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"Music, not industry"

Written by Tommi on 28.04.2010 13:56:01

Blog image for entry "Music, not industry" My blog post "Survival of great music" from yesterday got a pretty interesting and thoughtful comment response from Mr. Nick Triani - an experienced and respectable individual residing in the dark scary chasm between indie and "the biz". Exactly the kind of dude who's banner I'd like to be carrying when the call to arms sounds: full-on indie at heart yet trying hard to make a living within the culture he's grown up with and most likely sacrifised a lot his sanity and monetary stability to.

I don't however agree with some of his points, so I thought instead of just replying in the comments section of the previous post, I'd offer my rebuttal in a post of it's own.

"As someone who played in a band that gave away an album on the internet 4 years ago, i just have to say that giving away music weather an Mp3 or a whole album is so passe, it's just another cog in the marketing of a band or band brand. What's interesting about the Viola mp3's for me is actually what the band have come up with musically. I don't care if it spreads awareness or whatever."

First off, free music: yes, there is absolutely nothing interesting or revolutionary about it anymore. It's not a question of being interesting, it's a question of rolling with the punches. If there's generally no will to pay for music, you have to give it away. Plain and simple. The laws of supply and demand where demand is pretty much a given and supply grows exponentially approaching infinity as the amount of music made in the world increases cumulatively and the threshold for making good quality stuff for 0 euros drops every day.

"I also think that it may be the case in Finland that the printed music media has no real influence on an artists breaking or whatever but in the UK & USA and in most parts of central Europe good coverage in printed media still sells a band and creates awareness."

I'd have to say that'll inevitably change somewhat very soon. The fundamental model won't change in the sense that the world will still need linchpins - tastemakers who's opinion people trust. That's the role that magazine-employed critics have played so far. The trend is still very clear: social filtering has taken over a whole bunch of that role and will continue to grab more in the future. Furthermore, tastemakers have always been just the first tier of communication. Every record company knows that it's not enough to get written about to sell anything. You need to get written about AND the message has to spread on its own.

This effect will just multiply vastly as being a tastemaker no longer requires glossy print validation of your status. A kid with a blogging platform and good tastes can be as relevant as Lester Bangs was in his days.

Still, it's not this first tier of communication that makes the difference, it's the amount of "wildfire" this thing starts. You can make the biggest bonfire imaginable in a paved supermarket parking lot by just bringing in the wood but it won't make too much of a fire, whereas just throwing a cigarette in the ground at a dry grassland can get several acres blazing in an instant.

"Exceptional music is not enough, there is plenty that goes without any recognition. Music that is not exceptional has been selling millions for many years."

See, now you're confusing exceptional with subjective value. Something that doesn't make people evangelize it is not truly exceptional. If it doesn't gather a movement behind it, it's probably just "pretty good", "excellent", even. But "exceptional", hardly.

...and like I said, being exceptional is not necessarily a shortcut anywhere. Movements don't convert to cash money on their own. That's why the key question is: how to monetize movements.

"The music industry will adapt and survive, weather it's in a form that any artists want to be part remains to be seen. It could just become nostalgia for the masses. And there is no accounting for taste."

That's for damn sure. Where there's people, there's money to be made and where there's money to be made, there's business. There will also be artists as making money with music will always be a profession people will like to follow regardless of the trade-offs included in the deal.

I'd be hesitant with the term "taste". People are smarter than we "real music lovers" tend to give them credit for. We just seldom stop to actually think about the fact that for a lot of people that pathetic Celine Dion ditty can actually touch many people in a way that no amount of The Minutemen or any other hallowed indie classic ever can. Hopefully now that marketing departments and media lose importance in setting trends, we'll get to finally see the truth behind the eternal rant about how people would really just listen to good indie music if they'd get more exposure instead of major labels shoving their boring tripe down everyone's throats. Hopefully we won't be too disappointed...
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Comments (8) 1/8

28.04.2010 14:26:20 triani wrote : ""Music, not industry""

Hey Tommi,

yes i agree with a lot of this. Just a couple of your points don't stand up. We're a long way off from artists having to give away their music. Although music sales are down we're still talking about a multi-million (billion?) dollar/euro/pound industry. People are still selling a lot of records. This goes back to the question of what music is worth and what the public think it's worth. It still seems a lot of people are willing to pay for all genres of music.

