How Can We Make Music More Sustainable?

Vickie Nauman provided some great questions to start making music more sustainable.

We need companies and organizations investing and competing to be the best in each of these five areas:

(1) Great Music – which labels, publishers, management companies and organizations are best at identifying and fostering new talent?  Helping invest at different career levels?  Have the best accounting systems to track micropayments and ensure accurate metadata?  Who is helping the self-released artist?

(2) Engaged Fans – which platforms and services know their customers well enough to engage around music?  How can they encourage more listening and connect artists meaningfully with these fans?  How can an engaged fan turn into a high value fan for an artist?  How can we better serve tribes and casual fans

(3) Rights Data Management – who is optimizing modern technology so that rights data is simply a conduit to attribution and getting paid?  How can data that is in a state of constant change be cleaner?  Which practices need to be left behind, while new methodologies adopted?  Privacy need not be lost in the establishment of consistency and standards.  I dream of a future state for industry events without the need for metadata panels.

(4) Copyright Law – is it possible to have laws stay current with technology?  What will get core stakeholders aligned to foster protection that is better for the whole?  Short of massive overhaul, are there interim wins?

(5) Business – we’ve currently got a handful of multi-billion dollar companies offering legally licensed music to fans – this is a fantastic new baseline, but is it enough to sustain the entire industry?  Is niche, mid-tier, and back catalog music reaching fans and generating adequate royalties through the pipes to the niche, mid-tier and heritage artists?  How can we move to spur innovation while retaining value?  Are there other ways to grow now that the industry is somewhat painted into a corner with a value proposition of $9.99/month for every crown jewel ever created?

Source: Sustainability in Music — Rethink Music

Neko Case: “Employing people in a shitty economy is a good motivator, too, because you want them to have health insurance and homes, you know?”

Some really great insights here from Neko Case:

“Early on I would have loved to be signed by a major label, but the greatest thing that ever happened to me is that I wasn’t,” Case says. “I really had to do it myself at that point. Now I have accomplishments that, to me, seem pretty far ahead of their time. When it comes to being in control of my own business, I was way ahead of the curve. I’m really proud of that. And the most important thing was that I didn’t have to fuck people over to do it. They want to make music sports, and music is not fucking sports. There’s this idea that you have to have some sort of hard-ass management that treats people like shit. Those people are a representation of you. If you think that sort of corporate stuff is gross, it’s because it is gross. It’s not a competition, and there’s room for everyone. You should be proud of what the people in your scene accomplish. It sounds cheesy, but generosity opens doors.”

Source: Neko Case on punk rock and the importance of staying independent

Reimagining The Music Business via Rethink Music

Seems simple enough, right?

I see two industries with complementary skills:  music companies develop artists and technology companies develop applications.  Combine the two with fair remuneration to creators, deliver to consumers and you have a big win.  I firmly believe that through better alignment of business goals, simplification, and modernized use of common technological tools, we can create a vibrant future.

Source: Reimagining The Music Business — Rethink Music

“the only scarce resource left is the artists themselves”

Perhaps musicians’ renegade spirit is what ultimately will save the next generation of recording artists, who are increasingly forgoing record deals altogether and going it alone. As true independents, they work the margin between the technology that makes recordings cheaper to create and a public that is steadily buying fewer of them. Without a label taking a bite out of multiple revenue sources, the numbers can actually work. Others are coming together in groups centered on advocacy and pressing for changes to the laws that dictate royalty payments in the new streaming economy — something that could mean all the difference when injury, accident or age brings a touring musician’s career to a halt. But in the meantime, the vans and buses roll on.

If musicians have to rely on touring for the majority of their income, is that ultimately sustainable?

Source: Touring Can’t Save Musicians in the Age of Spotify – The New York Times

What Can We Learn from Nashville about Building and Supporting a Music Community?

Looking forward to reading a new book, Beyond the Beat: Musicians Building Community in Nashville, which:

identifies the rise of three new types of musicians, or “artist activists,” who take a more active role in shaping their careers and communities: “enterprising artists” who are entrepreneurial and career-focused, “artistic social entrepreneurs” who combine music with a social mission to build community or maintain social spaces, and “artist advocates” who are remaking unionism for music and the arts (a few of whom are chronicled in the book). These three types of artist activists not only work to develop their own careers, but to support and help one another. In turn, they have created an inclusive peer community, strengthened the broader network of musicians, and bolstered the very fiber of Nashville and its music scene.

Also interested in reading about what the city of Nashville has done to support music:

Local public policy has sustained musicians and the industry in several ways. On the demand side, economic development has focused on music-themed tourism, museums, and festivals that attract consumers of music and related retail and hospitality services. On the supply side, the city has encouraged the development of affordable housing for musicians and other artists, as well as arts districts that provide studio, performance, and display spaces for performing and visual artists, and their fans.

