Music Industry

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music indus­try, where it’s at and where it might be going. How­ev­er, if you aren’t famil­iar with The Long Tail, you have to read the arti­cle which appeared in the Octo­ber issue of Wired Mag­a­zine. Go read it here now.

I thought I might post some of my thoughts on the music indus­try, where it’s at and where it might be going. How­ev­er, if you aren’t famil­iar with The Long Tail, you have to read the arti­cle which appeared in the Octo­ber issue of Wired Mag­a­zine. Go read it here now in a new Fire­fox tab and then come back here. Lat­er, you can read all the argu­ments for and against the arti­cle at the web site for The Long Tail book.

Okay, so I have to admit that oth­er than a broth­er and a good friend which most would con­sid­er indie musi­cians, I have absolute­ly no affil­i­a­tion with the music indus­try oth­er than the most com­mon: con­sumer. That’s not to say it’s not an impor­tant role, though. I’m the guy who along with my mil­lions of peers either buys or does­n’t buy the music. It does take me for this whole mod­el to work. I do believe that it starts with the artist, though. The song­writ­ers and per­form­ers are both the chick­en and the egg here. That being said, I also believe that the mid­dle men per­form the most mean­ing­less task in the process. I was recent­ly remind­ed that cough­ing up the cash for mar­ket­ing and mass-pro­duc­tion could be seen as the most cru­cial part, and I’m sure that record exec­u­tives feel that way about it, too. How­ev­er, after read­ing this arti­cle, see­ing how free jour­nal­ism (read: blogs) can influ­ence the entire coun­try, and my own per­son­al expe­ri­ence in meet­ing peo­ple from around the globe through my web­site; I’ve decid­ed that this sim­ply isn’t the case any­more.

Here’s my new improved mod­el: instant access to the tip of the long tail. I put my music in dig­i­tal for­mat (this goes for books, etc, as well). I’ll pay for host­ing the files on iTunes, Ama­zon, Tow­er, where ever I want I think I can find some toe-hold of a mar­ket. Then, I use word-of-mouth, play­ing shows, and blogs to find an audi­ence. With sweat and luck, a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions start point­ing to me. As long as these rec­om­men­da­tions are gen­uine, and not like pay-for-play on some Clear Chan­nel sta­tion, then they will work. Peo­ple can lis­ten before they buy and, assum­ing price is right, they will buy. So, I start to move up the tail some. Best part for all you Down­hill Bat­tle geeks, no record label. Peri­od. If I want help with my mar­ket­ing, etc. I join a musi­cian & song­writer col­lec­tive. This gains buy­ing pow­er and larg­er influ­ence. This already works for inde­pen­dent gro­cery stores, phar­ma­cies, and on and on; why not for musi­cians? The mod­el for the music busi­ness is the most com­plex I’ve ever heard of. It does­n’t have to be this way. The tech­nol­o­gy avail­able for com­mu­ni­ca­tion between humans (which is pret­ty much what both mar­ket­ing and music boil down to) is to a point that this mod­el is now obso­lete.

Now, I real­ize that being out on the skin­ny end of this long tail isn’t going to make sta­di­um-play­ing-rock-gods out of my friends and fam­i­ly. It will, at best, pay the rent; and that’s going to be about as good as one can hope. But isn’t that much dif­fer­ent than the way it is now? I’ve got as good a chance as play­ing start­ing for­ward for the Wiz­ards as I’ve got going plat­inum, so what’s to loose? If you’re not U2, then not too much. How­ev­er, the fact that the music indus­try pro­tects itself does­n’t help some­one on the verge of get­ting in. You start sell­ing your songs on your own, and you’ll nev­er get signed on to a major label. That’s a risk that would be tough if you feel like a deal with a label (major or indie) is just around the cor­ner. How­ev­er, for all but the best sell­ing musi­cians these days, that’s not too big of a risk. Unless you’re in the top 10%(or so) of artists in terms of sales, you’re prob­a­bly not get­ting much air­time or sup­port.

As an aside, go read up on some great ideas on file shar­ing net­works at the Elec­tron­ic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion as well. Also, check out some of the links above. You’ll see that I’m pret­ty much just regur­gi­tat­ing some great ideas that are already out there, but you’ll also see I’m not alone in my frus­tra­tion as both a lis­ten­er of music and some­one who gives a damn about artists try­ing to make a liv­ing. Last­ly, if you like a song, buy the damn music!