iBALLS ARE KING
David Johnstone asks:
You say the recording industry is dead in its own skin, that the Internet is the new delivery system, and artists and managers, in exclusive partnerships, will create the new music industry paradigm. And, you have recently described on your blog the future role of record labels as:
"the major record companies will probably experiment with advertising based and subscription models; but such systems are more likely to be created by Internet entrepreneurs than the big four who still want to gouge the fan and abuse the artist."
So, what about Facebook? - it seems there is room for expansion. Do you think this trend could be exploited in favor of at least the foundation for a new music medium, or will it look differently?
The new music medium is Audio/Visual content. The aural experience is not enough for the Digital Generation. They've been on screens since before the womb and they want pictures. Sound alone will not create a "Fan" in The Music Renaissance. The music maven, in any given community, influences his peers to check out his latest discover. The sounds that hook their interest inspire curiosity about the source of the music.
The next stop is YouTube.com to see who has the audacity to produce this exquisite song. That is the hardest won click. The first 10 seconds of the video they land on must tell the whole story or the third click is on to something else. Genre, image and style are instantly established through context, color and costumes. Virtuosity will be measured in the next three seconds, melody in five and message in ten. If you haven't hooked them by then, you won't be adding them to your fan base. A clear visual message is a must.
The recording industry is not necessarily dead; it is more like a in a coma. It could wake up at any time. Some new technology could rescue it and provide a new business model. In the Interim, declining sales have imposed downsizing on the postmodern record business. The shrinking process is Internet imposed and has a digital solution. The big four record companies will survive on their publishing catalogs and masters while they suck in easy download and ring tone fees.
Essentially, the labels will ride out the storm by signing very few artists, as they digitize there operations. They will watch for acts with millions of hits on their websites and overpay to attract them. Bands should not focus on getting a record deal. Their time, money and resources must first be devoted to building a strong live attraction that performs original material.
It should not be assumed that every song one writes is a crystal tear from the eye of Zeus. Ninety percent of artists fail because of weak songs. Every act needs a repertoire for performing and recording. No matter how great your friends say you are, remember that music is kind of like sex and ice-cream, even when its bad, it ain't bad. The great music doesn't require study, its not an acquired taste. The best music leaps out at you, it tickles your brain, gives you goose-bumps and makes your body twitch. You want to hear it again.
Those closest to the act have the most context with which to interpret the performance. They are going to fall in love first. The challenge is to get the rest of the world on board. Regardless of the role record labels might play in the future the music industry will continue on as it has since long before there was a record industry. The backbone of that enterprise is known in and out of the trade as a "gig."
The future stars of music will be those who give the best gigs and can turn them into high profit merchandising events. To succeed an artist needs to treat the band as a do-it-yourself business. All enterprises have competition, and it is always a race for market share, when brands seek the same dollars. A band's survival depends on reaching the profit margin before the thrill is gone.
Most acts will give up, get a job in the real world and walk away feeling it was his manager's fault. Ten percent will reach the professional level and make a good living. One percent will reach The Big Top and make a great living. Every act starts out at Rock Bottom where the passion is highest, the dreams most grand and the fog of showbiz most dense. Duration is the name of the game.
The role of the Internet in creating the new music industry paradigm can not be over emphasized. Even if you are totally lost in the fog, start by building the band's web site and learn as you go. You may be flying blind, but at least you will be in action when the opportunities arise. Your web site tells the story, your gigs display your talents, your music and merch pay the bills. It all starts from the cyber-grass-roots and works up toward The Big Top. Start there.
The degree of difficulty is very high, and new artists compete with each other, as well as the presiding stars. Enduring the nomadic lifestyle of a travelling performer isn't always as glamorous as some might think. Many will quit out of shear exhaustion. The professionals will create a personal relationship with a loving audience and build those fans into their business structure.
The online music marketing and promotion sites will provide cost free infrastructure for every band with a brand. Careful use of the social networking systems will continue to to play a major role in the artist's ability to control his own destiny and direct his career into the market place. By retaining ownership of publishing and masters, the artist company builds a permanent annuity that will produce for years to come. To the degree a brand is established, it retains its value.
New artists should reach as deep into the fan base as possible. The pre-teen audience has access to the same technology as the teen-ager. They have been constantly exposed to music since the womb and they will grow with you. Even if they aren't Facebook eligible, all of them are YouTube specific, they are on the web somewhere and can be reached. Catch them while they have a lot of tread on them. When you get fans on the support team, your next challenge is to retain them.
The postmodern record business was built on the back of great artists evolving the recording arts through technology. When radio ruled, a knowledge of sound may have been enough to compete. In the music renaissance, film and video are equally important ingredients. When every terminal in the distribution system comes with a screen, iBalls become the new King in town. The King is dead, long live the King.