Please share your insights and opinions on how the music business climate is changing, where you think it is headed and any suggestions you may have for improving how we earn our livings. I am most interested in how everyone is adjusting their business practices to deal with the move to home based and internet based recording and production. The home recording issue has been with us for a long time but with new technologies and affordable computer based recording systems, plus the growth in distributed production, ie; file sharing and transfer, how does one stay competitive in today's market. It is my belief that there is still plenty of work to go around but I have to be more creative in finding it and more selective in the technologies I choose.
I look forward to reading the responses to your thoughts here. You're right, the business is changing in a major way. In some ways it seems that the very technology that's so convenient is what has bit us in the butt. Writers, musicians, producers and engineers are struggling. It's a new day but we'll survive. I keep hearing that it'll all even out soon. I'm just glad that I wear a lot of different hats.
Hey thats true the more hats your wear the better. I think that the shift is making us old school musicians learn new tricks! At least in marketing ourselves! Honestly now with Myspace and Youtube you can pretty much network and market as well as the majors. At least reach thousands more people than we could have 5 years ago! I have also discovered my music in other countries via these types of websites. I knew a Korean artist had cut one of my songs but I did not realize that he performed it during the halftime show of the WORLD CUP Games. Had no idea he was that popular. The crowd was even chanting the lyrics! It's crazy! We just happen to search Youtube and found the TV broadcast of the artist performing our song! I have also had an up and coming artist Kelly King get hired to fly to Asia to perform one Mariah song. They heard her on Myspace and booked her. Flew her first class, paid her a hefty fee and she performed with a live orchestra at a convention. On top of that, They organizers are on the Olympic committee and had her sing one of our songs. Now they are wanting to possibly use it for the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics! And even on top of that the orchestra she performed with is the same one performing the opening ceremony! SMALL WORLD! thanks to technology! So I believe if we make an effort to tap into the changing entertainment technology it can only help us!
The changes in the music business that I think have hurt us the most is the lack of seasoned A&R and heads of labels. There was a vision once at labels about building an artist and if an album or two didn't do well there was always a belief in the artist and they kept plugging away. Imagine if Billy Joel had been dropped after his first record, The Stranger is never made. Imagine if U2 was dropped The Joshua Tree is never made. There are so many acts like this that didn't have instant success but made some of the greatest records of all time. In the 90's the climate changed with artists like Hootie and Alannis. They had instant success selling 14 and 18 million respectively and labels went after the quick hit as opposed to developing artists. Hootie sold 4 million next time out and was considered a failure. At that point I knew something was wrong. It turned into a single based society which in turn hurt the development of artists. If you didn't have a hot single you were dropped and the revolving door started. What it also created were records that had maybe a few good songs with the rest of the record being drivel. I think it's our job as professionals to buck this trend and start making great records again. Easier said than done obviously but the reason why file sharing sites were so big is people got tired of paying exorbitant prices for a CD that only had a few songs they liked. If we gave the public full recordings with great music all the way through, it might not cure the business, but it would help get back the faith of people to paying for their music.
On the other front of home based recording systems, it's been there for years although the way it's done now is so much cleaner. I don't know that it's hurt or helped the business but I do know from a mixing stand point it's not as easy as it used to be. Tracks are being recorded by people who may be talented but are not purists like some of us are and when you get a track it may have a ton of vibe but the recording is very poor and you end up spending more of your time fixing issues than being creative. The good thing is you don't have to wait for tape to rewind anymore so you spend more time actually working than sitting.
I agree that wearing as many hats as possible is a good thing. I also think as an engineer it's not always about doing album work but anything you can get your hands on. Editing isn't glamourous but it does pay the bills just the same.
You are on to something... Free music. Unfortunately my kids don't pay for it and their friends don't either. I really don't think you are going to get them to as they grow. The artists this new generation embraces encourages sharing..
WOW Bret, nothing like jumping RIGHT in with a topic on day 3 of your new site!!!
Chris Anderson (The Long Tail Blog) recently wrote: "Which music industry?" You don't mean just the one that sells CDs, do you? Because it's a big mistake to equate the major labels and their plastic disc business with the industry as a whole. Indeed, when you stand back and look at all of music, things don't look so bad at all."
I have way more to say about this over at whyifailed.com (Bret said shameless self-promotion was encouraged here), but here're my main thoughts. The major labels have completely blown the biggest opportunity that has ever come along - direct access to people all over the globe - because they can't see beyond unit sales. Music isn't a unit though, it's an emotional response to the unit meaning that it multiplies through sharing.
