The last time I earned a nickel in the music business was almost six years ago. At the time I was killing off a 34-year career with a one-year stint as the head of sales for a record label that had enjoyed great success with it's large catalog of early roots, country, and bluegrass music, and it's uncanny ability to market all sorts of tribute albums to fans who were completists. With a good 10- to 15-year run of new and expanding big box retailers (think Best Buy and Circuit City, Tower and Virgin, Borders and Barnes, Sam's Club and Costco), a nice profit could be made just by filling the shelves up with inventory and enjoying what is known as incremental sales. Ones and twos.
When the physical retail business model fell apart and we ran out of places to merchandise our plastic discs and great cover art, we went digital, cut overhead, and life went on. The staff got small, signing artists and putting out new releases pretty much went away. Producers, musicians, graphic designers, warehouse folks and salespeople were no longer needed, or at least not at the same level. I went into an exile-semi-retirement phase, began to again enjoy the act of listening to music rather than monetizing it, and started to post articles here at No Depression.
Over the years, I've watched and written about the change in revenue streams and it's impact on musicians and composers. When it seemed like digital downloads (both legal and dubious) were going to eliminate the need for real and tangible product, vinyl records started to get released again, and a small but sturdy group of indie stores have held on tight. Although vinyl sales alone don't account for very much in terms of dollars, vinyl's appeal to a new generation of fans has been very positive.
For musicians who are traveling, performing, and selling tickets to gigs, there's always music product in various configurations and other merchandise available to fans who want to enhance their concert experience or simply support the artists. And, the proceeds usually go straight into their pockets. Most folks, at least in the roots music genre, won't retire on it, but it can be a nice living.
If you've hung on so far and have been waiting for a "but"...here it is.
The newfangled version of streaming -- something like your Spotify Premium account -- is now cutting into digital downloads for the first time. And it's going to kill it off. With the ability to choose from millions of songs, create your own playlists and then put them on your mobile devices without the need to maintain a cellular or internet connection -- all at $10 a month -- the party is over. And, with this model, there is very little money left to be spread to the label, musician, composer, publisher, and producer. Yes, people will continue to purchase physical product or download it, but (there it is) the masses will move on. Turn out the lights.
All of which brings me to this.
Last week an article written by Van Dyke Parks (Google him if you don't know) was discussed ad nauseam by folks who used to be in the music business and now spend all their time talking or writing about it. (Ahem...it's my day off. I don't spend all my time doing this.) The bottom line from Van the Man was that he wrote a song with Ringo (Google him too) and if its streamed 100,000 times (wishful thinking), it will yield them $80. Never mind that his math was off and it's more like $800, because even that seems sort of anemic for a former Beatle and the lyricist for the Beach Boys to make. Welcome to the new world.
Which brings me finally to BandPage.
What was launched in 2010 and destined to become another social networking footnote in history ala MySpace (forgive me while I chuckle), has in the last year taken off as the #1 platform to connectivity and monetization. What? Ok...they put you and/or your band into the digital world and, among other services, help you create EXPERIENCES. At first only available to the elite, EXPERIENCES will soon be available to all.
Here's a few examples:
-Zack Wylde will give you an online guitar lesson for $2,500.
-Meet George Clinton after the show for $150. Or take the family to hang with Ozzy Osbourne for $4,000. Not a typo.
-John Legend's guitar player will do a 30 minute backstage lesson for only $75 at his solo show.
-Get your picture Photoshopped on the cover of Sgt. Peppers for $150,000! (Made that one up.)
You get the idea.
"Want your bio, profile photo and tour dates (and ticket links) listed on iHeartRadio, Rdio, SoundCloud or Xbox Music when your song is playing? Want your VIP meet and greet, T-shirt or tour dates listed on the sidebar of lyric sites such as SongMeanings.com when a fan is reading your lyrics? Get your info updated on BandPage. Currently BandPage is connected to 10 outlets that artists can choose to send their info out with the click of a button. Many more outlets are being announced very soon." Here's the video plug:
If you thought Kickstarter was fun, and I loved that Jeff Black gave away a car for a $1000 pledge for his last album, having musicians create EXPERIENCES for you to spend your money on will be so much better. Or not. The idea of me onstage with Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock (Suggested Retail Price: $1,000,000) is unnerving.
Welcome to the new world.