Did you watch Insight last week on SBS? It was about music downloads. The recurring theme from the Internet industry was that the music industry needs to innovate to make sure it has a future in the digital world.
Here’s how I would do it if I were them.
First up, the music industry should create a service for new musicians that lets them upload their music into a well-promoted, single source of new music that streams music for free and has a Radiohead style pay what you want model if you want to download. All download revenues, minus a service fee, go to the band.
I reckon this is a good idea because without aggregation, new musicians have to promote their stuff themselves. Yes, the Net is supposed to make it possible for independent artists to promote themselves. But in reality, I cannot think of a band that has broken this way (and that includes the Arctic Monkeys, whose ‘discovered on MySpace’ story is a crock). With the cost of recording a decent demo now very low thanks to GarageBand etc, I reckon it is fair to ask musos to spend a little promoting themselves.
This new service should have an upfront fee, to cover operation costs and also to ensure that all uploads are listened to by a professional who applies a taxonomy to the music so that all users can find it more easily. This professional can also be a frontline A&R scout for the record labels.
The record industry should then track the wazoo out of users on this site so it can figure out who is listening to what. Users should submit a nice, fat profile of themselves so that the tracking helps record labels to understand who listens to what.
If an artist’s download hit a certain threshold, the record labels participating in this service would then get to play in an auction to sign this band.
Punters get free or very cheap music. Record labels get better research. Bands get a mechanism to publish their stuff in an environment that lets them make money, even if they do not get a record deal.