Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Walking the Dinosaur

1. Nobody knows shit right now.

I’m writing a successful website about the music industry precisely because I have no idea what I’m doing. It keeps me loose enough to recognize things that trained monkeys have a hard time accepting. My best summary is: learn how to mix being Professional and Organized with being Creative and Loose, because you need to be running both ends of the operation in 2008. You need to be prolific and entertaining, and you also need to have your online operation running smoothly. In other words: just make good music, then use efficient tools to tell the world about it.

2. Nobody owns anything right now.

If it exists online, it can be pirated. If it’s any good, it will be. Copy protection was a total failure and in 2008, even the most stubborn major labels have retreated. All attempts at shutting down torrent sites have only made the torrent network stronger. If you get pirated, take it as the compliment it is. If your music is worth getting online, that’s positive feedback. Be happy and keep pushing.

3. I have no reason to negotiate.

Everyone is assuming rich people deserve something from me. I am usually broke and so are most of the people who’ve downloaded my old music. I make music using computers, then I use computers to upload and distribute that to people who like my music. I really fail to see why rich people need to have any role in that whatsoever. I am designing business models that don’t rely on having rich people get control of the operation.

4. These dinosaurs are too fat to survive.

Do some quick math with me: Warner Music Group made $3.5 billion dollars in 2006. After they paid salary and other overhead expenses, they earned a net income of about $169 million dollars. That means they lost over 90% of their money on dinosaur methods, right? How many of those desk jobs are really nescessary? Most Audible Hype readers are running a company with less than 5 people, one of whom never even sleeps. Who should be scared of who in 2008?

5. Everyone is lying to you.

MySpace success stories are PR myths, designed to get hopeful independents to sign up to MySpace. It worked, too: I’ve got over a dozenof the damn things. Everything you read about, every interview and every article, is an ad. Radiohead was nothing new. Arctic Monkeys and Hawthorne Heights were both backed by record labels long before you ever heard of them. Underdogs are sexy and innovation is cool—and both are easy to fabricate.

6. Determine what you really do.

Madonna signing with LiveNation was the most signifigant event of 2007 for the music industry. It was a fairly negotiated contract between two corporations who provide a clearly defined service. Record labels never did that. They’d promise to make records sell, but we’ve all seen them do $50 million flops, over and over again. LiveNation is a contract business and so is Madonna. Your music career should be, too. Andrew Dubber has valuable advice on this topic: start here.

7. It’s the economy, stoopid.

CD sales are down, revenue is down. Guess what? So is the value of the American dollar. Not coincidentally, food prices and energy prices are through the roof and gold is trading at record highs. It is beyond surreal how many pundits and bloggers discuss the music industry as if it exists in some cocaine expense account wonderland. Everyone quite simply has less money than they used to. This trend is going to continue in 2008.

8. There is only one “model” for the music industry.

All human design is based upon principles that already existed for billions of years in nature. The music industry is no exception—in the natural world, this is called a parasite. The music industry is a parasite, extracting and exploiting resources from their host organism, completely unable to sustain itself without fucking the little guy over. Once artists could negotiate huge contracts, the industry decided to shift the costs and fuck over the customers by raising CD prices through the roof.

9. Become everything and give them nothing.

Every single aspect of your music business—creation to packaging to sales to shipping—can be maintained by you. If you can get your life organized, you can run the entire show with minimal stress, too. Plus, be making money. The music industry had over a decade, billions in revenue, and the most talented music artists on the planet Earth and they did nothing but stripmine everything they had and drive their entire market into the ground. That’s pathetic. And now they get a place at the negotiating table? Only because their parent companies own the magazines that cut checks to these journalists.

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