Beyond the horizon lies a very different musical and entertainment landscape, one that has been completely reshaped by technology. Back in the Eighties, the goal was to work in the music business for a record label while you dreamed of being a rock star. Fast forward thirty years and the goal is to work in technology. The new rock stars are the tech heads.
The control that the entertainment industries had on entertainment has diminished with the rise of the Internet as a distribution and marketing platform.
Barriers of entry have been lowered. Artists don’t need a middle man to distribute their music. However, artists are in love with the story of fame and wealth. Artists today seek to have what the megastars of the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties had. The reason why we had megastars in the music business is that those acts took risks. Today the majority of acts play it safe. The ones that sit on the fringes are the ones that end up building a career.
The aim of the game is to outlast the competition.
So what will the new landscape look like?
Ownership and Premium Content – Once upon a time we paid money just to hear the music. I just looked at my Amazon purchases for 2013 and I have purchased $750 worth of music so far. I am sure by years ends I will have done close to $1000 of music purchases. There is still a sense of ownership. However the ownership aspect has shifted more to premium products.
Sound – Once upon a time we paid large sums of money for hi-definition sound systems, just so that we can listen to our music in aural bliss in the comfort of our homes. Now we listen to compressed mp3’s on headphones in the car, at work, in the gym or on the running track. The focus is now on expensive hi-def. headphones. I believe it is an expensive fad. The majority of music consumers will still remain on the cheap alternative headphones however the push is on for better alternatives.
Performing Live – Once upon a time we used to wake up early to queue in massive lines so that we can buy an affordable ticket to the rock n roll show. Back then, we could afford to go to a show every month. Now, tickets are so overpriced that we can go to a show maybe twice or three times a year.
Actually this year, I have gone to a few concerts. I have seen Coheed and Cambria ($70 ticket), Bullet For My Valentine ($70 ticket), Periphery ($60 ticket), Black Sabbath ($160 ticket), Motley Crue and Kiss ($200 ticket, in total $800 for the family) so far. In December, I am taking the family to see Bon Jovi ($250 a ticket, in total $1000 for the family). That is $2,160 spent on concert tickets so far.Add to that figure merchandise purchases of $500 and you have a $2560 bill for live entertainment.
The Pirate Bay – While the Entertainment lobby groups are high fiving each other about getting court orders for ISP’s to block access to The Pirate Bay, they are failing to see the New Pirate Bay slowly coming over the horizon. Remember that the initial plan of The Pirate Bay was to create a small BitTorrent tracker for an extended circle of friends. No one predicted what was to come. The Pirate Bay’s aim was always to be copied. It never wanted to be the biggest or the most visited. It wanted to spawn a billion offspring’s.
So if you are an artist starting off today, there is a very good chance that you have downloaded a lot of music via The Pirate Bay. Don’t fight it, use what if offers and exploit it.
What needs to be done now to sustain the system?
Artists hold the key. They are the ones that the system thrives on. They are the ones that can set the rules. We are in the midst of a creative renaissance. It is the Labels, Studios and Networks worst nightmare. They used to be in control. They had the money for production and they had the control on distribution. If artists wanted to play in the game before, the needed to sell out, they needed to kiss butt. Those days are over. The means of production is in the hands of the artist.
Distribution is free. The world television is YouTube.
So what happens when everyone can participate? Only great will win. If an artist is great and they are willing to be in the business for a long time, then they will become an icon. Success and the audience will catch up with their greatness in due time.
Today it’s all about being the king of the individual and creativity. Money comes last.
How do artists transform their businesses to succeed in this new environment?
Repeatability – Music isn’t for the once anymore. iTunes is dead. I have spent over $700 on purchasing music this year so far. I am moving to the streaming option. It is for the many. The fan needs to immediately click on replay once they hear the song. If they don’t, the artist has done it wrong.
The era of taking a year off to make an album is over. The hard-core will buy the album and then it is over. We can listen to everything for free online. We only have time for great. The concept of buying an album and finding out it sucks is over.
Delayed Acknowledgement – An artist needs to keep at it, even though there is no obvious chance of success in sight. It is the lifers who last. This goes against the message of the era, which is that we need to be paid and we need to be paid right now. Volbeat is a perfect example of delayed recognition. The success they had in the USin 2012, is based on a song that was released on their 2008 album. Eventually the audience will catch up with the artist and when it happens the artist needs to be around to capitalise on it. Volbeat released a new album in 2013, and they still had their 2010 album selling decent numbers.
Mindshare – There is just too much content out there looking for attention. That is the nature of the new music business. Piracy hasn’t dented the recording business. The statistics from the record labels are all bogus. The flow of constant new content is the killer of the recorded business model. When there is so much competition, only great will rise to the top. So if the record labels and other misguided artists whine about piracy, they should know that what they released was just not great. The money is now spread across thousands of bands instead of hundreds of bands.
The “rock star myth” was a deliberate creation of the major labels. Wannabe musicians bought it hook, line and sinker. The Record Labels licked their lips at all the talent waiting to be exploited. Generally speaking, every artist puts in over 40+ hours per week just to make it. Once they get some traction, those 40 hours a week goes up to 60 hours a week. Artist need to be prepared to put in the hard work on a consistent basis as music doesn’t last these days because it’s too accessible.