✘ Web2 vs Web3, or how community doesn't scale a business
And: simmerdown rewind; The unbearable sameness of the modern web; The power of major labels and niches spaces in DSP recommendations; Fortnite Creative millionaires; Spotify powered virtual plant
In recent years, independent artists have been able to utilize developments around the Internet like crowdfunding, social media, streaming, subscriptions to connect with fans and grow their audiences. Then, the advent of blockchain-based technologies, often dubbed Web3, allowed artists to take more control - especially in the way they set the value for their music in the relationship with their collectors. The scale of the Web2 streaming economy works charms for the music industry at large, but doesn’t provide the same opportunities of scale for artists and bands on their singular level. Now, the superfan theories tell us that scale isn’t necessary, but that you just need a few to a hundred or a thousand people to support you with a regular monetary contribution, preferably monthly. And yet, even the grind that that comes with that means it doesn’t scale. It’s not for everyone, at least.
Artists combining Web2 and Web3
With every new opportunity the Internet’s development has provided, a new set of artists have been able to take advantage. Right now, there’s a set of artists who are well placed to combine success stories between Web2 and Web3. Reaching a milestone on streaming services can be a great story for a new NFT drop. Similarly, selling 25 editions of your NFT can feed into the stories you weave around why people should listen to your music everywhere else. Moreover, a success in Web3 can be financially interesting because it allows artists to feed that revenue into music videos, ads, pr, etc.
This combination of Web2 and Web3 makes sense for independent artists, because they own all their rights and can roll with the punches and the successes. Moreover, if artists focus on community, they have another added strength. The artist team is developing from a more traditional model to something more fluid. Community plays a part in this. Artists get advice, feedback, input from their communities. Moreover, the enthusiasms of fans turned collectors, or collectors turned fans, means that squads can develop around artists to help lift them up. This can be as simple as a community call to street teams, management-style interactions, or marketing efforts.
Labels and more combining Web2 and Web3
It’s very different for anything that’s a business. Not only do businesses have people that work for them, they also have different goals than an independent artist. At the end of the day, they need to make some revenues. If we look at labels, for example, they’ve all been used to signing artists, taking master rights, or - if they’re very artist-first - they do splits or even set up joint ventures. There’s a million ways to do things, but they all amount to seeing artists succeed and with them the label. Then the new ecosystem of Web3 came along and everyone started figuring out what’s needed to make both label and artist benefit. And there’s a reason why independent artists who own all their rights have seen the most success in Web3. It’s hard to figure out new revenue streams.
We’ve seen a couple of experiments around labels in Web3, but we also see from those that it’s hard. Most of these experiments have centred around community - a key theme throughout Web3 music. There’s examples where this community was set up next to the label, such as with Leaving Records. Here, the community has a function to be welcoming and supportive for a global group of musicians and music lovers. There’s also examples where the community buys into becoming a part of the label, and the question is whether that works. Can you create a way for a label community to set up the same kind of squad-based advantages that we see around artists? It could work, but most likely doesn’t fit into the structures of a business. It’s probably better, and easier, to let a community sit alongside the business then to make them the business.
What’s more, there’s a question whether they community model based around squads coming up through the community to do specific tasks could eventually do away with the labels. Could they? There’s definitely a role for labels to play in terms of A&R, network, marketing, tour support, etc., etc. But there’s also a new play, where a group of people can come together, self-organize, and provide all that support. Doing community as a business, as a record label, is hard and requires a focus on that community to make the partnerships succeed and flourish. That’s not something that scales into the business, unless the community is the business. And that can go beyond the initial point of the community. Of course, a community can evolve, but sometimes it’s better to have a good exit plan that can be clearly communicated.
