It wasn’t long ago that new music was played on the radio. Sure it still happens today, but not at the same rate as in the past. With the FCC allowing radio consolidation (allowing one owner to have a monopoly in any broadcast market), our worst fears have come true. New music on the radio is dead – or barely alive. Instead, guaranteed return on investment has become the primary mantra of station owners. Homogenized playlists and automated regurgitation of the same music has stifled growth in the new music market. In essence, we have trained an entire generation that new music that might speak to them and could have been popularized through local radio is no longer important. Radio is for their parents to relive their hair-band past. And whats worse, little kids are fed a never ending stream of soulless music created by corporations hell bent on brainwashing them into believe that they should be excited by the next boy band.
When I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles (yes – I’m old), we grew up listening to relatively new bands like Aerosmith, AC/DC, Blue Oyster Cult and Boston. This music became the sound track of our lives. We even broke a few bands. You might recognize these names too, like Van Halen; a bunch of punk ass kid rockers living in Pasadena with an amazing guitar player who did things with his guitar that no one had ever heard before. And lets not forget Guns and Roses. We helped break them nationally too after you couldn’t get a ticket to the Cat Club ( a local venue ) unless you knew someone. Once some genius at MTV (which then actually played music) played this track in the middle of the night when the rest of the country was just getting back from the clubs, it blew this band onto the national stage. The rest is history – and crazy ugly history at that. But thats life.
So where does this leave us? Nowhere. Literally in the middle of Death Valley, California nowhere. A place so damn hot, or cold, that you wont last 24 hours without help. Radio will never come back. It’s done. It’s been bought and sold – and is such an old technology, that it cant stand anywhere near to what the kids expect today. They expect, and the Internet delivers, complete instant gratification. They havent grown up in a world deprived of information like I did. Radio was all we had that possessed any current cultural relevance. Back then, radio was the “old” technology and TV was where all the big money was made and spent. To get on TV then was a defining moment – you made it! Now? Forget it. TV is a has-been sideshow. The Internet was supposed to be our savior. It has leveled the playing field, but by way too much. Its flat, its noisy and anyone can pretend to be a star. Its disgusting. Most of these people have no business touting their works as something worthwhile to listen to. What we need is a new ecosystem, built on top of the Internet where trusted gatekeepers provide the filter for the listening population. The closest thing we have to that are blogs. Which are great, but you cant read a blog while driving or hanging out with your friends, or cleaning the house, or technically “at work”.
Spotify and Pandora are not enough to save this dying industry. They’ve bought into the same system. Right now, the way rights organization have things setup, its based on the premise that enough people are paying attention that you could actually run a business and stay profitable utilizing these artists and the royalty payments associated with their works. To make things worse, gone is artist development and the opportunity to actually allow these artists to log their 10,000 hours to hone their craft. It will be years before the music ecosystem has enough new regular talent that we will see the successes like those we saw regularly in the 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s – and thats assuming we are successful in making this work. Hell, I focused on software as my primary line of work over music because I saw where this was all headed over 20 years ago. Once the DJ’s started getting squeezed in the early 80′s and told what to play, I knew we were toast.
What needs to occur is a radical shift. One that depends less on broadcast royalty payments, and more on connecting fans and artist, along with more artist development. This new system might even be advertising free, or at least limited and structured for building growth for an artists career. One that enables instant connectivity – that is designed to provide the instant gratification that legacy radio and TV will never offer. People don’t have time to research things, let alone be expected to remember things when they are inundated hundreds of times in the span of just minutes. Consumers expectations in everything have so radically changed in the coarse of the last 20 years that unless every aspect of the artist is available to be considered, consumed, shared and admired, they will never stand a chance to fulfill their career goals.
Now more than ever we need a new business model for both broadcasters, artists and fans. No one is winning right now. Ever try to buy a ticket recently? How did that go? I did, and I’m not sure why, but it seems unless you’ve got an AmEx platinum card with perks, you’re not going to the show.
With your help we can build this new ecosystem. HEAR-IT-LIVE is a work-in-progress that is experimenting with solutions for the music industry and music discovery using your mobile device.
Become an advocate for something new. If you’re a independent label, send us some of your best acts. Use our platform so that we can all learn what works, what doesn’t and what needs tweaking. If you’re a radio host, we need your personality, talent and connections to encourage more people to join the ecosystem and provide content that only you can produce. Lets build something we can all be proud of. Maybe something that caters less to the corporations and more to fulfilling the career goals of artists and the desires of their fans.
We can do this. I’ve spent 4 years now studying the business, available options, combinations and technologies. I have a fairly significant background in technology and have been on the cutting edge of content delivery for the last 20 years. I’ve built a large portion of what is needed within HEAR-IT-LIVE today. And if it’s not right, we’ll fix it. If you’ve got a better idea – we are listening.
The definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. The solution is not to pay artists less as Pandora proposes to do. No, its up to us to figure this out and help artists be more successful and monetize better. Success breeds success. There is money to be made by all, but not the way it was done in the 20th century.
Your invitation to join the service is waiting. We have a web application for independent artists, along with a web app for labels to manage their entire roster, and one for tastemakers and broadcasters to turn us on to their latest music discoveries through “Stations” they create. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for an invite to these last two types of accounts.
All we ask is your bring the best of the best to the system. We are only a platform – a solution to be used as a means to an end.
The rest requires your help, and I am optimistic that we can change the world.