Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Digital Music and The Death of the Big Band

The way we listen to music has dramatically changed.

Imagine, a Guns N Roses album being released a decade back. First sign you get of it is from a rolling stone magazine that you browse for free in some fancy book shop. The first moment of truth arrives when you get to see that huge fancy produced video on MTV! You long and ache until finally you get to see the CD or cassette sleeve in your neighborhood music store. You pay up, you read up everything the sleeve has to say and you listen to the damn thing a million times over. Even if you don’t like it, you still listen to it a million times over, ‘cause (a) you’ve paid for it and (b) you don’t have any thing else new to listen to! And eventually, you get to like it! And congrats, you are now a further entrenched fan, ready to pay for the next album!

As you will see, the way the commercials were different. The money made was from record you just bought. Rat eating and guitar breaking contests at gigs, merchandise, pretending drunk at award shows, music videos, radio airplay, interviews, hair spray photo shoots, etc were merely the promotion mix, to help to get the buy.

It’s a changed world today. You read of a new album in some website as you check your mail. In the evening, you download the album from a file sharing site, listen to it on your ipod as you go to work or play – giving the band exactly 1 minute on each song before you hit the forward! The band better make a quick impression, cause – there are few dozen more albums you’ve downloaded last night to fit your 80GB iPod.

Now, how does the commercial work today? Obviously not on record sales! What used to be merely the promotion mix, ie, Gigs and Merchandise, is today possibly the only source of revenue for the band! And this, iam sure, might soon evolve in a million ways. Just like how, we don’t pay to watch a TV program, music could even go that way. What prevents a Nike to pay and sponsor a new album from The Killers, in return for subtle advertising messaging in the music and or use of the music in their ads??

All this throws up a zillion new possibilities, opportunities and threats for musicians, depending on how you see it. For one, if you’ve got a good band going that plays great music, you don’t need for wait for that dream record deal anymore….simply reach out to fans at a lightning pace of 1mbps! Build a base, and play live gigs to make the money. (Listen up – Junkyard Groove!) But, on the other side, in today’s digital deluge, stickiness to music is hard to get, money is going to be harder to make – and never as big as it used to be! And if money is never too big, there will never be enough show biz and if there is not enough show biz, there will never big bands like big bands used to be!

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