Friday, February 5, 2016

The Largest U.S. Radio Operator Is Saddled With $20 Billion Debt

Written by Laura J Keller — IHeartMedia Inc., the radio broadcaster struggling under $20.6 billion of debt, is considering a potential bond or equity offering to pay off its most-pressing obligations and buy time to improve earnings, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

The company would sell securities in one of its units to retire $1.4 billion of bonds the parent is responsible for paying, said the person, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. IHeart, which is discussing the plans with its private equity owners, would offer existing debtholders the option to exchange into new obligations from a subsidiary called Broader Media LLC, the person said. Creditors would receive higher-ranked claims on some of IHeart’s assets than they have now.

IHeart is also discussing an alternative plan to use proceeds from a Broader Media security sale to purchase the parent company’s bonds in the open market, the person said. The company, owned by Bain Capital Partners and Thomas H. Lee Partners, is looking to take advantage of low market prices for its debt, the person said.

Liability Management

The cheapest of the obligations being targeted for paydown traded Wednesday at less than 39 cents on the dollar, after losing more than half of their value since February, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It is not lost on us where debt-trading levels are,” Brian Coleman, IHeart’s treasurer, told analysts on a Nov. 5 conference call. “We do feel there are opportunities for liability-management activities."

Wendy Goldberg, a spokeswoman for San Antonio, Texas-based IHeart, declined to comment. Charlyn Lusk, a spokeswoman for Bain at Stanton Public Relations & Marketing, and Matt Benson, a Thomas H. Lee Partners spokesman at Sard Verbinnen & Co., declined to comment.

Mega LBO

The business was bought by Bain and Thomas H. Lee in July 2008 in one of the last mega leveraged buyouts before the credit crisis. The firms paid $24 billion for the radio and billboard company that spawned IHeart, formerly known as Clear Channel Communications Inc. and has been battling ever since under the debt taken on for that deal.

The deal now being discussed would take care of borrowings coming due before 2019, when the company runs into a wall of $8.3 billion in senior debt, 40 percent of total obligations. IHeart has been tapping healthier divisions as it seeks to boost cash at the parent company -- which is responsible for paying back three-quarters of total borrowings -- and units it controls.

IHeart’s plan would erase $192.9 million of 5.5 percent unsecured notes due December 2016 that are already considered current, the person said. The proposal is also intended to retire the company’s $190 million revolving loan due December 2017, the $850 million of 10 percent unsecured notes due January 2018 and the $175 million of 6.875 percent unsecured notes due June 2018.

The nearest-term 2016 notes climbed 1.25 cents to 96.25 cents on the dollar on Jan. 28, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Shifting Assets

The company has been shifting assets into Broader Media since December in a bid to expand its options for tackling some of IHeart’s debt early, Philip Brendel, a senior credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, wrote in a Dec. 16 note. Putting new assets into Broader Media could help sell a new bond, and proceeds from the sale could be used in a way that bolsters the ability to retire debt obligations, according to Brendel.

On Dec. 3, IHeart gave the unit $516 million of common stock in Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc.’s, the radio division’s parent company, according to a Dec. 10 regulatory filing.

After it became a shareholder, Broader Media collected some of a dividend taken later in December from proceeds of IHeart’s most recent bond deal, a $225 million secured note issued from international unit Clear Channel International BV. It stood to gain $65 million from the dividend, according to a Dec. 22 research note from Citigroup Inc. analysts led by David Phipps.

Clear Channel Outdoor shares closed at $5.48 Wednesday. They have lost more than half of their value in the past nine months.

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How The Blockchain Is Changing The Music Business

Written by Elliot Maras — The blockchain is allowing musicians to monetize their work and engage with fans more directly, according to a recent CNN news report by Edith Suarez. By embedding music in the blockchain, those involved in its creation can get paid immediately in cryptocurrency. Hence, the blockchain has the potential to change the way the music industry operates.

