If you were looking for further reading after having finished my 20 Things e-book, head directly to Gerd Leonhard’s page. He’s written you a letter.

I’ve just finished reading Gerd Leonhard’s excellent Open Letter to the Independent Music Industry and I have to say that while I wasn’t always convinced by everything he had to say, I find it very difficult to find flaw in here.

Gerd’s letter lays out what he sees as the way forward for music business a decade on from the dot-com boom. It’s insightful, it intuitively feels right, and — in short — it’s largely about providing access to music rather than selling copies.

While I’m still more your old school music consumer that wants to collect, organise and understand music in a personal ‘ownership’ model (I buy vinyl online, mostly), it seems that Gerd’s proposed blanket licensing model is the only sensible and sustainable economic system around at the moment. Certainly, it’s the most compelling argument currently around for what the music business should now look like — and he’s laid it out in a convincing and coherent form.

Gerd Leonhard is the Swiss co-author of The Future of Music, the CEO of Sonific (an example of one of the most exciting online developments for music business in some time — about which, more in an upcoming post) and is a self-described Music and Media futurist.

Frankly, ‘futurist’ is a term that makes me nervous, and I always get a little concerned with his frequent ‘This WILL happen’ claims.

I’ve long thought Gerd falls into the trap of technological determinism — the idea that new technology is something that happens to us. Personally, I guess that makes me a music and media ‘presentist’. I vastly prefer to describe what is happening now, and try to unpick what that means and how we can usefully use it to direct and negotiate a future that we choose.

I’m always reminded of those computer scientists of the 1950s who declared that in the year 2000, there would be five computers and they’d be the size of skyscrapers.

No matter where it looks like it’s heading, it always ends up somewhere else. The future is not a straight road that we can draw ahead from current trends. I’m far more in favour of grabbing the steering wheel and taking it in interesting and beneficial directions.

However, that aside, I think he’s pretty much spot on. Because, in fact, what Gerd is actually describing is the gap between the environment we currently inhabit, and the actions that the music business is currently taking to respond to it.

Let him call that the future. I say this is happening right now and you’d be crazy not to read what he has to say and give it some serious thought.


I’ll be interviewing Gerd on this blog in the next few days about Sonific. Stay tuned.