Music 2.0 and the strategy of Artists.

On: October 2, 2009
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About Rakesh Kanhai
New Media MA student, All-Round Turntablist DJ, Media Addict, Pro Evolution Soccer and Gears of War Champion of the world, and as of now: a Blogger... Recent theoretical interests : Lessig, Jenkins, Deuze, Gerd Leonhard (Music 2.0), Kevin Kelly and the such... Right now i'm very interested in the 'future' of the Music industry('s), its convergence with other industries and the way artists challenge precarity with creativity in contemporary conditions...


There’s been a couple of postings regarding Music 2.0 and what it means for artists. I thought it might be a contribution to add my findings to this. First of all I would like to briefly introduce my Bachelor thesis which was about the history of recording technology, the eventual disappearance of sound carriers and the way the artist is coping with the loss of this physical carrier in Music 2.0.

The recording industry was at a time based on sellable physical products, the industry focused on selling physical items and everything else was brought into being to serve this goal. Live shows, TV performances, Music Videos, all of this was merely to increase record sales.  This model worked for a long time. It is economically logical, it focuses on sellable entitie. Before this model came into being the artist was making the most of his money performing Live, so he had made a shift towards focusing on record sales.

Now, with the disappearing of the carrier due to data compression, the industry is again at a moment of transition. The old economic reasoning which is based on physical and sellable items does not apply anymore. Gerd Leonhard, Kevin Kelly, Lawrence Lessig and many other theorists describe future models for the artists in which they generate income from the context and not the content anymore. Advertising, merchandising, upselling, creating of valuable intangibles and other strategies are formulated.

In my research however, in which I focused on a struggling and a succesfull artist, the most fundamental change they made was the shift towards Live performances (again).  The artists use the social networks to spread music freely and generate attention which in turn generates Live performances. The negative influence of the MP3 on record sales is major, but it also has a precursor. At the time when the cassette was being used to bootleg recordings  the industry was in panic, the answer to this distress by the industry was the technically and esthetically superior Compact Disc, but artists at that time did the same thing that they seem to be doing now; shifting to Live performances.  (some even merited bootlegging because it created popularity which created Live shows, just like artists are using social networks to do the same now)

The income that Music 2.0 predicts isn’t quite there yet, sure artists make money off merchandising and sometimes they get involved with the advertising industry, but the most significant change in strategy has been the shift towards Live performances again. History has proven that the industry changes, carriers change, but the significance of the Live performance to fans has never changed. It seems as though we have gone full circle and are back to performing Live for money again.

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