The report highlights Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap, one of the most visible musician advocates of the blockchain.

How It Works

“Music is placed in the decentralized server, then each song is embedded with a piece of code, meaning that in time, anyone who downloads a track with a cryptocurrency, a payment is automatically sent to anyone involved, be it the writer, the producer, the singer, as well as many others,” Suarez stated.

Phil Barry, the founder of Ujo Music, says “I can upload my video to YouTube to be watched in 50 countries before breakfast. Why can’t I just get paid by one person? ‘YouTube, just pay me.’ I don’t need 50 people in 50 different countries to come and collect money from me…
That’s one of the advantages of an automated, digital, blockchain-type type of system,” he said.

More Control Over Ownership

Musicians hope to have more ownership of their music, assuring them they are being paid fairly and quickly for sales of their work, as well as simplifying the relationship between musicians and fans, Suarez said.

“Retuning the way a global industry works may be the greatest barrier to implementing the technology,” Suarez added.

“Blockchain opens a really interesting window into where the industry might go to in the next 20 to 30 years in the sense that the freedom to operate, in any way you want to online, both as a consumer, or as a creator, shouldn’t be impeded ,” said Paul Pacifico, CEO of The Featured Artists Coalition. “I think the pressure to change, the pressure to improve and the pressure to really create a modern industry that’s fit for global distribution marketplace in the 21st century means that the larger corporations will have to move too.”

Ujo Music is working on a number of joint experiments with artists and music companies in the hope of creating a new shared infrastructure for the creative industries and thereby return more value to content creators and their customers, CCN reported. The Ujo prototype was built in collaboration with Heap, and was released late last year as a single song case study for how a blockchain-based music industry might function.

Momentum Builds For Change

“That momentum for a simpler industry is growing,” Suarez noted. Taylor Swift pulled her music in 2014 from Spotify, a music streaming, podcast and video service that provides digital content from record labels and media companies. Swift told Time that piracy, file sharing and streaming have eroded paid album sales significantly.

Similarly, U2’s Bono called for greater transparency in the music industry.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Top Dawg Entertainment Owner Calls Kendrick Lamar’s Platinum Status ‘BS’

Written by Cedric Thornton — Top Dawg Entertainment’s owner Anthony Tiffith has a problem with Kendrick Lamar‘s latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly, being certified platinum (for 1,000,000 units sold). The RIAA recently announced new guidelines for platinum certification. He referred to the certification as “bs.” It’s worth mentioning here, for those who don’t know, that Lamar is signed to Top Dawg.

Tiffith took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the matter. “we don’t stand behind this @RIAA bs. ole skool rules apply, 1 million albums sold is platinum.until we reach that #, save all the congrats.”

The tweet came after Cary Sherman, Chairman and CEO of RIAA, announced the change via a press release. “The Gold & Platinum Program has adapted to recognize the benchmarks of success in an evolving music marketplace. We know that music listening – for both for albums and songs – is skyrocketing, yet that trend has not been reflected in our album certifications. Modernizing our Album Award to include music streaming is the next logical step in the continued evolution of Gold & Platinum Awards, and doing so enables RIAA to fully reward the success of artists’ albums today.”

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Marianne Faithfull: 'The music industry has changed, women have basically taken over'

Written by Oscar Quine — The 69-year-old English singer, now living in Paris, on David Bowie, Adele, and the darkness after the terror attacks on the French capital.

Q: What music do you listen to?

A: I listen to classical music, jazz and the blues, and the few people I really like - Nick Cave and Damon Albarn, say.

Q: We've just had the news about David Bowie. Do you have any personal memories of him that stand out?

A: We did that thing together called The 1980 Floor Show. Dave and I did I Got You Babe. I was wearing a nun's costume and he was wearing whatever he was wearing at the time. I liked Dave; he was a friend. I'd known him practically since he was a baby. He was at the bottom of the bill on a tour I did back when he was still David Jones. The Hollies were top, I was in the middle: the token chick. Now, the Hollies, they were a proper band.

