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It’s A Ming Thing

Music sales were down last year. The RIAA blames the Internet. I’ll quote Hilary Rosen:

Blah blah the Internet yak yak those damn kids! gobble gobble back in my day we had to walk uphill through the snow to pay lots of money for scratchy records and we liked it that way yadda yadda I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too! blah blah why do they think we paid good money for those Congresscritters? blah blah…

You get the idea. Meanwhile, here in Houston, a couple of songwriters who give their stuff away have suddenly struck it rich with a silly song about Yao Ming:

It’s just a hobby.

Pals Chance McClain and Kevin Ryan write funny songs about Houston athletes — absurd, whimsical bits on anything from a third-string Texan quarterback to Astro Daryle Ward’s waistline.

“We write ’em fast, record and never perform ’em again,” McClain said. “After our little chuckle, we move on to the next one.”

But they’re not letting go of the Yao Ming song.

So these two goofballs, who’ve written songs about Matt Bullard, Texans’ third-string quarterback Mike Quinn, and Moochie Norris’ hair, wrote a ditty about Yao Ming to the tune of the soccer song Ole, sung it on a sportstalk radio show, and are now signed to a record label, with the song being performed regularly at Rockets’ games. They’re getting paid royalties and are getting interviewed on CBS and MTV.

McClain and Ryan’s strategy of first giving their music away may be a wave of the future in the record industry, according to Dan Workman, president of Sugarhill Recording Studios in Houston.

“There is a big paradigm shift in the music business,” Workman said.

Traditionally, musicians first perform their songs live and try to reach an increasingly large number of people to get the attention of a record company.

However, the music world realizes it has to change in part because of the Internet which makes it so easy to download music.

McClain and Ryan did not set out to make money from their music. Nevertheless, Workman is impressed by their accomplishment, which was to “go about things totally backwards, cultivate a market by giving it away, which created a huge buzz.”

“They didn’t try to carefully control the entry of their product,” Workman noted.

In comparison, many musicians are stingy with their artistic property and extremely protective of their work, and Workman will sometimes tell them, “If you’re not famous, chances are they’re not going to steal from you anyway.”

Giving one’s product away to create consumer interest is a long-standing business marketing practice.

In the music business, Workman said, other artists are trying something similar: They offer their music free online and hope to make money by charging for live performances.

The troubled music industry should welcome new approaches, Workman said.

Indeed. Are you listening, Hilary Rosen?

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6 Comments

  1. People trying to break into the music business can certainly benefit from giving away their music to get a following — yet this hardly characterizes the situation faced by major artists. Accordingly, I don’t believe that the analogy holds. If you give away your product for free and never charge for it, why would anyone ever pay for it?

    This is the reason why major music labels play songs on the radio but don’t throw free CDs from the rooftops. Exposure doesn’t necessitate giving away the entire product without charging.

  2. Emilie Metzger says:

    Blah blah the Internet yak yak those damn kids! gobble gobble back in my day we had to walk uphill through the snow to pay lots of money for scratchy records and we liked it that way yadda yadda I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too! blah blah why do they think we paid good money for those Congresscritters? blah blah…

    That paragraph was too funny!
    I really needed a laugh! Thanks!! (=

  3. Joey Wright says:

    Thanks for running the article on “It’s a Ming Thing (The Yao Ming Song)”. If you need any more info on Chance, Kevin or Pulltab, feel free to contact me anytime.

    Joey Wright
    Reel Connection Records
    281-797-1601
    http://www.reelconnectionrecords.com

  4. Joey Wright says:

    Thanks for running the article on “It’s a Ming Thing (The Yao Ming Song)”. If you need any more info on Chance, Kevin or Pulltab, feel free to contact me anytime.

    Joey Wright
    Reel Connection Records

    http://www.reelconnectionrecords.com

  5. ChuckEye says:

    Did you catch I, Cringely a couple weeks back? He was looking at the music money structure and came to the conclusion that the only way to come out ahead is with concerts. Recordings will never be the source of income they once were, it’s time for a change.

    Interesting bits…
    http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20021212.html

  6. Craig Byrnes says:

    Kevin Ryan is a talented, humble man who never ceases to amaze me with his musical abilities. Kevin and Dan together make a team worth millions! For information, or just to hear our work visit http://www.wtlrecords.com/soundboard.html

    They worked with me on my recent singles “Fight This Time” and “Blue Day”