In a November 1992 issue of the Hot Metal magazine that I used to buy, there was a quote said that stuck with me for all of the wrong reasons.
“We want to make money”
Star-Star vocalist Johnnie Holliday.
The reason why it stuck with me was that every single musician I was working with during that period and beyond had the same viewpoint.
Suddenly our musical heroes became TV stars. Artists that were big in the Seventies crossed over to super stardom during this period. New artists starting off would end up moving millions of units because of a video clip. Suddenly every prospective musician wanted a piece of that money pie, without fully understanding that the decks are stacked against them from the start.
Fast forward to 2014 and the making money argument is still there. The top 1 percent of bands and solo artists now earn 77 percent of all the revenue from recorded music.
Just because a person decides to create music, it doesn’t mean that they will make money from it. There is no guarantee and there never was. A music career is no different to a small business start-up. Some will succeed and others will not. Some of those that succeed will go on to greater success and from those that go on to greater success, you will get maybe 1 or 2 that will crossover in a big way.
But to make money, the artist needs data and they need to understand what that data means. Basically, data is king and it is a shame that the recording industry has taken so long to understand that.
Universal Music Group uses a database called Artist Portal that was built by interns (who are employees now) five years ago. About a year ago Warner Music created “Artist Dashboard”. Sony Music Entertainment on the other hand has so many separate dashboards in play that they need a whole analytics team to eyeball everything. Guess they have more important issues on their minds right now dealing with hack after hack after hack.
However the labels are still not getting the full picture. What they should be doing is to also compare the artists reach on P2P networks and the countries where it’s happening, even down to the cities. And the data has to be made available to artists in real-time. In the end, the artists are the ones that keep the wheels rolling on the label machine.
And the question needs to be asked. What are the metal labels like Nuclear Blast, Roadrunner, AFM, Metal Blade, Century Media, Spinefarm, etc. doing for their artists? How are they capturing and analysing data for the artists on their roster?
20 million searches take place on Shazam every day. So how many metal and hard rock labels use the data that Shazam generates?
It has been downloaded over 500 million times and even though it’s main user interface is about identifying unfamiliar songs, it’s big secret is that it is an early detection tool for songs that could break through.
Think about that for a second.
By using the data that fans generate, Shazam can identify which songs are having an impact and in what cities/countries. Of course it is great for the pop music business however I am sure it is an under-utilised tool when it comes to metal and hard rock music. How much more evidence does the recording industry need to know that “the wisdom of the fans” is law.
Bands can target what cities to promote in and eventually play in if they had that data. The future is here and data is directing the music business. That is why the big labels still rule. They have the money to throw at compiling DATA.
The barrier to entry may be low, but the barrier to success is higher than ever.