Today I was honoured to have a chat with a guy who not only accurately predicted the future of the music industry in 1995, but also innovated it himself. Dave Kusek co-invented electronic drums, he was also a part of the team who invented MIDI (music instrument digital interface) which is used by millions worldwide. And as if that was wasn’t enough he is also the Vice President of Berklee College of Music responsible for running Berkleemusic.com, the world largest online music school and the founder of the Music Power Network.. woah!
A few weeks ago I decided that it would be great to get the opinions of someone who really knows what they’re talking about on where the digital music industry is headed and to gain some insight on certain technologies that are going to become more important to musicians and the industry as a whole, so of course I got in touch with Dave.
Marcus – In 1995 you wrote The Future of Music, in which you accurately predicted where the music industry was heading. Where do you see the music industry heading now? What do you think musicians are likely to see more and more of?
Dave – I still don’t think that we have a really good solution for mobile music. Although there are many fine services like Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, and Pandora in particular that come close to being a perfect solution that is both revenue generating for the music business and appealing for the music consumers, they still operate on a radio model rather than a random access service model. Music as a service still has a ways to go.
Over the next few years I would expect to see more digital streaming solutions refining Pandora’s business model. But licensing concerns are holding the whole industry back in my opinion, and a lot of change needs to happen in this space before the consumer will really benefit.
Marcus – What digital technologies do you think are highly valuable to musicians, yet at the same time highly unexploited or unheard of?
Dave – I think Mobile applications are likely to become extremely important for musicians, as direct-to-fan marketing becomes a more and more popular approach and smart phone ownership increases. The ability to contact your fans via a device in their pocket with interactive content is an amazing communications capability that has not been exploited by musicians or marketing programs to the degree that it will be. Mobile devices will allow the music as a service model that I have been talking about for years to really take off.
Marcus – What do you think the role of record labels is nowadays? Do you think artists should still try and get signed or do you think DIY is the way forward for all artists?
Dave – I don’t really think either model is sustainable. Record labels are obviously based around an increasingly challenging model that relies on investment into recorded music and recoupement from recorded music sales to give the record label a positive return on investment. The DIY independent route also has some pretty big challenges, most notable of which is the financing of activities such as recording, writing, touring, and marketing music. Promotion is a major challenge as is running the business of music, simply because many musicians won’t understand these areas, or have the necessary time or financing to drive their own musician businesses forward.
I believe the future model will likely revolve around not record companies but ‘music companies’ who invest in artist development and artist management and receive their revenue through many of the income streams the artists makes – much like the 360 deal but more bespoke to each artists capabilities, as some artists will receive the majority of their income through publishing and licensing whereas others will receive their income through touring and recording sales (for example). New music companies will form from existing management companies or smart and well capitalized indie labels, or perhaps more from a venture capital perspective where they finance artist’s careers across multiple revenue streams. There is tremendous opportunity for new powerhouses to be created.
Marcus – How do you think social networking is likely to evolve in the coming years and how useful do you think it will become for musicians?
Dave – It’s a difficult question. I believe the digital social networks that you’re talking about are really valuable as they stimulate word of mouth. Word of mouth promotion is the most powerful kind of marketing to tap into for musicians and I think the value of digital social networks like Twitter and Facebook as a marketing tool is that they’re a way for people to spread things that they think are cool, because people want to be cool and people want to look cool in front of their friends. Anything that can leverage that is definitely a good thing and I think there is bound to be more and more social networks becoming available in the coming years. I think it ties in really neatly with the mobile application question because musicians are now able to update their fans from their pocket using a mobile device.