Consumer or Music Lover: You Decide

Fist GUEST POST by Kyle Bylin of indie label 50 Entertainment.  Kyle also contributed The Fall Of Communization And The Rise Of The Music Fan and We Are The Curator, The Light and The Frame.

Before Kevin Roberts became the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi he told them, "We’re not going to be in the advertising business anymore, we’re going to reframe that, we’re going to be in the ideas business."

When Trent Reznor developed and adapted a new model to deliver Ghosts I-IV, he reframed what it meant to be in the music business. Understanding that free was inescapable and multipliable formats were inevitable, he established six points of participation for fans. By catering to the resurgence of vinyl and allowing interaction with multi-track files he went on to challenge market abundance with scarcity by increasing the level of personalization and authenticity. Thus making the purchase, Better Than Free for his core fans.

Roberts went onto say, "We’re all looking to get to the future first and it’s going to come from you. It’s not going to come from the engineers or the merchant bankers." To paraphrase, we’re all looking to get to the future first in the music industry and it’s not going to come from the major labels, the lawyers…

, or the managers. It’s going to come from creative individuals.
Through strategic, creative insight and foresight there is still room
to succeed in the music industry today.

Continuing his path of innovation, Reznor is now offering special incentives for participating in his market research survey.
This brings to light Roberts later comment that "EMI and Sony BMG know
more about the CD market than anybody in the world, but who cares,
because there isn’t one anymore."  In an adapt or die market, Trent’s
freedom allows him to ask for his fans advice. Depending on the success
of the survey this information could advocate the justification of
future special projects previously unheard of. Gaining a deeper level
of understanding of what his fans want and how they interact with the
music he creates will garner the further insight and foresight needed
to travel uncharted territory.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s article The Ketchup Conundrum,
he speaks of Howard Moskowitz who holds a doctorate from Harvard in
psychophysics.  Moskowitz, most notably known for revolutionizing
spaghetti sauce, brought forth the understanding of multiple varieties
rather than searching for the platonic or perfect dish.  From his
previous work with Pepsi, Howard understood that there was no perfect
Pepsi, only perfect Pepsi’s.  Paraphrasing Gladwell, "Standard practice
in the music industry would have been to convene a focus group and ask
music lovers what they wanted. But Moskowitz does not believe that
consumers-even music lovers-know what they desire if what they desire
does not yet exist."

What Howard Moskowitz and Trent Reznor have in common is their
understanding of the need for multiple varieties as well as the notion
that a fan can’t desire what does not yet exist.  With the Major Labels
recent introduction of pre-loaded SanDisk microSD cards, it makes you wonder, between Trent Reznor and The Major Labels…Who is surveying the music consumer and who is surveying the music lover?

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  1. That is all well and good for Trent Reznor, but what about the struggling artists out there trying to pay for studio time, rent, food, some time to work on their craft? Free music is a lie; someone pays for it (Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds, State Farm).
    Trent Reznor can afford to pay for it, what about artists that haven’t spent 20 years making a name for themselves with the backing of a major label. These labels won’t even exist the way we know them in 5 years. so, if you are not Trent Reznor or Marilyn Manson, forget about it!
    Free music is a conspiracy against artists. Music has value; it is not just something that adds value to your iPod, phone, or social network– good music anyways. But, the major labels don’t make good music, do they. If they do, it’s an accident. They make music for the masses, but there is no mass culture anymore, that is why they are having problems. Independent labels and artists shouldn’t think they are in the same boat with the majors. Stop giving your music away for free to MySpace, Imeem, iLike, and the rest of those jokers. There is something better out there, I’m sure of it. Look for it. But, whatever you do, don’t let the majors convince the world that music should be free, because they can’t figure out a way to make enough money by selling music to pay for their corporate jets, office towers, cocaine addicted executives, and expense accounts.

  2. there’s an old saying that ‘you get what you pay for’ ; why do alot of people think this doesn’t apply to music? since many don’t want to pay, what we get is — not scottish. The lack of very good new acts is bemoaned everyday at kingsofar.com

  3. He has money, but from touring not the selling of his music. Struggling artists can still benefit from this business model.
    Which is better for an artist, direct contact with your fans, or direct contact with your label? One of them will pay your bills, the other well they’ll help you…to a point.

  4. Mimi-Thank you for commenting. I would like to say that this article has almost nothing to do with free. Only one point of the Ghosts installment was free. It’s about the bigger picture of multiple varieties and going beyond what everyone else is doing. Its about understanding and interacting with music fans. It’s about them, not us.
    “They make music for the masses, but there is no mass culture anymore, that is why they are having problems.”
    I would love it if you checked out my first post: https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2008/09/the-fall-of-com.html. Perhaps, you will see that I’m going somewhere with this.
    bestman333-Thank you for your comment. I think it retrospect we’re looking at a larger issue when you say you get what you pay for, because for years the cost you paid for a CD was a stretch from the value inside. In some ways, we might still be seeing some repercussions of those occurrences. There have been many talented acts who have navigated out of the fog of the on-line world though.
    Ralphjones-Glad you commented. I think you propose a very interesting question. That’s sort of a stretch though, how many bills have labels pay that they didn’t expect you to recoup?

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