Community is about people, not business
Let’s be clear, a utopian ideal of a fully decentralized community most likely doesn’t exist. There’s always a need for people to take up certain roles that means they set the tone and drive activity. Who take on these roles can change over time, and perhaps should, but what these roles mean will stay – roughly – the same. Boundaries need to be set. This means defining who the community is for and safeguarding against that. These roles also involve setting up foundations for care. Across the spectrum of community purposes, human connections and what people can bring to the table and take away from it is at the essence of the value a community creates. This value can amplify a business, but only if it’s an inherently strategic part of the business plan, too. Otherwise, you’re at risk of leaving the community, and the value it creates, behind.
🔖 rewind - the who, the what and the why (simmerdown)
“everything changed the day i finished reading ‘making beats’; a bible (for me) that introduced me to the world of sampling culture. electronic artists like gold panda, bonobo and emancipator had all religiously kept my ears company on the bus to college, however i’d never recognised the roles that samples played in their music. whilst i was working at my good friend’s recording studio, i spent my downtime recording as much rhodes piano, mustang bass licks and upright piano twiddles as i could - simply documenting what i was performing rather than critiquing the sounds i heard listening back.”
✘ I really do love an artist telling their story, especially in a compelling way. We need these stories to make different connections to the music. We need these stories to bring together the sounds with everything else that comes with it - the person.
🚧 The Unbearable Sameness of the Modern Web (Rachel Binx)
“Templatized website builders have proliferated on the web, which is mostly a really good thing! Everyone who wants their own website should be able to make one, even if it does look, well, squarespace-y. Any tech company worth their weight these days has their own design system, a nice little component library built on top of some master framework, with small tweaks for the specific business use case. Also, it’s BORING. It’s BORING AS HELL. Guh, bring back interesting websites, bring back the creativity that the web offers. Bring back frontend devs who aren’t afraid to get down with the mouse event handlers!!”
✘ Not only do I agree with Rachel, I think there’s a great parallel to the music industry. Everything seems templated from how music is made to how it’s distributed and marketed.
🔋 The Sounds of Indie? The Power of Major Labels and Niche Spaces in Spotify Recommendations (Dmitry Pastukhov)
“To address that fairness question and assess the relative power of independent catalogs in Spotify recommendations, Music Tomorrow partnered with Chartmetric and retrieved a dataset of over 6K Every Noise at Once playlists. Each of these playlists is an algorithmic representation of a particular Spotify genre showcasing the most listened tracks in that niche: from the broadest tags of pop and rap down to the nitty gritty of neue neue deutsche welle and egg punk. Here's what we've learned about the relative power of major and indie catalogs in Spotify recommendations across the most prominent music niches and communities.”
✘ This is such important research. It provides data driven support to theories that lots of people talk about. Next time someone mentions this topic, you will have the actual answers.
💰 The New Fortnite Creative Millionaires (David Taylor)
“All the creators listed above are at a $2 million dollar annualized run-rate, with the number of potential millionaires increasing from just 11 to 40. The step-change will undoubtedly add enough margin where these creators can start to invest in growing their teams and capabilities. What’s fascinating is that none of these creators have a particularly large web presence aside from Geerzy. This speaks to just how green the Fortnite Creative community still is, and what a massive opportunity this is for developers interested in the space.”
✘ There is such an opportunity here for music tech builders to step in and create something astonishing. I definitely encourage people to explore.
🪴 Building a Spotify Powered Virtual Plant App to Nurture Joy Oladokun (Lee Martin)
“We now have a Spotify powered nurturement score which we can use to grow our plant but first we need to really understand how our plant will grow. The plant featured on Joy's cover which we are most interested in are the rattail cacti. My thinking is that the stems of our cactus plant would emerge from a suspended round pot, flow over the sides, and fall down the screen (like dreads.) After a bit of thinking and sketching, I realized I only needed to generate and store three main variables for each stem.”
✘ The inimitable Lee Martin is at it again. Not only does he build really cool applications for artists to help them build their worlds and engage their fans, he also shares how he does it. If you don’t follow Lee yet, do it right away.
There’s songs that you always carry with you. Stereo Sanctity by Sonic Youth is one of them for me. Whenever I need it, I can tap the beat, sing the lyrics, or just hear it in my head. It’s a great song, and defines what the band is for me.