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Music, Entertainment, Arts Business Blog 

The Suits will inherit the Earth, or History will teach us nothing.

Ben O'Hara - Friday, February 03, 2012

I have been reading Bobby Owsinski’s book ‘Music 3.0 A Survival Guide for Making Music in the Internet Age‘ It’s an interesting read.

He presents an interesting contention in the 1st few chapters.  In summary he suggests that the music industry has entered into 5 distinct phases.

Music 1.0 – 1950’s to mid 1980’s.  ‘It’s all about the MUSIC’. 

Owsinski suggests that this golden era for music saw record companies created by music fans who were discovering great music and finding ways to get that music to consumers – other music fans.  The industry was run by fans of music – for fans of music… until the suits take over.

Music 1.5 Mid 1980’s – CD’s and reselling the back catalogue.  The suits take over

Eventually, the bigger record labels were born, and all of the little indi labels get swallowed up by bigger ones.  There are still music fans at the heart of these bigger companies, but they are fans that realize that this rock music thing is more than a passing fad – it’s a business where you can make plenty of money.  As people re-buy on CD all of the stuff they had already bought on vinyl, the cash is just rolling in.  Big Artists make big profits for the big companies.  We end up with just a handful of major companies and they are owned by even bigger companies.  The TIME/Warner’s the Vivendi’s who have no idea about music.  It’s just another profit source for them.

Music 2.0 – The Digital Age – 1990’s.
Peer to Peer networks, file sharing, CD burning and so on.  The fans take control of the music once again.  ‘I want all the music I can get my hands on, I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t need too. ‘  Every fan of file sharing or of obtaining music illegally will at some point say in their defense one of the following statements:

  1. I was sick of paying for whole albums when all I really wanted was a couple of songs
  2. I buy lots of music anyway, I use online to find what I might buy later
  3. I don’t want to give my money to rich artists and even richer record companies.
  4. I only access stuff I can’t get anywhere else anyway.

It’s a golden era for consumers.  Free music…until the suits take over…

Music 2.5 – Digital Music is Monetized 2000’s

Apple iTunes and others realize that there is money to be made from online music.  They just need an interface that is better than the file sharing options, deals with the majors and indi’s to access their music and a price that competes with free.  So while iTunes doesn’t replace free music it does make a dent in it and it does replace the CD store.  iTunes, Amazon, Online Radio, The new Napster, Virgin all have a go at making big profits from online music.  What was once the domain of the fans is now a profit making machine for the big corporations.  This time the record companies miss out – it’s the technology companies that are controlling things.

Music 3.0 Artist/Fan Communication – 2006 onwards

Owsinski reckons that now is truly the golden era for musicians.  This is the era where musicians no longer needing the big companies.  We can of course finally communicate directly with fans via MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and so.  We can now cut out the middleman.  Owsinski reckons it will just keep getting better as well.  The technologies will continue to improve and there will once again be a golden era where the music really counts.

I think he is missing a pattern here.  ‘UNTIL THE SUITS TAKE OVER.’  History has shown us that true music fans and the musicians themselves drive the advances and changes but eventually the suits will take over.  If there is real money to be made, big business will eventually devise a system that they can control, where they can make the lion share of profits and they can funnel creator to consumer communication, to ensure big profits to them.

It might not happen right away, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will happen.  Sometime in the next 10 years, a better system for communicating and getting money from fans will come along, access to that system will be limited to the chosen few and the profits will end up back in the pockets of big business.  I hate to sound pessimistic about this – but it’s what’s going to happen.  History has shown this to be true.

I am not saying that you may as well give up on direct to fan communication.  Not at all, I think it is the key for the moment.  Just be aware that there will come a point where it is no longer a level playing field.  

Ben O'Hara

The 2011 AMPAL Event in Melbourne - AMPAL Presents BEHIND THE MUSIC

Ben O'Hara - Tuesday, May 10, 2011




May 23rd, AMPAL (the Australian Music Publisher's Association) will be hosting a panel and music night at the Evelyn Hotel on Brunswick St, Fitzroy. The aim of the night is to provide local musicians, songwriters and music enthusiasts with some insight into the future of music through an expert panel discussion, made up of musicians and industry players. The panel will be answering questions and musing about the changing state of the music industry. If you are an aspiring musician wanting to get a break, or a hopeful industry professional seeking inside information you can't miss this exclusive event.


Panelists include Adalita (of Magic Dirt fame), Ian James (Mushroom Music Publishing), David Vodicka (Media Arts Lawyers/Rubber Records), Natalie Bell (Milefire Management), and Marianna Annas (ABC Music Publishing).


Adalita, currently touring nationally with her debut self-titled album, will be performing exclusively at the end of the evening's panel.


