The Other Day at NX35: Tweet or Die (Or: The 21st Century Music Biz)

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If you managed a band in 1999 and told your clients to forget the major labels and focus on "social networking" while giving away free tracks--you wouldn't have lasted long enough to even be working today.

But at least you could say "I told ya so."

Ten years (and countless futile RIAA lawsuits) later, this is the new conventional wisdom. And  the folks behind NX35 wanted to make sure everyone understood, so they hosted a discussion panel, "Redefining the Music Industry Through Social Networking", which basically amounted to five people telling you to get a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

With that established, the discussion turned to address the shifting business model and some of the longterm trends that will come out of it. One panelist, Hypeworthy CEO Nico Martini, forecasts a shift in the way songs are released: "I think there will be a movement to release more songs over [a] period of time as opposed to albums. Because of the nature of distribution, it would be more beneficial for indie bands (specifically) to release a series of EP's simply because it gives them more opportunities to connect with bloggers and fans."

In the new business model, concerts are the product and songs are more like advertisements--just another way to keep your b(r)and relevant. Every time the RIAA sues some broke college kid for downloading a song, they're hiding this dirty little secret: Despite the actual monetary value of a recorded song--zero dollars--the music industry remains healthy and vibrant. It's the recording industry who takes it on the chin. (To be fair, there is a market for tangible recordings, including vinyl and CDs, for the much higher sound quality than one gets from an mp3--but it's pretty niche.)

Thanks to cheaper technology and communication opportunities, artists have more independence: "You [the artists] have more control over your own destiny," said Martini.

It's a two-way street, however; more control also means more work. Bands actually have to continue making quality material and tour constantly if they ever hope to fill a stadium some day. They also take care of their own PR and marketing. But hey, setting up a blog at Wordpress costs nothing but your time.
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