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« Playing Profitable Shows as a Band: The 25% Rule | Main | How Much You Should Ask from Sponsors »
Tuesday
Dec042012

SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF NEW MUSIC AND ARTIST DISCOVERY

Whether they ever choose to regain some of their former financial stature and growth, record companies, majors and indies alike, along with unsigned and unknown independent artists, too, must cultivate and create, as quickly as possible, a SINGLE new digital marketplace.  Here competition will flourish and some semblance of reasonable choice and control over the discovery of new artists with original new music will be exercised by whatever is left of the music listening mainstream audience.  In this brave new world, record companies will need to collaborate and combine forces with each other and with independent artists at large.  They will need to move quickly to consolidate into one place a dynamic customer base made up of the depleting record companies’ sales bases along with the ever increasing independent artist fan bases. The passionate members of the music listening public will ultimately choose to gather in this one place and make quick decisions about new music and new artists.  

This new DRM and royalty free, single destination ecosystem must be organized into a new business model that allows anybody trying to build a career as a successful musical artist to be discovered, exposed, branded and monetized.  Additionally, before it’s too late, record companies must take advantage of the clout their remaining legacy artists have and use it to get a stronger foothold in this new competitive environment.  Doing so will bring millions of people looking for less choice and more control over their music to one place to help artists of all kinds fight it out for exposure and success.  Unsigned and DIY artists will be able to piggy back off of larger and more established artists and build bigger and more engaged fan bases much quicker. 

In the old business model, all of a record company’s distribution, marketing and promotion efforts were centered terrestrially and, up until recently, these channels of distribution were strictly controlled by the record companies and their close friends at radio.  Now with the Internet and the advent of digital music distribution, this axiom is no longer true.  Record companies can no longer exercise the same level of control over the marketplace. The situation has become chaotic and the marketplace is fragmented and unhealthy.  Unfortunately, there are a multitude of Internet sites that use music as some part of their mix of activities.  This limits the ability of any artist regardless of their resources to easily and effectively promote their music and expect any degree of success.   

However, if artists and labels were to consolidate their support and efforts into one discovery platform on the Internet that has a global reach, they could foster the development of a much more promotable community than they now have, create greater exposure for any artist in that community and also have better control over the financial fate of their music.   It would be decidedly better than what exists now because with only one major destination to go to, people could influence others, be influenced themselves  and actually make decisions about music and artists they really like.  At this destination, music would be programmed with continuity and repetition.  More importantly, the cost effectiveness and efficiency of new music discovery could be scaled down and become more manageable for record companies and independent artists alike. 

Unfortunately, technologists with little understanding of how the music business really works regarding new artist discovery and development have built and currently run most of the larger music business sites.  They have yet to construct a workable ecosystem that discovers deserving original artists and gives them the tools to gain enough exposure for them to make money and compete in the mainstream.  Artist development and branding activities need to be focused into one place.  By integrating the best available and most useful tools into a simple, efficient music business ecosystem, artists themselves or the entities which control them could find, promote, build, consolidate and maintain very large monetizable fan bases in this one single place.  Once again fan choice and control could take over and make a real difference in steering the desires of the mainstream instead of letting the record companies do it for them using a small number of usually manufactured artists. 

For this wonderful new paradigm to exist and flourish, you have to buy into four principal assumptions:  

1) It’s still important to create popular mainstream songs and artists; 

2) Short term fans wed to one particular song and long term fans wed to particular artists are both equally necessary and important to develop the music business of the future.; 

3) The best way by far to build large monetizable fan bases in the future will be for them to be built in one single place on the Internet where any interested party can come and participate in the music and artist discovery process. Fragmentation of effort MUST end. There can not be fifty sites that do this.; 

4) You can slice it and dice it in any way you want, but for this scenario to play out successfully, an extremely strong and compelling value proposition MUST be used to engage fans all over the globe and to entice them to actively participate in a single place of discovery. 

Given the multiple choices and distractions that affect a potential music decision maker on a daily basis, spending money and lots of it on these people that you absolutely need to make new music and artists happen is also a must.  Ask yourself, what’s in it for the average music fan to leave their usual music site of choice if they even have one and regularly go to Bandcamp, the new Myspace, the new MTV or places like TastemakerX and discover new mainstream music.  The answer is nothing.  My twenty years in the big time record promotion and marking business(see www.linkedin.com/in/davidsherbow)  tells me that whoever or whatever gives these average fans something big for them to participate in a systematic discovery process will win VERY big. 

