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Music, Entertainment, Arts Business Blog 

The Suits will inherit the Earth, or History will teach us nothing.

Ben O'Hara - Friday, February 03, 2012

I have been reading Bobby Owsinski’s book ‘Music 3.0 A Survival Guide for Making Music in the Internet Age‘ It’s an interesting read.

He presents an interesting contention in the 1st few chapters.  In summary he suggests that the music industry has entered into 5 distinct phases.

Music 1.0 – 1950’s to mid 1980’s.  ‘It’s all about the MUSIC’. 

Owsinski suggests that this golden era for music saw record companies created by music fans who were discovering great music and finding ways to get that music to consumers – other music fans.  The industry was run by fans of music – for fans of music… until the suits take over.

Music 1.5 Mid 1980’s – CD’s and reselling the back catalogue.  The suits take over

Eventually, the bigger record labels were born, and all of the little indi labels get swallowed up by bigger ones.  There are still music fans at the heart of these bigger companies, but they are fans that realize that this rock music thing is more than a passing fad – it’s a business where you can make plenty of money.  As people re-buy on CD all of the stuff they had already bought on vinyl, the cash is just rolling in.  Big Artists make big profits for the big companies.  We end up with just a handful of major companies and they are owned by even bigger companies.  The TIME/Warner’s the Vivendi’s who have no idea about music.  It’s just another profit source for them.

Music 2.0 – The Digital Age – 1990’s.
Peer to Peer networks, file sharing, CD burning and so on.  The fans take control of the music once again.  ‘I want all the music I can get my hands on, I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t need too. ‘  Every fan of file sharing or of obtaining music illegally will at some point say in their defense one of the following statements:

  1. I was sick of paying for whole albums when all I really wanted was a couple of songs
  2. I buy lots of music anyway, I use online to find what I might buy later
  3. I don’t want to give my money to rich artists and even richer record companies.
  4. I only access stuff I can’t get anywhere else anyway.

It’s a golden era for consumers.  Free music…until the suits take over…

Music 2.5 – Digital Music is Monetized 2000’s

Apple iTunes and others realize that there is money to be made from online music.  They just need an interface that is better than the file sharing options, deals with the majors and indi’s to access their music and a price that competes with free.  So while iTunes doesn’t replace free music it does make a dent in it and it does replace the CD store.  iTunes, Amazon, Online Radio, The new Napster, Virgin all have a go at making big profits from online music.  What was once the domain of the fans is now a profit making machine for the big corporations.  This time the record companies miss out – it’s the technology companies that are controlling things.

Music 3.0 Artist/Fan Communication – 2006 onwards

Owsinski reckons that now is truly the golden era for musicians.  This is the era where musicians no longer needing the big companies.  We can of course finally communicate directly with fans via MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and so.  We can now cut out the middleman.  Owsinski reckons it will just keep getting better as well.  The technologies will continue to improve and there will once again be a golden era where the music really counts.

I think he is missing a pattern here.  ‘UNTIL THE SUITS TAKE OVER.’  History has shown us that true music fans and the musicians themselves drive the advances and changes but eventually the suits will take over.  If there is real money to be made, big business will eventually devise a system that they can control, where they can make the lion share of profits and they can funnel creator to consumer communication, to ensure big profits to them.

It might not happen right away, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.  Sometime in the next 10 years, a better system for communicating and getting money from fans will come along, access to that system will be limited to the chosen few and the profits will end up back in the pockets of big business.  I hate to sound pessimistic about this – but it’s what’s going to happen.  History has shown this to be true.

I am not saying that you may as well give up on direct to fan communication.  Not at all, I think it is the key for the moment.  Just be aware that there will come a point where it is no longer a level playing field.  

Ben O'Hara

The 2011 AMPAL Event in Melbourne - AMPAL Presents BEHIND THE MUSIC

Ben O'Hara - Tuesday, May 10, 2011




May 23rd, AMPAL (the Australian Music Publisher's Association) will be hosting a panel and music night at the Evelyn Hotel on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The aim of the night is to provide local musicians, songwriters and music enthusiasts with some insight into the future of music through an expert panel discussion, made up of musicians and industry players. The panel will be answering questions and musing about the changing state of the music industry. If you are an aspiring musician wanting to get a break, or a hopeful industry professional seeking inside information you can't miss this exclusive event.


