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Music Industry Fail: This Time It's Personal.

image from www.google.comThe big mistake that the industry continues to make is that too many are thinking of music in terms of social engagement, when it is actually a deeply personal experience.

The huge success of Amanda Palmers Kickstarter campaign, which has so far raised over half a million dollars, exemplifies this point. People are willing to shell out on music when they feel a personal connection to it. When they feel part of the process on a very personal level - they want to invest in that opportunity. 

I understand that Twitter and Facebook help connect the fans to this opportunity, but it only acted as advertising, not a replacement for distribution.


The problem with streaming services is that they are very impersonal. To subscribe and get unlimited music does not align the buyer with what they feel is “their” artist. Fans want ownership in the artists they connect with. That piece of ownership used to come with a CD. It would sit proudly in their collection - a defining part of them. This is somewhat realized with iTunes, when you pay your money and add it to your iPod, but it has always been thought of as a transitional format, and has a temporary air to it.

Does this not explain the rise in vinyl sales? To have the release on this very organic format makes the experience that bit more personal. It may never be played, but it becomes an important addition to ones collection, something solid in what has become a very transient business.


When music is channeled into a social tool, it immediately loses ownership. This works to a certain extent but only a superficial level - it explains why viral videos are quirky and funny but the majority lacks any real substance. They become quickly forgotten. Bands now value their own and others worth on the amount of Facebook likes or video plays they have. But these are social engagements, not personal engagements, by which I mean they do not leave a lasting piece of the artist in the engager’s personal collection. When a company or band looks to exploit the social nature of music they are investing in a very temporary and fleeting business that has very little actual worth. 

The music industry is not Facebook, it certainly isn’t Zynga or some token based gaming system. It has become the norm for people to associate the future of music with companies like Facebook. Facebook is free, it’s impersonal, it actually has very little to do with what music is about; it is not a model or distribution system to base the music industry on.


Everyone has been focusing on the artists, on the record labels, on social networks and streaming. It seems that the fans are the ones everyone is neglecting to take into account. Record companies need to be looking how to connect the fan direct with the artist and monetizing that, not connecting the fan with all music ever made, because it is not actually rewarding to the fan on a personal level.

Fans want ownership of their music, they want a piece of the artist and they are willing to pay for it, they want something that will be a part of them forever. They want it to be about them, to be personal, to define them, to be something to add to their collection, and they want their own collection, not someone else’s. 

They do not consider themselves connected to band simply because they liked their page or watched their video.

It is the desires of the fan that will decide the future of the music industry, because to the fan, the music they buy, and their connection to its makers, is worth much more on a personal level than any service trying to offer mass consumption and social saturation.

Robin Davey is a independent musician, filmmaker, and VP of Music and Film development at GROWvision Studios. Follow him on twitter @mr_robin_davey