Tickets available from, $10 presale, $12 at the door. Seating is very limited. Book now.

Music Fans Vs Popular Culture Fans

Ben O'Hara - Sunday, April 10, 2011

Music Fans Verses Pop Culture Fans

I know that everyone has had a say about Rebecca Black in the past week or two (I am not even going to link to the video here) but I thought it timely to remember that Rebecca Black doesn’t really have anything to do with music or the music industry.

A lot has been written about Black’s ‘Friday’ video, (for the record I reckon I have seen and heard much worse – try 95% of the demo’s that come across my desk!) Much of what has been written looks at Black as if we are seeing something new in terms of the music industry.  We have always had Rebecca Blacks’ (remember the Crazy Frog?) and they will always get noticed some how – but it is nothing to do with music.

It is a popular culture fad.  She will come and go fast enough, unless she does something outrageous or exhibits a hidden talent that is not apparent on ‘Friday’.  It’s no big deal.  There is no difference between Black and the ‘Dancing Baby’ YouTube video, or ‘Charley bit my finger’ or countless others.  (YouTube them if you don’t know what I mean.) They are just unusual moments that get traction for some unknown reason, they become the must see moment of the week.  Big deal.  Nothing to do with music at all.

There are a lot of commentators who get stuck on this point.  I think that there are really two types of fans out there.  Music fans and Popular culture fans.  The music fans are serious about music; they listen to it, buy it and connect with music because they have to.  The music is what they are all about and they can’t live without it.  It is important to them.

The 2nd type of fan is the popular culture fan.  These people connect with music because music provides important touchstone moments in their lives…but they could live without it.  They might buy music from time to time, but they are more likely to buy music that is hot at the time, they won’t seek out an artists back catalogue or snap up everything that artist has touched.

I am not trying to belittle the pop cultures fans music experience, it might be important to them, but nothing like it is for a music fan. 

The problem for the music industry is that the pop culture fans heavily out number the music fans.  Horribly so.  The Music fan is also more likely to be a collector.  Their CD collection means something to them.  The CD and it’s artwork are important, something to have and cherish.  Pop culture fans are more likely to find the illegal download because it is about experiencing that touchstone moment, not collecting.

For years now I have see groups of students express this frustration with music not being as important to the rest of the world as it is to them.  They take a superior view that suggests that the pop culture fan is below the music fan and that it is some sort of right that ‘serious’ music (what ever that is) be taken seriously.  This gives them a license to dismiss anything that they see as not ‘serious’ music, stuff like Blank’s Friday video is reviewed and viewed as if it is competing for a place in their converted and carefully curated CD collections.  Of course in reality, it’s not.  It’s just a touchstone moment in 2011 culture that will be fondly remembered by a handful and completely forgotten by everyone else.

So let’s not worry about Rebecca Black – it’s as relevant to music as the yoyo craze that sweeps through school every few years.  Nothing to it.

Ben O’Hara

Rick Springfield is a Marketing Genius

Info Info - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rick Springfield is Marketing Genius


Remember Rick Springfield?   Probably not, right. Think 1982 and Jessie’s Girl, still struggling?  Well it turns out that his fans remember him.  Rick is working on the Nine Inch Nail’s model of connecting with fans + reason to buy = $$$ (Look up Michael Masnick’s talk here if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

Rick is so good at it he has made a documentary about his fans love for him and his love for his fans.  View the trailer here -

Talk about connecting with your fans.  Personally my favourite bit was “he can do whatever he wants to Jessie’s Girl, just so long as he keeps his damm hands off my wife.”


Rick’s site is amazing, the amount of merch on there is huge and he sells premium stuff, auto graphed albums and guitars, premium packing of CD’s and special concert tickets that include attending the sound check and meet and greets before and after the show.  Even better than all of that – why not join Rick on a Rick Springfield themed cruise?  Travel the seven seas’s, and explore new places all with Rick Springfield and his band playing all the way through. 


Check out the video from last years cruise.


What’s the lesson in all of this for you?

This guy is a bona fide Rockstar and you can get this close to him.  He loves the fans and he gives a lot to them.  He truly connects with the fans and gives them a reason to buy.  (Good luck downloading a cruise on the internet)  He is giving the fans a true Rick Springfield experience.  All bands can learn from this – updating your Facebook and sitting at the merch table after the gig is not connecting with fans.  I not saying that taking them on a cruise is, Springfield has workout that most of his fans are 35 to 45 year old women who remember having a crush on him 30 odd years ago.  You have to workout what your fans connect with you for…and meet them there.

