I am stunned lately how much good new music I can find from Rdio.com (pronounced are-dee-oh). I prefer Rdio to Spotify because I like browser-based Internet music better than a desktop program, and I also love how easy it is to discover new music with Rdio.
But here was the earth-shattering news in late June 2012: Spotify Is Now The Second Biggest Source Of Revenue For Labels. The biggest is iTunes.
A Different World For Musicians and Audio Artists
This is insane, because talk about disintermediation (what’s that? It means more direct access for consumers by cutting out the middlemen . It was all the rage amongst futurists about five years ago in talking about why the Internet was destroying newspapers and the music business)- now a band or musician can record an album on their computer, get on an indie label or create their own label, and be found by millions of listeners within weeks. If your music is loved and listened to, people will see other people listening to it and check it out. And this applies to any art that has audio, including comedy, musicals and podcasts.
In my line of work, viral marketing is a cliche, but the best viral content goes viral because it’s actually good, it’s high quality, and you lucked out with the right thing at the right time. The music that’s popular on these services is the best example of viral content out there. It’s not about reverse-engineering “viral” – it’s about creating great things from a place of INSPIRATION, and getting lucky. If you want to do viral marketing, you need creative people (good ones, not just people who wish they were creative enough to be real artists).
What Impact is Internet-Based Music Discovery Having on Real People?
Of the top 20 albums recommended to me by Rdio (which in a Pandora-like fashion tracks what I like and listen to- I can find people who like what I like, and those people’s listening habits help me discover even more music), only three of them are artists I’d heard of a year ago. So 85% of the music I’m listening to, or more, is new to me. I was really enjoying an album by the band Diiv last night- it sounds like 90′s Cure plus Ride to me. It’s so new that there are only a few reviews written of it anywhere online. I can listen to a few tracks from a number of artists, or maybe even just 20 seconds from each, and if I like it and listen more, later I can see that in my history and find it again. It goes with me on my iphone when I drive, so my music experience isn’t different in the car, and I have killer headphones (and before you freak out, ambulances have lights too, not just sound- I’ve never missed one). This is so much better than radio, it’s not even funny. It’s not even comparable. It’s personalized to me, controlled by me, and gives me more information than traditional radio. Even indie radio like Sirius or XM… forget those- this is the future.
To the average artist, it doesn’t matter who wins: Spotify, Rdio, MOG, Slacker, Rhapsody- what matters is that you don’t have to toil away playing live shows for ten years to get a contract and several top 40 hits in order to get that $85 million contract- you can do whatever your thang is, live or not, and put out albums, and let the mass market decide in a very niche fashion how successful you’ll be. I’m amazed at the music that’s doing well right now. There’s more ambient and 80′s sounding music than – probably than there even was in the 70′s and 80′s. I like to joke lately that the best 80′s music ever has come out in the last year… Cut Copy, Diiv, M83 (and dang, M83, dang world, it’s insane that this is one of the most popular albums online- it’s incredible music, but of a nerdy sort (new wave dream pop) that I’m just astounded a lot of people like. Their album Hurry Up We’re Dreaming debuted at #15 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 has been listened to more than 2 million times just on rdio)… I’ve found a guy who is like Dylan but I almost like better, some grunge music I never heard, some 90′s type music that reminds me of Lucious Jackson, etc. The names don’t matter, because you have your own tastes, and so does everyone else. This is the long tail of music- and it means that the most popular/famous musicians of the future will be less popular than U2 or the Stones ever were. It means that a whole bunch more bands will do OK and have real careers than ever before.
It’s amazing to me that a one-man (Scott Hansen) project like Tycho, who seems to be carrying on Brian Eno’s ambient work, a type of music I once (in the 90′s) thought I was the only person who liked, can put out an album like Dive and get 350,000+ listens on rdio alone. But music is different now- most of us are listening to it alone on headphones instead of in a dance club or live show or at a party- and we’re doing computer stuff and work while listening, and ambient music is quite conducive to that.
And this whole Internet music distribution revolution happens at a perfect time for Gen Y, who I believe is perfectly positioned to create more music than any American generation before. They have major self esteem (both teams get a trophy!), so they’re going to live ages 21-35 with more confidence than normal (less doubt that they should be and succeed as artists), they have computers to make recording music 100x easier than in the past (yes, I borrowed my roommate’s 4-track TAPE recorder to record when I was in college in the early 90′s), AND the Internet to distribute and promote their music… a pre-built social media system to enable viral-wonder-out-of-nowhere-successes! The hardest thing to do will be to keep up with all the new bands as a listener. But we will- everyone will be listening on headphones while working, even now while reading a blog post… and the art of music will give our world finer colors than we’ve ever experienced.