30 million listeners can’t be wrong!

“Group Therapy describes the relationship between us, our music and our audience and the magic that happens when they interact. Our radio show is our biggest weekly interaction with our fans…. It is global Group Therapy.”

above-beyond-group-therapy

With a weekly audience of 30 million listeners worldwide via its 156 FM and satellite partners, Above & Beyond’s radio show Trance Around The World (#tatw) was renamed Group Therapy from Saturday 10 November – a sign of the unstoppable momentum of the Group Therapy phenomenon.

So now it will be #abgt rather than #tatw – #TATW = #ABGT

And we are happy to report the first 4 sets of #ABGT continue the extraordinary quality of the previous #TATW “handbag”, proving that freemium is an awesome way for musicians and producers to connect and succeed in the connected, networked, social media generation.

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Live Social-Media Reality Mash-Up Challenge – Whew!

We’re not sure if this is a trend yet, but it could certainly be a trending topic! Take 21 Top 20 stars and create a prize-draw competition for the public, topped with a Reality Show Challenge for the performers. Add in a jetset location like Valletta on Malta and “swag bags” worth $15,000 and this sounds like great fun – and great entertainment.

The excitement comes from imagining your favourite music artists in a live mash-up performance – which then becomes real. As well as the live shows, Festival At Large intend to provide both streaming and download options for the events. Their tag line of “Festival At Large is wherever you are” is definitely making full use of our modern, connected world.

Just one example from their growing collection of videos proves the point. What do you get when you mash-up Miley Cyrus with Chicago in a cleverly synced video? You get this:

Now that you understand the plan, it could be time to get mashing yourself into tip top YouTube form. Rumour is American Idol will be using video submissions soon to help in the heats!

The failure of VEVO gets worse

Despite the ongoing hype by the music industry suits about VEVO being so great, users stay away in droves. Some recent and very contrary views explain some of the issues.

As we noted in an earlier post, VEVO has really low visitor numbers – click here. The news has been getting worse. Even when people visit the site they run away again, fast. Here is the chart to prove it:

bounce rate of vevo compared with youtube and myspace

The higher the Bounce Rate, the less time visitors stay. Google Analytics specialist Avinash Kaushik has stated: “My own personal observation is that it is really hard to get a bounce rate under 20% while anything over 35% is cause for concern. Above 50% is worrying.”

The chart shows YouTube is fabulous, very close to the 20% optimum. Even MySpace, despite its troubles, has still managed to stay below 40%. But VEVO is still climbing, now well into the extreme danger zone.

So it is silliness in the extreme to see Mary McKnight, aka @REBlogGirl at a Major Record Label, make extravagant and incorrect claims about VEVO. She said: “VEVO has really taken off … and is driving in more people than Hulu! The premium content model is leveraging fan base against both artist brand and artist product to deliver exactly what the fan wants – the ON DEMAND ALL ACCESS PASS to their favorite artist. It’s a simple model and it is working on Vevo.”

Except it is clearly not! Why do major music labels continue with this selective blindness to what is really important to fans.

New kids on the (rock) block

The success of Daughtry and Allison Iraheta on American Idol, not to mention Adam Lambert, is raising the profile of solid, contemporary rock music again. We rejoice at the demise of lame, wimp and near-emo indie boys and bands. We can almost see the tail-end of the swaggering but limp metrosexual mall rats that make up 90% of the studio-enhanced hip-hop and rap non-singers.

There are surprises on the crossover stars as well, from Florence + The Machine and, of course, Rihanna. Leaving aside Justin Beiber and Usher because it is way too early to know how that will develop, there is new power from an unexpected source.

Miley Cyrus, a new rock divaFrom Pop Princess to Rock Diva

Miley Cyrus has a cowboy star daddy, a rock star brother and a pop star younger sister. Since Miley toured with Trace and took part in a whole lotta head-bangin’, there has been a significant jump in the maturity of her voice, of her song lyrics, and her stage attire. Raunchy Rock Diva emerging from a Disney Pop Image has been done before – Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera – but Miley is, somehow, a more radical evolution.

