The Internet, New Media, and The Future of the Music Industry

March 25th, 2009 by

Musical dog in Animal Crossing wants his music to be free.While the RIAA continues to sue everyone and their mom, no really, remember this? And most record companies continue to lose sight of the direction they should be moving, there seems to be at least some hope for us die hard music fans in the future. During a keynote at the Leadership Music Digital Summit yesterday, Rio Caraeff, the executive VP of the eLabs group of Universal Music Group made some interesting points that lead me to believe the record labels might finally be wising up, but is it too late?

TechDirt reported that Caraeff’s focus seemed to be about the experience of music and not about the possession of music. With an emphasis on the idea that Universal Music Group and other labels need to start looking beyond the concept of just an album and consider the possibilities of a full experience that can update over time using things like fan participation and user-generated content. Best of all he wants it built on open standards, to avoid a situation like the Blu-ray consortium.

While I applaud Caraeff’s more positive outlook on the use of digital music and the internet I fear that record companies are simply too far behind the curve to start making an impact now. With bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead already pioneering the use of the internet to sell and market their music and bands like Counting Crows who ended their eighteen year relationship with Geffen records last week to do the same I am lead to believe that while major labels will never be obsolete the future of music and music marketing now falls in the hands of the artists.

Music Artists and New Media

So many artists are embracing new media at such an astounding rate these days that’s it’s hard to believe otherwise. While Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead are at the forefront of the movement other artists like Imogen Heap are doing just as much to create the “full experience” Caraeff mentioned already. With regular video blogs and tweets chronicling the music creation and recording process Imogen Heap is showing a side of music most artists don’t share until long after a record has been released, and while video journals of the recording process are nothing new the intimate look at her work, her frustrations, and her accomplishments make for a totally different fan experience.

In addition to regular updates about the progress of her album, Imogen Heap did something even more intriguing this past December. During the event Twestival, which followed a Radiohead-esque pay what you like model, Imogen Heap and a number of other artists contributed tracks to raise money for charity. However, Imogen upped the ante by uploading only a vocal track and encouraged visitors to add their own musical interpretation and then upload the mix for others to hear.

The Future of the Music Industry and Music Marketing

The innovation of artists and the internet is going to change the way we experience music and what’s even better, is that the record companies are not at the forefront of the movement.  More and more artists are turning to the internet to embrace fans, to interact with fans, and to spread their music to those that love it most. We are witnessing just the beginning of the future of music and music marketing as we know it today, but there are a number of artists already ahead of the curve. Here are a few of some of my favorites who are doing a great job at using the internet and new media to their advantage.

Radiohead – Introducing the pay what you like download structure, Radiohead allowed fans to download their album In Rainbows for whatever price they felt was most fair.

Nine Inch Nails – Stacking em’ deep and selling em’ cheap. Nine Inch Nails has taken the use of the internet by storm from uploading their own albums to torrent sites, to selling digital version of their albums for next to nothing, or simply giving them away. Nine Inch Nails has revolutionized the way bands promote, distribute, and sell their music online.

Imogen Heap – Using an array of new media such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, Imogen Heap gives listeners an intimate look into the music creation process.

Jimmy Eat World – The band began using Twitter as an innovative way to help fans communicate about shows by using @jimmyeatworld and a concert date hashtag which allows users to follow the conversation using their favorite twitter app or via the bands tour website which hosts twitter feeds for each show.

Honorable Mention

Josh Freese – While this music veteran’s innovative marketing techniques are not limited to the internet, much of the buzz around his new album and its tiered pricing plan started there. Freese is offering his album Since 1972 for as low as $7 for a digital copy to as high as $75,000 which includes a signed CD/DVD, digital download and a number of off the wall perks, which includes Josh recording a 5 song EP about you and your life story, one of his drumsets, and taking shrooms and cruising Hollywood in Danny from TOOL’s Lamborgini.

Josh has since admitted this was a prank that was meant to bring attention to the album, but said on his site that if anyone actually purchased one of the higher tiered packages he’d honor the purchase.

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