In years past, when radio was still powerful, it could define an individual song’s or artist’s level of success.  Once either made a great enough impact at radio, millions of people would have listened to that particular song or body of music multiple times and would have decided what song or which artist was going to succeed in the mainstream.  If everybody competed in the same space like they used to and had the same promotional tools at their disposal as everyone else to get noticed immediately, then with or without record companies, great artists and great songs would be discovered by the mainstream music listening public. 

In my vision for this single new place, any person or entity savvy enough will be able to piece together a coalition of bloggers, other trusted sources, internet and terrestrial radio station programmers, A&R machines like Crazed Hits, and major influencers with substantial networks of followers, to help them build a large committed fan base and develop mainstream financial success.  Unfortunately it will still hold true that promoting aggressively to those serious influencers with large followings will give those with the most money to spend an upper hand LIKE IT ALWAYS HAS.  However, it will also give those great artists who in the past had little chance to succeed under the old system a much better chance to get it done. Those who persevere with great music and do whatever it takes to survive will win big.   

Think about it. This is not just a sensible and practical decision for record companies, artist managers and artists of all kinds everywhere to make and emotionally own, but it is a sound business decision that can potentially solve all of the current problems they deal with regarding music discovery and financial scale. 

In 2006 and 2007, I envisioned, designed, built and launched only briefly, at great personal cost, a music discovery and e-commerce platform called MPTrax.  I thought  it would change the way we do music business.  Today technology has advanced exponentially, but the concept is more sound now than it ever was back then.  It’s a problem begging for a solution.  For your viewing pleasure here is the “how it works” video we did years ago for my dream project.  From this maybe you, too, can get an idea of what possibilities the new music business holds for the future and do something about it.  http://vimeo.com/29693578

Reader Comments (10)

it's only tech geeks who i ever see writing things like "when radio was still powerful." do you know who the most listened to artists are on spotify, pandora, and itunes? Top 40 radio artists! people discover new music there first and then listen more on the streaming services. in other words, Top 40 drives most of the listening hours for those sites. radio isn't less powerful; its power has shifted.

the RIAA had a chance to build a space like you're describing when Napster first came out. in fact, that's what i assumed would happen. instead, they decided to kill it. now here we are 15 years later and the majors are shrinking and you're advocating for something that could have been possible a decade and a half ago. that's what happens when people try to put a cork in the bottle of progress--they only delay the inevitable at their own expense.

December 4 | Unregistered Commentermason

I couldn't agree more with the author of this article regarding the need for a truly successful new music discovery company to have a compelling fan-based component. It seems that he was on the right trail with MPTrax.

I would argue however, there is 1 more element to new artists' jump-starting their career. That is no-cost/effective promotion. Both can come from the fans. Mr. Sherbow is most definitely correct when he writes: "...an extremely strong and compelling value proposition MUST be used to engage fans all over the globe and to entice them to actively participate..." he states further, "My twenty years in the big time record promotion and marketing .. tells me that whoever or whatever gives these average fans something big for them to participate in a systematic discovery process will win VERY big." Wow. It seems as if Mr. Sherbow is writing about our company!

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterSam Mendez

Great article. I think you should check out what Sofar Sounds is doing. We address quite a lot of what you are talking about! https://www.facebook.com/sofarsounds?fref=ts

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterJoanna

Music is tough. Even with a stellar review like PumpYouUp just received from Randy Lewis, LA Times Holiday Roundup, and one of most syndicated on the planet. And even after Amazon gave me a chance and PumpYouUp proved itself and has been the #1 New Release Techno for a solid week and broke the top 10 All Techno categories, just next to DeadMau5. I’m independent. I still can’t get iTunes, GooglePlay, Rhapsody, Pandora, Spotify to treat me with any respect. I’m a stray dog to them. I’m crossing my fingers but iTunes is God and if God decides to help, I’ll make it, else any chance of going viral or cult classic status is stifled. What a shame when it’s rare art is unique enough to create its own sales. Wish me luck, my destiny lies in the hand of an iTunes employee who hopefully feels like feeding a stray, even though the stray has quality, and a great resume. Nothing matters as much as iTunes. Amazon gets 16% of the market so maybe it will be enough. Thank you Randy and Amazon, I super appreciate all you’ve done.

December 4 | Unregistered CommenterPumpYouUp

Ah, this one-stop music shop sounds utopian, but alas I don’t see it being built anytime soon especially the way it is being described with record companies working harmoniously with both successful and new artists alike. Hah!!

