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No One Has the Answer, But Sivers Told Us That

If there’s any doubt about the disarray and desperation afoot in the music business, just check out the Internet’s affect on the media business – music, print and broadcast – overall over the past decade. A recent article in the New York Times covers the waterfront on this issue quite well.

While the devastation of digital democracy vis-à-vis the Web made its first blitz through the belly of the music biz, the print media was next in line, and the battlefield there rivals Antietam.

As a journalist and PR man – in addition to my music career – I’ve felt the devastation first hand. I’m intimately involved in the newspaper field and have seen dozens of friends and colleagues tossed out on the street as media chains have filed Chapter 11 and newspapers large and small have folded. Some first class writers and photographers I know can’t get arrested in their field right now. Personally, it makes me sad. Professionally, it brings home the realities of what us music artists face as we search for a viable business model.

And it brings to mind an MTT post by Derek Sivers entitled “Unlearning.” In it, he claims everyone who says they know what the future music model is is simply “full of shit.” What’s significant about his colorful observation isn’t so much its tude as its truth.

Sivers has been around enough to know (even what he doesn’t). And his recent read on our industry resonates through the Times article cited above, from Rupert Murdoch’s shaky search-engine trial to the uncertain, even timid efforts of Time Inc. and the New York Times itself.

With the new decade upon us, we can only hope that a less bloody battlefield lies ahead.

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Allen Shadow is a rock artist, songwriter and PR pro. For more, check out his blog

Reader Comments (9)

Or, as I put it - anyone who claims to be able to predict the future is a liar or an idiot. Possibly both.

I wrote an article on New Music Strategies about music futurology here, and something for Now We Are Different about trends and projections as a source of futurism here.

December 29 | Unregistered CommenterDubber

Yes, my contribution is to suggest to people that they can't necessarily count on the current music business models being tossed around either.

I know there will be music. I know people will write music. I know people will play music. I know people will listen to music. I'm pretty sure people will record music.

But what people will spend money on related to music I am not so sure. There will be a wealth of free music because there always has been. Kids sing on playgrounds and (unless they cut out all the programs) in school. People sing in church. There are still jam sessions in people's homes and backyards where friends and neighbors sing, play their drums, and play whatever instruments they have or create from junk.

The "fans supporting artists" model is evolving and isn't a given even though some people talk like it is. For all we know, if times get really tough, it could take the form of inviting starving artists into one's home to sing for some food and a place to crash. It could be a very human form of music in one's lives.

December 29 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Yes, Andrew, the future ain't what it used to be. And the cloud/jukebox model isn't going away anytime soon, despite its sputtering success. Just look at Apple's acquisition of LaLa as reported recently in the NY Times, and the attendant problems with that strategy.

December 29 | Registered CommenterAllen Shadow

There is certainly little hope of any next-phase record industry or musician business model when record companies continue to hire retread music industry hacks. What is it people expect from the same thinkers that got us into this mess?

The solution will come from new thinking and new models. Hiring a veteran from the record industry, and hoping/praying/manipulating the record industry will behave like the world they new, offers little more than a brain dead patient on life support.

I began a series of autopsies on the record industry. The conversations will begin to change when we get new thinking involved. Let's leverage this think tank model and invite new thoughts from other industries, other art models, other fields - many times this is how innovation is spurred. When you are too close to the subject we often overlook the solution.

Here's to great music and a the new opportunity fans and musicians have!

December 30 | Unregistered CommenterToby Elwin

@Toby I've been in discussions with a few people about an alternative music business model and we're working on the concept now. There are quite a few steps between concept and creating something that is up and running. I think it is too early to start soliciting feedback about the idea, but we will be putting it out there when we think it's ready for wider feedback.

Since the whole premise of this concept is to try out new approaches, I'm very much interested in some creative thinking. I welcome it where ever it gets posted.

December 30 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Good luck Suzanne. Think collaboration, open-source, open dialogue, and biomimicry, huh? Check out this article on innovation from Biomimicry.

I do wish you luck. As you pull together your vision keep in mind that it is not the idea, it is the execution of the idea. Many people, or musicians, have good ideas, but the ones who can execute on an OK idea get farther than ones with a brilliant idea that never goes anywhere.

If you need to facilitate a wide, diversity of thinkers during your discussions, I would love to lend a hand.

Here are 2 posts you I hope you find spark some value: The Most Difficult Industry to Work In and The Diversity Facade

December 30 | Unregistered CommenterToby Elwin

No one has answers Derek Sivers made more money selling other peoples music than he would selling his own in 10x life times, no answers ? artist have so many choices and options now it's insane, but itunes etc, won't make anyone music better....if you make music people care about you will win all day long, period-

January 4 | Unregistered CommenterAudio Truther

if you make music people care about you will win all day long,

Yes and no.

If you make good music, you will feel fulfilled.

But if you don't have good marketing, you may not make any money. Which is perfectly fine, if you aren't counting on it.

There are good musicians few people know about. There are average musicians making good money because they, or those working for them, know how to sell.

January 4 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

To paraphrase Mr Dubber:- those that claim to be able to gaze into crystal balls and devine the future are either liars, idiots or economists.

There are many out there claiming to offer advice about how best to focus your online presence and how we musicians must give away content in order to "monetize via alternate channels". Most offer what seems to be just common sense, some offer plain bullshit, in reality no one can claim to be an expert in such a chaotic environment. There is plenty of rhetoric and anecdotes about how this or that artist bootstrapped themselves up etc but no real hard statistical evidence.

In attempt to get an alternate view of the music cloud, the 'hive mind' and "open culture" in general i recently read Jaron Lanier's You Are Not A Gadget. He has some very interesting things to say about the cloud and its effects.In particular Kevin Kelly's original 1000 fan model and S curves and how, despite his various attempts, he couldn't find enough examples of fan support (that didn't involve old media bands) to give any credence to the model. He ,like me, hopes that a model will evolve to support creative musicians but for now he appears to indicate that we should not hold our breath.

January 25 | Unregistered CommenterMr Sly

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