The annual summer NAMM show was in Nashville last weekend, so we decided to close up The Record Shop and head downtown to check it out. As you probably know, the city of Nashville has been dealt some pretty rough hands over the past few years. The music retail industry is no exception. Sales have dropped more than 20% over the last year, from $7.1 billion in 2008 to 5.8 billion in 2009. Everything considered, we weren’t sure what to expect as we walked into the downtown convention center. We quickly found that many of the major, “corporate” vendors appeared to be (how to put this politely), lets say, “not that excited about being there.” Luckily we ran into some friends and stuck around long enough to find that there were a number of new companies who still had an optimistic outlook. Companies who weren’t jaded by an economy they can’t control, but excited to talk about how they planned to find their niche in the new market. Here at The Record Shop, we always love hearing about unique products that can help artists reach their full potential. This week, we highlight five companies that have embraced the trends of the modern music industry and developed unique products that are sure to be a hit!
Sonoma Wireworks- Mobile Recording for I Phone
If you’ve ever wished that you could keep a recording studio in your pocket, then you’ll love Guitar Jack! Guitar Jack is an iPhone audio interface developed by Sonoma Wireworks. You never know when inspiration is going to strike. With Guitar Jack you’ll always be prepared to lay it down. Wow, after reading that, I kind of feel like the sham-wow guy! Screw it. I really dig this product. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had an artist bring in a noisy, mobile recording of a new song, and struggle to figure out exactly how they were playing it. We’ve all heard somebody say, “man I had this killer tune yesterday, but I just can’t remember how it went.” Guitar Jack makes mobile recording quick and simple. The device just plugs into the bottom of your iPhone and integrates with apps such as Recorder, Taylor EQ, and Sonoma’s Four Track. Guitar Jack features a 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch input, as well as a 1/8 inch headphone output.
I had the pleasure of chatting with the Sonoma team during NAMM. When asked how Guitar Jack compares to other devices on the market Sonoma says, “GuitarJack features both a 1/4″ mono jack and an 1/8” stereo jack that can be used simultaneously within FourTrack. Adjusting the analog input level before it is digitized and clipped was one of the most requested features, and with GuitarJack, this is possible with 60dB of input gain and a selectable pad for a total of 72dB of input level control. Additionally, the GuitarJack has selectable hi-z and lo-z impedance on the 1/4″ input allowing for instruments, line level and microphones. Lastly, the GuitarJack is made of hard-anodized aluminum and made in the USA. The quality of craftsmanship and the range of features really make GuitarJack stand out from other interfaces.”
Sonoma also has a comprehensive product line that offers excellent additions to Guitar Jack. Four Track, is a multitrack recording application that allows artists to record on their iPhone. Four Track allows the user to bounce down tracks while building the arrangement. It easily connects to a nearby computer, using its Wi-Fi sync option, to allow users to quickly export their audio. They also offer an eight track version, called Studio Track, that is compatible with the iPad. Users can also utilize their drum loop application, Instant Drummer, to arrange a groove and import into their Four Track session. Overall, Sonoma provides a unique line of products that allows everyone, from the novice musician to a seasoned pro, to easily record their tunes.
If you are interested in learning more about the wide-variety of Sonoma’s products, you can visit their website at sonomawireworks.com
Vie Drive- Content delivery system
As the music industry continues to shift its focus to online content, countless digital media outlets have been developed to offer new ways for artists to interact in the viral realm. A Nashville based company called Vie Drive has recently launched a unique product that provides a wide variety of promotional options for artists and businesses.
Vie Drive is a USB device that incorporates a custom interface which provides a wide variety of interactive content. When the drive is plugged into a computer, the interactive interface immeditley loads, providing fans with instant access to your media. The interface is automatically updated as new content is posted. Some common features include music, video, photos, web links and a calendar. The program also allows the client to sell banner ads to sponsors.
Vie Drive can be used to share any type of media content. From press kits and promotional material, to concert tickets and fan club membership. It is a great way to gain traffic to your sites as well. The device automatically tracks user activity so artists can easily gauge what there fans are most interested in. Another great thing about Vie Drive is its flexibility. Every artist has different needs, so the Vie Drive team works closely with their clients to develop a unique concept that with help them reach their goals.
