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Why Is A Culture Shift Important For Musicians?

Written by Tommy Darker.

Most artists feel helpless today. This is how I comprehend their crawling around the digital music world. Laws and the status quo have changed radically, the audience’s behaviour and preferences as well. And we cannot change their newly ingrained views. It would be pointless. In my opinion, the digital world has ‘change’ imprinted in its DNA.

I understand that we want to preserve the status quo, because it worked so far. But I think we miss out the opportunity for innovation presented here: to build our own future as independent entities and help a new culture emerge.

They say you cannot break the nose with small punches. You need to punch it vigorously.

That’s what we, as visionary independent artists, need to go for.

I have a plan and I intend to execute it gradually. I will briefly present my mindset here. So, follow along and tell me what you think. I would encourage you to share my views, whether you agree or not, so we can have a diversity of opinions.

Advantage for labels, opportunity for independent artists

Labels have strong cards in the game. Let’s see the ultimate truth for a moment.

Major labels. There are a few major players, with a few artists on board, mainstream following and a lot of strong connections and budget. They are on the left side of the Long Tail, their model is to build short-term hits and milk them till the next one. They know the recipe for a hit and walk on that very same way all the time. Predictability and reverential measurement of metrics are their weapon. If something happens not to work, they dump it. Scaling up is the ultimate goal, after all.

Independent artists. Our main characteristic and advantage: we are a lot, millions. And every single artist has some power and following that is difficult to ignore once combined with others as a group. An ant, as an entity, might be insignificant, but as a group, it can move objects multiple times of its size. In economic figures, our Long Tail part is competitive to the major artists.

Here’s where I see the opportunity. In collective power.

A few major players can change a market, but they cannot change a culture. A million minds can.

Startups showed the way. They showed, in progressive fashion, that an ecosystem around entrepreneurship can change, if there is persistence.

A few years ago nobody could believe that it would be so easy to create your own enterprise. A few visionaries started, persisted and inspired. They got early adopters on board. They kept persisting. And services to accommodate that culture shift soon appeared; because businesses saw an opportunity to make money by offering services to an emerging trend. The same goes for investors.

That trend took a share of people’s minds, who passed it on. Then social proof came, a few successes showed that it’s not impossible to build a profitable business out of a niche idea. And more followed. People started encapsulating and teaching this knowledge. And the culture became stronger. Everybody believes now. Culture shift completed.

The transition didn’t happen because of money or metrics. It happened because of persistence for radical change in the culture. It all started with a few crazy individuals.

None of these guys that founded startups was a businessman before. It was the need to do something bigger than themselves that pushed them towards innovation, creation and then education and knowledge.

Their accomplishment: now millions build healthy businesses out of what they love, by offering real, honest value to the real world.

The same thing can happen for musicians. Startups play with needs, we play with emotions. Needs and culture are extremely important for a healthy human being.

But we are not united. We do not have the same mindset to work as one, towards one direction. This is why a reset in mind is required. Before investing in videos, recordings and networking, we need to learn to invest in knowledge. Re-learning some things is essential for independent musicians to take advantage of their huge power.

Next up: the platform

I’m planning to build a platform to unite performing artists and change our habits. Easy to think, it will take much effort and patience to execute. The platform will not change the culture. We will. The platform will merely be the medium to enable us to see relationships hidden before, encouraging success stories buried in oblivion or revealing opportunities and ground for innovation that people thought was blurry.

PS. Follow my work @TommyDarker.



I’m Tommy Darker, the writing alter ego of an imaginative independent musician. I started Think Beyond The Band’ because I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished so far and I like helping other fellow musicians that struggle with the same problems.

I love starting conversations. If you share the same mindset, find me on Facebook and Twitter and let’s talk!

Reader Comments (5)

Interesting stuff Tommy! Let's break that nose! :)

So could you elaborate a bit on what habits musicians need to change? Or is that a topic for the next article? At first reading, it seems like you want all independents to ban together in some sort of "strike" against free music. Or... ?

September 27 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

You're right. We're flush in the middle of a cultural shift where the full time gigging indie musician has a reasonable chance not just to survive, but to thrive for the first time since Karaoke killed the live music scene 25 years ago. Home recording, online booking and worldwide song distribution coupled with a listener base that has grown accustom to that indie sound, it's a whole new ball game my friend. What I see as the two major handcuffs are as follows: Artist Development (How does a boy with a guitar go from Dylan covers to keeping an 80 seat house entertained?) and Quality Assurance (How does a venue know they're getting a Regina Spektor and not just a girl with a ukulele and a youtube account?)
Both of these can be addressed by following the standard set forth by other artist unions (Specifically SAG and Actors Equity) And is something that neither ASCAP nor BMI have bothered to touch because their money is tied too closely to spins of Katie Perry albums.
Anyway, just a thought. And let me know if I can help.

September 27 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua Macrae

@ Brian Hazard

Hey mate, let's break it!

This article is the intro for a series of content and events I'm preparing for the music world. The events are Darker Music Talks, dedicated to free education for musicians, and the series of articles/essays that unfold my thinking on this 'let's-break-the-nose' project is on Medium (you can actually read something I wrote about habits here). They are collaborative writings, you can have access to the upcoming drafts if you want!

My intentions are nothing close to a 'strike', as there's nothing to protest against (especially against free music, which is a good thing, according to my beliefs). It's an awakening, a reminder, similar to the startup culture that emerged after independent entrepreneurs realized that they don't need to work on somebody else's ideas to thrive; they can turn their own ideas into a business they own.

And turning music into business requires a similar mind shift, although a little bit of mind work is necessary :) That's the direction I'm taking with my currents projects.

October 4 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

@ Joshua Macrae

Hey Joshua, I'm happy about your comment, it shows there are people that are already thinking the nuances of such a shift, which is indeed happening while we're talking. The question is: how do we help it happen consistently.

Add me on facebook, would love to hear more of your insights, as the issue is not a one-man-thing!

October 4 | Registered CommenterTommy Darker

Thanks for clarifying Tommy! I just added your habits article to Readability and look forward to checking it out soon. Glad I don't need to join any picket lines to support the cause! ;)

October 4 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

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