This past week, focus fell on new and necessary marketing and music-making techniques for artists, as analysts pointed out the importance of touring internationally for superstar artists, and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco discussed which is more important – the live show, or the record. Also, musician and entrepreneur Gwilym Gold helped discover a new music format that could help keep tunes fresh and personal.
Superstar Artists Turning to International Touring for Salvation
Superstar artists like Lady Gaga, U2, Coldplay and even Justin Bieber will have to travel the world in order to stay in business, according to an article in The Times. In its annual Global Entertainment and Media Outlook, financial firm Pricewaterhousecoopers predicted that sharply declining CD sales and low spending by fans on digital and even live music will make reaching a global audience an absolute necessity for acts of all sizes in the coming months and years.
The report forecasts that there will be a major decline in CD sales between 2012 and 2016, and while digital spending will increase, it may not be enough to make up for the physical product loss. Currently, CD sales take up about 60% of the music market, but that will likely decrease by 23% in the next three years. If acts amp up their international touring presence, live music could help offset the decline.
Tony da Silva, COO and finance director of EMI said that in spite of concerns over more money lost in the music industry in 2012, there are some positive factors: The industry has declined by 3.9 percent so far this year, but this did not match up to earlier predictions that it would shrink by 5 percent. And in good news for independent and emerging acts, while international music scene has declined by 9 percent, sales of local artists within a variety of countries has increased by 1.6 percent. Globally, the sale of local music has gone up by 50 percent.
Overall, da Silva said he is not worried and sees it as just a natural growing pain: “We’re certainly not panicking. From some of the discussions we’ve had, it is something we expect because it has happened five to seven years earlier in some of our established markets. We believe there is still a very strong market.” But he added that labels will need to start thinking very carefully about how they spend money on artists and take fewer risks than they have in the past: “It has become quite essential for labels to think carefully in terms of where they allocate their money. A few years ago, you could take a couple chances.”
Jeff Tweedy, on Connecting, the Live Show and the Record
Jeff Tweedy recently discussed his views on the changing music industry and shared his opinions on where he feels artists should focus in the current market. In a reader-directed interview with the The A.V. Club, the Wilco frontman talked about how the need for artists to be transparent and connected to their fans in the current music landscape has challenged his privacy and if the live show is becoming more important than recording for musicians that want to find success.
When asked how he was managing fans’ expectations of getting up close and personal with him and other artists, Tweedy said, “I don’t know if I’ve come to terms with it. I think I’m kind of confronted with it infrequently. That might be the case. Mostly I feel flattered that someone has formed that kind of relationship with my music or my persona. I think it’s really sweet.”
In last year’s interview with The A.V. Club surrounding the release of Wilco’s The Whole Love, he mentioned that going forward, many bands need to start thinking of fans as collaborators who are integral to their ability to make a living pursuing their passion, instead of as consumers. As a follow up to this, he said he sees festivals, including the A.V. Fest (which begins tonight): “I think it’s great. Hopefully [as a festival organizers are] treating people coming … as collaborators and making something enjoyable to be a part of and something worth attending. [Fans] are going to play a big role in that. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to acknowledge that. It does seem like the smaller the stakes have gotten in rock music, the smaller the scale of everything is, at least on the record-sales run. It’s allowed people to be much more focused on playing live and being face to face. It adds a level of intimacy with your audience that maybe has been lost for a while.”
And while he has embraced more personal contact with fans, he added, there is a good reason he does not have a Twitter account: “I didn’t sign up for that. I just wanted to be in a rock band and make music and write songs and stuff. That’s more about actively participating in your celebrity. It’s like an inability to go 10 minutes without somebody saying, ‘Look at me…’ That’s not really being private, I think that’s just being sane.”
Tweedy also stated, he believes musicians need to get real about their careers by understanding that record deals are not and have never been the way they will be saved from their on-going struggle. Instead, they need to take control over drumming up fans and running their careers like a business: “Record companies do not keep musicians employed. There’s definitely a place for record labels, but record labels are more like banks than employers. They subsidize things, and you have to pay them back. Really what keeps people employed in the music business is whether or not you are at all able to sell records. That’s really not changed, I don’t think. The only way it’s changed is that it’s more skewed toward the live performance now, and that’s fine by me. That’s the way we’ve kept ourselves alive for a long, long time. If a band can attract an audience or attract some people to see them play, then generally they can work. It’s always been really hard to be a musician and make a living. It’s never been a really sure-fire, rock-solid career choice. And I think you’re really [screwed] if that’s what you’re going into it for.”
In in his view, musicians also need to see the struggle of being a working musician as an “adventure:” “You have to look at it as some sort of adventure. You’ve got to be willing to sleep on people’s floors and be excited about the fact that you can play music for four people five hours away from your hometown. I don’t know. That’s pretty fun. Like camping.”
While Wilco has definitely maintained an active touring schedule over the years, Tweedy said that touring has become even more important to him and other artists in recent years with the rise of digital music. But when asked whether artists should focus more on creating a stellar live show or on crafting a perfect album, he said, “That’s a real ‘Which came first: chicken or the egg?’ kind of question for me. I feel very fulfilled by both activities, both endeavors. I feel a great deal of personal satisfaction when I write a song, when I finish a song. That feels really great. Not even judging the song being good or bad, it feels really great to finish a song. That’s a very personal kind of satisfaction. I think playing a show and being a part of an environment where people have come together and had this experience together and had a fun time losing themselves in a wash of people and music, I feel—not really a personal fulfillment or satisfaction. It’s more uplifting in the sense that I feel connected to people. I really wouldn’t want to have to live without either one.”
BRONZE: Further Personalizing the Listening Experience
Musician Gwilym Gold, former leader of the indie band Golden Silvers and producer Lexx recently enlisted the help of researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London in order to create a new commercial music format that changes a song each time it is played, helping artists create revolutionary recordings and albums that have some of the spontaneity of live performances. The technology, BRONZE is meant to offer a different audio experience to users each time they listen to the same song. Lead Scientist Dr. Mick Grierson stated that the format is designed so that a music file is no longer “static.”
Every time the track is heard, it will be recognizable, but some aspects of it will be slightly changed. As Mark Raby at Geek.com said, “Think of it as going to every live Bon Jovi concert — because he’s human … no two performances will ever be identical.” The goal of scientists and Gold was to create a format that would achieve some of the uniqueness of live shows and help enhance the concept of a music collection. Designed with producers and composers in mind, BRONZE is the first commercial music format ever to exhibit these properties and has been used by Gold for his debut solo album Tender Metal.
Scientist Grierseon said the music works across genres: “BRONZE is a brand new creative process, where the composition and production of a musical piece no longer requires the final work to exist in a static form. It can be used for any genre, including organized, highly structured music such as rock, pop and dance music … The quality is equal to that achieved through professional authoring tools. The track will be subtly different each time, whilst still retaining the quality and balance of the original mix.”
Gwilym Gold is the first artist to use BRONZE as part of a release. While support for Android, PC and Apple desktop computers is in the works, his album is available only via Apple platforms (iPhone, iPad and iPod).