READ THIS NOW: Musicans – Please Be Brilliant Or Get Out Of The Way

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"The future does not fit in the containers of the past.”

"…musicians need to drop the notion of making money from CD sales through record labels and concentrate on making money from the experiential awareness that surrounds their brand; a brand they own, no one else. The downside to this for musicians is that they need to get organized and work hard, or arrange for what I call the “fifth Beatle” to help with online communications, selling merchandise etc…

Creating music is only the first step to creating something valuable and timeless. For instance, David Byrne played a building. Music released as part of an event is the future – Radiohead’s release of In Rainbows was the first step toward the album release as event, if it’s an album at all.. How it’s done is also important. The container has changed forever. Remember what Rishad Tobaccowala has to say to advertising agencies trying to embrace the social web – “The future does not fit in the containers of the past.” It is no different for bands. The organizing principle of recorded music is now in the hands of musicians, not technologists, not record labels. Consider this or perhaps release your music like this.

As I have written before: “Control has moved from the few to the millions of many. If dull labels and dull bands keep offering dull, flat, non-experiential product – e.g. a CD, they will go the way of the Dodo. Consider what Cirque Du Soleil provides as an experience compared to Barnum and Bailey’s circus. Or Burning Man compared to your average music festival.”

– From Gang Of Four's David Allen.  Read the rest. NOW.

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  1. Go explain this to Pandora, who require a CD for submission, then reject it with no explanation… the word of mouth is that all indies, unsigned people are rejected… Talk about technologists not ruling the new music ecosystem

  2. This editorial read like Dave Allen chopped a huge line of coke and dictated it while thumbing thru his iPhone contact list. It’s a collection of barely coherent thought fragments and name dropping – what is anyone who wasn’t up partying with him at 4am while he wrote this supposed to extract from this ramble?
    iTunes did a good job, The labels fucked up not signing a deal with Napster. People today have more power than record labels ever did. Lots of their music sucks. They should all use social media. ZZZzzzzzzzz…….
    Legions of musicians and aspiring label owners are looking for advice, trying to figure out what works. Clear thought, workable concepts and actionable advice will help move the needle.
    “I am still waiting. Unfortunately my patience is now wearing thin.”

  3. what a complete crock.
    “why isn’t there a punk rock for online music?”
    what does he mean by online music? music that only exists online? that’s not possible! or does he mean myspace/facebook/itunes/soundcloud/bandcamp/etc – which are, essentially, methods of distribution. A punk rock method of file distribution? This doesn’t make sense. It’s gibberish.
    and so too for his argument that musicians should stop sucking on the nanny state teat – where he appears to infer that the reason for any musician’s failure to succeed is because their predecessors had it comparatively easy. Folk musicians and electronic producers are blind to the new because Linkin Park are on MTV?
    …and again, for his curious inference that because commerical radio in the US doesn’t pay royalties, therefore arguments against filesharing are invalid. Does he think radio play is somehow analagous to sales?
    it pains me to think that people get paid to write and speak this kind of incoherent, unfocused, pseudo-academic drivel.
    ….and relax….

  4. He makes some good points but who cares about the containers? None of this is new at all. Making the music has always been just the first step. The rest is one part hard work, one part luck, and one part magic. And it’s always been that way! The formats and technologies and models will change but if that’s what you’re focused on…?

  5. Good points gentlemen. I respect the great music that Gang of Four put out in their time. Wonderful and badly underrated. Then David started up Pampelmoose. Initially I enjoyed and respected his passion and creative ideas on this fine and upstanding blog. He has done a lot for the North West scene and has catalysed and helped many artists there. Sadly this recent corporate speak riddled tirade has turned me right off. He has over become himself. I will be deleting my bookmark to Pampelmoose and get out of his way.

