The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There)

from the a-thorough-look dept

I’m at the Midem conference this week, and in preparing for it, Steven Masur asked me to write up a chapter for a book he was putting together of thoughts from various thinkers for a gathering of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers (IAEL) here at Midem. Below is what I submitted. If you’re a regular reader of the blog, there’s little that will surprise you, but even so, it may be a good read, as it’s got a whole bunch of different things I’ve discussed about — things like “CwF+RtB” all summarized in one single place. Later, I’ll do another post on what I discussed this year at Midem, since it builds on what’s written below, and digs in much deeper on how to create compelling reasons to buy.

It’s no secret that there’s a lot of concern these days about what the music industry will look like going forward — especially from those who work on the label side of the business and have been around for a bit. A variety of things have caused rapid change in the market. Competition from other forms of entertainment, such as the internet, movies and video games, have put more pressure on the industry, as consumers have been presented with significantly more options for their entertainment attention and dollars. And, of course, there’s the ever-present specter of unauthorized file sharing — or, as the industry prefers to call it (accurately or not), “piracy.”

While the industry spent many years fighting the rise of the internet as a distribution and promotion method for music, it was eventually forced to recognize it. The labels eventually licensed music to Apple and iTunes (as well as some other stores). It took them way too long to recognize that people wanted DRM-free music, but they’ve finally come around to recognize that as well.

But the big new questions are all about licensing. New services are starting to show up on the scene, such as the industry’s new darling, Spotify. Then there are attempts, such as those by Choruss and Warner Music, to set up something that is somewhat akin to a blanket license. For the most part, the industry hasn’t shown much willingness to do these sorts of deals in manners that allow the underlying companies to survive, let alone profit. Numerous innovative startups have suffocated under burdensome licensing terms — and as each one fails, it just gives consumers fewer and fewer reasons to actually use these services, wondering how long each will last until it goes out of business.

However, there is another solution: stop worrying and learn to embrace the business models that are already helping musicians make plenty of money and use file sharing to their advantage, even in the absence of licensing or copyright enforcement.

In simplest terms, the model can be defined as:

Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model

Sound simple? It is, if you understand the basics — and it can be incredibly lucrative. The problem, of course, is that very few seem to fully understand how this model works. However, let’s go through some examples.

Trent Reznor, the man behind the band Nine Inch Nails, has done so many experiments that show how this model works that it’s difficult to describe them all. He’s become a true leader in showing how this model works in a way that has earned him millions while making fans happy, rather than turning them into the enemy.

Reznor has always reached out to his fans, and has an amazingly comprehensive website, with forums, chat rooms and many other ways of interacting. He encourages fans to better connect with each other as well. While companies like Warner Music forced all the music videos of their artists off YouTube for many months, Reznor actually aggregates all the videos his fans take at concerts (he encourages them to bring cameras) on one page on his own website. He does the same for photos. He released a (free) iPhone app that allowed fans to locate each other, and communicate with each other, while sharing photos and videos as well. It’s all about connecting with those fans, and helping them better connect with each other, so they feel like a part of a club.

From there, he gives fans real reasons to buy. Lately, he’s taken to releasing everything he records for free online, knowing that the music will show up on file sharing sites anyway, so he sees no reason to fight it. Yet, he adds many other options that people might want to buy. With his release of the album Ghosts I-IV, he released all the tracks under a Creative Commons license that allowed anyone to share them online for free. Yet, he also set up some cool “reasons to buy.” You could get the two disc CD, if you wanted, for just $10. Above that, though, was a Deluxe Edition Package, for $75. It was, effectively, a box set, but around a single album. Beyond the two CDs, it also included a DVD and a Blu-ray and a photobook of images.

Where the experiment got even more interesting was that he offered up the $300 Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package — of which there was a limit of just 2,500 available. This was an even more impressive “box” that also included the songs on high quality vinyl, and some beautiful giclée print images. But, most interesting of all was that that limited set of 2,500 were all signed by Reznor himself.

It took just 30 hours for all 2,500 to sell out, bringing in $750,000 in just over a day.

For music he was giving away for free.

But, by connecting with fans, and giving them a reason to buy, they did. In the first week alone, combining all the other offerings for Ghosts I-IV, Reznor brought in $1.6 million. Again, this is for music he was giving away for free.

The idea that you “can’t compete with free” or that free means there’s no business model is a myth. As Reznor and others have recognized, when the music goes free, it opens up new opportunities for better, stronger, more efficient business models.

Reznor’s next album, The Slip, was released just a few months later, and again, was given away entirely free, but it was released the very same day as he announced his next Nine Inch Nails tour. All he asked, if you wanted to download the music, was that you provide an email address. He then gave fans the option of what quality to download the songs — all the way up to lossless FLAC files. All for free. But, if you downloaded the files, you also learned about the tour, and the tickets were quickly snapped up.

The free music didn’t hurt Reznor’s ability to earn money. It enhanced it.

By connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy, he’s been able to thrive.

Some have complained that Reznor is not a representative example. After all, that huge fanbase came about in large part because of his success under the “old” model, where he was signed to a major record label who helped promote his album and turn him into an international rock star. While some may quibble with how much the label actually helped Reznor, it’s worth exploring how this model has also worked for many other artists — from the superstars to new up-and-coming acts.

Josh Freese is a session drummer based in Los Angeles, who appears on well over 100 albums and performs with many different bands. He’s played with (among others), Nine Inch Nails, Guns ‘N Roses, Sting, Devo, The Vandals, the Offspring. Yet, outside of certain musical circles, he doesn’t have a huge individual reputation with fans. So, when he released his first solo album, called Since 1972, in March of 2009, he decided to set up a system similar to Reznor’s Ghosts I-IV experiment, but made it more fitting to his own personality — which meant making the options extreme and hilarious.

There were cheap options to get the music and CDs, but at $50, you would also get a personal 5 minute “thank you” phone call, where he said you could ask anything you wanted (his suggestion: “Which one of Sting’s mansions has the comfiest beds.”) There was a limited $250 option to get lunch with Freese at a PF Changs or a $500 chance to get dinner with him at Sizzler. The lunches sold out in about a week.

Then Freese took the model to a different level altogether. At $2,500 (limit of 5 available), he would provide a drum lesson, where you’d get to keep one of Freese’s snare drums. You’d also visit the Hollywood Wax Museum with Josh and one of a rotating list of his rockstar friends (depending on who was available). Finally, you’d get to take and keep any three items from Josh’s closet.

At $10,000, you’d get dinner with Josh and a rockstar friend, before hanging out at Disneyland (where Josh’s father worked for many years, and where Josh got his start as a professional drummer) with Josh. And at the end of the day, you would get to keep Josh’s Volvo station wagon — after dropping him off at home. Obviously, there was only one of those available.

There were also $20,000 and $75,000 options available, including many more offers, like having Josh join your band or be your personal assistant for a few weeks. You’d also get to go on tour with Josh. He would also write and record a five-song EP about you. A teenager in Florida actually purchased the $20,000 option, and spent a week with Josh, including a night on the Queen Mary cruise ship, a pizza party at Mark Mothersbaugh (of Devo)’s house and a game of mini-golf with the singer from Tool.

Once again, by connecting with his fans, and giving them something of scarce value, Freese was able to create a business model that worked.

Connecting with Fans (CwF) plus a Reason to Buy (RtB) worked again.

However, some still complain that he’s a product of the “old” industry, even if he was little known outside of it.

The next example is Jill Sobule, who had a hit song in 1995 with “I Kissed A Girl” (not the Katy Perry song). Since then, however, she’s been dropped from two record labels and had two independent labels she was signed to go out of business. When it came time to record her latest album, she decided to get her fans to help fund it. She’d already done an excellent job connecting with her fans, regularly interacting with them on Facebook, where she would hold fun contests each day and actually chat with them and respond to questions.

She launched a website called “Jill’s Next Record” that — like Reznor and Freese — offered up many options for how her fans could support her to fund a new album. They could pay $200 and get free access to any shows for a year. They could get their name mentioned on a “thank you” song. At $5,000, she would do a home concert at your house. She even noted you could charge for that one, and maybe even make some money. She ended up doing five or six such concerts. At $10,000 (described as the “weapons grade plutonium” level) you could sing on the album. This was meant to be a joke, but a woman in the UK purchased it, and Jill had her flown out to LA where she did, in fact, appear singing backing vocals on the album.

Her goal was to raise $75,000, and she had no idea if she’d be able to reach that number at all. Yet, she broke through that number and ended up raising over $80,000 in just 53 days. With that, she was able to go into the studio and record a full scale production, including hiring famed producer Don Was to handle production.

CwF+RtB worked again.

Again, some complain that Jill is not representative, due to her hit song in 1995 — though, again, they’ll ignore her being dropped from two record labels and and having two others go out of business.

So, let’s look at Corey Smith. In the earlier part of this decade, Smith was a high school teacher, playing open mic nights on weekends. But then, he started focusing on building his music career. He started playing numerous live shows, and really worked hard to connect with fans. He gave away all of his music for free off of his website, and used that to drive more fans to his shows. On top of that, he offered special $5 pre-sale tickets to many shows, which has a useful side effect: his biggest fans would convince many others to go as well, building up his fan base, and getting more people to go to more shows. He tried pulling his free music off of his website as an experiment, and saw that his sales on iTunes actually dropped when he did that. In 2008, mostly thanks to live shows, Corey was able to gross nearly $4 million. While giving his music away for free. Connecting with fans and giving them a reason to buy worked wonders.

Jonathon Coulton was a computer programmer. In September of 2006, he decided to write, record and release a new song every week for a year — with all of the songs being released under a Creative Commons license, so anyone could share them. And share them they did. Coulton became a cult sensation, and was making a good living within months of this decision. His fans were supporting him along the way, even creating music videos for every song he released. He started using services like Eventful to more strategically target concert opportunities. If enough people requested a show in a certain location, he knew it would be profitable and started “parachuting” in to do shows that he knew would make him money. Again, by connecting with fans and giving them a real reason to buy, he was able to build up a great following and make a good living.

Moto Boy is a singer/songwriter in Sweden on the wonderfully named label “Songs I Wish I Had Written.” Moto Boy and his label purposely put all of his songs on file sharing networks — including The Pirate Bay (the label’s founder, at times, has shared an office with one of The Pirate Bay’s founders). But, Moto Boy has worked quite hard to connect with fans. He has a great website, where fans can interact, and he encourages sharing his music in creative ways. When a bunch of his fans started filming his concerts and putting them on video hosting sites like YouTube and Vimeo, his label found the best such vidoes, and put them all together into a “YouTube concert.” Compare that to record labels like Warner Music forcing their content off of YouTube. While all of Moto Boy’s music is free, he’s continued to connect with fans in fascinating ways. Last year, he began selling wind-up music boxes, that play one of his songs. Just recently, he launched a limited edition (only 25) of those music boxes in beautiful, hand-crafted wooden boxes, signed by Moto Boy, with a CD and the music notation inside the box. Connecting with the fans and giving them a reason to buy beyond just the music has turned Moto Boy into a star in Sweden.

Amanda Palmer is a singer who made a name for herself as a member of the “punk cabaret duo” The Dresden Dolls. While she put out a solo album on Roadrunner Records (a subsidiary of Warner Music), she found that they had little interest in promoting her, and took things into her own hands. She reached out directly to fans on services like Twitter, often setting up “flash gigs” where people would show up wherever she wanted to perform. In June of 2008, one such flash gig at a beach in Los Angeles ended up with an impromptu, beautiful, music video for a song that Palmer had just learned that morning, due to a suggestion from a fan on Twitter. And she’s doing a good job making money, as well. Bored in her apartment one evening, she started twittering with fans and came up with a jokey t-shirt suggestion, and set up an immediate store, selling $11,000 worth of t-shirts in days. Another night, she started a live video stream from her apartment, and started an impromptu online auction for various items in her apartment associated with a recent tour, often with a personalized twist. In three hours, she brought in $6,000. Connecting with fans and offering them something fun and unique to buy worked wonders. To date, she hasn’t received a single royalty check from Warner Music on her album.

