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This is your Business

By: Brandon Cannon (brandon at indyintune dot com)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013 6:00:00 PM


Video killed the radio star, or did it?  In 1981, MTV's iconic spaceman was introduced for the first time.  Some conservative music critics might argue this began the demise of rock and roll.  Let's keep in mind, some of the same critics likely proclaimed the Beatles invasion as detrimental to the pedigree of music as well.  What MTV did, for better or worse, was to radically change the music industry.  It created a new medium for creativity and introduced music to a generation that was moving away from 8-tracks and mix tapes.  John Cusack would later cement the mix tape as the quintessential expression of love in Nick Hornsby's, High Fidelity (2000).  However, that is another story entirely.

Jump ahead to the 1990's and these same critics may continue to argue that digital downloads killed the video star.  Some might go as far to say that digital downloads (Napster) killed the music industry all together.  Some of my friends will argue, and with good merit, that digital downloads actually killed the important industry of album art…also, another story.

What really happened in both these cases was an evolution.  From Elvis, to the Beatles, to MTV, to digital downloads, the music industry has historically experienced dramatic hiccups that propelled music in new and exciting directions.

Today, music is more popular and accessable than ever.  The ease of digital recording and distribution has broken down financial constraints to artist publication.  In the process, this created almost infinite choice to listeners, and consider this, most of the top 50 albums of all time were recorded in the 1970's and 1980's. I'll personally say that not many were recorded after 2000.  These statistics have no reflection on the quality of music (I would argue some of it is better today than ever) but the amount of choice.  With the vast availability of music, it is impossible to match the album sales of the 70's and 80's that competed in a finite marketplace.

This is great if you are a music fan, but not so great if you are an artist attempting to make any financial gains from your music.  The traditional model of marketing, selling, and distributing music has gone away.  You can debate the pros and cons of any of the above referenced events, but the bottom line is you can't fight change.  You can't fight this evolution.

If you are an artist, you need to think creatively (isn't that what makes you an artist in the first place?).  If the traditional model of music distribution is dead, how will you change your business plan?  You do have a business plan, right?  This is your business so treat it as such.

My first recommendation is to read the book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price, by Chris Anderson.  The premise of the book is that electronic distribution (digital downloads) will become so inexpensive that they will eventually be free.  This isn't bad news if you take the position that you understand where things are going, and you make plans to adjust accordingly.

Evolution is inevitable.  As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

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