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futuremusictalk.com launched…

January 30th, 2008 | No Comments | Categories: cool links · Geek · New Music Strategies |

A couple of months back, Sarda came up with the idea of an aggregated blog bringing together lots of the different thinkers writing about the future of the music industry. My ‘future of music’ posts are up there alongside fab thinkers and writers like Gerd Leonhard and Andrew Dubber.

…which I guess means I ought to get back to writing about the future of music! Despite not blogging about it as much of late, I’ve been doing lots of thinking about it, from a lot of different angles. Today’s fairly throw-away thought was just that ‘experience is not downloadable’ – I was walking through Time’s Square in NYC, and wondering how the big theatrical shows can afford to keep running at the level they do, here and in London. And part of it is that they offer an experience that can’t be downloaded – ACTUALLY going to the show is central to any kind of engagement with it. You could download the soundtrack, even a live video of the show, look at pics online, download and print out the sheet music, but none of that is going to mean much if you haven’t experienced it.

I’ll have to have a look and see if there are stats anywhere on how much of the income from shows is in the merchandising and licensing aspects, over and above ticket sales…

Here’s another related though slightly tangental thought – I have a friend who used to manage a cinema in London. He said that ALL the money they made was over the concession stand. The actually films were roughly a break-even venture, when the running of the place was taken into consideration, the cost of the films, against the ticket price. The real money was in selling a bucket of Coke big enough to drown Vern Troyer in – made from syrup that cost 4p – for £2.50, and a pig’s trough-sized pail of popcorn for £4, when their total outlay for the stuff was about 2% of that…

Anyway, the point is, that’s the way the entertainment industry funds itself – merchandising, adverts, providing overpriced McSwill to the McHogs that turn up to watch and gorge…

One of the big questions, and the hardest part of this whole thing is still – what do you do as a musician if you don’t want to make the majority of your money in advertising or running a snack bar at your gigs?

If you gig, it has to be an event. This new focus on musicians trying to monetize gigging again could actually be a really good thing – fewer doleful perfunctory performances, fewer tours where every night is identical. For those of us doing the indie thing, we need to be creative in making our gigs a proper night out – house concerts are great for this. A house concert has the potential to be a really special event. Lo. and I have done a number of them over the last year where the hosts have told us that months later people still ask them every time they see them when they are next going to have us back. I’m guessing that hasn’t been happening quite so much at the clubs we’ve played at (though you never know, we are rather good. ;o)

That said, I’m still loathe to let go of the wonder of recorded music, resigning it to being a give-away to entice people to shows or to get clicks on google ads, even though increasingly it seems that’s the way we’re being lead…

This became a reality for me a couple of days ago when I signed up for the new Last.fm venture to give free music to their subscribers and pay the artists in ad-sharing – it’s the first time I’m accepted an advertising revenue sharing deal… Why? Cos I’m making money for them via ads whether I take it or not. I either have my share, or they do, or I remove my music. That doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do with a site as cool as last.fm, so I’m in. But it does feel a bit weird. I guess I can console myself with the thought that unless you lovely readers all head over there and listen to loads of my streamed from their site I’m going to be making about 10c a year…

One last thing for now – for us indies, Cds aren’t going anywhere while we’re still playin live shows. People want to buy music, take a piece of it home – like the fluffy indonesian Simba that the peeps here in NYC pick up for $15 after seeing the Lion King, folks want to get some discs to listen to in the car on the way home. I wonder what the first technology that allows for the easy buying of downloads at gigs will be? a USB still is just a posh CD – what about actual transfer to iPod/phone/whatever?

In other news, I just extended my stay in NYC due to me feeling a bit too ill to fly back to London tomorrow, so I’ll be back early next week…

(Oh, Jeff Schmidt, you need to email James at futuremusictalk and get your blog on the list…)

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