Whether they ever choose to regain some of their former financial stature and growth, record companies, majors and indies alike, along with unsigned and unknown independent artists, too, must cultivate and create, as quickly as possible, a SINGLE new digital marketplace. Here competition will flourish and some semblance of reasonable choice and control over the discovery of new artists with original new music will be exercised by whatever is left of the music listening mainstream audience. In this brave new world, record companies will need to collaborate and combine forces with each other and with independent artists at large. They will need to move quickly to consolidate into one place a dynamic customer base made up of the depleting record companies’ sales bases along with the ever increasing independent artist fan bases. The passionate members of the music listening public will ultimately choose to gather in this one place and make quick decisions about new music and new artists.
This new DRM and royalty free, single destination ecosystem must be organized into a new business model that allows anybody trying to build a career as a successful musical artist to be discovered, exposed, branded and monetized. Additionally, before it’s too late, record companies must take advantage of the clout their remaining legacy artists have and use it to get a stronger foothold in this new competitive environment. Doing so will bring millions of people looking for less choice and more control over their music to one place to help artists of all kinds fight it out for exposure and success. Unsigned and DIY artists will be able to piggy back off of larger and more established artists and build bigger and more engaged fan bases much quicker.
In the old business model, all of a record company’s distribution, marketing and promotion efforts were centered terrestrially and, up until recently, these channels of distribution were strictly controlled by the record companies and their close friends at radio. Now with the Internet and the advent of digital music distribution, this axiom is no longer true. Record companies can no longer exercise the same level of control over the marketplace. The situation has become chaotic and the marketplace is fragmented and unhealthy. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of Internet sites that use music as some part of their mix of activities. This limits the ability of any artist regardless of their resources to easily and effectively promote their music and expect any degree of success.
However, if artists and labels were to consolidate their support and efforts into one discovery platform on the Internet that has a global reach, they could foster the development of a much more promotable community than they now have, create greater exposure for any artist in that community and also have better control over the financial fate of their music. It would be decidedly better than what exists now because with only one major destination to go to, people could influence others, be influenced themselves and actually make decisions about music and artists they really like. At this destination, music would be programmed with continuity and repetition. More importantly, the cost effectiveness and efficiency of new music discovery could be scaled down and become more manageable for record companies and independent artists alike.
Unfortunately, technologists with little understanding of how the music business really works regarding new artist discovery and development have built and currently run most of the larger music business sites. They have yet to construct a workable ecosystem that discovers deserving original artists and gives them the tools to gain enough exposure for them to make money and compete in the mainstream. Artist development and branding activities need to be focused into one place. By integrating the best available and most useful tools into a simple, efficient music business ecosystem, artists themselves or the entities which control them could find, promote, build, consolidate and maintain very large monetizable fan bases in this one single place. Once again fan choice and control could take over and make a real difference in steering the desires of the mainstream instead of letting the record companies do it for them using a small number of usually manufactured artists.
For this wonderful new paradigm to exist and flourish, you have to buy into four principal assumptions:
1) It’s still important to create popular mainstream songs and artists;
2) Short term fans wed to one particular song and long term fans wed to particular artists are both equally necessary and important to develop the music business of the future.;
3) The best way by far to build large monetizable fan bases in the future will be for them to be built in one single place on the Internet where any interested party can come and participate in the music and artist discovery process. Fragmentation of effort MUST end. There can not be fifty sites that do this.;
4) You can slice it and dice it in any way you want, but for this scenario to play out successfully, an extremely strong and compelling value proposition MUST be used to engage fans all over the globe and to entice them to actively participate in a single place of discovery.
Given the multiple choices and distractions that affect a potential music decision maker on a daily basis, spending money and lots of it on these people that you absolutely need to make new music and artists happen is also a must. Ask yourself, what’s in it for the average music fan to leave their usual music site of choice if they even have one and regularly go to Bandcamp, the new Myspace, the new MTV or places like TastemakerX and discover new mainstream music. The answer is nothing. My twenty years in the big time record promotion and marking business(see www.linkedin.com/in/davidsherbow) tells me that whoever or whatever gives these average fans something big for them to participate in a systematic discovery process will win VERY big.
In years past, when radio was still powerful, it could define an individual song’s or artist’s level of success. Once either made a great enough impact at radio, millions of people would have listened to that particular song or body of music multiple times and would have decided what song or which artist was going to succeed in the mainstream. If everybody competed in the same space like they used to and had the same promotional tools at their disposal as everyone else to get noticed immediately, then with or without record companies, great artists and great songs would be discovered by the mainstream music listening public.
In my vision for this single new place, any person or entity savvy enough will be able to piece together a coalition of bloggers, other trusted sources, internet and terrestrial radio station programmers, A&R machines like Crazed Hits, and major influencers with substantial networks of followers, to help them build a large committed fan base and develop mainstream financial success. Unfortunately it will still hold true that promoting aggressively to those serious influencers with large followings will give those with the most money to spend an upper hand LIKE IT ALWAYS HAS. However, it will also give those great artists who in the past had little chance to succeed under the old system a much better chance to get it done. Those who persevere with great music and do whatever it takes to survive will win big.
Think about it. This is not just a sensible and practical decision for record companies, artist managers and artists of all kinds everywhere to make and emotionally own, but it is a sound business decision that can potentially solve all of the current problems they deal with regarding music discovery and financial scale.
In 2006 and 2007, I envisioned, designed, built and launched only briefly, at great personal cost, a music discovery and e-commerce platform called MPTrax. I thought it would change the way we do music business. Today technology has advanced exponentially, but the concept is more sound now than it ever was back then. It’s a problem begging for a solution. For your viewing pleasure here is the “how it works” video we did years ago for my dream project. From this maybe you, too, can get an idea of what possibilities the new music business holds for the future and do something about it.