Originality Will Keep The Music Industry Breathing

WIRED’s The Listening Post published an article last week that offers 5 solutions that were proposed by The Leading Question and Music Ally. Here are the five major points:

1. Music needs to be bundled with other products and entertainment packages: Value can be created from many other ways than consumers simply buying the occasional download. Music needs to move away from per unit sales and become more of a service than a product. It should be pre-loaded into devices, bundled with mobile tariffs, offered as part of TV/Entertainment/ISP packages.

2. Labels needs to experiment with new release schedules and formats: The old model of single and album releases has run its course. Labels needs to be more innovative if they are not to be freezed out altogether. Look at the likes of Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Prince and experiment with new and varied formats, new pricing models and release schedules, digital only releases and promotional partnerships with brands.

3. Free doesn’t mean no money: The music industry should not fear free. It needs to embrace it. The culture of the net is free or at least feeling free. But money can still be made from other sources: everything from advertising supported services, to brands paying for an association with the artists to newspapers paying for giveaway CDs.

4. Change the charts: The Charts don’t make much sense anymore. Now that fewer and fewer people are buying music the charts need to reflect the other ways that people are consuming music.

5. Trust the DJ: Online means anyone can access or own John Peel’s entire record collection, but the instant and massive availability of music on demand means you need a trusted guide like John Peel more than ever. The new layers of value will come from the social connections that come about through music as much as from the music itself.

My first reaction is to ask: Will this really make a difference? Some of these suggestions might, but others have been tried and haven’t succeeded. Changing formats? Do we need to remember Super Audio CD, or DVD Audio? These were supposed to make a difference and the format that would kill the CD. Then, there was the DualDisc. I have a few of these, but once again, I don’t own a DVD-Audio player so I can’t take full advantage of what they offer. Are the gurus suggesting changing downloadable formats then? We end up with the same problem. Will current technology that people own support new playable formats? Probably not. I also doubt the current economy will encourage us to go out and buy new technologies when the current ones work just fine.

However, I do think that the charts are outdated, but what does that have do with how we purchase music? I can’t remember the last time I looked at a Billboard chart and told myself to by the #1 album only because it was at the top. Shouldn’t we like the music first? I am picky listener and most of the music that is on the charts doesn’t do it for me. I will listen to it on the radio – maybe – but don’t expect me to buy something because it is made the “top ten.”

Why do we have to wait until Tuesday to purchase new music? Does it really matter when music is released? As long as the materials are ready for distribution, release it. Granted, there are promotional and special packaging options to consider as well. I am sure some if will be garbage and take away from the reason we choose to buy a CD or download songs.

What all of these recommendations suggest is the music industry has been stuck in the Jurassic period for some time and they need to enter the 21st century ASAP. Musicians now have the power to market themselves without the need of a music label. The Internet started to change the game, but now social media has taken it a step further. What musicians NEED to have is a manager with connections to help their tunes get heard. In the end, we the people decide who lives and who dies – and there is nothing the music industry can do about it.

What the music industry constantly overlooks is the need to have musical acts with originality. I am sick and tired of turning on the radio and hearing the current “new artist” sound pretty much like the previous one. If the industry wants to sell more records, then find artists that have an ORIGINAL voice. New artists should have something new to say. Otherwise, they won’t last or survive. Sure, you can have one hit, but then what? The CD will either end up traded or the download deleted. There is a reason why we continue to listen to Beethoven, Elvis, George Gershwin and Jimi Hendrix continue to have success even though they have been dead for quite some time. They are all different in the sense that each had a unique musical “voice” when compared to their peers, and they all pushed the musical envelope.

The bottom line – people want to be inspired. Find the musicians that inspire, and the music industry can save itself.

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