DEBATE: Is the Indie Music Machine Slowing Down?
This past decade has been great for nerds. Everywhere you look, pop culture memes praise the rise of geeks and dorks alike in every phase of entertainment, and the same goes for music. The explosion of “indie music” blew up with the appraised definition of music nerd/hipster, so much that you couldn’t separate bands like Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective from guys in chucks, plaid shirts and bed hair. Now, as Hipster Runoff points out, academia that used to power indie music is starting to get swallowed up by the saturation and mass commercialism of indie music. Thanks to corporations looking to tap into youth markets and MTV-like brands struggling to remain relevant, indie music was adopted from the underground circles, and is now being liquifided into mere marketing placenta.
It was only a matter of time when die-hard mp3 bloggers were beaten out by the SEO-demons of the web, and cutting edge indie music would be over-circulated because bloggers in the end want to overshare music that people already know about and bring traffic. You see this already happening with Buzzmedia purchasing all of the longer-lasting blogs like Stereogum, and now even SPIN. You can’t blame traffic-focused bloggers to be obsessed with SEO-tactics, but it kills the academic foundation indie music was built on. And when you kill the academia, then the smaller musicians lose and so do the music fans.
Does this spell the end of indie music? Hell no. You can’t turn off the desire to seek out new music and not stay on top of the of the scenes. It doesn’t work that way; it’s a nature, not a movement. However, it means there’s going to be a new wave of academics rise from below to beat out the bloggers that drank the SEO kool-aid and save the intellectual sect of music. It’s going to require the effort on behalf of new writers and new readers to read the new writers. If we all give into the bought-out blogs, then it’s going to be a long recovery.
We don’t believe music can ever be intimidated and coerced. New music will continue to re-shape and grow in it’s own way, but it’s going to take the music fans and new curators to help give the discussion new validity and meaning. One day, the nerds will go back to the bottom of the social food chain, but the music nerds will still be consuming music the same way.
NEWS: Did Death Grips Go Rogue on Epic Records? (UPDATED)
What the hell is going on with Death Grips? The indie-rap/electronic band has had a truly bizarre year. In inexplicable fashion, the band was off to a great start when they signed to Epic Records at the beginning of the year and subsequently released The Money Store, which wasn’t produced with the label, but was still collecting critical acclaim.
They had planned a huge summer tour, and then quickly canceled everything. The reason, according to the band, was to produce the next record in the same year, which we’re assuming is the one they just released for Epic Records, No Love Deep Web. However, as of this past weekend, the new album has been released for free via the band’s SoundCloud account and free-sharing sites with a quote from the band: “The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you.” They even added artwork for the album with a picture of someone’s genitals with the title scribbled on them.
When Death Grips dropped their tour this summer for this new album, it seemed a little schizophrenic and rash, and now they’re seemingly reacting to Epic Records in a hostile way now. Someone on Twitter, however, said this could be one huge stunt, but to whose benefit? It doesn’t make any sense.
Regardless, it sends a very blatant message to record labels about their relationship with artists. This is a very public attack, and it will be interesting how this unfolds with their contract.
DEBATE: Should We Redefine How We Talk and Think about Music?
If the music industry is flipped on it’s head and has changed forever, why do we still talk about albums and singles? Infrastructure within the industry doesn’t exist anymore. Kickstarter is a more viable option than selling a CD off the rack, music is leaked and shared, not purchased and admired for liner notes.
Why do bloggers still talk about top charts when there are millions of other albums playing inside sets of headphones around the world? When nerds rank music at the end of the year, it’s still defined by albums, and yet what they loved about them most wasn’t the collectiveness of the albuma. The language needs to change because the culture is different; it’ been liquidated and dissolved into a more natural representation of music and it’s effortless flow. New music is now defined by singles; light, autonomous and nimble to spread across the web. Albums are clunky, disorganized and uneven. Bands break out for individual songs, and not the collective mess that swallows them. The web was made for singles, and it’s showing in the charts.
Bas Grasmayer from Midem’s blog puts it best:
You don’t have to follow last-century business models into their graves. You are free. Make music.
Music has moved onto a different era; it’s been crushed and re-sculpted, so why talk about it in terms of an older era defined by rules that no longer apply? We should relish in letting music get back to it’s original raw form and let it re-write it’s own rules. Failing to change our terms and understanding of music means we’re slowing ourselves from moving on. Things are bad enough, we can’t wait to get over these old industry terms.
Musicians and fans are responsible for the change, not the executives, so they should also decide the new path. It’s not good for business, but we all got into music because of how it made us feel about our lives. Music will figure it out, but we know for sure it will never be what our parents considered it when they were our age…ever again.
DEBATE: How will Labels Compete with DIY Technology Down the Road?
Jeff Price, former CEO of TuneCore, made a very valid point in a post published on Hypebot about labels’ future versus the growing technology in the DIY sector; labels are going to have to adapt or die and they might look very different in 10-15 years.
