Rethinking Music Pts. 1 and 2 – Creativity, Commerce and Policy

Check out these two excellent podcasts in preparation for the upcoming Rethink Music conference coming up this April in Boston.

Radio Berkman #168 Rethinking Music Pt. 1
Radio Berkman #173 Rethinking Music Pt. 2 – The Portrait of the Self-Published Artist

California Copyright Conference : “The Music Industry: A Survival Guide for the Future”

Tuesday evening’s panel at the California Copyright Conference dinner in Sherman Oaks was quite upbeat considering the many uncertainties of these times. The panel, moderated by Shawn LeMone, ASCAP’s VP of Film/TV and Visual Media, and Diane Snyder-Ramirez, VP of Royalty Accounting and Administration at The Royalty Review Council, consisted of:
  • Russell Emanuel, CEO, Extreme Music
  • Amanda Marks, EVP/GM, Universal Music Distribution
  • Patrick Russo, Principal, The Salter Group
  • Kari Kimmell, Recording Artist and Songwriter
  • Victor Rodriguez, Music Director THQ, Inc.
The theme for the evening was, “synch licensing.” Traditional music industry boundaries continue to blur and each panelist discussed evolving practices from their individual perspectives. 
Patrick Russo began the discussion with an entertainment industry revenue analysis. The larger segment is growing and diversifying, although music revenues will continue to decline. The good news is, music is ubiquitous and a key component in a wide palette of entertainment properties. This creates new opportunities for licensing and publishing revenues.
Russell Emanuel described the huge shifts in the music library business. The industry is moving into what was once considered independent label territory. Extreme Music is courting independent, niche artists (mostly songwriters) rather than the more traditional jack-of-all-trades composers. 
Victor Rodriguez is producing video game scores with traditional film composers as well as scoring entire properties from music libraries. Music is being licensed for virtual social networks and multiple co-branding opportunities are emerging across media platforms.
Kari Kimmell’s music has been featured in over 100 film and television shows. She controls her catalog and handles the licensing and business development with music supervisors herself. Although business takes up 50% of her time these days, Kari is very excited about the successes and opportunities available to her as an independent artist. 
Amanda Marks is anticipating a surge of tablet devices, providing a compelling entertainment experience for consumers. She is excited about the potential of apps to filter music, cutting through the noise in the channel and bringing the cream to the top. App developing tools are becoming more affordable and available to artists. Amanda feels that music distribution will be firmly ensconced in the cloud in a few years. A licensed experience where listeners can get anything, anytime, anywhere, will be a game-changing alternative to pirated music.
Revenue opportunities for creators are a mix of licensing fees, back-end residuals and exposure (the highly coveted “Chyron”). How these trends can benefit musicians working in non-pop genres is not as clear but one thing is certain: The music industry is a moving target, accelerating every day. The keys to “Survival” are making great music, working hard, and staying ahead of new revenue opportunities.

The Future of The Professional Musician

As the music business continues to shift, the future vision for professional musicians remains a work in progress. By professional, I mean a person who has devoted themselves to the mastery of one or several of the musical arts. This would include instrumentalists, composers, orchestrators, songwriters, recording engineers, educators and producers. Music is a deep and profound human language and I think Malcolm Gladwell is fairly accurate when he sets the bar for mastery at 10,000 hours. For most people pursuing music on this level, a professional career is essential to that process.

To the general public, ‘The Music Industry’ is about pop music entertainers who may or may not be truly accomplished musicians. The topical conversations about freemium and direct-to-fan marketing have been focused on self-contained bands or singer-songwriters. The fact is, there are many complex business models contained within the music industry and all are been shaken up by the rapid changes in technology and the global economy. How do you plan your career if you are not primarily a singer-songwriter or performer?

Professional musicians have always relied on multiple income streams to make money. Today, the business is changing so quickly that musicians will need not only a thorough understanding of the traditional elements of the business, but will also need to master the Internet to brand and market themselves. As you start your career, think about what you do best. What strengths do you have that can be applied to marketing, networking and business? Frank Zappa used to ask people he was auditioning, “What do you do that’s amazing?” That’s a great place to start.

Who is your target audience? Whether they are music fans, film producers, music supervisors, educators, technology managers, or other musicians, be clear about your unique brand and use every tool at your disposal to get the word out and build your network. Educate yourself about the intricacies of music publishing and licensing. Get involved in the conversations about the future of copyright. See how you can apply direct-to-fan marketing strategies like Mike Masnick’s CwF + RtB = $$ to your career goals.

There are many excellent blogs and resources on the web. There’s a good article in the latest issue of Berklee Today on Gerd Leonhard and his ideas for collective licensing and web marketing for musicians. Don’t get stuck on old paradigms. Even traditional aspects of the music business such as publishing, are in flux. The process of change will only accelerate and the successful business models of the future will be entirely new.

The challenge is finding a balance between the need for self-promotion and the passionate pursuit of music. It’s not easy to spend twelve hours a day immersed in music and then put on your marketing hat. Planning is key. First figure out what you do best, then set specific goals for your career. The tools for self-promotion can be overwhelming. Having strong mission and vision statements and clear milestones and benchmarks will help you identify the tools and strategies that will work best for you.

Above all, stay connected to the music inside you.