One of my favorite parts of being on the cutting edge of the music industry is watching the innovators cut through the effluent in life’s tides and rise above the noise. That is precisely what Duran Duran has done with their newest release, “All You Need is Now.” The release date ironically falls on the thirtieth anniversary of the band’s first release, “Planet Earth,” released to enormous fandemonium in 1981. “All You Need is Now” was produced by Grammy Award winner Mark Ronson, who has worked with Amy Winehouse, The Kaiser Chiefs, Lily Allen and others. Ronson himself called this album, “The follow up to Rio that never was.” (A big relief for all of us who rocked our way through Rio and simply waited for the next move.)
This is the band’s 13th album and all four original members of Duran Duran – John Taylor, Roger Taylor, Nick Rhodes and Simon Le Bon – have joined to recreate the original upbeat sound that made them famous and sold over 80 million records during their three-decade career, With the collaboration with Ronson strongly in place, the band went on to bring in longtime friend, Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters and R&B/neo-soul superstar Kelis, with Owen Pallett of Grammy Award winning “Arcade Fire” to do the album’s string arrangements.
Never one to overlook the visuals, the band engaged up-and-coming British visual artist, Clunie Reid, for the artwork and packaging. Clunie’s work is very well known and has been shown at the Saatchi Gallery and the New Museum in New York.
Highly collaborative and innovative, Duran Duran has spent thirty years fusing pop music with art, fashion and technology, bringing music videos from a marketing tool in the 80’s to one of the music industry’s most valued creative assets.
From a distribution perspective, Duran Duran seems to be one band that really understands how important it is to have an engaged fan base. Their website is as much fan homage to their fans as it is a platform and a staging area for their work. For a mere $35 a year, fans are treated to VIP ticket packages, presale events, and meet & greets, as well as direct communication with band members and exclusive video, photo and written content. Each fan also gets to build their own personal fan site – including fan blogs, journals, photos, etc. They’re also able to participate in fan-to-fan forums and private messaging. Basically, Duran Duran has brilliantly built an army of brand advocates to support their every move. Something all bands should emulate in today’s online world.
The group looks as great as ever, and while they’ve evolved their sound to a more contemporary state, hints of their roots are evident and laced throughout several of the tracks on this new CD. “Blame the Machines” is a fun, uptempo, electro-pop track. “The Man Who Stole a Leopard” is a stunning track that diehard fans will relish. “Leave a Light On” recalls the power of their earlier ballad “Save a Prayer.” And “Girl Panic1” will get fans out on the dance floor celebrating like it’s new year’s eve. Hey, why not?
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
In today’s world, the connection to your customer is your number one asset. The path to communicating most effectively to your “fans” literally becomes the yellow brick road. If you’re not giving your fan or client a myriad of choices through which to connect, you are missing out not only on revenues, but also on building your army of loyal brand advocates. Here are 6 best practices to implement immediately to forge a solid, long-standing relationship with your best audiences and clients.
#1. Good as Gold – Email Addresses. I can’t stress this enough. You need to ask your client / fan base for their email addresses often – and you need to offer them something valuable in return. Whether that’s a great audio course that you’ve created or a track off your new album, having a way to reconnect to your target fans or clients frequently and authentically is your most valuable asset. For more information on HOW to collect those email addresses (what mechanisms to use, what offerings to inspire the trade, etc.), please sign up for the pre-sale of my forthcoming ebook, “All You Need is Love – Using Social Media to Build an Army of Brand Advocates.”
#2. Body and Soul. The body of your work has got to be excellent obviously, but in today’s world, your fan base and clients want more than just your products. They want to know who YOU are and what makes you tick. They want to be your friends on Facebook and feel a personal, one-on-one connection to you. In short, they want you to bring your soul – the passion behind your work. Be sure that you’re sharing with enough depth and in enough places to create this powerful connection to your audience. This could mean giving interviews to mainstream media – or to popular bloggers. It could mean sharing videos and photos of your personal life – images of you when you’re just being you, without your “brand” everywhere. If you don’t have a blog yourself, consider putting one up. You can keep it super simple by doing video blogs from wherever you are, bringing your fan base “behind the curtain” so to speak and including them in what you do and who you are, body and soul.
#3. Microscope, Telescope, Periscope. If you’re ready to move forward with the most important work of your life (and if you’re not, stop wasting time already!), then you’re going to need a dream team to move you forward. It’s easy to get caught up from a singular point of view – whether that be a microscopic view lost in the details, or a far-out telescope view of the big picture, but with NO details – and if you don’t have a periscope to look underneath it all and spot the rough seas — you just might not survive the process. Begin pulling your team together from near and far – choose them with great care.
