Ready or not, 2011 is upon us. The new music industry has traveled down a long and winding road. It's not over yet. As 2010 passes by, many predictions are being made about what lies ahead. Rather than add to the prognostication and vast hope for the launch Google Music, Spotify coming stateside, and Apple getting into the subcription / music streaming / digtial locker sector, I'm going to outline some wishful thinking.
Here are 4 things I hope for the new music industry in 2011:
1. The Emergence of Passionate and Curious Writers. There aren't enough curious writers asking big questions, using their imaginations, and synthesizing what we've learned over the past few years into a compelling narrative. One that helps to demystify the complexity of our times and help those within the industry understand what's happening. Sure, there's been good journalism and reporting, but little inspired insight and deep thought. There's much to learn from fields like behavioral economics, media ecology, sociology, and cultural studies. I hope to see more writers study the music industry from the outside – not while they're stuck on the inside. Consilience is needed. And so are smart writers like you.
2. Awareness and Support for Legal Music Services. I hope more fans will discover MOG, RDIO, Slacker, Spotify, Thumbplay, and the hoard of other music services out there. This includes Songkick, thesixtyone, and HypeMachine too.
Fans can't use services that they don't know about. In a world where BitTorrent, LimeWire, and the Pirate Bay have greater brand recognition than any other legal music service – aside from maybe Pandora – it's not hard to imagine why piracy is so prevalent. If the RIAA spent as much money on promoting music sites as they do on lobbying the government, maybe people outside of the music industry might actually discover the many legal services that do exist online – right now.
3. More Case Studies on Emerging, Thriving Artists. This is the number one thing that I've seen griped about in the comments section. People are sick of hearing about NIN, Radiohead, Corey Smith, and Amanda Palmer. They want more examples and artists to learn from. Hopefully, in the new year, we'll see a new segment of artists and managers that come forward and share their success stories with us. More and more artists desire to know what's working out there and how they can use these examples to better their careers. Starting soon, we'll be looking for more case studies to share. That way, we can all learn together.
4. A Commonsense Framework for Music Startups. "Commonsense" may not be the perfect word. Additional ways to phrase this point might be: I would like to see an actionable, rational, coherent, and reasonable framework for new music startups emerge. This will never happen. It'll always be complicated, expensive, and fearful to be a music startup. Licensing music will never make any sense. I hope that it won't always be like this. To be fair, I've spoken to people at music startups who've said that the major labels have been nothing but reasonable with them. However, several accounts in the last six months suggested that things weren't rosy. Regardless, startups could only benefit from more commonsense.