How Would You Like To Be In The Music Business?

PSFK posted an extract from a Bob Lefsetz article arguing that not only is the old music industry model dead, but the price of music will soon be zero.  From Lefsetz:

YOU need to pay the mortgage. YOU need to go on vacation to the Caribbean. But the new musicians? They’re willing to sleep on the floor and eat ramen. Hell, they’re in their twenties, they’re not on the corporate track, they’ve got different ambitions!

…You say kids can’t make it giving their music away for free because YOU can’t make it. But they can outlast you, starve for years all in pursuit of their art. They don’t want an expensive video, never mind a stylist. They don’t want to play the game. And, if you don’t play the game, I hate to tell you, it just doesn’t cost that much.

If you’re a music consumer, this is great stuff, if you’re a record label executive, this is scary stuff.  While this is all true, you can never, ever discount the profit motive.  You know when fans get upset because their favorite band just sold out by lending their music to a car commercial?  What happened is that the members of the band realized that THEY need to pay a mortgage and THEY need to go on vacation to the Caribbean.  For sure, new bands can now bypass the old labels, but sooner or later music for the love of music gets old, and it becomes music for the love of money.  Just read about altruism’s current poster boy Bono’s efforts to avoid taxes and you’ll see what I mean.

The point, then, is not that the music business is dead because all music will forever be free (although it may be in certain modes of delivery), but that the business has changed and anyone who hopes to make a living in it needs to play by the new rules.  A large part of MySpace’s value comes from it’s ability to give new and independent musicians a forum and a delivery channel.  MySpace is trying to play by the new rules (or at least, was).  There is money to be made and some of it will be made by helping new artists avoid the old labels.  If the labels are smart, they’ll begin to develop products and services that have the potential to destroy their traditional business (and current cash cow).  How many companies do you know that  have the guts to do that?

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