Q: What do you think of today's female pop stars?

A: Well, I don't know who they are.

Q: How about Adele?

A: Not my thing. I respect her, I think she's great in a way. She's got a very beautiful voice for sure. And she's no fool.

Q: Do you think things are better for women in the music industry now compared to back when you started?

A: Women are much more important in the industry now. When I started, we were just decorative. Apart from Dusty. But most weren't that interesting and they could've been. Lulu had an amazing bluesy voice but she wasn't allowed to use it. Women have basically taken over the industry. Amy Winehouse is a great example, I adored her. I met her at some do in London. I was longing to say "straighten up." But unless somebody wants to change, there's nothing you can do.

Q: Do you think there's a problem with artists being chewed up and spat out?

A: I think the worst example is Kurt Cobain. He was worked much too hard. He was obviously very fragile. He was pretty much worked to death. Not everybody wants that life.

Q: You've had your problems with drugs. Does the music industry have a moral duty to provide artists more support?

A: The words music industry and moral don't go together. Some people are lucky and have great management. I'm luckily one of them. Mind you, I don't make much money. I make beautiful records and put on great shows. But they don't drive me like a workhorse. I work when I want to.

Q: You lived in London for years. Why did you move to Paris?

A: There are many things about the UK that disgust me. The class system for one. It's like going back to Dickensian times.

Q: Do you find Paris more egalitarian?

A: In its own way it's just as bad. I have a lot of wonderful friends here, which is one reason I stay. But then I have a lot of wonderful friends everywhere.

Q: Do you think November's terror attack will permanently scar the city?

A: There's still a darkness here, definitely. It was dreadful, especially at the Bataclan, where I've played. They were attacking the things they really hate - music, kids flirting, drinking in cafes.

Q: Knowing what you know now, what one piece of advice …

A: People don't want advice and don't take it. Don't take drugs and drink, I suppose.

Q: I was going to say, what advice would you give to yourself at 17?

A: Well it was a difficult time to be so pretty, so I'd say be careful not to attract the wrong men. I can't think of anything else. I've had a great life. I've had my ups and downs, but it's been wonderful.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

RIP, Live365

Written by Radioworld — Online radio streaming service Live365 is officially off the air and the Web today [02.01.2016].

In December, we reported that the site was scaling back its services and laying off staff due to financial problems. Their issues were compounded by the recent Copyright Royalty Board rate decision.

This was not the first time that Live365 had battled the CRB. In 2009, the streamer filed a lawsuit in federal court calling into whether CRB judges were appointed in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s separation of powers.

Now a farewell message on its website reads: “Seventeen sweet years ago, it was something of a revolution to let anyone launch their own station. Anyone with something to say or play. Live365 provided the tools. Their talent brought the audience. We were one of the first. Happy we are not the last. The spirit of 300+ employees over the years, our hundred thousand webcasters, and their hundred million dedicated listeners lives on. THANK YOU for being here.”

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Why SoundCloud Will Be Worth More Than Spotify

Written by Alex Moazed — SoundCloud recently announced it struck a long-awaited licensing deal with Universal Music, whose hit roster includes Kanye West, Adele and Taylor Swift. This latest deal provides SoundCloud with 50 percent coverage among the “Big Four” — Warner Brothers also has a deal with SoundCloud; Sony BMG and Sony/ATV are still holding out.

The Universal deal, in addition to SoundCloud’s latest round of funding, is a strong indicator that the Berlin-based music-content platform is a serious competitive threat to Spotify.

The YouTube of audio

While SoundCloud usually gets much less media buzz than Spotify, you wouldn’t know it based on their numbers. First, while both SoundCloud and Spotify have large user bases, Spotify has only 75 million active users compared to SoundCloud’s more than 175 million monthly listeners.

