Martin Thornkvist, who runs a (very cool) indie record label in Sweden that believes in treating fans right, has written up an opinion piece where he tries to envision the role of the record label in five years
. The opening is certainly right in line with my feelings of optimism for the music industry:
When it comes to the future of music I've always consider myself an optimist.
For one I'm certain that musicians and music fans have a prosperous future ahead of them. That's because music is the single most important ingredient in the music business soup and music is of course a result of artists' creative minds. And it's when musicians interact with listeners that a window for business is opening. Not before, and not just because some A&R person, marketeer or CEO open their wallet. That the relationship between musicians and fans is the foundation to the business is the single most important piece of knowledge that we all have to submissively recognize. This is the key to the future for the middle men we call record labels – we have to encourage the interaction and realize that it will live without us.
We as middle men have to remember that we always need to convince our customers (musicians and fans) why they should engage with us. Music on plastic discs or plain mp3s just ain't enough anymore. Competition is hard and consumers don't take bullshit anymore. If they love something you don't offer, they'll go create it themselves.
The whole thing is worth reading, but the final paragraph makes a really important point that we've discussed
in the past, but which often gets forgotten in trying to understand trendlines and the music business. It's that storage is growing ever bigger and ever cheaper at an incredibly rapid pace -- and as such it won't be all that long until you can carry every song ever recorded on a device in your pocket:
In five years a hard drive available to ordinary consumers will carry 35 TB of data. Data = music. 35 TB = 2.5 million songs. Watch this development closely. It's easy to get blinded by Spotify, but imagine when file sharing on the street means transferring the entire music history. At least it is a wild card. Anyhow it seems that we will have to work on better ways of charging for music than 1 dollar a song. Don't you think?
Indeed. When you can carry every song ever... do people really think that $1/song is going to make sense?