This is going to be a long one, and I apologise for that, but if you care about the future of the music industry it may be a good read.
As a member of a heavily distorted, progressively minded band that has plans to tour as much as possible and make music for the foreseeable future I have to say the future looks bleak.
The music industry is something that we are all hearing about these days, the record companies and big cheese’s have been complaining for years that it’s all going downhill since illegal downloading became more widespread, and now the artists appear to be chiming in more and more as well. Fact is that being a working musician is very difficult and more so now than ever, while it is easy to get your music recorded and to a place where people can hear it, it’s very difficult to get people to actually listen and invest in your product.
Even for bands with fan-bases running into the hundreds of thousands, and even millions (I know a few personally) actually covering the costs of going on the road is difficult to say the least. When these bands are in my town I almost always offer them a place to stay and a home cooked meal to fill their stomachs, simply because I know I would appreciate it if the same was offered to me, and it saves them a few quid for the next day.
I saw an article recently from a man who runs a clothing company to add to a portfolio income, and he was complaining about thieves, of all kinds. He put it very bluntly; people who steal are, to put it his way “…a dick…” and this includes people who hack his site to get free shirts, people who rob from shops, people who have physically stolen from other people by force, and yes, you guessed it, people who have stolen music by illegally downloading it for free.
Well guess what, he is right, as are many other people are willing to stand up against this sort of thing and speak out against it, labels and musicians included. Along with this there always seem to be threats against perpetrators of legal prosecution, financial charges against them and potentially even incarceration.
One problem with that though, it doesn’t make any difference, not really. Just like the illegality of drugs doesn’t stop drug use, the illegality of downloading music for free doesn’t stop the vast majority of people already engaged in the act from doing it.
Perhaps people should start developing potential solutions to this issue, ones that don’t threaten people with legal action and ones that don’t mean the death of the music industry.
Here’s an idea, maybe there should be a system where bands and acts signed to major labels should only play in cities and towns where people actually buy their music. What I mean by this is the following; say that a band wants to do a tour of the UK, this tour will be 10 dates long and will cover England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Simply send them to the 10 cities where the largest percentage of the population of their fans there has bought CD’s and iTunes downloads, etc, etc.
Anyone in a band that has a facebook page ought to know by now that there is an option to be able to view your insights, numbers that break down numbers for where your fans come from in the world, a breakdown of gender and age groups, etc, etc. Well it would really be a simple case of lining the insight of specific cities next to the sales figures of a bands records and you would be able to see where the most loyal fans reside, and this is where the band should prioritise playing live.
Also it should be made a part of this system to offer tickets to the people who buy records, and have a very select amount of tickets available for public sale. My idea for this would be to have a revival of the good old Fan Clubs of the 1990’s. However there wouldn’t be a fee to pay in order to join, you just have to buy whatever record is available at the time and you are a member, and your membership runs out whenever the next record is due to be released, and guess how you renew your membership? That’s right, you buy the new record! I would imagine it would be a really cool system where fan club members would get exclusive access to merch designs along with, as I mentioned, the ability to buy tickets for shows where non-members can only purchase from a small amount of tickets. Members would also be able to purchase tickets not just for themselves, but for friends who might not be members to the fan club.
Yes this idea is very much a case of ‘if you don’t buy a band’s music, then you won’t get to see them live because we won’t send them to where you are and tickets won’t really be available to you.’ Seems childish I know, but then so is the mentality of downloaders who don’t see why they should pay for music. There is also the idea that bands won’t pick up new fans by doing this because they will only be playing to crowds of pre-discovered fans. I think the above ticketing system would only really be applicable to bands headlining tours, and also to those on the tours with them. To be fair though it’s not often that established bands headlining a bill play to crowds full of brand new people who haven’t really heard them before, and those sorts of shows are really an opportunity for the supporting bands to expose themselves to new people
It’s not a perfect idea, but I think if some kinks were worked out and actually experienced businessmen chipped in then it could work. What’s more it would help in weeding out those bands in the business that are signed as a flash in the pan sort of thing, I think it would once again mean we’re in a system where the best bands really prosper and the crap would have a much harder time.
It’s a thought.