I wanted to share my thoughts on the importance of mobile for the fledging music industry. YoY, CD sales are going down and down, and digital is growing, but not at the rate of what the CD business created for the industry. With digital piracy just existing as stronger then every and p2p networks offering the convenience, availability and breadth of content, this new industry form is something of constant debate.
The Mobile App
However, I bet my money on mobile! It has been discussed that the App is the next frontier and form of media format that gives a variety of options in addition to the music and video content that can be charged to the end-user as simply as one-click. This has been constrained a bit as Apple is keeping these reins so strongly close to their chest that true App innovation of delivering Mp3′s and other content as a convenient distribution channel over the quick and easy p2p networks is just at its infancy. This was proven true with iTunes and the delivery of ”ala carte” content as a viable option over the p2p networks where users were in fact willing to pay for content if the delivery was right. More and players are entering the game with the music download businesses to compete again the almighty Apple, and now that the playing field is evening out between Apple, Nokia-Microsoft, Google, RIM for the next gen Smart Phone devices, this new model will clearly present itself as in the next year as the most efficient way to categorically sell content via applications and not just store-fronts.
The proposition was validated with users going and buying content via an iTunes app, but for an artist to have their own App to sell music directly is part of this overall formula. This type App merchandising and marketing will evolve and potentially drive Apple to explore more options then just the delivery via the iTunes store. Instead of going to a store to searching for it, the vast array of better user interfaces and offers will multiple this App experience. The package of all the peripheral offerings ( video footage and music video’s, interviews, freebies, t-shirts, collectors items, etc…) associated with the Application as well as the ability for users to to be part of mobile dedicated fan list. The App can breath life to the true culture and personality of the artist as the content can link to the real-time social networks and create opportunities for direct conversations back-n-forth. Fans have the opportunities to explore more then just the music, but the entire life-style and “taste-maker” trends of the Artist for just about any context ( places, fellow artists, and philosophy). Even the charitable movements can be explored with “Gifting” as we saw with Pearl Jam and Oceans which is just the beginning of the entire business dimensions. The App can live not only by a limits of distribution like for a physical CD, but can be delivered virally via those Fans.
Flattened by the Long-Tail ( both content and other business areas)
So in some ways with this total fragmentation it is hard to see where that $8~10 Billion completely migrated to? Direct sales of CD’s was one of the only options besides performances to have a connection with the music and the artist, and the actual CD Jacket was the starting point where Artists shared their culture to communicate with Fans in the 80′s and early 90′s.
Besides the overall business of the Music Industry being hard to grab onto for the labels, management and publishers of the past, what we are seeing is a new revolution of more and more music with more and more talented artists making their debut with hopes of that chance to make it into the spot-light with their fans. This opportunity is greater then ever, but much more verticalized and more focused on micro-communities around each artist that support the life-line of that artist through performances and merchandise.
Recently, I saw an Artist called Jerry Cherry, at Rockwood in NYC. He is a mix of an Iggy Pop and quintessentially New York artist sound. What amazed me was the loyal following that he had at the performance and his dialog and show with the fans- truly entertaining. It was that tight moment between him and the audience that was an emotional connection that just cemented in my mind that this was the “Soul” of this new music business. More shows, more engagement with fans is what an Artist needs to be positive about as an entertainer if they are to make a living in this new era. He was selling his CD’s at this venue and in fact sold a couple of them. This is an angle that I see as the growth of this business; much more long-tail and concentrated in nitch verticals. Performances are the fertile ground for artists to create that emotional attachment that can lead to a business strategy that is inexplicably linked back to mobile. Why mobile? Because we all have it in our pocket, with intelligence to give us more and more. Today, we can shoot images like a professional photographer, take video like a film maker, create mix-mashes of memories, and access web content when the moment is right during that music experience.
The Mobile Moment…
I like the analogy of a digital dessert. Even after a large meal, when the waitress brings around that dessert tray, that sugary, creamy delight is hard to resist and make that impulsive buy of several $$$ in that moment. Like the dessert business is a long-tail, location specific business that bridges that final emotional connection between the chief and the consumer, The Artist needs to think this way as well with the mobile channel being that waitresses serving tray… So Jerry Cherry ( no pun intended as it is a dessert sounding name) instead of selling those CD’s can sell that mobile digital dessert.
Of course that Mobile Moment is tied to location based services and social media. We all check-in with Foursquare, Facebook places and bring our entire social network into that moment for that instance. It is the moment when a Butterfly flaps its wings and can create start to a Hurricane in the Gulf. Artists that give birth to that experience for fans to share that moment is the new paradigm of distribution that can has become of the internet that we live with today.
About a year ago I had the epiphany around this concept and have been building a “war chest” of features, concepts, prototypes with my partners over at DiscoverRock , BloomEffect and others. The goal is about how to make this a reality for artists to make money in this business. Nothing is formally launched yet, but the seeds of this idea to bring new-revenue streams for artists has been something I have been working on as a hobby in my spare time. We have started this with several artists and working on this platform ( No launch date to announce yet) but rather a strategy and concept we feel could lead to the next-gen business model for the long-tail of this industry. The goal would not be to re-invent the wheel or create another mobile app platform, but to bridge all those developers and streams for this kind of mobile tidal wave this is amongst us. Please email us at email@example.com or @BFlyCRM