, like real-time Analytics, Marketable Events, Social Media activity paired with sales data, and more. These advanced tools help our labels understand their business in deeper ways and help make sound decisions when it comes to promotional expenses, touring dates and places, marketing efforts, etc.

Live recordings = Lost recordings?

In addition to meeting with labels, we had a specific desire this year to reach out to WOMEX participants who focus more on concerts, festivals, touring, artist management, etc. The notion that so many live recordings were wasted — and these are recordings that are often of equivalent sound quality to studio recordings, and even more dynamic because of the presence of a live crowd — had come up in conversations we’d had with similar actors in the music sphere and we wanted to pursue the idea further. It turns out these recordings are often not contractually available for sale, either after the show for those who were in attendance or as downloads/streams for those unable to attend. I know there is a great number of concerts happening around the world by artists that I love and that I would be happy to be able to access and pay for.

Our discussions with the key players we met reinforced the feeling that these musical moments were currently lost, along with ways of re-engaging with a fan’s intense live experiences with their favorite artists and potential revenue for everyone involved: artists, labels and festival organizers. Yet again, we can and must think outside the box in this rapidly changing space and figure out the best way to develop our role as distributor — which is to make all music that can be monetized as available and accessible as possible all around the world.

Ben’s Reggae Daze – The Biopic Streaming Playlist

June 21, 2013 Uncategorized No Comments

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Music is a funny thing, ‘When it hits you – you feel no pain,’ – R.N. Marley.

Having worked in the “Music Business” practically all my life, I’m completely convinced that there is nothing more satisfying in a line of work than sharing enthusiasm about a particular musical discovery. Whether it’s a song, an artist, or just a new way of having fun with the sound turned up, sharing the musical love (as we say in the trade) seems more important than the music itself.

I’ve caught myself at concerts spending most of my time looking around, usually behind me, and I can’t help myself from wanting to get as near to the stage as possible without endangering life or limb. If I have guests along for the ride (usually programmers for various stores, digital or otherwise) and I see smiles on their faces, I can only hope that they will become true fans. I’m often distracted by observing the potential of any that seem like they might become loadspeakers for the music we have invited them to experience – sometimes at the risk of missing part of the whole experience myself.

I began a self-imposed exercise that mimicked the ways we try and help our labels market their music through various mediums that doesn’t have editorial interface. I found myself back in the thick of musical recommendation myself and it had been a long time since I last made a mixtape of sorts. So I have proudly pleaded guilty to the crime of “home-taping” that, according to vinyl sleeves in the last century, has been killing music. To this day, I still play these battered cassettes in my rather old-school car stereo because of the amount of creative energy that I had invested in creating them. The right songs following each other to induce the right mood, usually as a means to a poignant end.

A streaming playlist was something that we are encouraging all of our labels to make as profusely and proficiently as possible (quality + quantity = triple the money). This is based on the principle that every point of access into their music by potential new fans is good and that every idea can spark another idea and spread your creativity like wildfire. However it is one thing to suggest these ways of ‘3.0 Marketing’ when you have to try and convince a search engine to ‘love’ your music based on algo-rhythms and another to actually get down and dirty and do it. So of course I volunteered, given my long history with reggae music (for those interested, see foot note below that includes some really wicked  sound-bites) and notwithstanding the depth of our catalogue in practically every single music genre you can imagine, from Hi-Energy Bulgarian Electro Folk to South Korean Classical Music that should have been the soundtrack for Twilight Movies etc., I decided to do a Reggae Playlist.

Ben’s Reggae Daze

It was incredibly captivating and took about 3 hours to complete. It’s not finding the right tracks that is difficult, but leaving some others out that is hard. Nevertheless, it was worthwhile since it threw me right back into amateur DJ mode. The original inspiration came from the desire that we labels, Orchardites, or music fanatics share, which is to say, “Listen up people this tune is a killer sound and if you are still listening, then try this one on for size.”  I’m actually looking forward to doing Volume Two of Ben’s Reggae Daze, including other great tracks that I’m sure I forgot. But first, you have to like me, follow me and even copy me on your own playlists. It’s the best possible form of flattery.

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The Orchard is a pioneering music, video and film distribution company and top-ranked Multi Channel Network operating in more than 25 global markets. Founded in 1997, we empower businesses and creators in the entertainment industry.

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