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✘ It's the consumer, stupid
And: Re-rattling the cage; DeFi for live music; More funding for music in the Metaverse; Is the future of virtual live events real time?; A metaverse open standards group
It’s actually not that hard to build something new these days. There’s tonnes of no-code tools, white-label, and off-the-shelf solutions for a variety of apps and from audio to video playback systems. Similarly, music creation tools abound - making it easy for everyone with a phone or a laptop to create music. And yet, the hard part is finding the consumers, the listeners, people to engage with your art. Creating great content is hard; filling an app with great content isn’t actually that hard. What’s also hard, is deciding what you want to spend your time on. Even doing that consciously is difficult these days with attention-consuming apps that tell you about very important missed notifications.
Fan as consumer
Taking a step back, this is as much about how we define ‘fan’ as anything else. Through the creator economy, so many of us have become instilled with the idea that we can all make a living from our passions. Here at MUSIC x, we talk a lot about community and how to build and nurture them. This thinking is also infused with the ideals of the creator economy. Thinking about communities when thinking about fandom doesn’t necessarily make them into consumers, but the temptation is big. What the creator economy has done is similar to what the blockchain does - it financializes interactions. The idea to make money directly from your fans is great, but do those fans want to be thought of as consumers? Or do they just want to sit on a beach and enjoy a sunset soundtracked by some of their favourite music - or find new favourite music because they heard for the first time at that amazing beach sunset?
Similarly, the creator economy is an ecosystem that brings with it a set of tools and technologies that push creators into a kind of start-up life. It requires to think about things like:
create a business model
your customer, or fan, journey
what’s your fan adoption rate?
what’s the churn among your fans?
And just like with VC-backed start-ups this then leads to a one-size fits all approach to musicians and community as a business model. But it doesn’t allow for the uniqueness of fandom and the uniqueness of artist-fan relationships. Basically, creation doesn’t fit any one-size fits all models and to put it bluntly, the creator economy thus doesn’t optimize for creativity.
Who should be in control?
Ok, so it’s hard to find people who will listen to your music or the music you release or champion in another way. There’s many funnels that we can think about and optimize, but the economic relationships of the creator economy go against a basic creative spirit. And yet, it is about the consumer. Simply creating great music, or simply releasing great music isn’t enough. We need people to listen to it for it to exist beyond the boundaries of its creator’s environment. What’s the best way to work on music, make money from it, and nurture a fanbase?
Historically, we’ve had the road of the independent artist and the road of the label-signed artist. The previous would retain control of their various music rights but would usually be resigned to niche fanbases without strong marketing power. The latter would give the opportunity for more global reach, a bigger network, and thus a more extensive fanbase. However, the label - on major and minor scale - would take the rights to the music as collateral for their expenses. This week, Four Tet won a court case against his former label Domino. Kieran Hebden wanted Domino to treat streams and downloads as a license instead of holding those to be similar to a CD or vinyl sale. For the latter, Hebden would receive 18%, for the former it’s 50%. He won, which is a good thing, but Domino still retains their ownership of the copyright to these albums.
So while Hebden won his case and receives money for that, I can’t personally be overjoyed with this outcome. There’s something broken here in the way that ownership gets settled for life. As in the above tweet by Four Tet, our whole industry is evolutionary and subject to change. Most recently, we’ve been rethinking what it means to split royalties on NFTs. It’s complicated, and mostly it’s complicated because the legal framework music sits in is extremely complicated.
If you want to do things differently, it’s hard. Of course, it can be rewarding as evidenced by, for example, VÉRITÉ. She shows what it means to be the CEO of your own music. Another way of listening to this is to ask how others can replicate this. That’s not just hard, our industry works in such a way to make it difficult. There is, quite simply, no meritocracy in music. If we want more artists to control their own music and thus allow them to experiment with different ways to use it and monetize it, we need to create the playground to support that.
It’s the consumer, stupid
I paraphrase, of course, the famous line from Bill Clinton’s campaign manager in 1991. In the US elections, everything comes down to the economy. Similarly, in the music industry, everything comes down to the consumer - the fan. But thinking about fans as consumers changes an important part of their behaviour. Instead of focusing on the joy of listening to music, it focuses our attention on how much we can get them to spend on the music they want to listen to. First, however, a fan needs to discover the music they get excited about. This could be through curation, or through curation.
But what if this catchphrase I used here isn’t the complete picture. What if recent trends within the creator economy have created a new fan - a new consumer. One line of thinking that supports this is that the creator economy is as much a participatory economy as anything else.
According to Sari Azout, what happens when we start to properly think about the role of consumers, taking their modes of consumption seriously and listening to them, these consumers become people.
Going back to the beginning - it’s hard to find consumers for any service you offer. But if you invite consumers in as people and take their desires at face value they stop being consumers. Moreover, these same people can become active towards, for, or with a creator. That doesn’t mean every musician will have to start making music with their fans or release their stems to allow fans to remix and create their own music. It does mean that lines of communication open between artist and fan or consumer. This, in turn, creates a new value. It’s not the consumer, stupid, it’s the participant, the member, the contributor.
🧨 Re-Rattling the Cage (MacEagon Voyce)
It seemed impossible: to start from scratch (again) and learn how to mint, market, and distribute a token that could deftly coalesce elements of a complex business model – all in half a month. The team shifted into crisis mode.”
🧩 AmplifyLive is DeFi for live music (Janelle Borg)
“AmplifyLive co-invests with artists and promoters to create a gig that continues to pay even after it is finished. By using decentralized finance technology, AmplifyLive empowers artists and industry professionals to earn passive income long-term.”
🎤 Metaverse Music Platform Builder Authentic Artists Secures Strategic Funding From Warner Music, Crush Ventures, and Others (Ravi Kumar)
“The fund-raise is aimed at accelerating the development of its AI-driven metaverse music platform, and building its WarpSound music brand.”
⏱️ Virtual Production – the future of live experiences: looking ahead (Anton Christodoulou)
“Another key element to consider, with the buzzwords of the moment, such as the Metaverse, NFT’s and Web3, is how realtime technology can be used to enhance and merge physical and virtual experiences in a meaningful and valuable way. Using machine learning algorithms, for example, to automate and adapt experiences in realtime based on audience input or generating personalised content as NFT’s.”
“Nonetheless, the forum suggests an interest in formalizing “metaverse” development as a unified field. And it hints at which companies are most interested in creating accepted standards for it — or at the very least, which ones want to be perceived as supporting these standards.”
Imagine a world you feel really comfortable in. Now, imagine how you will feel when that world starts to warp a little, just a little. It’s no longer completely comfortable, but you also don’t want to leave yet. That’s how this record by Time Wharp feels. And I always love the sound of the marimba.