Remember running over to a friends house with a new single when you were a kid? When they said "COOL!" you both won. The labels destroyed this with DRM and lawsuits, which in turn, led people to steal.
BUT, there's so much more to music than just the song itself and that's where the money is. The genius of Radiohead's name-your-price release of In Rainbows is that it has unleashed a massive amount of music into the marketplace. That music will drive demand for other stuff they have - like the $80 disc set available just in time for Christmas. Simply put, their music is it's own "jingle" for future products - CD's, swag, concerts, etc.
Truth is, this is how it's always been. Artists rarely make money from music, they make it from the business generated by their music - swag, concerts, etc. The big story here is a bunch of huge businesses mad because they want to keep making buggy whips and saddles while people want to buy Model T's. In other words, that's the wrong story. People will buy - yes, buy - music and things related to it and those people are all over the WORLD and getting to them has never been easier. And the COOL thing is that it takes far fewer of them to be successful without all the costs associated with all the things we used to need the labels for.
WOW Steve, thank you for sharing. It's actually day 4, but who's counting :)
I think another thing to consider are "control" issues. I've seen a trend with more and companies starting to present contracts to artists which garner a percentage of EVERYTHING they do. I think the labels ARE trying to reach out to the global internet market but because they are so big, the wheels don't turn as fast as an individual artist (and their posse) can make things happen.
You know, there is a very similar thing in the computer software industry with GNU/ Open Source licensing. When this first started I thought, "how in the world do they make money?" But, then I learned that they make far more for their services customizing solutions for companies.
I think we could learn from this model.
I'd love to see some "Artists" chime in here and give us their take.
How will all this shift affect those of us that make our living on the production of music. Do you think the artists are going to spend the kind of money we are used to being spent on the recording of new product? I know I've had to adjust my plans for my businesses of the last few years. I have had to find ways to gather new income streams. How should the guys in the trenches of music production prepare themselves for the shifts that are taking place?
From My Blog: What's Wrong With The Music Business
The question asked was, did Bob Montgomery (Record Producer) ever make a bad album?(That Got Released) My answer was "I didn't think so", but why???? Please note that I've singled out Bob because I recently pulled out a copy of Vern Gosdin's "Chiesled In Stone" and it brought back thoughts of what a great record this is. Great Songs, Great Singing Great Production. Now don't get me wrong, there are dozens of great albums that fall in this catagory, but back to why....... Growing up as a studio brat I got the chance to see how records were made from the 70's on up and here is my take. A record label signs a recording artist, based on talent, not just looks(hats / tats / rings), they in turn paired the artist up with a producer, a staff producer or an independent. The producer would the find the songs. Through publishers and independent and staff A & R People. Bear in mind that there were not even close to the numbers of so-called writers and publishers as of 15 years ago, before the "country boom". Anyway the producer would then book a band, engineer and studio for the album project. The band would be chosen based on the artists style of music not just the flavor of the month guys. They would choose a drummer and bass player that had the same feel or pocket, because lets face it, if the bottom end of a track isn't solid then how can anything that follows feel right. The producer would overdub vocals, backgroud vocals, strings and other misc instruments to complete the album, then get it mastered, turn it in to the label, pick the singles and tell the promotion department to get it played on the radio. Those that failed to do this might lose ther jobs. Case closed... Look at all the "standards" we have to listen to because of this process. Now it seems like the producer hasn't any power. The promotion guys are picking the single and aproving the mixes. I have seen a record remixed because the song contained the word "hillbilly" as an ad lib, in the outro and the promotion department felt some stations wouldn't play it unless it was removed. Is that the real problem?? We've got 20 somethings, who don't know who Haggard, Cash & Nelson are, picking the material. They are picking the safest, least offensive, bland, copy of the the last big thing, that they think they can get played on the radio. These are also the same people the think Mutt Lange's career started with Shania Twain. Is this the problem?? We've record labels signing artists based on looks and the "Tuned Demo" that they heard. You can go see half the artists signed to the majors live that can't pull it off on stage. The labels are no longer interested in building careers, but only singles, one offs, copies..... Nothing original...... Is this the problem???? We've got ITUNES and digital downloading. Before we had this, you could take a Garth Brooks cut to the bank. A cut on a major equaled certain monies. Now the same cut on a major means nothing unless you have a single. With CD sales declining and downloading only the songs you want, only the "single" songwriters get paid. I this the problem?? More later