Why does SoundCloud have twice as many registered users? Spotify is more of a paid service for streaming music. The total number of users matters less to Spotify than how many of them are willing to pay. In contrast, SoundCloud is less focused on monetization (for now) and can afford to provide free content in the name of growth.

Second, SoundCloud has much better unit economics than Spotify. Why? SoundCloud’s producers, the users uploading content, are there to build a following and are not as focused on monetization. The agreement with Universal simply wards off any potential lawsuits over copyright infringement. In contrast, Spotify pays out 80 percent of its revenue to content license holders.

As this stat suggests, the Spotify and SoundCloud business models are radically different.

SoundCloud has a platform business model where its content is created by its network of users, not acquired through licensing deals. For SoundCloud, the more audio producers that join the network, the more listeners will want to join. This increase in users, in turn, incentivizes more creatives to post their music or podcasts on SoundCloud, and the network effects continue to build from there.

In contrast, Spotify is primarily a reseller of music inventory owned by record labels and publishers. It’s simply a distributor for the latest releases, sort of like a Walmart for music streaming. Most of the songs on Spotify you could find on Apple Music, Pandora or another streaming service. As a result, Spotify lacks the network effects that SoundCloud enjoys.

Consider the difference between YouTube and Netflix. The distinction is the same here, but with music rather than video content. Given Netflix’s relative success, you might think this is a favorable comparison for Spotify, but it isn’t. YouTube is valued at $85 billion, or two times the value of Netflix. And you only need to understand one number to know why: Netflix will spend more on content in 2016 than any of CBS, Viacom, Time Warner or Fox. Like Spotify, the vast majority of what Netflix earns goes to license owners.

Could SoundCloud be the YouTube of music and Spotify its Netflix?

If you dig deeper, this analogy makes a lot of sense. Just like Netflix, creatives don’t build their own following on Spotify. Instead, they get famous on SoundCloud, just as the best users do on YouTube.

Fetty Wap started as a SoundCloud sensation before dominating the billboard charts. DJ titans Diplo and Skrillex each built their presence and notoriety by remixing already famous songs on SoundCloud and using their following as a jumping off point to produce original music. This also helps explain why SoundCloud has a much better relationship with its creatives than Spotify seems to.

Additionally, finding new songs and podcasts is an important part of the listening experience. But on Spotify, most of the music is content you can find elsewhere. The majority of Spotify’s content comes from major record labels and is freely available on other streaming services, like Apple Music or Pandora. But if you want to find the latest hot tracks outside of the mainstream, you’ll only find them on SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is increasingly becoming a place where users can discover unique content, such as new music and new artists. Users can follow each other, which allows you to find music based on another user’s musical taste and preferences. The platform provides a simple like-and-repost feature, which exposes troves and troves of activity that enables discovery by other users. Once you find an artist you like on SoundCloud, you can then see which songs that artist likes and get lost in a rabbit hole of music awesomeness.

This kind of musical serendipity is very specific to SoundCloud because of the platform’s unique content. This unique content gives SoundCloud network effects that improve everyday as more and more new artists (who aren’t ready for Spotify) and content producers upload their content. While the inventory on Spotify is finite and expensive, SoundCloud has the potential for YouTube-like hyper growth.

As long as the platform continues to attract talented new artists and content producers, its future is very bright. Spotify, on the other hand, may struggle to stay profitable. Like Netflix before it, Spotify faces a continual fight with rights owners over its streaming revenue. At the same time, other popular streaming services will provide constant competition. If I had to bet on one of the two companies today, I’d pick the “YouTube of Audio.”

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Rihanna’s Anti goes platinum

Written by Dana Rose Falcone — In less than two days since its release, Rihanna’s eighth studio album Anti has gone platinum. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), shared the news in a tweet Friday.

