Brave New World [3/24/09]

Mic check, 1-2. Testing, 1-2.

<ahem>

Hello ladies and gentleman and welcome to the Hit Music Academy.

Before we get started I’d like to personally thank you all for joining me on this journey. I created this blog to share my quirky taste in music with a new audience and build social and professional connections. I also created this blog as an outlet for my ideas and theories concerning the music industry. There are enough gloom and doom stories about “the demise of the music industry as we know it” going around so I’m sure you’re well aware of the meaningful changes taking place in this field. These changes are a good thing.

Yes, a good thing.

Without a doubt this is a scary time for the traditional (antiquated) music industry establishment. The major players do not want to fathom a future where they don’t control the industry or aren’t as relevant in the music business as they once were because for them that spells huge profit losses. That’s why they have been in denial about the digital future from the very start of Napster. That’s why they relentlessly pursue their own consumers in legal battles. That’s why they keep figuring out new ways to structure record deals even more unfavorably for artists– the 360 deal (aka multimedia deal) being their latest attempt to take a bigger (and undeserved) portion of artists’ revenues.

And what has all this led to?

The average music consumer has a (strong) negative opinion of the music industry. Not music itself but the INDUSTRY, which is an important distinction. The desire for music–the NEED for music in our lives hasn’t reduced in the least. In fact, the next generation of consumers and decision-makers (Gen-Y) have a higher interest in music and consume more of it than previous generations. Just look through your friend’s Ipod one good time– my guess is there are at least 1,000 songs on it and your friend probably downloads and adds music to it on a regular basis. A generation or two ago most people didn’t have a music collection that big. The ubiquitous availability of free music these days has a lot to do with this major shift in consumer behavior. But the fact remains that consumers are still very much in love with music.

So why aren’t those old school major record labels making money anymore?

Because they want everyone to play by their rules and frankly, music consumers are sick of it. They’ve moved on and found ways around the record industry machine to get their music fix. Free. Digital has spelled the end of control in media, as Gerd Leonhard puts it.

Record labels fucked up (MAJOR) when they thought they could get away with selling overpriced, mediocre CDs. This flawed sales strategy only worked for so long. Once consumers caught on they grew dissatisfied with the lack of value in the products sold to them by labels and started downloading those one or two radio singles that they liked, effectively bypassing an unnecessary purchase of the artist’s entire album. Now we have a market where singles increasingly dominate sales and albums are mostly ignored by the younger generation.

Gen-Y likes things how they want it, when they want it. Instant gratification. Mp3 downloads feed into that perfectly. One major characteristic of Gen-Y is that if they–excuse me, if we– aren’t satisfied with the quality of the products or services we are offered, we will simply have our needs met elsewhere. We are not passive consumers. We know what we want and we know how to get it.

Attempts to stop the free distribution and sharing of music are futile but the RIAA and the major labels refuse to give up. If they have to sue every teenager, college student, and unauthorized downloader on the planet that’s what they plan on doing because they don’t have a better solution for their revenue losses. If only they were smart enough to pay attention to brilliant writers/thinkers like Gerd Leonhard and his peers. He has offered the music industry plenty of workable solutions. They just don’t want to listen. They are still in denial. But whether they like it or not, the future of music is coming.

So what is this blog about? What is it for?

Ideas. Education. Inspiration. The spread and growth of knowledge.

This blog started as a way of establishing a professional reputation for myself as a thought leader in my field, which is a pretty good reason for a blog imho. But now I see that this will be so much more than that. Now I see that ultimately I want others to benefit most from the content I publish. Independent artists, music biz professionals, aspiring artists, songwriters, producers, musicians, etc.

I am a tireless reader, researcher, and critical thinker. The insight I gain from reading the work of geniuses is so profound that I am convinced that you can benefit in some way from the knowledge I share. I want to teach you everything I know (and everything new that I learn) about the music business.

My goal is to empower you. To motivate and inspire you to embrace your talents and gifts. Cultivate your talent. Believe in yourself. Read to feed your mind with knowledge. Practice constantly to improve at what you do.

Right now is an exciting time in music. Innovative artists and bands are crafting exciting new styles and sub-genres of music. Technology has made it possible for artists to reach potential fans that were virtually impossible to reach 15 years ago without the aid of a major record label. Nowadays you have the power to self-promote and distribute your music and potentially reach a global audience at practically no cost to you–just your time and effort.

Social networks, widgets, and mp3s are all tools that you can use to spread awareness about your music career. Use these tools in an intelligent way and the sky is the limit for you. Promote yourself online, establish a consistent and memorable brand that articulates your identity, and create a marketing plan for your music career. Don’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of strategic planning. In order to be effective and efficient with your efforts you must have a systematic way of reaching your goals. Which means that first you have to set some goals. And don’t be afraid to be ambitious.

Hopefully one day I can look back on the past and say that I did my part to tear down the aristocracy of music 1.0 and usher in a new era of educated, independent musicians in complete control of their careers and their futures. Your future is in your hands. Don’t let anyone tell you that you NEED a record deal to make it. Success is out there and it’s yours for the taking.

The final word:

This blog is a community not a one-way street of me talking at you. This is an active dialogue involving all of us. I encourage you to comment on posts, ask questions, email me, and connect with other visitors and subscribers to this blog. In general I want you to be social and share your thoughts and ideas with the rest of us. Whether you realize it or not, we can learn just as much from you as you can from us.

Congratulations on beginning your music industry education. Commit yourself to learning and to your training and you will go far, grasshopper.

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