What Music Industry “Crisis”???

Dave Cracked Up (Blog), Creating, Music/Audio, Opinions, Personal 3 Comments

You’ll see, at the top of the site, a bunch of graphics that will link you to four different things: my Facebook profile, my Twitter profile, the RSS feed of this site and, my LinkedIn profile. A while ago, LinkedIn started offering members the opportunity to be a part of “groups”. I looked through them and found a few – one of which was entitled “Music and Entertainment Professionals“. I signed up, apparently passed the vetting process and started to get daily email digests of the activity on the group “bulletin board”.


I haven’t really gotten too involved in the discussions, but one recently caught my attention entitled: “The Music Industry Crisis Document – 8th Edition. Done?”. It linked to a site entitled “Think Music – Our Plan to Restore the Music Industry“. The Music Industry Crisis Document is the cornerstone of the site and for some reason, got my write-my-opinion juices flowing on the LinkedIn board.

So, enough with the pre-amble. What’s my opinion you ask?

Well, I’ve sort of cheated and taken some of my text and re-formated it all for this post:

I’ve already emailed Chris about some technicalities in the document – most notably, the goals need to be focused better by being specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-targeted. I personally found it difficult to clearly understand what the foundation wanted to achieve.

All the “problems” that are stated in the document stem from the fact that technology has taken the control the old music industry once enjoyed weilding and exploiting (for lack of a better word).

Perhaps I’m a bit cynical or am trying to play a bit of devil’s advocate here, but I tend to think that regardless of how much the industry tries to “educate” the end consumer on the problems it faces, the fact remains that the playing field has changed and old business models and structures are obsolete.

Technology enables a marketplace for artists and consumers that is different and seperate from the one in the “traditional” music industry business model. The conduit between artist and consumer is now shorter, truly global and much more interactive. The middle-men and middle-management of the old model are becoming more irrelevant and unnecessary to small and medium-sized acts.

Yes, I can sympathize that music is no longer “the product” and realizing revenue streams from selling music is becoming harder and harder, but instead of demanding that the consumer see the “err in their ways”, artists need to find the opportunities to generate revenue with their fan-base. The music is still central, but the revenue streams are going to be more about the experience between artist and consumer.

To me, legislation, unionization or other methods of control seem to be (desperate) attempts to regain control of models that are now being rendered obsolete (and will undoubtedly be circumvented). I’d suggest that instead of spending efforts on changing attitudes of the consumer, we look to change how artists can see opportunities to leverage the emerging environment that technology is facilitating.

With technology facilitating so many different aspects of marketing, distribution, commerce, etc., an artist would be naive to rely on old IP-based revenue streams as the “meat” of their bottom line anymore.

Samples, choice free downloads, discounts, coupons, etc… all those kinds of things are tools that an artist must consider in order to market themselves in the new model. It’s the LEAST they need to do in order to be “in the game”. To excel, they will need to actively engage and foster a relationship with their consumers in order to create a revenue-generating base.

I’m of the opinion that artists can no longer afford to make a living in this (new) industry unless they are willing to fully and intimately engage their client/consumer-base. The music is still central to the equation, but it’s going to be more about the artist creating and fostering value to a perhaps smaller, but more dedicated client/fan-base rather than appealing to a larger, more fickle mass audience.

The music is no longer THE product. There’s so much of it out there, and to the consumers’ eyes, with that much to choose from – as I stated above – the value of music, by itself, is no greater than that produced by the next artist.

Artists need to find a way to provide value to a consumer / fan over and above the music. The music can still be an end in itself, but it can not be assumed to be the ONLY end (revenue stream). An artist needs to give a consumer a reason to want to give him or her money and with music unfortunately being devalued by the glut of supply, the artist needs to sell the whole package … including music.

There are fantastic artists out there like Jon Coulton and Imogen Heap who are fully engaged with their audience and making a very decent living at it. Jon’s music isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t very complicated, but it’s good and catchy. You can probably find a lot of music that is very similar to his, but he differentiates his by supporting it with the experience of engaging with him through technology. It’s the same with Imogen – there are a lot of female “quirky” artists out there like her, but she actively solicits interaction with herself and her creative endevours with her fans.

They both provide a value proposition to their fan-base that differentiates their work from others. There’s interest and engagement which can be turned into alternative, more valuable, revenue streams for the artist.

Yes, the “industry”, as it once was, is in a steep decline – I don’t really think it’s a negative, but more of a course correction. We’re in the wild-west again where the artist needs to be thinking with more of a customer-service attitude (how can I provide better value to my customers) rather than one that is centered around selling a product.

Comments 3

  1. I agree with you. As with anything, technology is kind of throwing a wrench in the gears that have worked so well for so long. It’s time for a huge paradigm shift for the music industry. It’s not just about the music anymore, as much as it pains me to say that. Artists need to find other ways of engaging with their fanbase outside of their music.
    To say that the music industry is in a crisis is absurd to me. Sure, the market may be diluted with a lot of music, but that’s half the fun of being a music enthusiast. Sifting through the crap to find the gems is always fun for me. And the gems are usually the ones that do something more than just music and are marketing themselves differently than the others.
    I believe Bob Dylan said it best: “The times, they are a’changin'”

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