Bruce Houghton: 8 Things I Hope For The New Music Industry In 2011

1. image from www.aledoprojectcelebration.com The Rise Of The Musical Middle Class – We talk about a long tail of artists – a new era with fewer superstars but more musicians and other creatives making a living doing what they love.  We know it already exists. Hypebot and our sister booking agency Skyline Music exist in this space and serves these artists.  But 2011 is the year when I believe the Musical Middle Class will become a major force driving the new music industry.

2. Return Live Music To The People – Great live music never went away, but it has been co-opted by big business, too high ticket prices and outrageous ticketing fees. May 2011 be the year that ticket prices and fees return to earth and fans re-discover that nothing beats a great live show. A cadre of innovative promoters and venues are already carrying the torch and a growing group of artists, managers and agents are determined to re-create the concert experience.

3. New School Execs Takeover The Major Labels – Will 2011 be the year when a new era of music executives finally dominate the top executive positions at the major labels?  I don't mean SVP of Digital; I mean seats on the Board Of Directors.  It's long overdue and it may be the only thing that can save the big four labels from themselves.

4. A Growing Indie Label Sector – Despite all of the talk of DIY, there's still a real need for a new kind of record label that actually discovers and develops talent. There are signs of hope with labels like Dangerbird.  Real labels run as real businesses run by smart people who care about music.  Watch for more young entrepreneurs to enter the indie label frey in 2011.

5. Coordination & Consolidation In Music Tech -  2010 saw a plethora of great new technologies and services that are changing how we create, distribute, market, sell, discover and enjoy music.  But they don't always work well together.  (Compare many of your music tech experiences to the seamless integration of ITunes, the iPod and most of Apple's other products and services).  Real adoption – for musicians and for fans – requires ease of use.

6. Licence Music Streaming & Cloud Music Lockers – It's overdue for the labels to let Spotify come to the U.S. and to make it easier to license other music streaming services.  Fans want streaming music and the ability to store what the own in the cloud. If rights holders don't allow these services to launch in 2011, consumers will do it for them – and yet another monetization opportunity will be lost.

7. Copyright Reform – It's long overdue. Get started making changes that reflect the new ways of making and distributing music now.

8. Uniform Licensing – Music startups need know where the licensing bar sits before they try to jump over it. Set it at a reasonable height and innovation will flourish.  Set the bar too high and innovation along with fans get driven underground.

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  1. You’re not on the ball in thinking that the musical middle class will emerge with force in 2011. couple it with No.4 and yes you’ll have talent and business merging and earning. But in pure DIY terms 2011 will be the year that 90% of artists out there fully realise that it’s still impossible to carve out a meaningful living as a musician/band. this sentiment has been brewing now for a while. Why? Because 90% of artists don’t have the goods to cut it. It’s that simple.

  2. Will- I agree with you in part. I think DIY will flourish and 2011 is when we begin to see artists bypass labels (big and small) and make it on their own, keeping their copyrights and profits. They’ll also realize that they can create a nice revenue stream by taking control of their licensing.
    Artists who connect with their fans and offer their stuff at a “no-brainer” price point will win. I’ve seen it work on the indie side of book publishing, which isn’t very different than music. There are indie authors that were shunned by the big publishers now making thousands a month doing it on their own.
    The caveat to this is that only the one’s with talent will be successful, and that will be decided by the fans, not the labels.
    Good luck to everyone in 2011 and wish you a kick-ass New Year!!

  3. Bruce,
    I would love to reprint this on my China Music Industry blog (www.chinamusicradar.com) and then compare these to my assessment as to what the Chinese music industry needs in 2011. Would you be happy for me to do this?
    Happy New Year and thanks for all the goodness…

  4. I love the idea of middle class of musicians who are constantly building and adding value to their mailing list and tribe.
    When you decide to stop trying to win the record deal lottery and start looking after you fans magic things can happen.

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