I’d been hoping to attend SxSW for some time, and this year, I was determined to make it happen. I had my transportation and my accommodations. I consulted others that had attended prior and even read articles on how to “survive.” I was totally prepared. I’ve been to countless other music festivals, so this wasn’t going to be any different.
I’ll start by saying that SxSW 2013 is one of my favorite memories and was worth every minute, but as others explained, your first one often ends up being much more of a learning experience than you’d probably expect. Instead of focusing on the music that moved me this trip, I thought you would be better served with a bit of advice so you can learn from my experiences and be sure to catch the music that moves YOU at the next SXSW.
Wear comfortable shoes.
I thought my shoes were comfortable, but I hadn’t tried walking miles and miles in them. Running a 5k in your cute shoes is probably a good preparatory activity. I didn’t realize how much walking you could do in one week. By the third day when I was hobbling around, I’m pretty sure everyone knew I wasn’t a veteran.
Stay close to the action.
When your cab money starts adding up and it becomes increasingly harder to actually get one, you’ll thank me. I spent a lot of time learning about and understanding the city, which should come in handy in the future.
You won’t see everyone you wanted to see, and it’s better to accept that from the beginning. It’s impossible. With everyone playing at the same time all over the city, and especially if you don’t have a badge or wristband and have to wait in lines wrapping around the venue, it’s just not realistic. Make a (very) tentative schedule ahead of time, it’ll save you frustration later.
You and I both will be more prepared next go around.
But that said, I loved Austin. It was my first time there, and it’s a really great city based on my week there. I was able to catch one of our current interns’ band, Pillage & Plunder. I met up with an old roommate. I was able to see several of the artists that I had hoped to catch including Lord Huron, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, and Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt. I discovered a few new favorites, saw live music on the top deck of a boat, and I ate more tacos in one week than average. That alone was completely worth it.
(Becka Hardy – Neurotic Media Label Relations & Account Management)
Every March, an enormous amount of commotion takes place in the beautiful city of Austin, Texas. The cause? The South By South West Music Festival.
As someone defined by the experience of listening to and performing music, it was inevitable that my knucklehead friends and I would throw ourselves into a vehicle crammed with our instruments and drive out to Austin. We didn’t necessarily go to be discovered—we just felt like we had to. Seeing videos of big names like Muse, Snoop Lion, Justin Timberlake, and Jay-Z abandoning stadiums to perform at tiny venues like Stubbs or Batbar introduces the astonishing idea of a level playing field between larger-than-life artists and the indie artists aspiring to join their ranks.
I’ve performed with my band Pillage & Plunder at seven different SxSW showcases (and multiple street corners in between) over the last two years. We’ve had an incredibly wide range of experiences at the festival. We were bought breakfast by complete strangers who wanted to show us some Austin hospitality. We were guilted into humoring religious fanatics, trying to explain to them that we were not too intimidated by the prospect of hell and eternal suffering, thank you very much. We encountered veteran Japanese rockers Electric Eel Shock performing naked on the outskirts of Austin to a bewildered audience.
The good times were plenty—but as the word “range” implies, we also ran into trouble. We woke up halfway through our second trip to find our trailer door open and all of our musical equipment stolen. The incident even made local news. We got the police involved, but unfortunately for now nothing seems to have turned up. That was $16,000 of guitars, amps, mics, drums, and memories that we probably won’t be getting back. Stings.
I don’t know what to make of SXSW. I was already confused about music and its place in my life, but I returned to Atlanta with more questions than answers. I came back knowing that my feelings for music and performance are strong, but the true nature of those feelings is still a mystery. Are they a want, a love, a need? I cannot tell. Some days I feel as though I’ve reached a point where music is like water or air to me—absolutely essential to my survival, yet gradually beginning to lack the allure and excitement of other distractions in my life.
