from the time-to-be-optimistic dept
Terry McBride, whose insights always are worth thinking deeply about, made a comment that this was "the last chance for the music industry" to stop screwing things up and pissing off customers, and that it was time to get it right: meaning stop treating customers as criminals, stop focusing on the sale of things that people don't want to pay for and stop worrying about copyright (he even agreed with David Bowie's comment that copyright was over). I agree with much of what McBride said, with one exception: this isn't the last chance for the music industry. The music industry is doing great -- with more music than ever before being produced and available to fans, and more musicians than ever before being able to connect directly with fans and put in place a business model that works for them, instead of getting worked over by a major label with a dreadful contract. Instead, I'd argue that it's the major labels who have one more chance... and even that may be iffy given how badly they've screwed some stuff up in the past decade.
But much of the rest of the event showed why there's so much reason for optimism. There are so many different startups entering the space these days that it's honestly difficult to keep track of them. And while the market is certainly confusing, we'll start to see some clear leaders shake out of the pack in the next few years. But, combine it all and these startups provide all of the tools that any musician today needs to record, perform, build a fan base, manage a fan base, tour, manage a tour, connect with fans, communicate with fans, transact with fans, promote, distribute, analyze and share. Basically, absolutely everything that you used to need a record label for is showing up from a hodge podge of startups. They don't all necessarily work well or work together, but that'll change over time. On top of this, there are additional tools that let you do things that simply weren't possible before, such as providing better, more detailed recommendation systems and analytics. Among the cool or compelling companies I saw or spoke with at the event were Band Metrics, Topspin, Bandize, 100000Fans, Instinctiv, Jamendo, Drop.io, thesixtyone... and those were just the ones that I'm remembering off the top of my head. There were at least two dozen other interesting startups as well.
Again, this doesn't mean there's no room for a label anymore -- but the role of that label changes. Some bands won't need labels at all, and will be able to manage everything themselves using these tools and services. Others will rely on label reps to help piece all of the different services together, so they can focus on the music. But the routes around the old system are growing at a phenomenal rate. On top of that, there were some major label representatives who actually seem to recognize all of this, even if not all of their colleagues agree.
So while I am still nervous about what the old guard and its lobbyists will do to laws around the globe, the next generation is clearly growing up from below. It's quite messy right now, but it's coming. Fast.