With all due respect, his information is wrong. But worse, the conclusions he reaches from this faulty information could be damaging to artists.
Some highlights include statements like:
Silverman counted 105,575 new album releases that year, and found that just 225 of those were new artists surpassing the 10,000 unit threshold for the first time. Of that, just 14 were do-it-yourself artists, unaffiliated with a major, indie, or other entity."
"What does this say about the Chris Anderson 'Long Tail' promise?" Silverman blogged in Musician Coaching. "Clearly the ease of making and distributing music does not benefit 'breaking' music. Breaking music requires mass exposure which requires luck or money or both. I can say with great authority that less new music is breaking now in America than any other time in history. Technology has not helped more great music rise to the top, it has inhibited it. I know this is a bold statement but it is true."
I wrote a response to the editor of the blog where the article appeared, I do not know if he will post it, but I feel so strongly about making certain word gets out, I am re-posting my response to Tommy's statements here
I hope this email finds you well. I am writing you in response to Tommy's information and posting - the good news, he is dead wrong. The truth is more artists and bands are breaking now in America, and around the world, than at any other time in history. Technology has absolutly helped more great artists and bands rise to the top.
The Nielsen data cited is not only incomplete, but also provides a false analysis.
Let me provide you some hard stats to back this up:
According to Nielsen and Tommy there were: "...106,000 new (music) releases in 2008"
In 2008, TuneCore released approximately 90,000 newly recorded releases
This means, according to Nielsen and Tommy, almost every single new music release in 2008 was distributed via TuneCore.
I know this simply not to be true - the base assumption that Tommy is making is as dead wrong as his other statistics.
Another example, Tommy states:
" just 225 of those (the new releases) were new artists surpassing the 10,000 unit threshold for the first time. "
This is an empirically false statement for a few reasons.
First, in order for Nielsen to accuratly track sales, the UPCs for those albums must be pre-registered in their database. If the UPC is not registered in its database, Nielsen can not match the sales data to an album (or song). For example, if a digital store tells Nielsen it sold 100 copies of UPC # 123456789, and Nielsen has no idea what UPC # 123456789 is, it can not report the sales.
Next, the majority of the 90,000 releases via TuneCore in 2009 were not registered with Soundscan therefore making it impossible for them to track or report on the sales.
But these two points are actually kind of moot. Music is no longer bought by the album, it is bought by the song across an artist's catalog. Tracking album sales as the sole indicator to determine if something is "breaking" is analogous to tracking only vinyl album sales to determine if something is "breaking"
When they were unsigned, the following TuneCore artists sold the following quantities of songs across their releases:
Kelly sold over 2,000,000 million tracks William Fitzsimmons sold over 150,000 tracks Soulja Boy sold over 200,000 tracks Boyce Avenue sold over 1,200,000 tracks Ron Pope sold over 250,000 tracks Colt Ford sold over 300,000 tracks Secondhand Serenade sold over 250,000 tracks Tapes N Tapes sold over 200,000 tracks Nevershoutnever sold over 1,000,000 tracks Drake sold over 300,000 tracks MGMT sold over 225,000 tracks The Medic Droid sold over 150,00 tracks Nickasaur sold over 150,000 tracks Harry and the Potters sold over 200,000 tracks
This is just a very quick partial list that goes on and on and on
Under Tommy's model, none of these artist sales count as they are not "album" sales.
With all due respect, Tommy might discount selling over 1,000,000 songs by an "unsigned" artist as not "breaking", but I do.
On a macro level, in 2009 alone, the internet allowed the "long tail" unsigned artists that used TuneCore to generate over $32,000,000 in music sales by selling over 42,000,000 songs - this is more than one song a second selling by a TuneCore Artist on iTunes. This "long tail" catalog that TuneCore's Aritsts represent is now one of the most valuable music catalogs in the world. And this all happened due to the net, social networking and access to the media outlets (like YouTube).
