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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Measuring Artist Momentum

   For those of you who saw the panel yesterday at the San Diego Music Thing- thanks for attending!  It's tough not to appreciate the sheer achievement of the San Diego Music Thing and it's sponsoring entity, the San Diego Music Foundation.  And by San Diego Music Foundation, mostly I mean "Kevin Hellman."  No I'm just kidding, there are actually five members of the San Diego Music Foundation Board of Directors: Hellman, Bryan Spevak, Larry Munroe, Benton Moore and Dang Nguyen.    Whatever your musical persuasion, it's impossible not to appreciate the contribution that the San Diego Music Foundation has made by promoting the San Diego Music Thing.  It's a certifiable hit, even if the black out played havoc with the timing this year.  What can you do?

    I wanted to expand on my analogy of the relationship of Artists and Independent Record Labels being like that of comets with planets and stars.  Yesterday,  I said that Artists are like intersellar bodies- comets, chunks of debris, asteroids, floating through the universe.  Every Artist has a specific momentum- a combination of Mass and Velocity.  The higher the momentum, the more potentially valuable the Artist.  Record labels are like planets or stars:  They sit in place and try to capture floating bodies and pull them into orbit.  In doing so the goal is to maintain and increase the Momentum (mass x velocity) while making the progress regular and predictable(i.e. the orbit.)

     The measurements for the forces that influence the Mass and Velocity of the Artist are easy to understand.  Mass can be expressed in terms of record sales, concert attendance, mailing list subscribers, plays on streaming services and volume of available products.

     Velocity for an Artist is as simple as the rate by which specific measures of Mass increase over time. The difference in velocity for Artists with 0 vs. 1 vs. 5 mailing list sign ups a day is significant.  Similarly, the difference between in Velocity between an Artist with 0 record sales, vs. one who can sell out a 500 press 7" vs. one who appears on the Soundscan New Artist chart vs. one who appears on the Pop Chart is enough to literally explain the difference in success between different Artists.

    So the Artists are bodies in space, and then the Labels are more or less stationary objects that are trying to look at all the rocks flying by and pick which have enough Momentum to warrant the investment of resources.  Everything else is the universe itself and the rules that govern that universe (Physics).  So it's possible to talk about the unvierse and the rules of the universe, in terms of a specific artist/rock flying through space, but if you aren't talking about the Momentum of the Artist itself, you can just stay away

    When I am trying to evaluate the potential of an unknown Artist, I try to measure their size and velocity.  When I compare known Artists, I compare their size and velocity.  Representing an independent record label I both exist as an entity in the universe- selling records for a specific artist, which leads directly to new fans (mass) and an increase in awareness (velocity)  AND I'm interested in figuring out the rules that govern the universe- and they are totally separate concerns.

       You can BE a star/planet/independent record label and exist without giving a shit about the underlying rules governing your existence.   I would argue that both Jello Biafra and Justin Pearson fall into this former category, as well as most of the earlier punk/DIY/indie labels- the consciousness of these entities being limited to the knowledge that they are a smaller star/planet relative to other bigger competitors (the indie vs. major debate.)

      The awareness of the rules for the universe only become important when there is some new force in the universe- you can call it a supernova/black hole- something that effects the universe itself (destroys stars, planets, etc) and the rules governing the existence of that universe.  The supernova engulfs big and small planets alike- it does not give a shit.

      The supernova in this scenario is the influence of the internet on record sales, the total size of the audience and the corresponding impact the supernova has had on Labels and Artists trying to exist in that  universe.

   Has the supernova/black hole swallowed entire star systems?  Well yes, and I'm sure being engulfed into a black hole is a bummer for all involved.  But, all the movement creates new bodies (Artist and Labels) and increases the Mass AND Velocity of all these objects because of all the crazy shit going on.  So there is destruction and creation going on at the same time.  And you can talk all you want about the supernova/black hole and why it happened and what it means, but really, for all the planets and asteroids and stars in the area- it's just a fact.

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