If you want to know EXACTLY where ad-supported music leads, just listen to the radio! Ad-supported music means the advertiser chooses the music and not the fans. That's the fundamental and absolutely fatal flaw in the idea. It's our main problem today and not a solution.
Before cheap data processing came along, calling up a record store and playing what they told you people were buying was a cheap form of market research. Music flourished in that environment. The minute it became a game of attracting the right demographics in a focus group, it was the end of commercial radio playing any music that people were passionate about. I think it's mind boggling that some people are taking this idea seriously.
to say that the advertiser chooses the music is to misunderstand the concept of "ad supported."
with the commercial radio model, artists (and writers) never receive a dime from the ad revenue paid to stations (though you could argue that the blanket licenses that stations buy with money generated from advertising dollars does, in turn, generate airplay royalties that wind up in the pockets of the artist/writer.) However, in the ad-supported model, artists/writers “give away” their music on a site or in association with branded merchandise for a percentage of the ad revenue generated. the fans will choose the music (or more accurately, choose the place where they get the music) and the advertisers will follow. if there are enough eyeballs to make it worth their while. in this regard, it is similar to radio: you have to drive the traffic to you're site or to your product to benefit. but then again, that's sales anywhere.
the ad supported model stands less in contrast to radio than it does to record labels. it's based on actual product distribution, not on "airplay." as such, the ad supported model works best with artist/writers who own the copyright to both the master and the publishing. which is what makes it an interesting alternative to the label model. give the product away through a company like rcrd lbl and collect on the ad revenue they generate. of course, if you have a label or publishing deal, you’re probably locked out of exploring some of these ad-supported alternatives. you’re at the mercy of whatever deals the publishers or the labels want to make with the material.
in these models, advertiser's aren't choosing the music...they're simply choosing to advertise with whatever platform seems to best reach their demographic. the only time an advertiser would choose a song would be in association with a specific marketing campaign. one need look no further than apple’s use of music in advertising to see how this exposure can impact awareness and sales for an act. these days, advertisers like nothing more than to be recognized as taste makers. so more and more, they’re seeking out “the next big thing” and trying to break it. in this respect, creative directors at advertising agencies are perhaps the “new a&r.”
arguably, there is no artist development beyond the initial discovery. but then again, when was the last time you saw a label really developing an artist? In the end, it may be the savvy managers that win in the emerging business models. acts will shop for the best manager/agent rather than the best label. the recording and distribution becomes only one of many dots that need to connect. the managers/agents that can make the best connections have the best opportunity to capitalize on all the multiple revenue streams possible.
i also think it’s unfair to lay the blame for the deterioration of terrestrial radio at the feet of advertising. it was the program directors chasing the advertising dollars who chose to play whatever they needed to gain the largest audience share. if they captured that market share, they could sell their airtime at a higher premium. as the bean counters urged more and more consolidation and as radio stations and radio formats became little more than portfolio "assets," radio essentially wound up fragmenting the market, while at the same time attempting to play to its lowest common denominator. in my opinion, it wasn't advertising that ruined commercial radio. it was the virtual monopolizing of broadcast stations by a few.
The bottom line remains that the fan is out of the loop in advertising supported entertainment other than their passing interest in something being a statistic.
There are lots of rationalizations but if you look at history, it has always been the road to limited play-lists and sensationalism trumping the quality of music that brings lots of people together as fans. Technology doesn't change the lessons of broadcast history or the fact that there is always intense competition for advertising dollars..
i guess i'm not understanding your point here. how are the fans left out of the loop in the ad supported model?
the fans actually are getting the music for free. if anything, it appears to me that they're less out of the loop then when the traditional label model reigned. if anything, access technology provides allows them to find out about music that they may have never known existed unless it came out on a major label. again, we're not talking about radio. we're talking distribution when we're discussing an ad supported model. we're not discussing playlists.
as to your points about broadcasting, i would agree that ad dollars certainly feed the beast. but they didn't create it. intense competition for advertising dollars is a pure and simple function of capitalism. and in the end, these are the tensions we create when we mix art and commerce. as you said, before cheap data processing came along, calling up a record store and playing what they told you people were buying was a cheap form of market research. but it was still market research. the minute you talk about how many people are listening and what they're listening to, you're talking market share and demographics. and yes. the rest is history.