After Anti leaked on TIDAL Wednesday night, it became available to purchase on the streaming site. Soon after its release, Rihanna released a promo code, allowing fans to download the collection for free. According to Tidal, it was streamed more than 13 million times in the first 14 hours, and was downloaded more than 1 million times. The record then debuted on iTunes Friday with three additional tracks that also became available on Tidal. The RIAA certified Anti platinum that same day.

Rihanna thanked her fans on Twitter Friday after learning her new album went platinum after less than two days on the market. “THANK U NAVY!!!,” she tweeted. “#ANTI IS PLATINUM!!”

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Monday, February 1, 2016

SFX Entertainment, Owner Of Beatport, Is Bust

Written by Phil Morse — SFX Entertainment, the owner of Beatport and also the company behind many of today's biggest festivals (including Tomorrowland and Electric Zoo), has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in the US today.

We're guessing this will signal the last of SFX CEO Robert Sillerman's involvement with Beatport, which was only purchased two years ago by SFX Entertainment.

As is often the case when companies file for bankruptcy, though, this is unlikely to be the end of the story. We actually think this will be good news for Beatport, as it will allow the company to be taken private, and relieve it from its exposure to the reported $300m debt that its parent company has accrued (source: Wall Street Journal).

The company itself also appears to think so, issuing the following bullish statement:

"For all of us here, it’s just business as usual. That means entire Beatport platform is fully operational without restriction. The store remains open. The streaming service continues uninterrupted. New releases are being added every day. New videos are being scheduled and filmed. Payments to labels and suppliers are ongoing in their usual manner.

"We look forward to SFX successfully navigating this reorganisation, and in the meantime will continue focusing on building the best music experience for the fans, artists, and DJs that make up the electronic music community."

Let's hope they manage this, for the sake all those DJs heavily invested in Beatport as their go-to source for digital music.

Find out more on Beatport's blog here.

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The Trump Kids video has been removed from YouTube due to a mysterious copyright claim

Written by Ethan Chiel — Earlier this month, the internet was captivated by the USA Freedom Kids, a group of girls who performed a very…interesting song called “Freedom’s Call” at a Donald Trump rally on January 14th.

The video, titled “The Official Donald Trump Jam,” was posted by a Phoenix, Arizona area Fox affiliate. Over 4.5 million views later, it has been removed from YouTube. According to the video’s now empty page, the takedown was “due to a copyright claim by EMI Music Publishing.”

Jeff Popick, the manager of the Freedom Kids, told me over the phone that it was the first he’d heard of the performance being removed.

It’s possible that YouTube’s auto-removal bots finally caught some infringement (real or perceived) on the song, though if that’s the case, it’s odd it took them so long.

The more likely case, though, is that someone realized that “Over There,” the World War I song that Freedom’s Call’s tune is taken from, is still copyrighted. And that the copyright belongs to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, EMI Music Publishing’s parent company. Fox 10 Phoenix didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, nor has EMI.

I’ve reached out to Sony/ATV Music Publishing, but have yet to hear back. I’ll update this post if I do.

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Friday, January 29, 2016

5 Music Industry Schemes That Still Exploit Artists

Written by Gaetano — Let me start by saying that this article is going to piss a lot of people off. If you’re one of the millions (yes millions) of independent artists/producers out there trying to make something of yourself, you’re going to love what I’m about to tell you. If you’re one of the shady opportunists still trying to “hustle” your way into a quick buck, you’re going to hate me. I must be totally unapologetic about this. I don’t care either.

Why Do Schemes Exist?

Let’s start by examining why these schemes work. Artists by nature are not good business people, that’s why they get business managers and lawyers to manage the non-creative side of their career for them. However, its not very realistic for most independent artists to have those types of resources available. For that reason, schemers know they can exploit your hopes and dreams for their own profits.

Ultimately, the cons exist because artists keep falling for it. Artists keep falling for it because the schemes are strategically built upon foundations that tap into the EMOTIONAL sensory stimuli for every person in the world that wants to be a star. What I mean by that, is they deceive you with false promises that will satisfy your emotional cravings.

