Periodically we will be posting guest blogs from people we respect, read or want to introduce you to.
Today’s guest blog is from Paul Resnikoff, publisher of Digital Music News, an email I read every day.
Here you go:
The Simple Fax…
The fax machine is still used from time to time, especially when signatures are needed on contracts. So, if an artist uses a fax machine to finalize a career-changing contract, did the fax break that artist?
Exactly. The idea is ludicrous. But it’s almost the same as asking whether the internet has yet to truly break an artist. There are far too many different types of media and delivery channels, and all of them are interconnected and intertwined. Sure, moments often begin on the internet – Justin Bieber started on YouTube, for example – but real, scaled-out success involves the much broader spread.
Actually, the fax question is a riff on a joke made by Derek Sivers a few years back at Musexpo in LA. But this year, the question was still being asked.
But by now, the industry knows better. Of course, for the unsigned artist battling against obscurity, the internet is completely critical, and an only friend. And whether through Bandzoogle or Bandize, ReverbNation or TuneCore, the avenues for establishing a serious web presence (and beyond) are endless (another discussion entirely).
But what about scaling towards serious success? Creating well-strategized, lasting careers that somehow rise above the din of millions of DIYs? Turns out that the fanscape is a lot more reliant on established outlets than originally forecast. What was true in 2000 is also true in 2010, and fans are still leaning on major filters to channel the waters.
Not only do established channels still matter, but the impact of ‘old school’ formats like terrestrial radio remains massive. But beyond traditional radio, the broader filtering role is more important than ever. There’s just way too much stuff for the average consumer to reasonably wade through. That strengthens the curatorial roles for KCRW, HOT97, MySpace Music, Pandora, Pitchfork, whatever.
And working these channels is more than just a DIY affair, it requires a serious team. But that team – often, label or group of seasoned pros – should also be working a landscape that includes gaming, television, advertising, and film. Want a breakout moment like Feist or Ingrid Michaelson? These artists got lucky breaks, but most of the time, those ‘moments’ are the result of concerted campaigns, orchestrated efforts that go beyond a Twittering artist. And, of course, lots of hard work and stellar songwriting.
Guys like Brian McNelis (senior vice president of Music & Soundtracks at Lakeshore Entertainment) have the power to slot your song into a blockbuster film, and change your career overnight. But he’s not sifting through odd MySpace Music profiles or reading unsolicited emails; rather, he’s mostly relying on established relationships and channels to supply the contextual material he needs. Are you in one of those channels?
Sure, big labels are clawing for their survival, and that makes partnering a tenuous bet. Look no further than EMI – and its suffering bands – as glaring evidence. But a huge void remains for that smart, well-staffed firm that works the levers – starting with the internet but also spanning the range of more traditional channels.
What will these companies look like? The situation at the majors can be misleading, simply because their cost structures and legacies are rooted in a different era. Too top-heavy, too unwilling to ‘get small,’ as it was recently suggested. But bump around this industry, and there are plenty of executives that ‘get it,’ and, for that matter, are scoring serious success stories. That includes savvy songwriters, producers, and artists themselves.
The problem is that the structure of these future firms, companies, or whatever remains entirely unclear. This is the definition of early-stage chaos, and everyone has a different concept. And very few are making money at this point. But slowly, the early etchings suggest a space that goes way beyond DIY, and favors super-smart companies to work the strings. Real people with real experience, not platforms or bags of tools.
If Universal Music Group is still around in ten years, it will be an entirely different company. But mostly likely, partnerships will still matter for artists that want to make it in the future. Even if that involves faxing back a contract.