However, I feel as though my trip to SxSW has given me solace and a new direction. I now have immediate obstacles and challenges to tackle. My new guitar—technically my old guitar, since I ordered the same one I lost—has just arrived, and when I hold it for the first time, I hope to see it as the first step in a rebuilding process. Perhaps the festival punished me for getting too comfortable, and for growing accustomed to things coming easily in my music and my life. Music has ways of putting individuals in their place, and rewarding those who work hard to improve their connection with it. I feel as though the festival has exposed my lack of belief in myself and in my music, and my secret hope that there were shortcuts to achieving that beautiful relationship with music that any songwriter, composer, or performer craves.
SxSW 2013 cleared me out, cleaned me up, and has made me want to take the time to properly reconnect with my music and my passion. Hopefully we’ll show ‘em next year.
(Gokul Parasuram, Intern)
Music holds immeasurable value in the lives of many. It is there to comfort in the darkest of moments and to celebrate during good times. Music can inspire, enlighten, and strengthen one’s soul.
It has certainly done that for me, and I can’t imagine where I would be today without it.
Every individual has a time in their life when they need to leave the protective arms of their guardians and experience the world for themselves. I was a freshman in college when I experienced an intense desire to take life into my own hands and make my own decisions for the first time. I wanted to express my true self in ways I had never been able to before. I began spending nearly all of my time on campus at my school, and I came to dread the nightly drive back to my parents’ house where I felt restricted. During those nights, the only music that played through my car speakers was Missy Higgins’s album On a Clear Night. Windows down, I would sing every heartfelt lyric at the top of my lungs. When I listen to a song, I always try to relate lyrics to my own life in some way.
As I drove home one cold winter’s night, the song “Steer” really resonated with me:
“It was always simple, not hidden hard
You’ve been pulling at the strings playing puppeteer for kings
And you’ve had enough
But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know that you control where you go
You can steer.”
In that moment, I suddenly felt that I had control over my own life and what I wanted to do. It felt incredibly liberating to belt those lyrics with my hand sailing through the wind, letting the music wash over me like the freezing air outside.
That night, something changed inside me. I saw my life in a new light. It wasn’t long before I moved out of my parent’s house on my own accord and began making the life decisions that made me happy. I began living for myself and I stopped worrying about what anyone else would think. Being true to myself, I experienced a kind of freedom that I had never known before. I feel that without the strength I gained from that particular song, my true self would have remained confined for many years to come.
I look back to that night as a time when a great friend gave me the best advice and support in my time of need. That song truly gave me the strength and encouragement that I needed in order to spread my wings and gain my independence. I know firsthand that the power of music is immeasurable. For me, music is truly my best friend.
(Meghan McCauley, Intern)
Neurotic Media’s Promotional Download Services Help Move Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” to Top 10.
Earlier in 2012, Universal Music Group used our platform to support a promotional download of Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” as a component of a broader Buick promotion – via Buick’s Facebook page (for an episode of Celebrity Apprentice). During the 6 months that the spot has been running, “Everybody Talks” was lifted into the Billboard Top 10.
In a recent article, Billboard Magazine recognized Buick’s sponsorship of this promotion for having contributed significantly to the band’s success (see Billboard’s Nov. 3rd, 2012 issue – image below). The promotion was honored by Billboard as #7 of 100 platforms that “Move Music.” Quoting Billboard’s reasoning for the #7 spot: “High-Rotation TV Ad Leading Car Company: Neon Trees’ “Everybody Talks” missed the Hot 100 upon initial release. Then it made its way into a Buick spot and ended up in the top 10.”
There’s a reason why we use our slogan “Music That Moves”! While end users never know who we are, our platform is behind hundreds of branded promotions and campaigns every year that in one way or another weave music delivery into their engagement with their target audience. Neurotic Media helps clients move the needle on their marketing campaigns in a measurable and reliable way. It’s what we’re known for.
