What is the future of Music?

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I’m intrigued by companies like Spotify and Apple Music. What are your thoughts on the future of music?

Paul O'Brien Changed status to publish February 21, 2022
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Such good points! The struggle is real!

Tim Humphries Answered question January 6, 2022
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Bold question, because I think it’s one mired in tremendously varied opinions, frustration, and uncertainty.  My take, to cut right to the chase and be frank, is that it actually isn’t much different from how the Music industry ACTUALLY works (granted, with more technology involved).

Most people seem to perceive that successful musicians get paid for their art, the music.  One of the reasons I’m so passionate about what we’re doing for startups, in MediaTech Ventures, is that I’m fixated on the parallel between the Arts (media) and Entrepreneurship; that, most people seem to perceive that successful entrepreneurs get paid for their talent starting and running a business.

Here’s the first obvious parallel:

  • Entrepreneurs don’t make money.  It’s not a job, they don’t get paid.
  • Musician, in and of itself, gets paid?  Nope.  Now wait, granted, yeah, some people have professional jobs as musicians, they’re part of an orchestra, studio musicians, or work in companies does as ad agencies.  But such people are really more analogous to Product Developers; they’re making a product for which they’ve been hired and are being paid.  Making music in and of itself, doesn’t = making money.

That’s an important observation because the WAY Entrepreneurs end up making money is what?  They start a business.  Or, have a job.

Let’s keep playing with the Entrepreneur.  Society’s perceptions are driven by Pop Culture and Media; people tend to think Entrepreneurs all chase Venture Capital, hope to be “unicorns,” and operate like the people on the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine.

Society’s perception is wrong, isn’t it?   Entrepreneurs tend to struggle financially, with mental health, and they put in unusually long hours, without pay, with tremendous discouragement, in order to MAYBE find success.

Sound familiar?

How many find success that way?   1%
On average, roughly 1% of all entrepreneurs, raise any amount of money.  At most, another 10% or so of entrepreneurs, find any degree of success with a business.  Overwhelmingly most fail at their effort, most find themselves in traditional jobs.

When we consider Entrepreneurship a bit more, we can ask, What Happened Over the Course of the Last 20 Years?

The Internet.

Thanks to the dawn of the internet, entrepreneurship has exploded, venture investment in startups is booming, and a greater percentage of people are finding success on their own.

Generally speaking, the dependency in finding that success?  Being incredibly savvy with the internet.   Most new companies are web based … most successful entrepreneurs know how to take advantage of the internet.   When traditional companies successful pivot to the internet, we call this a Digital Transformation, something we’ve explored quite a bit here.

Let’s talk about Music.

Society’s perceptions are driven by Pop Culture and Media; people tend to think Musicians all chase being signed by a Label, hope to be “rock stars,” and operate like the people on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Society’s perception is wrong, isn’t it?   Musicians tend to struggle financially, with mental health, and they put in unusually long hours, without pay, with tremendous discouragement, in order to MAYBE find success.

People don’t get paid just because they’re Entrepreneurs.  People don’t get paid just because they’re musicians.

How many find success in music following that perceived path to success?   1%
On average, roughly 1% of all musicians, raise any amount of money (get signed).  At most, another 10% or so of musicians, find any degree of success AS A BUSINESS (studio musician, hired talent).  Overwhelmingly most fail at their effort, most find themselves in traditional jobs.

And what happened over the course of the last 20 years?

The Internet.

The difference?  Musicians and most of the music industry (aside from the major labels and Streaming Music Platforms) haven’t effectively made the transition to the Internet.  They haven’t gone through a Digital Transformation.

As a result, just like with startups and entrepreneurs – those who HAVE embraced the internet, more likely find some success, while those who disregard it, don’t understand it, or won’t invest in it, fail.

Long answer, so far, just to make this point… what does the future look like in music?  In fact, for the most part, musicians and the music industry increasingly taking advantage of what we already have.  The Internet.

How do entrepreneurs make money?  They produce something of value to customers and what that isn’t, is merely being entrepreneurial (for the most part).  How many Entrepreneurs get paid for being popular entrepreneurs?  A few dozen?  Think about the celebrity entrepreneurs, the influencers, the book authors, etc.  There aren’t many but there are a few who make it on their talent alone.  MOST have to build and deliver something people want.

In Music?  From musicians?  Build and deliver what people want…

  • Personal experiences with the artists
  • Merchandise which people want to wear, show off, and be associated with or collect
  • Audiences. Yes, musicians produce audiences.  Audiences are monetized, by advertisers, sponsors, and business partners

Musicians who embrace this, and the internet, far more easily find success as an artist, than those who hope/expect to get signed by a label (raise capital).  How?  Nothing so futuristic – embrace the internet for what it is:

  • Personal experiences with the artists:
  • Merchandise which people want to wear, show off, and be associated with or collect
    • Traditionally: shirts & albums
    • Now too?  NFTs, personalized songs, video shout outs as gifts
  • Audiences. Yes, musicians produce audiences.
    • YouTube
    • Instagram
    • Facebook
    • Marketing to develop newsletters or events that can be paid for

Notice in there, a “future-y” thing, for lack of a better way to put it.  “NFTs,” as though that’s some future of music notion that’s meaningful to the answer.  It’s not.  NFTs are nothing more than digital merchandise; it’s not terribly new, it’s Merch that has gone through the Digital Transformation.

So is there a FUTURE of Music?

Yeah, but I don’t think it’s as futuristic or innovative as you might hope, or that people claim. It’s more so just how the music industry ACTUALLY works now, but with more Internet for good measure.

What will happen, as we grow into that future, is the same thing that happened with Entrepreneurship:

MORE people will be able to Do It Themselves.

The internet enabled internet savvy people to find their own success.  And as the music industry continues to embrace and experience all the internet has to offer, we’ll see more and more musicians find their own success.

Paul O'Brien Edited answer January 6, 2022
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