Interview: Chris Vinson & David Dufresne, Founder/CTO & CEO Of Bandzoogle (Pt. 2)
Read Part One. Kyle Bylin: "For every institution that failed, for every business model that outlived its usefulness, new and better ones rushed in the fill the void," Richard Florida says in his book The Great Reset. "Past periods of crisis eventually gave rise to new epochs of great ingenuity and inventiveness." He argues that, that crises—perhaps ones much like the record industries'—"are the times when new technologies and new business models were forged, and they were also the eras that ushered in new economic and social models and new ways of living and working."
How do you think new ways of living and working, both in terms of artists rethinking traditional assumptions and new ways of organizing the record and music industries, will help drive post-crash prosperity?
Chris Vinson: If we look at the successful artists that we have as Bandzoogle members and try to identify patterns of how they got there, we can identify some basic rules on how to optimize your website and your online presence (and we are happy to share those best practices through our blogging and talks).
"But, at the end of the day, there won’t be one magical path to success, and success most often won’t be measured in Billboard rankings and Soundscan stats."
There will be thousands of way to succeed, as many as there are successful artists. So it’s hard to answer your question. I’m not sure there will be a recovery for the record and music industries, and I’m not sure there should be one. What we hope to see is the emergence of a middle class of musicians that can quit the day job, focus on their art and craft, earn a decent living, provide healthcare to your family, etc. We’re not talking sold out arenas, Grammy Awards and private jets here…
David Dufresne: I agree with Chris. Also, I think that successful careers will be long term ventures; talented artists slowly building a fan base and finding sustainable ways to complement the emotional response of those fans with different ways to monetize that engagement, in a recurring fashion. There will be important and lucrative roles for those that help make those connections and provide added value in monetizing them (we hope!).
That’s where I think the music industry needs to move. I think that business models based on one-hit-wonders, or short-lived trends might still exist, but they won’t save the music industry.
KB: In the past, the record and music industries were disproportionately biased towards a singular mode of thinking about how success was achieved and measured. Somewhere, at the back of a bar, an A&R agent sat and discovered your band, signed you to his representative label, and paid for the production of your album. Then, you toured on that album, got on radio, and in retail—if you moved millions of albums, then and only then, you were deemed a success. And, if you weren't able to accomplish that feat, the album was considered a failure.
In what ways have new technologies brought us into a new economy for music, where instead of one model that everyone tried to apply, to an economy where many different models exist?
David Dufresne: Everything is changing. The reasons why the industry was able to (and had to) play gatekeeper are all seeing fundamental changes. You can think of how you needed thousands of dollars of equipment, studio time and professionals, just to produce and record music. Now, kids with a MacBook, a few good mics and the right software cab get started. The barriers to entry are all disappearing. It used to be that the product you sold needed to be manufactured, liner notes printed, assembled, put in boxes, shipped, taken out of boxes, displayed attractively on retail shelves, etc.
"That structure still exists, and it is incredibly costly in terms of margins for the artists and everyone involved."
But, in parallel you now have an evolving digital distribution system where the costs to deliver music are a fraction of what they used to be and can even be fixed, instead of variable. Finally, think of how radio, television and the mainstream press were mandatory channels if you wanted to market your music outside of your own social circle and local scene. You couldn’t have access to that on you own. Nowadays there are thousands of music bloggers, podcasters you can hope to reach. Your fans also become your marketing reps when they mention you on social networks, share your videos on Youtube, etc.
All this means that it’s easier than ever to get started on your own. If the music and the performances are good, a completely independent band or artist can launch its career and get to a certain level of success before needing help from service providers in order to get to the next level. This changes the balance of power. The gatekeeper isn’t needed anymore.
Also, what do you think are some of the greatest challenges that artists face will be within this new music economy?
Chris Vinson: The biggest challenge that artists will face in the new economy is that those barriers to entry are disappearing for everyone! If you think you are the hot new hip-hop act in your city, there are probably a few hundred other hopefuls within a few zip codes that think exactly the same thing. And they are all uploading videos on Youtube and spreading their tracks all over the Internet. They might even have more Facebook friends than you have. My point here is that you’re not competing for A&R reps’ attention anymore; you are competing for your fans attention. And it’s a brutal war.
David Dufresne: Take a moment and try to estimate how many artists there are out there that you would consider yourself a fan of (you can name their albums, you’ve seen their show, or you wish you had, etc.). How many? Now think how many artists your parents knew and liked when they were your age. You probably know and like between 5X and 10X as many artists as your parents did (my very unscientific guess). You probably have thousands of songs on you right now, on your iPod, or on your phone… But your attention isn’t unlimited.
"Like your mom and dad, you only have 1,440 minutes in a day and a fraction of those will be dedicated to enjoying music. But those minutes are spread over a much larger number of artists than before."
Or maybe not… maybe you know and “own” hundreds of artists, but always come back to the same ones. In the old CD market, and even in the iTunes model, you were expected to pay, and pay the same suggested retail price for all of those. But maybe you should just pay for the ones that you really enjoy and those that really grab your precious minutes of attention. And maybe you’ll be willing to pay a lot more for those than just the price of a CD or mp3.
Again, like your dad, there is only a fraction of the cash in your pockets that you’re willing to specifically allocate to music. Those dollars are also getting spread over a larger number of artists. And there are still many, many middlemen hoping to get their share.
Chris Vinson: Yeah that’s definitely the biggest challenge. How to you differentiate yourself, rise above the noise, and grab the fans’ attention. And after that, how do you sustain that attention up to a point where the fan becomes a revenue source, hopefully a sizable and recurring one.