Last night my wife and I saw the play Beautiful by Carole King. If you get a chance to see it go. I was pretty amazed at how many hit songs she wrote before she became a solo artist on her own. She has an impressive entrepreneurial personal story. Had her husband not cheated on her and broken their marriage, she might never have become a solo artist. She was able to take a sad song and make it better as the Beatles sing. As I was watching the play, I also thought about how much the record business has changed.
In the old old days, it was possible to be a power broker. Don Kirshner simply set up for brokerage in a closed ecosystem. He made money off the song writers, and made money off the artists. What’s not to like? He had developed the network to get things done on both sides. The record companies and plenty of other people did exactly the same thing as Kirshner. They had a chokehold on creativity. As an artist, you went through them. As a consumer, you only heard what they liked or wanted to promote.
Innovation and the internet blew up the music business.
How does it get put back together? I remember being at a talk with then Mayor Bloomberg of New York. At that talk he said he longed for the days when editors would curate the news. He said he detested bloggers, social media and independent reporting of information. He was and is for centralization/curation which is exactly what the music/news business isn’t today.
The creative destruction that came to the music industry has opened up all kinds of opportunity that never would have been there for artists before. They can go direct to consumer, and keep all the gains if they can create a following. My friend’s daughter, Audrey Proulx, is trying to go direct right now. My cousin, Rob Merz, has been a musician since college, and has attracted a following on platforms like SoundCloud. Another friend, Phil Angotti, has been going direct in the business for years. It’s extremely difficult to create a fan base by yourself, but it can be done.
Fine Arts music majors aren’t just artists. They are entrepreneurs. The creative destruction in the music industry has lead to commercial opportunities that weren’t there before. Technological innovation allows one person to go on site where they are filming a commercial and create a customized musical score for the ad that couldn’t have been done years ago.
Today, it’s possible for a music artist to have a hit song in a niche that never would have been filled before. There are so many music platforms. It’s so easy to share. The music industry has evolved into a decentralized two sided marketplace. The downside to the music business today is artists have a difficult time getting paid for their work. There is so much content and noise. Streaming and other services are the new brokers.
Pandora and other services have figured out how to solve the problem of free content with ads. But, musicians still don’t make a lot of money off of Pandora. Not to mention the songwriters. But, platforms have their own challenges. Pandora used to be worth $7B and now is worth $2B.
This is interesting, because innovation and entrepreneurs solve pain points. Clearly, musicians have a pain point. They want to make money. On the flip side, consumer want everything for free. How does this conundrum get solved in a decentralized two sided market model way? That’s what is playing out in the music industry today.
Here is a little old Carole King for you to enjoy, 3 years after she released her first solo album after going on her own.