Matthew Ebel is a singer in Boston who started building a fanbase by playing live and actively participating in social networks and other sites. He started regularly performing in Second Life, for example. At one point, he decided to set up a “subscription” backstage pass offer, whereby fans could pay $5, $10 or $15/month to get various benefits — including access to new songs every couple of weeks, as well as having new recorded shows sent to them. Depending on the level of support, they could get access to special shows, gift bags or other opportunities for unique offers not available to others. Ebel has discovered that he’s making enough so that music is his full-time job. Subscription revenues represent nearly 40% of his income, which is about equal to live gigs and sales of CDs and digital songs combined. Connecting with fans and giving them a real reason to buy has made it so that he can have career as a musician.

Moldover is an electronic musician based in San Francisco. Being in such a high tech hub, he had an interesting idea for his next album. Along with the music itself, the CD case would be a working circuit board, with all the songs spelled out in soldered electric circuits. These connected various components to make the CD case itself an instrument. Pushing a button on the side of the case, would light up the center and make a noise, which could be modified through a pair of light sensors, creating a virtual theremin. The case even had a line out jack, so it could be plugged into a computer or an audio system. The CDs themselves were sold for $50, and Moldover discovered the demand was far stronger than he expected. Yes, even though we’re told that no one will pay for music (without strict copy protection), this less well known artist is doing brisk business selling $50 CDs.

Of course, these are just musicians, but these sorts of models impact the wider ecosystem. Companies like TopSpin, Nimbit and Kickstarter are making this work today (for artists big and small). TopSpin has helped enable musicians to better connect with fans and give them a reason to buy over and over again — and found that, when it’s done right, people absolutely buy. One of TopSpin’s artists recently had an average transaction price of over $100, and multiple artists have seen their average transaction price at over $50. The claim that fans just want stuff for free is not borne out by these examples. Across all of TopSpin’s artists, they’ve seen an average transaction price well over $20 — more than the cost of your average CD. By enabling bands to connect with fans while giving them something of unique value to buy, beyond just the music, these bands are thriving.

And, of course, there’s a role for labels to play as well. Terry McBride runs Nettwerk, a Canadian-based label that has tremendous success embracing these sorts of models with a bunch of different artists. McBride has declared that copyright won’t even matter within a decade, and he’s acting accordingly. But he’s making sure that his acts really do connect with fans. With a recent album release by the hip hop artist K-OS, before the album was released, they released all the stems from the songs to let the fans do their own mixes. These weren’t “remixes” because the original mixes weren’t even out! Rather than worrying about an album leaking, K-OS and Nettwerk purposely got the core of the music out themselves and let fans do what they wanted with it. They then set up a system to submit the fan mixes and to vote on them, such that the best mixes were then put on their own album, and both the “professional” and the “fan mixed” albums were released at the same time — leading many fans to buy them both. Both albums, separately, but at the same time, ended up in the top 50 on the charts.

As you look through all of these, some patterns emerge. They’re not about getting a fee on every transaction or every listen or every stream. They’re not about licensing. They’re not about DRM or lawsuits or copyright. They’re about better connecting with the fans and then offering them a real, scarce, unique reason to buy — such that in the end, everyone is happy. Fans get what they want at a price they want, and the musicians and labels make money as well. It’s about recognizing that the music itself can enhance the value of everything else, whether it’s shows, access or merchandise, and that letting fans share music can help increase the market and create more fans willing to buy compelling offerings. It’s about recognizing that even when the music is shared freely, there are business models that work wonders, without copyright or licensing issues even coming into play.

Adding in new licensing schemes only serves to distort this kind of market. Fans and artists are connecting directly and doing so in a way that works and makes money. Putting in place middlemen only takes a cut away from the musicians and serves to make the markets less efficient. They need to deal with overhead and bureaucracy. They need to deal with collections and allocation. They make it less likely for fans to support bands directly, because the money is going elsewhere. Even when licensing fees are officially paid further up the line, those costs are passed on to the end users, and the money might not actually go to supporting the music they really like.

Instead, let’s let the magic of the market continue to work. New technologies are making it easier than ever for musicians to create, distribute and promote music — and also to make money doing so. In the past, the music business was a “lottery,” where only a very small number made any money at all. With these models, more musicians than ever before are making money today, and they’re not doing it by worrying about copyright or licensing. They’re embracing what the tools allow. A recent study from Harvard showed how much more music is being produced today than at any time in history, and the overall music ecosystem — the amount of money paid in support of music — is at an all time high, even if less and less of it is going to the purchase of plastic discs.

This is a business model that’s working now and it will work better and better in the future as more people understand the mechanisms and improve on them. Worrying about new copyright laws or new licensing schemes or new DRM or new lawsuits or new ways to shut down file sharing is counterproductive, unnecessary and dangerous. Focusing on what’s working and encouraging more of that is the way to go. It’s a model that works for musicians, works for enablers and works for fans. It is the future and we should be thrilled with what it’s producing.

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Comments on “The Future Of Music Business Models (And Those Who Are Already There)”

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Shawn Tutt (profile) says:

Awesome Stuff

Mike, this is great stuff. As you said, not really anything different from what you’ve been saying all along, but its nice to have it all in one place. I’m an aspiring musician myself (1st CD should be release in the next month or so) and after reading this I’m just saying to myself “embrace this”.

I’m already doing some of the stuff (free music, CD will be released under creative commons, working on some t-shirt designs) but this post has some other great stuff, not to copy, but to use as a springboard for other ways to connect.

Thanks much…

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Great post Mike, but there is little new in what you are posting, pretty much the same examples as always.

There is one thing missing in your CwF equation, which is “get fans”. You cannot connect with nothing. It’s the reason why for almost every example you give, I can easily say “they already had a fan base”.

There are only a couple of examples who are actually working by starting with NOTHING, and moving up. When you take a band with an existing an existing fanbase to work from, they can much more easily connect with them (they have been doing for a long time).

In the end, what is missing is the two steps: How to get from zero to “some” and to get from “some” to “enough”. This is what the labels “use to do”, so how does it happen now?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Do you want him to explain hot to go to an open mic night? If you are good enough to deserve fans, it shouldn’t be hard to get a few.
Now if you are saying that what the labels “use to do” was create fans for bands that are not good enough to deserve them, I might be tempted to agree with you. But I think many people would welcome the end to that practice.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

bother – Mike’s page removes leading spaces…

oh well…

Seriously though you’re right – but I would add a few things that help when getting fans:

1) Really love what you are doing.

2) Be an “ordinary person” when talking with your fans.

3) Make your fans feel that they’re a part of something.

On another issue I would also add:

4) Don’t underprice your scarce goods offerings that eat into your time. People will quite happily pay more than you think for your time.

5) Be generous with the little extras that you throw in.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“In the end, what is missing is the two steps: How to get from zero to “some” and to get from “some” to “enough”. This is what the labels “use to do”, so how does it happen now?”

It’s the same as anything. You work at it. It would be the same exact way you would get a record label to sign you, you work at it. You play, pass out your music to potential fans, play at open mic nights. If you’re good, you will get the fans. If you suck, then you won’t (this is key).

But, you know what, this is nothing new. Nothing that is stated in this article or I have stated is new. This is the same exact thing that has been happening for centuries, just in a new suit.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There is one thing missing in your CwF equation, which is “get fans”.

Allow me to break it down for you, my friend.

First, to get fans, one must have talent and creativity. I’d like to point out that this is where many, many “big name” bands fail, and why they so fear the future. Now that you have your talent (via natural ability or hours of practice) and your creativity (I don’t know if you can learn that part, sorry Nickelback!) you need to show it off to as many people as possible, because the more people that know of your talent, the more fans you’ll have to connect with.

How does one show off one’s talent, you ask? Well, there’s open mic nights, or knowing someone with a bar who can get you a gig at a local bar– those are traditional routes that are often limited by location and luck. Also, since the creation of the internet, and to some degree bit torrent, there is a third option that will both expose you (not like that, ya perv!) to a greater number of people and it is directly proportional to your talent. If you haven’t guessed by now: giving your music (or other type of infinitely reproducible art) away, assuming you have talent, will net you the largest number of fans in the shortest about of time with the least amount of work.

Here’s how. You write a song, your record it (probably not recording studio quality at this point, but it’s getting cheaper and cheaper) and then you share it on bit torrent. Someone downloads it and tells their friends how kickass you are. (remember the assumption) These friends download your music and *regardless on if the music is to their taste or not* they can now recommend your music to someone they think will like it. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Now you have all these people who want to know about this new guy who can really rock out on the bongos and so they search online for you. If you’re smart you have a web site, or even a twitter, myspace or facebook page (though, I hope the former!) you can now connect with the fans.

You now have many eager eyes (or, more aptly, ears) pointed in your direction. What you do with it is up to you, but if you fail to give them a reason to give you money, then that’s your failing, not theirs.

Any more questions?

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“In the end, what is missing is the two steps: How to get from zero to “some” and to get from “some” to “enough”. This is what the labels “use to do”, so how does it happen now?”

That’s not “missing.” That’s never been the issue. The point (which you frequently miss) is how to capitalize on an already established audience. Any musician worth a damn already knows how to build a fan base. What Mike’s discussing is ways to monetize that fan base. Sheesh, search your couch cushions for a quarter so you can buy a clue.

IshmaelDS (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He did mention how to get fans, play at open mic nights, play local clubs etc. Obviously the examples here are only going to work if you have fans, but all of these examples will work even if you only have “some” fans. They will get you from “some” to “enough”, but if you don’t do some legwork to being with your not going to ever have “some”. And I disagree that the labels used to get fans for you, you didn’t get signed to a label unless you were in the clubs playing, sending out your demo’s etc. which is the same as these models. You still have to put in some sweat.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

with social networking, youtube, several music sites for indie artists, and sites like Its pretty easy to get noticed. You need talent, you need to loose your ego at the door, you need to drop the sense of entitlement, and you need to be sincere and truthful with your fans. None of which someone like you is even remotely capable of.

If you connect with other artists and cross promote each other works it helps alot. Find stuff you like from other artists …. artists that have the words “f#(k RIAA” on their blogs are always great assets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Mike's not at Midem

I was reading something about Mike being at Midem, and frankly couldn’t get past the first sentence.

So naturally, I’m guessing it’s still legal for liars to write novels. They may not be good novels, or even accurate, but they show some sort of effort. Good Job, Mike!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Mike's not at Midem

Pardon? WTF are you blethering about?

Amount of comments posted does NOT equal anything, I quite happily have been reading Techdirt a while with no need to weigh in on everything. Most of what I might say is usually said much better by such posters as Dark Helmet or ChurchHatesTucker.

Also, what does a dictionary wordlist have to do with anything, and what does it have to do with creating topical accounts, and what do those have to do with me posting?

If you had actually bothered to read my post before you decided to show off your pathos, you will have seen that I acknowledged that my information may be incorrect, outwith the context of this singular topic. The ‘TAM-like’ comment was just in reference to other comments about where The Anti-Mike seemed to have not read the post properly.

And all this coming from yet another Anonymous Coward. Really doesn’t help your case. Funny how you are always the ones so quick to point fingers and be childishly nasty.