Miley has lived the cotton-wool life at home and on stage since about age 4 but her family is strongly independent, holding a somewhat unique combination of Christian values and endless creative expression.

Miley says her new album Can’t Be Tamed is all about freedom and empowerment. When asked for more details, Miley said:

The new songs “are about freeing yourself from anything you think is holding you back. And I think that’s really important, especially for girls, because so many people are told, No, you can’t do something, or, You need to be this because mom and dad say that, teachers say this.” And finally, in encouraging young people to follow her example, Miley has also said, “There’s a short amount of time, when you think about it, and no day needs to go by wasted.”

Podcasts Define Web 2.0 Music – billions of downloads each year

The figures are in and the results are inspiring. Old media, large (Murdoch) and small (regional newspapers), are moaning that the web is ruining their business. Radio stations, meanwhile, blow large trumpets about 1% gains in audience share.

Wizard Media podcast digital downloadsThe reality is that the public have been given real choices by Web 2.0 and are moving on from old media. Two quick examples:

  • Wizard Media announce digital downloads increase in one quarter from 241m to 350m
  • Trance Around The World podcast has 21 million listeners per week

Wizard were very happy with a 45% increase in downloads but also announced a very solid 41% increase in audience (5.3 million). Meanwhile, advertising impressions served by Wizard grew from 3.9 million in the second quarter of 2008 to 13.7 million in the second quarter of 2009, an increase of 251%.

Trance Around The World is the podcast from Above & Beyond, a weekly mix available through iTunes or from their own website. Their podcast sits alongside others by Armin van Buuren, Tiesto, Paul van Dyk, Paul Okenfold and hundreds other national and international trance stars.

Therefore TATW is successful in a very competitive market, while 21 million listeners would be an extraordinary achievement for most radio stations. TATW is enabled by the most significant brand of the decade – Apple. Lest you object, look at a few examples of the activity around Steve Jobs:

  • Apple iPod podcast digital downloadsApple is 45 times more profitable than Dell
  • iTunes sells more music than Walmart
  • iPhone and iPod features and quality have revolutionised mobile technology
  • Pixar is the most succesful and profitable studio of the past decade
  • Apple is 6 times more popular as a social brand than Microsoft

While Web 2.0 provided a wonderful potential, it is companies like Apple and YouTube who have defined and raised the standards so much higher than anyone else. And the biggest winners are the public – the music listeners and video viewers – who can choose exactly what they wish to download or stream. Further, the public can now enjoy what they want without the interference of the taste bias or old-media commercial ‘necessities’ of a production or advertising team.

Top 10 Music of the Decade

There are plenty of Top 10 lists of pop or metal or trance or other styles of music. Yet the Noughties is the decade of most change in the history of music. There are plenty of other milestones throughout the course of music history but there is one enormous difference in the decade just gone.

Our top 10 list therefore is not an attempt to compare classical music milestones versus hip hop, or to say that Britney Spears has been the most influential musician on the planet (although planet-wide searches would seem to suggest just that as Britney topped search engine lists from many countries in various years throughout the decade).  However, “planet-wide” is a clue to our focus:

For the first time ever it has been possible for a significant event in music to be available to virtually every country on the planet. This means every fan now has the chance to be connected to musicians to whatever degree they like.

The importance of this fact is revealed in the way Google search top 10 lists will now include manga from Japan alongside a Spanish social network platform. Goodbye president of the United States or British royalty.

Web 2.0 imageNo longer can the traditional newspapers and magazines determine our topics of conversation, nor how wide or deep we follow our interests. Therefore our Top 10 Music of the Decade is as much about context (aka access) as about content.

1. Web 2.0
Without the astonishing array of software and platforms now available, most of the list below would not exist.