It also depends on who's writing about the music. Certain journos or publications have a bigger reach than most blogs. It's certainly the case still in the UK if a certain writer raves about a record it has a certain cultural impact still.

We can argue the toss about exceptional music with subjective value. The reality still seems that any band that makes considerable waves on the internet without a label machine behind them will invariably and inevitably soon be releasing records through a label (indie or major). Sometimes that big marketing push and thousands of dollars is hard to resist.

28.04.2010 14:44:52 Tommi wrote

I guess the difference here is that you're basing your points on the status quo (hopefully not the band, tho') and from that perspective they're more than valid.

I'm trying my best to polish my crystal ball here and look at the way things are moving. Basically from an early adopter's position. I'm as hardcore a music fan as they come and my consumer habits have been thoroughly revolutionized lately. Massively.

The juxtaposition you underlined in the last chapter of your post is a very interesting one! It strikes me as VERY odd that the holy grail for bands still seems to be landing the mythical RECORD CONTRACT. Especially when the band in question is such that has been very succesful with making sizeable waves online by themselves.

But I guess that's something that needs to be iterated on as well now that the role of record labels is changing pretty dramatically.

28.04.2010 14:52:35 Tommi wrote

+ business-wise, I'm looking at this all through my role in my day-job in the realm of digital services and media, where I've gotten some pretty good visibility into how digitalization is changing the ways consumers act and interact. Most of this blog is me trying to adapt that information more specifically to music.

28.04.2010 15:29:57 triani wrote : """Music, not industry"""

definitely not the band!
there are so many advances weekly on how consumers get there music I can't keep up. It could be Spotify or some other model will come and blow that away.

I think another thing is there will always be bands that don't want to be social media experts or have to use half there waking day promoting themselves. Manager, labels, publishers and so on will keep providing that service. Some artists will always just want to do the art and nothing else.

As someone who still spends a lot of time in those old fashioned things called a studio, I still appreciate it and never take it for granted. Not everyone get's the opportunity to have someone else fund their creativity. The pro's and con's of any deal involved in that are many, but going to an expensive studio paid for by someone else is still a privilege.
I haven't had that privilege for over 10 years, and just sometimes, I wish someone would invest in my music and take care of all the other shit that goes with it.

28.04.2010 16:44:26 Tommi wrote

"I think another thing is there will always be bands that don't want to be social media experts or have to use half there waking day promoting themselves. Manager, labels, publishers and so on will keep providing that service. Some artists will always just want to do the art and nothing else."

I'd say the vast majority of artists would like to not be anything but artists if possible. The only problem is that if there's no money to be made in taking care of that stuff, the motivation for people to do it for others is gone.

And obviously the same goes for studios and professionals operating them etc. If there's no cash to be made, there's no privilege of using these services. Unless it's from your own pockets. Which sucks.

28.04.2010 17:50:17 Arttu Tolonen wrote : "IN THE YEAR 2000!"

You know what I would like to see happen to the music industry? The fact of the matter is that an artist or a band, in many cases, has an idea for a sellable product, but lacks the capital to put it out there. In other industries this is where venture capitalists come in (or your neighborhood drug lord...).

In the music industry, record companies offer this financing, but the relationship is often fraught with difficulties and crass inequality. Especially now that record companies keep floating the idea of 360-deals as a life preserver, then maybe the relationship between content producers and distributors needs to be looked at from this point of view...

An idle thought.

29.04.2010 01:25:26 Avi wrote : "this is a great discussion"

there are no right answers, no cure-alls, no silver bullets. what works for some in one particular niche will not necessarily cross over.

I think the best thing about the current situation is that artists have a lot more power/potential to record and release their music however they see fit. the problem comes, as many of you have touched on, is that many artists are terrible business people, not to mention that the business/admin side of things is so incredibly dismal for most folks who just want to strap on a guitar or whatever and rock out. through it all though, I still see that the artists who really want to be successful nowadays and are actually succeeding are out there touring and putting themselves in front of people. new media is great, but some of the old rules can still apply.

30.04.2010 13:07:44 Triani wrote : """Music, not industry"""

I think Avi is right. Now if I could only find that crystal ball.....
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