Music In Real Time: Keep Up Or Get Left Behind
from the it-ain't-like-it-used-to-be dept
The Swedish organization Media Evolution is putting on a conference called Moving Images about how the concept of “real time” is impacting the media industry. As a part of that event, they’re running a “blog race,” where different bloggers are writing up a discussion on one aspect of what the conference covers. I’m taking the relay baton from Andreas Ekstrom who wrote about how we are constantly pushing the boundaries of transparency in the real time world, and next week I’m handing the baton off to Bjorn Jeffery at Bonnier R&D, who will be talking about real time in the journalism world.
As for me… I’m talking about it in the context of the music industry. As I started to think about this, I came across a fantastic “must read” blog post from France, that details pretty much everything you need to know about today’s digital landscape for promoting your music. It’s incredibly thorough. I have no idea who wrote it, and the only reason I know about it is because someone sent a Twitter message to me about it — but I can’t even thank them, because whoever did that has since deleted their Twitter account! However, if you’re a musician and you’re doing anything online (and you should be), it’s worth looking through this just to make sure you know what’s out there.
But, what really struck me as I read this is that if you go back a decade almost none of what’s discussed in the article even existed. At all. Most of the services discussed have popped up in the past few years. The digital skills you need to know to be a musician today are changing so rapidly that the service you figure out today might not even exist in a few years — and the hot service next year might not even exist at all today. It’s no surprise that this bothers and worries some people. They worry about how they might need to spend all this time figuring out these online things, rather than making music. That’s a totally understandable reaction. But most musicians are going to need to get over that. Welcome to the new world. And so far, it appears that most of those worries are unfounded.
It’s true that, in the past, the major record labels handled a lot of the marketing side of things — but the cost was super high for musicians. Basically, you gave up all control (and most of the money). And you were basically waiting for a lottery ticket. If the major label decided you were one of a small number of bands it was going to put its monetary muscle behind, then you could break through. If not, you were going to have go back to finding a day job and getting totally bogus royalty statements from a label that’s never going to pay you any money beyond the advance, which all went into recording your album, over which you no longer have any control. Was it worth it? Well, when there were no other options and this was the only shot at success, perhaps.
But these days? All those services that are discussed are the real time music world today. They let anyone route around the old gatekeepers, retain control, and take charge. They allow artists to create, promote, distribute, communicate and inspire — all in real time. You can ignore them if you want, but you do so at your own peril. More and more musicians have been taking charge over their careers and they’re pointing out that musicians who ignore the social networking aspect of the music business only have themselves to blame. It’s not that hard by itself, but it’s part of being successful today in the business.
And, in many ways that’s incredibly exciting. Taking out the need for a middleman gives musicians more control over their own destinies. Yes, they still need to be good and they still need to work hard, but they no longer are at the mercy of a gatekeeper. And it’s opening up all sorts of new possibilities.
Musicians are realizing that the “real time” music industry is a great way to not just build up true fans, but to keep them interested. I was looking recently at a musician I like, and in the last year alone, he actually ended up “releasing” the equivalent of six albums — because he just kept creating music, and releasing it (both digital and CD). I’m guessing that the same people who complain by saying that musicians who do social networking won’t have time to make music will also now complain about this kind of output: saying that if he’s making so many albums, how can he have time for anything else? But, you can’t really have it both ways, can you?
In fact, if you look, it seems like the musicians who are most active on social networks, also seem to be producing a lot more music than those who went the old route (contrary to the claims). They’re realizing that with the barriers for everything getting lower, the “real time” music industry means that they can just keep creating music, releasing it, and building up fans and a true, sustainable business as they go. Social networking in real time doesn’t take away from the ability to create music — it can enhance it.
So, the real time music industry isn’t just about communicating in real time. It’s about doing everything in real time: creating, producing, distributing, marketing, promoting, connecting, performing. Take out the roadblocks and everything becomes a bigger opportunity, and a constant chance to keep connecting with your fans every chance you get. And when you realize that, it’s difficult not to get really excited about what’s coming next for the music industry.