✘ Musicians as artistic agencies, and how that grows overall music revenues
And: Ad-supported music streaming is broken; You are Grimes Now; The Web3 Creator Playbook; Unlocking participatory media; Only 5% of music producers are women; Spawning and opting out of AI datasets
Musicians are brands. They’ve always been personalities, but every major artist on the planet is now a brand. What’s more, they’re all becoming artistic agencies. They dabble in film and TV, in apparel and coffee, and in video and audio. Sometimes it feels as if the music industry changes at this ultra-rapid pace, but it’s the role of creative expression that has been the most significantly impacted in our digital age. There are big artist examples like Rihanna, Blackpink, and Jay-Z, but there’s also artists without global musical stardom like Donald Glover. What binds all of these people together is that they have an understanding of how entertainment works. Through that understanding, they find ways to create a brand for themselves that permeates all those levels of the entertainment ecosystem.
Not everyone is Rihanna
When it comes to music, there’s a lot of creative people involved and bringing that together is already a difficult feat to achieve. By then extending that into other entertainment expressions means that even more creatives become involved. That immediately means that we can do away with the idea that there’s a one-size fits all approach to this new development of the artist as artistic agency. The likes of Rihanna have teams they work with at the various levels they are active. Not everyone has access to those resources. And yet, at different degrees, the ever-present digital realm means that it becomes easier for artists at all levels and in any niche to become an artistic agency.
The one thing that does connect all of these efforts is that each of these artists has a very strong why. It’s clear why they do what they do. In business speak, that’s the mission statement. It allows them to rally those other creatives around them and means that everyone works towards the same goal. It has become a lot easier to communicate this mission, but it has also become a lot harder to get people to listen due to the sheer gluttony of content available. At that point, it helps if you’re a global star. So what if you’re not? How can artists along different layers benefit from this notion of working across the entertainment spectrum - as an artistic agency?
Do it with others
Our platform economy allows for new sounds and trends to spread fast and globally. We see this in the recent popularization of Reggaeton and Afrobeat. Through social media - mostly Instagram and TikTok - these genres have gained a lot of prominence. Some of the major Afrobeat artists also operate at the intersection of various levels of entertainment - including fashion, and film. A key driver towards global success that follows a viral hit on social media is a collaboration with a major pop artist.
But if we forego global recognition and focus on other metrics for success, such as self-sustainability, then this blueprint can take a different shape. For example, by using blockchain-based technologies, it’s now possible to raise funds for a project in ways that previously didn’t happen. Granted, this is harder in the current bear market than it was in the bull market just two years ago. That said, if we look at how Xcelencia approached his crowdfund/pre-fund of his record, we can see how it utilized various media to get to the final expression. That involves working with a lot of other people. What’s different is that these people can either be work-for-hire or they are partners who can be written into smart contract splits to benefit from any future sales.
Taking that one step further can see a true expansion of the potential of the creator economy this has spawned from. In the Web3, artists can tap into other projects with their own art and thus extend their network and communities. And another step further will see the art forms themselves become composable. This also speaks to what Tristra wrote last week, but if music, and fashion, and video, etc. will lose their static nature it becomes easier for the art to do for people what they want it to do. When this happens, we need the tools to address provenance and to allow people to use what they need without interfering with the original IP. As blockchain tools develop, this will become easier and easier.
Music with other entertainment
So far, I’ve spoken about how musicians are turning into artistic agencies, tackling various forms of entertainment from a single mission statement. These expressions are best created together. What I haven’t discussed yet, is that there’s another upside to looking at music and musicians in this way: it creates different revenue streams. There’s a lot of focus on how we need to extract more value from the current revenue system, but the bottom line is that we need people who enjoy music to spend more. There’s no better way to do this, then to grow music-adjacent revenues. NFTs promised to be this, but are quickly heading to zero on their pricing with the recent shift to open editions. Thus, it becomes more interesting to look at how other forms of entertainment will increase overall revenues for music.