Mike, you could rename the “Anonymous Coward” option to “Straw Man” 🙂

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Mike's not at Midem


(1) Yes, I am at Midem.

(2) Yes, I am a speaker (gave a presentation yesterday).

I’m listed in the separate speaker list for “Midem+” which is where my presentation was. Midem+ is a new addition to Midem this year (attendees get to attend all of Midem PLUS special Midem+ sessions as well).

J.B. Nicholson-Owens (profile) says:

Artists on Magnatune?

I’m curious to hear what artists make of—a non-exclusive label that says artists get half of the sale price. Copyright holders license to carry their music; musicians don’t sign over any copyright (not music, not performance) to Listeners can preview the entire catalog online at no charge, buy tracks/albums, or subscriptions. All the tracks are also licensed to share under a Creative Commons non-commercial license.

I bought an unlimited subscription there, so I’m interested in more musicians submitting material to be carried by I am interested to learn more about what musicians have to say about Magnatune’s deal.

Sam I Am says:

More to the point, I think it’s short term ironic and longer term just plain sad that we now expect our favorite musicians to sell their Volvo’s, or be our personal assistants, or hold eBay auctions out of their clothes closets to make a living and survive.

Not that long ago we revered talented musicians for the music they created, and we paid them for the MUSIC they recorded for us. And this meant they could focus on their MUSIC. And spend their time creating more of it.

Not investing their time and talent selling their used clothing. Or their cars. Or a day at Disneyland.

Good grief.

And this TechDirt calls “progress”.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Too right!

In the 17th century the global telecommunications infrastructure necessary to reach an audience of billions was rather lacking. One had to be a minstrel roaming from village to town, but one still survived. Alternatively, one had the fortune to be discovered by a sugar daddy (king, church, aristocrat, etc.) aka patron.

Hence the attraction in the 18-20th centuries of a monopoly on the reproduction/performance/sale of copies.

In the 21st century monopolies are not only ineffective, we don’t need them (only those who’ve collected them say that). A musician can now set up shop on a website and have a an audience of a billion not-necessarily-wealthy patrons, or fans as we call them, without even leaving their armchair.

What’s a little lacking are the facilities for artists to do financial exchanges with billions of fans. That’s what I’m working on (

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You know what my biggest problem with supporting most artists is? The lack of a damn donate button on their website, or merchandise of any sort that doesn’t involve shipping goods.

Case in point: Amanda Palmer. Love the music, very hard to support her because she is on a major label that means money spent on her music directly via iTunes is likely to get sucked into a black hole. Might be interested in the clothes etc. if it wasn’t for the overseas shipping from the US to the UK. Eventually I’ll find a way.

rhitu (user link) says:

Re: Re:

thanks for writing this comment. i was horrified to read the developments which are being called ‘innovation’ in the music industry. Unbelievable! Selling their drums, cars and being personal assistants – I’d like to see Bob Dylan or Eric Clapton or any of the other greats trying to push their music in this manner…… they dont seem to be taking into account marginal utility – its going to be exciting only the first two or three times.

Karl (user link) says:

No Neubauten anywhere?

I’m really surprised nobody has mentioned Einstuerzende Neubauten when talking about these business models. They had a project called the Supporters Project, where for some fairly medium chunk of change (I believe 60 euros), you could get webcasts of the band recording the album, chats with the band members, forum access, an @neubauten email address, and other sundry things.

It was not entirely a success–they couldn’t fund an American tour without a label, and they released different “non-supporter” versions of the albums–but considering that they started doing this in 2001, and were able to record three albums this way, it’s still fairly significant.

Gregory (profile) says:

Jonathan Coulton...

… is also the person who had his song “Still Alive” placed in the hit game Portal from Valve. How much did he get paid by Valve? Dunno. How much did he get paid by the various hundreds of renditions floating around on Youtube? Probably zilch.

How famous is he amongst Net- and game-savvy people who otherwise might never have heard of his music? Well… xkcd’s put him on the map, so pretty damned famous is what I’d think.

Mark Ryder (profile) says:

you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Not impressed at all

Your a salesman telling people how to become sales men but i’m an Artist and my work is my art if I want to personally take people to my gig to sell records I am now a cab driver pimping my music so i’m a cab drive and a sales man (maybe i’m not an artist at all just a desperate sad act)

This stuff is totally bull your article is about how to sell things (non music) in a changing market or how to do the job of the record company as you have it all on your shoulders so go wipe peoples butts to get ahead!

I know everyone can be a artist but i’m not buying your comments one iota this stuff is for those that need to sell their soul before selling their music.

“It’s the future go kiss some strangers butt and then they might buy your music”

Sorry that’s never has been the ARTISTS way. And before you say things are changing I know they are but good music will find its audience without the artist kissing the baby to get the vote!

If you make good music then word will spread I have spend 20 years making my version of good music and NEVER!! Promoting it in any form you mention nor in any of the know PR old ways and its been from the UK official 1 chart position to every where else. In the pop charts and underground charts.

I have always been an independent and have never followed the music rules this digital change is hard but selling your soul to make money is not the way of an artist

Being an artist is not about being a sales man it’s about making great music and finding your audience. It’s not about some stupid computer chip cover to sell music or about being a cab drive and wiping peoples butt.

You people really think you know everything and your advice stinks to real artist. This stuff is for those wanna be “how can I make money and be famous” people

If you are a passionate artist just follow your own path do what you want to do around your music that’s about your music and remember it’s the music that’s important but selling you soul is not the answer

The term struggling artist is because we struggle with the art and success from being artists not success from being marketing moguls

Express your music in the ways you feel is for your music and yes there’s many new ways to do this but don’t banter to the public or you will lose your music independence
If you want people to buy your music and not steal it then that’s how it has to be
Stand up and tell people you don’t like thieving lowlifes who steal music.

Yeah you wont make friends but then, who want thieving friends,

How important to you is the money against the art?

Too many people are too fast to say this is the new way and it is now and that’s total rubbish

This is a changing market but if you all act like wimpy sheep then a few might become great but the quality of the art will die as you all become t-shirt manufactures i’m sure some of you even make music by request. Wow that must be so gratifying. *sarcastic*

Art is personal, artists are not exchanging being puppets to major labels to now being puppets to their supporters.

Music has a value and its not in the cab drive service or the fancy t-shit, they are not the business of music they are any other retail business which is just about making money.

I want to make money-SELLING MUSIC and I will because my music is good and I don’t except that the new way is to get a sale on a t-shirt.

My music is my product and if people steal it then they are scum and if I lose so called ‘fans’ then fine I don’t invite thieves into my house I don’t want to be involved with them

I don’t accept your views and the new way for real artists is to act like desperate do anything to make money and be famous people

You steal then you’re a thief and don’t be convinced it’s a means to an end as the end is the art (the music) everything else is a means to make money on the back of the music (if that’s the only way you can do it)

I live for my music and it has value and its mine and I don’t need a million thieving ‘fans’ and 5 thousand paying I would rather have 3 thousand paying fans and no thieving ones and I don’t need a million to make money anyone can do the math how many albums do I need to sell to be rich?

If I have 3 thousand paying fans buying 1 album at £10.00 that 30G and that’s before royalties from radio ect..

The world is full of pub singers and wanna bee’s who need those ‘get rich quick’ blogs like this to see if they can pimp themselves to stardom

If you can’t make it work on the quality of your music then you give it away and pray you find someone who likes it that might buy into your other products like that new tea maker with your logo on it or that new set of paper clips with the dancing snow man…its not music dude!

And anyway giving away all your music to create a live paying gig …ahem? This model I call music spam and giving away music in this way is just crossing your fingers and hoping your spam will circulate so you can sell a t-shirt of get a booking again this is all sales mans tricks!

I want those that see the value in just the music and don’t want the thieving fans that still call themselves a supporter of my music.

If the music industry want to sue thieves so they get educated then that’s fine as one they are educated then the world will fall back into place and people will buy music. What will all you sales men do then?

Dude take a step back all you are telling people how to sell things to make money not how to truly be creative and build a real fan base from MUSIC.

P.s. it’s about time someone told it like it should be!

Mark Ryder


My shop is not yet live but as my music is not being spammed and only legally available TO BUY on my shop and iTunes no other online store will have it and so its not over kill or spamming those that know will come this is my model as I believe in my art that’s the way forward.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

But what happens when music becomes ubiquitous and everyone is making it and the price for music drops to zero?

That’s the future. For all the arts. Sad but true. Well, not really that sad for as Man Ray once said:

“A bad cook, a bad doctor, a bad judge; these people can kill you. But a bad artist?”

I should clarify, the copies will drop to zero. The experience of an audience’s relationship with artistic human expression, well, that is priceless.

Good luck in the future.

Nastybutler77 (profile) says:

Re: you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Oh, my. Where to begin. I don’t have time to respond to all your specious rantings, but in brief:

First, no one is saying you have to do these things to be a musician or “Artist” as you say, but these are merely some ways in which other “Artists” have increased their revenue stream, and fan base in the process. If you have other means of creating an income from your art, than bully for you. Mike’s ideas certainly aren’t the only ways to make money from art, but they ARE proven ways that have verifiable results as demonstrated by those musicians sited.

Second, you seem to have a fixation with butt wiping. I’ve never heard your music, but if I ever do, I’ll be listening for the anal fixation subtext to it.

Best of luck.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Congrats, you too have spotted the problem of music 2 point oh! In fact, you have spotted much of the problem of many 2 point oh (no) things.

If you want to be an artist, you must be aa better salesman than you are an artist. In fact, if you want to make a living as a musician, you better know how to design and produce nifty t-shirts in very limited quantities, and sell them to schmucks who won’t pay a center for your music, but will pay out their backside for a shirt.

(sorry, let me turn off the rant machine… 24 hours plus of airports and airplanes does that to me).

Now then…

In the end, there is a real problem, that what people truly value in the process is the music, not anything else. They do enjoy the live shows, but even a band playing 365 days a year can’t play for all their fans in a year (for bigger bands, they might never play for all of their fans). Not everyone needs more t-shirts or signed junk to crowd up their living space. They do want music, they listen to music every day, they enjoy the music, and they want more of the music.

What we have ended up with is what I think is a shorter term trend where wide scale stealing (using the words of the judge in the recent update to the Jammie Thomas case) has changes the way people apply price and value to the music product. They still value it, but they have been mislead into thinking it is also free. It’s just one of those things. Sort of like those people who thought AOL and Time Warner were going to be a great marriage.

Good luck being a musician. For the moment, you might want to spend less time learning your chops, and more time learning about thread count in t-shirts and how to buy them offshore for better prices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Or heaven forbid you make friends with someone who is business oriented? Your lack of creativity is astounding. Perhaps you should make friends with someone who is artistically oriented?

And it’s not stealing. It’s copyright infringement. Otherwise she would have been charged with theft but she wasn’t.

I’m only using reality.

Sam Jackson (profile) says:

Re: you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Mr. Ryder: I added this here, because I do not know if you will approve of this message on your own bloggish-type site.

I understand your anger at the big companies. They were/still are sharks, feeding off music they still own even though they’ve cast away the true owners, the creators, of the music.

As a web content analyst, a music fan and music business student and a pyschologist, I’ll let you in on something you should likely know if you plan on continuing online with any measure of success: You need to know that, if you want to succeed to the fullest of your capacity, you need to drop the constant whinging, dude. It gets old REAL fast, turning most people away before they even find out you are a producer.

Also, if you decide to keep up with the rambling, misspelled version of the Englich language you currently use, you’ll lose a big percentage of the people who would otherwise stick around through your wrath just to find out what you are about.