The Dawn of the Independant Musician

Info Info - Friday, August 20, 2010

2005 was the dawn of the new music industry. The old industry was a world where the corporate fat cats finally got so greedy that they actually started to devour themselves, but that left a space for everyone else. I think great music is finally back and the music industry is re-discovering its soul. All thanks to the independent musician.

For me, 2005 was the moment when I realised that it was no longer possible to keep track of every great new band that was out there. I used to be able to ask 18 or 19 year olds, ‘so what kind of music are you into’ and I would know every band that they listed. In 2005 the answer to that question just got so ‘far out there’ that nobody could keep track. ‘I’m totally into this Industrial/Grind Core German metal band; they don’t have a record label and have never toured outside of Germany. They only have 112 fans on MySpace so far, but I am the most passionate of all their fans. I have every T-Shirt and I made a video clip for them, which is being played on German community television.’ WHAT?

It’s not the 1st time in history that this has happened. The original music business of the 1950’ and 1960’s was all about people power. Record Labels and Radio started playing rock n’ roll due to overwhelming demand from fans wanting to discover new music. The labels didn’t really care about rock music but the fans did and the Baby-Boomer kids had money. The Baby-Boomers actively sought new music but with limited communication options they relied on the corner stones of the record label, the radio and the retailer to help them find it. Those 3 became the ‘taste makers’ telling the consumer that they knew what was good music and what was not. They supposedly filtered out the bad music and let consumers access the good stuff.

Here is where it all started to go down hill, the labels worked out that it was not about the music at all, it was about having ‘hits’. If you are going to sell something, it is much more profitable to sell lots of one product than lots of different products. The filter got narrower and narrower. The definition of ‘good music’ really became ‘most popular’ or the ‘highest selling music.’ The 80’s were really full of this kind of thinking. The easiest to digest music was the most popular and niche music got pushed out of the way.

Somewhere around 1994-95 file sharing and Napster suddenly took hold. The filter was off for the 1st time. While most of the music that was shared was still the super popular stuff, there was plenty of obscure, niche stuff available. All those previously unrealised tracks (unreleased because the record company thought they were not “commercial enough”) were suddenly available to anyone with a home computer, anywhere in the world. In a way the record companies tried to jump on-board, digital music stores (like Apple’s iTunes) offered legal paid for downloads, but the filter was still there. You could only buy what the companies made available and only in the territory where you held a credit card. All in all, not enough freedom and not enough niche music was made available. The independent musician was left out.

Then in 2005, MySpace really took hold. The music maker could interact directly with the fan. No filter at all. Any band, any fan, anywhere in the world. The filter providers (the record label, the radio/TV stations, the retailers) become completely irrelevant. This changes everything and levels out the playing field for everyone. Now in 2010 it’s all about good music again. It’s not about getting a stack of record company cash behind you or getting main stream radio airplay. It’s about getting fans to talk to you directly. No more excuses. Just make great music, get it out there (you know all of the ways you can do that) and start building a stack of fans.

I think that history will look back on 2005 to 2010 as the beginning of the next phase of the music industry. The Dawn of the Independent Musician.

Ben O’Hara

Tax deducations and musicians

Mark Beard - Monday, July 26, 2010

It's tax time again... time to complete those tax returns and collect a refund?

Maintaining financial records

The ATO (Australian Taxation Office) requires both individual employees and businesses to keep source document evidence of economic activity. The reason being that expense transactions are used both by individuals and businesses to reduce taxable income, so naturally the ATO requires available evidence of the transaction and thus the deduction.

In the case of work-related expenses for individuals the ATO states:

"You must have written evidence to prove your claims if your total claims exceed $300. The records you keep must prove the total amount, not just the amount over $300. The $300 limit does not apply to claims for car, meal allowance, award transport payments allowance and travel allowance expenses. There are special written evidence rules for these claims." Source:

In the case of records for businesses (including companies, sole-traders and partnerships) the ATO states:

"By law, you must keep business records for five years after they are prepared, obtained or the transactions completed, whichever occurs latest. In addition the records must be in English or in a form that we can access and understand in order to work out the amount of tax you are liable to pay."

Are you a special professional?

Did you you know that as a Australian resident (for tax purposes) and a special professional you may be eligible for what the Australia Taxation Office (ATO) calls "Income averaging for special professionals"?

The ATO states:

"You are a special professional if you use intellectual, artistic, musical, physical or other personal skills in the presence of an audience or you perform or appear in a film, on a tape or disc, or in a television or radio broadcast." Source:

Essentially, income averaging is what is called a "concessional tax treatment" and may provide "special professionals" the ability to "spread" their income over a number of years and possibly save on tax.

For more information consult your accountant, tax adviser or downloaded the ATO information sheet via:

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