The future of the recorded music business was going to be quite different than it had been in the past.
I sat down one night and typed up a one page manifesto (ok, so it was more like a bullet point list than "manifesto", but my blood was boiling with a manifesto-ish fervor...)about how I would tackle the difficult task of developing new artists to create sustainable careers in that late 00's.
A couple of days later I stumbled across an article that David Byrne had written for wired.com My first thought was "Dammit, this is way better than my manifesto." but upon reading further I realized that he had written a thoughtful, thorough assessment of the past, present and possibly future "recorded music business". His take on the present:
What is called the music business today, however, is not the business of producing music. At some point it became the business of selling CDs in plastic cases, and that business will soon be over.
Two years later and CDs are still selling. It hasn't been a crash as much as it has been a slow deflation but the words of the prophets are written on the studio wall: CDs are not long for this world. When Aderra was out on the road with O.A.R. one of their fans told us
"CDs are for old people!!"
We have taken this drunken declaration to heart. But to be fair, my parents got an iPod Nano 2 years ago and have not bought a CD since. (Sorry Mom and Dad, didn't mean to lump you in with "Old People", I am just getting scientific with age demographics...)
Byrne goes on to make several keen observations including, "Touring is not just promotion. Live performances used to be seen as essentially a way to publicize a new release — a means to an end, not an end in itself. Bands would go into debt in order to tour, anticipating that they'd recover their losses later through increased record sales. This, to be blunt, is all wrong. It's backward. Performing is a thing in itself, a distinct skill, different from making recordings. And for those who can do it, it's a way to make a living." Word to that.
He also lays out six scenarios for recorded music distribution, from the trendy "360" deal to the other end of the continuum, completely independent distribution by the artist. You can read the full article and listen to accompanying interviews with Brian Eno and others about the state of the music biz HERE.
In 2008 Byrne followed some of the path he had laid out in the article and released and new collaboration with Eno, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today" in conjunction with TopSpin. Following the TopSpin model, several tiers were offered for fans to engage. This included a free widget that could be embedded on any web page or Blog. Here it is:
On top of the free widget three price tiers were offered on everythingthathappens.com including a $69.99 Deluxe package.
It is not CDs in and of themselves that are old fashioned but the notion of selling music as product surely is.