Rehearsing at the moment for the Hue And Cry tour, so apologies for lighter posting. But as I'm mostly in a music mode at the moment, I thought I'd share some of the sources and pieces that fuel my theory and practice as a music entrepreneur.
Gerd Leonhard is quite rightly gaining pre-eminence as one of the visionaries who can see a new business model for the music business, beyond the current panic about the collapse of copyright. His slogan is 'compensation not control' - meaning, we have to start thinking about licensing the overall usage of music through digital streams, rather than controlling the usage of every piece of music that gets played. Lawrence Lessig makes this point about digitisation in his book Remix which I reviewed recently - literally, every time you play a piece of content on your computer, it makes a 'copy'. So, whither 'copyright' as a means of recompense? Is that really concievable these days, outwith some Orwellian system of total control of all connected machines?
I love Gerd's latest riff, inspired by an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, about how the music business should start thinking about its stuff as an 'app' to be downloaded to mobile devices (like Android or the iPhone), with a whole load of services that could be charged for or rented. (The one thing you can say about mobility is that it has built in some expectation of content being paid for). No-one knows how things will settle with digital content in the next few years - as my column for the Guardian said a few weeks ago, there is regulatory-level as well as company-level reforms and innovations being pursued here. But Gerd is a superbly responsive and intelligent guide to the landscape. Here's a great interview with the music blog Rollo and Grady
Another font of useful (and occasionally wild) theorising is Bob Lefsetz (also interviewed recently in Rollo and Grady). Nothing if not passionate, Lefsetz constantly takes the major music business to task for its head-in-the-sand attitude to the digital tsunami that has rushed over them - and (inspiringly for musicians) says that the only safe course amidst the business turmoil of digitisation and networks is for bands to make the most inspiring music they can, for the most committed fans they can find. And then, assume that there's a living to be made, not a fortune. Musicians and bands should grow their presence horizontally and organically through the various fan-and-content networks available, with live performance at the core of the model. This is exactly what we've tried to do with the Hue And Cry Music Club (based on the Ning platform) - and our current near sell-out UK tour is some proof that the model can work.
R&G: I see artists actively pursuing their fans by gathering opt-in mailing lists and offering B-sides and tickets before they go on sale to the general public. I feel like a lot of bands are actively reaching out to their fans.
Seth: Also, the middle geography has disappeared. In the ‘70s or ‘80s you listened to a song because “everyone else” was also listening to it. That’s the definition of pop music. In those days we defined “everyone else” as people in our high school or people who listened to WPLJ. Now, “everyone else” is not defined by where you live or what radio station you listen to. It’s defined by which horizontal or vertical slice of the world you connect yourself with. I might listen to Keller Williams because everyone else in my world includes frustrated Deadheads. We don’t have new Grateful Dead to listen to, so everyone else in my circle is listening to Keller Williams, so he is pop to us. He’s not pop to the kids at the middle school who have never heard of him, right? So you end up with all these silos and niches and lots and lots of ways to look at the world.
What's the Chinese curse - may you live in interesting times? The Chinese have certainly cursed the music business at the moment. And I'm tempted to say, thank Confucious for that. It's at least not boring - and a constant and direct invitation to think through what a "play ethic" might actually mean.