December 29, 2011 by DJ Elroy
Picked this up from Techdirt and had to post it up as another “see, I told you so” story. I’ve been arguing for years now that the money in music business isn’t in the music at all, but rather in everything else.
You can’t measure artist “success” by album sales anymore. Piracy, digital downloads, single song purchases, and other factors have all chnaged the game in terms of hard numbe sales. But the establishment still hasn’t caught on.
Sure, this means less money for the artist. At least from that piece of the pie.
But it’s a new age where music isn’t scarce anymore. So you need to charge for what is. Live shows. Merch. Collectables. And as this article focuses on, the key is the person (or personality). After all, there’s only one Cee Lo Green.
The nightlife culture has known this for years. Music was part of it, sure. But every time a DJ came thru town he had new music, right? So it wasn’t just the tracks. It was the person, the NAME, that drew crowds. It was the personality. We trusted that DJ to find and play the newest and best music, or maybe some gems we may have missed, or some nostalgic tracks we knew and loved. Whatever he played, it was the DJ we paid for, not just the individual records. And even though a bunch of DJs may have had the same popular tracks of the day, it was the superstars that could make them work and shine where the others couldn’t do more than play them. There were very few trendsetters; everyone else was a follower.
That’s the scarcity of THE PERSON.
Remember, even back in the day, mixtapes were freely traded down in the crowd at all the big shows. And by freely, I don’t just mean open, often, and unrestricted. I mean that the artist never saw a dime. Even the booths selling the tapes were usually “bootleg” venders. But most of us poor kids just made extra copies of our collection and traded with others who had done the same thing.
So even back then , for the DJ there wasn’t much money to be made off “the album”.
Sure, there was a bit to be made from production work.
But the bulk of the money — then as now — was from touring and sellling your name. Note: this is not the same as selling out. I’ve talked about that before and I’m sure I will again.
Why can a Guetta, or a Tiesto, or a Sasha charge so much for a show while the bottom-feeders in town will jump at the change to share a 30 minute timeslot with a friend for free?
It’s all in the name. It’s not just about your music anymore, it’s about your brand. It’s about YOU.