Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ode to the Appreciator

I think many people get lost in trying to be in a band because they like music. However it isn't necessary to be in a band if you like music, only to help your favorite band succeed. Perhaps a music appreciator would find his fit in the promotion of music rather than in the creation of music.

Part of the problem with the music industry, as I understand it, is that there is a war between the developers and the promoters. (In the lingo of FITmedia, these are the musicians and "studio execs", respectively.) Most artists want both the freedom to do what they do AND the support of a major label. These major labels, however, know how to run a business, and want the freedom to shift their assets accordingly.

As such, they tend to want to micro-manage the artists in their network. As with any large-scale orchestration, it is easy to lose sight of the pieces, and treat unique entities in a generic way. When this happens, greatness—which is often unconventional—becomes undernourished and dies. They manage artists generically, and they get only generic art.

Or worse, they incite a rebellion, which they spread in the name of freedom of expression. I've always found it strange that large media companies perpetuate their own stereotype by spreading art that criticizes the very methods they use to manage their business. Even stranger is that they do not seem to learn from the critiques of their own media content.

The content itself perpetuates this as part of the culture when outside viewers see the critique and perceive the label's actions to be hypocritical though conversely successful. And so, newcomers learn about this struggle, and separate into bipartisan factions: business vs. art. The result is a cancerous spread of venomous themes, which thwarts the dreams of many would-be artists and music promoters.

Instead of destroying the asset that a major label can be to artists, or giving artists unlimited license to lyrically tear down the organization, it seems to me that another asset should be tapped: the Appreciators. More than just fans (even überfans), appreciators are driven by a desire to be productive.

They want to contribute in a big way, but the only way that is apparent is to start a band—to create media. I for one, am an appreciator of music, and toyed with the idea of starting a band several times. However, I soon realized that I would rather get paid to promote the band than to be on stage myself.

Appreciators understand their bands because they are also fans, and so they can much more effectively promote their bands to other potential fans. It is also a two-way street: the appreciators can more effectively communicate business ideas to the bands they are close to. So if a band (or artist) is a small group of developers, then there ought to be a corresponding group of promoters. How these groups interact would be influenced by a larger group of appreciators who would be close enough to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

If major labels incentivize this sort of activity, they can fix the gap of animosity and waste that has been dug between the two sides, and allow the fans to lift the artists they believe in to greatness, while generating a public forum for how to be appreciated. With this information, rookie artists can learn from others' best practices and improve their content until it reaches its highest potential.

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