We thank Musica for bringing this Billboard chart to our attention – Musica was the Music Licensing Coordinator for Leo Burnett Detroit in putting this deal together. We learned that the song was originally suggested by Allison Wood of Universal Music Group, and it was through her office that the license and promotion blossomed. Great stuff Allison! Keep them coming (smile).
View the Buick Verano spot with Neon Trees and their hit song “Everybody Talks” here.
For the Billboard article click here.
In a struggle to monetize their operations and drive pragmatic value for shareholders, some social networks start appending themselves to traditional media business. With Facebook aggregating traffic and ad money the way it can today, more and more web 2.0 companies start aligning with traditional and larger industry. Is this the future of “social” – to become a channel for our corporate media?
Social networks are credited for freeing the distribution of knowledge. At the same time, in the past decade or two, traditional media has sold out to corporations and represents, today, clear political agendas of various constituencies. Information is largely exposed through a tightly monitored sphincter. Are we destined to lose the openness of the web over time to these corporations?
Or does it really come down to the belief system of each company’s founders? If Facebook’s founder was no longer at the helm, would Facebook remain as open? And is our communication sphere really a collection of individuals and their unique influence on us? Turner, Murdoch, Zuckerberg, etc.? The “free media” always in the hands of individuals driving policies about how we communicate and what we think we know after watching or reading “the news”… what the hell do we know?
With respect to the mentioned alignment with old school broadcasting, think Breaking News, Shazam, now Twitter – this is an interesting article about the latter, via Gigaom.
(Shachar Oren, CEO)
This article was published in this quarter’s issue of Georgia Music Magazine (in which I write a regular music technology column) under the title “Music and marketing can be downloaded; A meal is a different story“:
Back in the mid-’90s, when I worked at Ichiban Records, one of our marquee artists was local Blues Diva Francine Reed. Once a month or so, Francine would pay us a visit and bring lunch with her. She would spend the morning cooking a hearty southern fried style lunch: Colored greens, mashed potatoes and gravy, meat loaf, corn bread – her meals where absolutely delicious, and doubly so on a cold winter day. It was heart-warming to see an artist invest so much in her relationship with her record company. She’d cook enough for forty of us, which is not trivial. And she’d hang out at the kitchen to greet everyone as we lined up to pick up our plate, shake hands with a bright smile and chat with each and every team member. What a wonderful lady!
Do you think that when the time came and we all got on the phone to market, promote and sell her records, this personal touch made a difference? You bet it did! A good meal is a sure way to a man’s or woman’s heart. Everyone felt the love, everyone felt invested, everyone felt committed. Everyone adored her and wanted to invest in making her releases succeed, and succeed they did.
Another fun Ichiban Records memory is how we tried to use email for marketing. There was only one PC in the entire building that was connected to the internet back in 1996, and it was in a small station in the windowless printer room. It had a 14k modem (yes, 14k) and an Ichiban AOL account on it (though you’d wait an hour before you heard the PC scream “You Got Mail” at you). We tried to be “innovative” and start communicating about new releases to radio stations and stores. PAINFUL. Do you remember what the experience was back then, sitting in front of a noisy and slow modem and waiting for it to connect and to send and receive? It would literally take a 2-hour session to blast an email to a list of a few dozen people. And with this being the only connected PC in the building, there was often a line at the door, people waiting their turn to get on the magic box to view an email or, God forbid, try to print one out.
We’ve come a long way since then, haven’t we? Not only in how we communicate, but also in how we access information and music. All the music you want, and all the cooking recipes you want, are but a click or two away via your favorite music site or cooking site – or just via Google or Bing. My smart phone can access those, plus email, faster than any computer could back in 1996. In 15 years, our communication methods and habits have been totally revolutionized. And we are not done yet.
A younger generation is growing into their own now which would not recognize the world without smart phones, tablets, and the internet. They take it for granted that millions of songs are purchasable or streamable at their fingertips. Their interaction with one another and with the rest of society is largely digitized. They learn, read, play, listen and view the world on digital devices that are ever-connected to one another. It is hard to imagine what those devices would look like, and be able to do, fifteen years from today.We still, however, have to re-connect with earth to cook and eat a good meal. You can’t digitize mashed potatoes. Yet.
