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Wesley Verhoeve: Music As A Service Rather Than A Product [Part 1]

Ny1(UPDATED) Guest post by Wesley Verhoeve (@wesleyverhoeve), an artist manager, producer, curator, and the founder of Family Records.

Yesterday’s article really seems to have struck a chord. Not only did it destroy all previous page visit and social stats for this blog, it also brought about the most heated debate in the comments and on twitter. The main criticism of my point of view originates from a certain false moral high ground, and a convenient historic amnesia when it comes to copyrights. It can be summed up as follows:

It’s stealing, and in the case of legal streaming it’s unfair compensation, and we will dig our heels in for moral reasons and fight our customers on this.

To this I say two things. First, thank you, because folks like this make it much easier for forward thinking people to gain traction and find success in music. Secondly, please join us and work on a real solution and re-invention rather than fighting a losing battle.

The aforementioned historic amnesia is fascinating. People so easily forget that paying for music is somewhat of a recent, and short-lived, phenomenon. It had it’s nice little run based on manufactured scarcity as designed by major corporations profiting from music. For centuries artists created because they had to, and they made money here and there, if and when they were good enough to gain an audience. Artist’s were grateful when this happened, as it was rare and came only after a lot of work and great sacrifices, if at all. In the last 50 years things changed as major companies started seeing value and exploitation opportunities. In the process some millionaires were made, and entitlement entered the mind set of artists and music business folks alike. Copyrights are a very recent construct, lobbied for and brought into existence by corporate interests to protect their investment in the artist’s work, but not the artists themselves.

Think of music more as a service than a product, and see how that changes your perspective. We can choose to feel entitled and rail against the natural consumption behavior of the music fan, or we can be smart about it and spend our energy on creating value that people do want to pay for instead. We can try to get the genie back into the jar, or we can just make the most of our wishes.

They fought the VCR, but it was convenient and it won. They fought cassette tapes, CDR’s, TiVo’s, and now streaming, but they were convenient and they won. Will we ever learn that progress can’t be stop and the only way to win is to stay ahead of the curve, or at the very worst not lag behind?

Think about your customers first, and it all becomes a lot easier. Music is the most special thing in the world, yet it doesn’t give creators and purveyors a special entitlement pass. No one owes you anything. It’s not about deserving, it’s about earning. Entitlement is alienating, and to be entitled about something as powerful as music is especially ugly.

I’ll leave you with a Kurt Vonnegut quote that I thought was rather apropos.

Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”