The internet, Napster, iTunes, online media, social networking and more created a digital revolution that upended the music industry; and years after the first shots were fired the response of most key players continues to be half-hearted attempts at evolution.
“Animals, whom we have made our slaves,
we do not like to consider our equal”
– Charles Darwin
These words from the grandfather of evolution theory may seem harsh when applied to the relationship
between the music business and fans of music, but sadly they appear to fit.
This is the industry, after all, who had the hubris to sue it’s customers and believe that they could still sell to them. Today, fans who were once at the mercy of a few men’s musical tastes, pricing schemes and format changes have used the tools provided by the digital revolution to set themselves free.
The Shift From Master To Equal
The industry’s latest mantra is that fans are music’s new master. The labels and hundreds of businesses exist to “serve” the fan and to create an ongoing dialog with them. Despite the promise of service, the real goal is to “capture” the fan’s information and to monetize their enthusiasm.
Each year at MIDEM and other industry gatherings, the tone is hopeful. “We’ve learned our lesson. Things are getting better.” But
income from the sale of music continues to decline; and this year it appears
that even the live sector is not immune to shifts in consumer behavior.
This is not to suggest that musicians and those who service them do not deserve fair compensation. But rather that what is fair and how it is earned and divided has changed forever.
The answer to revolution is not evolution, but rather radical experimentation followed by radical change. The fans and a few forward thinking entrepreneurs have already completed the experimentation phase. It’s time to let the revolution begin.