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November 11, 2010

Music like exercise

For the parts of the music industry that based their business model on recording music this change has been devastating but for the parts concerned with making music it has been a bonus. More music is being written and performed than ever before, which means that more musical instruments and equipment are being sold and more music education is being demanded.

The future of music is more like exercise than water. It's something we should all do more of for our own health and wellbeing, but the vast majority of people will never be any more than amateurs. It's about participation, not consumption.

I have been asked to speculate at this point about what the future might hold but I'm not going to speculate about the entire industry. This book concerns Independent musicians - especially those who self-publish. For them I have four insights:

1) It is vital for your business and your sanity that you separate your art from the industry. If you want to make art in your lounge room, please do and enjoy doing it. Be as out-there creative as you like - but don't assume you can make a living. Building or finding a market for your art requires compromise. It's that simple.

2) Don't assume that enforcing your copyright is the only way to derive income from your creativity. Controlling use and deriving income were linked in the 20th century because of an accident of technological history. Music is not a product, it's the service of entertaining people and touching their lives. Locking the music away removes your music from the marketplace or deters people who want your music.

3) Music careers in this century will be built on relationships with people whose lives your art touches. It is far better to use the products of your music business to build relationships with people and provide a service to them. They will reward you for your gifts. The best way to reach out is to make a gift of your music and know that enough people will appreciate your gifts to support you.

4) The 21st century has seen a heap of new revenue streams for musicians to tap. A pretty good summary of these is found here but more will almost certainly emerge over the next few years. The musicians who take best advantage of these will be the ones who think laterally about what they do and why people want to support it. Further innovation will be needed.


The past few yeas have shaken the music industry to its core, put many people out of work and created unprecedented opportunities to musicians who frustrated for most of the 20th century. Those who look ahead and think creatively about these opportunities will flourish in the 21st century, while those stuck on old thinking will struggle.

This post is one section of Part 3 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 November 11, 2010 8:30 PM

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