“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises” – Demosthenes –
As mentioned in my previous article in this series, the former model of the record industry – dictating what music is marketable is in fact … dead.
The world’s major record companies for the past 15+ years are losing vast amounts of revenue due to the emergence of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing sites and the swapping of playlists between individuals using social networking and other forms of digital distribution.
A disturbing fact for the record companies and other online distribution entities, is that a vast amount of people do not actually pay for their own music. With enough skill and time a person can find almost anything for free on the internet. This method of accessing music is being literally dictated from the ground up where the connected user, having access to new music online, can literally take away the potential income from artists and record companies. Myself and other artists from the Caribbean are not excluded. Just go to any peer-to-peer download site and I am sure you can find someone online who has soca, calypso, reggae and possibly other genres of Caribbean music sharing on their networks.
A few years ago I attended a workshop hosted by the Copyright Music Organization of Trinidad and Tobago (C.O.T.T.). The featured speaker was world renowned music and media futurist, Mr. Gerd Leonhard. He did in fact open my eyes to the realities of the situation regarding the music industry and the opportunities presented to the people in the Caribbean (and other areas) via newer outlets of music distribution and niche marketing.
In his research at that time, he discovered that approximately 40 million people are living in the Caribbean with about 15% currently online. Of course within the next 5 years this percentage will expand rapidly as more and more people continue to become connected via digital networks. Also, there is an estimated 20 million Caribbean Diaspora users who are online from the US, UK and Canada. These people consume news, fashion, entertainment and music from the Caribbean via online distribution.
Get the point! We as musicians and producers MUST become aware of and, most importantly, have access to this vast niche market. And this is only the beginning of our expansion.
So naturally the question arises. With the older methods of distribution by the world’s major record companies on the decline, how can we get a piece of that distribution pie and gain more worldwide exposure for our music?
One of the methods is licencing your music to companies who will then attach or ‘bundle’ your music to their products. An example of this is the methods used by mobile companies. Once the music is licensed the mobile company is then able to advertise that purchasing a certain model of phone will give the buyer exclusive ‘free’ music that comes with the purchase. The advantage of this method is that everybody involved in the chain of distribution wins. The consumer gets a phone with ‘free’ music, the mobile company sells a product and the artist is paid via the licencing deal. This is one of the methods of distribution that Mr. Leonard has termed ‘Feels Like Free’ and yes the music does feel like ‘free’ to the consumer who brought the phone.
It goes without saying that mobile companies will more likely use artists whom they feel would fall in line with the image and branding strategy the company wants to project.
There are many more emerging examples of this type of bundled distribution and as the networking and distribution landscape changes (” …. 5 Billion connected people (by 2020)” … Gerd Leonhard) there will be many different and varied opportunities for artists to reach the niche markets that are out there and, most importantly, get paid for the service.
In my third and final article in this series we will take a look at the rise of the home recording studio, music technology and how it is affecting the incomes of larger commercial recording studios.