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The New Model of Music

November 20, 2007

I was talking to my friend the other day who was telling me about how
his band broke up recently. It was sad, as I had always thought he was
an excellent musician. When I asked him why they split, he said that
his “rock and roll” band mates told him he treated the band too much
like…. a business. This certainly shows that his former band mates
don’t get it.

Times have changed and with it, so has the music
industry. One of my college heroes, Shawn Fanning, fired the shot
heard round the world when he launched Napster,
the file sharing software that changed everything. The record labels,
as well as many bands and acts, have failed to see that the revolution
of easier access to music is not going away…ever.

Delusional rock and roll wanna be’s
grew up watching bands like Nirvana and Guns n Roses who partied hard,
were discovered, and became rich and famous, all the while keeping the
party alive while other people handled the business aspect for them.
Those days are dead.

Oh sure, it still happens from time to
time. But it was a 1 in a million chance in the early 90’s and it’s
even slimmer today. Anytime someone wants to make a living at music,
then it is a business. Plain and simple. Now that file sharing has
taken a hair band size bite out of profits, record labels are much more
reluctant to swoop in and do all of the business leg work while you sit
around with groupies, binge drink, and write what you think are hits.

Things
are different today. If you are in a band, you must be one part
showman, one part entrepreneur. That is why some of the most
successful local acts I have seen have a very entrepreneurial quality
when you look behind the scenes. Two examples: the Zac Brown Band’s front man Zac owned a business in Georgia, a bar called Zac’s place. Within Reason,
a successful band from here in Birmingham, has a front man who is just
as dynamic a salesman as he is a lead singer. You just can’t survive
these days without keeping your eye on the bookings, marketing,
recording, printing…. all of the business aspects of music.

The good news is that there are more tools at your disposal than ever before as an aspiring artist. Myspace,
online radio, and home recording studios give you access to tools and
exposure that used to cost thousands of dollars. Now every band can
come correct. There is no excuse for a half cocked attempt at band
promotion anymore. And since there are fewer dollars to spread around
in the record industry, labels only want to find artists who already
have a following. So if you’re in a band, put down that fifth of Jack,
and pick up a book on promotion and marketing. In today’s music scene,
the stars aren’t drunk losers anymore. They are savvy mavericks.

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