perhaps we're not radical enough. perhaps we should look to the very essence of the constitutionality of current copyright law. perhaps the music should be free. perhaps that's where the current chaos will take us.
perhaps were just comparing apples and oranges. i agree that listeners don't set the playlists for commercial radio stations. but a station play list and a distribution model are two different things.
so while you're speaking in the context of broadcast, the sxsw panel is using "ad supported" in the context of distribution.
personally, i don't think there's any comparison between clear channel and rcrd lbl. while both generate revenue via ad dollars, the distribution of that revenue is entirely different. true. you may not be able to get any album you want visiting the rcrd lbl site. but there was never a brick and mortar solution that offered that either.
in the end, it probably all boils down to what the perceived worth of the music holds. if the currency becomes less about dollars and more about what that music can buy you in terms of exposure and interest, then you may gain more by giving it away as a means to an end. that's the vision behind an ad supported model like rcrd lbl.
of course, whether or not it's a viable business model remains to be seen. but i don't think it limits fans. if anything, fans get the music for free and the artist gains the benefit of exposure, increasing their fan base and participating in a share of the ad revenue.
I've grown to view the words "business model" as being nothing but hype from folks hoping to exploit the creations of others without paying them. In fact doing that is probably the most fundamentally flawed "business model" of them all!
i agree that the business model of many is built on exploitation. it is unfortunate that such evil (and i intentionally use the word evil) has resulted in the words "business model" translating into the words "bend over." while perception for many is reality, the fact remains that not all "business models" are inherently evil.
any artist who is attempting to make a living from their art is following some kind of business model, whether they know it or not. it's the nature of commerce, and for better or for worse, part and partial of the marriage between art and commerce.
i fail to see why the ad-supported model (as i've described it) is so vilified. i understand that the words "ad-supported" might produce a negative emotional response for some, but it seems more a reaction then an analysis. if labels had paid attention to issues of branding, had been more forward thinking in the strategic management of those brands, had looked for alternative strategies to build awareness and equity in those brands and paid more attention to the impact of technology on their business model, they might have survived. as it is, they stuck their heads in the sand, refused to evolve there best practices and paid little attention to the cultivation and sustainability of their chief asset: talent
the chaos in the industry in the moment is a great thing. chaos is a creative construct. it forces us to find new dots to connect as old connections are broken.
the good news is that artist/writers now have an opportunity to capitalize on the chaos by taking control of their own brands. the bad news is, few are prepared to do so. it's time to reframe the playing field. and the arguments. to pay attention to the shifts in economics, technology, broadcast media and copyright issues and blaze a trail towards something different.
i understand why most artists/writers would prefer to simply create. few are actually motivated by money. and i can understand why the thought of figuring out how to monetize their creativity could be overwhelming. but once you choose to place a value on your creativity, once you chose to frame your artistic expression as a vocation, then you must engage issues of business. and if you engage the issues, you are best served understanding the paradigms from which you can choose to operate.
as an artist and "from the heart" writer making a living from my creative abilities, i believe these kinds of discussions are necessary. they are less about answers and more about questions. they create a welcome sense of doubt in what or who i have placed my faith in. and though, unlike ms. rand, i don't believe that individuals should choose their values and actions solely by reason, i do believe that our emotional responses to the issues often keep us from thinking clearly. and acting wisely.
I think you are failing to recognize the fact that record labels have never actually "created" or "branded" stars. Labels sell records on behalf of artists who have created a brand for themselves as evidenced by their paid following. This is the only reason labels have ever invested in artists. It has nothing to do with the quality of the music at all. The minute labels step outside of this "business model" with delusions of being movie moguls, they rapidly lose a lot of money, Any of us who have worked at a successful label can tell you endless stories about the great recordings that never made it.
My problem with advertising supported music is that historically it has always led to exactly what we currently hear on radio and television where focus group results take precedence over the music's entertainment value and the preferences of listeners. We have more "turntable hits" today than at any time in memory. A turntable hit is a recording that gets massive exposure but that almost nobody will go out and purchase. Fame without fortune is a complete waste of time, energy and money.