Gifts & Works

Did you do something for that trophy? Did you earn what was given to you? How much work did you do?

An apprenticeship model is surely needed in many areas of daily work. Where it is needed the most (for me) is in music. Never in the history of music has there been so many non-musicians making decisions about music for musicians. Never in the history of the industry have we seen such a lack of talent in music and the arts. The idea that a product can just be marketed to solve all ailments is a new argument. This is also why it will not last long. Tonight at the restaurant gig I felt the pressure from those types who believe all you need is a little marketing to bring in the crowd. First off I play a dinner music set not a feature. I’ve turned down musicians who want to sit in, merely because they aren’t interested in playing soft, and in the background. What if that is what the audience wants? Would you deny your song to be played on a plane, while boarding. Would you deny your song to be played while someone did homework? Would you deny your song to be played over an office or restaurant radio? This is all background, non-interactive, lean back approaches, and roughly more than 80% of music played is played in this form. The interactives are of course the ones who activate the song to be disseminated in such a manner. What these musicians did not want to do is be in the background, they wanted to be featured, they wanted their fifteen minutes. This mentality is where we are in music today, with those trying to get noticed so quickly they start wearing meat dresses.

Gone are the days of the A&R man who went to the shows and who was also a musician. Nowadays the idea of someone who scouts music has a college degree and does not play an instrument (well). With this background, this is the type of musician they will mostly come across and sign. John Legend is a perfect example, college educated and a below average singer/musician. This scout will tell you all you need is the marketing arm of the label and you’ll be a star. I can’t even go in to counting the thousands of acts like this, but they do not, and will not have long careers. They will not have a greatest hits album, and will see profit if they get on “Now (that’s what I call music) 52” and book some tertiary market shows. Giving the label some credit is the last thing I will ever do. They have put their investment in short-term artists and in marketing. Remember inside a label deal, marketing is the heaviest amount advanced and tour support is the least amount. They do not invest in touring (performance) because they have never had a business that revolves around it. Their business solds records, how many records do you buy? Why would you listen to what they are saying about music when they are missing a key first step, performance. Label vets are also at streaming services like Ek’s place and still trying to tell musicians what to do with their music. While we live in this trophy era, no one is getting the negative feedback they need to be better. This information is missing. Let’s say you lost your keys and in the process of looking for them you turn over a chair to find out, unfortunately, they are not there. So what does not work (if used correctly) will lead you in a better direction to finding your keys. The label only tells you what works, like Audiokite, but what works today may not work tomorrow, music business is no science. Labels cannot tell you what doesn’t work and what doesn’t work is better info because you won’t look under that chair again for your keys.

The future of anything valuable is the real transaction, and long-term artists get this. Artists who perform then record can have a career that lasts (you only have to be right once and in this model it is much harder to be right again). A hit that pops can be the artists gravy train for decades and decades to come, as long as this artist is a real transaction performer.

The institution of the record label does not value performance and therefore do not value the artist in the long term. The idea that a label can propel a musician to the heights of music is a falsehood. This arena of transferring fragility to artists (if they cannot perform) has been growing steadily inside labels. Artists in the 60’s and 70’s were real-time performers, that’s why most of them still perform today. The artists we have today are more often going in to film, movies, tv, and everything other than performing the hit/song the record label help them make. This recording artist has bypassed the first step of music and has made many believe you do not have to perform to get paid. Sure, but you won’t be respected by real musicians either. You will not go down as an ICON in music, and will more likely be known for some lesser medium of entertainment.

With respect to the current system in place. There is a new distribution in digital music called streaming, the advances in this technology are wonderful but not for the current recording artist as stated above. Real transaction (performance/tour/ticket) data shows us who went to see Green Day at Joe Louis Arena (Detroit) last Friday at 8pm. Interactive streaming data shows us that Jill Steiner (fictitious) pays for a subscription and pulled up Snoop Dogg at 8:08am last Tuesday just to play the song “Beautiful” featuring Pharell. Not everyone can go to the show (it’s exclusive to people who have interest) and their interest made them purchase a ticket, they made a choice. Jill did the same thing, she wanted to hear that specific song at that exact time of day (maybe while getting ready for work, or driving, or). The radio system never could do this and that was our whole distribution system of media outside of making an album purchase, which is the record label’s specialty. But in this speciality they have made themselves vulnerable to change, the change being the choice to listen to whatever we want vs. having a silo of information and a top-down distribution model. The bottom up approach relies on people wanting to go to the concert. This means the artist has to be a performer to stick out amongst 40 million songs. The audience that carries the most value interacts with the music. The way to that audience is through those who have experience interacting with the music and the audience in real-time. The label cannot understand this concept and will crash the streaming side of interactiveness. It’s propped up by quick money right now, Spotify generates most of the revenue for these labels and Spotify is propped up with quick cash in an era where VC’s had access to low interest dollars. Spotify isn’t profitable and is being pressure to have an IPO, this is scary stuff as the artist hasn’t benefitted and won’t in this model. The artist only benefits when they can turn that interactive data into a ticket sale.

The idea is simple, but to allow record institutions to be the pilots of this plane is asking for a crash. Nothing about the label institution can help an artist be a better performer, which is what an artist needs in order to have a sustainable career. You may sell a track or two, but if you can’t perform it, you are already washed up, or will be the writer to someone else’s performance. A musician who has been on the ground in the mode you will be in, carries more value than any label person’s idea of what college musician’s do. When there are 40 million tracks available to everyone, what will it take to make it, or stick out amongst the crowd. What will the audience want to interact with? For this we will want to go to the closest engagement between the audience and the music. Where real transaction data brings a better understanding of context. What does the label teach, marketing, not performance. To stick out in today’s music industry it will take learning from those who have been involved in live music, not marketing. Make sure they have musical experience, can play an instrument and be able to “talk music” and not “talk about music”. These practitioners are aware of the real transaction, and in the real transaction there is real value.