One more thing, your brand of music does not get the rightful royalties it deserves because of the genre it is. It is inherent that trance/dance music ‘songs’, while seemingly ubiquitous, are also practically impossible to distinguish from one another.

Good luck moving forward.

*Do you actually write, creat music? Or do you merely sample sounds off a computer? Please understand that to many, the two are mutually exclusive.

embe (user link) says:

does music need a business?

it occurs to me that anglo-american journalists never have heard of the next new thing: netlabels, not being the stuff to print your address on, but the micro organisms who are refocusing the businesses back to the musical core, ie. music, not money. this phenomenon is already big in Germany and Spain, so instead of going to Midem, you should try to go to the netaudio festivals in London, Lissabon and Moscow in fall.

greetings from Europe!

thedudeabides says:

business model????

>“It’s the future go kiss some strangers butt and then they might buy your music”
>If you want people to buy your music and not steal it then that’s how it has to be
>Stand up and tell people you don’t like thieving lowlifes who steal music.
>Yeah you wont make friends but then, who want thieving friends

Right f**king on.
100% agreement.

The above essay reads more like a list of gimmicks than a business model that works to sustain artists’ careers. Music boxes, circuit board cases, lunch with the drummer, your name dropped in a song’s lyrics… gimmicks one and all. Gee, if Pepsi is gonna pay me a mill, maybe I should write a song about their wonderful beverage? Maybe I can spend all day on social network sites or driving fans around and then throw together some three-chord piece of crap when i have a few minutes to spare from all my self-hype? People writing these freaking essays telling musicians what they “should”! be doing are invariably geeks who spend all day spouting off to the blogosphere and assume there’s nothing better for anyone else to do. Guess what –musicians make music, that’s what you love them for, right? Actually paying for their music increases the chance they will have time/resources/health a roof over their heads in order to create more of it. The more you expect them to be self-hyping, brainstorming sales strategies, or having lunch dates with fans for money (did somebody say “escort service”?) the less they will be making good music, that’s a certainty.

drklassen says:

Re: business model????

What about the FACT that nobody can actually *steal* your music?

For those who want to go the “but I’m an ARTIST” route, well, guess what—artists produce art and are paid for that. Making a CD is NOT making art. That’s the performance. Copying a CD is most definitely NOT art, and when the marginal cost of those copies is zero, why on Earth do you *expect* folks to pay for something that is, by definition, worthless?!

The point of this article was only that the artist needs to find was to be paid for the art—recorded music is just the ad for that.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: business model????

That’s my concern with a lot of music marketing ideas. They work initially because they are novel, but they aren’t really sustainable concepts.

Wow. You keep saying that and yet you present absolutely no evidence to the contrary. And yet, each day we hear about more and more new artists doing something new and novel and making it work.

I find it incredibly insulting that you seem to think that some of the most creative people in the world cannot be creative in their business models as well.

I really have to ask why anyone would work with you for their marketing, when your general stance appears to be “give up, don’t bother, there’s no business model.”

There is no limit to creativity and the ability to create new business models that work. Why you think that creativity is limited is just unfathomable to me.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: business model????

Wow. You keep saying that and yet you present absolutely no evidence to the contrary. And yet, each day we hear about more and more new artists doing something new and novel and making it work.

I find it incredibly insulting that you seem to think that some of the most creative people in the world cannot be creative in their business models as well.

I have cited some articles about artists’ income.

You’re the one who cites the same success stories. As far as most of us know, the people mentioned in this article are the only successful ones because we aren’t hearing about others.

Here is what I would like to discuss in more detail. I see hypercompetition evident in music and I think it will continue. In my mind, the logical endpoint will be that we will all be music creators and will have to depend less and less on other people to make our music for us. I think that is probably a very good thing for society. Power to the people. It’s going to undermine the income of some artists, but it is going to make a lot more people feel creative. It’s a revolution and I don’t think it’s going to stop.

The tools will be there for everyone who thinks about music to be able to make music. You won’t have to fight over rights because everyone will create what they need for themselves.

hypercompetition definition from Financial Times Lexicon: “hypercompetition
A situation in which there is a lot of very strong competition between companies, markets are changing very quickly, and it is easy to enter a new market, so that it is not possible for one company to keep a competitive advantage for a long time.” / Business books – A more virulent form of hypercompetition: “You may think your business offers rare and valuable goods and services. But the chances are that, somewhere, a recent entrant or potential competitor is preparing to do something similar, for a lower price. As the author says: ‘Everything becomes a commodity eventually.’?”

Welcome to Hypercompetition

This might also be relevant. I haven’t had a chance to read all of it yet.

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits Looks like we’ll be able to combine forces to design and manufacture what we need when we need it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 business model????

Here’s an excerpt from that Wired article. What I am trying to suggest to the music industry and individual artists is that they don’t own it anymore.

Sure, the labels are gone, but people keep talking like the artists will now control the fans. More than likely there won’t be a division between artist and fan, so I’m suggesting that models built on that premise might not last very long.

In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits | Wired Magazine

The tools of factory production, from electronics assembly to 3-D printing, are now available to individuals, in batches as small as a single unit. Anybody with an idea and a little expertise can set assembly lines in China into motion with nothing more than some keystrokes on their laptop. A few days later, a prototype will be at their door, and once it all checks out, they can push a few more buttons and be in full production, making hundreds, thousands, or more. They can become a virtual micro-factory, able to design and sell goods without any infrastructure or even inventory; products can be assembled and drop-shipped by contractors who serve hundreds of such customers simultaneously.

Today, micro-factories make everything from cars to bike components to bespoke furniture in any design you can imagine. The collective potential of a million garage tinkerers is about to be unleashed on the global markets, as ideas go straight into production, no financing or tooling required. “Three guys with laptops”? used to describe a Web startup. Now it describes a hardware company, too.

“Hardware is becoming much more like software,”? as MIT professor Eric von Hippel puts it. That’s not just because there’s so much software in hardware these days, with products becoming little more than intellectual property wrapped in commodity materials, whether it’s the code that drives the off-the-shelf chips in gadgets or the 3-D design files that drive manufacturing. It’s also because of the availability of common platforms, easy-to-use tools, Web-based collaboration, and Internet distribution.

We’ve seen this picture before: It’s what happens just before monolithic industries fragment in the face of countless small entrants, from the music industry to newspapers. Lower the barriers to entry and the crowd pours in.

Scott Reinfeld (profile) says:


We have been working on it for years. Our model is “Freeability.” We are coining the phrase here at 1 Source Entertainment. Labels and a lot of big boys in the industry are always asking us how we will do it. We are about to show them. They have no clue what is going on anymore, but that is what makes this business so much fun! If the labels fall it’s because they think they know how the internet works! Sorry just creating a Facebook group/Myspace page doesn’t mean you know how the internet really works. 🙂 Your “Net Worth” is only as big as your “Network”… Social Network that is!

Bill Pytlovany (profile) says:

I know exactly how you feel


I recently have been thinking about how all the industries are in the state of flux including the software industry. Folks are now getting used to paying 99 cents for software so I decided to see what impact this will have on our industry.

One of my readers suggested I contact you and share my recent experiment. Since I don’t have your contact info I would hope you would be curious enough to click on my name to read my blog post. I would post the url but I don’t want it to be mistaken for someone who just spamming. In fact, no need to moderate and publish this comment. I just wanted to present my latest experiment for your review.

Bill Pytlovany

a-dub (profile) says:

>“It’s the future go kiss some strangers butt and then they might buy your music”

Or you could just keep kissing the butt of some A&R rep. and then they might sign your band. If “I love you , you’re the best audience ever!” isnt butt kissing then I dont know what is….

>If you want people to buy your music and not steal it then that’s how it has to be
>Stand up and tell people you don’t like thieving lowlifes who steal music.
>Yeah you wont make friends but then, who want thieving friends

Lars Ulrich tried that bull and look what happened. He and Metallica are still enjoying the backlash…hell hath no fury like a fan scorned.

Kahlil Lechelt (profile) says:

Thank you for this.

Thanks for this great article. I wanted to know about musicians that go new ways. Your examples are fantastic. In the end it is just about delivering exceptional quality in the product and care about your community/customer/fan. Quality and care. And the funny thing is this goes for any kind of business. Many big businesses are loosing because they don’t give a flying f*ck about their customers. They are too greedy. Greed will not work in the long run. Many small and big businesses are winning because they show that they care and creat great value for the customer.
Major labels by default are indredibly greedy and also by default don’t care about the fans or good music. They care about profit and are totally disconnected from the product. That stopped working and I am so glad. I love the new opportunities that come with this shift.
More power to the artist! Go out there, connect and crush it!

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

How about others post their success stories too?

Since this is an open forum, and a way for people to get publicity, why don’t some of you successful musicians who aren’t listed in the article tell your stories in this comments section. Let’s amass a bigger database of profitable DIY music businesses. What would be helpful are stories about those of you who are making a living solely from music and music-related activities. Where is your income is coming from? Who are your fans and what are they spending money on that contributes to your livelihood?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

blah blah blah blah, manage an artist and get them signed to a major record deal, then talk about this business of music.

Yes, there are a lot finer points to the music business that don’t get talked about here. And for a lot of managers, grabbing a major label deal is still how they prefer to go because the level of promotion can be much higher. The general thinking is if you aren’t going to make any money on your recorded music anyway, what difference does it make if you put it out or the label does?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re:Signing with labels

This is why some artists and bands still do the deals.

Lady Gaga’s Lessons for the Music Business – “From concerts, including four sold-out nights at Radio City Music Hall this month, a percentage of her take goes to her label, Universal’s Interscope Records. The label also gets a cut of her revenue from Polaroid, Estee Lauder’s MAC and other corporate partners. Does Gaga validate the 360 model for other artists? While she pockets relatively less money on tour, Interscope puts more muscle behind her than it would have in the old days. ‘Would she be in the position to play in front of 20,000 people a night if the record company had not put up the marketing dollars?’ says Gaga’s manager Troy Carter.”

elimarcus (profile) says:

Long ago in Canada...

Way back in the mid 1970’s, the Canadian Folk band “Stringband” would gather names and addresses of fans at every concert event, and sent out postcards to notify of concerts, parties, news, new releases, etc..
When they went to make their 3rd album (1977), they advertised that you could “subscribe” in advance to help finance the album (I think the price was $10 or $15 at the time). Subscribers were invited to do a couple of live crowd vocals in the studio with the band to complete the album, and the album was called “Thanks to the Following” with the names of the first few hundred subscribers printed right on the record cover, and a few hundred more on the insert page… the records (LPs at the time) were mailed out to the subscribers, the postage was prepaid in the subscription price. So I think that the formula (CwF) + (RtB) may have been valid even in the analog age, but still required thinking outside the corporate commercial box…

Steve says:

great except for....

Good article except for the last paragraph where it states that it is dangerous to shut down illegal file sharing sites. That really is rubbish!!

The choice of whether or not an artist wants to buy into this new model of giving away music for free is the individual artists choice. If artist A chooses to give away music or is not fussed by file sharing that’s great, but it doesn’t mean that artist B feels the same way, or we should be condoning illegal file sharing across the board.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Here's another musician's experience.

The Hat-in-Hand Plan | Music Feature | Chicago Reader: “We predicted that making music free on the Web would render record labels, management firms, and other industry power brokers unnecessary, allowing artists to build followings without relying on middlemen. Though it wasn’t clear what new economies would arise to replace artist revenue lost to vanished record sales, we were confident a healthy and equitable system would evolve.

Needless to say, things aren’t going quite that way.”

