Thursday, November 17, 2005

A New Mode

Time for a little reflection on the state of music. As an indie act one of the big challenges is connecting with the audience. On stage this is not difficult. The audience is present and is exposed to not only the music but also the band's persona. Playing clubs gives the audience the ability to see the set up and tear down also the chance to talk with band members.

Online it is another matter. The connection comes from exposure, interviews, press, marketing and promotion and the access to music. Yet still there is also a personality that emerges thanks to the intimacy of the internet. For instance you are reading the actual words I am typing into this blog. We are connected in that way. BLogs and sites like Myspace offers musicians and fans unprecedented is like a giant dormitory. You can stop and visit freely and people are more open to interacting with new faces. Bands to are opening up more and being more personal with potential fans.

The music industry is struggling with this intimacy. Carefully packaged images are still successful but we have seen artists emerge from the internet that have completely bypassed the major label starmaking machine. Big packaged images set the performer far apart from reality and still have a large appeal for fans due to the celebrity that forms from the image. However the end result is "cookie cutter" corporate image and fast recycling of the same tired personas. The music industry is about taking new images and replicating them to maximize profits from the "next latest thing". But the harder the industry tries to maintain the image making model the wider to door is left open for other modes of operation.

Listeners have changed how they listen to music as well. Listeners are placing less importance on the album and focusing on the song more. Mp3 players, online playlists, iPods, internet radio have acclimated the music fan to "random play". As the listeners habits have changed so to has the artist. Albums are becoming more diverse, artists are freer create music that is not beholden to any particular genre.

That is a struggle. Because to write and create what pleases the artist is still perceived by the "old school" music industry as unfocused. The Neil Young lawsuit for a "Young not making a Neil Young album" is an example. That perception is wrong. Take for instance our album, "Strip Mall Heaven" as a album it does range across genres and requires a fairly wide range of musical taste to appreciate. However if the same music was packaged and released in multiple sets of 3-4 songs each and different picture can emerge.

An interesting model. Artist development in the 60's through the 70's was a multiple album deal spanning multiple years. This same concept will apply it is simply condensed. Now it can be a two year three release 12-14 song deal. Same concept just streamlined. The new Warner record company is doing just that. Cordless records was recently announced and it strikes me as a very intriguing business model that could potentially be the key to tipping the music scales to favor all online digital media distribution models.

What does that all mean for the future...well it is already being seen an EP is launching bands more frequently now....we may not see the CD as a media format go away anytime soon but we will see more releases, more often with fewer songs on each released at a lower cost with the bulk of distribution coming digitally.

Strangely enough music fans are more inclined to purchase 3 songs for $5 rather than 12 songs for $12. It seems the fans not so much concerned about the money but more of the intellectual capital required to get through an entire 50-70 minute CD. Fans are more willing to give 9-12 minutes to a band initially because they know it will be over soon. Call it the escape clause in the listener contract. The full length album is simply more demanding on the listener and it may be asking to much of today's listener.

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