  6. Maybe its me, but….
    If you can get past his, shall we say bombastic writing style, you don’t think he makes some good points? Like it is time to stop whining and start doing?
    Please don’t delete me for asking…:>)

  7. Not at all Bruce. Yes there are some good points but lost in translation. Being here and now we are all indeed doing. While consulting artists I always stress the things that we can do, which are now many and various. David’s comments about getting of the way only alienates folks. Look at The Shaggs…awful or charming? I love them but it took Irwin Chusid and his great book Songs In The Key of Z to turn me on. Mentoring and not aggressive mentoring is always the best way to encourage growth and development. I could never delete you 😉

  8. well, to be quite honest i struggled to find a coherent point in his directionless ramble, apart from the obvious ‘stop whining and start doing’.
    Which, is frustrating, when you spend 10 minutes reading it wondering what he’s on about.
    It’s also insulting.
    I am a professional musician, and so are many of my friends and family. This idea that we all sit around whining about how life owes us a living and how filesharers are taking the food off our plates is a facile and insulting generalisation, and is surely a fabrication dreamed up by the likes of Dave to suit otherwise unsubstantiated polemics. I dislike filesharing, but I never claim it to be the be all and end all, the make or break of my career – likewise my peers in this – and I have also been struggling to do what I can in other areas; audio engineering, running a successful blog, promoting nights, selling t-shirts, compiling mailing lists, setting up labels, social networking, youtubing, twittering, and all the rest of it. In fact, so are all the people I know in music. When we tour, we spend our days handing out flyers, our nights hawking merch and our airplane luggage allowances on albums.
    The vast majority of musicians have never “sat on their hands” or claimed that recorded music sales “owe them a living” to paraphrase Dave. As we all know: 98% of musicians scrape and struggle and scratch their heads about how to best get by. They have never sold enough records to be able to relax – a few hundred here, a couple of thousand there; the average working musician spends his entire career touring and hustling. They twitter as best they can, they go round festivals selling t-shirts, they do what they can, and they watch their incomes slowly decline.
    So who are these people who are sitting on their hands and “whining instead of doing”? It’s not me. It’s not the people I work with or the people I know or the UK dance music scene in general.
    Perhaps it’s the people on Skyline Music Agency? No? I didn’t think it would be – I dare say they’re working as hard as everyone else is right now. Who ARE these people who need to “get out of the way” in Dave’s words? (And what does ‘get out of the way’ mean anyway? Is it possible for an artist who is sitting on their hands and being insufficiently brilliant to be in someone’s way, or is it just another cretinous platitude that Dave employs in his curious rant about everything and nothing?)
    You can understand therefore, I’m sure, why it gets people’s backs up to be told they’re stupid and lazy whiners, when 97% of them are not – especially from someone like Dave who freely admits that he made his money from the old industry and hasn’t really been properly involved in a decade.
    I invoked the name of Skyline there (sorry) to emphasise that just because most musicians are not internationally known, it doesn’t follow that the reason for their relative obscurity is laziness and luddism. (Or maybe your artists are indeed the people who should stop whining and start doing, in which case I apologise for jumping to conclusions there). OK, so a handful of wealthy major label artists (and indeed the majors themselves) maybe whining, but they are a minority and it’s not really fair to tar us all with the same brush; especially when you demonstrate (as Dave does) that you haven’t really looked too far into the real-life situations of the people you’re slating.
    The other angle, of course, is that he doesn’t offer any constructive advice besides platitudes and the bleedin’ obvious. “Embrace the new”? “Get out of the way”? “monetize your experiential awareness”? Meaningless, pretentious, pseudo-inetellectual drivel. Offensively so in fact. Tell my 50-year old uncle to monetize his experiential awareness as he hustles the pubs of rural Ireland on a Tuesday night and he’ll tell you you’ve had one too many. Tell the indie labels who used to sell 1000 copies per single but are now folding (because lets face it, this is the bread and butter of the industry), or some kid in a nightclub handing his demo to the headliner, that they need to stop sucking on the teat of the Nanny State and relying on all those MTV plays and they’ll laugh at you. And tell any band that they should create something valuable and they’ll tell you that’s all they ever wanted to do in the first place.
    I shall stop short of taking up Dave on some of his more idiotic comments – i.e. one minute slating musicians for not embracing new technologies, and then saying that any bands who sign up for myspace are short sighted and not punk rock enough; or implying that the argument against filesharing is nullified by the fact that MTV don’t pay royalties (huh?), because I’ve probably bored you already with my qualitative opinions on the effectiveness of his essay. Suffice it to say though (finally answering your question! haha!) that no, I don’t think Dave makes any good points. I suppose I’ve give you (at some length) my opinion on the ‘stop whining’ point, but if you spotted any others that I missed, please feel free to bring them to my attention!
    Apologies for the length of this ramble, perhaps I could have condensed somewhat – but Dave’s kind of aggressive blaming of musicians really does irk me. We know it’s all changing. We’re doing the best we can, working longer hours than ever and earning less than ever. It’s tough for now but we’ll figure it out.
    In the meantime, stop gloating Dave, it’s unseemly.