Panelists include Adalita (of Magic Dirt fame), Ian James (Mushroom Music Publishing), David Vodicka (Media Arts Lawyers/Rubber Records), Natalie Bell (Milefire Management), and Marianna Annas (ABC Music Publishing).


Adalita, currently touring nationally with her debut self-titled album, will be performing exclusively at the end of the evening's panel.


Tickets available from, $10 presale, $12 at the door. Seating is very limited. Book now.

Music Fans Vs Popular Culture Fans

Ben O'Hara - Sunday, April 10, 2011

Music Fans Verses Pop Culture Fans

I know that everyone has had a say about Rebecca Black in the past week or two (I am not even going to link to the video here) but I thought it timely to remember that Rebecca Black doesn’t really have anything to do with music or the music industry.

A lot has been written about Black’s ‘Friday’ video, (for the record I reckon I have seen and heard much worse – try 95% of the demo’s that come across my desk!) Much of what has been written looks at Black as if we are seeing something new in terms of the music industry.  We have always had Rebecca Blacks’ (remember the Crazy Frog?) and they will always get noticed some how – but it is nothing to do with music.

It is a popular culture fad.  She will come and go fast enough, unless she does something outrageous or exhibits a hidden talent that is not apparent on ‘Friday’.  It’s no big deal.  There is no difference between Black and the ‘Dancing Baby’ YouTube video, or ‘Charley bit my finger’ or countless others.  (YouTube them if you don’t know what I mean.) They are just unusual moments that get traction for some unknown reason, they become the must see moment of the week.  Big deal.  Nothing to do with music at all.

There are a lot of commentators who get stuck on this point.  I think that there are really two types of fans out there.  Music fans and Popular culture fans.  The music fans are serious about music; they listen to it, buy it and connect with music because they have to.  The music is what they are all about and they can’t live without it.  It is important to them.

The 2nd type of fan is the popular culture fan.  These people connect with music because music provides important touchstone moments in their lives…but they could live without it.  They might buy music from time to time, but they are more likely to buy music that is hot at the time, they won’t seek out an artists back catalogue or snap up everything that artist has touched.

I am not trying to belittle the pop cultures fans music experience, it might be important to them, but nothing like it is for a music fan. 

The problem for the music industry is that the pop culture fans heavily out number the music fans.  Horribly so.  The Music fan is also more likely to be a collector.  Their CD collection means something to them.  The CD and it’s artwork are important, something to have and cherish.  Pop culture fans are more likely to find the illegal download because it is about experiencing that touchstone moment, not collecting.

For years now I have see groups of students express this frustration with music not being as important to the rest of the world as it is to them.  They take a superior view that suggests that the pop culture fan is below the music fan and that it is some sort of right that ‘serious’ music (what ever that is) be taken seriously.  This gives them a license to dismiss anything that they see as not ‘serious’ music, stuff like Blank’s Friday video is reviewed and viewed as if it is competing for a place in their converted and carefully curated CD collections.  Of course in reality, it’s not.  It’s just a touchstone moment in 2011 culture that will be fondly remembered by a handful and completely forgotten by everyone else.

So let’s not worry about Rebecca Black – it’s as relevant to music as the yoyo craze that sweeps through school every few years.  Nothing to it.

Ben O’Hara

Rick Springfield is a Marketing Genius

Info Info - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rick Springfield is Marketing Genius


Remember Rick Springfield?   Probably not, right. Think 1982 and Jessie’s Girl, still struggling?  Well it turns out that his fans remember him.  Rick is working on the Nine Inch Nail’s model of connecting with fans + reason to buy = $$$ (Look up Michael Masnick’s talk here if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

Rick is so good at it he has made a documentary about his fans love for him and his love for his fans.  View the trailer here -

Talk about connecting with your fans.  Personally my favourite bit was “he can do whatever he wants to Jessie’s Girl, just so long as he keeps his damm hands off my wife.”