Mahri Autumn (user link) says:


So great to hear such a positive take on where things are going along with a concise collection of inspiring stories. Thank-You. …. Its exciting that we really are in the midst of a cultural revolution of sorts where the means of cultural production, distribution and marketing are really at the fingertips of anyone with a vision and who is willing to give up some sleep to make it work : ) m

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Glenn in Minneapolis (profile) says:

I'm a fan of Suzanne's view

I’ve been following Suzanne Lainson’s views, and I think fundamentally her views of the new music market realities make a lot of sense.

The primary issue is this: fantastically capable music recording technology and the Internet’s ability to put your music on the Worldwide Web has created a HUGE avalanche of music that is appealing to the average listener.

Artists are now in a hyper-competitive race to gain those listeners’ attention.

I expect that within a few more years, most mainstream artists will understand that they must create music only for the pleasure of it, and won’t be expecting to be earning a living from recording and sale their music, or heir live performances.

Those who can find a niche where there is not such a HUGE supply of music may be able to make a living from it…unless more artists come into that space and create a huge supply again.

Glenn in Minneapolis (profile) says:

Re: I'm a fan of Suzanne's view

I should add that yes, there will be a few that break through each year and gain some real visibility. But it has always been that way. The old barrier used to be the record labels “screening process”.

The new barrier is the sheer volume of musical competition.

This will be a good thing for the listeners, as long as good filters exist for them to find the music they enjoy among the avalanche of available free music.

Nathan Ross (user link) says:

Applications to the concert industry

I completely agree with the two goals for artists you’ve put forth in this article. Throughout my education and experience in the music business, few messages for artist success have come across more clearly than “make it personal”, and your suggestions certainly have that core idea in mind. My true interest, however, is in how artists can engage fans successfully at every level of fame in order to sell concert tickets instead of CDs or other VIP packages. An artists’ connection with their fans and their ability to provide worthwhile content for purchase is critical to their success, but I’m curious how this will apply to artists on the performance side of their career as opposed to the recording side.

I was interested to learn the specific success stories of Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails, even in the face of Warner Records’ best efforts to stifle all of his free content in the market. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of a major artist distributing their content for free in order to generate popularity. Prince included a copy of his 2007 album “Planet Earth” with the British tabloid Mail one day three years ago, which shocked both music retailers and regional distributing label Columbia. This move may well have been the deciding factor in his 21 sellout London shows that season. My question is: how can up-and-coming artists hope to gain significant hype while employing a similar distribution tactic? In regards to your two goals for artists, the artists’ performances would obviously be the driving factor behind making their concert tickets valuable. Can artists hope to come close to the level of popularity they need to break through to the small club level by producing good records and releasing them for free? If so, is it a necessity for the future, and will artists who don’t release their content gratis face a disadvantage? I wouldn’t suggest that as an end all-be all strategy for any artist, but it would be the core philosophy of an artist who’s looking to profit in areas of their career other than record sales, which is valid at this point given the success popular touring artists have compared to their other methods of monetization. What other steps would be essential in helping a new artist establish him or herself in this cluttered business? Again, I appreciated your post very much and would absolutely pass your advice on.

Shaun Letang (user link) says:

It's true, people need more creative business sense!

Wow, great post! This is what many musicians are missing, a creative side in the business sense! This line sums up what musicians should be doing on the issue of downloading so easily:
“stop worrying and learn to embrace the business models that are already helping musicians make plenty of money”.
It’s good inspiration to see how well these musicians have done in your examples, I hope people take this on board and can apply it to their own business strategies.

Piet Haag (profile) says:

We have no strategy

Hello and thanks for the interesting article.

I think the problem with this is expecting that musicians, or more specifically artists – the few who actually create work of some genuine artistic merit – should also be web savvy, entrepreneurially oriented business people. The fact is, that is an unlikely and indeed unfortunate combination. In practice what it means is that people of limited artistic ability, who are motivated by musical success bypass those of genuine ability who hone their musical skills at the expense of their marketing prowess.

Our response to this conundrum as a struggling near bankrupt label which has invested a lot in time, money and effort into ART is just to give it away free, and think of it as a charitable act, which may someday be returned.

Try it out:

Best wishes
Piet Haag
A&R Director
Eye Dog Eye
Britains worst label

JulesLt says:

The big one everyone forgets is that one of the biggest success stories is someone with a background in the worst aspects of the major label industry – Simon Cowell with his X-Factor and Nation’s Got Talent programs.

Crowd-sourcing your A&R and turning it into a money-generator, social media, merchandising, sponsorship – the guy ticks every buzz-word, to the degree that he’s making a vast amount of money before a single note has actually been recorded – and frequently the winning acts tank as recording artistes – but that is irrelevant to his model.

That’s the likely future for the ‘casual’ market – the people who are not actually ‘fans’ of anything – which is really the traditional major label audience (even for a band like U2 or Radiohead or Madonna – who have lots of fans – the majority of the major label audience are ‘casual’ – they don’t buy everything).

From a personal point of view, labels still count for me – there are hundreds of thousands of bands out there, a lot of them seem to want to make ‘friends’ with me on myspace. A well-curated label – like The Great Pop Supplement, or Honest Jon’s, or Finders Keepers provides a good ‘filter’ for me – and that is what they can offer artists – along with venture capital.

The only thing I question is the idea of giving recorded music away for free and subsidising it with CDs or merch. It’s denying the reality of the switch towards pure digital – it’s like funding the development of the road system in the early C20th by taxing horse ownership, not car ownership.

Eventually an audience will grow up with no attachment to physical product – people whose first experience of music is pure digital, and may not even own a device with a CD player in it. Merchandise alone will not close this gap (relatively few music listeners care about merch – I have several 1000 records and CDs, and very few band T-shirts or other memorabilia, because my relationship to most artists is casual).

Kieran says:


It’s a bit technical for those outside the industry, but I’ll try to break it down.

i think you could use recursion to simplify the process 🙂

(to chris)
I really couldn’t help but post this, sorry… BUT recursion is for hierarchical data (multi-level arrays, file systems, tree traversal) and even then it’s actually quite inefficient with all the over-head. Time (which musicians have to put in, going to gigs and such) is linear so would be better calculated by a linear algorithm. If I were to program it, I’d use Iteration…

a says:

Call me old fashioned, but I can’t help but get bummed out whenever I hear about how professional musicians need to give up on being rewarded directly for their art, and instead become part-time T-shirt salesmen. (Or in the case of Josh Freese, anything and everything short of a manwhore. I realize he has a sense of humor about his “packages,” but still—what about musicians who aren’t type A pseudo-celebrities? Imagine Nick Drake or Elliott Smith partaking in those sorts of stunts.)

Why do artists need to jump through all sorts of hoops just to get a little monetary love from their fans? Why has the default become “content should be free!” and if you don’t like it, shove it? I’m not necessarily speaking from a legal standpoint, but from a cultural, intellectual, ethical one. It seems to have become almost taboo to respectfully ask people to show their love for a musician’s music by spending money on their…wait for it…music.

Funny how all the time and effort and money put into making something gets completely disregarded if that thing doesn’t happen to be a physical object. I understand it’s a reality, but still it’s a bummer that, more often than not, the only way to get the public to pay for the music that you invested your blood, sweat, and tears (and Visa credit line) into is to plop it in a fancypants box and charge $75.

And don’t get me started on the whole “making records costs practically nothing now!” argument. Yes, it’s much cheaper (and for certain genres, extremely cheap), but a good sounding recording of live musicians playing in a room together will still run you thousands upon thousands of dollars (or years off your life if you want to teach yourself how to become a professional recording engineer—which is the route I took).

For the record, I make a living as a professional musician, mostly on the recording and production end of things. I’ve worked with many well respected independent artists and bands, plus a Grammy winner or two, and pretty much everyone I meet is flailing. Cobbling together a meager-to-decent living (often using these newfangled CwF+RtB methods), but flailing and slightly depressed about the state of affairs nonetheless.

Can’t help but think things would be a lot simpler and less stressful if people started putting a value on the art of recorded music again, instead of five minute phone calls and token backing vocal tracks.

svetlana says:

How about others post their success stories too?

okay, i run an independent label. We have a lot of artists coming to us and the more attention we get the more artists coming to us. there’s nothing that we can do that in theory an artist can’t do for themselves. but still they come, why is that?

well, lets be real people. lots of people in ordinary boring companies of whatever whatever get paid to write a press release or be a PR or write contracts. you need some nous and some knowledge and some skill to do these things. Being good at the making music doesn’t mean you’re good at communicating about it or you even want to.

Also, working with lots of music allows you to be in regular contact with people like journalists and bloggers and delivers greater success in getting coverage. What we’re trying to avoid is the internet age phenomenon of “famous for 15 people”. We don’t want to sell records to our mums.

We sell music because there’s a lot more that goes into it than somebody recording something on their computer and doing gigs. Not everyone wants to do gigs. Not everyone’s music works in gigs. Not everyone wants random people to go through their closet, or wardrobe as we say.

We make vinyl records because in our niche vinyl is important to get credibility and more importantly to be reviewed. It’s a filtration system. For someone to invest the ?1,000 odd it costs to make a minimum production record they have to believe in the music. At the giveaway end, there’s no filtration and people do seem to need that.

There are currently more labels than ever, so work that out. And artists really want to be on labels. No one wants to be on their own. There’s so many holes in the music for pleasure argument. it’s gonna stall at a certain scale inevitably. I mean, we can’t do a show without a soundsystem and that costs money no matter how much pleasure we might get. Blah, enough rambling. Thanks.

Barrett Rinaldo (user link) says:

Music business is just like any other. You have to get an people to hear and know of you. The web can be a great tool for this but it can also cut your throat. Today you have to be creative. See the contests to play in Subway stations ect. Get noticed and get big. Otherwise pray to get on a label and hope they promote you. Then share in the few pennys left at the end of the day

Michael Giltz (profile) says:

you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

A little incoherent, if passionate, Mark Ruff Ryder. Best of all, going to Mark Ruff Ryder’s UK Underground website finds him offering free downloads and other free stuff in exchange for providing your email. And a catchy tune…available to hear via a video embedded for for free on the site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Jonathan Coulton...

Jonathan Coulton…
… is also the person who had his song “Still Alive” placed in the hit game Portal from Valve.

… and this has what to do with it? More importantly, was he already famous when Valve asked for a song?

You’re missing some facts, here; some of those facts are rather important to your point… assuming you have one.

Anonymous Coward says:

business model????

Guess what –musicians make music, that’s what you love them for, right? Actually paying for their music increases the chance they will have time/resources/health a roof over their heads in order to create more of it. The more you expect them to be self-hyping, brainstorming sales strategies, or having lunch dates with fans for money (did somebody say “escort service”?) the less they will be making good music, that’s a certainty.

This article proves you wrong. The artists doing everything themselves cuts out the blood-sucking middleman who gives the artist nothing and takes all he can.

Wait, which one’s the pirate, again?

Anonymous Coward says:


Lars Ulrich tried that bull and look what happened. He and Metallica are still enjoying the backlash…hell hath no fury like a fan scorned.

Amen. I haven’t purchased any of Metallica’s crap in over a decade.

The thing that bugs me most about Metallica actually isn’t their lust for money (who couldn’t understand that?) but their changing what they stood for.

Back in the 80’s, Metallica went on MTV and stated, point blank, that they would never make a music video, because they were about the music, not the money.

A few years later, they’re not only making music videos, they’re suing their fans. It’s all too easy to write them off, especially since their music has sucked ever since they went mainstream (“And Justice for All” was the last album I felt was worth the plastic it was stamped on). It’s really too bad they decided they liked money more than they liked music, at about the same time they stopped being good at making either.

