It’s that time of year when we reflect, make lists, and look back before we look forward to the oncoming year. In short: best year yet — and the next one looks to be even better.
Kiwi Music Business Experts
It’s been an incredible 2007. You helped me to get to New York, where I met some great people, had some amazing and wonderful experiences — and then had some equally amazing but far less wonderful experiences getting home again (though it was certainly fun to write about).
I got paid for traveling and talking about this online music stuff (two of my favourite things to do) and met some great people around the country from Swindon to Newcastle, Bath to Edinburgh, Manchester to Belfast, Cardiff to Glasgow and a dozen other cities besides.
I’ve been tattooed, Boing-Boinged, invited to prestigious and interesting events, been on the radio more than once, did a spot of DJ-ing, had the opportunity to meet my heroes, relaxed at music festivals, learned to take better photos, played a bit of Go, battled bureaucracy, made a lot of new and interesting friends, went to some really great gigs and just generally had a pretty great and busy time from start to finish.
New Music Strategies has grown to be something far bigger than I would ever have thought possible, thanks to you. I have about 5,000 readers each week, as well as sponsors and assistants. I have had to employ a PA (the wonderful Shelley) and I have a team of volunteers preparing the Newswire every day, and co-writing the sister website, New Music Ideas.
I’ve been on TV and radio, quoted on the web, and interviewed in magazines and newspapers. I’ve written academic articles and newspaper columns, presented at conferences, spoken at some pretty great industry events, and I’m just polishing off a series of articles for Computer Music magazine.
In my academic career, I’ve become involved in two major funded research projects: one in conjunction with the BBC’s New Media and Technology department, and another that is about to see me embedded in around 20 local music businesses to help develop innovative new projects and solutions for these organisations.
All in all, not a bad run for the last 12 months. I think I might pause for a week to catch my breath.
This year, I’ve hardly listened to any commercially-released new music. Seriously. Comparatively speaking, almost none. I’ve heard some, of course, but nowhere near enough to make definitive proclamations of any sort.
Most of what has gone into my ears this year was recorded between 1967 and 1979. I’ve been taking a year-long jazz/funk holiday from the new stuff. Yeah, I download music from the internet: second hand vinyl from eBay, for the most part, and it gets downloaded to my letterbox.
But I’m a list-maker at heart, and I can’t go a year without picking a best-of something. So here are what I think have been the best New Music Strategies blog posts of 2007.
There’s no science here. ‘Most popular’ and ‘Most commented’ posts are represented, but essentially, these are the ones I just happen to be most pleased with for a variety of reasons.
1. An IFPI & BPI Board Member Writes
This was a spectacular post by pretty much any measure you want to throw at it. In a series of emails, Paul Birch of Revolver Records threatens legal action, demands that I edit my blog to his liking, and insists that university academics always represent the views of the corporate record industry. He then gives his permission to publish the exchange, which was much appreciated. An absolute gift of a blog post. Crashed my server with the sheer volume of traffic (generating a series of nice little conspiracy theories), sent my comments and links absolutely through the roof, and tripled my regular readership as a result. Merry Christmas, Paul.
2. You can’t wrap an mp3
Particularly pertinent at this time of year. This post highlighted the fact that a great many records, CDs and concert tickets are purchased as gifts — and suggests some ways that digital music might make up for their obvious shortcoming as being essentially bad presents.
3. This Year’s Model
This one baffled me a bit. It started life as a fairly simple think-piece about how there really is no new music business template that can be stamped onto an artist or label that replaces some old business model — and that now, innovation and customisation is where it’s at. It turned into a rather entertaining ‘This is the new model!’ ‘No it’s not — THIS is the new model!’ exchange in the comments. You guys rock.
4. Kitset Innovation
This one was neither particularly popular, nor particularly discussed in the comments, but it’s one of those posts where I genuinely felt I was being helpful. Essentially a ‘how to be innovative’ post. It’s from early in the year, so didn’t enjoy all the post-Birch traffic I experienced from June onwards, so I raise it here.
5. Advice for Hopeful Librarians
I have a real soft spot for this post, because I really like this band, and I think I gave reasonably good advice. I had the pleasure of meeting them and seeing them perform in Dunedin when I was back in New Zealand earlier this month, and I only wish I could have been more helpful to them. These are the kind of people you just want good things to happen to.
6. Onliner Notes
This is something I feel quite strongly about: digital downloads do not sufficiently address the issue of liner notes, and nor do they come up with any innovative and digital-native approach to the problem. I make a few suggestions as to how this problem might be addressed, and why it’s important. I’m extremely impressed that the about-to-be-launched Novatunes makes significant progress in this regard, but I don’t think the issue is completely resolved.
7. Three Conversations About Music
In this post, I think about the newest iPods, and what something that can hold 160GB of music and fits in your pocket means for musicians, music businesses and consumers trying to navigate the online music environment. Selling songs may not be the most effective strategy for continued music business success…
8. Bits and Pieces of Radiohead
Okay, so I was far from the only person weighing in on the whole Pay-What-You-Like / Boxset dual approach that Radiohead took to the release of In Rainbows, but I was still pretty happy with the analysis I came up with. My take: these guys understand both digital and physical artefacts, get the differences between them, and have found a smart way to leverage their quite disparate properties for marketing and commercial gain.
9. A Decade Lost in Argentina
By and large, my favourite blog posts are the ones in which I learn something. I knew nothing at all about the contemporary music business in Argentina. In fact, pretty much all I knew about Argentina was Tango, Evita, Falklands War and Football. I could point to it on a map, but I was hardly an expert. Federico Novick illustrates that while the internet is global, it’s not terribly international.
10. Music Like Water Revisited
Okay, time to put this one to bed. Gerd Leonhard and I have disagreed publicly about this stuff over the past year, and my position has since softened considerably. I get disproportionately cross when people claim to be able to predict the future, but there is, I admit, some merit in the idea of a tariff on digital devices (though I have massive reservations about its likely equitable implementation). This made far more sense when Cory Doctorow explained it to me.
That said, I feel like I’m more right than wrong in this post, but I’m always happy to be proved otherwise. This post was a transcript of an interview I did for Denmark’s biggest music community and it’s hopefully the last thing I’ll say on the matter.
So there you go. Those were my top 10 blog posts for 2007. Of course, no review of this year would be complete without mention of the 20 Things You Must Know About Online Music. As blog posts, they were right up there with the ones I’ve listed above — but since they’ve been incorporated into a single PDF e-book, I now think of them as being all one thing.
If you haven’t already, go download the e-book. It’s free, and people seem to like it. As far as I can tell, there are hundreds of thousands of these things in circulation, and that makes me very happy.
If you can’t be bothered to wade through the whole thing, the lovely Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity has kindly offered to write ‘Ariel’s Top 3 Things She LOVES About 20 Things for Lazy Ass Musicians Who Won’t Read 97 Pages’. I’m flattered, honoured and looking forward to seeing what she picks. That’s coming soon. You should go read her website anyway.
And that’s me for the year. I know I’ve promised some big things for 2008. There’s a podcast in the works, as well as some recorded seminars and audiobook projects. There are a few new business ventures in the pipeline that I’m quite excited about, and some really interesting collaborative projects already getting off the ground.
I’m really looking forward to it, and I’d like to thank you for your part in that. If I failed to mention that I had a good time in your company in my year’s review or my many blog posts, then I apologise. I did, and I’m grateful. I raise a glass of the Glenlivet Nadurra in your honour.
From me, the New Music Strategies team, my wife Bobbie and my son Jake… all the best for the new year.