Sunday, December 23, 2007

Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists

On Wired magazine site, David Byrne has written a small textbook on the recorded-music industry that summarizes the major approaches that are available today. The included audio clips of his interviews with innovators of different business models are well worth the time.

He sets out six models of recorded-music distribution, which he calls The Six Possibilities:

Where there was one, now there are six: Six possible music distribution models, ranging from one in which the artist is pretty much hands-off to one where the artist does nearly everything. Not surprisingly, the more involved the artist is, the more he or she can often make per unit sold. The totally DIY model is certainly not for everyone — but that’s the point. Now there’s choice.

1. The 360° or equity deal; the creator is a brand that’s owned entirely by the publisher lock, stock, barrel, and they manage the entire thing for you (or without you).

2. The standard deal; ownership of the creation goes to a publisher, and the creator gets paid by them (after costs).

3. The license deal; the creator retains ownership, and a publisher has the rights to market/exploit the material for a period of time, after which they revert to the creator who can then exploit or shop them around

4. The profit-sharing deal; minimal upfront cash to the creator (who retains ownership), publisher performs marketing and distribution, and they split the proceeds.

5. The manufacturing and distribution deal; the creator does everything except make and ship the final product, and the publisher is pretty much reduced to fee-for-service.

6. Not a deal, but self-distribution — the creator does it all, but just as importantly, keeps all the money; with digital distribution costs of music approaching zero, look for this to be much more popular in the future.

I have two immediate thoughts about this. One is that everyone is making this up as they go along. Musicians need to think about what they want to accomplish and invent/ tweak/ hack business procedures that move them toward that goal — and this is how it always has been.

Read the rest here

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