Source: What Drives Nashville’s Music Industry – CityLab

Emily Haines: “It looks like the music industry is mimicking income inequality in a really painful way, and perhaps even magnifying it”

It looks like the music industry is mimicking income inequality in a really painful way, and perhaps even magnifying it. Every day I consider posting this thing—but I don’t. It’s a picture of the incomes of the top DJs right now, and this is absolutely appalling. Calvin Harris pulls down $66 million in a 12-month period! I’m working on the phrasing, but it says something like, “Ever feel like a single teardrop in a sea of urine?” What are we rewarding? What do we want from people, and what do we admire? It’s fuckin’ depressing. Their load-in is one laptop bag. For us, we have a crew of 10 people on salary with a ton of equipment. We’re part of the economy. It’s that feeling of the super rich that don’t put anything into it and are just like, “Oh, I’ll take that check.” What we’re doing feels righteous, and pretty cool.

Source: Indie Rock’s Rebel Goddess Opens Up – The Daily Beast

“Even if tour revenue is increasing, it might not be trickling down quite enough.”

Not entirely surprised by the results of this SeatSmart study linked below, but interesting to see the information presented visually.

Even if tour revenue is increasing, it might not be trickling down quite enough. You heard me right, Reaganomics is failing the music industry. Let’s just hope streaming services can reform themselves enough to plug the hole.

via Does The Death Of Album Revenue Spell The End For Rock Stars As We Know Them? – SeatSmart Blog – Sports, Music and Ticket Data from SeatSmart.

“In a city that promotes itself for music, those who do it can’t afford to continue”

Michael Passman has a pretty interesting piece on the challenges Austin is facing….problems that seem pretty common to a lot of other cities.

In a city that promotes itself for music, those who do it can’t afford to continue, there are fewer venues for them to do so, and those venues left are threatened with going out of business, not to mention less time in the evening for musicians to actually play.

We know the causes. People come here for SXSW, SXSW gets bigger and bigger, people decide they want to move here, the tech startup boom is ongoing, the economy is healthy, and buildings get torn down and replaced by high rise condos. It happens everywhere.

Source: Michael Passman: The Beginning of The End: Austin’s Public Face on Live Music Contradicts Reality – Blurt Magazine

David Lowery on Millennials and the Punk Rock Generation

Punk Rock Generation: We rebelled by protesting wars, dictatorships, apartheid, government corruption, the military industrial complex, polluting corporations, the christian right,  the draft, nuclear power, the slaughter of sea mammals, and even other punk rockers.  We were at times tear gassed and beaten by police (See Dead Kennedys Wilmington CA).

Millennials:   We rebel by not paying for stuff.  We want bean bag chairs at work.

So what you’re really saying is:  Millennial rebellion is rooted in some pseudo moralistic justification of theft based on which businesses use the discredited web 2.0 “freemium” business models? That’s where you take a stand?


(Personally I don’t buy this crap. I don’t believe there is a “millennial” generation with a different set of values than any previous generation.  Every generation has it’s selfish lazy assholes who are willing to justify any sort of behavior by claiming to speak for their generation.  And every twenty years or so marketers invent a new generation so they can pitch their consultancies, books, analytics and speaking tours.  But since the media seems determined to cram this current fiction down our throats we might as well have some fun with it by following the fiction to it’s logical conclusion.)

Source: Millennials vs the Punk Rock Generation: APM’s Marketplace accidentally illustrates absurdity | The Trichordist

Mike Wiebe of Riverboat Gamblers: “We’re just kind of doing this because we want to do this.”

There’s a really good interview with Mike Wiebe, the singer of one of my favorite bands, Riverboat Gamblers, below:

Some of it is that we all kind of do other stuff and it sort of reinvigorates that band. There’s different fuels for the engine. For that last few years it’s been a little bit nicer now that we took the pressure off ourselves to try and just do this band full-time and try and make an adult living off of it because there’s only a handful, especially rock bands, that can really do that. We kind of took the pressure off that. Some of it is just getting older and enjoying writing more, learning to stuff in the studio on our own. Some of it is getting along and getting more comfortable and taking chances. A lot of it is taking the pressure away from trying to do this every day of the year. Now we just kind of pick and choose the stuff we really wanna do, the stuff we like to do. If were doing a show now, or if we’re doing a record, it’s only ever because we really want to do it — that we enjoy it. It’s never forced. There’s times for any band where there’s a bunch of shows, where it’s, “Gotta pay the bills, gotta pay the rent.” Now we don’t have that pressure so much. It’s nice to get back to the old days. We’re just kind of doing this because we want to do this. We turn down so much stuff now because, no, it doesn’t sound fun. Even if, sometimes, the show is to our financial benefit, we’re just like, “No, I don’t think we’d really enjoy doing that.

Source: Central Track // Gambling Man