This is the 14th installment in guest blogger Frank Klepacki’s series on music production. Today Frank talks about what the future holds for music artists. If you missed Frank’s previous post, you can read it here.
There is quite a bit of discussion out there in terms of where the music business is at, and where it’s headed. The old model crumbled under the digital age, for failure to embrace it in the beginning. Digital music download sales now compete with subscription-based streaming services. The CD used to cost an average of $15, and you had to buy the whole album even if you only liked a couple of songs, unless there was a single available. Digital sales gave you the option to download and purchase only your favorite songs if you wish, and now streaming services use monthly subscription fees to have access to all music content on the service. The problems are that compensation to the artists continually went down with each of these progressions, overall sales are still declining, streaming services haven’t been profitable yet, and piracy is still an issue. With music seeming to be devalued by the current generation in this way, the only way a newer artist can do anything financially substantial with their art is to seek other non-traditional avenues.
Let’s face it, artists have now been left to their own devices to produce and develop themselves, and that means they have to invest in themselves financially too. Long gone are the days of a label nurturing that, everything is about instant results. “What do you have going for you already? Are you already selling albums, packing venues, and touring? Then sure we want you, so we can get a piece of what you don’t need us for in the first place.” It would seem the only thing a big label is helpful for anymore is getting you on mainstream radio, or marketing you, and even that is a giant gamble, because who knows where you will fall on their priority list at any given time.
You can easily create your own label, and go through a one-stop distribution service like cdbaby to get your music distributed online everywhere. You retain all your rights, and make more from your sales and streaming as result. It comes down to what any product would benefit from: serious marketing. In today’s ever-changing digital climate, it’s the web and tech-based companies that are trying new things.
Kickstarter for example, has become a viable way for artists to tap into their respective followings for more instant gratification to get their product paid for up-front and shipped direct to their supporters. It’s been used by both independent artists and bigger named artists, and has been proven to work. I’ve heard guys like Steve Vai and John Mayer say the most important thing you need to do before anything, is to define your expectations. How many albums sales would equal success to you? Kickstarter is a way to define that expectation not only for you, but also everyone else. They know what they are getting for their money, and you know what you are providing for it. If you reach your goal, then you’ve hit your defined expectation and satisfaction. It doesn’t get more cut and dry than that.
When Apple unveiled the iPhone 6, they did a deal with U2 where everyone with an itunes account received a free download of their new album. Of course, Apple in fact compensated U2 to the tune of 100 million. So what this really was was a promotional item from Apple.
I found it silly that a lot of people actually complained about receiving the free album. The “forced auto-download” thing was really the underlying issue here. Even though people can control this in their settings on their devices, I suppose the lesson learned is that people would have preferred the option to choose. So to do this more tactfully, you’d probably just want a simple notification that it’s available to download in your account, should you choose to do so, as opposed to the content automatically showing up in your library.
But you have to acknowledge that at least they had the nerve to try something different. This got me thinking – I wonder if we will we see more of this kind of thing in the future? Will Artists be making deals with tech-device companies, software companies, or digital retailers, perhaps for a period of time of exclusivity? We’ll explore the issues with this type of promotion in part 2.
– Frank Klepacki
Frank Klepacki is an award-winning composer for video games and television for such titles as Command & Conquer, Star Wars: Empire at War, and MMA sports programs such as Ultimate Fighting Championship and Inside MMA. He resides as audio director for Petroglyph, in addition to being a recording artist, touring performer, and producer. For more info, visit www.frankklepacki.com
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