At New Music Strategies, we’ve been thinking about an idea that we believe would be really helpful for music marketing, would contribute toward ethical and sustainable practices for musicians and music businesses, and which we believe consumers would get behind.
We were talking this week about the fact that many people (on all sides of the digital copyright debate) speak about their relationship with music consumption as having an ethical and moral dimension.
People talk about how they like to ‘support the artist’ in certain instances – whether it’s that they are fans of a specific artist and want to see them create more works, or that they have a more general sense of obligation, gratitude or individual ethics when it comes to online music purchasing. Most people seem to be conflicted – not sure what impact their decision to download unauthorised content might have, or whether it makes any difference at all.
Some feel that there is an element of protest and ethical civil disobedience in their decision to download music released by multinational corporations, or music represented by organisations who support the disproportionate legal action against music fans. Some artists are known to be in an exploitative relationship with the record label and wouldn’t necessarily get paid anyway. And it’s even more complicated than that too, when you consider the treatment of contributing (but not featured) artists, sustainable use of materials in manufacture – and the durations and conditions within contracts that may be considered unfair.
So we came up with the notion of Fair Trade Music.
“I think records were just a little bubble through time and those who made a living from them for a while were lucky. There is no reason why anyone should have made so much money from selling records except that everything was right for this period of time. I always knew it would run out sooner or later. It couldn’t last, and now it’s running out. I don’t particularly care that it is and like the way things are going.
“The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you’d be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate – history’s moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber. Eventually, something else will replace it.’’
I’m at Un-Convention in Swansea this weekend. Lots of talk with lots of interesting people about the independent and grassroots DIY music sector. It’s held in a cafe/bar called Monkey in the central city, and in the evening, bands play.
I’m here with a bunch of people I know from these sorts of things – and I’ve been spending a fair bit of time hanging with the very clever Ben Walker (@ihatemornings), who you know as the guy who wrote the Twitter song.
One band played last night that blew me away. And I don’t just mean I liked them, or really loved their gig. They BLEW. ME. AWAY. I can’t remember being this excited by a band in years. Possibly decades.
Ben was excited too. We came back downstairs, had a beer, and raved about how amazing they are. We were instant fans. So we went straight online and looked them up.
We Googled: “Islet band Cardiff” and various other combinations of the band name and their city of origin. Nothing. They’d played one support gig for Shonen Knife (how cool is that?!) – but no website, no MySpace, no nothing.
And we were stuck. They had no CDs for sale. Nothing we could do. We just didn’t know how to be Islet fans.
You’re probably aware that I use Twitter. In fact, I’m a bit of an evangelist for it. I think it’s up there with Email and RSS as one of the few absolutely killer online appliances – and pretty much a must for musicians and independent music businesses these days.
And yet, it’s been getting some bad press. There are people who say it’s all narcissists and psychopaths. Others who claim it’s just a hiding ground for celebrity junkies.
Steve Lawson, one of my top must-read music business thinkers, wrote a blog post today that explains Twitter in the face of some terrible journalism. I caught up with him for lunch in London and we had a chat about it.
Quite predictably, I made a video. That’s it up there.
I’m a few months late to the game, but I’ve finally been trying out Spotify properly and using it to listen to music at home. Many other people have written about this service, most of whom seem to be hugely impressed with the depth of catalogue, the reduced buffering and the overall concept: all music, free and legal.
I have to say, I was initially skeptical. I’m a long term iTunes user, because I think it’s a brilliant music database manager and player. I also like the ease with which it integrates into a wireless playback system in my house, and that it’s also the way in which I subscribe to podcasts and synchronise my iPod.
I don’t buy music from the iTunes store. Only ever did that once for research purposes – and it made me cross. Usual reasons – DRM, cost per track, that sort of thing. I’m a big eMusic fan, actually – and I like the way it integrates with iTunes (though I wish they’d think to embed the album covers within the mp3s).
Its aim is to provide useful resources, advice and strategies for innovation and success in the independent music sector in a rapidly changing technological environment.
NMS examines emerging technologies (and buzzwords) such as AI, blockchain, metaverse and 'Web 3.0', but focuses primarily on sustainability, music as a tool for social change, participation, equality and inclusion, and the ways in which music technologies can build better worlds.