Is anyone making money?
The music industry has been turned upside down by a lot of factors (see How Wall Street destroyed the music industry) including the internet. No longer do musicians and bands make anywhere near the money they used to selling their music in the traditional way: getting an agent, a label, a break and the rest is history. So while things are undergoing massive change it is instructive to take a look at what might become the new paradigm for many artists.
To uncover this new paradigm and get a hint to the direction the industry is most likely taking, we need to look closely at one of the key elements that turned the industry upside down in the first place: the internet itself. A growing volume of independent music is now distributed through downloads and independent “labels” that pop up like weeds, giving new artists (and even established artists) a new vehicle to reach music lovers all over the world.
This model is very different than what might come to mind when you think downloads. Downloads to many mean iTunes, Amazon Music, or in the high-end, sites like HD Tracks where certainly a ton of music is downloaded. The independent label downloaded music model is just one of the fascinating new ways artists all over the world can reach their audiences. It really doesn’t take much more than a website and a home recording studio and, a lot of talent.
This new paradigm of music distribution places the entire challenge of reaching the audience back in the hands of the artists themselves. Each artist can now create, market, distribute and make a healthy living from doing so – if they have the talent needed to attract a strong following. The new model, in the right hands, can provide high resolution media that is fresh, new, alive and not beholden to the economic restrictions the big labels typically place on their stable of talent.
A great example of this new paradigm in music distribution is exemplified by Jonathan Coulton. You can view his website at http://www.jonathancoulton.com Known mostly for clever and perhaps a bit goofy music, Coulton just happens to make over $500,000 a year with essentially no overhead, no managers, no touring and enjoys the freedom of making music the way he wants to, hand crafted to his standards. This is independence at its best and reminds us of all the great independent high-end audio manufacturers that started out in the garage.
Coulton, like many independent entrepreneurs, “fell into” what he’s doing, but now spends his entire life’s energy making music and a good living at it. From the website:
How does his model work? It’s actually pretty simple. Through his website, among other distribution platforms, Coulton sells his tracks for $1.00 each. A buck isn’t much, but when you distribute unique hand crafted work over a large enough web, the results can be amazing. Our hats are off to Jonathan Coulton, a great example of figuring out what works in the new order and leading the path for future musicians to make a living doing what they love most, making music.