The following MBW column is from Eamonn Forde (inset photo), longtime music industry journalist and author of The last days of EMI: selling the pig. His new book, Leaving the building: the lucrative beyond of the musical realms, is now available through Omnibus Press.
Timeline fans will almost certainly have noticed by now that it’s a New Year.
It is traditionally the time for ablution, to scour the past and to treat the calendar as a palimpsest where one can set goals (some noble, others not always achievable) for the next 12 months.
In keeping with that beautiful convention, here are 22 things the music industry really needs to stop doing or correct before the timeline switches to 2023.
1. Stop trying to make things “viral”
Rather than being a happily coincidental by-product of marketing, it’s starting to sound like the alone setting. He totally misunderstands (or, more correctly, doesn’t care) the curious and unpredictable way things happen while they are in nature. If you actively manipulate its DNA, it stops being viral and becomes null instead.
2. Absolutely no one wants your terrible NFT
At the start of 2021, hardly anyone in music knew what an NFT was; By the end of 2021, indeed, rare was the person in music who hadn’t hit one or at least pulled out most of their hair when trying to figure out how to hit one. Sadly, almost all (99.9% at least) were watered down mediocrity. To rework Peter Cook’s great line: “I met a man at a party. He said, “I’m hitting an NFT”. I said, ‘Oh really? Me niether.'”
3. Artists must stop being obsequious towards DSPs
We see it reaching its peak in December with Spotify’s Wrapped when artists stunned to release how many streams and listeners they’ve had over the past year; but it’s also something that stinks social media every Friday when DSPs add new tracks to their branded playlists. “Thank you [name of DSP here] for adding my [inevitably terrible] new single at [boring playlist]. “Bowing down and scratching at the power of these platforms is really vulgar and outrageous; moreover, it causes them to wait only for sycophancy from musicians. Have a little more self-esteem.
4. No more than 5% of your social media outings should be sales posts.
Of course, if you have a new track / album / tour / merchandise line, it would be ridiculous not to tell your fans about it on your various social networks. But if that’s all you’ve got on social media, then you’ve got a real problem. Think about the founding principles that John Reith outlined for the BBC exactly 100 years ago this year: inform, educate and to entertain. You will notice that he didn’t say anything about any advertisements.
5. Stop pretending to talk about “mental health”
Yes, it’s great that this is all being discussed publicly and that the well-being of musicians and staff is now a topic of conversation rather than a matter of shame. Proclaiming loud and clear that you listen and that you really care is one thing: but it is somewhat undermined when musicians are expected to endlessly promote and find time to make “content” for them. a half-baked marketing idea or when the staff, already at work 12-hour a day, are told they have to put their shoulder to the wheel a little more. Your empty platitudes become shrapnel in a war of attrition against them.
6. Employ more people
Related to the point above, the point is that most of your staff do the work of 1.5 or 2 other people – at least. The budget cuts enacted years ago in The Bad Times seem to have become child’s play as companies compete to get the most work out of the fewest employees. To employ. Following. People.
7. Releasing music is not an automatic right to earn money
Most musicians today do not make a full and comfortable living from music. It is no different from 30 years ago. Or 200 years ago. Or a thousand years ago. The economic odds are stacked against you. They have always been stacked against you. Sorry. Just because you’re making music, it doesn’t follow that you can – or even should – roll in clubs. Even the House of Medici had limits on the amount of art it could support.
8. Stop confusing a passive streamer with someone who once would have actually bought your music.
Listening to music and caring about music are two very different things, and the former does not automatically lead to the latter. It’s like a revival of P2P arguments from two decades ago, insisting that every unlicensed download was a wasted sale. What happened is that this person may have heard your music and not turned off after 30 seconds. That’s all. It’s a start but we are still far from Beatlemania here.
9. Better pay artists and songwriters…
Truly. Do it. What you are paying them now is not enough.
10.… but be aware that higher payouts still won’t solve deeper popularity issues
If listeners don’t flock to the artist in sufficient numbers, any royalty increase will be like throwing an ice cube at the forest fires of public apathy. See point 7.
11. Most of you have nothing to do in the metaverse
You never cared about the Metaverse until summer 2021. You never even cared about the game before. You are the worst upstart. You are: “How are you, comrades? You are Kirk Van Houten sleeping in a race car bed. Stop that. You just embarrass yourself.
12. Finally have the courage to increase subscription streaming prices
A monthly subscription to a streaming service still costs 9.99 (dollars / pounds / euros). The same as 20 years ago. And 20 years ago you could buy a whole house for 9.99 (dollars / pounds / euros). May be. Increase the price of subscription streaming this year to 11.99 per month (at least). Your customers think you are fools.
13. Stop jacking up the price of vinyl
Especially the “limited edition” versions of albums that sell for £ 40 or more when just five years ago you couldn’t have paid people to take them away from you. You treat your fans like spendthrift fools.
14. Watching TikTok is not the same as A&R
Do you remember Sea Shanty TikTok? It wasn’t until early 2021 and yet it looks like there are eight lives: from ubiquity to disinterest in the blink of an eye. It’s like ten years ago when all of these people became “famous on Twitter” and got book deals and it became immediately and painfully obvious that they were unable to keep it up beyond 140 characters. . It’s almost – almost – as the abbreviated content comes with a built-in obsolescence.
15. Accept that not all musicians make great art and that the huge pieces of music released today are not great art.
And that’s OK. Honestly. Its good.
16. No box should cost more than £ 100
Do something for the super fan by all means. Give them nice hardback books with the music, but know that after a while – let’s set it arbitrarily at the £ 100 retail mark – all you give them is a ‘chic dump’. Your client should not be treated as the willing victim of your ruthless heist.
17. Stop seeing record companies as only the enemy
Sometimes they are awful. Of course they are. Welcome to capitalism. But sometimes they save – diligently and very calmly – the artist from themselves and their worst excesses over and over again. It’s worth remembering from time to time.
18. You lose the right to complain about the poor remuneration of songwriters if you are complicit in the normalization of a world where 20 songwriters are forced to create a successful single.
It’s just arithmetic.
19. Stop making wordy excuses for a lack of diversity on your conference boards / festival bills and instead spend that time and energy doing something about it.
You can start by not posting a line-up ad that absolutely proves all the negative thoughts your detractors have ever had about you. It’s like locking all the doors and then crying that no one came to your birthday party.
20. Pay for things
If people in the music business are always complaining about free tickets, subscriptions, etc., then don’t expect someone else to pay for things. Lead by example. Support the arts of your pocket.
21. Go to concerts with un-cynical people who don’t “work in music” and watch the first part.
Give it a try. You might appreciate it.
22. Keep looking for the thing that will change your life (again)
If you work in music but can’t find at least one new act or album every month to get you ridiculously excited, you’re probably not fit for the job anymore. Music trade around the world