It’s no secret that the music industry and undergoing a transmutation of seismic proportions. Illegal downloading, labels suing fans, online radio…this is not your daddy’s Peaches Record store.
The always excellent Chet Flippo over at CMT.com takes a look at the industry through the actions of the purple provocateur Prince and his recent giveaway of his latest CD, Planet Earth, that came bundled free with UK Sunday newspaper The Mail.
Prince’s bread and butter this far into his career is concert tickets, and instead of wasting time, effort and money trying to woo listeners to his new work he uses the music as a means to a promotional end, Prince gives away his latest CD, his Label, , Sony BMG, throws a hissy and refuses to distribute the CD in the UK, the press covers both events and Prince pockets a cool $500,000 from The Mail.
Technology has changed the rules of distribution and consumer behavior and the best the labels could do was to sue the fans and alienate them further. Brilliant! It took a technology company to do what the labels couldn’t stop squabbling long enough to do, make significant cash. It took Steve Jobs to kick their ass, bring them together and show them the future all while taking his cut and selling jillions of iPods.
The Opry entertained everyone within their frequency range on the radio, the Beatles brought their media of the time to bear in getting their music, and their personalities, out by doing Hard Days Night. and Porter Wagoner was using T.V. to get his music, and his Nudie suits, on screens all across America. Past artists looked for new opportunities and they, or their managers, capitalized on them.
Chet’s colleague Patrick Goldstein saw the future and became a casualty when he dared use old media (the newspaper) to advocate for new media business models in conjunction with musical artists willing to offer their music that would then share in advertising revenue.
Artists have to be paid for their work. I do believe that. But I also believe that the rules have changed and income streams and earning potential come from different and untaped places. The field is wide open for those artists willing to look at their world in innovative ways.