Chances are the future of the music business is going to be the same as the future of print journalism—online. A panel addressing this important issue within the music community, especially in the wake of a vast change in technology, included the five panelists David Wolter (RCA), Mark Kates (Fenway Recordings), Steve Gordon (Stevegordonlaw.com), Cliff Chinfeld (Razor + Tie Entertainment), and Jeff Liebenson (Liebenson Law). Collectively, they examined new “channels of communication” for music, various types of artists that are going to experience the most success, and both the legal and profit-sharing aspects of major labels.
Different artists take different approaches to making their way in the music industry. The panel discussion highlighted that a middle-range and balanced type of artist holds the capability to speak to consumers about going digital—likely because such an artist is approachable. Also, this type of artist makes for a convincing sell (see also: Justin Timberlake). Yet Mark Kates added that a path in the music business does not necessarily need to be “conventional” or even defined by someone else’s stated opinion. Cultivating a genuine fan base and loyal following can, in fact, be the artist’s primary focus. In fact, doing so in an innovative way will determine and define the new artistic economy, both personal and monetary. Fan base and connectivity then must be nurtured. The ideal artist, as discussed by Kates is an artist who is, “somewhere between handling things for [themselves] and Lady Gaga.” Steve Gordon pointed out that Obama’s Performance Rights Bill pays artists for radio time, an improvement in profit distribution.
These new horizons for musicians beg the question: are we about to go through or currently going through the renovation of the “rockstar”? Is the new rockstar one who experiments in the breadth of technology? Who becomes more accessible than rockstars of previous generations? Perhaps we’ll see. Arguably, if the benefits of the craze aren’t reaped, the distinction of an era could be lost.
That said, a major part of the digital era is not just how artists network to build a fanbase, but also in a concept coined by Andrew Murphy in an essay “Tish Ill Done: Henry The Fifth And The Politics Of Editing,” called “channels of communication.” In this context, channels of communication can be taken to mean how major portals of technology—cell phones, cable service, and internet search engines such as Google—can bring new music and a new level of accessibility to music. Steve Gordon pointed out the idea of Google as a platform for new ways to listen to music, explaining the potential for music to be connected to mobile devices within an unlimited timeframe and range. Yet, with music so widely available in such a case, the different paths of these sorts of collaborations must be carefully considered. The panel discussed that it is crucial to examine the benefits and drawbacks of these kinds of ventures. What is most appealing to consumers may not be most appealing to artists and vice versa. Unlimited access could weaken the industry, or potentially provide it with a wave of strength. I believe Cliff Chinfeld suggested that Google could have a potential short-term success with music sharing. They also discussed that YouTube can be examined as an entryway and rostrum for new music.
So, for artists, labels, and fans alike, new waves of technology and innovation are paving new paths for what is the neo-globalizing of music markets. The question is: more technology—more probability of the kitchen sink, or float?