1.   Sustainability revolves around consistently producing worthwhile content. Even some of the biggest names in the industry burn out fast due to a lack of new material. New music is obvious, but updating your live show with new lights and other visual gimmicks, posting live footage, and releasing music videos all continue the story of you as an artist. This is essential for prolonged existence as an artist.
2.   Having ideas attached to your music is a key component in developing a fanbase. There are many artists who make nice music and people like them, but certain artists become more of a religion than a source of entertainment. I feel like if you have a surplus of content and an ideology to go with it, fans will become hooked.
3.   Combining visual arts with music develops a much more in depth image for yourself as an artist. Music videos and interesting photography are as important for developing yourself as music.
4.   I think DIY models are the only way significant things are happening any more. Even bands on majors are still on the majors just because they’ve created something big enough that they need majors to help them with international distribution. I think there is very little respect for people who are making it simply because they signed to a major early on and never created a scene for themselves.
5.   Integrity falls directly into respect for DIY solutions. Artists making a name for themselves because of their forward thinking methods, Radiohead, CK Louis, are achieving more fame because of their methods than because of their content. Everybody loves people working outside of the system.

6.   Piracy seems to be on its way out. Streaming is becoming so convenient that there’s almost no point. Anything that is popular enough to be on Pirate Bay is popular enough to be on Spotify. Merch and tickets are also becoming a more significant part of the music world. Many artists are bringing in a quarter million a night easy. I don’t think there’s any hope for hard copies outside of limited addition signed vinyl. 


Record contracts aren’t worth signing. Tours aren’t worth orchestrating. CDs aren’t worth printing. The music world has changed to an unimaginable degree. That being said it’s far from collapsing. On the contrary the music world is more accessible now than ever before. The opportunities available to musicians today are endless as a whole new model for success is immerging. The model is based around a few ideas: your personal life being your primary asset, doing everything yourself, and working along side huge corporations.

The biggest change in the music industry in the last decade has nothing to do with sales, contracts, or digital downloads. The biggest change is in what it means to be a musician. When the Beatles were in their early years they wore suits on stage. The band members, like many other popular bands of their time, weren’t trying to look cool. People simply liked them because of the music they made. As time went on, it started to matter what you looked like. Any 80s hair metal band is a perfect example of this. People liked their music, but just as importantly everyone thought they were the coolest looking guys around. In the last decade we’ve taken this another step farther. Who you are as an individual matters more than the quality of your music. A great example of this is the LA based hip hop group Odd Future. They blew up last year because people liked their semi-serious blog. People learned who the members are through their videos of the members just hanging out and skating, especially the groups outgoing leader Tyler The Creator. It’s safe to say that almost nobody heard of Odd Future because of their music. In May 2011 Tyler put out an album which is entertaining, shockingly personal, but musically the album is undeniably far from professional. The album hit number 5 on the 2011 US Billboard top 200 charts. Honestly that’s unbelievable. If Tyler wasn’t for lack of a better term such a cool guy, this album would just be another bad rap album a teenager threw together. Everybody knows Kanye West as a celebrity as much as a rapper. Everyone knows the story of Bon Iver’s winter in a cabin. Everyone knows the story of Adele’s breakup. Everyone knows the story of Justin Bieber’s rise to fame. Obviously this isn’t every current artist’s marketing strategy, though this sense of individuality is pretty consistent across current musicians who rocketed to fame in the last few years. This represents a dramatic change in what it means to be in the music industry.

Another big change, which many people misinterpret as the end of the music industry, is that musicians are starting to do everything for themselves. As Steve Albini talked extensively about, major record labels are really about making money, not helping the bands become successful. It happens to be the case that the label needs the bands to be successful in order to make money, so up until recently the games that labels play with artists seemed like a decent deal. As technology progressed bands started to be able to build their own home studios, eliminating major labels’ primary leverage. All of a sudden major labels no longer had an essential place in the music industry. Radiohead’s In Rainbows release is a great example of a band realizing they can do everything on their own. In David Byrne’s interview with Tom Yorke, Yorke repeatedly talks about ways in which he and his bandmates found ways to free themselves from the bureaucracy imbedded in the industry. They didn’t bother sending CDs to the press, they recorded their whole album at home, and they even took the cutting edge step of releasing their album on their own website, allowing fans to pay any amount they want. The pay-what-you-will model is definitely not the current standard for bands, but home recordings and self releases is without a doubt the new way of doing things. Social media and other web 2.0 sites are becoming increasingly more useful for self promotion. It’s not hard for anyone to get a LOT of people to see something they made without leaving their bedrooms. Technological advances have without a doubt shaped the future of music.

The final element of the future model for professional musicians is the incorporation of corporations. Up until recently, gaining corporate sponsorship is the definition of selling out. People weren’t too happy to see Nokia phones and HP notebooks in the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’ video. This anti-corporation mindset is quickly changing. As more and more artists are off major record labels and CD sales are low as ever, musicians are starting to see corporate sponsors as the answer to how to fund their projects. The best part is that it’s practically free money going from rich companies directly to musicians. The companies may look at the situation as simply a way to market themselves, but almost unintentionally corporations are supporting artists in a way that’s never been seen before. Damian Kulash of OK Go sees corporate sponsors as his golden ticket to do anything he wants. “Now when we need funding for a large project, we look for a sponsor. A couple weeks ago, my band held an eight-mile musical street parade through Los Angeles, courtesy of Range Rover. They brought no cars, signage or branding; they just asked that we credit them in the documentation of it. A few weeks earlier, we released a music video made in partnership with Samsung, and in February, one was underwritten by State Farm.” The shoe company Converse is taking corporate sponsorship to a whole new level. Converse built a recording studio in New York, and started their own record label- Rubber Tracks. At first this sounds like the worst thing that could possibly happen to music. Having huge companies controlling music is far from the direction most musicians would like to see the industry heading, though in reality it is one of the best things that could have happened. Converse isn’t trying to make a bunch of money off the records they do. They aren’t trying to control the music that the artists make. They’re simply trying to sell more shoes. Its like having a record company with an alternate source of income so they don’t need to run the whole show. This is without a doubt the future of music. It’s a good deal for the company, being seen as helping out the music world, and an even better deal for musicians, who for no cost get to do what they want with their art.

It’s not surprising that people think the music industry is dead. Almost every aspect of traditional music business is no longer the standard. I firmly believe that the industry is not failing at all, much more that it’s taking a step in the right direction. Self promotion is easier than ever before and making your own recordings is nothing special. These both lead to a world where everything about music is uncomprehendably convenient for the fans, creating this new dimension of the importance of who an artist is as an individual. The business is changing fast, definitely for the better.

Matt Strombom