Music business, I think more than any other business has managed to perfect the importance of the middleman. The artist used to travel from town to town to perform for the people and got paid in money, accommodation for the night and food. Then along came the recorded music, and with it the recording industry. Soon enough they realised the value of live performance in promoting a record and shifting more units. So we had a record label, who took the artist, recorded their music, printed it out, distributed it in to the stores, made sure the radio stations had the albums and were willing to play it. Then in came the booking agents, who did their best to make sure they were the middle man between the artist and the venue. They made sure there were posters up in towns where the artist was going to play in, they made sure there were tickets being sold.
The artist by nature had a desire to perform, to record, to share and connect. So by giving the artist an opportunity to do this, the business people made them feel like they were doing the artist a favour, all awhile making as much money for them selves, with as little paid to the artist as possible.
But even better than this, they managed to make us believe the artist was worth more, because they had a group of people behind them. If you had a record deal, you were worth more. If you had a nation wide, or even world-wide tour you were the “real thing.”
And the further this model went the more distant the artist became of his fans. You see it suited the labels to have an idea to sell, rather than a real person. Real person would be moody, temperamental, or even worse nice enough that people might like them despite what the record company did. As long as the artist was a distant idea, who’s posters kids would hang on their wall, who’s albums they would buy as soon as they came out, the record label was in control.
So soon enough the artists started to believe they needed the middle man to succeed. The first question was not how you could build a fan base and connect with them. The first question became, how can you get signed to a record label.
For the past two decades, we started to unravel this mess. Independent became a possibility, then an opportunity and now it is very much the norm. Artists started to connect with their fans again with the help of internet. The record labels put on a fight. They went after every file sharing website, prosecuted the fans, their own customer base. The artists fought back, they started to give away music for free. Now the middleman was getting worried, seriously worried.
We are still in a middle of transition, and in a way the business will always be in motion. But the powers that used to be, are loosing their grip. The music fan has more access to music than ever before, and the artist who embraces all this, is doing fine. In fact, with the help of the internet, the music fan can even support the artist directly, without the middleman.
The author J.P. Kallio is a singer songwriter
To get EIGHT of his songs for free go HERE