Part 8 : New models

Record companies stand between artists and their fans. We
signed terrible deals with them because they controlled our
access to the public.

But in a world of total connectivity, record companies
lose that control. With unlimited bin space and intelligent
search engines, fans will have no trouble finding the music
they know they want. They have to know they want it, and
that needs to be a marketing business that takes a fee.

If a record company has a reason to exist, it has to
bring an artist’s music to more fans and it has to deliver
more and better music to the audience. You bring me a bigger
audience or a better relationship with my audience or get
the fuck out of my way. Next time I release a record, I’ll
be able to go directly to my fans and let them hear it
before anyone else.

We’ll still have to use radio and traditional CD
distribution. Record stores aren’t going away any time soon
and radio is still the most important part of record
promotion.

Major labels are freaking out because they have no
control in this new world. Artists can sell CDs directly to
fans. We can make direct deals with thousands of other Web
sites and promote our music to millions of people that old
record companies never touch.

We’re about to have lots of new ways to sell our music:
downloads, hardware bundles, memory sticks, live Webcasts,
and lots of other things that aren’t even invented yet.

Content providers

But there’s something you guys have to figure out.

Here’s my open letter to Steve Case:

Avatars don’t talk back!!! But what are you going to do
with real live artists?

Artists aren’t like you. We go through a creative process
that’s demented and crazy. There’s a lot of soul-searching
and turning ourselves inside-out and all kinds of gross
stuff that ends up on “Behind the Music.”

A lot of people who haven’t been around artists very much
get really weird when they sit down to lunch with us. So I
want to give you some advice: Learn to speak our language.
Talk about songs and melody and hooks and art and beauty and
soul. Not sleazy record-guy crap, where you’re in a cashmere
sweater murmuring that the perfect deal really is perfect,
Courtney. Yuck. Honestly hire honestly committed people.
We’re in a “new economy,” right? You can afford to do
that.

But don’t talk to me about “content.”

I get really freaked out when I meet someone and they
start telling me that I should record 34 songs in the next
six months so that we have enough content for my site.
Defining artistic expression as content is anathema to
me.

What the hell is content? Nobody buys content. Real
people pay money for music because it means something to
them. A great song is not just something to take up space on
a Web site next to stock market quotes and baseball
scores.

DEN tried to build a site with artist-free content and
I’m not sorry to see it fail. The DEN shows look like art if
you’re not paying attention, but they forgot to hire anyone
to be creative. So they ended up with a lot of content
nobody wants to see because they thought they could avoid
dealing with defiant and moody personalities. Because they
were arrogant. And because they were conformists. Artists
have to deal with business people and business people have
to deal with artists. We hate each other. Let’s create
companies of mediators.

Every single artist who makes records believes and hopes
that they give you something that will transform your life.
If you’re really just interested in data mining or selling
banner ads, stick with those “artists” willing to call
themselves content providers.

I don’t know if an artist can last by meeting the
current public taste, the taste from the last quarterly
report. I don’t think you can last by following demographics
and carefully meeting expectations. I don’t know many
lasting works of art that are condescending or deliberately
stupid or were created as content.

Don’t tell me I’m a brand. I’m famous and people
recognize me, but I can’t look in the mirror and see my
brand identity.

Keep talking about brands and you know what you’ll get?
Bad clothes. Bad hair. Bad books. Bad movies. And bad
records. And bankrupt businesses. Rides that were fun for a
year with no employee loyalty but everyone got rich fucking
you. Who wants that? The answer is purity. We can afford it.
Let’s go find it again while we can.

I also feel filthy trying to call my music a product.
It’s not a thing that I test market like toothpaste or a new
car. Music is personal and mysterious.

Being a “content provider” is prostitution work that
devalues our art and doesn’t satisfy our spirits. Artistic
expression has to be provocative. The problem with artists
and the Internet: Once their art is reduced to content, they
may never have the opportunity to retrieve their souls.

When you form your business for creative people, with
creative people, come at us with some thought. Everybody’s
process is different. And remember that it’s art. We’re not
craftspeople.

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