As an independent artist or label, it’s important to realize what rules you are playing by. Too often, indies follow the rules set by the status quo, while it’s actually in the interest of indies to disrupt the status quo.
When you play by rules set by the status quo, all you can do is lose.
Instead, indies should be playing their own game, particularly the ones that don’t care about exact market share percentages. It’s up to you to decide what it means to be in music. You don’t have the budgets that major-backed artists have and you don’t own part of the streaming platforms where you’re competing for attention (eg. Spotify, Soundcloud).
In anticipation of the panel I’ll be in at AIM’s Music Connected (April 27, London), let’s look at some of the most important trends that let indies determine their own reality.
Fair Trade Music
A couple of years ago, discussions about how bad piracy is were replaced with the ‘rage against the stream’. People were upset with streaming platforms’ low payouts and growing increasingly impatient for their promises of a better tomorrow. A strange blame game started, obscuring what was really going on, but also bringing attention to issues with the way parts of the industry do their accounting. Where was the money going?
As a consequence, some have started looking for better ways to do things. The most famous example is Benji Roger’s blockchain initiative: he hopes to get the industry to use blockchain technology to create a worldwide transparent database that makes it easier to understand who to pay, how much, and for what. There’s also a public survey underway for it.
Other examples of music service initiatives that aim to provide something more fair and transparent are:
- Resonate, a cooperative that lets indie artists & labels own the platform
- The POLR, which believes micropayments can enable more autonomy
- Whitestone, which aims to reward anyone who contributes value
If you know of more, send me an email or tweet me.
New formats means new monetization options
Expect early adopters of VR to be an easy to monetize group, because they’re hungry for cool experiences on their new devices. They want you to show them all the things you can do with this medium and they’re happy to pay for it. Freemium models should work well here: give people something good for free and let them pay to upgrade or extend the experience.
YouTube channels and Twitch livestreams are other formats to consider. Further reading:
- Virtual Reality is going to change our music experience, forever >>>
- Streaming is not the future of the music economy >>>
- What the musicbiz can learn from YouTubers >>>
Direct-to-Fan Platforms (D2F)
An old theme, but there are some important developments to pay attention to this year, namely: consolidation. Crowdfunding platform PledgeMusic acquired fan engagement platform NoiseTrade and set.fm which makes it easy to sell high quality recordings of live performances.
Meanwhile Fullscreen, a Multi Channel Network (MCN) for YouTube, acquired direct-to-fan platform StageBloc, and rebranded it to Fullscreen Direct. Kickstarter made its first acquisition by taking in Drip, a direct-to-label subscription service on the verge of shutting down.
These acquisitions are meaningful and as product teams merge and collaborate, we’ll see an integration of these tools to become more full suites. This evolution is something many were hoping for when Beats Music acquired Topspin Media.
This time the acquisitions are coming from companies that are already inherently D2F. 2016 is going to be an important year for D2F services.
The Future of the (Indie) Music Business
If you’re in London on the 27th, be sure to catch the panel I’m in with Benji Rogers (PledgeMusic) and Philip Hutcheon (Dice.fm), chaired by Karim Fanous (Music Ally) at Music Connect. I imagine we’ll be going into depth on a lot of these topics.
The future is what you make it.
Design your strategy, plan carefully and support independent platforms and initiatives.