Wednesday, November 25, 2009

QUESTION OF THE DAY - The Economy, MySpace & Music - November 26, 2009

Ray Jimenez asks:

Has the economy and the myspace band explosion had an effect on music?

In the 90s the term "sell-out" was used often. There was a clear social distinction between mainstream bands and indie bands. Sometimes the less known an indie band was, the more "cool" it was. There was a real backlash against popular middle of the road culture.

Today, in America, there is a great urgency and thirst for financial stability and prosperity. Any enterprise that is not a financial success is not deemed truly successful. In the 90s obscurity was not always looked down upon. Since myspace has caused a flood of new bands, has that forced the greater indie acts to seek a larger market so that they may even be considered relevant?

Hartmann responds:

High tides raise all boats. A weak economy affects every business enterprise. If there is less money in play, the amount of disposable income available for music is proportionately and exponentially decreased. A #1 album still reaches the top of the charts weather it sells a hundred thousand CDs or a million. What is drastically impacted is the profit margin. If the same effort produces infinitely less profit the enterprise will fail. This loss of revenue demands a new business model.

The music is the cause not the effect. MySpace and YouTube have become vital links in the chain that will secure the future of popular music. However, they are delivery systems, not sources of artistic product or performing talent. A pure artist walking naked in the woods singing his song with the birds creates the intellectual property called a copyright. As it is composed it becomes the property of the songwriter. Commercial exploitation of that song requires aggressive action.

Artists coming out of the woods, in search of fame and fortune through their music, don't do so in a casual manner. They come bold and obsessed about their greatness. They expect to succeed. In my fifty year career in showbiz I have never met a band that didn't think it was going all the way to The Big Top. Ninety percent of them were totally wrong. Young artists are challenged to reach the first plateau of success, survival. They abandon their anonymity and go public with their dreams. The contest is for the music dollar, the process is building a fan base and support group.

The coolness of singing for woodland creatures, who sing along without judgement, is replaced by the risk of rejection and criticism imposed by the paying public and the industrial punditry. Regardless of how many millions of artists compete for attention on the Internet, only ten percent will reach the survival level. Those acts able to apply sound business principals to the exploitation of their talents will survive the process and get to compete for enduring fame and fortune.

The greatest talents may choose to never leave the woods. However, those that do are dedicated to spreading their music far and wide. They intend to impress their songs into every corner of the Internet, in hopes of reaching a critical mass, and causing a viral explosion around the world.
Because of the low threshold for entry and the minimal cost of participating provided by digimodernization many artists of questionable talent get to compete with the best of the pros.

The public perception of what is acceptable in a cultural hero will be adjudicated by a very sophisticated audience. They know what they like. An artist's repertoire must be seasoned by extensive live performance before the recording begins. The songs should only be recorded when the live arrangement is tested and fixed. Acts must be able to perform their material in concert without excessive technical enhncement. Every band thinks their stuff is great, its part of the intrinsic charm of music, But, most music offered on the web is derivitive and uninspired. It has limited intrinsic value and will neither break an act nor attract a wide audience.

Relevancy is in the mind of the music fan who will first steal the music. That will inspire curiosity and get them to the band's gig. The blood, sweat and tears of a great performance will create a bond with the audience. When they fall in love with your act, they will buy your CD and T-shirt because they now care and want to see you survive. If they come back with their friends to the next gig, make sure you collect their email, because you have made an addition to your fan base.

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