It’s pretty clear to anyone who’s paying attention that:
- the music BUSINESS was a short-lived phenomenon surviving for less than a century, coincident with the developments of industrialized manufacturing that enabled wide distribution of music beyond the performer
- the music BUSINESS is experiencing tumultuous change, either that or a long, slow decay/descent into irrelevancy
[and/or Simon Cowell’s knickers]
It’s also clear to anyone who understands what’s really happening:
- musicians have always made music, and will do so even when not paid – and, prior to the late 20th century, were paid largely based upon a voluntary/philanthropic model
- a good chunk of the power structures are reliant upon the suppression of artistic expression in order to maintain control – so perpetuating the “it’s broken” is in their myopic self-interest
[otherwise, we might see a… um… pussy riot?]
There are many folk putting in lots of time, effort and passion into trying to educate the general public on the situation. A few of note:
- David Lowery – of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
- Blake Morgan – ECR Music Group – read HIS FANTASTIC POST
- Gillian Welch – who perhaps said it best in Everything is Free Now
and it’s a debate well worth joining, especially if – like me – you fund and make your own art with little hope of financial return. A while back over at MySetlist.co – I wrote a blog post from a business perspective, though never quite got around to extending the series
[because others mentioned above were doing so much better than I – although perhaps this post IS the next in the series?]
But if there’s one thing I believe in my heart and soul, it’s this: when it’s time to move on, move on – don’t waste another second. And, when it comes to music and the internet, I think it’s time to move on.
Now, before I even dive into what I’m about to dive into, let me just state for the record: I am a musician, I make music, I play music for people, I have released music. And, yes, I am so far in the red thanks to buying the gear and services to do so, that the idea of making ANY money from music is a pure fantasy.
To paraphrase The League of Gentlemen:
I am a local musician, making local music, for local people.
Here’s how I see things: up until fairly recently, musicians made very little money and what little they did came on the back of thanks – from patrons, from audiences, from venue owners. Sure there may have been contracts, etc. but the transaction was:
Musician offers to make music => music is made live => music is heard live => musician is thanked for making music
Then that blip of the music BUSINESS appeared for a few decades and we all got seduced by a different transaction:
Musician offers to make music => music is made live => music is captured and becomes product => product is sold beyond the possible immediate reach of the musician => brokers of sale receive cut => musician makes a cut of product sales
All of the debate right now is focused on the second transaction stream and how it’s breaking, thanks to the internet/VC/Simon Cowell.
Let’s talk moving on. Let’s talk solutions.
Let’s talk the first transaction stream. And particularly the last transaction.
See, we’ve got used to thinking that we give musicians money by way of payment for product, rather than by way of thanks for providing a pleasurable experience of hearing/feeling music.
For years, I’ve had a different question tickling in the back of my head
[it was part of the genesis of MySetlist.co]
How to make a tip-jar work away from the gig itself?
Here’s what I know. Locally, some bands pass around a hat during their set – and make about as much, sometimes more, sometimes less, than they would get via a cover charge, or guarantee. I always pay more into the hat than I would on the door. I also regularly buy CDs from local acts that I listen to once
buying them purely because I want those acts to continue making music. In my head, and purchase decision, I’m not buying product, I’m saying thank you. When folk go out on indiegogo/kickstarter/gofundme I quite often pay more than requested, to say thank you. More often than that, I contact them and ask where I can send money directly so that they avoid fees.
I can’t believe I’m the only person in the world who does this – I’m pragmatist before idealist. But if I’m doing it, others must be? Surely?
[they are doing it… And don’t call me Shirley!]
And all of the debate on the dying music BUSINESS presumes that everyone wants to stream music for free. Which they may. But there are also those in the audience who would, I’m sure, say thank you financially as well as by turning up at gigs.
Which is where my idea came in. Originally, my plan for MySetlist.co was to build what’s there – a setlist, song and venue management tool for musicians, DJs and producers, including a live gig-view with rearrangeable setlist, lyrics, etc. That’s up and running and has got some users
[though I’m doing this all on a shoe-string so haven’t been able to advertise too much – yes, it’s another thing I’m giving back to the community]
and my longer term aims were to add a tip jar relating to cover versions, basically:
I played your song last night – here’s something by way of thanks
I still think it could work, but it would take a large roster of musicians in the system to reach critical mass – and I’m nowhere near that at MySetlist.co, so I’ve never developed the functionality.
But, as the debate has widened, so has my thinking on the idea of tip-jar.
I think it’s as simple as providing a place for folk to come and say:
Thank you for making music, I’m glad you’re doing so, and want you to keep doing so, here’s a buck, or ten, or twenty, keep going…
As a build it’s easy. And it would completely overturn the current web model under debate – which is why no VC would consider it – as the musician would get the lion’s share of the donation
[I’m not a VC – and not looking to become the new middle-man of the new music business]
Like MySetlist.co, Tip Jar would be built by a musician for musicians
[or any other artist]
Though, all that said, building it will take time, effort and passion – all of which need to come from somewhere else…
[and I can’t let it be the food and drink from my kids’ table]
So, what do you think, is it worth my time, effort and passion to build it for you? Would you use it as an audience member? As a musician?
Come on, let’s talk solutions…
ps: VC = Venture Capitalist, if you didn’t know 🙂