Rick’s site is amazing, the amount of merch on there is huge and he sells premium stuff, auto graphed albums and guitars, premium packing of CD’s and special concert tickets that include attending the sound check and meet and greets before and after the show.  Even better than all of that – why not join Rick on a Rick Springfield themed cruise?  Travel the seven seas’s, and explore new places all with Rick Springfield and his band playing all the way through. 


Check out the video from last years cruise.


What’s the lesson in all of this for you?

This guy is a bona fide Rockstar and you can get this close to him.  He loves the fans and he gives a lot to them.  He truly connects with the fans and gives them a reason to buy.  (Good luck downloading a cruise on the internet)  He is giving the fans a true Rick Springfield experience.  All bands can learn from this – updating your Facebook and sitting at the merch table after the gig is not connecting with fans.  I not saying that taking them on a cruise is, Springfield has workout that most of his fans are 35 to 45 year old women who remember having a crush on him 30 odd years ago.  You have to workout what your fans connect with you for…and meet them there.

USP: Are you only five minutes ahead of your competitor?

Mark Beard - Thursday, June 03, 2010

USP: Are you only five minutes ahead of your competitor?

The term unique selling proposition (USP) is colloquialism created by advertisers to describe the process of finding (or creating) either a tangible or intangible benefits unique to a particular brand or business.

It’s popularity amongst marketers is understandable given the individualistic nature of democratic economies in which the term emerged and flourished. If we are individuals, why then should products not be individual? It seems only natural that for a product to succeed in must be different?

USP is also consistent with the idea of market positioning – a concept popularized by academics like Phillip Kotler who ascribing that products/services/brands can be created to hold a unique place in the minds’ of consumer relative to competition.

We are led to believe by marketers (and I conceded guilt on my part) that having a USP is a pre-requisite of success, as I myself write:

Differentiation is more than just adding ‘bells and whistles’ to your product, rather it is the process of developing true uniqueness. A unique selling proposition (USP) is a unique feature that establishes your market position. Strong positioning statements require that you establish differences between your products and those of your competitors.
(Beard and O’Hara; 2006, pp.56)

Yet what does it mean to be unique?

Consider this definition:

“…existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics… having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable.”

Consider this anecdote:

Recently a corporate client of mine (operates successfully in a hyper-competitive price-based service industry) asked… “What do you think our USP is?”

I responded by saying… “whatever your USP is… it’s only 5 minutes ahead of your competitors”.

At play of course are deep philosophical question as to what it means to be unique, yet the “truism” of USP is so ingrained in marketing thought that rarely is it questioned – it is simply assumed to be true.

Marketers believe that if we apply USP, greater economic reward will follow. In the case of my client, after studying the “USPs” of several of their key competitors we found little difference between any of them. Success it seems relates to the personality of the customer-facing elements of that business, not in transient, easily copied and price-discounted “features”.

A post-USP world?

Differentiation and market segmentation – phenomena that underpin the idea of USP evolved as means of exacting rents from markets. Meaning, that either by adding utility or perceived value to a product one could charge a higher price for it. While normative for modern consumer, this process of differentiation was not always seen as fair.

In agricultural and commodity markets that dominated simpilier (past) ecomomies it is/was not easy to convince people to pay higher prices for greater perceived value, moreover, it is also seen as unfair. Classical economists were keen on the term “exacting rents” because it intrinsically denotes unfairness.

USP is the first casualty in the battle of web-based marketing supremacy

Every market in today’s global economy is awash with competitors who claim to be unique. Search any term in Google and watch as a plethora of competitors offering products and services with little or no discernable difference will attempt to get your click. 

So how to attract customer/fans/patrons?

First of all, if you are looking for the answer, I don’t have it. All I can do is assist in helping you ask questions.

Importantly, prescriptive approaches and checklists of marketing success are oxy-moronic. If marketing phenomena were scientifically provable then everyone would have the same advantage, and thus no advantage at all.

Consider the thoughts of Kapferer

When products were rare, the USP (unique selling proposition) was the key concept. As we leave behind brand image, positioning and personality behind we enter the modern age of brand identity. (Kapferer; 2004, pp.106):

So perhaps look to brand identity, which is seen to mirror human identity by combining personality traits and cultural phenomena as a source of uniqueness.

