23 Nov 2010

The music industry

I'm going to follow my earlier post up with a post about why it is important commercially; as I've been reflecting on my epiphany for a few weeks now (more to come on that by the way).

I'll cut to the chase. In the full length Runaway video, Kanye is solving the main problem that music has.

Music twenty years ago used to be about buying an album based on a single(s) that you liked. The idea was that you liked the single, bought the album, then went up to your bedroom and listened to the whole album from start to finish on your Sony Walkman. The reward (in theory) was that the album was greater as a whole than as a sum of its singular parts.

This meant that 1+1=3, based on the fact that all music was scarce and unavailable as the labels controlled the output. The labels controlling the output was the extra +1.

Then the music industry saw a chance to boost profits. If artists released albums that had a few killers with a lot of filler, then the labels could get three times the profit than you would from a single or two. A couple of singles would cost £2-4. An album would cost £12. If the consumer bought an album, they still got the songs they wanted, plus maybe one or two more, as well as a lot of filler.

Then the internet happened. This caught out the music industry. Previously, if a band had a few decent singles, they could be assured a decent amount of album sales. Now consumers could just pick the songs they wanted.

Simultaneously, piracy happened. Now the consumer has the power. I can download only the singles I want, for free, with no comeback.


Now the music labels are worried. But wait... here's a solution! Ban piracy! Then we'll have our single sales back.

And so the lawyers line up, toting their briefcases and $1000 rates.

But the enemy is nowhere to be seen. They are in other countries, ignoring the laws of the motherland of music, raping and pillaging the multistory towers of commerce that line the midtown streets of New York. The glass panels are being smashed as we speak.

This is all going a bit crazy and (as usual) the artists are being ignored. Let's go back to them.

The ideological benefit of the album was that the artist could communicate their message, with highs, lows and in betweens; much like a concert.

In fact concerts are now where artists make the majority of their money.

Concerts are for the real fans, who want to hear the message so much that they'll invest double the cost of an album for a ticket (even Seth Godin has something to say on this).

But how can you bring your message and experience to people who aren't where you are? How can you bring the concert to the people? Even people who don't live where you're performing?

It won't be easy to do. But nothing new is. And nothing easy is worth it.

Here's a clue in HD...

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