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The Social State of Music In 2011 And What I’m Paying Attention To


… by Walt Ribeiro

Let me start off with this quote by self-employed musician Jonathan Coulton “Now is a better time to be a musician, or a fan of music, than any other time in all of human history. Discuss…”

As a fellow self-employed musician myself, I agree that it’s certainly an amazing time to be a musician. Sure, there are no more gatekeepers, and things are cheaper and more convenient than ever – but it’s more than that. Social media, and music in general, is not about creating a huge community of millions of people. In fact, it’s never been about that – it’s about creating a small family of evangelists.

Let’s discuss the 2 biggest game changers in music:

1.) Going Digital
2.) The Cloud

These two things are what combined to create the Amazon 99 cent Lady Gaga deal. Lady Gaga’s Manager, Troy Carter, did not work with or know about the Amazon 99 cent deal with him and Lady Gaga.

As an orchestra arranger of pop music, I find this incredibly interesting (and smart). If Amazon loses 6 dollars per CD, but gains from people entering the Amazon eco-system (assuming they start buying bikes, furniture, DVDs, etc. from Amazon), then we can certainly start seeing more of this.

But why would Amazon have done this in the first place? The answer is because of the digitalization of music, and the fight to win the cloud.

But don’t confuse cloud with music – the cloud is the storage bin for all of your multimedia (books, music, and even videogames). Where music is normally becoming a loss leader for bands so that they can sell concert tickets, it’s also now becoming a companies loss leader so they can fill up the eco-system.

Case in point: Apple doesn’t make a whole lot of money from music, as compared to the App Store which sells games. So what if music albums are sold for 99 cents as a loss leader, so that Amazon and Apple can start making money off the eco-system? It’s rumored apple paid major labels 150 million dollars for publishing rights but that’s a drop in the bucket from the 6 billion they made in 2010.

And where did most of those profits come from? Certainly not from the iTunes Music Store, it’s been from the iOS devices .

Apple is now a distributor, and the people are the publishers – so I could totally see this happening. Is that my big prediction for online music? No, but its a trend I’m paying attention to. Another thing I think is important is how social media is effective sales – and I think Facebook’s recommendation engine is going to be big for that. In that way Pandora recommends songs you might like based on similar artists, Facebook will recommend artist you like based on your friends. This is also why Apple Ping teamed up with Twitter.

Should be interesting how the economies of this pan out. Certainly it is an interesting time.

BlogWorld contributor Walt Ribeiro is founder of For Orchestra where he arranges pop and rock songs for orchestra every week – from Lady Gaga, Slayer, and more. He frequents many social media, tech, and music conferences, and spoke at BlogWorld in 2009 and 2010.

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