(Shachar Oren, CEO).
Sometimes the stars align and a song is just dropped into a person’s lap at precisely the time he or she needs it most.
During the last two hours of March 31st, I went through my first break up. I could have read the writing on the wall, but I still had stars in my eyes when it came to love, and was, thus, completely heartbroken. These feelings definitely did not make the thirty minute drive back to my house pleasant, and I made sure to exacerbate them by wallowing in the saddest love songs I had on my phone during that time. I cried, I listened to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own”, and I had my disco moment.
Arriving home, I opened my laptop to the realization that it was finally April 1st, and that the single that I had been waiting eagerly for my favorite band, Dragonette, to release for weeks was finally out. In a fit of retail therapy, I immediately purchased “Let it Go” and set my headphone volume as loud as it could go. As soon as I hit play, I was blown away. The opening synthesizer line was exactly how the feeling of triumph would sound if it were to become music. Once the beat kicked in and I heard the line “We don’t need a cure for the weight of the world because it’s floating ‘round in the Universe / So take it by a string that you own and let it go!” from the chorus, I lost all urges to wallow in any kind of sadness. I took the advice to “blow the roof off” my life and channeled all of my energy into focusing on challenging myself to find my happiness and to better myself.
That very next day, I went running for the first time in months, and that next Saturday, I ran my first 5K race. On every run I went on, I played “Let it Go,” which acted as my own personal power anthem. Over the course of the next month, I ran over 100 miles and got into shape, successfully “letting go” of all negativity and sadness that had accumulated in my life. I thrived in school, I worked on an honors project for my Music Business class, and I applied for (and got!) an internship at Neurotic Media. As it stands, I am doing better than I ever have in my life. As a result of this choice to focus on myself, I am also the happiest I have ever been in my life.
I can only stop and think that this is all due to one song coming into my life at the perfect moment.
(Chris Caruso – Neurotic Media Intern)
Neurotic Media’s hosted store services shun the use of a shopping cart in favor of a payment wallet. In the case of “the download tribe”, the ease of use of a “wallet” account-based workflow increases the average spend per consumer per visit, and keeps consumers coming back for more.
Here are important details about the ins and outs of the wallet solution offered by Neurotic Media’s Hosted Store Templates:
The conventional check-out process in a shopping cart takes 7-12 clicks from product selection to download, as consumers place products in their cart and later have to visit the cart and work through a check out process of several pages.
By comparison, our wallet solution calls for a simple, one-page data submission during your first visit to a site.
This short setup process then leads to a VERY SHORT click-to-download count of steps, specifically THREE (3) clicks for a new user and TWO (2) for an existing logged-in user. As you may know, every added click on the internet is another spot where users leave, so it is important to minimize steps as much as possible. Our wallet/account system clearly optimizes the workflow and uses the least steps possible to lead a user to their downloads, in both purchases and reward redemptions.
Specifically, here’s the step-by-step count in our system:
DONE. You will return to the product page and the download will initiate. Continue to browse while the download takes place.
Now that you are logged in with an existing account, choosing another product is this simple:
DONE. The download will initiate. Continue to browse while the download takes place.
Our workflow differentiates our services from many others and contributes to stronger conversion results for our clients. For an example, visit our showcase store. We’ll be happy to address any questions you may have and provide sample reward codes, simply call us at 404.688.6858.
(Shachar Oren, CEO)
Neurotic Media’s services do not require any download or installation from the consumer, none whatsoever.
This has always been a very important point for us: We offer a ubiquitous, software-agnostic web-based service. We leave it for the consumer to decide what player, jukebox or app they use to play MP3s on. We focus on “conversion” and insert as little friction as possible between the music fan and their music.