Christopher says:


True. That is why bands have to do tours and other things before labels will notice them, and then tell them “Hey, you didn’t want to take a chance on us BEFORE we were popular…. GTFO!” and sell all their stuff in person and on the internet.

It would be POETIC JUSTICE if all these recording labels went belly-up because artists realized they didn’t need them anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

They can, but should they have to?

The idea of all this is that people should have to put all kinds of effort and creativity into finding things people want to buy – selling off tour collectibles, old cars, their own personal time, along with all sorts of creative inventions like the music boxes and so on – because their music is going to be pirated even if they don’t want it to be. Is it really fair to say that they ought to have to do that to survive? Is that really something we can consider acceptable? It seems to me that the model of a great artist making a large amount of money on nothing but album sales choosing to SUPPLEMENT their income with those kinds of things is the ingenuity capitalism is known for, while a great artist making next to nothing on pure album sales being forced to make it on nothing but that kind of ancilliary bullshit is nothing more than desperation brought on by a breakdown in legal protection.

In short, perhaps they can make a living selling off their used Hondas and being personal assistants, but should they have to?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:


Mr Masnick – If you had to go it alone collecting a paycheck from techdirt, would you be willing to give your blog entries and articles away for free, and then allow people to sit with you at your office and write, or some of the other extras these musicians are offering?

I do go it alone collecting a paycheck from Techdirt, and the answers to your question are yes and yes.

My explanation of how all the articles on this site are public domain is here:

and our similar offerings are here:

Including one where people can sit with me at my office while I write is here:

A few people have done it, and it’s been quite a lot of fun. If you’re interested, let me know. Thanks!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

They can, but should they have to?

The idea of all this is that people should have to put all kinds of effort and creativity into finding things people want to buy – selling off tour collectibles, old cars, their own personal time, along with all sorts of creative inventions like the music boxes and so on – because their music is going to be pirated even if they don’t want it to be.

It’s not about “should.” That’s where you are mistaken. If you don’t want to, don’t do it. But don’t get upset if you can’t make money. We’re just explaining how you can make money.

Is it really fair to say that they ought to have to do that to survive?

It’s not about fairness, it’s about reality. Was it fair that once the phone system got automated, there were no jobs for the women who were operators before?

Is that really something we can consider acceptable

Considering the artists I talk about above all seem to be making MORE MONEY than they did in the past under the old system, um, yes? What’s not acceptible about that?

It seems to me that the model of a great artist making a large amount of money on nothing but album sales choosing to SUPPLEMENT their income with those kinds of things is the ingenuity capitalism is known for, while a great artist making next to nothing on pure album sales being forced to make it on nothing but that kind of ancilliary bullshit is nothing more than desperation brought on by a breakdown in legal protection.

You make a big assumption here. Almost no one has EVER made their money off of album sales. The vast majority of money from album sales has always gone to the labels, and not to the artists.

Also, you leave out the second part of the equation, which is that if you’re doing things like giving the music away for free and connecting with fans you BUILD A LARGER FAN BASE. So, yes, you could have done some of this in the past, but with a SMALLER fan base. If you do this right, with a larger fan base you can make more money. Almost every artist listed above is making MORE money thanks to this system than would have been possible under the old way of doing things.

In short, perhaps they can make a living selling off their used Hondas and being personal assistants, but should they have to?

Once again, it’s not about should.

Theodore (profile) says:

In the future...

I’ve been reading similar ideas at least since Jaron Lanier’s 1999 (!) article “Making an Ally of Piracy”. The important thing I take away from it is that musicians will only be successful if they are of the entrepreneurial personality type, i.e. the type who’s happy spending 10% of time on music and 90% on the business of music. In a way it’s a shame that the “revolution” will not benefit the reclusive geniuses, but I guess this is human progress.

Music on the Make (profile) says:

It's happening to everyone

It’s not only the music business that is facing this change. It’s all content: movies, journalism, software. You need to give and keep giving before you can expect to make any revenue. Everything is up for grabs and people are used to getting it for free.

People like to say that these are special cases and the successful artists have a background with major labels. Perhaps they have, but it’s still early days for this business model. People become less reliant on gatekeepers like magazines or on-air radio to find the content they like. Online services become more intelligent to find everything that’s out there and offer it to the user. The artist’s job is to keep producing content and hook up with distribution that makes their content available everywhere.

Really interesting, and I like the many examples you’ve got here from all kinds of artists. Obviously not everyone is going to be successful, but that wasn’t the case for 90% of the artists signed to labels either.

Chris (profile) says:


A THE HELL MEN. I’ve been preaching that forever. “… and Justice” was the last great Metallica CD, and it *still* holds up well. Curse you, Bob Rock, for ruining one of the best bands of the 80s.

Totally agree with the notion that they’re reaping what they’ve sown. You can’t gain the fandom they had by underground tape trading, and then turn around and bite the hands that have been feeding you. It will *always* backfire.

Cam (profile) says:

They can, but should they have to?

yah … sorry, but you sound like you’re in bed with the RIAA. at the risk of upsetting the author by supplementing his writing with other successful examples of his business model formula, he’s flat-out nailed it. and your supposition that artists make “a large amount of money” on cds is ludicrous. why do you think tours were invented? to give back to the fans who bought the albums/tapes/cds/mp3s? no. concerts bring in more revenue for the artist than do the physical or digital copy of the music. so in a way, this proposed business model has been around since the inception of concerts anyway.

the RIAA needs to realize that it’s the equivalent of a planet full of dinosaurs, and “the meteor” has just entered earth’s atmosphere. at the rate they’re going, they won’t survive. and i hope they don’t.

Aurora says:

RIAA, FBI, and college- Guilty until Proven Innocent

Really, the RIAA is a force to be reckoned with anyway, and hopefully abolished. This past year, I started my 21st birthday off with a morning visit with the FBI, saying that I had pirated a Taylor Swift song (I hate her music). The report said that I was the only one on at that time range (fine) or IP range (bullshit) at the time it occurred, so it had to be me. They got my MAC address, and it was my brand new computer, that I hadn’t even installed anything on yet, let alone downloaded songs. I showed them the computer, they verified without a shadow of a doubt that it truly didn’t have it on there, but I was told that I couldn’t do anything to prove that I was innocent, even a forensic scan couldn’t rule it out without a shadow of a doubt that I hadn’t just deleted it. That’s right. I was guilty until proven innocent. It was a few days later that they sent me a trifling email saying essentially “our bad”, that I got off the hook. Otherwise, I was about to be made to sign something legally saying that I did it, in order to not get any more penalties at my school.

Patrick Kelly (profile) says:

Harvard study, cited by the article

Despite my best efforts on google scholar, I have been unable to find the Harvard study cited. Would the author please share this study?

“A recent study from Harvard showed how much more music is being produced today than at any time in history, and the overall music ecosystem — the amount of money paid in support of music — is at an all time high, even if less and less of it is going to the purchase of plastic discs.”

Tom Mazzetta (user link) says:

The Future of Mussic Business Models

Great piece Mike!! This is the philosophy that I have been preaching for a few years now. Fun to read the responses as there are the incredibly astute who “get it”, those who are just being enlightened for whatever reason and the old line “record business” folks of which chronologically I would be considered a part of. (And of course the lunatic fringe). I have been in the music industry since 1972, (I was 7 at the time), so my “embracing the pain” was especially excruciating. It was a ‘Anger, Denial, Acceptance” type of situation for me and now I am surprised, no shocked at how many people refuse to acknowledge that this is the future and the future is here friend! I don’t just mean the “mustache Pete’s” like myself…I mean young people!! Hence the highway of life is littered with the corpses of music/management/artists/label folks who have refused to accept that there is a “new model”. …”Well ya know Tom, I thought I wanted to give away the download, but I thought about it and I would rather sell it to defray some of my costs”..Are you shitting me? What do you not get about this?? The fans you make today you can nurture and coddle into a career long scenario..People who will buy, concert tickets, t shirts, other music…whatever! The power today IS with the people, you just need to get enough of them however you manage it.

By trade I am a radio promoter, however I recognize that radio still has great value, (this goes for any form of exposure though), that we are not going to get a whole lot of help from them. I continue to promote to radio and will utilize their participation whenever possible. BUT, the money today lays with Branding, Endorsement & Television and they do not give a shit about how many Spins, Call Letter, Chart positions…even “Major” distribution. Once the lifeblood of our industry it is now relegated to second class citizenship …at best.

The answer is Exposure, exposure, exposure. While you tour, blog, seize those moments, you need to work on reaching large groups of people to convey your message..When you find this type of vehicle, (what I do now by the way…shameless self promotion moment), then you can implement a plan that will grow your fan base. Give away the downloads…well don’t give them away, trade them for an email address and you are on your way. There is much, much more that you can do regarding the growing of your fan base, but hey, I need to make a living.

Speaking of the Social Networks, they are terrific but good luck attaining your goals using them as your main source of exposure. Too much “white noise”, people do not pay that much attention, many times it is a distraction…diversion at best. However once you have reached some very large audiences and have begun to glean a tiny bit of “marquee value”, the social networks are a great ancillary source of delivering your message. I have a friend who told me he has a company that sends out 60,000 daily “uplifting” messages blindly!! I said Helmut, why!!! It is either getting picked off by a Spam filter or deleted, my point is that this is yet another ineffective marketing strategy. If you can “target” your audience then it is a different story and over time this type of strategy will pay dividends, but over time.

In closing I will say only this, if I am running a campaign for someone and I can give away 250,000 single downloads, (traded for email), that will bring you say 12 to 15,000 new fans? Done, done , done! The others who liked the song enough to trade for it are legitimate “potential fans” that can be marketed to….”qualified leads” if you will.

To all of my “old” friends who cant seem to wrap their minds around the entire deal I say, “those Fuckers!! They moved the Goalposts!!”

Sorry I was not at Midem, missed going for the first time in many years. I will be at SXSW March 14, 15, 16 and the morning of the 17th if you would care to track me down. By the way, very recently I “Lost” what was a tremendous and informative website, what you see listed here is just being built. Consequently at the moment I do not have a “source” for you to view regarding my work. However before SWSX it will be done.


Tom Mazzetta
Mazzetta Promotion, Inc.
(o) 303 652 0326
(c) 720 318 8796

PS As Chip Davis of Mannheim Steamroller and the architect of many of these concepts, (pre-internet by the way), always says. “Be Inclusive not Exclusive”

Cary Crichlow (user link) says:

I agree with your concept whole heatedly being both a producer and musician. Upon reading some of the comments here I came up with my own strategy using your blog as a reference to some of the concepts. Please check it out at and let me know your thoughts. I really do welcome differing opinions as I am looking to plug up the holes in my theory as best as I can. Thanks!

Loverboy says:


Well said Sam!

Only for the fact that you brought me back down to earth I was about to start offering up the following couple of tit bits to keep the hounds from the door.
Here were my ideas:
-$30 – Cooking / Janitorial Services : I will come to your house, cook you food, feed you (think grapes and a chaise lounge), pour booze down your throat until you puke. At which point I will promptly clean it up with a t-shirt of your choosing from my closet
-$70- A performance of 5 of my songs wearing girls underwear featuring a tutu. (Bishop not Ballet)
-$99 I will perform any sexual act of your desire on man or beast while reciting lyrics to the song of your choice ( doesn’t even have to be mine) backwards.

Thank God you made me see the light..

Loverboy says:

you think you have the answers but actually you dont! everything has to be done

Great points Butler,

Here’s my ideas:
-$30 – Cooking / Janitorial Services : I will come to your house, cook you food, feed you (think grapes and a chaise lounge), pour booze down your throat until you puke. At which point I will promptly clean it up with a t-shirt of your choosing from my closet
-$70- A performance of 5 of my songs wearing girls underwear featuring a tutu. (Bishop not Ballet)
-$99 I will perform any sexual act of your desire on man or beast while reciting lyrics to the song of your choice ( doesn’t even have to be mine) backwards.