"Breaking" is not just about selling albums or even just the music - it is about generating revenue off of fame. This is done via merch, gig, publishing, music sales, ad revenue and more. Nevershoutnever sold over 35,000 t-shirts in a number of months via a regional sales program with Hot Topic. Surely Tommy does not mean to discount these sales and revenue simply because the artist is selling merch? How about if the band sold no music but consistently sold out 1,000 venue clubs and made $15,000 a night? Why does Tommy discredit bands for their success if they are not selling "albums"?
Another distributing and incorrect point suggested by Tommy is that music sales are down due to the fact that there is more music available to buy, share and discover.
As a matter of fact, its quite the opposite
In the late 90's - also known as the "golden age" of market share and revenue for the music industry - more music was being released and bought than ever before (as an example, Warner was releasing one new release a day). Despite this increase of releases, sales (not just revenue) went up, not down.
Or from a pure logic perspective, if iTunes had 2,000,000 less songs, would an artist that is not selling now as no one likes their music magically start selling. Or to flip it around, I would suggest more music on the virtual shelf causes more music to sell as it allows the music buyer to discover music via the digital stores own recommendation association engines.
Tommy's goes on to state:
"Breaking music requires mass exposure which requires luck or money or both."
This statement is also dead wrong - and he knows it based on is own experiences at Tommy Boy.
Historically, in the music industry, 98% of what the record labels distributed, spent hundreds of millions of dollars on to market and promote and get played on commercial radio and MTV did not "break". If "breaking" simply "required mass exposure", there would have been a 98% success rate, not failure rate. But music is not a math equation, and therein lies the problem with Tommy's statement. Yes, to break you need exposure, but that by no means guarantees success. The music has to cause reaction. For example, if "Smells Like Teen Spirit' was not a song that people liked, it would not have mattered how much money was spent on getting you to hear it.
And that's the excitement and beauty of the internet. The masses now have direct access to the media and "music discovery" social networking outlets. - i.e. YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pandora, Jango and more. These new social networking and media vehicles allow mass communication in an instanteous fashion at a click of button. Suddenly one person's opinion does matter and can can impact a bottom line. Even the digital stores themselves provide a vehicle to market and promote yourself off off (i.e. iTunes iMixes or recommendations of other music to buy). Through these vehicles the internet has delivered the ability for anyone to "break", and they actually are. The masses now have access to the media outlets to get heard. The problem is the old school view that "breaking" is simply defined by selling albums. This could not be farther from the truth.
Tommy also goes onto say:
"I can say with great authority that less new music is breaking now in America than any other time in history. Technology has not helped more great music rise to the top, it has inhibited it. I know this is a bold statement but it is true."
It might be a bold statement by Tommy to help get headlines, but it's also false (and kind of silly). The truth is more artists and bands are breaking now in America, and around the world, than at any other time in history. Technology has absolutly helped more great artists and bands rise to the top.
The distressing part for me about this is based on Tommy's statements, if an artists' release is not counted by Nielsen than it is not actually released. If music does not sell as an album then it has not sold. In effect, he is de-legitimizing artists.
With all due respect, I believe an artist's release should "count" even if not recognized by Nielsen as this de-recognition closes off possible opportunities based on the perception that a release is not "real"
I also find it distressing that the media, and other outlets, turn to Nielsen as the definitive source to determine what is occurring in this industry thereby decreasing the opportunities for musicians and artists that are not part of this old school system.
The reality is the majority of music is now being created, released and sold outside of the traditional system. Ad agencies, music supervisors, video game manufacturers, radio programmers etc turn to Nielsen for information to discover music in an attempt to use/license it. They need to understand that the Nielsen information is an incomplete and an inaccurate portrayal of reality. This inaccurate perception is holding back opportunity and validation for others. Tommy needs to stop propagating this false perception as it hurts artists.
It's important that an accurate picture of what is occurring be presented to fans and businesses to provide additional choice and opportunity for musicians. They work hard enough as it is, the last thing we need to do is propagate a false reality to hurt them. Tommy's heart is in the right place, we are here to help musicians, but let's start with a more accurate description as opposed to a "bold" but false statement that helps promote an agenda.