Editor’s note: From time to time we like to bring you guest columns on important subjects or industries. So we are very pleased to provide this two-part guest column by music futurist Gerd Leonhard. In this Part Two, he tells us how the music industry is changing, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs… and how musicians are becoming entrepreneurs.
By Gerd Leonhard
Music products become music services, access replaces ownership, the customer finally rules, and… we can do most of it ourselves!
The music industry is in a very exciting transition phase. Seven years after the first digital music “revolution” and the painful burst of the dotcom bubble, the so-called “Creatives” (aka musicians, producers, writers, composers…) are finally starting to see a glimpse of what may be in store for them: more control over their own destiny, less hassle, direct access to their markets and… more cash!
Digital technologies have become an unobtrusive and omnipresent part of our lives. The way that the entertainment, media and content industries must conduct their business has therefore changed forever. This digital tide cannot be reversed. Digital technologies have simply become part of our lifestyle, and one that empowers music producers to “go Do It Yourself” (DIY) — rather than sign their rights away for admission to the music distribution food-chain.
Clearly, the DIY trend in the music business will lead to exponential growth in the small-to-medium size service industries (SMEs). Specialized skills and knowledge will be highly valuable. Even major artists are starting to take charge of their own business affairs and want to coordinate their own marketing and business development activities. No longer are they willing to sign all rights away to a large music company and live (or rather, die) at their mercy for the next 7 years.
Now is the time to start marketing services companies, technology consultancies, branding agencies and full-service companies.
However, there is one exception: studios. Small studios will have a very difficult time competing in the market place. The perception is that now anyone can build a small home-studio for less than $5000 and do all their own productions from A-Z. Anyone that has ever been to a good studio, with a good producer and a good engineer, knows that this is not the case. Small studios must know find other ways to add value, e.g. by offering mastering services, web services or simply helping DIY producers do it on their own.
This also portends changes in music schools and educational institutions, which now need to teach “the business” of music and DIY. There is no doubt that 100s of 1000s of talented musicians, composers and writers have fallen prey to the idea of “being good = good enough”; i.e., that by being a great musician they will somehow manage to make a good living.
Well, anyone that has been there will tell you that this is a fool’s paradise. Being a musician is being an entrepreneur. Period.
Skills for successful entrepreneurship can be learned and trained. Many music schools such as my own alma mater, Boston’s Berklee College of Music, already offer this kind of training — now, even online (see www.berkleemusic.com).
Entrepreneurship turns out to be an essential skill for today’s musicians — and even more so for the musician of tomorrow.
* * * * * * * * * *
In addition to being a futurist, Gerd Leonhard is a musician, entrepreneur, and the co-author of The Future of Music.
Be sure to check out Part One of this series (scroll down or click here).