#4. Inquiry! Constantly asking your fans and client base what they want from you is a vital best practice. As we know from the music industry, things can change day-to-day, and it’s those artists who are listening most closely and who remain the most malleable, who are the most likely to survive – and thrive. You can use an online service, like SurveyMonkey to run a poll, or you can reach out through your newsletter. Ask your audience what they most want from you in the next month, six months and year – and then make sure that your model is wrapped tightly around those expectations. And while you’re asking for stuff, ask for their cell phone numbers. Mobile marketing is huge. ASK your audience how they want to be contacted and then CONTACT them. Send those messages once a week or so with an idea or better yet, ask them for their ideas. Send them to a free online show. Make the connection.
#5. Testimonials. Whether you’re a top tier platinum artist, a leader in your industry, or just starting out – nothing speaks louder than the words of a fan, client, collaborator, journalist or even a team member. Start gathering those testimonials and post them everywhere – on your website, your newsletter, your social media sites and your fan forums. The client has nothing but choices in today’s world; make sure that you’re sharing the wonderful things being said about you and the work that you do.
#6. Inclusivity and Exclusivity. Be sure that you’re out there in a big enough way to include as many possible clients and fans as possible. Having said that, be sure that you’re also building a level of exclusivity into your products and your availability. Have a space that belongs only to your most ardent uber fans. Perhaps that’s a forum only for superfan members at a certain level of payment or participation, or perhaps it’s an event that you do (either live or online) that only has room for 50 guests.
*For new musicians, one space to check out is StageIt (see the Resources section for more info).
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
and Author of The Art of Digital Music
Tom Silverman, CEO of Tommy Boy Entertainment and the Force Behind the New Music Seminar Speaks with Kelli about where the Music Industry is Headed.
Kelli: Tom, where do you see the future of music and artistic control of content heading?
Tom: Artistic control. Wow. I don’t like to use the word control when I’m talking about artistic. I think the problem with the business right now is it’s based on control. The old music business was based on control. And you know, we’re starting to build a new music business that’s based on different values altogether … The old business really was based on power and control and coercion… all that “nice” stuff, and the new business really is based on cooperation, community, connection and collaboration. It’s a much different paradigm.
Kelli: Tom, why do you think traditional labels are so afraid to hire new artists and how do you think a new artist can succeed despite these roadblocks?
Tom: … Whenever you have a consolidated business or industry, they become risk averse. The more companies roll up and consolidate, the less risk they take. That’s true in any business. The labels would rather be conservative … it costs a million dollars to roll the dice every time you sign a new artist. It’s at least a million dollars in America even to see what you have. They’re saying,’ let’s sign less artists and let’s spend less money on those few artists that we do sign them, in marketing, and then let’s do 360 deals with them so we have a bigger return’
Kelli: And some artists, the smart ones, aren’t signing those kinds of deals, right?
. … If you want to be signed in the early part of your career, when you don’t have any hits yet and no history, you’re going to have to do a 360 deal – or you’re not doing a deal – that’s just the way it is – unless you go with a small independent.
Kelli: How should a new artist succeed, if in fact, they don’t get signed by a label?
Tom: Okay, a lot of what we’re talking about now is New Music Seminar curriculum. An artist has to do it themselves anyway at the beginning – there’s almost no artist being signed off of just hearing a tape or CD. That’s just not happening any more. They have to have some action – some story – some heat. They have to bring heat to the table before anyone cares about them. Before a booking agent cares about them, before a manager cares about them, before a label cares about them. Think about a label as an investor. If you’re a venture capitalist, you have to have some reason to sign the deal. It’s about managing risk and reward. We can’t get caught up in the emotions of music. It’s just a business reality.
One of the things we’re trying to do is to create a new business reality, an alternative to this. One which would please the artist in the long run, make money for the investor in a five or ten to 1 return on a hit, so that more money can flow back into the business and more artists get signed and more artists have an opportunity to break through. Not that you can’t break through on your own, but I have to say, I’ve done some research … in 2008, there were only 1500 artists that sold over 10,000 albums that year. There were only 200 new artists that had never done it before, and that includes Lady Gaga. So let’s use that number. I like to call it the obscurity level – when an artist breaks 10,000 albums, they’re in the game. So out of those 200, 192 were actually on independent labels; only 8 were doing it themselves.
Kelli: Tom, you relaunched New Music Seminar a couple of years ago (and I’m thrilled to be part of it this year, by the way). Share with the audience more about New Music Seminar. What’s behind it?
