Music of the future (and music of the past)


The song that features this line, Music by John Miles, was written 10 years before I was born. It is therefore quite old. Some songs will never lose their power, but the way music is being sold and distributed will change.

Buying and owning music

First of all there’s the question who owns the music and who has to pay for it. Since the rise of illegal downloading people started to believe that music is supposed to be free. Back in the days people would copy cassette tapes too, obviously. But downloading makes it even easier to grab some new tunes before going on the road. An interesting film on this subject is RIP! A Remix Manifesto.

This documentary deals with issues of copyright in the information age, mashing up the media landscape of the 20th century and shattering the wall between users and producers. The film is made by Brett Gaylor. The films central figure is Girl Talk, a mash-up musician topping the charts with his sample-based songs. But is Girl Talk a paragon of people power or the Pied Piper of piracy? Creative Commons founder, Lawrence Lessig, Brazil’s Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil and pop culture critic Cory Doctorow are also along for the ride.

This discussion always fascinates me. I believe people should pay for music. It is a product they buy and own. You can only own something when you buy it or when it’s given to you, not when you steal it. Since digital music is easier to distribute than a CD, prices should be much lower though. Some artists believe that sharing their music for free will encourage fans to come to their concerts. That’s very plausible, but the artist then decided for himself that the music will be free of charge, not the consumers.

Entrepreneurs are now trying to find new ways to distribute music. One of the new methods is a subscription based model. You get access to a huge database of music by paying a fixed price every month. You can listen to all the songs in that library as many times you want, but cannot download them. A well known example is Spotify. With this model people still don’t own songs, as soon as you end your subscription all your favourite songs are gone. I won’t say that this model will not succeed. It might be sufficient for some people to just stream there music and not own it. Personally I wouldn’t like it though.

Who needs a record company nowadays?

Another interesting issue is managing investments in music. There still are big record companies that believe that they exactly know which artist will be successful amongst the audience and only contract those artists. I believe there are other ways.

Wouldn’t it be more logical to let music lover decide what they like? It sounds logical, but it’s not the way it works yet for every artist. But luckily there’s SellaBand. This website gives artists the opportunity to raise money amongst fans, so-called ‘believers’. These believers invest a small amount of money, e.g. $10. When you sell 1.000 shares like this, you have $10.000, to record, distribute and market your music. When the musician starts making profit from record sales, believers will receive a small percentage of that money. They also receive the music the artist made with that money, either as a physical CD or digital download.

At first the site was being used by small bands only. A few weeks ago rap formation Public Enemy joined SelaBand and raised over $70.000 since then. Dutch artist Hind joined last November and raised €40.000 (+/- $50.000) in 12 days. These sites really give the power back to the people. If fans like an artists’ music and their willing to invest in the artists career and music, there now is an easy opportunity.


I personally believe music should be paid for. The problem is that most people don’t share that opinion, because they are used to getting it for free. I don’t believe that one day people all of a sudden start paying, but record companies will have to find other ways to sell their music, for instance through subscriptions.

That is, obviously, if there will be record companies around then. When the audience grabs the power to decide which artist has talent and is worth your money and investment, record companies might be in trouble.


2 comments so far

  1. on

    I understand your view on this subject, but the majority of people who’ve downloaden music for free before will never pay for music again.. Most likely that is. It’s not that they don’t like music, just that there are other ways to obtain it.

    The record companies have “used and abused” us for many years, until the internet stepped in. Then, all of a sudden, they start campains to ban downloading. But it’s a battle they can’t win cause technology is always one step ahead of them and the law makes them even slower.

    It’s like with newspapers. These days they sell less because more people are reading the news on the internet. If something happens right now, you will read it in tomorrows paper, which isn’t news anymore by then (the new generation uses internet tweaks like Twitter).

    It’s the same with music, and I think Apple tried to find a way by offering legal downloads for cash. They are now marketleader in that area, showing there is some potential to legal downloading for profit.

    My view may be radical, but I think music should be able to get downloaded for free. People subscibe to a site or program (free) and agree to terms where they’ll get ads once in a while. Record companies aren’t needed anymore, just an agency for the artist. Then, when people download the music, you get ALOT of information because they subscibed.

    Datamine and look where the people downloading it came from. Get the artist to do a show there. Send the people in the area a message telling them about the upcoming show. Because you approach a specific area, you can make the message more personal (these days individualism is getting more important).

    There are many more examples you can do with the information you get from people. Like recommend similar music/artists that people just downloaded etc. and starting a marketing campain true internet (cheap) for the fans. Leave an option open for people to donate/buy a fysical product like a CD or merchandise.

    True, the record companies will play a very small role, but they screwed us over in the past anyway. Let the agency, who knows more about the artist, is more involved and cares more about the artist, handle his business. Things will get way clearer this way..

    Jeremy (old classmate) 😉

  2. […] one of my previous posts I wrote about an initiative called SellaBand. That site made it possible to […]

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