  9. Bruce;
    Pundits (who shall remain nameless) have been going to digital music conferences for over a decade now and spewing a subset of the same rant. Used to be they held up an iPod (then a cell, then an iPhone) and said “THIS IS THE FUTURE – embrace it!” Of course, the same folks touted various digital music services, or social networks, like they were Moses bringing stone tablets down the mountain. And in many cases, people needed to hear these condescending missives, because things weren’t changing.
    The problem with these kind of rants, which used to be appropriate in 1998, is that it’s 2009 now – everyone HAS EMBRACED ALL THIS STUFF. Every artist worth their salt has Myspace , Twitter and Facebook. So for Allen to post a note which basically says “wake up everybody, the music business has changed”, makes him look like the one who seems clueless.
    You’ve got a highly involved and informed readership, which can make for a “tough room”. I don’t think there was a single sentence in Allen’s post that would enlighten anyone but a digital novice.
    There’s a famously self-promoting digital music consultant who travels around the world, giving powerpoint presentations about the future of the music business. “In the future, music will be like water” is one of the pearls of wisdom people pay good money to hear.
    It’s 2009. Labels, retailers, digital music services and of course artists are struggling to manage the increased workload of maintaining all these sites, and measuring the ROI. The time for utopian psychobabble and broad stroke chicken little rants has long since passed.
    We know the barn burned down, we’re standing around the smoking pile of tinder, and starting to rebuild. Of course when a guy shows up ringing his fire bell or course we’re going to say “Yeah Sherlock, WE KNOW!”
    The guy has tons of experience as an artist and on the label side, I look forward to reading communiques that are a bit more useful from him in the future.

  10. I totally disagree. What you’re saying is give up your intellectual property to a marketing machine that will profit from it in the hopes of making enough at the live gate to compensate. I may not be wildly successful yet,but I aint giving up SHI* for free! Do Toyota and GM give away cars in the hopes that you come in for service? If the labels gave fair contracts and split the profits 50/50 after expenses,EVERYONE would make money. But the greedy bastards won’t do it,and I say off with their heads! If all the music acts showed some guts,and didn’t trade in their product for 15 minutes of fame and blowjobs from skank groupies,the labels would be forced to sign fair contracts.We need an artists Union,but it ain’t gonna happen because we have too many dumb assed artists who beg the majors to FUC* them over just for a temporary high. I’ve made more money selling 23,000 cds on my own than if I had gone gold with a major. I may not get on tv or be invited to the Grammys,but I smile knowing I’m making more money than the asshole with the fame. If money is all that’s important to the major labels,why shouldn’t it be important to me?

  11. Francois,just to let you know,Pandora has an explanation,but it sucks. They won’t accept your cd unless it’s for sale at one of the “big box” retailers, which kind of defeats the purpose of online sales. My record label does online only, and Pandora won’t give us any play even though I’m on Itunes,Imeem,Rhapsody,and a host of other download services. They’re just whores for the major labels. What’s the point of having an INTERNET radio station if you only play the music of cds you can find at Wal-Mart,Best Buy and Target? Isn’t that the point of selling downloads? No expense of cd production,no warehouse space,no time lag between production of the cd and presenting it for sale. Pandora is so Twentieth Century.

  12. It’s difficult to give it to the man when you’ve become the man. This essay makes little sense and seems a bit out of touch with today’s musicians who are in the trenches creating meaningful music. Instead of just wobbling on about stuff, tell us exactly how you are breaking new ground!

  13. Come on, guys, old and young! This essay has lots of great ideas:
    “concentrate on making money from the experiential awareness that surrounds their brand”
    Like Diddy does with his men’s fragrance!
    And they can sell the t-shirts they wore while performing after each show!!
    I smell the stench of innovation!!!

  14. After a couple of years of reading music industry blogs pretty much on a daily basis, I’m starting to feel groundhog-dayish. And since everyone+dog has already done thousands of twists on these fab new ideas and the new music industry hasn’t materialised in all its glory, I guess I’ll just ignore everything Allen has said and I advise everyone to do the same.
    Go make some great music and then do your best to sell it. It worked in the past and guess what? It still does. It’s just about the only thing that really does. It’s not rocket science: you just need some good songs and people who want to listen.
    They’re out there.

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