We’ve outgrown the conversation about record labels and now we’re trying stuff out to see what sticks: Soundcloud, Spotify, Bandcamp. The new trend emerging is subscriptions, which regularly crowdfund an artist, a musician, a content creator. It’s a good thing. Paying people for their work is a good thing, and certainly an improvement over pirating music.
At the same time, I don’t think this is the answer to the problems within the music industry. It’s a patch on an air mattress deflating every night when you really need a bed and a good night’s sleep. I don’t think it solves the fundamental problem: people don’t value purchasing music or paying to see bands.
The music industry is very segmented; it’s music, e-commerce, live concerts, merchandise, it’s parts of something but not the whole. Solving this problem is going to take more than analyzing one area and attempting to fix it. Well, how do we make music sustainable? You have to look at music like holistically to make it sustainable.
An artist like St. Vincent, is a great example. She’s genuinely talented. She makes amazingly well-crafted recordings of her music. She works with good teams of PR and marketing people, booking agents, and managers. She collaborates with people she admires. She has integrity and doesn’t even represent herself as a solo artist. She performs as St. Vincent with a backing band. What this indicates is that it takes teams of people to get things done.
This past September, I went to a Fest/Conference in Portland. This conference gave me an opportunity to interact with people I admire. It was strange because what I’ve done is small so far. What I found myself doing was approaching a CEO of the company I respected, telling him that I liked his speech, and babbling at him about the things that still need to get done. I wanted to get across to him was that his platform for supporting bands was excellent, but we need more. My message to him that it isn’t enough to sell music. At least, it was my point, but I was so nervous I don’t know if it got conveyed.
Bands are touring more to make up for the lack of music sales, and there is a lot of competition. We need to cross promote the shows, the music, the merch, and the bands in a way that cuts through the noise. I worked as a booking agent in Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S. and it’s a grassroots, bust your ass to get it done kinda of work. It’s thankless and it’s exhausting. Facebook and Twitter aren’t enough for marketing, posters only reach so far, print ads are really pricey for DIY places. And we need these DIY places…we need small venues. Artists need a place to start playing and developing their skills. We need an integrative solution to this problem and we need passionate people with skills, DIY values, and the startup mentality to do it. The music industry is not a single organization. It’s different parts moving along the same pathway, so there is not a simple solution. I am hopeful that we’re moving in the right direction.