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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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