The New Music Industry Part One: Little Boots As I've alluded to a few times here, I've been working on a music blog as a side project. One of the coolest things about it is that artists are constantly sending me tracks to listen to and post on the blog. They recognize the power of the internet and music blogs as promotional tools. These artists know that they are only worth as much as the number of people that listen to their music.
This wasn't always the case.
It used to be that an artists worth was measured in how many physical copies of the music they could sell. That is because in order to listen to and enjoy the music at home, you had to buy a physical copy of that music. Throughout the ages, this meant buying CDs, tapes, records and (way back in the day) actual sheet music. Record companies were necessary in order to professionally record, produce then distribute these physical copies of the music. It was an expensive process, and record labels took chance on artists by fronting the cost of all this work in exchange for part of the revenue that would eventually be
Part of the reason that people who would probably never shoplift a CD from their local record store "steal" music all the time by downloading it is because they don't feel like they've taken anything. They aren't holding an object in their hands, and someone else isn't physically out an object.
And that's because it hasn't been stolen. It has only been copied .
Music is no longer a scarce object, tied to physical objects. Like most of society's information, it has become an infinite good that can be copied endlessly for a negligible cost and with out any loss of quality (props to Mike Masnick and the Techdirt crew for drilling this concept into my head).
That's why I was so disapointed to read the comment that the artist Little Boots left on a music blog that had posted one of her songs after ripping it from her MySpace page:
hi, would really appreciate if you wouldn't rip tracks off my myspace. the whole point is to preview them on there for people a week at a time. thanks, little boots.
Yes, it was great of Little Boots to recognize the promotional value of letting her track stream freely on her MySpace page. However, what she doesn't recognize is the statement I made earlier: she is only worth as much as the number of people that listen to her music.
The New Music Industry Part Two: Selling Out So how does the number of people listening to an artist create value?
It does so by driving the demand for that artist up. The more people that listen to a particular artist, the more opportunities there are for that artists. By giving away music for free, artists are making it easier for people to become fans of their music. Rather than relying on fans for revenue, artists can look for corporate sponsorships and I have no problem with this.
I'm not advocating that every artist write a jingle for a mega-corporation or (though the payday might be worth it). Rather, they should align themselves with brands that they care about. Or, like Gwen Stefani and her L.A.M.B line of clothing, and Kid Rock and his beer, create their own brands.
With this kind of solution, artists get to make money and have a large number of people listen to their music. Is this selling out? Maybe. But I think that it is also considered "being successful" and is something that artists strive for.