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When I would speak on panels at music conferences, I’d always find it funny how all of the panelists’ opinions were completely tainted by their own self-interest.

Someone would always ask us, “What’s the future of the music business?

The guy whose company sells MP3s would say, “MP3s are the future. No DRM. Unencumbered. The public has spoken and they want MP3s.”

The guy whose company sells subscriptions would say, “Subscription services are the future. Anything, anytime, anywhere. No need to keep a huge music collection.”

The guy whose company sells CDs would say, “People still want something tangible they can hold in their hand. CDs are going to be around a long time.”

I would just say, “Nobody knows the future. Anyone who pretends to is full of shit and not to be trusted.” (Which would of course get a weird look from my fellow panelists, but oh well.)

I still get asked to talk about the future of the music industry, but I just can’t. My answer to everything is, “I don’t know.

For the last 11 years, I spent most waking hours thinking about how to sell and distribute music. I’m completely unobjective. I don’t have fresh eyes about it anymore. I know my opinion is not to be trusted.

You’d be better off to ask a young music fan or musician, unencumbered by too much knowledge of the past.

I love musicians. I love the creative process. I love the art and craft of learning, writing and playing music.

But the “industry” around it? Eh. No interest. Sorry. I’m burnt-out on that subject. I need to spend a couple years unlearning before I can think about it again.

“The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”- Alvin Toffler
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.” - John Cage
empty head

Reader Comments (9)

This is great, Derek. It's kind of like "the more I learn, the less I know."

My own marketing plan as an artist is in constant flux these days, since the scene changes almost daily. Do I release singles only? Podcasts of songs? How do I approach my videos?

And, when it comes to social media, there's the big question -- which you addressed in a previous post here -- When will viable, thorough convergence come?

Burnout is natural. You've been at the forefront of the new music business for a long time. You deserve a break. Your batteries will recharge, and you'll come back with a fresh perspective and lots of energy.

September 5 | Registered CommenterAllen Shadow

Derek, this speaks loudly for so many. The business is so broke it hurts my head contemplating the fix. Sometimes the old junker just has to be towed to the scrapheap. Ditto Healthcare in America but that's another mess that induces pain.

September 5 | Unregistered CommenterJim McKeon

Awesome, necessary and beautifully written.

September 5 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

"I’d always find it funny how all of the panelists’ opinions were completely tainted by their own self-interest."
"I would just say, “Nobody knows the future. Anyone who pretends to is full of shit and not to be trusted."

Never a truer word said.

"You’d be better off to ask a young music fan or musician, unencumbered by too much knowledge of the past."

As an young music fan/musician/futurist I completely agree that no body has a definitive idea where the industry is headed.

But unlike old music executives, we are not going to retire any time soon. As such we are not going to waste a few years with a clearly dead business model, nor do we have thousands of shareholders/vested interests demanding we do so.

September 5 | Unregistered CommenterOwen Kelly

This is a very interesting and useful perspective for me (a current student) to hear. As many students are, I am kind of programmed to just listen to and soak in as much useful information as humanly possible to prepare myself for what may lie ahead (ie. a potential job).

When I attended this year's New Music Seminar in NYC I sat down and listened to several "industry professionals" babble on about the future of music & what must be done to be successful in the music industry. Many statistics were used and several panel members had presentations that projected stats 2, 3, 4, even 5 years into the future.

During one of the "shmoozing" sessions I spoke with an old record producer that seemed to firmly believe in your direct quote that “Nobody knows the future. Anyone who pretends to is full of shit and not to be trusted.” I was baffled and thought he must either be joking or just having a bad day.

After reading this post, however, I was glad to see that this old producer was not the only person with this opinion. This post, combined with my conversation with the producer has sort of knocked me on my ass, but in a good way. And I thank you for that.


September 8 | Registered CommenterChris Bracco

If only this perspective was more popular among the 'higher ups' in the industry we might have seen some diversity in methods of distribution and marketing of music. As a one of those young music fans/musicians you mentioned in your post I thought I would share my thoughts, particularly those regarding the utilization of social media. Artist advocate and services company Nimbit ( recently released an integrated facebook app dubbed Nimbit MyStore ( which allows an artist to sell music and merch directly from their facebook fan page; while simultaneously engaging fans with the ability to comment, tapping into the social media stream of information in attempts to trigger that fabled "virability" of information.

It looks to be a game changer. If an artist is not selling music on their own turf (i.e. their website, myspace, and now facebook) then, to plainly say it, they are doing it wrong. Gone are the days which one can leave distribution solely in the hands of others such as the CD guy, MP3 guy, and subscription guy. It's time to remove the excess baggage from the industry and reestablish the patron model where an artist communicates to directly to his fans through mutually recognized mediums. Nimbit's Mystore is a gem of a tool that redefines the way an indie artist can utilize social media to engage fans. I suppose the question I am raising is: What reason could there be for an Artist to not have have a store set up on their Myspace, Facebook, Website, Etc? In my opinion, these places, among others are now staples in the industry.

Very interested in all of your thoughts on the subject,


September 11 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Bouncing off of Jake's post, the higher-ups have no interest in getting the message -- or in anybody else getting the message -- that the music business system is broke, for it has worked so well for them for so long. In what other modern field can a company openly find a way to sell something made by somebody else for $14.99 a million times, and still get away with not paying the artist and other music creators their first $14.99 (it does happen)? Why would the higher-ups have an interest in making changes in what has been so lucrative for them?

What makes it hard about choosing to be outside that model is really figuring out how to spend one' limited time and energy -- what to do first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. It can tie you in knots, and burn you out. But hey, nobody said this thing was going to be easy -- and the alternative of going back to the old model is no longer acceptable.

September 11 | Unregistered CommenterDeeann

Found a great interview with Patrick Faucher, CEO of Nimbit. Some interesting comments on combining e-commerce with social media using tools such as Nimbit's MyStore.

September 21 | Unregistered CommenterJake

Derek keep it real LOL!


Internationally Known Spoken Word
& Hip Hop Artist-Producer

December 30 | Unregistered CommenterGagnez

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