To hear more about this exciting new product, drop by the website at viedrive.com
Wheat Ware- Eco-friendly accessories
We are all trying to find new ways to be eco-freindly these days. However, when it comes to musicians, going green is easier said than done. We can’t exactly pack the band’s gear in a Prius and hit the road. Fortunately, an eco-friendly company called Wheat Ware has developed a unique way for musicians to do their part in protecting our natural resources.
Wheat Ware produces wheat based products in an effort to reduce the use of our world’s forests and natural resources. They offer an impressive line of accessories for musicians., including guitar picks, drum sticks, reeds, and maracas. They feel and play just like their wood and plastic counter parts, but they are 100% biodegradable and non-toxic. Unlike some other crop-based products, Wheat Ware does not use any plastic. Their products are 100% wheat-based and bio-degradable.
You can check out all that Wheat Ware has to offer at wheatware.com
Zip Box- Unique take on digital distribution
The market trends of record sales continues to be a major topic when discussing the state of the modern music industry. Illegal downloads, combined with the growing trend of free content, has left many artists struggling to find an effective way to sell their music. Digital sales are quickly nearing the number of physical sales, as I Tunes continues to lead as the #1 music retailer. In Q1 of 2010, I Tunes sold 28% of all music purchased in the US. Walmart (17%), Best Buy (14%), and Amazon (11%), round out the top 4. With 70% of music sales held by the top four companies, along with rumors of Google launching its own store, it is surprising that anyone else would join the race. However, a Nashville based company called Zip Box Media has recently launched, and they are up for the challenge!
Zip Box is a digital distribution company that has taken a unique approach to digital content distribution.
Initially, there didn’t seem to be much of an advantage when compared to competitors such as Tune Core, CD Baby, and Snocap. A Zip Box membership currently starts at $18/month ( normally $38), and includes an additional 25% commission on sales. I asked Paul Wright III (Zip Box Media) how their service was worth the cost. He explained, “It’s all in the content and the data.” As opposed to the I Tunes store, where artists are listed within an endless database of media, Zip Box offers their users a unique, personal website that serves as their store. When a potential buyer clicks on a link to an artists store, they are not distracted by other options, but are provided with a variety of content to browse while previewing the artists material. The Zip Box artist site includes customizable templates, a digital catalog, secure shopping, and secure downloads. Zip Box can also be utilized to distribute text files, software file, images, videos, ringtones, ebooks, midi files, and sample libraries.
In addition to their own unique store, artists are provided with updated data on sales. They can view a detailed breakdown of sales as well a data on specific buyers, demographics, markets, etc. With this information, users can gauge the effectiveness of their promotional strategies and adjust their campaigns accordingly. The site also allows artists to create an automated thank you message that is sent every time someone makes a purchase. This allows artists to maintain relationships with fans, and offer additional content as well. Zip Box’s data feature is a great advantage for independent artists who want to maximize their marketing strategies.
Further information is available at zipboxmedia.com
Mobinek0- Short Run Vinyl Pressing
Over the past few years there has been an almost cult-like resurgence of music lovers who prefer listening on vinyl records. This growing demand has led to several major artists offering vinyl versions of their new releases. As a result, vinyl sales have continued to rise steadily, reaching 1.9 million units in 2009, a 33% increase from the previous year. Many independent artists have taken note of this trend, but there are only a handful of companies that offer affordable, short run vinyl production. I ran into Richard Dron of Mobineko, who shared how his company was taking a unique, personal approach to an industry based on mass production.
Mobineko is a British owned CD, DVD, and Vinyl manufacturing company with a factory based in Taiwan. Mobineko offers short run vinyl pressing starting at as few as 50 units. They have a great variety of colors and designs to choose from. Mobineko is a tight-knit group, with about 20 employees that oversee the operation. This gives them the opportunity to interact directly with their clients, so when you call their office you’ll actually be talking with a real person who will be available to assist the client throughout the manufacturing process. Imagine that! They also have an extensive quality and price garauntee on their services. This level of dedication to the genuine support of their clients is hard to come by these days, and makes Mobineko an excellent choice for Independent artists who are looking to take their first run at vinyl releases.
You can learn more at mobineko.com
Have you used any of these products? Have on opinion on how these products will fair in the market?
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