Your uniqueness as an artist cannot  be “only 5 minutes ahead your competitor” since no two people nor artist are alike.


Beard, M & O’Hara, B. “Music Marketing, PR & Image Making”, Music Sales, 2006

Kapferer, J. “The New Strategic Brand Management”, Kogan-Page, London, 2004.

The Biz to support 2010 AMPAL Industry Forum

Ben O'Hara - Monday, May 10, 2010


For immediate release: 21 April 2010 

The Backstage Pass is a forum evening for young people interested in developing careers in the music industry. An expert panel will feature Ian James (Mushroom Music Publishing), Rae Harvey (Crucial Music), Tim Janes (Shock Records), Charlie Thorpe (Dash & Will) and Catherine Gerard (AMPAL). The evening will begin from 8pm at The Toff in Town on Tuesday, 18 May. Entry is $15 through MoshTix and at the door until sold out.

All young people interested in developing careers within the music industry are invited to a forum night featuring an array of industry panellists from all sectors of 'the biz'. The Backstage Pass information night, is presented by the Australasian Music Publishers Association (AMPAL) and organised by the Music Industry Business Office (MiBO

The Toff in Town will play host to The Backstage Pass on Tuesday May 18th with the evening’s proceedings beginning from 8pm. The expert panellists include Ian James (Mushroom Publishing), Rae Harvey (Crucial Music), Tim Janes (Shock), Charlie Thorpe (Dash & Will) and Catherine Gerrard (AMPAL).

Ian James
has been with Mushroom Music Publishing for over 22 years however has been working in the music industry for over 30 years. In this time Ian has also worked as a Licensing Manager at APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association). Being the Deputy Chairman of APRA and Chairman of AMCOS, he has been closely involved in setting new standards in the music industry. Some of the tasks he entails are: collecting royalties from record labels, television licences, and the most important new revenue, digital downloads.

Rae Harvey
began as a show promoter at the age of 18 when she coordinated 9 bands to play at a party for her birthday. Though only 50 people were invited, a crowd of over 600 showed up. She was soon organising and promoting shows at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne. In 1996 Harvey established her own management company, Crucial Music and became the long term manager of the successful Australian band, The Living End. Harvey has worked with bands Bodyjar, NoFX, Blink 182, Lagwagon and Millencolin. After a breakup scare with The Living End, Harvey began to manage other Australian bands including Children Collide and Gyroscope. Harvey is considered an expert in her field, focusing on managing and preparing tours.

Tim Janes
is the marketing manager of Shock Records. Shock is Australia's leading independent record distributor and music exporter. This involves licensing, marketing and distributing CDs from over 100 international record labels within Australia as well as commercial releases of its Australian artists in overseas markets.  Prior to his work with Shock, Janes started his career in the Melbourne street press magazines Beat and Inpress before moving onto Shock in the late 90s as Local Product Manager.

Charlie Thorpe
, also known as ‘Dash’ one half of the Australian Pop duo, Dash & Will have been performing from a very young age, first performing with ‘Will’ at the age of twelve. The two have performed at many festivals such as: Falls Festival, Push Over, Southbound, Homebake and the prestigious South by South West in Austin, Texas. Dash & Will have also supported such acts as The Kooks, The Ting Tings, The Futureheads, Ben Lee and Van She. The Duo’s first single, " Pick You Up ", was released in May 2008. Their debut album ‘Up in Something’ was released in August 2009.

Catherine Gerrard
is the Executive Director, of publishing and copyright at All Music Publishing and Distribution, also known as AMPD. In her role at AMPD, Catherine has worked with such artists as Missy Higgins, Kate Miller-Heidke, and Silverchair. She has also worked with many catalogues such as Mushroom, Albert Music and Native Tongue. Prior to being at AMPD, Catherine worked in a senior management position at AMEB federal office. Catherine is also the director of AMCOS, the Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Association and the chairperson of AMPAL, the Australasian Music Publishers’Association.

Entry into the evening is $15 with tickets available from MoshTix and at the door, until sold out. People interested in attending are encouraged to submit their questions for the panellists prior to the event by emailing

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