But seriously and on a more positive note…
Lucas’ conversation brings up the idea of the collective (A. K. A. musicians’ community sites, net labels, etc.) acting as the new version of a recording label. Not a full replacement in terms of what a label does today, like Amazon replacing brick and mortar book stores, but more like blogging, which has parallels in the pre-Web world but is a service industry born of the Web itself.
The musicians’ collective and it’s implications, commercially and otherwise, are not new ideas to me. After all, I run one for Creative Commons called ccMixter. Unfortunately with the confidential nature of the way the ccMixter RFP was held under wraps for 18 months I chose the better part of valor (for once) and did not discuss these things in public because I was scared out of my mind that CC’s tax exempt status could be hurt if the ccM hand-over was screwed up. This, of course, turned out to be one lawyer’s opinion but it was the only information I had at the time.
The business opportunity implications lurking around ccM would take more than a blog post to relay but here’s one highlight that makes the ccM collective even more interesting than other sites that pool album shopping carts and other resources.
Lucas and Neeru’s original vision for the site was a re-use model obvious to them, new to musicians. They saw the site laid out as:
a) source material
From day one of my involvement I felt that with a few additions (e.g. giving a cappellas a top-tier status, creating a Sample Pool larger than just the one site, focusing on quality via the Editors’ Picks) that we could help propel the concepts into a model musicians could wrap their heads around. This combined vision has given ccM a unique process for creating really good music that, like blogging, has parallels in the pre-Web days but has grown into something different.
Somehow, unlike hiring a producer (A.K.A. your boyfriend) to create an album based on a singer/songwriter’s material and unlike collaborating with other band members to jam together until a vocal and instrumental work as a unit, the act of tossing things into a sample pool with no fixed objective or assignments has yielded some fantastic music. When I say “no fixed objective” I mean we even stopped having remix contests over a year ago and the music only got better. It got better because the thing drawing in better singers was better producers. And the thing drawing in better producers was better singers. There’s the recursion thing writ large in real terms.
fwiw I walk around these days thinking “I can’t believe it fucking worked!” because maybe Lucas and Neeru and folks at CC are used to having their visions pan out in the real world but this is new to me. I tried for years to convince singers and musicians that open music was good for their careers and the world and exposure through sharing was the sane route, not the inverted distortion field of handing over 100% of your rights to a huge corporation in return for financial debt you can never repay. Of course, all of those are still true and certainly part of the attraction, but it wasn’t until this recursion-in-the-pool thing starting taking off that all of a sudden the best musicians I know are forking over stems and pells without blinking. I look up now and I realize in two years I’ve gone from nearly full-time evangelism to nearly none.
Now, maybe the CD is dead. Maybe a ccM model isn’t amenable to selling songs at $0.99 a pop.
But how could this thing not be marketable? Especially if we’re talking about, like blogging, a new type of service, born of the Web. Assuming all the other fundamentals of business skills are in place (clever marketing, good people connections, profit oriented bookkeeping, etc.) I would say it’s worth a shot to go after the huge B2B music consuming marketplace.