Music Critic Explains Why The Music Industry Is Better Off Embracing Fans

from the preach-it dept

My friend Tom emailed me to let me know he heard Chicago Tribune music critic (and host of the excellent music podcast Sound Opinions) Greg Kot on public radio's Marketplace, and said it sounded like I was talking, based on what was being said. Indeed, the interview hits on a lot of what we usually talk about here, noting how the old industry is overreacting, and there's a new music business that's growing rapidly by embracing what fans want:
There is a part of the music industry that is dying as a result of what's happening on the Internet. But I think a new industry is being born, a grassroots industry.
Kot is asked to describe the business model, and he notes the importance of community (though, he leaves out the latter part of the equation -- the "reason to buy" part):
I think what it comes down to is building a community around what an artist may do. I think what was happening in the past, where everything was being funneled through a few big corporations, a few big record companies, a few big radio stations, fans really didn't feel personally invested in the artist. And what the Internet is facilitating is artists communicating directly with their fans and vice versa. To the point where you have fans participating in the art, whether it's making videos, or doing remixes, they feel part of the equation. And as a result they're investing in the artist in numerous ways.
After naming (of course) Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails as bands that have it figured out, Kot's asked about how smaller, less well-known bands can do things, and Kot's got a ready answer (though, he doesn't name names -- even though there are many such examples):
You know, it's very hard to keep a secret on the Internet. If your music is genuinely good, you will not be a secret for very long. I think the key is start small, start with a community base, start with a few hardcore fans and build it from there. And secondly lower your overhead. Keep your operations small and surround yourself with a few invested businessmen. In other words, you still need infrastructure, but it should be a lot smaller.
All in all a good interview, though probably won't break much new ground for readers here. Still, it's nice to see Kot recognize these things, and makes me interested in reading his recent book, Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 7:20pm

    "My friend Tom emailed me..."

    Hey Mike,

    This may seem a little obvious to most of us, but that MySpace guy named "Tom" isn't really a friend.

    Be careful repeating anything he says.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 8:22pm

    we've been hearing this for 20 years

    1) this whole 'the record industry is dying!' mantra has been shouted for the last 20 years. right now, their numbers are looking pretty good, so i have no idea what you're talking about.

    2) you're in the 'business model news / consulting' business, where if a competitor beats you by an hour or two, you lost because you have no protection on your product. these guys have protection for what amounts to 150+ years in some cases. falling behind in the digital market for a few years is a drop in the bucket. you can whine and bitch and cry, but they don't care. their rights last longer than your life. you can attack the length of copyright all you want, but that still doesn't change anything -- they can sit on their hands, and you can't do anything about it.

    3) if the internet is such a great mechanism, why are we not seeing any breakthrough artists or shows? sure, you get plenty of one hit wonders out of youtube that get up to 200m views, but no one is paying for it. look at hulu, where each show brings in only a fraction of what they do on television. or look at the viewership of any of the revision 3 shows... it's pretty low. you can feel happy with collaboration all you want, but it really comes back to 'how the fuck am i supposed to pay for dinner tonight?' selling tshirts and concert tickets will never compete with what albums used to sell for.

     

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      rjk (profile), Sep 1st, 2009 @ 8:46pm

      Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

      if the internet is such a great mechanism, why are we not seeing any breakthrough artists or shows?

      Things don't happen over night. I think it's only a matter of time before we start seeing breakthrough artists. But it may be a few years before that happens.

      Time will tell and maybe I will be proven wrong.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 9:49pm

        Re: Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

        "I think it's only a matter of time before we start seeing breakthrough artists."

        Provided that the government doesn't get in the way. Of course the lobby groups know that you are right and that they will go out of business due to competition if they don't lobby the government to destroy the competition somehow. So of course we need to resist such nonsense. Not to mention lobby groups have already put a lot of effort into suppressing independent artists ( http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20090109/1823043352.shtml ). It really is depressing that we live in such an oppressive society.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 9:40pm

      Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

      yup internets are just a fad.. like CB radio

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 9:42pm

      Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

      "you can attack the length of copyright all you want, but that still doesn't change anything -- they can sit on their hands, and you can't do anything about it."

      This is a problem with copyright, often times copyright holders who did not develop something can get paid for doing absolutely nothing. Look at Mikey Mouse, it should have expired from copyright a long time ago but the corporation still owns it even if the original developers are no longer alive. It's ridiculous, what, you want us to be quiet about a broken copyright system and do nothing? NO, when we see an injustice we should resist.

       

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      RadialSkid, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 3:55am

      Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

      "but it really comes back to 'how the fuck am i supposed to pay for dinner tonight?'"

      How about this: They can get a real job, like 99.9% of musicians in the world.

      Where does this ridiculous idea come from that in order to be an artist, your art has to be your profession?

       

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        pasha, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 10:45pm

        Re: Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

        Where does this ridiculous idea come from that in order to be an artist, your art has to be your profession?
        You can't afford another job if you are spending concentrated 5-6 hours a day on your art.

         

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          Jrosen (profile), Sep 3rd, 2009 @ 12:45pm

          Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

          Actually pasha, you're wrong, there are plenty of people who work two jobs, or who work one full time job and still manage to do plenty of things with the rest of their non-sleeping time. Go to school, improve themselves, make music, make movies, create new games, and quite a bit more.

           

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 6:37am

      Re: we've been hearing this for 20 years

      I take it you're new here, AC.

       

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    fogbugzd, Sep 1st, 2009 @ 9:51pm

    The key words

    >>selling tshirts and concert tickets will never compete with what albums used to sell for.

    The key words here are "used to." You can't bring back the past. No one is going to bring back the hay-day of the $14 CD. Music isn't as important to kids today in the same way it used to be. There are a lot of different entertainment outlets today than there used to be. People want to listen to music on devices that are different than they used to.

    You can deride t shirts and concert tickets as revenue sources, but they are still popular. There may not be as much money in the recording business as there was in the past, so there may have to be a lot of belt tightening and adjustments. Unfortunately for the major labels, there are a lot of artists who see the big cut that goes to the labels as one expense they can cut. It doesn't help that the major labels have too often set themselves up as the musician's enemy instead of their supporter. Fans have figured out ways to turn their backs on the labels, and artists may be starting to figure out how to do it, too.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 2nd, 2009 @ 5:15am

    The thing the music industry really fears is that the internet won't allow them to manufacture artists and performers out of good-looking no-talent teenagers that they can dispose of once the cash cow runs dry and then manufacture a new bunch. The record industry's sole purpose is to function as a hype machine. Unfortunately for them, Disney and American Idol have taken over this function.

     

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