NOISE GATE: 6 Tenets for a New Music Industry, Part Three

Noise Gate

It’s okay! I’m not dead. We just did a little bit of a shuffle of our features, and I’ll now be posting Noise Gate on a Friday, rather than a Tuesday. Think of it as an extra-special treat for making it to the end of the week. Anyway, on with the next in my series of what I think a music company of the future should look like. This week, I’ll talk about coping with advances in technology.

  1. Music must be sharable – word of mouth is more important than ever
  2. Revenue must come from multiple sources – if one bit of the industry becomes obsolete, it shouldn’t sink the whole ship
  3. New technologies are to be welcomed and understood, not feared and litigated against
  4. A&R can be crowdsourced, but remember the long tail
  5. “Added value” is key – give people a reason not to pirate things – carrots, not sticks
  6. Your artists are your most important spokespeople

Click over the jump for my thoughts number three, and stay tuned over the next few weeks (on Fridays, now!) for the last three chapters.

New technologies are to be welcomed and understood

This feeds nicely from the last point on the list. Have someone at the company in charge of ‘new stuff’. Make sure they try absolutely everything, and make sure they’re damn good at their job – they need to be beyond the cutting edge of technology, in the same way that traditional A&R men are beyond the cutting edge of music taste (or desperately chasing the next big thing, to portray it in a slightly more negative light).

New stuff that your expert thinks there might be something in (i.e. Tells you about really excitedly) should be jumped on immediately. Put a team on it. Invest in the company. Get a product out. Get some cutting edge indie-rock bands involved with it – geeks love that kind of stuff, and they’re your first target.

I was at a tradeshow the other day, and I was shown what Sandisk thinks is the future of music – albums on memory cards. Except they were loaded with Katy Perry. No geek who attended that show would have got excited about the prospect of Katy Perry on a memory card. If it were Death Cab for Cutie, on the other hand, or CSS, Sandisk might have had a better chance. Apple’s a company who know this very well in their advertising.

If record companies had taken a more positive attitude towards file-sharing, rather than litigation, then we’d likely be in a very different place right now – one where the record companies would be making a lot more money, for starters. There will always be new technologies but statements like Doug Morris’ (when he said that “there’s no-one in the record company that’s a technologist”) show that the major labels are hopelessly out of touch with what’s just around the corner.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are a lot of geeks out there, myself included, who try all this stuff out anyway. Find one, make sure they’re good, make it their job to try everything, and then learn to rely on their insights. They’ll be invaluable the next time there’s a technological paradigm shift. That’ll be sooner than you think.

More Noise Gate: Tenet 1: Sharing is Caring | Tenet 2: Spread the Revenue

Duncan Geere
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  • Agree, except to say that I think of myself as a geek in several spheres and I have no idea who those two bands are you’ve just mentioned – not a fan of Katy Perry either, for the record.

    Perhaps record labels treating people as individuals rather than trying to perceive what every geek listens to (which self-evidently isn’t true) would be a start. Yes, it takes more effort, but maybe that’s what embracing social networks and doing intelligent marketing is all about.

    • It’s very tricky to market to ‘individuals’, as you say. Still, it’s getting easier. I definitely agree that it’s something the record companies need to work on.

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