First off, don’t get me wrong, I was reading through Music Think Tank today and I think it’s a great site. Here is a group of people trying to do something different within the music industry, and quantify and qualify exactly what it is that leads to an optimal end-user experience when it comes to purchasing music.
I love that. I love that people are finally rethinking the utter chaos and stupidity that is the record label structure. But there seems to be a flaw inherent in all of this thinking that these guys might be missing (I’ll be fair as I haven’t read more than the most recent posts): music should NOT be created with the intention of selling it or making money.
That’s the problem. That’s why the old music industry fell apart, and that’s why the new one probably won’t do a whole lot better.
There seems to be a lot of focus on things like peoples’ opinion, with mention even of an artist posting his song and subjecting it to users to see if they like it, and if not, how to change it. Or how to make it more marketable. Or how to develop complex algorithms that will help people find music they like based on previously selected tastes. But that’s completely absurd if you’re an ACTUAL musician. Why?
1) If you’re submitting something for someone’s approval, you’ve just created a work-for-hire, and chances are you are either writing music for a commercial, TV show, film, or what have you. Some entity is paying you money so that what you write for them comes out how they want it – so, you’re already making money. This actually makes sense and is a great way for musicians to cash in and use their talents to pay the bills, and yes, potentially happen upon a really popular bit of music (though the chances of the latter happening are quite slim).
2) If you’re an ACTUAL musician, you DO NOT care about the end result of your music. The point is not for you to become famous, the point is for you to express yourself. Should this result in commercial success in some way, fantastic. But no ACTUAL musician will do something TO MAKE MONEY.
THAT is the REAL issue.
True artists create art because they love it, and because they need to. Not because they want to become famous and make money. Anyone who is in it for the money will ultimately fail. The true musicians will stand out.
Now, notice I say “true musicians” and “actual musicians.” There are A LOT of people who play instruments, who are in bands, who write music, who get something right – the one hit wonders and joe schmoe guitar player. Money and fame for people like this is an oddity. These people probably, as a whole, aren’t terribly profound or talented, but managed to put their act together or work hard enough on something to create something that just kinda got stuck in someone’s head, or maybe they knew someone who knew someone who needed to do SOMETHING and got lucky.
I’m not saying everyone shouldn’t play music and write songs: quite the contrary, it will make you a better person, but if it isn’t happening for you commercially, there is a reason for it. Put your song in an iPhoto slideshow for your girlfriend or your mom – no doubt it will be greatly appreciated there. But if you’ve REALLY tried to get it out there…REALLY worked to get it heard by people who can do something and they’ve listened to it, and REALLY busted your butt to play publicly in any venue that will take you and you still haven’t gotten anywhere? There is a reason no one knows who you are, and it isn’t because you’re a tortured, over-looked genius who needs a business degree to get some great marketing chops in order to get his stuff sold.
The answer to the music industry is to forget the industry part. Forget that people will pay you money to make music.
Go create sound that you love to listen to, that fascinates you, that captivates you. THEN bust your ass to get copies of it to everyone you know. THEN start playing publicly. THEN create the bond with the people.
You simply can’t do it the other way around – people aren’t smart enough to tell you what they want, and you’re not good enough to come up with it anyway. No one is.
Do it for love.