The article itself is not much of a read. It basically lists a number of start up companies, with a sum of money after their name.
What this sum represents (total investments into the startup? Gross or net income per fiscal year? Something else?) is not clear: your guess is as good as mine.
Articles such as these wouldn’t normally catch my attention, but the equation “there’s lots of money for startups dealing with music = the music business is healthy” has been presented to me quite a few time during the last two weeks, and I want to have my say about it.
I think this is a misrepresentation of the reality of the industry.
What is music business?
The equation above works is you have a loose definition of music business.
If anything having to do with music pertains to the music business, then yes, it is quite clear that there are plenty of people making money, with more investment on the horizon.
On the other hand, most people don’t share such a broad definition. The business of music is the business of composing, recording, performing, and selling music.
Someone who picks up your music and offers it to a film producer or a studio is working in the music business. Someone who creates a virtual platform where musicians and filmmakers can perhaps get in touch and perhaps make deals is not working in the music business, but in the social media business.
You might think that mine is a fine distinction and that, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what the startup does, as long as the money comes rolling in.
To some extent, you are right. There are some interesting services mentioned in that list, and stuff like internet radios or social medias where fans can discover my music are always welcomed.
On the other hand, it’s important to focus one’s marketing efforts.
I already spend an incredible amount of time pushing my music through a few channels out there. Perhaps I am doing something wrong, but I couldn’t fathom the idea of using three, five, ten more social medias. There’s just too much to do and too little time to do it.
Marketing focus is the reason why you don’t see the Rolling Stones on Soundcloud, for example. I suspect that their marketing experts are not snobs, but simply well aware that they can get much more with a focussed effort.
Using many marketing tools tends to get in the way of staying focussed. That translates in less money.
The proliferation of music-related startups and the money circulating in that business is sometimes used to give the impression that anyone can make it in the music business (the real, old school one). That is wishful thinking.
The amount of money granted to these startups has nothing to do with musicians, producers, studios and all that. More importantly, these startups often don’t pay for the music, ask for a commission when a sale is done, and don’t generally do much to promote their musicians. Their work goes into making sure that the platform offered is working.
Don’t get me wrong, these people need to eat, too. But they are just tools, just like guitars or microphones.
Just because there are 50 thousand brands of microphones out there, it doesn’t mean that you can stop putting some work into your singing. The singing doesn’t get done by itself. You still have to sweat to get a killer performance.
Well, it’s the same here.
When I see the leaflet for Midem 2012 and I see that they are advertising the startups that have been successfully founded in the past, or people talking about new ways of making money by using social medias, or articles like this one, I wonder whether I am doing everything wrong.
Last time I checked, starting a business made you an entrepreneur, not a musician. If that’s what you want to do, and your business uses music to succeed, good for you: I wish you all the luck in the world (especially if you are using my music!).
Most new businesses are not opening new venues for me, as a musician. They are simply transporting the old venues (traditional radios, traditional A&R men at record labels, etc.) into the digital age.
Sometimes, this process can open big doors. It happened in the past with Napster, CD Baby, and other platforms that really empowered musicians. Perhaps the next revolutionary idea is out there… but rest assured you will hear about it in due course, if that is the case!