Apple iTunes image2. iTunes and Podcasts
Apple not only destroyed the music distribution cartels and marketing-led charts, it provided an enormous doorway into niche interests that had previously been in back corners of just a few music retailers. With anywhere up to 80% market share of digital downloads, depending on country, no-one comes close to Apple in modern music distribution.

But as well as obscure blues or folk or world music, Podcasts enabled millions of fans to access millions of ‘broadcasters’ from ABC or the BBC through to Stephen Fry or “How Stuff Works”. Never before has such a range of high-quality music and special-interest broadcasts been available from one platform and at zero or minimal cost.

Apple iPod image3. iPod
Sony was a great pioneer of portable music with the Walkman but the sheer simplicity and elegance of the iPod, coupled with Dolby quality sound and access-anywhere distribution, lifted the device head and shoulders above the competition.

Last.FM image4. Last.FM
While most other music-streaming services encountered problems (Pandora blocked outside the USA, imeem shut down, Spotify’s failures), Last.FM has stayed at the forefront with a hard-to-beat mix of excellent music, startlingly accurate analysis of music styles and recommendations, plus great social-network features.

YouTube Profile image5. YouTube
With millions of views on millions of video clips every day, plus a huge percentage of those views being of music-related clips, YouTube has overtaken and greatly extended the place previously occupied by MTV.

MySpace Music image6. MySpace
Although no longer the main source for unsigned music and fan information, MySpace is still one of the important channels.

Twitter on iPhone image7. Twitter
There have been a number of social and political scoops via Twitter but for music the Rage Against The Machine campaign (#RATM and #ratm4xmas) resulted in the first singles chart No.1 ever that was exclusively due to digital downloads. Although the concept was announced via Facebook, the Twitter campaign made RATM a trending topic, helping encourage over 500,000 people to download the song Killing In The Name. The RATM campaign was able to outsell 19 million X Factor fans.

Sony Ericsson W850 Walkman image8. Mobile Phone
The iPhone astounded and outsold most individual models of the entrenched and complacent mobile phone companies, as well as delivering one great benefit – most mobiles are now very capable portable music devices. What Apple, iTunes, iPod and the iPhone created has been adopted by every major mobile technology company. Users have Apple to thank for that particular music revolution.

Peer-to-Peer image9. Peer-to-Peer
Although the fundamental question of whether an owner of a song or movie should be allowed to share it with friends is still being debated, the online sharing and download technologies were advanced enormously during the development of peer-to-peer. It is likely that most P2P will be replaced by streaming platforms in the near future, but no review of the Noughties is complete without a Top 10 rank for peer-to-peer.

Wikipedia Ying Yang image10. Blogs and Wikipedia
There are a few print magazines that cover specific genres of music but keen fans now use blogs and other online sources for information, everything from detailed histories and biographies on Wikipedia through to instant updates via Twitter.

Girls On Top … in Social Media Music

The end-of-year and end-of-decade lists are pouring in, like glittering snowflakes of joy. Set aside any prejudices you may have about musical styles and enjoy the moment – girls are on top of the charts again.

Regular readers will know we love Last.FM (and also Pandora) for the excellent way they stream music to suit all tastes. You can fine-tune the song selections at will, so the Top 10 lists from large Social Media sites give a positive result. In contrast, the old radio Top 10 playlists tended to be influenced by music bias and marketing demands rather than popularity.

The Best of 2009 for Last.FM users is based on the number of tracks ‘scrobbled’ and the published results include the number of listeners. The list shows, again, the popularity of modern girls over the wimp metrosexual guys. The Top 15 reveal:

  • 5 girls
  • 4 rock bands
  • 4 indie bands
  • 1 mixed band
  • 1 guy

with Lady GaGa at No.1 and a large margin to No.2.

Our exclusive chart shows the Top 6 as they have the most significant numbers:

Lady GaGa tops LastFM chart

The only other stand-out number is the 1 million listeners for Muse (at No.14) but they only received 5.3m scrobbles.