New Jargon: Math Doers & Magic Unicorn Lovers
There is no digital divide in the music business. There is no pro-digital music business and anti-digital music business. This is the real divide, it’s between those that do the math on the revenues, and those that believe in magic unicorns.
I’m in a band. Like virtually every performer, I’m pro-digital. I’ve been running a profitable web enabled business since 1993 (built our first website). A profitable web-based business since 1999 (Napster). And managing a transmedia brand campaign since 2005 (YouTube + WordPress). Bands were the early adopters of social media, crowd funding and just about everything that the digital gurus think was just invented (and need to desperately explain back to the pioneers for a fee).
Ever heard of The Well and the Grateful Dead? Anyone remember the pre www days of AOL? The most popular “boards” were hosted by bands to interact with their fans. Yeah we had acoustic dial up modem cradles sloshing around in the back of the van. Websites? I know we had a website before Coca-Cola. It’s fun to laugh at this now but Friendster was revolutionary, and it really took off when bands discovered they could convert their email lists to networks of friends. Myspace specifically killed Friendster because they offered band pages and music players to bands. Overnight bands moved their interactions with fans to MySpace. And yes that’s funny to think about now but remember in 2005 people in Silicon Valley AND Hollywood were proclaiming it the future of the music business. YouTube? to this day half their top 50 videos are music videos. We wrote the rules on social networking and social marketing. We took the old Grateful Dead/DIY/indie-rock/punk rock grassroots techniques and applied them online. In 2003 the big players in Silicon Valley and Holly wood they were still thinking top down. Thinking about how they could use the web to “broadcast” out to fans. I think that’s why bands identified with the early social media startups and self publishing entrepreneurs. We immediately saw that they could help us get around the gatekeepers. They were helping us stick it to the man.
I can’t tell you how many talented coders, web-designers, and generally tech savvy people I know that play semi-professionally or professionally in bands. I believe bands are quicker to adapt new technologies and more efficient at using these technologies than practically any other business.
And because of our long experience in the music business we have serious bullshit detectors. We have spent our lives dealing with crooks, charlatans, shysters, snake oil salesman and people that promise us ever elusive riches if first we do them this one little favor….
Our skepticism towards the new digital services may be confusing to some outsiders and consumers, but it’s almost always grounded in reality. Remember we get the royalty statements, we see the contracts and terms of service. We could tell the moment it changed. Meet the New Boss, Worse Than The Old Boss. Bloggers and journalists? Not so much. They just see the press releases from the digital platforms or glowing statements from some manager who coincidentally is an investor in DigitalSnakeOil.com. (Although this sounds like I’m talking about ScooterBraun and Troy Carter, I’m not.)
So let’s all say this together. Everyone in the music business is pro-digital. There’s just those of us who do the math. And there are those who believe in Magic Unicorns.
Or profit on the IPO.