I attended Midem one of the music industry's biggest trade shows for the first time last month. As representative of a new media company I was pleased to see so many tech driven individuals and companies. On the other hand as an artist I felt like what neo-soul singer Erykah Badu coined an "analog girl in a digital world."
Veterans of the music industry who've been in the business more than 20 years
shared their Midem stories with me praising the old days when Midem was more artist-oriented. One record label owner said, "I could remember when Midem was much larger than this, every stand showcased music, it was a great feeling and now it's more compacted, and everyone's on their computers, not listening to music.".
What that music biz veteran recalled is what I hoped to experience as an artist. However as a New Media exec I knew better. American pioneer tech companies and geniuses in Silicone Valley beat the music industry to the punch with one word--Itunes.
Apple's 'Itunes' dominated the music industry not as a music company but as a tech giant instantly. And the music industry has been trying to catch up ever since. Remember Napster? How about Limewire?
The generation of the Occupy Movement interests lie in what's known as peer to peer accomodation and colloborative consumption. Transaction based economies and those where capitalists triple their capital reserves are being forced into a sharing based one. And it's been proven to be costly not to get on board.
Record labels are experiencing it first hand. I won't embarass any of my colleagues and affiliates with revenue sales to prove a point. It isn't necessary because all one has to do is google 'music industry decline' especially if you are one of the top four record labels, Warner, EMI, Universal, or Sony the word is out. There's no question why the "Indies" are continuing to gain ground and are making such an impact majors are scouting them.
Back to Midem. You'd go to a stand looking for one label and see a list of them under one company. Majors are buying up the Indies. This year we'll see more mergers and acquisitions. Record labels have been going under consecutively since the music-tech revolution began. Sharing is caring but downright brutal for record companies and SOPA/PIPA supporters. And this isn't the old days where the 1% where left alone to their wealth. Consumers who'd much rather be called people are taking matters into their own hands by sharing content and streaming instead of buying CDs.
How will record labels off set cost then? No, in addition to slashing more jobs. Have you guessed yet? Yes, 2012 is rumored to be the death of the compact disc and Mp3. Thanks to Spotify who linked with Facebook to allow music lovers to stream music, who has time for downloading an MP3? Spotify may very well be Itunes rival and Itunes may soon move to streaming music in order to retain their competitive advantage.
Wait.. since I've been writing there hasn't been one word mentioned about the artist of the music being downloaded or streamed. This is exactly what my experience was like at Midem. There was more interest in licensing music and innovations to exploit artists' content than in those artists who make the music we love.
Artists hold the real power, not technology, record labels, or even media companies. An artist has the power to change the world and their voices are just as important as any business or tech professional looking to exploit it. The internet is wide open (at least right now) which has given artists the opportunity to share art without geographical restrictions. This is both good and bad. I just told you the good part. The bad part is now anyone can make a song and post it on youtube. The result is a saturated mixed pool of talented artists and wannebe stars. If everyone's a star, who's the audience?
Thembisa Mshaka's book "Put your Dreams First: Handle Your Entertainment Business" noted it very well. There are plenty of celebrities but very few stars. And in today's apocalyptic music business it's going to take more than false personalities and youtube uploads to succeed in this industry. You'll need a team of dedicated people who believe in you and what you're doing. A little practicality doesn't hurt either. It'll be absolutely necessary to Get Real and get experts involved. In 2012, regardless of what looks like dim hope the world will be waiting for well... You.