I agree with mason that a major boat was missed with not turning Napster legit or forming something similar at that time. I can’t believe it’s been 15 years. Tragedy.

I believed that Pandora could have something using their algorithms to bring new music my way by analyzing what I already liked listening to. However, they have been bogged down in licensing hell especially here in Canada and hearing independent PumpYouUp being considered “too small” is too short-sighted for me.

I have never downloaded anything illegally and don’t have a problem paying for music, but I will not support the conglomerates like iTunes and Amazon that take the majority of profit from the artist that created the music in the first place.

So, besides avoiding monopolistic tendencies, this place must be cheap and as easy to use as possible for all artists, easy to navigate and discover for the user, and with a fair enough distribution model for revenue.

And IF this perfect place is created and IF it is successful, then the next issue is to avoid the vultures and other greedy bastards from trying to monetize to the max via privacy intrusive advertising eventually driving everyone away. But IF it is built, I’ll be there.

December 6 | Unregistered Commenterhaley

This is a great article. In response to the following that was made in a comment above:

"I would argue however, there is 1 more element to new artists' jump-starting their career. That is no-cost/effective promotion. Both can come from the fans. "

Even better, what incentive do existing articles have with their labels? Eminem doesn't sound like he will be sticking up for them and their wallets anytime soon:

http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2012/02/eminem-universal-music-audit-reveals-mammoth-problem-for-major-labels.html

Having participated in the new Artists.MTV site, it has a LOT of potential to accomplish something like this. Think: the iconic music network that has exposed new music and culture to the world becoming the one stop shop to find both new artists and old favorites. Imagine MTV giving all artists an equal chance to have their music and content exposed, and even giving themselves an endless supply of original content for their television networks!

I agree that this would still promote competition despite being a unified platform; if the digital presence of the music game is unified, competition will have to be played out in the physical world. Labels can actively search for artists online and make offers to independent entities. Metadata could easily be shared with licensing channels and search engines...it would be amazing, and the possibilities make this an idea worth looking into!

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterChris Wind

I agree that a single music discovery market place is the answer and I have spent 7 years and $2M building towards it. Here is the basis of where we are headed and why.

1) Chicken or Egg or Music or Music Fan?
When decided to build first for the Music Creator

2) What do they need most?
Money for their music (duh)

3) What are they willing to do to get it?
By the time they are good they have blisters, sore throats and invested their heart, soul and most of their money. Now they feel like it's time for their music to start paying them back. They really would like their music or reputation to do most of the work.

4) What don't they want?
To be paid pennies on the dollar or asked to invite everyone they know to vote for them.

5) Give them what they need NOT what they ask for!!!!
Find new revenue streams to make up for the loss of Music Sales

We have developed a music platform with fantastic search, presentation and concise information. (NO ADVERTISING) Behind the scenes we are generating 3 revenue streams 1 conventional and 2 new ones with more in the works. You can see the beta site now at www.wegetmusic.com

It is such a big undertaking that we are only halfway there so now I need strategic partners and additional funding so if you think your company or product is a fit reach out to me and lets talk.

Thanks Barry

December 9 | Registered CommenterBarry Coffing

I disagree with the solution to have just one place for "all" musicians / writers / performers to get recoqnition and notoriety. You simply cannot contain creativity outlet to one rabbit hole! The industry is changing by osmosis. Osmosis will win in the end. It's morphing into something that will be mutually beneficial to everybody. Remember there was not such thing as itunes or rhapasody, or amazon a few years ago. All are relatively new and newer companies are on the rise. You just have use the avenues available and or "create" your own. Some have gotten famous just from youtube videos. Think about the days when rappers were selling their cd's out the trunk of their cars. That grass roots effort is still alive today. All in all, I see a real "danger" in having just one portal. I would rather a 100 portals at least!. There just too many opposing paradigms to try and funnel every musician in the world down one rabbit hole! Music should not be socialized!!!

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Bowden

@John Bowden - I agree, although I wouldn't call the funneling down one rabbit hole 'socialist' - to me, it's pure corporate capitalism. I find the image of a one ginormous mega-corporation quite horrifying and soul-destroying, and am sceptical of how beneficial it would ultimately be for artists.

The current tendency towards fragmentation is fascinating, and I personally enjoy the variety of cool and creative small websites that are helping artists. A new diverse ecosystem is emerging, instead of the monoculture of the major labels. Music is becoming really interesting now, with this diversity.

Really, what could be more boring than McMusic?

December 10 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Hol

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