As musicians turn into artistic agencies, spanning the entertainment industry, they won’t put their music up against gaming or fashion but alongside it. It’s a form of diversification that allows revenue streams to be set up that sometimes won’t even touch the underlying music copyright. It, quite simply, allows artists to connect with their fans, to connect with collaborators, and to experiment with various forms of content. All of this will help to turn a personality into a unique brand operating across the entertainment sectors and finding ways to express the art.
✂️ Ad-supported music streaming is broken (David Turner)
“Deezer, Resso, and Gaana all stepped away from subsidizing free users, since neither built a model to effectively convert costly users into paying ones. This rather significant business shift should inspire wider reflection on the health of ads-based streaming in the music business. Especially amongst those corners who argue it’s the progenitor of future sustained industry growth.”
✘ Spotify still wants to be radio, but can’t monetize in the same way. The same for all the other streaming services. So why do they persist with an ad-based model? It’s a tough question that David Turner looks at from various angles here.
🎭 You Are Grimes Now: Inside Music’s Weird AI Future (Brian Hiatt)
“What’s the difference between this and what people have been doing with properties like League of Legends, Harry Potter, Star Wars, etcetera, where they’re making all of this amazing fan art and they’re also monetizing that amazing fan art? That’s a beautiful relationship between the consumer and the fan and the creators of that IP. And so that’s what we’re jumping on. That’s what we’re excited about.”
Daouda Leonard, manager Grimes
✘ I think everyone has talked about this already, but I loved hearing Daouda speak to this directly. Things are moving fast, and we need pioneers like this duo to understand what’s possible and where we’ll hit limitations.
📍 The web3 Creator Playbook (Rafa the Builder)
“One of the new patterns of engagement we’re beginning to see is drops. A creator drop is a compartmentalised release of a set of content. Similar to a television series, or a collection of art, a drop is a self-contained campaign and content set. Previously, most creators create a flow of regular content. For example weekly newsletters, quarterly reports, or regular video releases. What is emerging is something slightly different. Unlike a regular flow, ‘drops’ capitalise on bursts of audience and community attention. They work under the assumption that an audience will engage deeply with the creator’s content, but only for a limited period of time.”
✘ This is a thoughtful and thorough analysis of what it means to be a Web3 creator. If you’re into this, and enjoy thinking about the digital humanities more broadly, I encourage you to join Rafa’s Folklore community.
🔓 Multiplayer Creation: Unlocking Participatory Media (Nichanan Kesonpat & Justin McAfee)
“The “multiplayerness” is the way and degree to which individual inputs into the product is influenced by multiple sources that may or may not have existing relationships. The end product is format-agnostic, and can be static or dynamic (continuously evolving deterministically through transfer chains or with collectors directly affecting the work).”
✘ I’ve been thinking recently how ‘multiplayer’ is a much better term than ‘composable’ when it comes to explaining one of the greatest benefits the blockchain can bring to music.
💾 Spawning lays out plans for letting creators opt out of generative AI training (Kyle Wiggers)
“Spawning’s solution is multipronged. First, it plans to make it easier for AI model trainers to honor opt-out requests and streamline the process for creators. Then, Spawning will offer more services to organizations seeking to protect the work of their artists.”
✘ The level of opaqueness about data training sets is high. We need initiatives like Spawning to help address that and to give power to creators. Whether the notion that Spawning now has to earn their investors’ money back will work out for the greater good remains to be seen, of course.
🏄♀️ A male-dominated team does not reflect society’: why are only 5% of music producers women? (Rhian Jones)
“Does this lack of equality affect the very sound of pop? It’s interesting to consider what Raye’s sparsely produced debut might have sounded like if she hadn’t exited her major label deal before it was released and therefore had less control in the studio. The album hit No 2 in the UK earlier this year and was widely praised for being eclectic and bold. Her back catalogue of dance-leaning pop hits (produced by men) suggests it could have been quite different. Ultimately, more diversity in the studio will result in more diverse music.”
✘ The quoted part here is a great example of what could be if we get more diversity in production teams. It seems simple, but it’s hard, because producers are often hired on creditability and not getting any opportunity means that female producers find it harder to gain that foothold.
This music makes me want to sit on a cloud and watch the world go past beneath me. ANNA speaks about frequencies and they can expand inside the listener. That definitely resonates inside of me.