Wither Music or Weather Music Industry?

Love this post from Fred Wilson re: the changing of music industry (and not just because he cites YouTube). Here are some of my most recent music experiences — some would have happened the exact same way several years ago — others were catalyzed by technologies and companies which didn’t exist before 2006.

I don’t doubt that value is being moved from the recording and radio industries to other places on the chain. And this disruption may also lead to a contraction of the market (not in terms of users but overall $s) and increased control by artists.

The Dan Band: Best known for their appearance in Old School (the profane wedding band), I caught them on tour in February. Heard about the gig via a local email list, invited several friends via email (and sent them some video clips from web) and bought tickets online.

Did technology increase value?: Marginally. If not for the web I still would have heard about the show via the weekly local arts paper. Email and online video helped me spread the word but not beyond a circle of friends I would have invited anyway.

Did technology shift value?: Somewhat. Pretty traditional overall – heard about a concert, had originally seen the performer in a major film. $ still accrued to the venue, the band and the ticket sales agent. The only perceptible shift is that ~10-12 years ago i very much relied upon the local free weeklies to keep me up to date on new concerts, now most of that is available online.

Jimmy Buffett
: Yes, it’s true, I’m a Parrothead and this means seeing Jimmy at least once each tour. So we purchased tickets to an upcoming show and will start limbering up for our “fins left, fins right” workout. Buffett is a classic 2.0 performer – he has built a direct relationship with his fans, gives away product free (streams all his concerts live online) and has expanded to all sorts of media and products in an almost comical manner (frozen dinners?).

Did technology increase value?: 5,000 words could be written on Buffett’s use of technology but let’s focus on just this transaction. I keep abreast of info at fansite BuffettNews and bought the tickets on the StubHub secondary market. The reseller made ~10% over face — incremental dollars that the artist won’t see.

Did technology shift value?: Incrementally in this transaction. Here I passed some money to an aggregator reseller instead of an ordinary scalper. Buffett’s connection to his fans pre-dates the Internet — i used to receive his paper newsletter “The Coconut Telegraph” when i was in undergrad.

Ghostface Killah
: Read very enthusiastic review of his last album in Rolling Stone magazine. Happened across a song on Last.fm. Purchased album via Amazon. Decided to get a second album. Read wikipedia entry and selected another CD from Amazon.

Did technology increase value?: Mostly in the commerce area – Amazon provides me great convenience in purchasing. The Last.fm and Wikipedia experiences were helpful accelerators of my transaction but not necessarily influential on their own.

Did technology shift value?: I don’t listen to radio anymore so some value has been shifted from that platform to services like Last.fm. Wikipedia is a non-profit — maybe I’d otherwise read up on Ghostface from a branded media outlet.

Neil Young: Since Wolfgang’s Vault controversially started streaming the Bill Graham archives I’ve listened a few times to their limited Neil Young offerings. One of the concerts in particular reminded me that, man, he’s got one of the most distinct soulful voices ever. This sent me to Amazon where I picked up the recent live release “Live at Massey Hall.”

Did technology increase value?
: Yes. Although several artists have sued Wolfgang’s Vault, my interest in Neil Young was rekindled because of the concerts I sampled there. Interestingly, one of the concerts they are streaming for free was also officially released on CD. I haven’t decided whether or not to buy that one – admittedly, I’m a little less inclined knowing that I can stream it for now.

Did technology shift value?: Online retailer versus traditional retailer. My discovery occurred not because of marketing from the label but the general availability on Wolfgang’s Vault. Does Neil Young see this as beneficial? Would he like to know that I’m streaming his music and have the chance to interact with me directly? Probably.

Mims: Apparently Mims is hot. Why? Because he’s fly. You’re not. Why? Because you’re not. Mims’ dada lyrics have been deconstructed by a surprising number of sources. I got curious about Mims and wanted to hear the song. Did I turn on the radio? No. Did I buy the single from iTunes? No. Did I click over to a leading music portal and try to find the song to stream for free? No. I went over to YouTube where Capitol Records had uploaded the track.

Did technology increase value?: IMHO, absolutely. I was able to see a hot artist that people were talking about. I watched it on YouTube and became part of the conversation. Now I’ve got no interest in hearing the song again (just wasn’t my thing) but Capitol and Mims have at least moved me from ignorance to awareness. They made discovery easy for me.

Did technology shift value?: Dramatically from 10 years ago, lightly from five years ago. A decade ago I would have two choices – radio or music store – to sample a new artist. Now both of those are waning or gone. Five years ago I likely would have gone over to mtv.com or Yahoo Music. Now I still stay online but I go over to the artist’s website or a place like YouTube. The former gives me more direct navigation to what I’m looking for a general music portal. The latter gives me a wider range of multimedia and community.

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