Thank God you made me see the light..

Loverboy says:

They can, but should they have to?

Well said Cam,

Here’s my ideas:
-$30 – Cooking / Janitorial Services : I will come to your house, cook you food, feed you (think grapes and a chaise lounge), pour booze down your throat until you puke. At which point I will promptly clean it up with a t-shirt of your choosing from my closet
-$70- A performance of 5 of my songs wearing girls underwear featuring a tutu. (Bishop not Ballet)
-$99 I will perform any sexual act of your desire on man or beast while reciting lyrics to the song of your choice ( doesn’t even have to be mine) backwards.

Whatcha think?

Andreas says:


I have quite mixed feelings about free music: on the one hand: great! we might be moving towards a societal ideal of sharing music as a free cultural good amongst all of us, unrestricted access to knowledge, technology and art for everyone! But: if you cant make money producing knowledge, technology or art, who will produce? We indeed need sustainable business models, and protecting copies seems just not feasible anymore in a digital era (calling digital copying itself theft or immoral is a bit far going – its only immoral since the point in time when we decided to protect business models based on he sale of copies, which we did after the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. A different economic and moral approach to copying is entirely possible!). So how do we ensure that artists, scientists and engineers continue doing what they do? I am wary of the notion that musicians should take it in their own hands and sell their used clothes and cars or go to Disneyland with fans, after all, all I want them to be is artists! But also in the old model the marketing was done by labels, so why cant we have labels do the business, artists do the art and still end up with free music? Can anybody give me an example of that? Why do artists have to design t-shirts when there is designers who can do it? Or is free music just not sustainable enough to sustain artists AND labels? After all, I value the MUSIC, not the copy, so we have to find a way to turn that value into money without selling copies, but we should NOT require artists to do that, in my opinion.


alter ego says:

Imagine a society that allows ALL its members unlimited access to ALL its cultural goods. How can anyone NOT want that??? Including artists?? Why do we find it morally more acceptable to restrict access to culture and capitalize on it?

The answer is: Those who do not want such an open society are those who are earning money by restricting access to culture, and currently those are 90% of the people in the music business, including artists.

I appreciate the creative thinking about alternatives to the current cultural business model, and although a sustainable solution may not be among the suggestions yet, why shouldn’t we consider a society that does not capitalize on art? You can still capitalize on artists! You can’t losslessly copy an artist, or a live concert. Let professionals do the marketing, give money and credit to the artist, let me donate to any artist I want anytime, crowdfund studio productions, and in turn – free art, free culture!

fred says:

a decade in and still you want it all for free....

It’s enough with this free shit already. It’s only a lame lame excuse for being cheap and not paying up.

Y’all smoke and drink have whatever habits and go out and do whatever the hell it is you doin. All your dumbass freebie ideas of how the artists andlabels should offer and distribute what for how much in what country and when is just your excuse for your unbelievable lameness and cheapness. I’m tired of ppl smokin $7 cigs and knockin back $10+ drinks and bitchin how expensive music is…gimme a fukn break.

new business model my ass, hasnt worked for anyone in a decade or so. how could it with you lame losers.

Funniest thing is that without the labels promotion you stupid idiots wouldn’t even know what to share….youd be lost in a gazillion releases sittin on your terabyte hd’s or now unltd cloud or whatever the hell it is with your i feel owed must have anything RIGHT NOW AND FOR FREE attitude. get a life already. Sharing is fun as long as it aint your stuff. how about you all share? Go to work for free already!

if music is free, then sandwiches should be free too. (That’s my idea of the new model and I’m stickin to it)

Bach says:

music industry

You call that shit music. You should pay me to listen to it. Its not about the music, or the experience of listening to music.

It’s about the buzz one can make and how one can exploit the buzz for profit.

Radio, Internet, it doesnt matter just get a buzz going and exploit the monkeys.

Next week the monkeys forget the old buzz and their will be a buzz about somthing new; buzz, buzz, buzz. The new buz will be exploited for the monkey’s $$$$$.

Next week the monkeys forget the old buzz and their will be a buzz about somthing new; buzz, buzz, buzz. The new buz will be exploited for the monkey’s $$$$$

Next week the monkeys forget the old buzz and their will be a buzz about somthing new; buzz, buzz, buzz. The new buz will be exploited for the monkey’s $$$$$

mark e (user link) says:

Applications to the concert industry

but wait…heres what everyone’s missing…IT’S IMPOSSIBLY HARD TO WRITE A HIT SONG. PERIOD. If it wasnt, EVERYONE would be doing it and hanging out with Jay-Z. there are 100’s of more lottery winners then hit songwriters, of which i can count about 30 in my entire life…thats 30 outta about a billion people…good luck winning THAT lottery.

what the original article should have been titled is “how to make a living in the music business even if you aren’t kurt cobain”…because one thing i GUARANTEE…if you write and produce Nevermind 2, YOUR GONNA BE RICH AND FAMOUS BEYOND YOUR WILDEST DREAMS!!

snjavister says:


It’s simple and it has always been like that: you need to be good to have fans. Nothing else.

It was not labels who created fan base earlier, they just were “gatekeepers” controlling who get’s to be heard and who doesn’t. But today, with the existence of the Internet almighty, no one can stop you from publishing your work wherever you want to publish it.
If it’s not convincing enough, just look at YouTube and how many videos of cover songs done by complete anonymous with millions of views is there.

When I like something, I share it and yell: “This is AWESOME, you’ve GOT to hear this, people!!”, and they do, and they like, and they share. You get the idea…

make a song (user link) says:

Today's music business is in the internet

I believe that the music business is becoming more internet based. I mean it’s where you find all these new upcoming artists especially on soundcloud and youtube.
That being said, I see more new indie musicians rather than new signed musicians because promotion can be easy to do themselves on the internet.

The tough part is getting the initial fan base though. But once you have that and if the music is good, the fan base will certainly grow exponentially

enchantedsleeper (profile) says:

See Also: Alex Day

Another great example is a UK YouTuber by the name of Alex Day/Nerimon who currently holds the Guinness world record for the highest-charting single by an unsigned artist (‘Forever Yours’ — #4 on the UK charts and #2 on the UK indie charts). He started out as a vlogger and then used his existing fanbase to help launch his music career, starting with a campaign to get to #1 on the UK charts in Christmas 2011. Unlike many of the examples on your list, he has never been signed to a label at any point or had a manager or PR agent, which makes it nigh impossible to attribute any part of his success to “traditional” methods.

In an interview with Business Insider, he raises some similar points to this article about how to truly connect with fans and how signing with a record label tends to curb creative freedom rather than enabling it.

seeker (profile) says:

the future of music business models

here’s to an end to the racketeering cartels that have manipulated and exploited artists since the inception of the ‘recording industry’.
Most readers will probably not remember the reason the Beatles established Apple, or that they had to sue Apple computers (the Beatles won the case) for IP theft.
As explained to the Luddites centuries ago, tech development is not supposed to kill jobs and enrich only the ‘owners’ of the new tech, it is supposed to free humans from mindless back breaking labour and a lifetime of servitude to the financial ‘masters’, who considered themselves an hereditary elite, it was supposed to create new wealth that would elevate the entire society.
Unfortunately a pack of war criminal scum have hijacked the planet and enriched themselves at the expense, not only of the rest of humanity, but all of the tribes of life, with their zero-sum game philosophy of exploit, enslave and exterminate.
Here’s to a paradigm shift in human consciousness before the exponents of M.A.D.ness (mutually assured destruction) with their ‘war on terror’ and their ‘war on drugs’ and their war on the environment in which we all share including those yet unborne, destroy all life on earth.
Evil is as evil does.
Artificial entities called govts and corporations are being used by these evil individuals and they are not being held to account for their crimes because of the ‘secret police apparatus’ which MUST be dismantled and the war criminals prosecuted, their assets stripped, and for them to serve hard labour cleaning up their radioactive messes until they are dead in the way they have so rightly earned!!!

LAB (profile) says:

Yes the model has and is changing. I do not believe any artist that was signed to a label is really a good example only in that any promotion made by a label was a monetary investment to gain fans. I believe in the independent artist and playing live is how musician have made money for a very very long time add to that merchandise and that is the new model. There is nothing wrong with a business where the product is music and copyright falls into that paradigm. I, unlike many, I see a logical reason for the existence of copyright. Often I find the arguments against it are, well I can get it free anyway so why should I pay for it. I find this argument unconvincing. I do believe that giving music away for free is a great promotion, one geared toward prepping the fan to purchase the music when placed for sale.
I believe the rap mixtape the perfect example.

Fitzwilly (profile) says:

RIAA, FBI, and college- Guilty until Proven Innocent

Why the frack did you pirate a Taylor Swift song if you hate her music?

BTW, there’s a way to get songs without downloading from P2P/file swap services; download the song off of YouTube, and then convert it to an MP3 (or just download the song as an MP3). There are browsers that will let you do that, like Torch and Opera (Opera has the app for said MP3 YouTube downloads).

Fitzwilly (profile) says:


Why are things like this? Because people are like this now, and don’t give a shit.

For my part, I buy my CD’s and DVD’s as much as I can (including purchases from iTunes), but there are sometimes when I can’t always buy songs legally, and have to download-I do this by using YouTube to make a copy of the song, then using another program to make an MP3 out of it. I do this because money’s tight, and I have to eat.

The REAL problem I see here is that of radio and how it won’t expose any new artists (that aren’t pop), and until radio (in North America) is re-regulated back to the degree that it used to be (only one station can be owned by one company in a certain market) and with what used to be the definition of a radio station brought back (live DJs that knew music and played it instead of computers that have music stored on big hard drives), artists that aren’t pop tarts like Katy Perry/Justin Bieber/Rhianna/Drake will have to jump through the hoops that you described.

