Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Why the bands as 'start-ups' biz model doesn't make sense to me...

Been pondering this bands as start-ups concept too but I have a huge problem with it. Been curious about the reactions to the NYT piece, especially as I was the guy who released Metric's previous record 'Live it Out' in the UK. They're an interesting example which kinda breaks this bands as a start-up concept into disperate red herring puzzle pieces.

My main issue is that start-ups and hyped new bands, both work on the premise of hope and potential, whereas any tried and tested company or band, has a quantifiable ROI (return on investment). This is problematic because the media is not that interested in bands or websites/tech which aren't brand new (as Metric weren't when we released their record, despite outselling the Gossip week on week until the NME cool list, etc) or massively successful. It's always a headscratcher when a band changes their name (like the Kaiser Chiefs did) or a website relaunches as something totally different, that it leads to press, which leads to other media coverage.

The economics (and perhaps ego-nomics) is all sorts of illogical when things are run on and driven by promise (see also: the banking crisis). All sense of scale is totally lost when people invest or talk about future projects, which is obviously what makes the world go around but at the cost of everything great that falls in the huge canyon between the stools of the new and the established. It's incredibly easy to miss a window of opportunity or jump the shark too early (often leading the charge for a lesser copyist), whilst for some reason never being allowed a chance to shine. I'm always fascinated at the different ways things worked when hits were slowburners or how books become paperback bestsellers from all the hardback praise (which I guess is kinda how imports or poor performing initial re-release get a massive second wind).

Without wanting to doom-monger: Metric's continued success isn't down to biz models and is in part down to consolidating all the great things they've done in the past (especially Emily Haines' solo album which opened various different doors) and the fact they've made a friggin' great record, during a window of time when there aren't a great deal of great records and less and less brand new major label bands. Yet, the fact Fantasies (much-like Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix) was overlooked in the UK in favour of the likes of electro-fronted ladypop from La Roux and Little Boots (who was once in a band named after a Metric track) or long-deadstars like U2 and Oasis speaks volumes about the state of the media and its problems which are more at the stagnant heart of the poor sales of records, much more than p2p.

Metric may have done better with this record but it's far from the best case scenario, they're still playing similar sized shows (billed exactly the same place on the Reading bill) but slowly starting to get a few mainstream breaks which might help them crossover in the states.

Ultimately, a bands success can't be gauged by recorded music 'sales' or ticket sales (especially as some of the biggest sellers, are small-fry live draws - pop acts with number 1 albums playing 1000 capacity shows at Koko or half-way up the V Festival bill, etc) and the only true return on investment with music is those wishing to be associated with its credibility and(/or) success. Starbucks had it right but were ahead of the shark and shoulda been giving music away as part of a loyalty points scheme. MyCokeMusic got their biz model wrong trying to find an Arctic Monkeys via a MySpace-like site full of shite and billions of other squandered pounds can never compete with labels like XL, Domino or Columbia, yet they barely compete with the financial upside that the likes of 02, Apple, etc get from being involved with music. Something like Dreamworks (Spielberg's imprint that put out Elliott Smith Figure 8 and developed Rufus Wainwright) Virgin Records, imploded and relaunched would be the future, great ears and vision meets a pile of dosh - just imagine if someone had given Tony Wilson/Alan McGee/Malcolm Mclaren the Microsoft/Newscorp/Disney chequebook, etc...

In short, the old model is dead but the new model is still an ugly mutant.


Louis said...

thats a good read. Bob Leftzetz' mail yesterday sums up the simplicity of successful vs unsuccessful bands, it's basically down to 'the song'. good songs get through. normal people singing great songs that identify with normal audiences. you can dress it up how you like, day-glo nu-rave pop to emo angst to screamo this and post-rock that. songs. good songs make successful bands.

Anonymous said...

Your argument seems pegged to an assumption that media is necessary to create a successful band, which I completely disagree with. Certainly if you're looking to produce a major-label type superstar that is true, but that is a dying concept anyway. If you're looking at a band as a startup, there can be only one measure of success....which is whether or not the band makes a profit. While I agree that the new model is a work in progress, I can say with confidence there has never been more opportunities to create independent, self-sustaining, profitable careers than there is today.

A sensible startup company finds a truly great product, invests the time, effort and money to market that product efficiently, and leverages small successes into larger ones. Eventually the successes become large enough that everyone who gambled on the product gets their share of the profits. I would hold that the music industry...bloated and inefficient as it has a perfect environment for this sort of arrangement.

Bobby of The Teemates said...

That's a very good reason as I have been in the Music business for years. Just released a new 4 song EP (At least 1-if not 2-of the 4 are very big HIT material)Thanks for the info and thoughts
Bobby of the Teemates

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