It’s no secret that the record industry is in trouble. They have moved from selling music as their main source of income to creating revenue through lawsuits against their customers. Anyone can see that this is a piss-poor business model. Yet the people who should be the most learned about the sinking ship that is the record industry as we know it are completely ignoring every sign and hopping aboard the Titanic with reckless abandon.
I’m talking about bands; the poor naive bands who somehow still think that signing a record contract is synonymous with crossing a finish line in first place and being handed your dreams on a silver platter. The poor naive bands who don’t read the fine print, and don’t keep up on the business end of the industry they so sorely wish to be a part of. The bands who sell 2 million albums and end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to the company who they thought were fulfilling all their wildest dreams.
These are the folks who should know the new first law of the music industry. Do not sign to a large record label. I would go as far as to say not to sign with any record label at all. I don’t think I need one, but I certainly can see where many bands could benefit from being with a smaller independent label. Not every musician can be a business man and vice versa, but i think we are entering an era of music where the power will be placed solely in the hands of the musicians who can think differently about what their music is and how to make money doing what they love.
Here are a few concepts every musician today should understand.
1. People will share your music with one another – Don’t think of file sharing as stealing. Most people who download music for free don’t think of themselves as thieves, they don’t think of themselves as pirates, they just want to listen to your music. The whole goal in the music industry is to get as many people as possible to listen to your music. When people share music with one another, they are doing that musician a favor by increasing that bands listener base. It is hard to think of file sharing as a benefit to musicians since most musicians see their music as a product to be sold in album form. If people are sharing your music with one another for free, how can a musician make money?
2. Music is not a product anymore, it is Content – When music was tied to the media it was played on, it was a product in the same way a dishwasher or vacuum cleaner is a product. You buy a vacuum because it is a product that cleans your floor. You used to buy a CD because it was a product that makes pleasing sounds.
Now we have separated the content from the product. You no longer need the CD to hear the pleasing sounds. With the music removed from the product, music only exists as content. The dilemma of how to make money off of making music becomes a lot easier to solve when you think of music as content and not as a product. Many different kinds of media have used content to make money. The best example is the television industry, which has used free, quality content to make money for years.
3. Be the provider of your own content – There are hundreds of torrent download sites making a fortune from providing free content. They advertise to the thousands of people who visit their sites. They get thousands of people to visit by providing free content. Content created by other people.
This is money that should be going directly into a musicians pocketbook. Musicians should be less angry that there are people hearing their songs for free and more angry that the web traffic is going to a torrent site instead of their own web site.
The best way to capture those advertising dollars is to directly compete by providing your own content for free. If someone has two options, sift through a sea of unscrupulous torrent sites for your new single, or download it directly from the artist for free, the customer will download the content from your web site every time.
4. Content is no longer limited by the product itself – A CD holds 70 minutes of music. Most CD’s released by musicians go to about 45 minutes and have between 10 and 15 tracks. Every CD has packaged art, track lists, band photos, and lyrics printed on them. This is the format almost every band has followed for as long as I could reach the play button on my Dads stereo.
Since the content of the CD is no longer tied to that 70 minute shiny disk, the way in which music is marketed and sold is now free of that tired old format. I believe that itunes has begun to pave the way for the return of the single. Bands can now release content at a more fevered and consistent pace, churning out a song every couple of months from the privacy of their own homes.
No longer will the artist need to write “filler” in order to artificially elongate their album. No longer will fans be forced to purchase 9 songs they don’t like in order to have 3 songs they love. No longer will fans have to wait years between albums. Fans will get a new dose of the band they love every time they write a new song.
Early adopters of this idea will benefit greatly by keeping their band in the media more often. Bands will have more chances to promote themselves with a new release coming out every month. The single format would also benefit musicians who generate their income from ad revenue. More releases yearly means more consistent web traffic to your site.
Many musicians and record labels will cringe at the thought of giving away music for free, but it cannot be avoided. The Internet has made sharing the music you love easier than going to the store and purchasing it. The next step for bands is to make downloading their music even easier for the fans so they can control the content they create and make a dollar in the process.
Written by: Cobra-Punchers