© Chris Port, 2010
As a Socratic ingénue, the following naive points occur to me. Please slap them down as you wish so that I can revise my early thesis :)
1) Before the internet revolutionized human communication, and before the digital miniaturization of data, most musical artists were almost totally reliant upon the working practices of the distributors. The whole industry was geared towards their requirements. Production companies would try to anticipate or manipulate audience fashions. Pimps and agents would scavenge the pubs with their menus, sampling all the desperate young meat. Once the artist was taken on by the brothel, they would be bathed and milked for a year or two then tossed out onto the back alley circuit. All the cost overheads were born by the pimps, so it was only fair that they receive the majority of the return on their investment: legal contracts, expensive recording facilities, fashion design, photo shoots, advertising campaigns, merchandizing deals, cheap sweatshop manufacturers, etc. The artist was usually a pathetic bedsit starlet in this artistic equivalent of sex trafficking.
2) All of this has now changed out of all recognition. Production costs have been reduced exponentially by technology. Most of the professional expertise (apart from the contractual side) is now common knowledge or easily researched. Mass promotion and distribution over the internet is easy.
3) The most obvious and logical way to develop the music industry, and protect the artistic and commercial interests of the artists, would seem to be mass cheap legal download forums acting as easily navigable musical libraries. Profit margins could be protected by mass turnover, perhaps download licenses (e.g. you download a track for a year then have to ‘top up’ if you still want to keep it in your collection).
4) Given the global diversification of musical audiences and tastes, and the huge back catalogue, the current niche in the market would seem to be for the expertise of musical commentators, Internet DJs and on-line librarians, who can guide customers through the data maze to the hidden gems as well as the mass-marketed chav shit. A small monthly subscription fee for a large menu of online support access and services would seem to be a good place to make money. The artist should receive a healthy percentage (I’m no legal expert here – see your free online legal advice page) on the number of downloads from their catalogue page. Standard DTI approved legal licensing could protect the artist from the sharks.
5) The opportunities for media cross-fertilization would seem to be limitless. Advertising links, film links, discussion pages etc. Perhaps struggling young new artists should receive funding support from some common ‘pot’ from mass commercial artists who could also act as patrons and promoters of up-and-coming talent that catches their eye. There would seem to be wonderful scope for philanthropy and patronage of the arts here, as well as whole new forms of dodgy dealing which it will be a delight to commentate on as a musical journalist. I’m excited. I smell an opportunity here...