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September 15, 2010

Part 2 Summary

Music is a non-verbal code for sharing experiences, thoughts and feelings. The music industry exists to convert the value of shared musical experience into a commercial proposition.

Traditional economics cannot explain the inconsistencies of the commercial value of music. When music is traded, much more is exchanged than money and music.

Music does not operate mainly in the economies of money or power. It operates in the economy of esteem, which can be converted into either power or money, but is not driven by either. The primary business function of an Independent musician is to gather esteem, from which they can derive income.

The most important source of esteem for a musician is esteem based on their repertoire of songs. This is established at first by playing songs that someone else made popular and then increased by writing their own esteemed music.

A musical act must look to build esteem for some unique aspect of their performances, such as their attitude, image, or innovation. This esteem expands their sources of income and influence into non-musical representations such as merchandise and endorsements.

Building esteem for the artist behind the songs and performances allows other elements to accrue value. Musicians can then use these elements to sustain a career in other media or use their media profile to promote their other activities.

The highest level of esteem a musician can aspire to does not relate to their musical output. It relates to their contribution to the industry and to the culture more broadly. This kind of esteem almost guarantees the relevance and future value of musicians.

The esteem of fans is an essential source of income, labour and materials. But fans can be fickle and require constant attention. In this business, building and maintaining a fan base is as important to Independent musicians as writing good songs and staging a great live show.

The esteem of peers is vital to a musician's career. Peer esteem can be converted into income, influence, or materials but must be protected against a reputation for ruthlessness.

Musicians looking to 'take the next step' in their careers can convert the esteem of industry decision-makers into more direct forms of support. This support is offered in the expectation that income will be generated later and quickly withdrawn if that does not happen.

New technologies have made it easier for musicians to gather esteem and maintain relationships with the people who supply it. But technology cannot help with the basics - relationships are best built when musicians meet people and give them a reason to confer some esteem.


The key to building a sustainable musical career is to accumulate esteem by writing the best music, giving the best performances and being the most professional artist possible. This esteem can be converted into the income and influence that will sustain a musical career.

Esteem must be gathered from three distinct sources: fans, peers and colleagues, for three distinct career properties: the creations, the performance, and the legacy. In addition, esteem can be granted for non-musical reasons; novelty, professionalism, politics, or fashion. However, esteem from these sources may not sustain a musical career.

The best source of esteem is real human relationships. Modern technologies can help manage those relationships and convert them into income and influence - but technology cannot create them.

This post is the summary of Part 2 of Dr Huge's "How the record industry got it so wrong". The latest version of the complete ebook can be downloaded here and a hard copy can be ordered here.
Posted by DrHuge at September 15, 2010 5:01 PM

I'm extremely impressed. This is far more logical than anything I've read on the industry. Everyone else appears to be afraid to speak the truth on this topic. Oddly enough, I had to disband my old band (HAMMER OF FATE) because the guys weren't on the same page with me and one in particular (the bass player) kept attempting to undermine my authority. Still seeking a new roster of intelligent, talented, non-ego-centric individuals for my band and will use my plan to gain esteem through the avenue you've posted here.

I'm looking forward to reading the third segment of this.

Posted by: Daemon Blak at October 26, 2010 6:16 AM

Dr. Huge,

Where is part 3? I am anxious to learn more of this.

Posted by: Daemon Blak at October 26, 2010 6:26 AM

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