Music, Models And Money

Together with a colleague, Brian Player, I’ve been looking at business models for promoting emerging/established music acts (primarily at the regional level). It’s been very enlightening talking to musicians, agents and managers on their various views and expectations.

Injecting a bit of lateral thinking, we’re also taking into account our joint experience of working in another complex and highly creative marketplace, research and development (R&D), so hopefully we can generate some new ideas this way.

It seems that everyone is looking for a business model that works (for them). Here’s an interesting post from Derek Webb that emphasises a more ‘holistic’ viewpoint:

That said, I believe all of the aforementioned services will play some role in the emerging music marketplace, that artists should have every tool at their disposal when it comes to applying their creativity as much to the marketing and distributing of their music as to the making of it.

But any model claiming to be good for the music business that is bad for the individuals that make up that business isn’t really good.  At the end of the day, blue-collar artists aren’t interested in propping up some nebulous idea of a “music business” so much as they’re seeking to build and sustain a career for themselves that enables them to make art honestly, without unnecessary and outside manipulation or consideration (like what people will buy or what will play on the radio).  So the model that is preferable and most beneficial is one where the individual artists win, therefore causing the collective survival and health of the “music business.”  If those individual artists survive, the whole business survives.

In the post, and as an example, he gives some interesting details on the benefits of giving music away for free. It reiterates the importance of networks and their spin-off effects, a topic that features throughout this blog in one guise or another:

This is all an equation of scale. I might be able to outright sell 20,000 albums for $10 each (again, netting around $1 each).  Or I can remove any barrier from someone hearing about or discovering my music by giving it away, which will result in an order of magnitude more albums distributed, maybe around 100,000.  If I can then convert 20% of those free downloads into paid transactions of any kind over time, I have probably well over doubled or tripled my money.  And I can do this repeatedly as I continue to grow, and learn more about and invest in my tribe, to whom I now have a direct connection (rather than having to go through Facebook, Twitter, or Lord forbid, MySpace to access them).

And all of this by giving the music away for free.

However, it’s not all talk and theory – we’re currently organising our first music event, to be held in autumn this year – details to follow!


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