Things are changing pretty fast around you. But your needs as a music business are comparatively constant. Let’s spend a moment looking inwards, shall we?
Just back from a few weeks in New Zealand and trying to get my head around where we’re up to in terms of the current online music environment. There have been a few significant developments in that short time — mostly to do with the number of sites that have sprung up to help musicians and music businesses do what they do best.
There’s a range of services that simplify things for the music entrepreneur, not the least of which is the rather cool new PayPal storefront which Laurence Trifon reviewed on New Music Ideas. If you’ve got something to sell, and you just want to embed a widget somewhere, all you need is an email address, and people can start giving you money.
Then there’s Artist Data Systems, which lets you update all of your many profiles and online music portals from the one spot. It centralises and automates the process of uploading music, updating news and information and changing your profile details. Pretty clever.
But while it’s great that there is all this simplification and centralisation is going on, these are pretty much solutions looking for problems. They are very smart, of course, and no doubt incredibly useful — but that doesn’t change the fact that these are essentially generic answers to the kinds of issues the technologists assume that a large number of people in the creative industries are facing.
In order to best use technology to improve, enhance, streamline and offer new opportunities to your music business, you need a really clear picture of what it is your music business actually does. I’m not just talking about general concepts like ‘we sell music to fans of the bands we like’, but operational, procedural and strategic practices within the organisation, relationships and responsibilities external to the organisation, and opportunities to leverage your existing strengths and that of your catalogue, etc.
In other words, the best new music strategies are complete and customised strategies. They involve both the music business and the technologists in the design and implementation phase, and they are pretty much unrepeatable.
Of course, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Services like Paypal Storefront and Artist Data Systems may well form part of the portfolio of solutions that you decide to apply to your business. But I get the feeling there’s a real danger of stumbling on these fairly haphazardly, picking up the ones that look like they might be useful, and then becoming completely overwhelmed because you’re having to use something you’ve committed to which doesn’t really fit.
These things might offer improvements to the way in which you do business, but if anything, they generally point to, rather than provide, complete solutions that will help you make money while you sleep — or play the guitar.
Over the next few days, I’m going to be doing a bit of a guided self-consultation. It won’t provide you with any of the answers you require – but it will give you all of the right questions and uncover all of the right headings so that you’ll know instinctively when something offers a genuine improvement or opportunity.
I hope you’ll join me for that — and I hope that’ll be a useful exercise.