It’s a chaotic and disruptive time in the music business and with chaos comes opportunity.
On one side you have COPYRIGHT. And that can be broken down into a lot of other little chaotic categories like infringement, the length of copyright terms, copyright monopolies, the lack of works entering the public domain and so on.
The public domain is culture. Keith Richards once said, ‘you can’t copyright the blues.’
Culture is built and expanded by sharing stories and building on the works of others. Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and all of the sixties greats like Hendrix, Clapton and Beck used this concept. They built off the blues.
However copyright law and its real purpose got hijacked by corporations and everything changed. Instead of culture being built up in the works that the public creates and shares, the public is now faced with copyright corporations locking away works that should be in the public domain by now. These works that should be in the public domain do not benefit the original creators in any way, however they are beneficial for the few copyright monopoly gatekeepers.
For culture to thrive once again, it is important to respect the public domain.
Then on another side of the music business you have the RIAA who continually push lies out into the world, so that technology companies can do something to protect crap business models. Did you know that the global music industry sent it’s 100 million takedown notice to Google, to remove search links to certain sites. It looks like the RIAA doesn’t get it.
So if a person types in “free mp3” in Google Search what should Google return?
Sites that have free mp3’s or sites that the RIAA want Google to point to when that term is typed in. Maybe when that person types in free mp3, they want a free mp3 and have no interest in paying.
Then you have the ISP’s on another side that are caught up in the middle of all this as they offer the service that provides internet access to users. According to the RIAA and the record labels, the ISP’s allow “copyright infringement” to happen, therefore, they need to do something about it to help out the music industry. In Australia, this is heavily disputed, however in other parts of the world gradual response schemes are in place.
Then you have the technology companies trying to offer low cost services to fans of music. However, low cost to a fan means high costs to the RIAA and the record labels in licensing fees. This is before the new service is even allowed to trade. If the new service starts to trade without licensing in place, expect them to be litigated into submission.
Have you noticed that artists have not been mentioned anywhere as yet. That is how far the music business has come, where the actual music is only a small part of it, however it should be the major part of it. For the business to thrive, you need great music.
I was looking back to some of the releases in 2013 that I liked. Two of my favourites are “Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria”.
“Protest The Hero” and “Coheed and Cambria” are working to the “Keep your fan base close” mantra. Both of the bands moved from major labels into a DIY independent mindset, realising that their fans are king.
Exceptional fan service is the key driving force behind a bands success. I expect “Coheed and Cambria” will get a lot more fans purchasing the next super deluxe package for the new album because they did such a great job with “The Afterman” releases.
“Protest The Hero” on the other hand have fallen into the fan funded conundrum where the perks always arrive later than expected for international fans. I live in Australia and I am still waiting for the perks to arrive. The band have been clear with their information, advising that it will take 6 to 8 weeks.
It’s good old business 101, “treat your customers right and they’ll stay with you forever”.
Then you have bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Avenged Sevenfold, Dream Theater, Stone Sour, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Volbeat, Alter Bridge and TesserAct that have label deals.
Should those bands go independent like Protest The Hero or Coheed and Cambria. It all depends on a person’s definition of success and hard work. Going independent means that you need to build a team around you like any business start-up.
What are the benefits of going independent?
The lesson is simple. Selling your artistic freedom and independence as a “success” strategy can bring lucrative rewards. But it’s not always the best move for your career, as you are also selling off important data to the record label. The record label doesn’t want to know your fans or connect with them. They want you to do it, so that the label can make money of that relationship and then pay you a percentage of it.
Coheed and Cambria moved over 100,000 units of their deluxe “Afterman” editions. At $60 (I think it was $68, however I will use $60 for the example) an edition, that comes to $6 million in revenue. If the band was on the label model, what percentage would the band see from that $6 million.
The music market/business is filled with acts trying to make it. It is going to take a huge effort to stand out amongst the rest. Music is a lifer game. It is a slow and steady approach that builds careers.
Artists should be looking at development. With each song release, artists should never be afraid to try things out. Even try out new technologies that make it very easy for their fans to interact with them and their music. In a company, this is called research and development. Investing in your career is never a mistake.
The artists have the power to make the record labels redundant, purely to be used as a distribution arm if needed, however with the rise of streaming technologies, even this arm can be in danger of disappearing. Bands like Coheed and Cambria, Protest The Hero and Digital Summer have seen the recorded business side of things and have decided, hey we can do it better. That’s what great businesses are made of.
So in all of this chaos, who will rise and who will fall? Time will tell, however if you compare music to technology, you will see only a select few rise to the top. Smartphones and tablets is all Apple and Samsung. Amazon has online shopping cornered. Google is the king of search. Spotify will win the streaming war. Facebook rules social media. iTunes rules the mp3 and app market. Will the same fate happen in the music business?
2019 Crystal ball predictions;
Coheed and Cambria – will get bigger and bigger. Their style is unique, so expect them to keep to that style, sort of like how AC/DC releases music in the same style or Iron Maiden.
Protest The Hero – proved to themselves that they still matter. Will get bigger and more crazier. The future of progressive metal.
Machine Head – will still be bigger then what they are. Robb Flynn understands the internet and understands the change that is coming. He will make sure that Machine Head rides the wave all the way to the shoreline, while Adam Duce circles in the undercurrent, ready to litigate the band into submission.
TesseracT – will become the next Pink Floyd.
Digital Summer – are one of the hardest working rock bands around like Twisted Sister and Dream Theater. They will get bigger as they are lifers.
Avenged Sevenfold – will become the new Metallica.
Five Finger Death Punch – I have a feeling that they will break up after one more album.
Shinedown – will be bigger than what Aerosmith ever was.
Volbeat – will remain relevant in their niche genre.
Metallica – will still be relevant in the same way the Seventies act remained relevant.
Dream Theater – will still tour and do a lot of side projects, however they will be replaced by TesseracT and Protest The Hero.
Black Veil Brides – will take over the void left by Motley Crue and Guns N Roses.
Trivium – will deliver an astounding progressive technical metal album.
Killswitch Engage – will remain relevant in their niche genre.
Alter Bridge – The world needs Led Zeppelin to continue. Expect Alter Bridge to fill this void. They have one of the best vocalists of the modern era in Myles Kennedy. Marc Tremonti is a prolific writer. Call his Creed project, “The Yardbirds” and Alter Bridge as “Led Zeppelin.”
Bullet For My Valentine – will deliver their own version of “Master Of Puppets” and “The Blackening”.
Lets see how it pans out.