The Top 13 Things We've Discovered In the Digital New World...
Here are the top lessons the music industry has 'discovered' in the early days of this 'digital new world'.
(1) It's really, really hard to sell music to fans online. Whether the iTunes Store or Rdio, getting fans to allocate even modest amounts of their income to music is an extremely difficult challenge. Competing with free has proven a hard game indeed.
(2) But it's not as hard to engage fans, as long as they're not paying. In fact, they love music more than ever! Welcome to the Digital New World riddle.
(3) DRM is an awful idea, at least for downloads. Other platforms like YouTube, subscription services, and streaming radio are still fair game.
(4) Sound quality doesn't matter. At least to most fans. That would explain why few have complaints with MP3s, though Jimmy Iovine and T. Bone Burnett have serious problems with the fidelity freefall.
(5) An official release date means very little. Almost everything is leaked in advance, and even half-baked copies find their way online long before a scheduled drop.
(6) Licensing content is a great way to squander an investment. VCs are largely out of this game, though others are still slogging through horrific licensing processes and nosebleed costs (ie, Spotify). Or, running the red light and dealing with the consequences (ie, Grooveshark).
(7) Email addresses are more important than Facebook, Twitter and MySpace connections. Or, at least that's what pros like Ian Rogers (of Topspin) are saying. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, but according to what rulebook?
(8) If you're hot right now, just wait 5 minutes. Attention spans are shorter than ever, and fan relationships with bands can be fickle and short-lived.
(9) Direct-to-fan distribution is a seriously double-edged sword. Sure, you can create powerful direct-to-fan relationships, but so can millions of other bands. Welcome to the horrific content glut that results from digital democracy.
(10) There's an app for that. Good luck selling ringtones or OTA downloads on a mobile device. But those that understand app culture have done well, including Tapulous, Smule, and T-Pain.
(11) 360-degree deals can really kill your musical mojo. We're just starting to see some of the problems associated with these label land grabs. Smart artists like Arcade Fire and Metric are rolling their own multi-national deals, though sometimes the 360-degree paycheck is worth the handcuffs.
(12) Digital disruption is not just for record labels. Nearly every other sector - including publishing and touring - are also trudging through tough transitions.
(13) The music is still the most important thing. Artists over-dialed into their Twitter followings and play counts are often missing the most important part of the equation.
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