This was said quite a while ago, and applies now:

Lest you require any more proof that indie-soft-rock is the new mainstream, this week offers conclusive
evidence. On Dec. 1, Feist plays a sold-out show at Massey Hall; five days later, her friend Bon Iver
begins a two-night stand of his own at the historic concert hall on Shuter Street, on the heels of picking
up four Grammy nominations last Wednesday. On Dec. 8, their equally sophisticated peers in The
National make the leap to headlining the Air Canada Centre?a venue that recently hosted the likes of
Kanye, Jay-Z and Prince. Not that anyone should be surprised by these plum bookings: These are artists
who debut in the Billboard Top 10 and appear on Saturday Night Live and at the Grammys. Their songs
have been used to sell everything from iPods (Feist) to whiskey (Bon Iver), or to soundtrack crucial
scenes on Grey?s Anatomy (The National). But despite these artists? successes and accessibility?heck,
even Barack Obama?s a National fan?you will not hear any of them on mainstream commercial radio in
Some might argue that Feist, The National and Bon Iver are already overexposed. While that may be
true within the hive-mind mentality of internet music discussions (or, in Feist?s case, among CBC Radio 2
listeners), the fact is, if those artists actually received consistent mainstream-radio airplay, they could
potentially be headlining stadiums instead of theatres. Even though radio has shed many listeners to
self-curated iTunes playlists and other digital distractions, it?s still the major determining factor between
an artist being a household name versus a dorm-room one. As a mate in the music industry recently
told me, when it comes to breaking a new band, ?Radio has never mattered less?but nothing will ever
matter as much as radio.?
Now, I?m not under any illusion that mainstream commercial radio?s goal is to facilitate artists? careers.
Its function is to get as many people as possible in a specific demographic to listen to the Speedy Glass
commercials that run between the songs. However, if audience retention and expansion are the
ultimate end games, shouldn?t our mainstream rock radio stations actually reflect what?s currently
happening in mainstream rock?
Alas, Toronto?s commercial rock stations adhere to a rigid demographic science, which dictates that
playlists are compiled according to eras rather than actual shared musical aesthetics. Classic-rock
kingpin Q107 refuses to acknowledge that any new bands have emerged since The Black Crowes and
the Hip; its fellow Corus-owned counterpart 102.1 The Edge pretends music didn?t exist before 1990,
judging by its post-grunge, alterna-jock-baiting music selection (which one wouldn?t expect to include
the statelier likes of Bon Iver or The National, yet the station still makes room for UK aesthetes like
Mumford & Sons and Florence + the Machine). Boom 97.3offers a more accurate reflection of postiTunes
shuffle-mode listening habits (by recognizing that a Rush fan might also enjoy The Cure and
Green Day), but its playlists are based on purely nostalgic ?70s, ?80s and ?90s parameters.
A recent survey of radio listeners revealed that their primary reason for tuning in is not to hear the
current selection, but rather the anticipation of waiting to hear what?s next. The flipside to this theory is
that listeners will tune out?a station?s greatest fear?if the next song doesn?t fulfill their expectations.
However, radio playlists compiled according to era ultimately lead to false and forced associations, and,
by extension, reactionary turns of the dial. During a recent listen to Boom, I heard Lou Reed followed by
Gowan?do you know anyone who?d want to hear those artists back to back? Such curious
combinations highlight the sheer illogicality of Toronto rock-radio playlists: The Sheepdogs and The
White Stripes (both 102.1 the Edge property) have way more in common with Q107 staples like The
Rolling Stones, Allman Brothers and Zeppelin than the Edge-rotated Foster the People and Crystal
Castles, who would be more at home with the ?80s new-wave hits heard on Boom. Ultimately, Toronto?s
rock radio stations serve to separate music from the audiences who would appreciate it the most.
Ironically, smaller-market stations outside of the GTA, like Y108 out of Hamilton, or Windsor?s93.9 The
River, have proven to be far more progressive than their Toronto counterparts when it comes to
matching classic-rock artists with their contemporary equivalents. (The former boasts a more brawny
mix of Black Sabbath and The Black Keys, while on the latter you?ll hear Adele and Metric alongside
Talking Heads and Bowie. Neither station is perfect?Y108 is not immune to Nickelbackitis, and The
River still dusts off its Jewel albums?but at least they understand that just because I came of age in the
1980s doesn?t mean I only want to hear music from then.) If a complementary mix of old and new can
play in these proverbial Peorias, what are our radio stations so afraid of? Radio is, of course, an
inherently conservative of medium, but in the case of artists like Feist, Bon Iver and The National, the
market research has already been done, in the form of those prime-time TV appearances, sold-out
concert-hall tours and high-profile ad placements?what more do they have to do to prove they have
mass appeal? And why are our commercial rock stations so convinced that their listeners aren?t
among the thousands of Torontonians going to see them play this week?
Maybe I?m naive, but I find it hard to believe that a Joni Mitchell or Neil Young fan would immediately
tune out upon hearing a Feist song on Q107, but will eagerly keep it locked on for another spin of .38
Special or Styx. Speaking purely from a business standpoint, what?s the bigger risk for a commercial
radio station: following up a song that a listener loves with a similar-sounding one they don’t know, or
one that they?ve always despised?

Toronto?s mainstream rock radio should
be more mainstream

We need to start making our voices heard to stop this state of affairs, now, and make it clear that the airwaves belong to everybody, not just pop stars ‘singing three minute songs about the moon and June’ as Marvin Gaye once said when interviewed about why he recorded What’s Going On.

Mousey Mouse says:

Got another example for you of a band and artists that piracy helped - X Japan/Yoshiki solo/hide solo

Take a look at the Western (and to be honest, anywhere outside of Japan) fandom for X Japan and for Yoshiki and hide solo. The band was disbanded in 1997, the lead guitarist hide dead in 1998 – and Chinese DJs and Thai fans started rapidly pirating EVERYTHING – from VHSes to CDs to… anything that could be copied. This spread around the internet to the developing Western jrock/Visual Kei fandom in the 2000s, and 2005 came around, and the fans uploaded videos of everything from their live shows to their promotional videos to Youtube from almost the very beginning of Youtube.

Guess what happened?

Around a million to two million fans around the world that would never have been fans, if the band hadn’t been pirated, forming a fandom that’s drawn comparisons to the Kiss Army + Deadheads with their willingness to pay for and support band projects, travel to and pay for shows, and stick with them even while they go through issues and delays and other problems. An international fandom for a Japanese guitarist that died in 1998, which is also quite willing to shovel money into his greedy brother’s pockets.

Riaan Eloff (user link) says:

Some great examples

This article really got me turned quite positive about the “new” business model. I’ve been wondering about “how-to” for quite a while, and you’ve truly given me reason to be excited. Thanks for that.

One thing I would like to ask: could you advise a group/website/book/forum whatever, where I could gain advice about growing at least a basic following/fan base? One of the hugest issues I find with all the advice I get about the music industry, is that all of them assume that you have at least several hundred, to maybe two-thousand followers/fans already.

I have, maybe, 4 🙂 Ok, I exaggerate, (de-saggerate?).. but I cannot say that I even have 200 “REAL” followers/fans. I really have no idea how to truly start gaining a following? My FB page ( has about 2000 likes, but, probably about half of them are mainly from an initial advertising campaign a few years ago, thus not really organic, and probably they just liked the page ’cause they liked a song or something such. They’re not really REAL followers/fans.

Please, if you could advise, or recommend a place where I could go to find some advice. I am a pianist, and I do some vocal work, so I’m not a band or part of a band, I’m not a typical pop or rock artist…it’s lounge/mood music mostly…own compositions and covers.

Thanks again for the great article.

JoeinTheGarage says:

Some great examples

find some public places you can play.
take note that your kind of music won’t roll in every venue. Find the venue’s that like your kind of music and make good friends with the owner. don’t waste time outside your venue’s, except for special events.

go do many public street shows, day in the park shows, day at the cemetery, day at the Nursery, day at the wedding, day at the beach, day at the coffee shop, for free and advertise them to try to get local film and video producers and other music people, to come out and FILM ya. Flyers, placement. Your setting your HONEY… Make yourself desirable, make me want to come out, drink a beer and shove a camera in your face. The more like me who come out with camera’s, your on your way. The last time I did lounge music I was a child in the 60’s sitting in a Holiday Inn in pouching my green beans and seafood while a guy dressed like a Ship Captain plays piano and this chick / dudes sings. Reminds me of the weird island music shows when I went to Hawaii the last two times. Light the TiKi Torches! You can still get numbers up with this kind of act, but your right your not a rock band.


For a web presence, get a website and your own domain and artwork theme going. Pay for 4 or more years at a time. Don’t just cheap out. Protect your domain from prying people, pay for that service to protect your privacy. Don’t host with a shit host who already has a fucking DdoS goin.

Get someone else, to run accounts on all the Social media and buy/run those “add friend scripts.” I don’t care what their fucking TOS/AUP is, have someone else do this shit and take the risk. You don’t have time anymore, and you don’t need copyright or programming headaches.

If your town has public access tv, congrads, your now going to be a MUSICIAN (that which you already are) and now an Executive Producer (one one hour show a week, 4 a month) I know in commercial Exec prod does a show a day, but your not fucking david letterman, Focus.

Sign up for their introduction class to tv programming, and Learn how to stuff a 1 hour show.

basically your learning to render a MPEG 4 who has specific features like SILENCE and black space at the beginning for 10 seconds. Use to be Bars and Tone — ah good ol days

Go on then, produce a music show for other bands, (remember those venues I told you at the beginning) and slip yourself into it. Keep submitting it for airplay. Keep updating your channels, make it look fucking happy cause this world is anything BUT happy.

If your producing, then you will already know some video promoters who been sending you stuff for your show, now just HIRE THEM!!!

I am thinking you can probably do 13,000 friends on Myspace (outpacing some Corporate Morning TV shows!) as a Single Male Musician perhaps more. Take you a year or two to get there. Depends on if people like your music more than other music they already listen to.

Youtube, for the most, let others post your videos–the copyright stuff is retard–let others RISK it. You must have an official band account for the special shit. Really you want video plays is your goal–all the friends are sometimes just others running scripts like you. But when your video gets plays–you know your getting popular.

Also you might frequently have going through your free songs media…

in the end you need to be your own thermometer, if shit ain’t going so good, maybe just fuck it, your not cut out.

I got my name on a disc with a barcode. I did the fucking work for that though. It can happen for you too.

badracket2 (profile) says:

New Technology

As someone who’s on the front-lines of the music industry, I find that usually the music business models are one step behind. While this article does a good job of explaining how established artists use the internet to go from 90 to 100 , this is a great time for up and coming artists to use the same tools to go from 0 to 5 or 10. It’s easy to say, “Well this model works for this popular artist, so I should also be doing this”, but what about new ways to connect with fans that aren’t yet popular. In my opinion, new artists should do lots of new things, and do different things, not just imitating the big labels ideas, that way we can have new technology used in new innovative ways to reach peoples ears. Thats the great thing about being a new artist. You can try new things.

Robert Craig says:

Decline in quality music

I have many friends in the Beatles camp and when you think that Sgt Pepper cost about one half million dollars to record then what do you people expect for FREE? And who is going to pay all these wonderful musicians who contributed to one of the best albums in history? FREE MUSIC means NO BUDGET for the musicians. No budget means they all have to have day jobs to pay their bills and keep their families fed. ZERO budget means a constant stream of Justin Bribers and Katy Perry’s and an endless stream of mostly flavor of the month, disposable music. Revenues down more than 50%, with 80% of songwriters leaving the music business. Here is the list of musicians who worked on Sgt Pepper, and YES they all expected to be paid at the end of the session!!
George Martin: piano, celesta, harmonium
Eric Clapton: lead guitar
Chris Thomas: piano, Mellotron, harpsichord, organ, electric piano
Yoko Ono: vocals, effects, samples, handclaps
Mal Evans: backing vocals, trumpet, handclaps
Pattie Harrison, Jackie Lomax, John McCartney: backing vocals, handclaps
Maureen Starkey, Francie Schwartz, Ingrid Thomas, Pat Whitmore, Val Stockwell, Irene King, Ross Gilmour, Mike Redway, Ken Barrie, Fred Lucas, various others: backing vocals
Jack Fallon, Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lederman, Ronald Thomas, Bernard Miller, Dennis McConnell, Lou Sofier, Les Maddox: violin
John Underwood, Keith Cummings, Leo Birnbaum, Henry Myerscough: viola
Eldon Fox, Reginald Kilbey, Frederick Alexander: cello
Leon Calvert, Stanley Reynolds, Ronnie Hughes, Derek Watkins, Freddy Clayton: trumpet
Leon Calvert: flügelhorn
Tony Tunstall: French horn
Ted Barker, Don Lang, Rex Morris, J Power, Bill Povey: trombone
Alf Reece: tuba
Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chester, Rex Morris, Harry Klein: saxophone
Art Ellefson, Danny Moss, Derek Collins: tenor saxophone
Ronnie Ross, Harry Klein, Bernard George: baritone saxophone
Raymond Newman, David Smith: clarinet
Uncredited: 12 violins, three violas, three cellos, three flutes, clarinet, three saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones, horn, vibraphone, double bass, harp

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