I'm a musician: when will the music industry wake up and smell the coffee?

Illegal downloaders 'spend the most on music', says poll Interesting article in the Independent:


I'm a musician; I sell music; I have an album on itunes (it's here if you want to sample it FOR FREE). So I have a vested interest in making money from my music.

But I'm also a consumer - and I understand what today's consumer wants.

The music industry needs to wake up and shake up. It's been pushing back against an inevitable tide for the last 10 years and it won't succeed in continuing to do so. I remember conversations over a decade ago with musicians worried about digital distribution and at the time DRM (in several forms) was emerging, but not mainstream. This, I said to those musicians, was how they would protect their Intellectual Property.

How embarassing. Of course, in my defence, the market was developing and the iPod was yet to emerge and no-one really knew what the appetite for digital music would be. A mere decade on and I simply can't believe how we lived without it, in the world of physical media. How quaint. Today: Portability, Mobility, Ubiquity - almost a byword for the modern age. An age that is shaped by the teenagers of today, not us old fuddy-duddies clinging on to the good-old-days.

So, Let the future roll on. 20 years ago, as I recorded my compositions to audio cassette, bouncing down from one machine to another, I longed to be able to have had my music heard, and from my dark teenager's bedroom had no way to do so. Digital production and distribution, now affordable to the common man, changed all that and enabled me to release 10 or 15 years of back catalogue on an unsuspecting world.

10 years ago I longed for the day that the world of music was digital: portable, mobile, ubiquitous - and now it's here. It's amazing. We can't go back. Who WANTS to go back? On my coach trip from Durham University to the snowy Highlands I would fill my bag with 10 or so cassettes and a walkman. My entire luggage allowance on a choice of 10 albums for an 8 hour journey?! Almost pointless. Not to mention a battery life of only half the journey. It was almost more trouble than it was worth.

And that's the point. That the sharp consumer end of things. That's what drives our behaviour and desire as consumers - and having tasten the forbidden fruit, we will not give it up. The music industry needs to recognise this, then embrace it. They need to learn to make their money from a radically new music economy. They can no longer shape it, dictate it: WE will shape it, for we are the information democracy. If you hadn't noticed, information is power, and increasingly that power is in the hands of self-organising consumers. Content (in perception at least) is a commodity - Loyalty is not; we can love you today and wave bye-bye tomorrow.

So, in my opinion, the only way to thrive in this era is to be a part of it - live it and breathe it; to be compelling, original, ingenious, accessible and relevant - not just as an artist, but as a business operation. Dinosaurs don't cut it.

I love the world of digital distribution - take my music, download it, use it, abuse and once in a while bung me a few quid..