Wednesday, June 13, 2007
www.newmusicstrategies.com Out To Change The Music Business
I have a new best friend, and his name is Andrew Dubber. Well, we don't really know each other, and we've never spoken, but I'm all over his site, New Music Strategies, where he debunks the myth of self-made MySpace superstars like Lily Allen, explaining that these mythological "indie" creatures are not the success stories they are made out to be, but are actually the product of PR, labels, and marketing. As the website posits, "if youíre reading about music online, chances are youíre reading PR and marketing." This is entirely true. Even if the PR and marketing is grassroots by the performer and a close group of friends/fans, there is marketing in action. In the case of Allen, however, a huge machine was in the works. So much for indie.
New Music Strategies' (NMS) manifesto makes some controversial statements that any entrepreneur (read: calculated risk-taker) would appreciate. Particularly of interest is #4: "It is better to ask forgiveness than permission." As Dubber would have it, referring to the RIAA and the interests of the labels it serves, ". . .it is more important that you create culture, than it is that they restrict it." Arguably, there are plenty of ways to create culture while respecting ownership. In fact, the manifesto in its entirety is a statement against ownership of content and copyright. From a viewpoint where content is controlled by mega-corporations at the expense of the creator, there is a fundamental problem that NMS' manifesto stabs in the heart. But individual creators and artists of intellectual property might also be harmed by this view. NMS acknowledges this conflict, but holds that "the [copyright] laws need to be amended to reflect the practices and requirements of a healthy and creative society[,]" without explaining or crafting any notions of how such a rewrite should take place and what it should entail.
The exciting and absolutely agreeable part of this philosophophical discourse is that NMS is taking business to task, insisting on a change in the current business model. If labels and members of the industry aren't happy with the changing face of how consumers interact with their product, adapt. Business thrives by meeting customers' wants and needs. Industries lobby every day, largely outside of the public eye since most are consumed with the fact that Paris Hilton went back to jail, to keep things status quo to protect the current business model and profit margins. But consumers are a hardy bunch, and eventually the businesses must come around and adjust to their customers' tastes. That means respecting our privacy and not embedding personal data into media we download, doing away with rootkits that act like spyware on our computers, and eliminating DRM that makes it impossible to play the music we pay for on whatever device we choose.
NMS also offers an eBook, The 20 Things, which compiles a series of blog posts over the past few months into one digest (the catch is that you provide your email for the mailing list, but you can dodge that and just read the posts if you'd prefer). Hypebot claims the book is exclusively offered through them, but that seems to divert from NMS' message, doesn't it?
Being biased, I'm tuned into Thing #3: Opinion Leaders Rule at New Music Strategies, where Dubber discusses bloggers (like me) and the fact that "youíre unlikely ever to see a bad review on an mp3 blog." Any Given Tuesday isn't necessarily an MP3 blog in the typical sense (post, free MP3, post, free MP3), but is definitely in the category of writing positive reviews. Just as Dubber states about music blogs generally, AGT will not (at this point in time) review anything it doesn't like. Why waste time telling readers what they won't like when they very well might like it if they discover it on their own, when we can rally around what we think readers will like? This is about community building and supporting the artists we enjoy, not slandering some artists' material. As Any Given Tuesday, I avoid the stuff I don't want to review. If I don't personally like what you've got, I will politely decline to review it.
Not only does Dubber's Thing #3 encourage bands to come to me for reviews and networking, but it firms my place in The Long Tail: bands who get reviewed on blogs like this won't sell a lot of records just through Any Given Tuesday, but more bands can sell some records. More importantly, more bands will reach more people by spreading out in the community.
If you fancy yourself part of the music business, you should check out New Music Strategies so you aren't left behind as everyone else evolves.