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The New Business Model?


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If I count both “Last Song of the Highwayman” and “Up in Heaven, the Angels Play Music” as “keepers”—and I think I will—I am still on schedule writing an average of one good song a month. The former song is not precisely a medieval ballad, nor is the latter precisely a polka; “not precisely” seems to apply to a lot of my songs. Not having anything else in the mental pipeline right now, I’ll devote my attention to musicating a couple of lyrics penned by other folks that have been hanging fire, “He’s a Man—This is a Bar” and “The Cat Goddess Creeps.” (The latter also needs to be a music video. I do have fresh batteries in the camera.)

I met Bill Briot, the vocalist I’ll be playing with (along with “Doc” Wagner and a piano teacher) at the Monday Night Musical March 8; he stopped in briefly at the Library Saturday (I expect in part to check out whether I really could play guitar well, which I think I was doing that day). Our performance has grown to three songs now; in addition to “All My Exes Live in Texas,” we’ll be doing “Release Me” and “Today I Started Loving You Again,” both of which Doc and I have played a lot before. We’ll get to practice just once before the performance, I think. This is a little like being invited into the second circle of Heaven; these guys are the real professionals, and I’ve never been invited to hang with them before.

Thoughts on the New Business Model for the music industry. I’m not sure there is one. Strip the big record companies out of the picture, and what’s left looks an awful lot like the music business did in the 1920s, only with *.mp3s on the Internet replacing 78-rpm records on little radio stations (and both the records and the radio were themselves new technologies in the 1920s). Now as then, a plethora of artists and small, independent labels—and “stations.” Probably even more today, since the requisite technology has become so cheap and available. If the situation is much the same, shouldn’t the marketing strategy be also?

What one wanted to do back in the 1920s is get one’s record played as often as possible on as many stations as possible. Not for money—one hoped to draw people to shows, or to buy records at the record store, the two cases where the artist made money. The writer made money when a record was pressed with the writer’s song on it—Federal law says so. If writer and artist were the same person, writer-artist made money both ways. I don’t think any of that has changed.

I think that answers the question, “Should I have my music being played on internet ‘stations’?” The answer is yes. There is no money in it; there is only exposure—the same thing an artist got in the 1920s. “Butts in seats” (at concerts) and sales at the record store are still the only ways to make money. At least today, distribution is cheaper, because one doesn’t have to move as much physical product around. And thanks to the Internet’s distance-shortening capabilities, one needs fewer “stores.” I do need a Website.

I also need more—and more frequent—“product.” It’s not so much that people’s attention spans have gotten shorter, but rather that I’m dealing with a more limited market. Unlike the big record companies, I don’t have a million people I can sell a CD to; I might have a thousand. But I could probably sell ‘em a CD a year if I had a CD a year to sell them. I have enough material for a CD every year—I’ve been pretty consistent about that. I just need to have one produced. And I do know how to get a CD produced cheap—an important consideration if one is doing short runs.

Joe

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