Media, Media, Everywhere

Posted on June 2, 2013
This is a challenge (and major expense in time or money) to any artist out there right now. Consumers look to go to the most convenient location and expect to find their media there. This means that an artist now has to worry about YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook, MySpace, Google+, Pitchfork, iTunes, Amazon, bandcamp, Pandora, Grooveshark, LastFM, Jango, EMusic, Rhapsody, Spotify, and I’m only getting started. Now you have to figure out which of these stretch internationally, which appeal to what demographic, and whether you are selling or streaming or giving music away; no one wants to pay $10 for an album on iTunes and then find it for “pay what you’d like” on bandcamp! (Also are any of these going to make an income that pays for the year and a half of production that went into the album in the first place?)

Now of course there are resources that make this more stream lined, tunecore for example, but still it takes dozens of hours to figure this stuff out… AND THEN consumers change their loyalties or another site comes on as the big player, and any artist or record label has to take significant amounts of time to keep up with this.

Now with everyone doing this (and no one really knowing the “correct” way) artists are throwing ingredients into the pot with out knowing who the soup is for, and consumers are grabbing into the pot looking for something they might like – and pulling up lots of bones and crap they don’t want. Where’s the filter? Once a consumer finds something yummy, hopefully they follow that thread, maybe even tell a friend about the awesome morsel they discovered (by “liking” or “+ing” or “tagging” or “linking” or “posting” or “thumbs upping” or whatever) and then a bunch of people jump on the thread like capillary action are pulled to listening/watching that artist. Right?

But with the thousands of hours of material being uploaded to the machine daily without any filter at the front saying this sucks or this is worth checking out, great art is getting lost as any given consumer has a 2″ x 2″ frame through which they are forced to look at “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island” and any artists is just one point. The whole concept becomes one of chance, (and on a cynical note the House are the internet providers who can charge $100 a month for access to all the material, which they don’t pay for and then are free.) We now live in a world where the internet really is the land of the free.

Now add on to the fact that once a fan does find that awesome speck in their 2″ x 2″ viewing field they will most likely do one of the things above (like, +ing, tag, ect…) to show their support, and the concept of creating art (a very expensive – time or money – pursuit) becomes something daunting. How do you create income in an industry where the consumer won’t pay for a product??? Pose this to a business major, as every major label is doing, and it becomes clear there must be a different interaction and model than what many artists are doing now – throwing everything in the pot with prayer.

If one looks around this site a little bit they’ll see several mentions of Amanda Palmer. Her TED talk has some really interesting ideas – and an approach that seems to work for her evangelical (not religious) fan base. There is significant issues with it (here, here, here, just for starters.) But even with all of these criticisms it comes back to the same dilemma; if fans expect to actually pay by clicking “like,” how will anyone be able to continue to create? What does it cost to create an album? I mean really create. For example if I’m an artist/performer I can go tour, until I have a kid. But what if I’m the studio owner, the back up singer with a family, the arranger of the string parts, the conductor, the technician, the string players, … the song writer, the lyricist…; the things that make great albums great. These people can’t go tour, and artists don’t have the money to pay all of them – well at least not if the only income is from touring.

Touring is a short term solution. For example, if I build an awesome fridge, and the only time one pays for the fridge is when I hall the fridge and sell it on location, but the fridges that are in stores all across the world are free, will this generate enough income to make the next fridge? No. Even if everyone in the world loves my fridge and has it, if there is no exchange where is the innovation and evolution of the fridge?

This may sound like a rant, but really it’s the components of the equation that artists, producers (those who are not at the front line) and fans of music must solve. And REB Records believes there is an answer, probably several answers. We’re working (as artists and sort-of business people) on a path that may lead to something that works, one that both consumers and artists and producers can accept. One that allows artists to create with a “___” centric concept for ART, not one that is based on “selling” or capturing a fan base. The fans, the supporters come because art pushes boundaries and it is exciting to be a part of new art and entertainment.

Ok, I’m done … for now. 🙂