The Problem With Unsigned Artists

Here’s the most common problems with most (not all) unsigned artists:

• They fail to realize that there are costs associated with every service.
• They fail to accept that there are NO shortcuts to fame and fortune.
• They think their talent is at a higher level than what it actually is.
• They think people will help them for free.
• They are easily manipulated & deceived.
• They make critical decisions based off their emotions and “energy” instead of facts, data, & logical reasoning.

In fact, there are many more that I could list, but these are the main problems that I have seen throughout my years of experience in the biz, not only as an artist myself but also as a producer, songwriter, engineer, and digital marketer.

Now that we know why the schemes exist, let’s take a look at a few of them shall we?

The Classic: Pay to Perform

Before I even get to why this company is so scummy, I want to point out the word SPONSORED at the top of their AD. Yes, this is in fact an AD. I did not ask for this to be a part of my timeline, but because Facebook targeted advertising allows them to geo-target my location and interests, they have successfully appeared in my timeline. What’s even more disgusting, is that it works. Look at the likes and comments.

So lets get into the nuts and bolts of the pay to perform scam. Ah, a classic, and one of my personal favorites. The old “perform for celebrity judges!” trick. Or even worse “A&R JOE BLOW FROM SONY WILL BE IN THE BUILDING.”

What they don’t tell you, is that these A&R’s are paid to be there. Yes, 99% of these folks are only there because they are getting paid. Guess what? Your performance fee is paying their salary. Even if they did like you, these aren’t people that have any real decision making power. The only way to grab the attention of real decision makers is to create a legit online buzz organically through creative grassroots digital marketing efforts.

Now the real part I love is that they don’t tell you up-front that there are submission fees and costs associated with performing. From the outside looking in, it sounds real exciting doesn’t it? But, here’s the reality folks.

Yep, there you have it. The other thing I forgot to mention is that these showcases often pack the performance schedule with 20+ artists or more to maximize the submission fee profits. That means, you could end up going on stage to perform at 2am when everyone has already left. Don’t let this happen to you.

Pay to Open Up for a Major Artist

This scheme has been around for quite some time. The danger with this one is that there appears to be legitimacy attached to it because you’re getting the opportunity to open for a major artist.

I decided to include this company, Artist Auditions, into the article after a close and very smart friend of mine asked what I thought of it. The premise is that you straight up pay them a fee of anywhere from $1,000 – $3,000, in exchange for stage time as an opener for a major artist.

There are so many things wrong with this scenario that I can’t even think of where to begin. I’ve been booked to open for major acts before, and I have GOTTEN PAID for those shows, not the opposite. Please understand that most of the audience is there to see the headliner, not you. Besides that, chances are that they will be too drunk to even remember who you were.

Sean Healy Presents is another company running a similar operation. They actually have one of my favorite artists, Eric Bellinger, listed on their homepage. I doubt he knows that he’s even on their homepage, but I’m sure he’d be pissed if he knew. This is their desperate attempt to associate with legitimacy, but all they are delivering is a false promise.

I have a friend who actually did use their service and paid $1,500 cash to open for a major artist. Not only did he end up getting way less stage time than he was promised, but he was forced to perform when it was super early and most of the full audience wasn’t even there yet. Imagine why so many artists are frustrated and discouraged, because they’re paying almost 2k to perform for a damn near empty room.

The Ex Big-Wig

For sake of not bashing anyone’s personal brand, I’ve decided to be a good sport and blur out this guy’s name and picture. Also because my network is decently vast and chances are that someone knows him. But for the purpose of spreading knowledge, I’ve included a screenshot of the landing page on his website. Yes, this is a real life example.

The premise here is that he will use his connects from past relationships to get you a meeting with a major record label executive. Gosh, where do I begin. I’m not discrediting his career. If you do some basic research, you can see that he’s had success wearing various hats in the music industry. What I want you to focus on though, is the use of very specific language. If you read through the verbiage, the word “hire” is the key.

