Monday, August 3, 2009

Question of the Day - CROSSROADS - August 3, 2009


Lincoln Mendell asks:

Considering that the Holodigm is a system for the way things should work, rather than the way they currently do work, I feel that I would like to have learned more about how to work with the current system. The class was certainly beneficial in terms of learning how things will work as the Holodigmian revolution happens, but what about now, y'know? How do you work with the bastards in charge these days? Like, the guest lecturers did lecture about many various aspects of the music industry, it's just it all seemed so Holodigm themed... Is there not more to the music business than you address in the Holodigm? Anyway, pachow! paching!

Hartmann responds:

The digital influence on the music industry was not imposed by the flip of a switch. Everything didn't change over night. There was a Big Bang when Napster exposed an entire generation to the wonders of peer-to-peer file sharing. Since then, there has been a relentless erosion of the core infrastructure of the postmodern record business. Simultaneously, Internet entrepreneurs are reinventing the game. As the big four music companies shrink their numbers and adjust to digital distribution, they continue to present themselves as operational and optimistic about the future.

The emerging artists find themselves standing at the crossroads between the postmodern record business and The Music Renaissance. Since the big four music companies distribute thousands of labels around the world, and they seem to still be in business, there is a presumption that you have to join one of them in order to have a career. In the postmodern era that may have been true. But, things have changed drastically and the record labels are stuck in the postmodern paradigm.

The process is simple. First, you must convince a label you are a star, then you must swallow a 360 degree deal. If the label delivers massive radio airplay, and commensurate sales accrue, the fan base can be stimulated to create a strong personal appearance attraction. The bonding that occurs in the live arena expands the fan base, and this leads to more sales of records and merch. As your partner in a 360 deal, the label shares in box office receipts and all other income streams.

The problem is that radio ain't what it used to be. There isn't much of it available, and its a money race to see who gets their record on the air. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to "work" a song to number one on the Billboard singles charts. Traditionally the single excites interest in the album and the fans buy ten songs they don't want in order to get the one they heard on the radio.

At the height of the postmodern era a number one album sold a million or more units. Today a modest one hundred thousand sales, in your drop week, will rocket your album to the top of the charts. With sales volume down, there isn't a lot of excess profit to invest in new artists. Fewer signings, less product, smaller staffs and no ubiquitous form all contribute to the label's shrinking power. The most significant factor is that radio is no longer the universal music delivery system.

The iPod + iPhone phenomenon has relegated broadcast radio to a medium in search of an audience. Hit records are about altitude, there will always be a number one. But if the threshold for a hit is very low, the profit will be way less. The artist nets a tiny fraction of the retail price and often must sell a million or more units just to recoup his recording and promotion advances.

There isn't much attractive about the postmodern formula, especially since it may no longer be effective. There has only been one platinum album awarded to a new artist this year. There are only three gold albums in the top twenty. I suggest that no new artist should jump on this sinking ship. The record business may right itself and it may not. The big four have to pretend they have the fiscal solution, or their stocks will crash and their paper fortunes will evaporate. That's where the "burn" in "crash & burn" comes from. The lebels are in free fall for lack of a viable product.

The music industry has two primary activities. The performing business and the recording business. The central activity is the concert promotion and it will rise and fall with the state of the global economy. The postmodern record business has been brought to its knees by the digital age. There is no immediately obvious reason why it will ever rise above the kneeling position again.

The Holodigm system is a living experiment in the training, coaching, mentoring and career direction of artists and their management teams. It offers an analysis and description of the systems, mechanics an protocols of the music industry and its recording and performing components. The core principals are ancient and immutable, immune even to technology.

Showbiz exists and continuously evolves. Each career is unique and personal. The Holodigm map provides a lens through which one can view the industry and plot one or more careers. Even if you wanted a record deal, getting one is like trying to win the lottery. It is not prudent to try to jump on a sinking ship. This changes the nature of the war. The battle isn't to be approved by a recording industry hierarchy. The challenge is to take your music directly to the global fan base.

The Internet is infinitely more powerful than AM & FM combined, and the price is right. New artists need to build a following online. This fan base must be inspired enough to come to the gigs and buy the merch. The artist should be entertaining enough to bring them back for the return engagement. Low cost recordings and other high profit branded products will sustain the act's survival. Expansion of the fan base funds the growth and development of the artist's company.

There is no exit going backwards. No self respecting artist should sign with a major record company unless he is dictating the terms. By the time that much power accrues to the act, the last thing he will need is a record deal. A proactive artist should build a catalog of recorded masters and publishing copyrights that are continuously exploited by the appearances of a live attraction.

Its a do-it-yourself business. The good news is you will own what you build. If you have talent, and a good live act, The Holodigm system will help you view your career through the new music industry paradigm. It will help you understand the game you are playing, and it will help you avoid career damaging mistakes, and it will help you out run the competition lost in the fog.

There are two roads from which to choose. The postmodern path, which is experiencing across the board systemic failure, or the path not travelled before, The Music Renaissance. A small, talent driven, cellular business, artist owned and operated, that follows The Holodigm map and strategies, vastly improves its chances. If a band makes its living from music, and has no day job, it has reached the first level of success. The professionals are the ten percent who survive on that plateau. It all starts in the local music market and the talent goes Darwinian from there. Survival of the fittest applies.

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