No one logged in. |
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


Developed by Kreshendo.com