What follows are the specific technical details about how we administer downloads:
- When it comes to downloading tracks, we allow the browser to simply administer the download process, using a simple DHTML DIV window to instruct the consumer to “save as”.
- When it comes to downloading an album with one click, the flow is a bit different, but also explained in the DHTML DIV window we display when the download initiates:
Using Java Runtime is not a perfect solution – but when reviewing Google Analytics, we can see that neither would be solutions based on Flash, Adobe Air, or Silverlight. This is because no 3rd party technology option covers 100% of the user base in the marketplace. There are many different operating systems and version out there with a variety of 3rd party apps that may be supported on various levels. That IS a challenge for B2B companies such as us.
Java Runtime allows us to deliver a one-click album download throttling experience to the largest possible portion of existing consumers (almost 90%). We chose Java Runtime since it is the most ubiquitous of options to allow a simple, “neutral looking” multi-download manager without forcing the lion share of consumers to install anything at all. Our Java Download Manager is very elegant in functionality, creating the album folder and properly numbering all tracks in it.
- We continue to evaluate other options for a “download all” in one click that may improve on the Java Runtime option. As of today, Java Runtime is still the best option we have identified, although his may change down the road… To clarify, ALL other options would involve the following negatives:
Having said that, if you represent a marquee BRAND, it might very well be worthwhile to consider an ActiveX app (and similar in iOS code) in line with the download manager utility amazon.com uses. We can create this for you if you so desire, and if you represent a trusted brand where offering such an install is unlikely to impact consumer behavior.
(Shachar Oren, CEO)
Neurotic Media is the only music distribution service able to deliver exclusives to specific retailers in our syndication chain. Being able to administer exclusive promotions that drive measurable lift in sales is critical for online retailers’ success in deploying new digital music initiatives – and this means that our API features are increasingly important in today’s competitive market.
Our patented platform allows record companies to manage, on a very granular basis (an album or a track), on a PER-MERCHANT basis, values such as:
- Product availability window (i.e. assigning a product exclusively to you)
- Product pricing (i.e. discounting a product exclusively for you)
- Free/promo (assigning a free download just for you)
- Pre-order with instant gratification (producing such an event just for you)
These elements are fundamentals in retail.
Not only is Neurotic Media the only B2B vendor supporting such services – we do, actually, own the patent on it: US Patent 7,693,914.
If you are in market seeking an API service, we encourage you to compare API features in detail (the devil is in the details!) and ensure you understand the various value-add-services Neurotic Media provides compared with other options. Our Neurolinq™ API suite includes the following values – all on a pure white-label basis that allows you to control branding, consumer data, and pricing:
- Product sourcing and selling, both XML SOAP and JSON RESTful options, HTTP posts etc. covered
- E-commerce, so you may use us for PCI-compliancy and minimize cash outlay on your own IT
- Awards services (reward / PIN code redemptions, POS card activation optional)
- Similar product and artist Recommendations
- Artist Wikipedia bios, social media links and Tweeter handles
- Pre-Order with Instant gratification – a promotional tool that drives considerable sales: Consumers may pre-order an album and receive the single immediately, weeks before album street date
- Exclusive sale parameters: This relates to the patent mentioned above, covering options such as exclusive enhanced bundles (including various digital asset types), exclusive pricing discounts and pricing windows for your store alone, exclusive promotion assignments, etc.
- Access to real-time reports, including API in/out transmission logs, downloads and sales reports, consumer data reports, all available 24-7 and exportable
- CMS via API, allows you to leverage our permission-based Admin portal to manage your own site/app feature controls and real-estate via the API toolset
- Consumer info and order info API “get” commands for your own reports
- CRM module: Permission-based login for your customer service representatives
Combined, our technical services and admin portal provide online merchants with unmatched control over their music download services, coupled with marketing tools and services that allow merchants to work with record companies on meaningful promotions that drive significant revenue lifts.
Call us today for more information at 404.688.6858.
(Shachar Oren, CEO)