Tom: … Our message is a very specific one. The record business is dying. It’s sinking. There’s nothing that’s going to happen that’s going to change that. But there will still be a music business. We just don’t know what it will be, and the purpose of the New Music Seminar is to build the next music business, hopefully a profitable and sustainable music business. So we’re convening the architects and designers of the next music business. I mean, everyone knows how bad the record business is right now, and for the last ten years they’ve known it. We don’t waste a lot of time talking about that, because talking about a bad situation doesn’t change it. We want to be constructive. We’re not trying to fix a broken boat. We’re trying to build a new boat. It seems like other conferences talk about how do you bail water out of this boat to slow the sinking. Do we bail to the left or to the right?
Kelli: Yes, this is all about solutions and hope and a design for what comes next.
You can catch my show every Monday at 5pm PST. https://BlogTalkRadio.com/AllAccessRadio.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Being able to support great artists and entrepreneurs as they break away from past successes in their lives and embark on the new is one of life’s biggest highs for me. Few performers have had the amazing success and influence of Irene Cara – I had the chance to interview Irene recently and to hear about her new group, “Hot Caramel.” The direction Irene Cara’s sound and life has taken is deeply inspiring. Just to remind everyone about Irene’s lifetime of successes, as an actress, Irene received the Image Award for Best Actress for her work with Diahann Carroll in the NBC Movie of the Week, Sisters. She also received an NAACP Image Award Nomination for her portrayal of Myrlie Evers in the PBS movie on Civil Rights Leader Medger Evers “For Us the Living.”
For Flashdance alone Irene won 5 major awards, including Top Female Vocalist-Pop Singles and Pop Single of the Year. As a songwriter her talent earned her an Academy Award, 2 Grammys, a Golden Globe and a Peoples Choice Award for Flashdance. She was also the first African American female to win an Academy Award since Hattie McDaniel in 1939, plus the first Hispanic female since Rita Moreno and the first bi-racial female ever to win in any category – pre-dating Halle Berry by nearly 20 years.
Here are a few excerpts from our interview. You can hear the entire Q&A at https://allaccessgroup.com/articles-and-resources/blog-talk-radio.
Kelli Richards: “You know, Irene, there’s just so much to say about the amazing career you’ve enjoyed. Your list of awards is long and impressive. If you’re able to choose just one or two, what have been the most shining moments in your career that you’ve been most proud of?
Irene Cara: “I think this new phase is really the most important thing to me now. I mean, I don’t like to look backwards. I like to live in the present and look forward – to look toward the future. I started in the industry as a child … and I did a lot of work as a 5 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, 11 year old. You know, I did Electric Company when I was a child. I did my first movie at fourteen, a highly acclaimed, pretty much is considered an African-American classic called “Sparkle.” At the time that was unique, because that was during the whole black exploitation genre of films. There were very few films about people of color.
Of course, Roots was iconic classic television series that started the whole miniseries genre. I played Alex Haley’s mother as a young girl. I started my entire career as a child and then into my teens. And then, you know, Fame and Flashdance were pretty much the end of an era for me. Pretty much the highlight of a 20 year career for me…
So now, this is the stage where I consider the beginning of my adult career. It really embodies who I truly am as an artist.
… I’ve been a working artist since childhood, and this is the first time where I’m now free to express myself as an adult artist the way I see myself … not fulfilling someone else’s vision of what that is.
To learn more about Hot Caramel’s new double CD, visit https://irenecara.com/cdbook3.html
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Gregg Allman has always been a guy who colors outside the lines, in my opinion. There’s no question that The Allman Brothers Band has serious staying power. Probably best known for “Sweet Melissa,” Allman is a bluesy, jam-band pioneer who practically invented Southern Rock. As most followers of Allman Brothers music probably know, Gregg has had a long career that began with he and his brother playing together when they were only in high school. They followed what is now an almost a non-existent route to success – they were signed by a label. Although the sound of the album they produced was definitely not what they wanted, it did begin a lifelong, winding success story for Gregg. (Sadly, his brother passed away in 1973.)
Allman would tell you himself that he’s been way up in his life, and he’s definitely been down. Last year the 63-year old musician had a liver transplant AND a new album in the works. Released just a few weeks ago, “Low Country Blues” was produced by T Bone Burnett. In it, Allman covers music from some of the music that most influenced his own life and voice – from Muddy Waters and BB King, to Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. Low Country Blues is definitely one of those “up” moments in Gregg Allman’s remarkable body of work. It’s rich with passion and implies a deep understanding of those highs and lows that life throws at all of us.
