Monday, May 04, 2009

Hey Music Business -- It's the Passion Stupid!

The music business is in decline.  More like off a steep cliff the past several years.  The industry's cash cow -- CD sales -- have slowed to a trickle and are now only a shell of their former selves.  The labels are in shambles -- thousands of jobs have been lost.  Digital sales -- primarily via iTunes -- have not even come close to making up the gap.  Desperate arms are flung upward.

The sky is falling ...

... only it really isn't.  

It's the opposite.  Nothing but blue sky for those who have vision and see it.  

Sure, even for music visionaries, burning off the fog of the former entrenched business models is no easy task (let's not minimize that).  But, the fog that envelopes and paralyzes the myopically-monetarily focused pessimists -- in other words, the bulk of the music industry -- lifts for the visionaries who will move the industry forward to new heights (ultimately much higher heights) by getting back to basics.

The basics of passion.  Music is about passion -- the love of music itself -- plain and simple.  The visionaries understand this because they are passionate about the unique power of music.  Music "connects" with individuals in ways that no other form of media can.  And, music connects individuals to other individuals to create communities of interest like no other form of media can.  There is nothing else like it.  Music changes lives -- evokes lasting memories -- and, yes, provides the soundtrack to our lives.  The power and passion of music are primal.

Music is not a pirated file.  Music is not even a $.99 download.  Financial models do not define it.  Music is an experience.  Music is emotional.  I'll say it again ... music is passion!  So, why try to "sell" the track, album, concert, t-shirt as simple financial transactions?  That emotionally hollow approach will fail -- it is failing the music industry today.  

People -- these are not pork bellies!  Get back to basics and sell the passion that music evokes -- the emotional connection that drew us all to music from the time we were born (and perhaps even earlier).  Those with vision -- and who understand this -- will experiment and offer new music experiences that will evoke the passion in others that they themselves feel.  Because they feel it -- and believe in it -- they can effectively "sell" it (for a lack of a better way to say it).  And, you know what, because they are driven with this kind of passion and really believe in their mission, they will grow the music business and monetize music ... yes, that's right, they will monetize music ... and they ultimately will do it in ways even bigger than the past.  Music fans will be happy to pay for music and music experiences because they will be guided by their emotions -- not by a calculator.  

This is no parlor trick -- this is exactly as it should be.  We will pay for the honest sell ... for the raw, honest passionate power of music ... and the passion it evokes in us.

How exactly will this be done?  I'm certainly not smart enough to know the precise formula here.  But, I can tell you this -- the Internet can empower in ways that no other form of distribution can, much in the same way that music can evoke passion like no other form of media can.  The Internet gives unreal new power to the music fan -- the power to discover, find and enjoy music whenever, wherever, and however.  This is unbelievable choice ... music can fill our lives in ways never before dreamed of ... literally 24/7.  That also presents the amazing reciprocal opportunity for the artist.  Now, any musical artist has a real opportunity to find an audience ... so long as the right ingredients are there (yes, that's right, including passion).  And, the Internet can connect artists with fans -- and fans to fans -- like never before possible in a truly emotionally connected eco-system.  The possibilities here are tremendously intriguing, and not even close to being fully realized yet.

So, the next time you read another story about the demise of the music business -- or hear another disgruntled music exec bemoan the state of the industry and the dangers of technology -- take a mental note of whether you see or hear anything about the love for music and what music is all about ... its essence ... its unique power.  I guarantee you the answer will be a resounding "no."  The discussion will be sterile -- devoid of any real passion.  There will be no answers -- or creativity -- about what is possible.

That's when you need an anti-dote -- a reminder of what music is all about.  Get into your car.  Take a relaxing drive after the sun goes down.  And, press play on track 3 from the Silversun Pickups' amazing new album Swoon.  Lose yourself in the music. 

THAT's what music is all about.  And, THAT ultimately will lead to the creativity and passion needed to save the music business ...