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“Nothing is created, nothing disappears, everything is only transformed.”

Antoine de Lavoisier, 1777

 

Lavoisier was an 18th century chemist in France. French kids know little about him today; but they all know his most famous quote to the point it has become an idiom. It looks like the French kid in me has resurfaced this past couple of weeks.

The recent quarrel over Spotify being a threat or an opportunity is quite symptomatic of this. By battling against any loss of revenue due to piracy and, for some, now to streaming, producers have ended up putting themselves in a quixotic position.

Are we only talking about a classic divide between those who had a comfortable place they don’t want to give up vs. those who haven’t yet and have all to gain from a shake-up? For sure, such upheaval is never pleasant but the ongoing changes in the industry today have occasioned many collateral damages, both in terms of revenue and image.

These last few years, major labels as well as big players have rushed to the conclusion the end of the world was imminent and the only way to potentially survive was to secure profit by concentrating as many rights and cash into the same hands (360 deals, anyone?).

And even if the various rights (master, publishing…) generate diminishing revenues today, the appetite for their acquisition is more ferocious than ever. Unfortunately, the question of the legitimacy or the capacity of the people who ask for these rights to properly ensure their exploitation has been postponed to a later date.

But, may I ask… why the rush to (such) conclusions in the first place? When the ship is sinking, do you kill each other over your share of an evanescent treasure or do you look at what is missing on the invader’s ship to check if they might need you in some way?

Surviving in a changing world is a full time experiment aiming to find the subtle dosage between pushing forward, maximising one’s current business model and reinvesting time and money for research into the future.

 

“In order to change the world, you have to get your head together first.”

 

Whether you consider Jimi Hendrix was legitimate to say this or not, there’s no denying he was right. Clarity of mind and long term focus are possible when people give themselves the time to test new things (business models included) and serenely assess what worked and what didn’t before making a final judgement …and hence investment.

And regardless of the big announcements, the music industry still seems to lack the necessary distance to rationally assess the situation at a time when it needs it the most.

Who will be the ones developing artists in the future? Examples and counter-examples come to mind. Contradictory models have started to appear and nonetheless currently co-exist within the same industry. Maybe a few smart labels, publishers and live promoters?

More realistically, the artists themselves with a team that they handpicked, reaching out to people with various skills from the artistic to the administrative, from marketing to technological savvy. Very probably also new industry players we don’t know, acknowledge or who don’t even exist yet. It’s a little too soon to say.

Could we imagine the present industry actors lucidly assessing their short-to-mid-term doom and consequently deciding to address their weaknesses by reaching out to similar partners in a different, complementary field to face things stronger together?

Much has happened in the music industry, but one of the main things that remains is a strong feeling of worlds drifting apart. On one side, those who regularly focus on what they are losing, and on the other, those who stay intent on how they can shape the future and define the new norm because they have decided that if something is disappearing, it means new opportunities are out there waiting to be found.

Pure Darwinism or Lavoisier’s law of mass conservation, either way, if we look outside of our industry and at our elders, we’ll find wise words and a few lessons we could use. Past and Recent. What are we waiting for?

 

”My interest is in the future, because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.”

Charles Ketterin

 

Emily speaks on two manager-focused panels at midem, January 28-30 (details of both here): she will also be one of a select few industry influencers videoblogging for midemblog. You can follow Emily’s company, Unicum Music, on Twitter & check out its website here.


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