It was T Bone Burnett who brought Allman the initial idea of a cover album. Said Allman in a recent interview, “He told me some guy gave him a hard drive, it has 10,000 obscure blues songs… He says, ‘I’m gonna pick out twenty of ‘em and send ‘em to ya and you tell me what you think.’ He said, ‘They’re old, like Billie Holliday old, and when you listen to ‘em, I want you to think about us gettin’ in there and about bringin’ ‘em up to today.’” The recording process was amazingly easy and electrifying, said Allman in his easy southern drawl, “If it works right, it all turns real magic, and that’s what happened this time, more so I think than anything I’ve ever recorded. We got 15 masters in 11 days; let me tell ya, they just went Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!”
Pop is the right word – the album definitely has chops. It has a unique, deep bluesy sound, easily recognized as pure Allman, and backed by a troupe of A-listers in the music world. In addition to Burnett and Allman, Doyle Bramhall II also played on guitar. The rhythm section was comprised of upright bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, and the lineup included a brass section led by trumpeter Darrell Leonard (whose resume extends al the way back to his work with Gregg’s late brother, Duane Allman). Finally, the sounds of Night Tripper, Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, completed the pack on piano. (Rebennack co-wrote “Let This Be A Lesson To Ya’” with Gregg on The Gregg Allman Band’s 1977 classic, Playin’ Up A Storm.) To add to the overall collaborative effort, the album’s one original composition, “Just Another Rider” was even co-written with longtime ABB guitarist Warren Haynes.
A gypsy at heart, Gregg Allman is both a traditionalist and a non-traditionalist. He is eager to get out and tour the new songs, kicking off in New York on March 10th at the historic Beacon Theatre and then winding his way around the east coast and then through Europe – landing back on this continent late in September with two dates in Canada. You can find his entire tour schedule at https://bit.ly/GreggAllmanTour and definitely pick up the album – at under twelve bucks; it’s a million-dollar participation in the voice of a true American music giant. https://amzn.to/GreggAllmanAlbum
“Places you been, things that you done, and somehow you’re still on the run,” Allman sings on the original song “Just Another Rider.” I think we’re all glad that this guy is still out there on the run, entertaining and inspiring the rest of us to do the same.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Like much of the world, I’ve spent the last week thinking about John Lennon and the anniversary of his death on December 8th. It’s honestly hard to believe that thirty years have passed since he was taken from us in a single moment’s insanity. In fact, most of the time, it’s hard to believe that John’s really gone at all. His was far more than the voice of a generation – it was often the voice of our hearts and our conscience.
And as unimaginable as it is to hold space for the thirty years of unspoken words and unwritten songs, what I truly cannot get away from this week is the rest of John. As great a man as he was, and as truly generous a soul – especially to his fellow musicians – for two men out there, John Lennon wasn’t a Beatle – or an icon – he was simply Dad.
I met Julian Lennon for the first time several years ago. I was struck with how gracious he was and how engaging – how much he reminded me of his father and how strongly he had aligned with his Dad’s passion for peace and conservation. But I was also captured by the deep sadness he seemed to bear, just under that gracious surface. I remember sharing with Julian how sorry I was for his loss – and recognizing how he had lost his dad, twice really. It was a deeply heartfelt conversation and a genuine connection. In a career filled with world=renowned musicians and many celebrity relationships – it is one that has stayed with me at a core level.
Julian has his own voice of course. His new album “Everything Changes” should be out by next year, and in October he helped his mom, Cynthia Lennon, publicize the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool. And Sean has found his own path as well, now co-leading a band with his musician / model girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl (Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger.)
But all successes aside, it’s still Julian I think of often – and Sean. How the thread of their lives with their dad, John Lennon, was forever cut short by something so senseless and beyond comprehension. I have always been struck by how much Julian looks and sounds like his father – in the way that only fathers and sons can. In fact, one of my career aspirations has always been to create a benefit concert with Julian and Paul McCartney around John Lennon’s music. To use the talents I have to honor how much was left unsaid, by one of the people who most deserved to hear it – his son. Julian embodies his own gifts and talents along with his father’s.
I suppose that is really my attempt to make sense of these things – this loss – to find some deeper meaning. To find some thread of understanding that will provide some peace – for Julian and for the rest of us. To knit a golden thread through time and space and recapture one of the greatest voices of humanity, and to simply risk listening and hearing what we MIGHT some day achieve – if we would only imagine. John’s greatest gifts were surely his music and his wish for peace and love which inspired and sparked a generation. And we are truly fortunate that his legacy and grace endures and burns most brightly in Sean and Julian.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
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