We’ve already seen the seeds planted by Amanda Palmer and Radiohead; selling on your own has worked for big artists after they’ve broken through the invisible “popularity” barrier. How are labels supposed to cope with this going forward if their artists start to think there’s more out there for them if they just use Bandcamp or Kickstarter to make their money going forward? All bands would need is a booking agent for their tours and handle their sales directly from their laptop. Where does the label fit into the picture as technology continues to grow rapidly?
Hypothetically, let’s say most major artists start leaving their labels after their contracts expire by the masses, what will labels do to combat that drop-off? They could eventually just have nothing to do with sales, and just be firms focused corporate branding, studio work, etc. The other option is that smaller labels would disappear and big labels would be forced to increase turnover and churn out new talent on a faster rate. Is that even feasible? Who knows…
The point is labels are forced to change by the sucess and development of DIY sales and distribution, and it won’t be long before most major artists will own 100% of their royalties. The irony of a somewhat grim storyline like this is that it would probably help music in the end. When artists have more control over their business, it can only help the art in the long run.
DEBATE: 5 Bold Predictions About the Music Industry’s Next Decade
It’s been kind of a sleepy week as people wake up from their relaxing Labor Day weekends, so we’re going to throw a firecracker into the bush and see if anyone flinches. The music industry is nothing, if not full of questions; questions we often mistake for answers in a frustrating time. The music industry has seen great change in the past 10 years, so we’re looking forward into the future 10 years. [DISCLAIMER: We’re not betting on our lives on these predictions. They’re just for fun.]
Major Record Labels Will Be Bought Out by Major Non-Music Corporations
We already know huge corporations still value the audiences music can tap into, and Spotify took advantage of this by forming a partnership with Coca Cola. Eventually, the major record labels will be forced to be bought by bigger companies and consolidate them into marketing divisions, built by great content.
Direct-to-fan will continue to grow
We’ve seen direct-to-fan services erupting in the past few years, and with the struggles of major labels, it’s only natural major artists will get leaner and meaner and operate by themselves and sell and distribute directly to their fans. It won’t be far off when we buy Beyonce albums directly from her website.
Streaming Will Hit a Wall
One way or another, the wild success of streaming music will be forced to downsize and get smarter. Content will be harder to keep with the current rates that streaming services offer to labels and artists. With the subscription fees continuing to be a tough sell to territories outside Europe, advertising funding will begin to shift. Streaming will remain a big player, but some backlash won’t allow it to swallow the market.
Festivals Will Multiply and Ticket Prices Will Spike
Festivals are becoming a huge cash cow for the industry, mostly in EDM music. Expect this trend to continue, and there to be more variety and multiple copycat festivals in more markets. Musicians will be overworked and the music will be washed out, but the fans will keep coming out because festivals have transformed into the premiere music experience.
The Web Will Finally Steal the Music Discovery Throne from Radio
They always say culture moves slower than technology. As we’ve repeatedly argued over here, Radio must no longer be the leading form of music discovery; not just because of the monopoly of content by the major labels, but because of the education of music fans across the world. In 10 years, culture finally catches up to technology in this regard, via music blogs and aggregators.
The Middle Class’ Struggles AND The Music Industry
Digital Music News raised a controversial debate (sound familiar?) over yet another reason why music industry people are so sad these days. This time, it’s the disappearing middle class. It’s more than just a political stump speech when people talk about the importance of the middle class on the national economy; it’s literally the spine that keeps the whole system intact. You can’t have a country with only rich people and poor people and hold a healthy GDP.
While it is valid to say the middle class makes up for a large portion of the today’s music buyers and some families might want spend their hard earned money on something other than music, but there are two holes to this logic.
1) The music industry’s tailspin began WAY before the 2008 recession. Everyone knows the day the mp3 became the hot commodity on the web in the mid 1990s, the music industry would never be the same, and has fundamentally revolutionized how western culture views and respects music. It’s always been a cultural issue, and not a money issue.
2) Let’s say hypothetically, the middle class’s employment woes are directly contributing to them buying less music, music has never been undervalued ever. Most tracks only cost $.99 on iTunes and often less on other digital stores. Even for a struggling family, $.99 is not a setback, no matter how you cut it.
Now There’s a Pinterest for Video…is a Pinterest for Music on the Way?
At this rate, Pinterest is throwing a party in the social media industry. No, not a real party, but it’s two steps away from launching a full-out trend with it’s grid-like, Tumblr design. TechCrunch reports that there is now another network like Pinterest, except it’s angled for video specifically (Oh, and it’s called “Chill.” What??). This is a natural progression since video content is still considered cutting edge content on the web today. However, the news raises an eyebrow: is the next obvious step a Pinterest angled for music?
To us, it makes perfect sense. Clearly Pinterest’s grid format is clicking and it took a few notes from an already popular network, Tumblr. Also, there’s a need for a network where bands can network within their own circles, for example with labels, production groups and distribution brands like ONErpm. Also, a music-centered version sounds a lot better than a video oriented one.
Radio killed the video star?