Saturday, February 13, 2010

Music Business FAQ - TALENT TODAY - February, 13, 2010

Talent Today

R. Monahan asks:

Do you feel that there is any one act or artist already around today that could potentially rise up to being the face of our generation or are we still waiting on that star to appear? And also, if there is not anything established yet, what genre do you believe this act will rise out of?

Hartmann responds:

Every displaced record executive in the world is dreaming and scheming about how to reinvent the music industry. But, it is not the music "industry" that is suffering. It is the record "business" that is in a stew of its own making. The concert "business" is the second, and most enduring, component of the "industry" of music. The live music business will not sustain the same long-term, deleterious damage as has befallen the record business. Regardless of cost, profit, packaging, or how it is marketed, the music industry is here to stay and will be bigger than ever.

Digimodernization has fired the shot heard round the world. The transition is in motion, the industry will adapt. The evolution of it cannot be stopped. The artist and the audience are forever connected without imposition of middle-men who may have less than artistic motives. Cross cultural communication is exploding across the Internet and music is at its forefront.

Vast digital systems are hyper-linking social networks and enabling the exchange of millions of songs and videos every day. This "sharing" of music is expanding the global audience at an accelerating rate. The net result will be an increased interest in musicians and their work. The perceived values will accrue to the artistic side and the business of music will be redefined. This progression is moving at an explosive pace and the sound it makes is music.

There are hundreds of artist and repertoire services on the Internet that all offer "expert" guidance from seasoned professionals. The problem is that the expertize they purvey almost always relates to the old paradigm. There is a distinct lack of vision about exactly how to pursue the development of new talent in the music renaissance. One thing is for certain, reliance on record companies is no longer a viable option.

Newly minted Internet entrepreneurs must function within the parameters of their personal experience. This usually means finding someone to invest in the act. With very few record companies still in the artist development business, no artists get signed until they have a strong online following. By then, the potential contribution of a label is questionable. They can't guarantee much money, because the return on investment is not secure. The 360 degree formula is yet unproven; not one single act has come to prominence under this type of arrangement.

The music industry has been forced to take a digital leap backwards in order to surge forward into the new paradigm. The record business is collapsing under the weight of it's own infrastructure. This demise of the labels does not portend the end of recording as an art form. The two primary activities of the music industry will always prevail. Recording and performing are the symbiotic partners that created the postmodern record business; and they will continue to flourish as new music is discovered and shared across the Internet. The promotion will be freely generated by the global fan base.

The development of a new system for the monetization of music will endure a myriad of possibilities and some will prevail. There is a plethora of business models, some actualized and others in development. These include subscription, advertising based and bundling concepts that despite enormous investment, can at best be considered experimental. Nobody knows how the music fans will ultimately react to the sudden freedom the world wide web has provided. Their ability to choose any amount of music, from any genre, on demand at no charge must not be taken lightly.

The concept of "free" music is very powerful and deeply entrenched in the youth culture. It will not be easy to get them to pay when they are accustomed to sharing music without fees. This makes for a low threshold for entry; but immediately raises the bar for artists reaching for square two. It is easy to get into the game, but very difficult to progress. Only the most talented will build a large enough following to sustain a career. That is the way it has always been. Only ten percent of the competitors will survive as ninety-nine percent of the money is earned by this elite group.

The first level of success is survival. Artists who reach this plateau will be competing with the best of the best. One percent of them will earn ninety percent of the money. The bands that cannot generate a following through their live performances will be doomed to keep their day jobs. Their music will become a hobby, not their business. Artists who have the talent to inspire an audience and bring them back for more will have a chance to continue in the game. This will require the appication of artistic and business skill in equal proportion. Virtuoso talent combined with good theater, trmendous desire, and enormous personal effort could still produce a monumental star.

Each new enterprise will be built around a body of music that appeals to a niche market. When no genre is ubiquitous, every genre is viable. It does not matter which style of music you perform, there is an audience for every established style and there is even room for a new genre if it should emerge. Although they all follow a similar trajectory, each career has its own signature components. They all face the same obstacles and every one has to be built up from rock bottom.

The shock wave of digimodernization has not only rocked the record business, it has fragmented the fan base. As music lovers adjust to the new found freedoms and have access to every song ever recorded, they will discover the wonders and delights of the global music pool. Within the millions of possibilities there lurks some inspired artist struggling to find his voice and direction.

Although no such artist is evident and none is on the horizon, it would defy history for a superstar not to evolve. When that phenomenon arrives everyone will learn about it on the same day. There will be a roar of acclamation and affection that will streak around the planet by instant messages, tweets and friends Facebooking friends. YouTube and MySpace will light up like Christmas trees. The new superstar's web site will crash for lack of server power; and everybody with an iPod will embrace the song and choose to pay instead of "sharing" the file. This will result in the single biggest financial windfall in the history of popular music.

A hard core fan base, who discovered this artist years previously in their home town will rise up and inspire universal support. Needless to say the unknown, subject artist will make millions of dollars that day. The impact of the event will bring world-wide attention and the acclaim will be unprecedented. At this juncture the monolithic, multi-national corporations will move in and try to capture the beast.

There will be an enormous effort to try to duplicate the process in order to seize and control the golden egg. However, the new addition to the pantheon of mega stars will already be rich and famous and have no need for unnecessary partners. The success will inspire thousands of lesser stars to compete within the infrastructure created to contain the new universally appealing musical hero. Many will emulate the style and characteristics of the messiah and a new paradigm will be born.

It will only require the same measure of identity, appreciation and personal attachment that previous generations have awarded Caruso, Valli, Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles and Michael Jackson to turn the economic tide. The fans of these artists would not have "shared" their music for free. And, although no such star is present, or even on the horizon, history shows that such a musical force always arrives at a time just like this, a time when nobody can imagine how it could possibly happen.

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