Sadly though, you’ll be paying a lot of money for zero to little R.O.I (return on investment). What will happen is he will evaluate what type of an artist you are, pretend like he’s interested in your music, might even ask for a press kit, etc. Then he will ask you what your budget is. Budget with regard to, how much are you prepared to pay for a meeting just to have some label A&R with no real decision making power tell you that your songs are “cool” but you need more development?

The truth is that nobody ever gets signed from these “meetings.” There’s no such thing as getting “discovered” or “put on.” The only artists who get noticed are the ones who aren’t looking for a short cut. The ones who aren’t paying for fake views and fake followers. The ones who are creating substantial content and backing it up with the right marketing strategy.

Produkt is a friend of mine. He’s a hip-hop artist from the Bronx (repping my hood!) He’s an example of an artist who gets it. His music is meaningful, videos are super high quality, and the overall marketing strategy is really focused on inspiring people through his music. He’s passionate about his message and it definitely resonates with his audience. Browse through his social profiles and check out his music to get a better understanding of what I’m talking about. I bet if I asked him how he got to where he’s at, he wouldn’t say because of a “meeting” that he had to pay for.

The Online Service

This one is probably the most complicated of the bunch. Music X-Ray is a platform that promises you “placements” of your music in feature films, TV commercials, and other licensing opportunities. They require you to fill out a profile, and then register and submit your music to “A&R’s” or a “music supervisor” who will review your music and decide if it can be placed or not.
The first thing you should ALWAYS do if you’re considering one of these services is search the company’s name in Google followed by the word “scam.”

Here’s what I found for Music X-Ray:

Well it seems the proof is in the pudding for this one. There happens to be thousands of complaints about them online. What I can tell you from my experience after being in the music game for almost 10 years, is I have never heard of a truly valid success story coming from one of these platforms. Nobody has ever gotten a groundbreaking placement or publishing deal, etc. My final word of advice is to steer clear of Music X-Ray, along with any other similar services like them.

The Pay for Feedback

This is a new phenomenon that is really mind blowing. Meet Blazetrak, a service that allows you to submit your music for a fee of course, and then a music industry professional will send you a personal video that gives you feedback on your song. What a concept. Here’s what’s wrong with it.

Independent artists should be getting feedback primarily from their FANS, not these folks who don’t care about you! A busy producer who is getting paid to give you feedback is not going to be the answer to your prayers. He/she is likely going to give you some VERY generic pointers and keep it moving. Transaction complete.

If you want real feedback you should be collecting data behind your music. There’s tons of things you can do:

• Send a Mailchimp survey to your email list.
• Create a questionnaire with Survey Monkey or Google Forms
• Invite your fans to the studio for a listening/feedback session
• Check your YouTube analytics to see which videos are getting the best engagement.

Here’s a snapshot of my actual YouTube Analytics:

The analytics above are reporting the average view duration for all of my YouTube videos in 2015. On average, my videos are viewed for 1:27. However, my music video for Terrible Truth outperformed all of the other videos by almost double the amount of time. So the insight is that people are more engaged with my original music videos than videos of my cover performances. Looks like I’ll need to make more original music videos soon!

The point is that you should be using data and measurable stats to determine how to plan your career. Taking opinionated advice from someone who probably doesn’t care about you is not the way to go. Oh and remember, you had to pay for that advice too.


Listen folks. If you’ve read this far, I hope you learned something. There are no shortcuts. You can’t pay your way to success. Build genuine relationships with people. Attract influencers organically. Keep making great music. Continue to develop your craft. This is really what it takes if you want to make something happen.

I’m tired of seeing people getting used and abused. The reason I published this article is to educate the independent artist community on what is happening out there. There are very smart people that get manipulated all the time. It happens every day. These schemes are very strategic in how they present themselves with temptation of your emotions. Don’t let it be you. Be realistic, be honest, do your research, and use common sense. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

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